7

votes

Can Gary Taubes fix science? Does it need to be fixed?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created September 02, 2011 at 6:06 PM

http://www.garytaubes.com/2011/09/catching-up-on-lost-time-ancestral-health-symposium-food-reward-palatability-insulin-signaling-carbohydrates-kettles-pots-other-odds-ends-part-i/

Now for the punch line to my shaggy dog story ??? i.e. iconic moment number one. In the Q&A session following my hour-long presentation, a member of the PBRC faculty, a distinguished-looking gentleman who I???d guess was in his mid to late sixties, raised his hand and said, ???Mr. Taubes, is it fair to say that one subtext of your talk is that you think we are all idiots????

Is it fair to say that I think they are all idiots? A surprisingly good question.

Certainly one subtext of my talk (and my work) is that a journalist is getting it right and sixty-odd years of nutritionists and obesity researchers got it wrong (with maybe a half dozen exceptions who were marginalized for their beliefs.) So, yes, it was fair to say that I think a large body of otherwise very smart people, Ph.D.s and M.D.s all, were operating with suboptimal intelligence. Certainly in a pursuit ??? science ??? in which the one goal is to get the right answer, getting the wrong answer on such a huge and tragic scale borders on inexcusable.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Well, he's just introduced a series he's going to be writing, not really addressed any of the science, so at the moment I don't think anything.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 07, 2011
at 01:05 PM

karlub I like reading Fallows for his insight on east Asian economics, and Steinbeck for his observations on California in the 1930's. They're dispassionate observers making no claims to be either economist or sociologist. They're my models of good writer/journalists. Taubes on the other hand mixes journalism with op/Ed pseudoscience. Bad science and bad journalism. No like everyone else downvote me please.

F5a8a14fc6a4d33c2563d0dd3066698a

(714)

on September 06, 2011
at 10:06 PM

Maybe you know more scientists than I do, but my background is Philosophy, and I am pretty sure most scientists don't care two figs about the Philosophy of science.

F5a8a14fc6a4d33c2563d0dd3066698a

(714)

on September 06, 2011
at 10:04 PM

THHQ: The problem with primary researchers is they are brilliant at their niche, and it is niche-work on which they are incentivized. The type of cross-disciplinary synthesis that Taubes did with GCBC is a rare achievement in that not many scientists have broad enough interests to care, and those that do wouldn't get paid to do it. You are criticizing a journalist for not being a researcher. I could just as easily criticize a researcher for not writing for me, and synthesizing similar papers into their articles upon publication. But that would be unfair. It isn't what they do.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 06, 2011
at 04:05 PM

@Melissa - You made me think of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THNPmhBl-8I

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 06, 2011
at 01:45 AM

Aaron, I know what you are saying. I just don’t think that is really what Taubes is getting at. He thinks nutrition scientists are bad scientists. He has said or implied that on numerous occasions. I read Kuhn twenty years ago. Most people with an interest in science have read Kuhn and understand how paradigms work. The people he will be directly debating knows how paradigms work. He is not prefacing this debate with a discussion of Kuhn to excuse mainstream science; he is doing to make it clear to the uninformed masses in the audience that he that might not really be a crackpot.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 06, 2011
at 01:05 AM

One last stab: the point is, if you say "this vast group of people can't understand this truth that I understand," it sounds like you're saying they're all stupid (incapable of understanding it) or corrupt (refusing to see it). But there's a third option: they can't see it because it violates assumptions they've grown up with and taken for granted for so long that they don't even realize they're assumptions.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 05, 2011
at 10:29 PM

Bias, huh...“He spent several paragraphs excusing it, and explaining why it's natural and even inevitable” Really? Taubes vindicates all nutrition scientists and says all is forgiven? Don't worry about the silly cholesteral hypothesis and the whole obesity epidemic thing - it's not your fault - it's natural and inevitable. Give me a break. If you don’t think Taubes has a low opinion of nutrition scientists, then I don’t think you have been paying attention. He didn’t spend several thousand words excusing them; he spent several thousand words saying “I am not a crackpot.”

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 05, 2011
at 06:58 PM

Well I certainly didn't expect any upvotes for what I said. Maybe 34 years of being a research scientist has shriveled my brain. But I have had the satisfaction of seeing a lot of arrogant gasbags get what they so richly deserved. While they prattled about the importance of their discoveries I tried to develop better communication skills (saying what you mean clearly and succinctly) and giving others credit. As a researcher I wouldn't want to tie the paleo concept to a nutball journalist that thinks he's Copernicus. The concept needs more Framingham. More open minds. Less science fiction.

