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“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scientist Bashing I ~ The only sport approved by your favorite VLC guru?

This started as a comment over on Stephan's blog, but started getting a bit long.  So I hope Stephan won't mind too much if I move it over here.   Plus it contains thoughts about various and sundry names in the LC webosphere with whom I've had brief exchanges.  Those exchanged have had these thoughts brewing for quite some time, but in the end it seems to go back to the ultimate arrogant anti-scientist supreme:  One Mr. Gary Taubes. 

When I first read Taubes, I got the impression that he had little understanding of how science really works.  That first impression has been confirmed many times over in the intervening years.  I have always wondered over why medical schools and such would bring in a science journalist to lecture medical students on such a topic.  If one doesn't have a PhD in the exact field these days it is difficult to teach at the college level at all for example.  Gary has a bachelors in physics, with no apparent experience as a "scientist".  Apparently he practically lived in a lab for a while, and I guess this is where he believes he amassed the knowledge to view researchers critically and offer up his sage advice on how they ought to be doing their jobs.  Given his influence in certain circles, I think he's responsible for the wave of scientist bashing replete with a warped understanding of what science actually is and how it's done.  

Likely THE most arrogant -- and laughable -- statement Taubes made was in his interview with Jimmy Moore largely in response to yours truly.   Taubes actually claimed that GCBC was the equivalent to not one, not two, but three PhD theses.  His acolytes ate it up.  Anyone even remotely familiar with the process of earning a PhD (hopefully) cringed at even the suggestion.   GCBC has given license to a bunch of layperson "debunkers" who routinely call scientists liars, idiots and impugn their motives and such.  This is especially rich coming from folks like Tom Naughton, Dana Carpender and even Jimmy "aw shucks" Moore.  

There's a DVD out there called Big Fat Fiasco.  A fiasco indeed.  In it Fat Head smears scientists for their supposed ineptitude and then goes on to make up a theory out of thin air.  I'm talking about his "you're as fat as you need to be" theory of blood glucose control that his fans accepted as fact. This, folks, is not critical thinking.  Somehow, I suppose, people who have the education and experience in the relevant field are too stupid to tie their own shoes but a comedian and a journalist?  Well, these two are smarter than all those guys (and gals) in lab coats.  

If paleo promoters think that the Ioniddis paper is somehow relevant to their movement, I think they are making a huge mistake.  For some reason they include Ioniddis on the Paleo Infographic put out by the PaleoHacks gang.  What am I talking about?  Ioniddis published this paper with a provocative title:  Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.  Ioniddis "charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed."  That's some serious sheet for the groundbreaking, paradigm, rebel rousers.  Only most never bothered to look into Ioniddis' work.  Did he pore over thousands of publications in the literature and look for actual flaws in measurement, data presentation, methodology, etc.?  No.  He concocted a mathematical model that plays with probability numbers to infer what effect such things as perceived bias might have on the outcomes of hypothetical studies.  No doubt this is the stuff Fat Head is influenced by, but it is hardly a substantial argument to support his claim.  

Clearly there is research going on out there that is funded by advocacy groups that is biased.  It makes for a great presentation on a low carb cruise, but it hardly damns all science in the sweeping manner in which it is implied.  In an ideal world these bad apples would not pass the peer review filter, but you will often find them challenged in editorials, letters to the journal editors, etc.   Of course all of this is leaving aside the utter hypocrisy of low carbers who shun rodent studies and studies funded by their supposed enemies when they don't produce the desired result.  But if they do?  Atkins funded Volek and ovarectomized rats are darlings in the low carb world.  Surely no low carb researcher is going to exaggerate the results of their studies, right?  Anthony Colpo recently addressed this with Westman's GI study.   Why are not folks complaining that we are not provided with the medications taken by (and changes in dosages) for ALL of the participants in that study -- as opposed to only those who were taking insulin?  Duh ... eat less carbohydrate, need less insulin if you're insulin dependent.  This is only even "interesting" if one views exogenous insulin as an evil medication rather than supplementing a hormonal insufficiency.

So we have a fiction writer tossing off barbs at Stephan for some supposed "career building hypothesis".  I would say to those petty folks:  SO WHAT if it is!!  This is actually not, as I understand his statements, the focus of his primary research -- IOW that for which he receives a salary to conduct.  But honestly, so what if it was?  Only cookbook, fiction, diet book and whatever we would call GCBC at this point authors and comedians are allowed to make a living as they do bashing science?  (And doing a bang up job of bastardizing it in the process).  You would have thought I accused him of murder or something for spelling Taubes' name with a $ a couple of times.  Does anyone in the audience really think that a three-quarter of a million dollar advance might just have influenced the finished product?  If Taubes were really the researcher supreme he makes himself out to be, he no doubt (as I've demonstrated many times here) came across enough contradictory evidence to his hypothesis to where it should never have been formulated and published.  Does anyone doubt having blown through the advance and taking longer than originally allotted to complete had anything to do with his sloppy presentation of the science?  That in 2010, the last thing he needed was to have that sloppiness exposed what with a new book coming out.  Having one's journalistic cred challenged is not a career booster for sure.   

No, only "mainstream" scientists are hopelessly influenced by bias.  As one Paleo Hacker accused me, since I once worked for "Big Pharma", I'm one of THEM so so hopelessly biased I can't see the truth that is the Gospel of the Church of Scikrispology.  I don't know what folks like Andre think goes on with researchers, but my work in drug development didn't impact things one way or the other.  I spent a good portion of my time developing the assays to characterize basic pharmacokinetics and how drugs were metabolized for potential candidates.  I worked on literally hundreds of such candidates during my relatively short career.  Whether or not a candidate was selected for further development was influenced by my results, but I had no "horse" in the race.  If it wasn't going to be one drug it would be another.  Perhaps there are some unscrupulous folks in the highest tiers at some companies who push certain things to market despite safety or efficacy concerns because of the tremendous investment that's been made, but it is an insult, frankly, when people malign the research scientist.  This is true as well for the media treatment of various studies.  There's a kneejerk reaction to what is written about studies in the popular press where Jimmy likes to post pictures and emails of the lead researchers so we can "tell them what we think" of their garbage when quite often, their study was solid and didn't even conclude the heralded headline.  

