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posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 04 2015, @03:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the I'll-never-close-my-eyes-again dept.

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame writes on his blog that science's biggest fail of all time is 'everything about diet and fitness':

I used to think fatty food made you fat. Now it seems the opposite is true. Eating lots of peanuts, avocados, and cheese, for example, probably decreases your appetite and keeps you thin. I used to think vitamins had been thoroughly studied for their health trade-offs. They haven’t. The reason you take one multivitamin pill a day is marketing, not science. I used to think the U.S. food pyramid was good science. In the past it was not, and I assume it is not now. I used to think drinking one glass of alcohol a day is good for health, but now I think that idea is probably just a correlation found in studies.

According to Adams, the direct problem of science is that it has been collectively steering an entire generation toward obesity, diabetes, and coronary problems. But the indirect problem might be worse: It is hard to trust science because it has a credibility issue that it earned. "I think science has earned its lack of credibility with the public. If you kick me in the balls for 20-years, how do you expect me to close my eyes and trust you?"

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by karmawhore on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:12PM

    by karmawhore (1635) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:12PM (#141169)
    What an odd rant. You can't say something like "there was a general belief that science had studied stuff when in fact it had not." "Science" isn't this guy down the street who has funny ideas about "stuff." Adams does mention consensus toward the end of the article, but after reading all the other bizarre proclamations about my pal Science, it still comes off like he's talking about a room full of guys in lab coats who are discussing things and coming to an agreement.
    --
    =kw= lurkin' to please
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by mhajicek on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:15PM

    by mhajicek (51) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:15PM (#141173)

    I think a bigger problem is the people in government who decide they know what's best for everyone and tell them what to do, what to eat and drink, etc.

    --
    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
    • (Score: 3, Disagree) by opinionated_science on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:54PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:54PM (#141199)

      His point is perhaps that it is a complex problem that has been over simplified to the point it is just noise.

      The vast number of medical conditions are not "controlled" for diet. It is not just quality/quantity of food that is in dispute or the toxic additives (HFCS), but the pure politically motivated misinformation by the government agencies. Not intentionally perhaps, but suspiciously doesn't conflict with the Food industry's need to sell more every year. The magic pill does not exist, at least not in a medically sane manner. We all eat too much for our lifestyles - unless you are a farmer or Amish, the dietary advice is hopelessly out of date.

      It is, however, very simple. Diet and exercise have to be in balance. This balance is yours and yours alone to manage. It is made *harder* because not all food is similarly nutritious, or portioned or even available. There is variation in body type, sure, but not 300%. 10-20% is reasonable.

      Education, as in most things is the single most effective treatment for opulent malnutrition.

      Perhaps Scott Adams is just saying what is obvious to those who have the time and faculty to think about why the world they see is as it is?

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Thexalon on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:02PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:02PM (#141206)

      Why is that a big problem? It's not like anyone from the government is actually stopping you from eating a steady diet of Pop Tarts, Doritos, TV dinners, and ice cream washed down with Coke and Bud Light if that's what you want to do. Even when New York banned selling 64 oz sodas, it was perfectly legal to buy two 32 oz sodas instead.

      Most of the government efforts are about either (A) making sure you know what's in your food so you can make an informed choice if you so desire, (B) propaganda telling you to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and such rather than the swill I mentioned in the first paragraph, and (C) making it easier to buy fresh fruits and vegetables somewhere vaguely near where you live if you want to, e.g. setting up farmers' markets in cities.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:18PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:18PM (#141211)

        (C) making it easier to buy fresh fruits and vegetables somewhere vaguely near where you live if you want to, e.g. setting up farmers' markets in cities

        "They" ruined ours by hipsterizing and now the prices are higher than the nearby food stores. Annoys me greatly. Back when I was a crazy hippie for shopping at the farm market I got great deals, but now I can get the same food, cheaper, at the supermarket. "But the farmers market is so cool and everyone loves it!" I miss the days when the farmers mkt sucked. Can't wait for them to return.