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on September 05, 2011
at 06:30 PM

Indeed Aaron. It's amazing what happens when you actually read something carefully without a negative bias.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on September 05, 2011
at 05:53 PM

yes it is funny. Some of my favorite science booty comes from some quirky little physical anthropologist who wants to hunt and is refreshingly outspoken.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on September 05, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Excellent response Aaron!

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 05, 2011
at 05:09 PM

it becomes quite funny if you think about, particularly if the person in question comes from a background that is stereotyped as being high-status. In Gary's case, he's "Just a rocket scientist"

Efc949694a31043bfce9ec86e8235cd7

(970)

on September 03, 2011
at 07:54 PM

Long live the QUILT! :)

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 03, 2011
at 06:31 PM

But after that 'inexcusable' line, he spent several paragraphs excusing it, and explaining why it's natural and even inevitable. This is a guy whose book had to be edited by 50% just to make it ginormous-but-publishable. He wanders around the possibilities a lot before winding to a conclusion, so one line early in the article shouldn't be taken as his final argument.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on September 03, 2011
at 06:18 PM

Jack you missed thhq's point (and was the brain shrinking comment necessary?). Doing the kind of research and presenting the information in a manner that will pass muster of critical review to earn that degree is different from Gary hiring researchers to go out and bring him back papers he's admittedly only skimmed most of the time who then relies on interviews with scientists about their often decades old research. One can imagine an interview of Einstein by Taubes: "Anything new since you came up with your theory of relativity?" No? OK then ... that settles that. This is not research.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:55 PM

“…getting the wrong answer on such a huge and tragic scale borders on inexcusable” sounds like he thinks it needs to be fixed. Quoting Kuhn is just a very suspect way to preface the discussion of one’s own theory. It’s like saying “I’m not a crackpot; I’m a genius.” Crackpots do quote Kuhn a lot. It doesn’t mean he is a crackpot, but he steps easily into the pattern. A lot of real geniuses don’t have to preface their work with “I’m not a crackpot.”

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:40 PM

He didn't quote Kuhn in support of his own "pet theory." He quoted him to show why it's okay to *have* a pet theory, and why it's also completely rational for the mainstream to reject the pet theories of outsiders. That's the thing: he never said science needs to be "fixed," or even that it can or should be fixed. The tendency to get locked into a paradigm and be unable to see outside it isn't a problem of science; it's a fact of life. It's why people say "think outside the box"; they know that's where the real 'gem' ideas tend to be hiding, but that's also where it's hardest to look.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:35 PM

He wasn't at outsider. He was young. Like I said, "young" is the motif in physics. Thinking "outside the box" does not make you an outsider. Eistein had the same education and career path as many of the great German physicists of that period. He just had a little detour right after grad school because there were not enough teaching positions to go around.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:29 PM

I dont think a degree means shit and I have three of them. When you think a degree means something your brain has shrunk in my view.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:29 PM

Matthew that is your optic......not mine.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:28 PM

He came from no where......to the stratesphere fast. He was an outsider for sure that is my point. His biography is clear on it as well.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:23 PM

Einstein was a patent clerk because of a shortage of teaching positions. He had a PhD and wanted a career in academia. He published scientific papers while at University before becoming a patent clerk as well as afterwords. The fact that he couldn't get a teaching position for a few years does not make him an outsider. It makes him a young PhD that can't find a gig for a few years, but he took academic positions as soon as they were offered.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:15 PM

The only problem with the 30,000 foot view is that often all you can see is clouds........

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:13 PM

The Quilt - Food Reward Theory is irrelevent to the critique of Insulin Theory. They are two separate issues. The issue with Insulin Theory is that if you looked at a table of Insulin Index values and looked at all the cultures of the world that eat rice and potatoes, you would not put the hypothesis to paper. You would have moved on to something else. Insulin is an important hormone, so it might be involved at some point, but the idea that just insulin drives obesity should have been a non-starter.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:03 PM

Einstein was a classic outsider......are you nuts. He was a train time clerk in 1900-05 studying math and physics from books and thought experiments. WOW!!! Heisenberg was a not an outsider but an earlier adopter of Einsteins work. Few established scientist accepted AE work until they verified his theory with the Mercury eclipse in 1916 done in Africa.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:00 PM