So this exchange on Stephan's blog is what riled me up a bit:
Stephan:  I write for a publication called "the scientific literature". Popular books are all well and good, but what has Taubes written that has gone through a scientific peer review process? Nothing. That's why he can sling around these wild ideas with no accountability.  permalink
Jeff:  With all due respect Stephan...You haven't necessarily peppered the scientific literature with first or senior authored peer reviewed manuscripts (in my opinion that should not be used to invalidate you ideas, btw). Your getting to point of invalidating Carbsane, Kurt Harris, Chris Kresser and others with these views of Taubes and lack of credentials hindering his interpretation of the scientific literature.  permalink
For the record, I didn't see Stephan's comment in this light, but in the end, I don't see why scientists are not at least regarded as more credible to comment on such things.  Taubes likes to brag on his advantage of being able to call up and interview scientists about their work.  I don't suppose that just might be trumped by Stephan who not only researches in the field, but might even discuss whassup over his starchy lunch on occasion with others?  And I don't suppose Stephan ever has occasion to chit chat with others in the field ... it's laughable to think otherwise!  It is fair for doctors to question my (or Stephan's) clinical experience (or rather lack thereof, neither of us are medical doctor), but with Taubes you have a journalist questioning essentially all research conducted in the obesity realm for the past six decades.  Perhaps the opinion of a scientist actually working in that arena might have more credible input?!  I'd say so.  

Which is not to say Stephan might not be wrong here and there.  But his point is that Stephan has been through the peer review process.  For the record, so have I.  The list is short, but the list of related research (in house publications, graduate review papers, etc.) is long and diverse.   Whether it was for a grade, or part of my job performance that was reviewed for promotion/compensation, accuracy and thoroughness are but two aspects my scientific writings were evaluated critically for over two decades.   My education is in biology, chemistry, biomedical engineering and metallurgy.  I also probably knew more at one time about bone physiology than many doctors, even orthopedists, because of my PhD thesis work (that was not completed but nonetheless considerably down the road) and research papers.  So yes, at the risk of being boastful, I do bring a lot to the table when it comes to critically analyzing scientific literature and it's implications.  This is not to say someone without my experiences might not be equally able to do so, but Fat Head ain't one of them.  And neither, apparently, is Gary Taubes.   I'm not dissing doctors here, but the skill set cultivated in medical school and practicing medicine is drastically different from that in graduate school and scientific research.  Perhaps the problem lies with the doctors misinterpreting the outcomes of the research moreso than the researchers.  And perhaps part of the problem lies in folks like Taubes and Mercola and Ioniddis who live to sensationalize and appeal to the libertarian victim in all of us being snowed by the "Big Man".  

At the very least, when one reads various blog posts on certain issues, they should take the experience of the blogger into account.  Although I think my writings spoke for themselves, it was a major reason for "coming out" as it were.  So, Eades had cred as a diet doc of sorts, and Davis had cred as a cardiologist.  In my opinion the past tense is warranted, these two have lost a lot (all in my eyes) of credibility based on their track record and writings.  The battery acid thing is some serious, unrecoverable, and duplicated in print nonsense from WheatBelly, and gee, where to start with Eades.  His triglycerides in the blood came from the carbs in a meal flub is, in my eyes, his worst.  But were than not enough he made a total arse of himself tangling with his supposed intellectual inferior in Anthony Colpo.  So much so, I've made mention of that in my "You need to check in if" list. 

Stephan's point was that Taubes has likely never written a thing that has had to pass scrutiny on scientific *FACT*.  Clearly his publishers were not concerned over the accuracy of his hypothesis.  No editor "fact checked" Gary's own references, or the embarrassing Newsholme & Start fiasco would not have seen the light of day.    Writing a book like GCBC is so far removed from what actually goes into a PhD thesis it's ... it's ... it's just one of the more absurd things I've heard someone claim.  Taubes hired researchers for him to find sources while apparently he manned the phones and dispatched emails.  

But for those unfamiliar with the PhD process, here's a "Cliff's Notes" version of the process.  Idea -- often this is "future research" from prior works of the group of one's mentor/advisor, sometimes it's something entirely different.  This is followed by a serious bigtime literature search -- especially for more novel proposals -- to ensure this hasn't actually already been studied, and essentially writing a review paper on the state of the science to date.  Preliminary research and results then provide the backing for the Prospectus.  PhD candidates will often be involved in drafting funding/grant applications and such.  The Prospectus is a serious document that, after all that, can be rejected by your institution of higher learning, often without reason.   In some cases it's like half of the finished thesis.  Upon acceptance, research continues, gets written up and goes through numerous, NUMEROUS drafts and review by one's advisory committee.  Then, after all that, you dress up in a suit and tie, or the female equivalent, and present your work.  You field questions from the general audience, after which you are grilled by the department faculty.  Then you go to a sound proof room and sweat.  It doesn't happen often, but even after all that, you can be sent back and denied the degree.  

TWICHOO would not have made it to the Prospectus stage of a PhD.  If I cited a 1965 textbook as my source for the basis of the major part (the Adiposity 101), not only would my advisor have kicked me out of his office, he might just have tried to get me kicked out of the program (after grading his homework papers for him first of course - grin).  Folks, textbooks are NOT acceptable sources for all but the most basic of mentions in any serious science publication.  Throughout GCBC and subsequent lectures, Taubes "implies" that this research and that research has not been done.  That we don't know this or that.   GARBAGE.   Just because he didn't look for it, doesn't mean the research isn't out there.  The fat cells gone wild lipophilia hypothesis does not explain the "simple obesity" of which we have an epidemic.    The peer review process would not have let Taubes get away with taking the understanding of IR up to 1982 with one of Neels' competing hypotheses some 25 years later.  

The referencing in GCBC is often touted by his supporters as proof that it is some seminal work.  It is horrible folks.  It would NOT be accepted, period.   If you have ANY notions that publishers check the scientific facts of what they put out, lay it to rest knowing that Nora Gedgaudas' absolutely horrible book was picked up by a publisher and re-released this year.  (A friend sent me her copy so I've now read enough of it to pass judgment).  Her telling of biochemistry/physiology is flat out incorrect (not to mention I think she borders on plagiarizing Rosedale).  It just is.   Heck, forget popular press books, textbooks are notorious for containing errors as well, although certain classics like Guyton, Lehninger and such are pretty solid.

Taubes likes to talk a big game about hypotheses and how science ought to be done.  He has no clue what he's talking about.  His hypothesis would not have made it past the idea stage.  This nonsense that I can make up any old crap and it's up to everyone else to prove me wrong is not how science works!!  Null hypothesis, schmull hypothesis.  You formulate a hypothesis to explain observations and design experiments to test the hypothesis that should produce consistent results.  For example, if it's carbs or calories, you control for calories and alter carbs and see if weight is gained or lost.  That was done by Grey & Kipnis for one, in the early 70's.  Any reasonably thorough search of the literature to date in 2002 would have landed Taubes' hypothesis on the trash heap it was tossed on back in the 50's.  All of the evidence he says doesn't support the conventional wisdom "hypothesis" doesn't really support TWICHOO either, not to mention the mountains of evidence he ignores.  That we're still discussing this now is discouraging.  "I lost weight on LC" doesn't evidence for TWICHOO make.  Again.  It just doesn't.  Rather than receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars with apparently but a promised "exposé" in return, real scientists have to pitch their hypotheses to reach a level to deserve funding.  Their assertions and interpretations are scrutinized repeatedly by peers -- aka other scientists who know what they're talking about, not a lay public that is easily swayed because they lack the background to spot junk science).  Real scientists write their work up with no guarantees it will be accepted for publication, and receive no direct compensation for the writings (as in royalties and advances).  Just who do you think has more cred folks ... the pop-sci journalist with a book deal, or the scientist?    

