Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Retrospective #192: Climate Change and “The Nutrition Debate”

It is ironic that many in the climate change consensus community, who view themselves as adherents to fact-based science, would deny dissent from climate change skeptics yet embrace the alternative view of nutritional science (as espoused here at “The Nutrition Debate”). That’s my take on an on-line opinion piece in SFGate by Debra J. Saunders. The San Francisco Journal article is titled, “Climate Change Consensus, no dissent allowed.”
The author quotes a CNN commentator that “some stories don’t have two sides.” CNN argued there’s no need to present climate-change dissenters because “between 95 percent and 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening, now, and it’s damaging the planet, and that it’s man-made.” Also, “Last year the Los Angeles Times revealed it won’t print letters that deny a human cause to global warming.” Well, I guess that settles it.
The SFGate piece continues, “A 2013 British study of peer-reviewed papers found that of the 33 percent of papers that took a position on global warming, 97 percent endorsed the “consensus” position. A Google search on “global warming consensus” produced 15.7 million hits, no doubt 97 percent in agreement with the happy conceit. What is “scientific consensus”? Everybody piles on to the “accepted wisdom,” which then constitutes “scientific proof.”
A commenter noted that One Hundred Authors Against Einstein, a 1931 book, said the Theory of Relativity is wrong. When asked to comment, Einstein replied that to defeat relativity one did not need the word of 100 scientists, just one fact. Another commenter recalled Copernicus, who in 1543 published Revolutions of the Celestial Orbs, a treatise that put forth his revolutionary idea that the Sun was at the center of the universe and that the Earth – rotating on an axis – orbited around the Sun once a year.” We all know what happened to him.
19th century physicist John Tyndall, referring to scientists who follow evolution, wrote, “They have but one desire – to know the truth. They have but one fear – to believe a lie.” His piece is also an encomium to the physicist Richard Feynman who said, “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is; If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
In Gary Taubes’s February 2014 NYT op-ed, “Why Nutrition Is So Confusing,” he asked. “Is the failure of our New Year’s resolution to lose weight “a failure of willpower or of technique?” “The health of the nation,” he answered, “may depend on which is the correct answer.” There are “two conflicting observations” at play here; “We know how to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight,” or “something about the conventional thinking is… wrong.”
Since 1960 600k articles (and thousands of diet books) have been published, Taubes said. “It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue," The trend data argue otherwise. If we understand these disorders [i.e., obesity and type 2 diabetes] so well, why have we failed so miserably to prevent them?”
The unfortunate reality, Taubes noted, is that, “Type 2 diabetes is caused or exacerbated by obesity, and obesity is a complex, intractable disorder. The more we learn, the more we need to know,” and the research to date is “the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment.” This was Taubes’s not-so-subtle pitch for support for the Nutrition Science Initiative, a 501c that he and Peter Attia, MD, started in 2012…and now, sadly, nearly defunct.
Taubes explained how long-term clinical trials are prohibitively expensive and exceedingly difficult. He jibes that “no pharmaceutical company stands to benefit” and laments “prospective sources of funding are limited, particularly when we insist the answers are already known,” Sounds like the climate change argument, doesn’t it?
Taubes wrote, “advice to restrict fat and avoid saturated fat has been based on supposition about what would have happened had such trials been done, not on the trials themselves.” Taubes continued, “Nutritionists have adjusted to this reality by accepting a lower standard of evidence on what they’ll believe to be true.” We have a field of sort-of-science in which hypotheses are treated as facts because they’re too hard or expensive to test.”
But Taubes isn’t ambiguous about what his personal bias is. He said, “My vote is sugars and refined grains; we all have our biases.”  I admit to the same bias, and will continue to test my beliefs in my ever-vigilant search for truth.

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