GT needs to stop the 30 ft view and embrace the 30000 foot view and he has a winner.......but when you have a franchise to sell you lose that optic.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:57 PM

This is why GT is getting hammered......and I pointed it out to him. Until he realizes he is operating one small sphere of what obesity might be he is going to get pummeled. But SG could be in the same boat......but he is yet to write a book that will pigeon hole him to food reward. I doubt he is that narrow minded. The bigger picture is out there if they just take their rose colored macronutrient glasses off.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:57 PM

You have to be really skeptical though of people quoting Kuhn when talking about their own pet theories. That seems to up the crackpot quotient even higher. Such hubris tends to hamper honest science as well. I also think the role of the “outsider” is overemphasized. Copernicus wasn’t an outsider to the way astronomy was done at the time. Heisenberg and Einstein were not outsiders. In physics particularly, the motif is “young” rather than “outsider”.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:54 PM

the same should hold true for food reward then too.......because it is only part of the story as GT part is. Its a giant pisiing contest without any context

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:52 PM

If you are really vested in the idea, of course you can argue about variability of insulin metrics and insulin resistance all you want, but the logical thing to do would be to not to get vested with it to begin with. Or to figure out good explanations for all the world’s white rice eaters before writing a book about your hypothesis.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:45 PM

Rose – it is just not a very good hypothesis to begin with, especially from an Ancestral view. Many cultures eat high carb diets and do fine, THEN experience problems with adoption of Western diet & lifestyle. The question should be what is different? If you compare Insulin Index of white rice to pasta and breakfast cereal, then insulin should not be on the radar. Insulin resistance seems to be more a symptom of metabolic derangement than a cause. Why do these ancestral, high-carb cultures become insulin resistant only after adopting Western diet and lifestyle.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:07 PM

I sent Gary a tweet yesterday about leptin and I was very direct. And he agreed with my assertion on leptin. But he points out his goal is to go after the low hanging fruit of carbs and insulin that is in the literature for the obese. I understadn why he is doing it. But it wont change clinical or academic medicine unless he has the whole story in his next book. I think "some types" here dont like Gary T because he really ruffles research scientists feathers because he is pointing out how they "eck" out a living. Creating really bad papers to make an easy issue confusing.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:03 PM

As I understand it, the conclusion Taubes draws from the research is that there are *two* mechanisms at work in obesity, both related to insulin. One is the amount of insulin produced by a food -- the insulin index referenced above. The other is the degree of insulin resistance within the body. Both metrics can show great variability from individual to individual. The mere existence of Type I and Type II diabetics ought to make such variability obvious and non-controversial.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:45 AM

When Gary Taubes earns a PHD proving his pet theory I'll pay attention. If he spends his book royalties endowing a chair in nutrition he earns my respect. But right now the money is only feeding his ego.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 03:28 AM

Btw that's jakeys fifth fake account, which is why he is banned

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 03:27 AM

Lol there is no ruling clique here. If you have been here long enough you'll remember I used to have regular conflicts with someone who is now a mod. Just follow the very basic rules and I will not touch your question.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on September 03, 2011
at 03:18 AM

The bottom line is: THIS IS SCIENCE. And it is nothing new. It goes on all the time - competing theories and research. WE *want* science to yield "THE answers." Science does *not* yield "THE answers." It yields very useful information that is as good as it gets for the time in which it is researched. And still, there will always be competing scientific views/theories. Given the current quagmire: imho they are all "right." Obesity is complex and multifactorial. They are all right *and* still, all of them leave out significant other factors. Knowledge grows...develops....

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on September 03, 2011
at 03:12 AM

At every Leptin receptor site there is also an insulin receptor. Check Lustig's presentation. i'd say there is a bit of a, erm, ah, relationship there..

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on September 03, 2011
at 03:10 AM

I would say, although I love bio-chemists that he reaches a wider range of people that are inaccessible to our bio-chemist bloggers. He opens the door for people to even find paleo.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:52 AM

ha! harsh .

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:50 AM

bye jakey !