        Back when stall rental was zero dollars and 1st come 1st serve I got great deals. Now the city forces signed stall rental agreements for $4K for a season, WTF the .gov takes your first $160 per day for the privilege of not shutting you down (they don't do much else). And people wonder why the farmers mkt costs more than the food store.

        They had this weird in-between era where marked spaces weren't free but they made vendors keep their parking meters full. That seems very fair, but no, they had to get greedy.

        • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:43PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:43PM (#141217)

          "They" ruined ours by hipsterizing and now the prices are higher than the nearby food stores. Annoys me greatly. Back when I was a crazy hippie for shopping at the farm market I got great deals, but now I can get the same food, cheaper, at the supermarket.

          That's just the free market at work. Demand skyrocketed for "organic" food but supply didn't, so prices rose; demand lowered for "processed" foods but supply didn't, so prices fell.

          There is no "them" at fault, just capitalism working as designed.

          • (Score: 4, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:51PM

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:51PM (#141223)

            Demand skyrocketed for "organic" food but supply didn't

            Supply of the same products from most of the same farms at the local health food / organic store is for all intents and purposes infinite 16hrs/7days-a-week

            I will say its cool to see the same label on a carton of radishes that I'd see at the food store as at the farm mkt and meet the local dude who grows my radishes, at least my in season radishes. Its not worth paying more at the farm mkt than at the food store, but it is cool.

            That's just the free market at work.

            Yeah man, nothings freer than the government deciding who gets to sell what where when IF they approve your application, and charging 100x normal parking rates to screw over certain sections of the population they feel it would be fun to screw over, because F them eat the rich they got money we takes it, but thats OK its all part of central government control of food prices by proxy, because the food stores didn't want competition, so pay the mayor's campaign fund to "fix" the market in their favor by BS fees. Pass the weed dude I need another hit of freeeeeeedumbbb

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:08PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:08PM (#141238)

              Yeah man, nothings freer than the government deciding who gets to sell what where when IF they approve your application

              I must say, I'm a fan of having a guarantee that the foods I purchase will for 99.9%-sure be free of anything that could make me sick or kill me. Sure, a few stuff covered with e-coli or mad cow prions or whatnot gets through every now and then, but without some kind of oversight you'd be playing russian roulette every time you went to the store. Without that oversight, all those "tainted" meats and vegetables could be sold by anyone at any time.

              As for the rest of your complaints, as I said, just capitalism working as designed, which underscores the need for oversight, laws, and regulations.

              • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:12PM

                by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:12PM (#141274)

                but without some kind of oversight

                The problem is, back on topic, they're not doing any of that. I can buy a flat of "WTF Organic Farms Inc" radishes in season at the local health food store for $4 or at the farmers market for $5, same farm, same packaging, same cardboard crate, same food (assuming one isn't getting fraudulent radishes?) if and only if the mayors office approves your application for one of the limited number of farmers mkt stalls, which I'm sure a little campaign donation will fix. I'm not really seeing any public health benefit to making sure the mayor gets his campaign contributions.

                Likewise the reason the .gov charges an insane fee to park a farm truck in that spot on saturday mornings vs any other time, is because the local food stores (and not so local food stores) paid the mayor to make the farm mkt more expensive than their stores, you need election money and we happen to have some, meanwhile maybe you should boost the stall rental fee a little, like from $0 to thousands.

              • (Score: 3, Informative) by hemocyanin on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:13PM

                by hemocyanin (186) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:13PM (#141313) Journal

                I'm a fan of having a guarantee that the foods I purchase will for 99.9%-sure be free of anything that could make me sick or kill me.

                That isn't what the city is doing. The city is just charging for stall space and that's no guarantee of quality.

              • (Score: 2) by pnkwarhall on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:49PM

                by pnkwarhall (4558) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:49PM (#141324)

                You only need "government oversight" to protect you from tainted food if you
                a) Don't know where your food really comes from
                b) Don't communicate with your neighbors/community about quality of food stuffs/sources
                ....of course, most Americans fall into both of these categories, so it looks like the oversight/protection is necessary.