The bottom line, Taubes' writings were never "fact checked" on the science.  As Stephan said, he, like others, can throw around theories and such and nobody ever scrutinized it.  As such for several years, with the help of the dwindling low carb craze in need of a new hero, Taubes writings became synonymous with fact and truth.  He talks a convincing game.  It all sounds so simple.  Except I'm somewhat appalled that anyone with a basic education in physiology didn't get the feeling I did when I first read his works.  There was always the "this doesn't sound right" -- how is it you start accumulating fat and then eat more as a result?  Is that 151st gram carb eliciting that one extra insulin molecule to be secreted causing mass adipocyte rebellion?  It made no sense.  Taubes is easily exposed and debunked.  That he's still even in this game and hasn't returned to something he presumably knows a little more about, is a testimony to the power of personality -- or rather persona, because he doesn't strike me as having a particularly compelling personality.  And more than anything else, the incredible draw to the messenger who is telling people what they want to hear.

I was originally going to address a dig by Rosedale in his re-re-re...buttal on safe starches, as well as Mercola's characterization of Paul Jaminet as "only a PhD astrophysicist" in this post.  But it is long enough, so I'll save it for a Part II.  I think a little more respect is in order for the scientists out there in the field.  Without the work of so many unheralded ones for decades, we wouldn't have all of the different insulin formulas and other options for treating diabetes, no matter that some think they are all just harmful.  We wouldn't know about mitochondrial damage, or whatever.   Is all of the research relevant to help us "little guys" and our doctors find a healthy path to a healthy weight?  Of course not.  But that research doesn't necessarily impact us, does it.  But if Taubes has his way, and the doctors and scientists actually DO listen to him, the lives of many stand to be impacted through laws (sugar taxes anyone?) and treatments based on truly flawed science.   Where medicine goes wrong today, it will not be righted by the likes of Gary Taubes.  

Hug a scientist today ;-)


bentleyj74 said...


Speaking of having an elevated opinion of your education in a science field...I'm fairly sure wooo more or less lived in a lab too for her AA and that those labs were at least specific to anatomy and biology/microbiology rather than engineering.

So we can safely assume that GT is slightly less educated than wooo [RN] on any given subject with regard to biology but still better company as he seems also less likely to kill you and wear you as a skin suit. Probably. I'd still watch my back if I were Stephan in either case.

steve said...

Excellent post. " What I find frustrating about the current conversations is that Paul Jaminet (and others, mind you) are not talking about a ton of carbs. For me, 100g purposeful starch carbs I figure comes along with about 50g more useful carbs. This would work out to roughly 1/3rd of my intake".
Would you elaborate on this from your prior post. Are you suggesting this as an acceptable level of carbs in total, or to much?
Any thoughts on the role of starch on LDL size? I find that if i have "safe carbs" of 100Grams plus all the veggies i eat, my expression of small LDL as a %of total is nearly half. Therefore, for cardiac health(no weight issues ever) i need to restrict the starch and the expression of small LDL greatly diminishes. I do so given a family history of heart disease.
As i think you have pointed out there is no one size fit all for diet.
I am a new reader of your site and find it refreshing that you are not in an ideology rut, so to speak.

Tonus said...

I guess the irony is that much of the fanatical support for Taubes comes from people who are concerned that our current dietary standards were based on bad science peddled as truth.

In any case, an interesting read, though I suspect that the reaction in LC land will be "pfft, she sided with the scientists and researchers? I am SOOOO not surprised!"

cwaiand said...

funny,all this started because of the sad being supposedly so terrible.people didn,t buy into the gluttony and sloth argument and wanted a way out in which it wasn,t your fault.i can bet you can,t get obese if you actually follow the sad diet at a proper calorie level.eating a sad diet PLUS junk food and excess calories will make you fat.i wish i never heard of taubes.i found him via kurt harris,s the time dr.harris was low carb and seemed to be really high on off i went on very low carb but also eating dr.harris,s recommended diesel fuel 1 and 2 (butter and heavy cream).i proceded to pack on the fat.only when i cut calories would i lose.that was my "aha"moment.the calories were the difference not the carbs.
prior to that i had read evelyns blog.i thought see was nuts and completely wrong.but after my aha moment i returned and feel like i,m finally getting some truth based on scientific fact.i,m very pleased dr.harris has moderated his view,it helps the "cause",that being truth in diet science that everyone is looking for.
i thinks taube,s and his"hypothosis"have set the obesity war way back,totally clouded the water(and peoples judgement).he has done much more harm than good.i just hope the word gets out sooner than later.i lost a year of weight loss farting arond because of taubes writings.


Amy said...

If we add carbs into the diet, should they be fiber based? Along the line of Steve's question on LDL size. I wonder what role fiber has with LDL size. There are several studies over at Science Daily on fiber decreasing the risk of heart disease.

Frankly, I have digestion issues on a high fiber diet, but my trigs, which hypothetically can be used to predict my VLDL were 75. (VLDL calculated 15) I can't remember my HDL, but it was extremely high on high fiber. Most of my on high fiber was HDL. On Paleo (lower in carbs) trigs went down to 45. (calculated VLDL 9). I wonder if my trigs would have gone down below 75 on high fiber, higher carb diet if I'd kept avoiding fructose. Sometimes it takes time for the trigs to drop. My trigs started at 151, ten years ago and I weigh about the same.

Swede said...

Enjoyed the rant :)

I suspect that many would characterize your debunking of Taubes as similar to Woo's disdain for Stephan. I finally checked out her blog and was quite turned off by the excessive vitriol in every single post! I guess that you are trying to debunk the false claims of a best selling author that have been accepted by a lot of folks, while Woo is just plain loony and obsessed with a guy who has a blog that probably gets less than 0.0001% of all web traffic.

Tom Naughton is a joke, but definitely not a funny one.

Jim Purdy said...

Okay, I get the message: The only people qualified to have an opinion are the PhDs and MDs in long white coats. The rest of us, regardless of our education, experience, or age, are just dumb schmucks who need to follow doctors' orders.

I have experienced this for years when I have tried to ask MDs why lifestyle-caused health problems shouldn't be fixed with lifestyle changes instead of drugs and surgery. All I get from the white coat folks are accusations of being "non-compliant" or "non-adherent," just because I want to try lifestyle instead the latest magic BigPharma chemicals.

And when I eventually find a lifestyle change that works for me, like a low-carb diet, my story is dismissed by doctors as "anecdotal."

I'm not sure why I need the white coat folks anyway, when my body tells me when something is working or not working.

bentleyj74 said...