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:45 AM

ambimorph, you have to kiss up to ruling clique here, didn't you know? if you're one of the chosen, you can post whatever you like. how the heck do you delete your account on here, btw? hopefully this post will take care of that. i checked this site for the first time in a couple of weeks, and yeah, i remember why i stopped checking in. bye!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:34 AM

I snipe at Taubes because I eat less, do more, consume fructose, have lost and kept 50 pounds off for four years, and no longer have diabetes. Taubes calls all that foolishness.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 02:26 AM

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ haha

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:24 AM

His research says that certain “carbs” are linked to obesity. "HIS" THEORY says that insulin -> obesity. Too bad he never bothered to look at a table of Insulin Index values (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin_index). Pasta (refined wheat) produces less insulin than beef or fish. White rice (eaten by billions) produces more insulin than pasta, breakfast cereal, potato chips, doughnuts, beef, and fish. WTF? Why are we even discussing Taubes and science in the same breath? Why don't we LOL when he compares himself to Copernicus?

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:22 AM

@Melissa - Your edited title and quoted text is a good summarisation of the rather long post in question and its implications.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:22 AM

@Melissa - Your edited title and quoted text is a good summarisation of the rather long post in question and its implications.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:21 AM

Oye.........vey

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:20 AM

@Melissa - The title and quoted text is a good summarisation of the rather long post in question and its implications.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:20 AM

As usual, an insightful, eloquent answer that doesn't get caught up in distractors, but cuts to the heart of it.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 12:57 AM

lol I have the opposite reaction. I love it when guys fight! < / sicko >

8ea84667a7f11ac3967f2ecfcad28ad8

(641)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:56 AM

That's the last straw. I'm not going to watch a feud. I'm unsubscribing from both their blogs until this blows over.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:55 AM

What people miss about all this is that it's not "his" theory -- he's reviewing the science that exists. When he did the research for GCBC, leptin research was in its utter infancy. It's now in its toddlerhood. And really, all these digs at his ego are as relevant as digs at his haircut. It's the predictions and explanations that matter, folks.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:34 AM

The thing is, with his Insulin Theory, he is not claiming to be a critic of science; he is claiming to be freakin’ Copernicus. (While not being “up to speed” on leptin.) It will be interesting to see if he actually engages in real debate or whether he will just say that his critics are using the wrong paradigm.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 12:16 AM

You can email Patrik about it if you have a problem with my moderation. It's not appropriate to call me out on a public forum. I have said time and time again that if you stupidly post something that is not a real question, I and the other mods reserve the right to change it into whatever in order to make it a real question.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:06 AM

I like you, Melissa! I just find this offensive.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:02 AM

I'm sorry, Melissa. I don't mean to attack you. You said "If I supposedly dislike him so much...", and I thought the opinions were relevant to the question of whether you dislike him. Aside from that, I do think you tend to moderate in a heavy-handed way, and this is a bit over the top. I'm not sure how to say it in a way that doesn't offend.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:02 AM

I'm sorry, Melissa. I don't mean to attack you. You said "f I supposedly dislike him so much...", and I thought the opinions were relevant. But I do think you tend to moderate in a heavy-handed way, and this is a bit over the top. I'm not sure how to say it in a way that doesn't offend.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 02, 2011
at 11:36 PM

there are PLENTY of good answers to this question. You are seeing it negatively because you are a defensive low-carber. I never intended to make it negative. If you read Taubes' post, it's about the state of science, and doesn't have much meat on much else. I really don't understand why you are taking my opinions on Twitter to attack me.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 02, 2011
at 11:32 PM

Ambimorph, I am not a robot and I can't moderate every question.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 02, 2011
at 11:12 PM

There really wasn’t much else to discuss since he really didn’t say much of substance in such a long-winded post. The only thing else to discuss would be Taubes’ ego. All egotistical crackpots quote Kuhn, so I don’t know if that was really the best way to start a discussion about one’s own theories…History decides who the paradigm changers are, not the guy promoting his own theory.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 02, 2011
at 10:57 PM

In fact you completely modified the question to quote a section that you find most relevant to your view. http://paleohacks.com/revisions/62377/list If I were the poster, I'd feel you abused your moderation power.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 02, 2011
at 10:55 PM

In fact you completely modified the question to quote a section that you find most relevant to your view. If I were the poster, I'd feel you abused your moderation power.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 02, 2011
at 10:52 PM

That title change was tame compared to the tweets. Why the vitriol? We have plenty of "have you seen" questions that you haven't bothered to modify: http://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=%22have+you+seen%22+site%3Apaleohacks.com&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 It's a pretty transparent tactic.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 02, 2011
at 09:33 PM

No, don't tell me to change stuff if you aren't going to suggest a better title. if I supposedly dislike him so much why do I rec his books on my site?