                I'd suggest researching the history of pasturization, which runs perfectly in lockstep with the history of the (US) Industrial Revolution. Nobody was worried about or severely affected by bad -- read "diseased" -- milk until it started to be mass-produced, with all the negatives that come along with that.

                --
                Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
              • (Score: 2) by Jeremiah Cornelius on Thursday February 05 2015, @04:50PM

                by Jeremiah Cornelius (2785) on Thursday February 05 2015, @04:50PM (#141558) Journal

                capitalism working as designed

                Yes. Your intelligent designer at his best.

                --
                You're betting on the pantomime horse...
        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by jdccdevel on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:34PM

          by jdccdevel (1329) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:34PM (#141281) Journal

          I don't know how much longer the farmers market is going to be necessary. With online e-commerce, it will be easy to buy direct from the farmer without a market at all.

          My wife and I did something similar last summer. We bought a bunch of beef from a organic farmer, all organized before the cow was even slaughtered.

          We arranged to meet them somewhere convenient to pick it up. Simple, effective, and no middle man.

          I would be very surprised if that doesn't start happening more and more in the next few years, as locally grown food starts to catch on more and farmers markets become more commercial.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday February 04 2015, @10:31PM

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 04 2015, @10:31PM (#141339)

            Yup don't even need full ecommerce, our beef supplier is a friend of the family thru my sister-in-law, never knew I was very tenuously related to an organic beef rancher but thru the magic of social media to coordinate the process, here I am buying half cows and sticking them in my freezer much as you do.

            I imagine it varies by state but I pay the rancher for a cow and he delivers it to a "full service" butcher shop / meat processor and a couple days later my wife and SIL take a road trip to the butcher shop and come home with hundreds of pounds of frozen meat, after she pays the butcher separately for his work.

            Another fun thing to google for is "community supported agriculture" or CSA. I have a desire to sign up but never quite make it. The business model all the CSAs use around here is getting friendly organic food stores to use them as dropoff points, on the assumption that bags of vegetables will ruin their produce sales but boost the sales of everything else. Which is probably true.

            In decades to come I imagine some kind of marketplace will develop for CSAs and craigslist traders and who knows what else.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:38PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:38PM (#141216)

      They often feel its quite justified since its their "God" telling "everyone" how they should live. And if the individuals are cherry-picking or interpreting it differently than others, well, thats just because "God" is telling them the right interpretation.

      I really despise the people continually working to change my country into a theocracy.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:23PM (#141178)
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:21PM

      by sjames (2882) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:21PM (#141276) Journal

      It points to the problem, but wait, there's more!

      A study found that eggs have a lot of cholesterol and concluded eggs are bad for you. Problem 1, that conclusion was well over-stated since they had no evidence that cholesterol in food = cholesterol in blood. All they had was a reasonable but wrong conjecture. That one is on science (or at least a couple practitioners of it. Then the media uncritically shouted it from the rooftops. Next up, the medical profession as a whole accepted it at face value and uncritically parroted the conclusion. Then the nutritionists uncritically parroted the prevailing opinion of the medical community. Then various food processors only too happily came up with low cholesterol food-like products and carpet bombed us with ads all pointing back to nutritionists and the medical community as the basis of their claims.

      Not to worry, there's more blame to go around! How about all those schools with 'science' classes that didn't teach their students enough to understand that some skepticism was called for in all of that? I had a few really good teachers who DID but apparently most did not. Finally the various health related government agencies who had no clue about it but felt they should say something in order to remain relevant so they parroted the medical community.