You don't need them Jim Purdy! You absolutely have the freedom to live until you die of whatever causes you happen to die of at whatever age you get your ticket punched.

Opinions are like belly buttons, but you seem a little at war with yourself. Either your Dr has an educated opinion worth paying him to get or he doesn't. Why look for him to validate YOUR opinion until and unless you have completed the same gauntlet of rigor and relevance?

Anecdotally I submit that I have had a few occasions to sample some big pharma which could have been comprised entirely of nuclear waste injected directly into my eyeball for all I cared provided there was sufficient magic on the other end of that needle. ;-)

Chris said...


Despite having a relatively popular blog - - I've always tried to be very careful about the science. I point to things that I find interesting, often of a paleo bent, but I have become less and less dogmatic about all this.

My girlfriend is a PhD immunologist who has worked on HIV and more recently on Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I am there deep in the blogosphere and she is there in the lab, writing papers, reviewing papers and going to conferences. Every now and again I will send her something from the blogs or make her listen to a podcast and more often than not the look of disdain on her face says it all. So often she quickly takes the post or podcast apart....

I know my limits - my degrees are in Economics and Philosophy and I am self educated in biology and exercise science. Too often the amateurs make pronouncements that are totally unjustified.

You are different! Thanks for all your work

My own diet for what its worth has now settled down. No processed food and wheat does not agree with me but otherwise, bring it on! and I am a lot leaner now on meat and potatoes than when I was drinking cream and avoiding carbs

Steph said...

Jim, I believe Evelyn is simply pointing out that it's silly to claim a book is the equivalent of three doctorate theses when none of it was peer reviewed, and that blanket disdain for properly done research is dumb and dangerous.

As for your experience with white coats, mine has been similar, I bet - I've yet to have a doctor even ask me what I eat, ever, and I've never gotten a doctor interested in talking nutrition. So I'm on my own to seek out potential lifestyle fixes (so long as it's a non-emergency situation and I can buy some time).

I understand that nutrition gets next to no coverage in medical schools? If so, I hope that changes.

Newell Wright said...

@Jim: Taubes' book is NOT the equivalent of three dissertations. That is the point Evelyn is making. I have a Ph.D. in marketing (essentially, consumer psychology) and the dissertation process is VERY different from writing a book. At BEST, his book is a literature review and hypothesis formulation, at BEST, equivalent to HALF a dissertation. It is like a dissertation PROPOSAL, where you review the literature and formulate hypotheses.

To complete a dissertation, you have to do more than a literature review and formulate an hypothesis (more likely, you formulate 6 to 12 related hypotheses). You then have to TEST your hypotheses with actual data. And while my Ph.D. is not in the physical or biological sciences, even Ph.D.s in humanities require data (e.g., an English Ph.D. uses literature as data; art history uses works of art as data).

There are no new, primary data in GCBC. As far as I know, there is no empirical support for Taubes' single hypothesis. Therefore, it is not in any way like a dissertation. This is where GCBC falls flat: no new data, just a literature review and a single hypothesis. This is why the claim that it is like three dissertations is laughable.

Archibald said...


Wow, you're just on a roll and a tear Carbsane, and I give YOU a great big cyber-hug for what your blog has meant to me over the, what?, past two years that I've been visiting. I'm a frequent reader but infrequent commenter because I'm just only bright enough to recognize and "silently" enjoy the [mostly] superior minds at work and play here!

Anyhow, yeah, GCBC grabbed me by the, ahem, pea-brain, but I had enough experience and, at 67, age-related wisdom to suspect that things didn't add up, except for my weight on LC/VLC. A coupla points kept nagging at me as I read the book from cover to cover, I'm now ashamed to say, six times. First, how could it be that I always lost weight so easily on a very high-carb diet (even to weights much too low for realistic maintenance, but that's another issue not often discussed)? Second, the claim that the obese eat no more, often less, than the lean, adjusted for yada, yada, yada, was a big "say what?!" for me. Nonetheless, I let myself be convinced that my seemingly inevitable weight increases (sometimes after 5-plus years of maintenance) were due to increased fat ingestion in the presence of excessive CHO. Hey, "fat-trapping" made sense to me. So I decided to give LC a try, then, when that wasn't working, VLC. I happened to be at a fairly low weight when I began my low-carb experiment, and I had no trouble exceeding my energy needs even without getting into all those ersatz concoctions. As a result, of course, I started the earnest search for the missing micronutrient or vitamin. Are you surprised to learn that I never found it/them?

LC's gift to me, and it's parting shot, was constipation unlike anything I'd ever experienced (despite the recommended, prophylactic measures) resulting in a serious incision-site hernia and consequent surgery. Am I bitter and angry? Nah, that's just not in my nature. I've pretty much accepted, and am fascinated by, the experience of being part of a vast complex-adaptive system, i.e. life on earth, even though it means lots and lots of failures. And now, since it's a beautiful day in Clermont, FL, I think I'll take a good long bicycle ride on the lovely West Orange Trail.

Thanks and please keep on doin' your thang,

cwaiand said...


i think md,s and scientists are 2 completely different things.i wouldn,t trust most md,s to be able to read studies the way evelyn can.

Dawn said...

That was a good read. Reminds me of a sociological observation I've made over the years: for a country that prides itself (or at least used to pride itself?) on innovation and scientific leadership, the United States is also home to a very strong strain of anti-intellectualism.

It's like a split personality, as indicated by my dad's attitudes toward: 1) our schooling: "Go to college, get your degree, you'll be more successful that way" and 2) any doctors, scientists, etc., whose opinions he didn't like: "Just because he has a PhD he thinks he's second only to God! Well, we regular people can show those eggheads a thing or two, let me tell ya!"

(I guess this might partially explain why my brother and I both distinguished ourselves as PhD dropouts? ;) And yes, the dissertation process involves much more work and scrutiny than book publishing, I can attest to that as well. I've been personally involved in both.)

So anyway, GT can easily tap into this strain of anti-intellectualism and sell lots of books. As our politicians figured out years ago (and are busy refining to an art form), going for the lowest common denominator is the way to get your numbers up. Perhaps more scientists would try this approach if they weren't so busy filling out grant applications.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@Jim ... I don't believe you've commented here before so Welcome! I'm at a loss as to how you got that take away message from what I wrote. And I don't think I treat readers here as if they are too stupid to understand science. Indeed I've written before on how not to fall for intellectual bullying and presume you just can't understand.

I've also just not had your experience with docs. While it is true most don't focus on diet, I would say that unless someone gets diagnosed pretty late stage with something like diabetes, the first line of intervention is usually lifestyle change.

Reality is that someday you'll probably need some life saving intervention developed by people in white coats and administered by more people in white coats. Hope you'll find it in your heart to appreciate those people in those coats.

The anger is palpable but seems misdirected. Unless you think being fed pseudoscience is the answer.