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 02, 2011
at 07:54 PM

tl;dr I'll watch the made for TV movie

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on September 02, 2011
at 07:32 PM

"But at least in Stephan's defense, he's not out there arguing that his does."__Amen Beth!

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on September 02, 2011
at 07:14 PM

Hey there Archie, how's life?

F3e27fc503b7d792d78718af081adf67

(149)

on September 02, 2011
at 07:10 PM

Bulletin: CarbSane still hasn't matured yet. Maybe next month. :)

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on September 02, 2011
at 07:05 PM

A "surprisingly good question? As opposed to a good question from a source one shouldn't be surprised to receive such a question from? Operating with suboptimal intelligence. {{{CRINGE}}} Oh lordy help us if science needs Taubes to fix it! -- ducking and running and not looking back as my reputation here heads back to negative territory ;-)

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on September 02, 2011
at 06:56 PM

Melissa, would you mind re-editing the title again, and this time at least pretending that you don't dislike Taubes? :-)

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on September 02, 2011
at 06:55 PM

Melissa, would you mind re-editing the title again, and this time at least pretending that you don't dislike Taubes?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 02, 2011
at 06:39 PM

I made it into more of a question for discussion

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 02, 2011
at 06:36 PM

I'm fixing this to make it more of a question.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 02, 2011
at 06:20 PM

I thought the description of the scientific process to be characteristically honest and insightful.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on September 02, 2011
at 06:10 PM

Whoa! Thanks long! I really, really want to read it, like now, but alas cannot. Thanks for bringing it to our attention! I don't get to read blogs too often.

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11 Answers

20
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on September 02, 2011
at 11:26 PM

I'll respond to the question posed in this thread's newly edited title: "Can Gary Taubes fix science? Does it need to be fixed?"

Science -- or rather, the accumulation of knowledge we call "science" -- always needs critiquing. The idea that the pursuit and understanding of scientific knowledge should be left only to those who bear certain credentials is anathema to the very foundations of the scientific enterprise. Anybody can "fix" science, in the sense that anyone, regardless of their title or station in life, who can understand the language in which hypotheses are proposed, the mechanics of the experiments performed, and the logic of the subsequent analyses is ipso facto qualified to do so. To say otherwise is to hide all experiment and analysis under a shroud of professionally enforced secrecy, and to undermine the very transparency that makes science work in the first place.

You may agree with Taubes or disagree with him, but to shoot his arguments down on the basis of his arrogant upstartness, while politically expedient, is illogical from the point of view of the pursuit of knowledge. What ought to matter in the game is the hypotheses themselves, the arguments and the predictions and the experiments and the analyses, not the identities or personalities of the players on the field.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:24 AM

His research says that certain “carbs” are linked to obesity. "HIS" THEORY says that insulin -> obesity. Too bad he never bothered to look at a table of Insulin Index values (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin_index). Pasta (refined wheat) produces less insulin than beef or fish. White rice (eaten by billions) produces more insulin than pasta, breakfast cereal, potato chips, doughnuts, beef, and fish. WTF? Why are we even discussing Taubes and science in the same breath? Why don't we LOL when he compares himself to Copernicus?

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:34 AM

The thing is, with his Insulin Theory, he is not claiming to be a critic of science; he is claiming to be freakin’ Copernicus. (While not being “up to speed” on leptin.) It will be interesting to see if he actually engages in real debate or whether he will just say that his critics are using the wrong paradigm.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:34 AM

I snipe at Taubes because I eat less, do more, consume fructose, have lost and kept 50 pounds off for four years, and no longer have diabetes. Taubes calls all that foolishness.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:54 PM

the same should hold true for food reward then too.......because it is only part of the story as GT part is. Its a giant pisiing contest without any context

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:07 PM

I sent Gary a tweet yesterday about leptin and I was very direct. And he agreed with my assertion on leptin. But he points out his goal is to go after the low hanging fruit of carbs and insulin that is in the literature for the obese. I understadn why he is doing it. But it wont change clinical or academic medicine unless he has the whole story in his next book. I think "some types" here dont like Gary T because he really ruffles research scientists feathers because he is pointing out how they "eck" out a living. Creating really bad papers to make an easy issue confusing.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:13 PM