      As for the rest of the scientific community, nobody took a few moments to remind everyone that nobody in that bandwagon was actually a scientist (though a few play one on TV) and none of them have any idea what they're talking about.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hubie on Wednesday February 04 2015, @10:11PM

        by hubie (1068) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @10:11PM (#141333) Journal

        As for the rest of the scientific community, nobody took a few moments to remind everyone that nobody in that bandwagon was actually a scientist

        If it were only that easy. Scientists speak out all the time about stuff and they are routinely ignored or marginalized by the media and public in general. That kind of stuff is uninteresting. You have 99% of the scientific community jumping up and down and waiving their hands about climate change, and it's a non-story unless you want to sell some sort of scandalous angle to it. Or consider oat bran. In the late 80's there was a study that showed oat bran lowered your bad cholesterol. What happened was exactly what is shown in that Ph.D. comics [phdcomics.com] someone else posted. Imagine, a wonder food that you can eat that lowers your cholesterol (or, if it was today: lower your risk of heart attack by eating this one special food). It got whipped into a media frenzy and food producers sprinkled it on everything and shoved oat bran products on the market. All perspective was lost. Eventually the market got over-saturated with oat bran products and claims which triggered a backlash. When it was eventually showed that it wasn't just oat bran, but fiber in general, that spawned another media frenzy about how it is all a lie and it turns into a good old fashioned media witch hunt (you got these egg-head scientist types, the interests of the big evil corporations, etc. all sorts of juicy story stuff to tell). The takeaway for Scott Adams, at least for this case, is that science lied to him.

        I disagree pretty strongly with Adams on this. The lion's share of the fault falls on us, fed by the media. Next to clothing fashion, food and diets have to be the second in line for likelihood of turning into a raging fad. Most of us don't eat healthy, or we're guilty because we don't think we eat healthy. Most of us believe we are fat and out of shape, and we're afraid of dying. The way to fix almost all of those issues is to eat a decent diet and get your exercise. But decent diets are boring and exercise is hard work. However, this fella over here says he lost a lot of weight eating a bunch of grapefruit, and this other fella over there says that not only can you eat all the butter and bacon you want, it is actually good for you! Maybe they try to base it on some study, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if the medical profession by and large says, no, I don't think you should eat that much bacon. People don't want to hear that, all they want to know is if they eat a bunch of grapefruit, the pounds will magically melt away (or their arteries will clear up, or whatever). It's all or nothing. And when people find out that this diet doesn't work for them, they sell their cow to the next guy with a bag of magic beans.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by sjames on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:07PM

          by sjames (2882) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:07PM (#141346) Journal

          You're letting a lot of frauds off the hook and blaming the least qualified people, all based on one line of what I wrote. This is me calling Mr. sound bite out for bad reporting :-)

          What of the doctors who jump on the bandwagon? They do have the necessary education to make the judgement call, but there they are on the bandwagon. The nutritionists? It';s their entire job description to know better!

          What would we do with a tax accountant who told his clients "Yes, it's totally OK to deduct the cost of your daily starbucks as a medical expense!".

          That's a lot of people who are EXPECTED to know better but don't. The rest of the people are completely in the right to stop trusting them as a whole. Clearly they aren't up to the job. They certainly are presented as scientists (or at least well educated in science so they can act as it's spokesmen).

          Why do you think it is that people ignore the doctor who says "I don't think you should eat that much bacon"? It's because the diet he recommended last time tasted like sweetened cardboard and turned out to be a leading cause of type 2 diabetes. The bacon guy's diet probably isn't a good idea but at least that one doesn't make you miserable until the preventable disease shows up.

          You are probably expecting too much if you expect the average person to see right through the bad studies written up to snow a peer review (successfully). Effectively, you demand that the average man on the street be a better scientist than a peer review panel.

          • (Score: 1, Redundant) by hubie on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:47PM

            by hubie (1068) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:47PM (#141359) Journal

            I"m not asking people to study and see through medical studies, I'm asking them to realize there is no magic bullet easy way out. It is the same thing your grandfather has been saying, and his grandfather too, about the need to put in the work, there are no easy answers, if it looks too good to be true, etc. I'm also not expecting people will follow common sense, because, at least when it comes to health, it doesn't happen. There are a variety of reasons people don't get enough exercise, don't eat well, etc., and really everyone knows that they need to eat right and exercise, but they're willing time and time again to take a shot at the next person that comes along that tells them they don't need to put in the effort, all they need to do is to take a pill, or eat a food, or whatever. We fool ourselves, and I think we also don't really expect it to work, but, what if it does? Maybe, just maybe, I don't need to go to the gym three times a week, I'll give this a try.