Sarah Barracuda said...


One of my closest friends is doing her grad work in bio, and I can say that yes, even if GT (with whom I share some academic background) were to make a good-faith effort, there would still be a fundamental--not huge, but nonnegligible--shift in the approach between physical and biosciences. But I don't need to elaborate (which would require a dissertation on philosophy of science, and strain everyone's patience)--because GT is not even pretending to make a good-faith effort at the bio.

@bentley - "[GT] seems also less likely [than Wooo] to kill you and wear you as a skin suit." LMAO! Let's hope she doesn't find 'pasty French postdoc' too appetizing. Homo sapiens sapiens are low carb, but reassuringly, French specimens may be insufficiently fatty for her tastes.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@Dawn - You only have to look as far as my moniker to remember the extent of anti-intellectualism in the US. Yes, I appropriated it; it would be cool if I really were 'The ORIGINAL Sarah Barracuda' or something. (In which case I could try to sue her for sullying my name?) I did so after Stephan called a (male) commenter the ex-Arctic Governatrix, and finally had to end my lurker-only status when another commenter essentially said, "Stephan, you get funding from Big Gov ergo you are a helpless dumbf*ck crony hurhurhurrr [snort]."

People hear what they want to hear, the whole of what they want to hear (filling in the gaps with their own fantasies), and nothing but what they want to hear. sighsighsighsighhh.

Sue said...

This paper talks about scientists behaving badly:
I remembered it because I mentioned it in an assignment.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


"i wish i never heard of taubes.i found him via kurt harris,s the time dr.harris was low carb and seemed to be really high on off i went on very low carb but also eating dr.harris,s recommended diesel fuel 1 and 2 (butter and heavy cream).i proceded to pack on the fat.only when i cut calories would i lose.that was my "aha"moment.the calories were the difference not the carbs."

My empirical results with my recommendations to substitute fats for carbohydrates were for the most part generally nothing but amazing. For example, my wife's entire office staff was following my diet and were famous as the fittest-looking dental office in the county. I had several acquaintances able to go off oral diabetes meds.

I never doubted that calories counted, and honestly I did not pay that much attention to the fine details of Taubes' CIH. I appreciated GCBC more for the exoneration of animal fat in heart disease.

I did think animal fats were inducing satiety and leading to lower intake in most people.

But there were people, like you, who seemed to eat to excess the same fats that I personally could not eat enough of to keep weight ON with.

And as I've hinted at here, I've had plenty of people add grass fed beef, pastured butter and eggs, bones broths, wild-caught fish and so on to their SAD based diets, only to have zero fat loss because they kept eating bread and pasta and cake and sugar and soda pop and milk.

They stayed well- nourished fatties unless they ELIMINATED the right things - what I've now realized are likely high reward things...

So ironically both my observed failures and too much "success" made me doubt the universality of any diets, even my own.

It was further reading in paleoanthropology that convinced me the idea we did not evolve to eat starches was complete fantasy. More reading on metabolism (including Frayn's metabolic regulation which I purchased in 2009) made me doubt that the GCBC version of the CIH was the explanation of how high/fat low carb diets worked.

I never thought insulin was "locking fat into cells that were then forcing us to eat", as such a conception conflicted with my understanding of undergraduate cell physiology.

I freely confess I did not read or fact check the "fat" section of GCBC carefully enough.

And I wish I had looked past the personal parts of Evelyn's critiques of Taubes sooner than I did.

Some of you know I spent over 2 hours on the phone with Taubes last summer (at his invitation) in an attempt to explain the weaknesses of his theory to him, and how he needed to seriously address the criticisms raised on blogs like this one.

Much of the conversation was GT explaining why I did not understand the CIH or how I was mischaracterizing it.

From what I have read from GT since, being told the CIH did not hold water by an MD who 4 years ago bought into it has had essentially no effect.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


"Jeff: With all due respect Stephan...You haven't necessarily peppered the scientific literature with first or senior authored peer reviewed manuscripts (in my opinion that should not be used to invalidate you ideas, btw). Your getting to point of invalidating Carbsane, Kurt Harris, Chris Kresser and others with these views of Taubes and lack of credentials hindering his interpretation of the scientific literature."

I noticed that comment on WHS but let it go.

What I find really amusing, is that I take Jeff to be using "Carbsane Kurt Harris and Chris Kresser" as being invalidated by Stephan's appeal to his training because the three of us supposedly have no relevant credentials, just like Taubes.

This is how you get punished for not bragging enough, I guess: )

Evelyn, when you "came out" as having been involved in industry research I think this gave you plenty of credibility. Your thorough familiarity with how research works is obvious, but I'll let you defend yourself.

Just for fun, though, let me compare myself to GT.

GT does not have a degree in physics. It is either applied physics or general science. Not the same as a BS in physics. He told me he did not have enough credits for a BS in physics. We compared notes and in fact it turns out that I may have about as many physics credits as Gary does.

Note that I do not routinely describe myself a physics major...

AFAIK, GT does not have a degree in biology. I do, including courses in biology, cell physiology, neurophysiology, vertebrate endocrinology, evolution, genetics, etc...

It is fair to note that a biology BS is not required for medical school. Not every MD has one.

GT does not have a medical degree. I do. It irritates people to point it out, but there are things you learn in 4 years at a high quality medical school that you cannot learn anywhere else.

GT does not have over 20 years experience diagnosing diseases in actual patients practicing as a physician.

GT has to my knowledge not published in the peer reviewed literature. I have over a dozen peer reviewed articles including several first authorships and a review article and one of these is highly cited. I have published both basic science and clinical science articles.

GT was never an assistant professor at a major medical and research institution. I was. In addition to writing and presenting papers, I had years of experience reviewing for journals in the medical literature while in my academic career.

I do not have a PhD. But I did basic research in biomechanics in collaboration with our Biomedical engineering college and I served on a PhD thesis advisory committee for PhDs in Biomedical engineering.

Now all of that experience and four quarters will buy you a cup of coffee in the blogosphere, and to some degree, that is how it should be.

Everyone should use whatever criteria they find useful to judge credibility.

GT and I and Evelyn should all be judged on the quality of our thoughts and our writing.

But I confess I just find it funny that GT is always described as some kind of brilliant ex-physicist when he is no more an ex-physicist than I am. As if that gives him some special insight into the workings of "science" that the rest of us lack.

And GCBC would definitely be rejected as a thesis proposal. It has TOO MANY references. That is how some of us were fooled, frankly.

Galina L. said...

My husband is a scientist with PHD in Chemistry, and he gets upset when some engineers at work question his advice because it often contradicts some street-smart grade of knowledge people acquired through their production experience. He likes to tell that science often begins when common sense ends. Recently the company employed a nutritionist with a Master Degree. The lady normally eats for lunch salads with a fat-free dressing and blueberries and likes to explain why her choices are very good. My husband is concerned that the opinion of educated professional is so far away from mine. In his eyes I am like engineers who question his expertise. It is difficult not to question suggestions that are not supported by personal life experience.I am not implying anything, just telling a story.

