Nutrition science is a terrible mess. Regardless of what kind of diet you're on -- or even whether you think "calories count" or not -- I hope you can agree that the reckless, unscientific, and pigheaded enterprise that is Modern Nutrition Research has created massive problems for our society.
The question I often ponder is... how deep does the rabbit hole go? In other words, if you accept the premise that bad science has permeated the nutrition world, what are the boundaries of that bad science? Where does it end?
In a universe where the most trusted nutrition authorities fail to respect even the most basic precepts of science (Adele Hite beautifully skewers one of the muckity-mucks here), and where food manufacturers effectively write our dietary guidelines, how can we determine what to trust, whom to trust, and when?
It's tricky stuff.
I submit to you a radical idea: that similarly pathological science is running rampant all over the place, in diverse fields.
Here are a few random places that draw my suspicion:
String theory, the most dominant and popular paradigm in theoretical physics, has never been scientifically tested. Peter Wolt, author of Not Even Wrong, has some fascinating thoughts on the topic here.
Harvard University's Dr. Lance Dodes, who was on my podcast a while back, argues that the conventional approach to addiction treatment -- the 12 step paradigm -- is riddled with problems and that pathological science rules the day in that discipline as well.
Breathlyzer Tests for DUI
If you're pulled over by the cops for DUI, odds are an officer will ask you to blow into a breath test machine. "Everyone knows" that these tests are pretty accurate.
But are they really? How much science actually supports their use? One former senior-level D.A. -- who's had a ton of real world experience on both sides of Los Angeles DUI cases -- argues that these tests may be far more flawed than many people realize. He writes:
"The breathalyzer does not distinguish between males or females taking the test. Studies confirm that men and women process alcohol at drastically different rates."
"The [breath test] does not even distinguish between alcohol (ethanol) and other chemicals."
"If the test taker is a diabetic... or [if the] person ate prior to or after consuming alcohol [the results could be thrown way off]"
"[All breath tests] are open to false readings, improper care, improper administration or, most of all, [mis]calibration."
Dr. Eades also wrote a length entry about how low carb dieters can get dinged for DUI, even while stone cold sober, because of the ketones they produce as a byproduct of their metabolism.
Please understand: I am in no way advocating that DUI drivers shouldn't be punished or that the crime of DUI isn't a major, awful menace to society. Nor am I saying that string theorists are idiots or that their theory is worthless (who am I to judge?).
My point here is to highlight possible pathologies in unrelated disciplines. To show that the idiotic fatwa against natural foods, like saturated fat, is not an isolated incident. Instead -- disturbingly but also fascinatingly -- it appears to be the rule, rather than the exception. We are collectively infected with diverse, misguided assumptions and beliefs about the natural world.
The exciting part here -- if that's all true -- is that shortcuts through many seemingly impossible problems may exist.
My 3 favorite shortcuts -- which I live by -- are:
1) count insulin, not calories
2) skip the treadmill and the yoga class and strength train safely instead
3) meditate daily, for all sorts of reasons
I don't know what "shortcuts" are out there that might allow us to solve nasty problems like DUI driving or to finally unify quantum mechanics and gravity.
But don't be surprised if they're actually out there, hiding in plain sight.
I'll leave you tonight with this beautiful quote about pathological science that resonated with me so much I'm going to quote the page in full. My apologies to the author, if he ever reads this. I just think these ideas in this essay are so damn important that every student of science should be forced to confront them:
"Weird science versus revolutionary science
While it's true that at least 99% of revolutionary announcements from the fringes of science are just as bogus as they seem, we cannot dismiss every one of them without investigation. If we do, then we'll certainly take our place among the ranks of scoffers who accidentally helped delay numbers of major scientific discoveries throughout history. Beware, for many discoveries such as powered flight and drifting continents today only appear sane and acceptable because we have such powerful hindsight. These same advancements were seen as obviously a bunch of disgusting lunatic garbage during the years they were first discovered.
In science, pursuing revolutionary advancements can be like searching for diamonds hidden in sewage. It's a shame that the realms of questionable ideas contain "diamonds" of great value. This makes the judging crazy theories far more difficult. If crazy discoveries were always bogus, then we'd have good reason to reject them without investigation. However, since the diamonds exist, we must distrust our first impressions. Sometimes the "obvious" craziness turns out to be a genuine cutting-edge discovery. As with the little child questioning the emperor's clothing, sometimes the entire scientific community is misguided and incompetent. Sometimes only the lone voice of the maverick scientist is telling the truth.
Below is a list of scientists who were reviled for their crackpottery, only to be later proven correct. Today's science texts are dishonest to the extent that they hide these huge mistakes made by the scientific community. They rarely discuss the embarrassing acts of intellectual suppression which were directed at the following researchers by their colleagues. And... after wide reading, I've never encountered any similar list. This is very telling.
"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." - Jonathan Swift
• Arrhenius (ion chemistry)
• Alfven, Hans (galaxy-scale plasma dynamics)
• Baird, John L. (television camera)
• Bakker, Robert (fast, warm-blooded dinosaurs)
• Bardeen & Brattain (transistor)
• Bretz J Harlen (ice age geology)
• Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan (black holes in 1930)
• Chladni, Ernst (meteorites in 1800)
• Crick & Watson (DNA)
• Doppler (optical Doppler effect)
• Folk, Robert L. (existence and importance of nanobacteria)
• Galvani (bioelectricity)
• Harvey, William (circulation of blood, 1628)
• Krebs (ATP energy, Krebs cycle)
• Galileo (supported the Copernican viewpoint)
• Gauss, Karl F. (nonEuclidean geometery)
• Binning/Roher/Gimzewski (scanning-tunneling microscope)
• Goddard, Robert (rocket-powered space ships)
• Goethe (Land color theory)
• Gold, Thomas (deep non-biological petroleum deposits)
• Gold, Thomas (deep mine bacteria)
• Lister, J (sterilizing)
• Lovelock, James (Gaia theory)
• Maiman, T (Laser)
• Margulis, Lynn (endosymbiotic organelles)
• Mayer, Julius R. (The Law of Conservation of Energy)
• Marshall, B (ulcers caused by bacteria, helicobacter pylori)
• McClintlock, Barbara (mobile genetic elements, "jumping genes", transposons)
• Newlands, J. (pre-Mendeleev periodic table)
• Nott, J. C. (mosquitos xmit Yellow Fever)
• Nottebohm, F. (neurogenesis: brains can grow neurons)
• Ohm, George S. (Ohm's Law)
• Ovshinsky, Stanford R. (amorphous semiconductor devices)
• Pasteur, Louis (germ theory of disease)
• Prusiner, Stanley (existence of prions, 1982)
• Rous, Peyton (viruses cause cancer)
• Semmelweis, I. (surgeons wash hands, puerperal fever )
• Shechtman, Dan (quasicrystals)
• Steen-McIntyre, Virginia (southwest US indians villiage , 300,000BC)
• Tesla, Nikola (Earth electrical resonance, "Schumann" resonance)
• Tesla, Nikola (brushless AC motor)
• J H van't Hoff (molecules are 3D)
• Warren, Warren S (flaw in MRI theory)
• Wegener, Alfred (continental drift)
• Wright, Wilbur & Orville (flying machines)
• Zwicky, Fritz (existence of dark matter, 1933)
• Zweig, George (quark theory)"… [more]