The Quilt - Food Reward Theory is irrelevent to the critique of Insulin Theory. They are two separate issues. The issue with Insulin Theory is that if you looked at a table of Insulin Index values and looked at all the cultures of the world that eat rice and potatoes, you would not put the hypothesis to paper. You would have moved on to something else. Insulin is an important hormone, so it might be involved at some point, but the idea that just insulin drives obesity should have been a non-starter.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:55 AM

What people miss about all this is that it's not "his" theory -- he's reviewing the science that exists. When he did the research for GCBC, leptin research was in its utter infancy. It's now in its toddlerhood. And really, all these digs at his ego are as relevant as digs at his haircut. It's the predictions and explanations that matter, folks.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on September 03, 2011
at 03:12 AM

At every Leptin receptor site there is also an insulin receptor. Check Lustig's presentation. i'd say there is a bit of a, erm, ah, relationship there..

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:03 PM

As I understand it, the conclusion Taubes draws from the research is that there are *two* mechanisms at work in obesity, both related to insulin. One is the amount of insulin produced by a food -- the insulin index referenced above. The other is the degree of insulin resistance within the body. Both metrics can show great variability from individual to individual. The mere existence of Type I and Type II diabetics ought to make such variability obvious and non-controversial.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:45 PM

Rose – it is just not a very good hypothesis to begin with, especially from an Ancestral view. Many cultures eat high carb diets and do fine, THEN experience problems with adoption of Western diet & lifestyle. The question should be what is different? If you compare Insulin Index of white rice to pasta and breakfast cereal, then insulin should not be on the radar. Insulin resistance seems to be more a symptom of metabolic derangement than a cause. Why do these ancestral, high-carb cultures become insulin resistant only after adopting Western diet and lifestyle.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:20 AM

As usual, an insightful, eloquent answer that doesn't get caught up in distractors, but cuts to the heart of it.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:52 PM

If you are really vested in the idea, of course you can argue about variability of insulin metrics and insulin resistance all you want, but the logical thing to do would be to not to get vested with it to begin with. Or to figure out good explanations for all the world’s white rice eaters before writing a book about your hypothesis.

13
03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:13 PM

The question and quote above aren't a very good representation of the article. His point wasn't that thousands of scientists have been idiots, and therefore we need Sir Gary to ride up on his white horse and save us from them. The point was that it's human nature to work within the paradigms we believe, and that applies even to scientists who try to see things objectively. That's not just true in this area of obesity and nutrition either; read Inventing the AIDS Virus to learn (regardless of whether you buy his alternative AIDS theory) how many times in history medical scientists have latched onto incorrect theories of disease -- even in some cases after the disease had been cured in some way they had rejected. See also education, agriculture, or any other field where there are strong economic and social forces backing the status quo. When you learn, work, and live entirely in a particular world, you tend to accept that world's assumptions without even realizing it. And when those assumptions turn out to have been wrong, you can look like an idiot, no matter how smart and dedicated you are.

As Taubes says, that's why so often it's an outsider that presents the alternative theory that shakes things up. The outsider hasn't been steeped in the paradigm that the expert authorities have. Of course, as he also says, the outsiders are also almost always wrong, which is why the authorities get so impatient with them and reject them as cranks. But if you're going to find that diamond in the rough, that one outsider who's onto something important, you have to be willing to listen to them.

Taubes isn't saying here that he's right because he's the outsider. He's saying he's not automatically wrong because he's the outsider, which is a logical fallacy that always comes up -- as someone said above, let's see his PhD before we listen to him. In my opinion, he's saying that if you're going to invite him into the discussion, you should engage his ideas, not his degrees or time spent as an authority in the field.

A couple great quotes from Paul Graham:

The most valuable truths are the ones most people don't believe. They're like undervalued stocks. If you start with them, you'll have the whole field to yourself. So when you find an idea you know is good but most people disagree with, you should not merely ignore their objections, but push aggressively in that direction.

If you believe everything you're supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn't also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s -- or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:03 PM

Einstein was a classic outsider......are you nuts. He was a train time clerk in 1900-05 studying math and physics from books and thought experiments. WOW!!! Heisenberg was a not an outsider but an earlier adopter of Einsteins work. Few established scientist accepted AE work until they verified his theory with the Mercury eclipse in 1916 done in Africa.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:15 PM

The only problem with the 30,000 foot view is that often all you can see is clouds........