Emily Deans said...

Most academic biomedical research scientists I know are quite humble. Sure there's a certain amount of showmanship and confidence needed to keep your lab/office space in a large hospital, but in psychiatry anyway you look like a fool if you say you have it all figured out with some simple hypothesis. Clinically the answers are all so individualized, and as many good decisions you make and people you help, you also end up screwing up and being humbled by illness again and again. I've only been in the clinical trenches for 15 years, and I would say each year makes me a bit more humble, not less so. Ask an older primary care doctor about diet and vitamins - he (she) will tell you about B12, vitamin E, chromium, vitamin C, fish oil - the fads that come and go.

All clinical docs worth their salt know that statins don't work via lowering cholesterol, and that SSRIs don't work via raising serotonin. It's the commercials and the advisory panels that seem to be the pulpits of the industry.

Oof - I'm tired from working and teaching all day and I'm not sure I'm making a whole lot of sense. It's not simple, it's not all diet. It's certainly not all drugs.

cwaiand said...

hey kurt;

thanks for the response.when i followed your blog recommendations early on,i was very strict in following all of your advice.i ,however could easily consume a litre of heavy cream a day when i was hungry.(on top of meals through out the day).only ate when i was hungry. too many calories for me.i,m one that has to cut and watch calories or no weight will be lost.i,m pretty sure i could lose weight on an all cake diet of the right (lower )caloric amount.i would be a sick puppy though.


Fashiontribes Diet said...

@evelyn "If you have ANY notions that publishers check the scientific facts of what they put out, lay it to rest knowing that Nora Gedgaudas' absolutely horrible book was picked up by a publisher and re-released this year." So true. When you work with a book publisher, all they care about is whether you have something in by deadline and how much everything costs. This is on a different topic, but i wrote a book for a UK publisher on the cultural history of lingerie and I conducted a lot of different interviews with well-respected clothing historians (like at the V&A Musuem) and the publisher decided the page count of the final manuscript was a tad too high, so instead of another edit, they decided to simply publish the final book without my endnotes. I almost fainted when I got my final copy. (Try explaining that to your sources.) Publishers care about sales; Stephan's "scientific literature" that he writes for has a different set of incentives.

@Newell You're so right about a book not being a Ph.D. thesis. I have one (in economics); the process is grueling and totally different in many ways from popular-book publishing.

@cwaiand I wish I had never heard of Taubes either. I was zipping along at my goal weight, when I started eating the GCBC way & the pounds started packing right back on, plus my thyroid stopped working. Now that I'm back to limiting my calories, eating some PHD-approved non-toxic starches and not overdoing on the fat, my weight is down to where it was before I took that stupid Taubes-induced detour. Honestly. He's a total schmoo & he deserves to get his faux-PhD crap trounced.

Sarah Barracuda said...

"[GT] told me he did not have enough credits for a BS in physics." Not familiar with the particulars of GT's biography, but I thought he at least went on to get a MS in physics? That is just disturbingly weird....

STG said...

I posted at Dr. Mercola's website in defense of your comments contributing to a important discussion. I find the thumbs up/down voting system at Dr. Mercola's website distracting and makes the posts appear more like a popularity contest than an intellectual discussion or debate. You invited me to check out your website, so here I am. I have decided that I am not going have an opinion on carbohydrate/insulin versus food reward or any other hypothesis on obesity because I really don't have a grasp of the research. I am going to read and reflect as much as I can, keep an open mind and let the science decide in the long-run. I think I follow a low glycemic diet (50-130 carbs/daily?)--not Paleo or VLC-- to deal with blood sugar issues--seems to be working for me at this point in time. I don't know why, but someone else can figure that out. I actually like cognitive dissonance: it keeps me from becoming dogmatic and inflexible.

Off topic: Can someone help me understand Ray Peat?

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


I believe GT has an MS in aeronautical engineering from Stanford. Many engineering colleges will grant an MS to baccalaureates with no degree in engineering when they study in that field after getting a degree in something else. In my mind, this would not be the same as getting further training in say, ME or EE after getting a four year degree in the same field. It is perhaps more like getting an MBA after getting an undergrad degree that is not in business.

I think GT has a an undergrad degree in "applied physics", which I take to have the same relationship to physics as "applied math" does to math at the institution I trained at. That is, requiring less study in either physics or math.... He certainly has a good math and physics background, but hardly enough to be called an "ex-physicist", IMO.

His second Master's degree is in journalism.

No undergrad or graduate training in biology, physiology, genetics, medicine, epidemiology, nursing, etc....

It is not impossible to be completely self-taught in biology and medical science, to the point of becoming a paradigm-shattering Kuhnian iconoclast who can see what mere MDs and PhDs and MD/PhDs who work in the field cannot.

But it seems to me rather unlikely.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


"Off topic: Can someone help me understand Ray Peat?"

I doubt it ; )

Sarah Barracuda said...

"Off topic: Can someone help me understand Ray Peat?"

I second!! That Matt Stone has been the only blogger to discuss Peat at length (as far as I've read, anyway) has been incredibly distracting in evaluating the merit of Peat's ideas, and I don't really have the biochem chops for it :(

Sarah Barracuda said...

@ Kurt - Oh, dammit.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@ Kurt, re: GT - I would (perhaps being biased) disagree with your characterization of grad engineering programs, and the distinction between 'applied' and 'pure [i.e., theoretical]'. However, the grade inflation at GT's alma mater is an open joke (at least among my peers), and that is likely to have played a major role in admissions to grad.

Sarah Barracuda said...

(^rigor of grad eng programs)

M. said...

I don’t think most people with a BS Physics call themselves physicists. I think a PhD is usually required. I call myself a physics major if it comes up. I have worked with many people with BS (& BA) Geology though that called themselves geologists no matter what their job title was.

Applied Physics at the BS level is sometimes a “get ready for engineering” degree at institutions that don’t offer an engineering degree of their own, and the actual physics taken would probably be more in line with what an engineering major would take rather than a physics major.

Fashiontribes Diet said...

@ sarah barracuda Danny Roddy also references Ray Peat all the time. It's where I learned about eating carrots & more carrots to help my thyroid.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@ M. - Yes, without a PhD, to refer to oneself as a physicist would just be presumptuous. Presumptuous?--oh, wait--!

Rampant grade inflation and the benefits of blustering (which GT has proven amply capable of) notwithstanding, GT was at good institutions where he could have gotten a solid grounding in eng/applied science if he had availed himself of the opportunities.

While GT likes to make out anyone who doesn't 'understand' TWICHOO as an imbecile, I don't think our calling him incompetent on account of edu background really advances the discourse--more like he blatantly refuses to let the truth as currently known, be the truth. :)

bentleyj74 said...