            I think this is the reason that people ignore sensible advice from anyone, whether it is from doctors or anyone else. It is the same thing you see in politics. People listen and believe first to what they want to believe. Who are you going to vote for, the guy who says we need to roll up our sleeves and make sacrifices, or the guy who says you don't need to make sacrifices and in fact, I'll cut your taxes to boot? The guy who says you need to get off your ass and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise in a day, or the guy who says you just need to take this pill and make no changes to your current lifestyle?

            I don't know much about nutritionists, but I feel very comfortable saying that most doctors are going to recommend the best thing for the majority of their patients to do is eat well and exercise. They don't push fad diets unless either they have a stake in the game, or their patient is insisting on something that goes beyond eating well and exercising. There's plenty of blame to cast on this topic, but I still feel the bulk of it falls on us. When they sprinkle a few grams of oat bran on a Twinkie, if you feed the hype machine by snarfing down a box of them thinking you can somehow do it guilt-free, then it is hard to lay the blame elsewhere. If these things weren't chased with such fervor and the message taken in moderation, that would be one thing, but when it comes to health topics people don't act very rationally.

            • (Score: 3, Informative) by sjames on Thursday February 05 2015, @03:14AM

              by sjames (2882) on Thursday February 05 2015, @03:14AM (#141408) Journal

              How are these people supposed to know what constitutes eating right when their doctor and their nutritionist keep jumping on every kooky bandwagon? Who is supposed to tell them what is 'right'? Their health teacher from back in high school who is also on the bandwagon (and is probably a PE teacher, not a medical professional or nutritionist)? Certainly they weren't born knowing what to eat.

              Clearly they need to look to some other source to know what might constitute eating right. That's what Adams is saying.

              They are now ignoring doctors because the advice they got from their doctor turned out to NOT be sensible at all.

              • (Score: 1, Redundant) by etherscythe on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:03PM

                by etherscythe (937) on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:03PM (#141648) Journal

                We all need to be responsible for ourselves. What I mean is, nobody gets more out of your life than you do, and any of your life choices can be guided by common knowledge, but you need to know your limitations and, specifically, how your body uniquely responds to different foods, medications, and exercise. So, whether any particular technique or diet or product is good for you needs to be viewed through the lens of your life experience. If a nutritionist knows what your diet needs to be better than you do without even knowing your lifestyle - you're doing it wrong.

                So, yes, vegetables are good for you for obvious reasons, but don't eat the ones you're allergic to, and select for the ones with the proportion of vitamins you need. Don't use margarine, because that stuff is NOT healthier for you than butter... unless it is, because of a dairy intolerance, or whatever else. Pay attention, and apply the scientific knowledge which applies to your situation.

                The only problem is that people don't want to think, don't want to do the work of keeping track of these things, they want someone else to do their thinking for them. And so the media carries the power to give the official record of the state of science, 30 seconds at a time.

                --
                "Fake News: anything reported outside of my own personally chosen echo chamber"
                • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:45PM

                  by sjames (2882) on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:45PM (#141657) Journal

                  Again, styep 1 is to tune out the advertisers, government agencies, doctors and nutritionists. That leaves Grandma I guess.

    • (Score: 2) by The Archon V2.0 on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:10PM

      by The Archon V2.0 (3887) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:10PM (#141312)

      Perhaps now is time to link a comic from a different series.

      http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1174 [phdcomics.com]

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MrGuy on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:58PM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:58PM (#141228)

    Adams isn't taking aim at one-off individuals or "fringe" findings (i.e "eating a pound of chocolate a day is good for you!" says a study funded by Hershey's). He is making a point of scientific CONSENSUS.

    Not all people (or even all scientists) will agree on every single point. However, we (as a society) tend to have an expectation that the widely held belief of a significant majority of scientists in a general field is right. The consensus (especially a STRONG consensus) of experts is taken as "very likely true."