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:55 PM

“…getting the wrong answer on such a huge and tragic scale borders on inexcusable” sounds like he thinks it needs to be fixed. Quoting Kuhn is just a very suspect way to preface the discussion of one’s own theory. It’s like saying “I’m not a crackpot; I’m a genius.” Crackpots do quote Kuhn a lot. It doesn’t mean he is a crackpot, but he steps easily into the pattern. A lot of real geniuses don’t have to preface their work with “I’m not a crackpot.”

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:29 PM

Matthew that is your optic......not mine.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:35 PM

He wasn't at outsider. He was young. Like I said, "young" is the motif in physics. Thinking "outside the box" does not make you an outsider. Eistein had the same education and career path as many of the great German physicists of that period. He just had a little detour right after grad school because there were not enough teaching positions to go around.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:57 PM

You have to be really skeptical though of people quoting Kuhn when talking about their own pet theories. That seems to up the crackpot quotient even higher. Such hubris tends to hamper honest science as well. I also think the role of the “outsider” is overemphasized. Copernicus wasn’t an outsider to the way astronomy was done at the time. Heisenberg and Einstein were not outsiders. In physics particularly, the motif is “young” rather than “outsider”.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:40 PM

He didn't quote Kuhn in support of his own "pet theory." He quoted him to show why it's okay to *have* a pet theory, and why it's also completely rational for the mainstream to reject the pet theories of outsiders. That's the thing: he never said science needs to be "fixed," or even that it can or should be fixed. The tendency to get locked into a paradigm and be unable to see outside it isn't a problem of science; it's a fact of life. It's why people say "think outside the box"; they know that's where the real 'gem' ideas tend to be hiding, but that's also where it's hardest to look.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:00 PM

GT needs to stop the 30 ft view and embrace the 30000 foot view and he has a winner.......but when you have a franchise to sell you lose that optic.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 03, 2011
at 06:31 PM

But after that 'inexcusable' line, he spent several paragraphs excusing it, and explaining why it's natural and even inevitable. This is a guy whose book had to be edited by 50% just to make it ginormous-but-publishable. He wanders around the possibilities a lot before winding to a conclusion, so one line early in the article shouldn't be taken as his final argument.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:23 PM

Einstein was a patent clerk because of a shortage of teaching positions. He had a PhD and wanted a career in academia. He published scientific papers while at University before becoming a patent clerk as well as afterwords. The fact that he couldn't get a teaching position for a few years does not make him an outsider. It makes him a young PhD that can't find a gig for a few years, but he took academic positions as soon as they were offered.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 06, 2011
at 01:45 AM

Aaron, I know what you are saying. I just don’t think that is really what Taubes is getting at. He thinks nutrition scientists are bad scientists. He has said or implied that on numerous occasions. I read Kuhn twenty years ago. Most people with an interest in science have read Kuhn and understand how paradigms work. The people he will be directly debating knows how paradigms work. He is not prefacing this debate with a discussion of Kuhn to excuse mainstream science; he is doing to make it clear to the uninformed masses in the audience that he that might not really be a crackpot.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:28 PM

He came from no where......to the stratesphere fast. He was an outsider for sure that is my point. His biography is clear on it as well.

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on September 05, 2011
at 06:30 PM

Indeed Aaron. It's amazing what happens when you actually read something carefully without a negative bias.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on September 06, 2011
at 01:05 AM

One last stab: the point is, if you say "this vast group of people can't understand this truth that I understand," it sounds like you're saying they're all stupid (incapable of understanding it) or corrupt (refusing to see it). But there's a third option: they can't see it because it violates assumptions they've grown up with and taken for granted for so long that they don't even realize they're assumptions.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on September 05, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Excellent response Aaron!

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 05, 2011
at 10:29 PM

Bias, huh...“He spent several paragraphs excusing it, and explaining why it's natural and even inevitable” Really? Taubes vindicates all nutrition scientists and says all is forgiven? Don't worry about the silly cholesteral hypothesis and the whole obesity epidemic thing - it's not your fault - it's natural and inevitable. Give me a break. If you don’t think Taubes has a low opinion of nutrition scientists, then I don’t think you have been paying attention. He didn’t spend several thousand words excusing them; he spent several thousand words saying “I am not a crackpot.”