Can't resist.

"LMAO! Let's hope she doesn't find 'pasty French postdoc' too appetizing. Homo sapiens sapiens are low carb, but reassuringly, French specimens may be insufficiently fatty for her tastes."

Who could resist a pastry French postdoc?

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


"I don't think our calling him incompetent on account of edu background really advances the discourse"

I haven't heard anyone saying he is incompetent on that basis. For my part, I am only objecting to the meme that his "physics" background gives him insight into how "real" science is conducted - the idea that he has special competence.

You know - the story he tells of how people tear each other apart at physics colloquia and conferences but its all softballs and fluff in nutrition and the the other "soft" biological sciences.....

I don't think he is incompetent to critique the whole field of nutrition science, I just deny that he has any more competence to do so than Stephan or Evelyn or me or whomever...

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@Kurt: We have more similar backgrounds than I realized. Sometimes I forget that I went to an engineering school -- e.g. there were no BA's that I recall. I'm rather concerned nowadays by the different majors that are now "premed"-worthy. At RPI the 6year biomeds were bio majors, many of other premeds were chem majors b/c it was a more competitive program that would improve chances of acceptance to med school.

Anywho, thanks for the reminder of GT's tales of rigorous debate in the hard sciences but lack of same in the peer review in the "soft" sciences. Then again, the Feinman/Fine paper on how the Second Law of Thermo violates the First Law did get published in Nutrition ;)

And thanks for contributing here and sharing your thoughts!

@Emily: Welcome to the Asylum!

Welcome as well STG! I think unfortunately you will find some info here that counters your favorite blogger. Sadly, his analysis of various studies -- especially in the past year or so -- has followed GT's suit of trashing the scientists behind the studies.

@M: To be fair, it's mostly GT's readers/fans who describe him as a physicist, he'll say he's just a journalist. That's even more annoying at times, the: "well if lowly journo me can see this obvious stuff, why can't those stupid scientists listen to me?". It was no wonder, as he told Andreas Eenfeldt in an interview, that the scientists left as soon as they could from one talk so they could get carbs and cheap wine.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@Sarah & STG: Yeah, Ray Peat writes some interesting stuff. I followed Matt's stuff on it for a while, and still read his blog from time to time, but it's too much for me mostly.

@cj: I'm glad you don't think I'm a nutjob anymore ;) I'm holding on to having cream in my coffee as non-negotiable (half&half). I never did the cream drinking, but when I even switched to heavy cream I noticed slight gains. The most palatable, energy dense liquid calories there are! For weight that seems counterintuitive.

@All: Another thing that has amazed me is the number of people who have read where I've exposed his misrepresentations of his own references (that I don't think he even read) and still conclude those were minor issues. Then there's the pass on someone putting forth "paradigm changing science" who openly admits to not having read anything new since GCBC was published. He {paraphrase} 'hasn't read any compelling refutation of his theories which tells him there's probably no new information and he's probably right'. Yeah!

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@steve: LDL size is still relatively new and there are a lot of conclusions being drawn prematurely based on this. I'm also not convinced that fasting triglycerides per se are an issue, it depends on WHY you have them. If it's overproduction of VLDL by the liver or slower clearance from circulation. Evidence seems to point to the former being a metabolic "derangement", the latter not so much.

@Sue: By no means am I saying all scientists are pure as the driven snow and without bias, but consider that there are hundreds of studies if not thousands of studies published in just the most prestigious journals combined each month. There are bound to be some bad studies that make it through. The study where VLC outperformed LF but the conclusion was that moderate carb restriction was not unsafe or something like that comes to mind.

STG said...

Thanks for the welcome! I actually don't have a favorite blog. I continue to visit blogs which offer different perspectives (e.g. Hyperlipid, Whole Health Source, Dr.Mercola,
Taubes, CarbSane. . . .). The comments are often insightful and encourage me to challenge my thinking and increase my knowledge. Also, some blogs reference researchers or science writers that allow me to broaden my understanding of the topic.

Lucas Tafur said...

Re: competence. I think having a background in science (specially biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, etc.)gives you another perspective on how to interpret studies. As Chris said:

"Every now and again I will send her something from the blogs or make her listen to a podcast and more often than not the look of disdain on her face says it all. So often she quickly takes the post or podcast apart...."

This is typical for many blogs/sites which are written by people who are not experts in the field. Every person who has a formal education in science knows that you can't make blank statements unless the results are conclusive. And most (if not all) research is not conclusive. Thereby, chosing the appropiate words for interpreting studies is very important. Sentences like "carbs make you fat" instead of "carbs could contribute to fat gain" makes "outsiders" who have some knowledge in the subject skeptical. If you are really interested in science, you must keep an open mind and try to find the connections between supporting and contradictory findings.

Finally, I think having an academic background is very important for discussing or trying to "falsify" hypotheses. Now everyone can be an expert citing PubMed abstracts. How many people really read the studies, methods, and have the capacity to interpret the studies without bias? Not many.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hi Lucas,IMO this notion of "falsifying" hypotheses is the biggest nonsense promoted mainly by LC buddies Eades and Taubes. No doubt the most obfuscutory bastardization regarding how science is done or should be done in Taubes' ignorant view. Your "About" page says " I am working on my thesis in the Single-Molecule Biophysics Laboratory, on a project on the RNA polymerase of M.tuberculosis." Presumably your thesis has a hypothesis let's simplify that A causes B. Please tell me you are not designing your experiments so as to demonstrate that A doesn't cause B ... to "falsify" it. That is not how it works no matter how many times Taubes tells anyone who will listen that his is the "null hypothesis", or how many black swans are swimming in Eades' pond as he convinces you that all that needs to be done is to reword the hypothesis re: metabolic advantage, find one isolated example that falsifies that, and then the alternate is true! If you have 100 studies measuring energy expenditure v. intake varying macro content, and 99 show no difference, but one shows greater EE v. EI, Eades would have us think that if the hypothesis is "there is no metabolic advantage", then we have 99 white swans, and one black one. Therefore, it's falsified and there is an MA. UTTER NONSENSE.

Put another way folks, does human metabolism change based on how we word our hypotheses? Eades would have you believe so. And Taubes upped the ante in true PAP smear form (I'll let the guesses begin on that acronym - grin) when he lays claim to the truth until someone can falsify it. Only in Taubes' case, TWICHOO in all its many forms and contortions, is easily falsified, so he's resorted to attacking alternative(S) -- emphasis on plural there -- as if disproving any one of them lends an iota of credibility to his failed hypothesis.

No, if I hypothesize A causes B, I design a controlled experiment in the hopes that the result is consistent with my hypothesis. Does it prove it? No. That's why there science marches forward, and has done so quite well since WWII.

Sorry for the rant (it's not really aimed at you but more generally) but these falsies are killing me ;)

bentleyj74 said...