    And (as he points out) the history of the scientific consensus (at least when related to diet) has been not just wrong, but BADLY wrong for decades. Virtually every established physician, dietician, or nutritionist 25 years ago would have told you fats were bad and should be avoided. They would have told you that salt was highly dangerous because it caused high blood pressure. They would have told you that carbs were the base of the food pyramid.

    And the current consensus is that they were all wrong. Not one individual. Not some collection of guys off in the corner. If you, Joe Average Citizen, had consulted the best minds in the industry and asked them "can you tell me what is the most nutritious way to eat is?" they would have told you, yes, we DO know the best way to eat! We have studies and mechanisms and journal articles, and they all tell us that you should eat thusly. And they would have told you something that we now believe was drastically incorrect.

    You could have surveyed all the recognized experts in the field, and gotten maybe 90% consensus on most of their recommendations. This isn't one person's fault - it's a VERY LARGE number of people's fault. It's (to use Adams' shorthand) science's fault. His point is that it's NOT a conspiracy of some wingnuts, but a fault in what we think of as "science" itself (i.e. as a testable, experiment driven, humble, results-agnostic field concerned only with uncovering truth). Or, at least, that people's trust in "the consensus of reasonable scientists" is misplaced.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:19PM (#141244)

      Virtually every established physician, dietician, or nutritionist 25 years ago would have told you

      And where are the scientists in your list?

      • (Score: 2) by Tramii on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:42PM

        by Tramii (920) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:42PM (#141284)

        Well there's the problem. We should be asking archaeologists, geologists and mathematicians about what to eat!

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by maxwell demon on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:02PM

          by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:02PM (#141344) Journal

          What about medical researchers (not the same as physicians!) and biologists?

          --
          The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06 2015, @05:33PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06 2015, @05:33PM (#141909)
            Most of them are specialists and so they won't give you any useful dietary advice. They'll give you useful advice for stuff they're expert on.

            Up until recently the rest of their advice would likely have been the same shit that everyone else got wrong.

            The nutritionists, etc were supposed to be digesting all the research done by the researchers and coming up with advice that's not shit.

            By the same logic in this thread we shouldn't be trusting doctors for medical advice since they aren't scientists, and we should somehow instead take the time to be experts in the field. And sadly it actually is true in too many cases. Many doctors often don't have the time and energy left to keep up with the best and latest research.

            To me it shows there is a problem with the system. The research is out there, but nobody is doing a good job of curating it and making it known to those who need to know.
            • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Friday February 06 2015, @07:01PM

              by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 06 2015, @07:01PM (#141945) Journal

              By the same logic in this thread we shouldn't be trusting doctors for medical advice since they aren't scientists

              No. Rather by the same logic we shouldn't blame science when the doctor fails to do his job properly. You've apparently forgotten what this thread was about.

              --
              The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05 2015, @06:56AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05 2015, @06:56AM (#141430)
        So who is supposed to be giving nutritional advice? Shift the blame about all you want but there's no denying the system has failed. There's very little actual advancement if some scientist is right about something important but practically the whole world doesn't know it for decades.

        Secondly most scientists are specialists. So most of them would have got their nutrition/diet advice from the same sources: "physician, dietician, or nutritionist", crap studies, etc, and thus they'd either be telling people the same thing, or they won't be commenting.

        Even those who bother to look at the science can see that a lot of science work is crap done by
        a) scientists who are paid by someone with an agenda (who'll only publish the stuff they want)
        b) scientists who need to "publish or perish", in which case they publish incomplete crap often, instead of one far more conclusive study (which would never get the funding or time anyway).

        Nowadays a lot of low hanging fruit is gone, so you're more likely to need more funding and time in order to actually do a good quality study. Instead of a few very good studies, you get thousands of half complete crap (and a dozen meta analysis will be done on different subsets producing different conclusions).
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05 2015, @01:22PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05 2015, @01:22PM (#141481)

          Shift the blame about all you want but there's no denying the system has failed.

          Yes, but the system that failed is not the science system. It's the medical system.

          Blaming science for that is like blaming mathematics for the Intel Pentium FDIV bug.

    • (Score: 2) by kebes on Thursday February 05 2015, @06:10PM

      by kebes (1505) on Thursday February 05 2015, @06:10PM (#141581)
      I essentially agree with you, but...