It's a debate/rhetoric device. Sleight of hand is good for winning arguments with amatuers [and selling books] but it doesn't make you right.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


"this notion of "falsifying" hypotheses is the biggest nonsense promoted"

I think there are plenty of amateur students of philosophy and intellectual history who would agree with me that Karl Popper has some sound ideas, but his ideas are as abused as those of Thomas Kuhn (paradigm shifts...etc.)

The idea that for to there be "real" science there can only be a falsifiable hypothesis stated according to Popper, and then we can assume it is true if we cannot prove it is not, is just absurd.

Sometimes lack of falsifiability is because the argument is constructed as a logical (as opposed to rhetorical) tautology. Sometimes it is because it would cost a trillion dollars or take millennia to attempt falsification. In the former case it might not be a scientific hypothesis, but in the latter it might well be (think of things like cosmology, string theory, and the future evolution of homo sapiens)

I agree that falsifiability is almost always important in the sense that our hypothesis must contain the conditions for defining what would invalidate it, at least in theory.

But this does not mean your hypothesis is true until someone proves it wrong!

Nor does it mean it is wrong if a single study (the absurdly abused black swan metaphor) contradicts it.

Most biological science does not shoehorn neatly into Popper's scheme and it is often sophistry to suggest other wise.

Formal logic is a model for dealing with life, not the other way around.

(black swans ??- most biological science is too messy with too many variables to say for sure that a swan is black or white - the whole flock is more shades of grey....)

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hi Kurt, I've written before on hypothesis testing. I often teach intro stats and we go through the basics of hypothesis testing. I also like to make good little critical thinkers out of at least some of my students, so we go through the exercise of taking the same data/results and testing to the same significance level, P-value with only minor changes in the claim. In other words, if I make the claim greater than (>) vs. at least (≥)that's a seemingly insignificant difference. I mean to say, for example, that the weight loss is at least 5 lbs per month or more than 5 pounds per month only differs in whether it includes losing exactly 5 lbs per month. Yet the outcome/conclusions can differ dramatically. So these hypothesis games really irk me! Can you tell ;)

Your comment reminded me I forgot to respond to your observation on GCBC perhaps having too MANY references. I agree, and if nothing else, that lengthy list and the way it was presented with those other footnotes, gave the impression that far more of his contentions were backed by the references he did use. If I say the sky is blue (1) and blue is the favorite color of low carbers, careful reading is that whatever (1) is, it only supports the sky color, and not the part after that. Taubes is a master of this.

Ultimately, and others have said similar here over the time this blog has existed, Taubes spins a convincing tale and GCBC begins with some solid stuff re: fats. With his "expose" style, by the time folks got to the obesity stuff, most were just downright angry about being lied to all these years, they were ripe to buy into this with less skepticism than they might otherwise have had were it to have stood alone. It's the Jerry McGuire effect: "you had me at cholesterol".

Newell Wright said...

@Evelyn, @Kurt A great book about the philosophy of science, that goes over the pros and cons of falsificationism, as well as logical positivism, scientific realism, Feyerabend's "anything goes," and several other perspectives is _What is This Thing Called Science?_ by Alan Chalmers (3rd edition).

Like many philosophy books, it is very good at tearing science down, but offers little to replace it with. Still, it is very good at showing the shortcomings of the various perspectives. For example, science is almost NEVER falsified, because the scientist can always blame the method for the results, or create clever ad hoc hypotheses to explain anomalous results. So as an operating philosophy, it is practically useless.

Sanjeev said...

Kurt beat me to it ...

I was going to suggest Gary submit "life experience" and "work product" towards a PhD in sophistry, cherry picking and (as per Evelyn) misdirection.

THAT might actually be 3 PhDs worth ; (

Sanjeev said...

> Nor does it mean it is wrong if a single study (the absurdly abused black swan metaphor) contradicts it.
The black swan thing is interesting ... according to Niederhofer, Taleb's ideas never made a profit for his investors (through the vehicle to trade on the ideas, Empririca).

Unfortunately few who are as deeply connected as Niederhofer are willing to corroborate.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


Thanks, I'll add that to the reading list.


There are advocates of using a "barbell" approach to portfolio allocation. I am guessing some of these are influenced by Taleb. The idea is to put a small fraction of your assets into options that pay off on very unlikely black swan events and the rest in T-Bills or other boring and safe things.

The problem I see with this is that it seems that the likelihood of outperformance of these portfolios would be just as low and unpredictable as black swans are. And indeed that seems to be the case for Taleb's fund.

Aren't black swans supposed to be rare and unpredictable? They are something to be wary of, not something to bet on!

If you can assign a probability to it or even a market value, I would think by definition is not a black swan.

I thought the whole point of the black swan metaphor is that no one could conceive of one until someone had seen it, not that it was a rare but predictable event.

(In that sense, the current financial crisis is not a black swan at all. It was predicted by an entire school of economic theorists for many years before the event.)

I've always done better making measured bets on things I think are most likely to pay off. Call me old-fashioned.

garymar said...

Betting on a Black Swan is like expecting to win the lottery.

I thought Taleb's idea was to minimize the risks of getting burned by a Black Swan. When all other boats sink, you win the race!

Jeff said...

@Evelyn @Kurt I was using your names on that post as examples of sharp, critical minds, in the blogosphere, who may not be academics doing primary research on these issues. I was taken aback by Stephen's appeal to his academic credentials as invalidating others. In no way did I mean to suggest that you both should be invalidated. I believe to the contrary. Stephen's reply and my reply should have clarified more the post. Sorry, if I offended you. Not my intent.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


I didn't take it as offensive, though it did sound to me that you were saying that Stephan's critique of Taubes for lacking credentials and basic knowledge in biology was in danger of equally invalidating me and the others you mentioned. This I still do not agree with, even as I don't really find your view offensive.

I do think it was fair for Stephan to point out that GT lacks training in basic biological sciences, for which there is really no substitute, especially if one is claiming to be revolutionizing the whole field of dietary science.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hi Jeff, Thanks for the apology, but like Kurt, none is needed on my end because I didn't take offense either. The exchange just brought out some things that have been knocking about in this noggin for a while.

Sam Knox said...


You all have managed to mutilate the ideas of Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and Nassim Taleb in a single comment thread.

In the future, you should refrain from discussing subjects you don't understand.

Woodey said...

Thank you Carbsane for giving a brief over view of what it takes to get a PhD. You really opened my eyes to GCBC and WWGF to the point that I can easily dismiss both books. How can someone claim to have even one theses let alone three but have them not be peer reviewed? I smell something.....wait for it.....ah yeah BULLSH*T!

I wish I had discovered your blog first instead of Taubes' work. Oh well I lived and learned, now I am better off. I can honestly say that I am the happiest I've been in a year now that I am free from the new and improved lc lifestyle.

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