      And (as he points out) the history of the scientific consensus (at least when related to diet) has been not just wrong, but BADLY wrong for decades. Virtually every established physician, dietician, or nutritionist 25 years ago would have told you fats were bad and should be avoided. ...

      I would like to point out that medical doctors, physicians, dieticians, and nutritionists are not scientists. (I'm trying not to commit a no true Scotsman [wikipedia.org] fallacy...) I think if you compared the consensus among those health-professionals to the consensus among scientists studying health, you would have found them to be quite different. In particular, even if they agreed on certain (ultimately erroneous) conclusion, scientists will tend to have a much better understanding of uncertainties, error-bars, shortcomings of studies, etc. In other words, scientists are almost always pointing out how one should not over-interpret a given result... only to have the media over-interpret the result and turn it into a simplified (and now incorrect) sound-bite. (For many of the examples cited in the rant, if you go back to an article from that time-period, you would find it painting a very different story from the media headlines.)

      To me, Scott Adams' rant highlights the age-old problem of science communication. The problem is that we have different groups operating:
      1. Scientists who do research
      2. Professionals who use/apply the results of science (medical doctors, etc.)
      3. The media, who report on science
      4. The public, who want a simple answer

      There is a filtration process, with the information getting progressively warped down the chain. The information is both becoming simplified (and thus becoming slightly wrong), while the inherent uncertainties and limitations are being dropped (and thus making the information highly misleading). The end result is that the public thinks there is a certain scientific consensus, when in fact there is not.

      So, I agree with Scott Adams' rant in the sense that I find the majority of science is mis-reported in the media, and even misunderstood by professionals. Doctors, for instance, are mostly not scientific in the way they do their work (so-much-so that we need to have a label--evidence-based medicine [wikipedia.org]--for the case where doctors actually try to apply science to their work); and I would not count their advice as representing scientific consensus. I'm not saying doctors are bad at their jobs. Their advice is, on average, better than doing nothing. However, their heuristics about health are not usually representative of the consensus among research-scientists.

      I'm not saying scientists are perfect. They make plenty of mistakes. The scientific consensus has been wrong on many occasions, and certainly issues of biology and medicine are extremely complex. So, by all means apply scepticism to the scientific consensus. However, we should also be aware that the apparent scientific consensus is very different from the 'real' scientific consensus (i.e. the opinions of research-scientists). We can't fix the problem until we understand its origin.

      • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Thursday February 05 2015, @06:19PM

        by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday February 05 2015, @06:19PM (#141587)

        I think if you compared the consensus among those health-professionals to the consensus among scientists studying health, you would have found them to be quite different. (snip)(For many of the examples cited in the rant, if you go back to an article from that time-period, you would find it painting a very different story from the media headlines.)

        Citation needed.

        • (Score: 2) by kebes on Thursday February 05 2015, @07:16PM

          by kebes (1505) on Thursday February 05 2015, @07:16PM (#141611)

          Citation needed.

          Fair enough; but where are Scott Adams' citations?

          For many of the things the rant quotes, the "proof" that he's wrong is actually the fact that no one can point to a scientific study making the claim. E.g.: - The whole "8 glasses of water a day" didn't come [snopes.com] from a scientific study.
          - The various incarnations of the US food guides were not based purely on input from scientists, but rather have a long history of being co-opted by special interest groups [harvard.edu].
          - The rant even notes "The reason you take one multivitamin pill a day is marketing, not science." I.e.: it was not the scientific consensus arguing for their relevance (see, e.g., this [nih.gov] for the scientific consensus: they usually won't do much good).

          As for supporting my contention that scientific studies are cautious and tend to acknowledge limitations (especially compared to the media)... well, you can pick up just about any scientific medical journal. Here's an example, related to the rant's discussion of fatty acids making people fat: In Dietary Approaches to Obesity [soylentnews.org], the authors note: "...the optimal diet composition quality for weight loss is far from known. The major controversy seems to be between choosing low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets, with additional debates on the importance of the glycemic index and the amounts of dairy products and calcium. It is evident from many large, randomized trials that the "best diet" that can suit everyone has yet to be identified. The different options for low-calorie diets should be prescribed on an individual basis..."

          Here's another example [bmj.com], related to alcohol consumption, from 14 years ago (presumably within the time-period decried by the rant?), noting: "...the effect of “moderate” alcohol consumption on overall health remains controversial" and "Genetic factors modify the effect of alcohol consumption on risk of CHD, resulting in population variability in the amount of benefit achieved from alcohol consumption" and then detailing the details about drinking patterns, gender, etc. This is quite different from the simplistic "alcohol good for health" Adams states.

          More examples could be found, but actually Adams' rant is so vague and un-sourced that it's difficult to provide specific counter-evidence. He does not provide evidence that the scientific community was confidently supporting the take-home-messages he lists.

          • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Saturday February 07 2015, @01:02PM

            by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Saturday February 07 2015, @01:02PM (#142204) Homepage
            > E.g.: - The whole "8 glasses of water a day" didn't come from a scientific study.

            With a link to http://www.snopes.com/medical/myths/8glasses.asp

            Which contains the quote "Back in 1945 the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council stated that adults should take in about 2.5 liters of water per day (which is roughly the equivalent of eight glasses of water)"

            And the NRC are "To meet the government's urgent need for an independent adviser on scientific matters, President Lincoln signed a congressional charter forming the National Academy of Sciences in 1863 to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science." As science began to play an ever-increasing role in national priorities and public life, the National Academy of Sciences eventually expanded to include the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970."

            I'm sorry, but that confirms that scientists did say you need an intake equivalent to 8 glasses of water rather than denying it. (However, the rest of the sentence that I partially quoted does contain the most important part of their payload.)
            --
            I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by sjames on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:32PM

    by sjames (2882) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:32PM (#141253) Journal

    It really isn't that hard to understand what he is saying. He's talking about government agencies, the AMA and practically all of it's members, school health classes, nutritionists, and on and on (that is, authority figures) claiming their 'facts' are backed up by science making all these claims and not one actual university researcher piping up with a '"not so fast".

    In other words, you're supposed to be able to trust your doctor to not spout junk when it comes to health and fitness.

    • (Score: 4, Touché) by pnkwarhall on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:57PM

      by pnkwarhall (4558) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @09:57PM (#141329)

      I trust doctors' opinions or perspectives on health about as far as I can throw 'em. Why someone who's focus is on disease and injury give me a unbiased and realistic perspective on health and wellness? When the general stereotype of doctors is that they fix "problems" by throwing pills at them, it's probably not a good source of information about what else I should put in my body on a regular basis.

      For some reason, this attitude is not respected by the majority of folks.

      --
      Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by sjames on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:13PM

        by sjames (2882) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:13PM (#141348) Journal

        That's probably because most people don't see how severely the profession has decayed in the last few decades.

  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday February 05 2015, @04:53PM

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday February 05 2015, @04:53PM (#141559) Homepage Journal

    His rant about vitamins was dead wrong; CBS News was talking about a new, large study that said that most Americans do not, in fact, get all their needed vitamins. No citrus or tomatoes at all? You'll probably get scurvy. No dairy at all? You won't get enough calcium.

    Burgers, fries, doritos, and pizza do not have all the nutrients you need.

    I was glad when they did that study a few decades ago that said butter was bad for you because it makes you fat. I've always been thin and the price of butter dropped like a rock after that study, and I was pretty poor at the time.

    The reason people don't "trust" science is that they don't understand it or how it works, and incredibly few folks have any grasp of statistics at all.

    My great uncle started smoking at age 12, stopped at 82 and died at 92. That doesn't mean that smoking is a good idea, it means that there are variables (and he got lucky). Not everyone is in the median in any study.

    If nobody in your family has ever had a heart attack, you have no reason whatever to worry about a heart attack; eat all the greasy pork you want. All of your grandparents died of heart failure in their sixties? You damned well better watch your diet.

    --
    Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]