9
7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on September 02, 2011
at 07:02 PM

Me, I certainly appreciate the energy Taubes is putting into dismantling the "eat less, move more" model of obesity. That said, I'm one of those who thinks that the fact that avoiding carbs helps some people with weight loss does NOT necessarily mean that Taubes' hypothesis (high carbs -> insulin ->fat storage) is the end-all be-all explanation for obesity (even now that he's got the caveat that fructose needs to be initially involved). And Taubes' comment in his Robb Wolf podcast that he wasn't up to speed on leptin? Hmmm.

IMO, Shift's Obesity System Influence Diagram illustrates that obesity is way more complicated than either Taubes' or Guyenet's hypotheses accounts for. But at least in Stephan's defense, he's not out there arguing that his does.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on September 02, 2011
at 07:32 PM

"But at least in Stephan's defense, he's not out there arguing that his does."__Amen Beth!

4
7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on September 05, 2011
at 05:05 PM

The discourse is great and I look forward to more of it.

I think that eventually the science will be vetted out and more congruent. I don't buy the argument about Taubes not being a scientist etc. I love Weston A. Price too and to quote The Hangover, "He's just a Dentist."

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 05, 2011
at 05:09 PM

it becomes quite funny if you think about, particularly if the person in question comes from a background that is stereotyped as being high-status. In Gary's case, he's "Just a rocket scientist"

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on September 05, 2011
at 05:53 PM

yes it is funny. Some of my favorite science booty comes from some quirky little physical anthropologist who wants to hunt and is refreshingly outspoken.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 06, 2011
at 04:05 PM

@Melissa - You made me think of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THNPmhBl-8I

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on September 03, 2011
at 03:18 AM

The bottom line is: THIS IS SCIENCE. And it is nothing new. It goes on all the time - competing theories and research. WE *want* science to yield "THE answers." Science does *not* yield "THE answers." It yields very useful information that is as good as it gets for the time in which it is researched. And still, there will always be competing scientific views/theories. Given the current quagmire: imho they are all "right." Obesity is complex and multifactorial. They are all right *and* still, all of them leave out significant other factors. Knowledge grows...develops....

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 02:26 AM

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ haha

8ea84667a7f11ac3967f2ecfcad28ad8

(641)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:56 AM

That's the last straw. I'm not going to watch a feud. I'm unsubscribing from both their blogs until this blows over.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on September 03, 2011
at 01:21 AM

Oye.........vey

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 03, 2011
at 12:57 AM

lol I have the opposite reaction. I love it when guys fight! < / sicko >

3
Efc949694a31043bfce9ec86e8235cd7

on September 02, 2011
at 11:51 PM

While I'm a huge fan of Taubes, I think he should make an appointment with Dr. K. and bone up on the multi-faceted Quilt. Taubes even admitted recently what he "wasn't up to speed on leptin". Insulin and carbs aren't the only factors, and reward theory does have an influence whether he likes it or not.

Efc949694a31043bfce9ec86e8235cd7

(970)

on September 03, 2011
at 07:54 PM

Long live the QUILT! :)

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 04:57 PM

This is why GT is getting hammered......and I pointed it out to him. Until he realizes he is operating one small sphere of what obesity might be he is going to get pummeled. But SG could be in the same boat......but he is yet to write a book that will pigeon hole him to food reward. I doubt he is that narrow minded. The bigger picture is out there if they just take their rose colored macronutrient glasses off.

3
61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on September 02, 2011
at 08:28 PM

I'm looking forward to reading the series as I found GCBC insightful.

I personally don't think that all carbs are bad, or that all our "modern" health woes are caused by carbs, but I do think bad carbs (processed, sugar-filled, etc.) do play some role.

2
8a6dc1a54e2259eecb2af8f5875a883b

(20)

on September 03, 2011
at 12:35 PM

Let'em go at it. Nothing bad can come from it. We'll get to witness some great topics discussed and chewed over. I don't care for the personal attack aspect of it, if there is one, but I do enjoy the fleshing out of ideas and concepts.

Let's sit back and enjoy the ride. Chances are, we'll all gain something from this ongoing debate.

1
7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on September 02, 2011
at 07:04 PM

Meh???He really didn???t say anything consequential.

He seems to be laying more of a groundwork for the argument that it really doesn???t matter what his critics say because there are two paradigms involved - it will all come down to the experiment he wants funded.

I read Kuhn twenty years ago, and imagine most scientists have as well. I don???t think the talk of paradigm shifts will sway real scientists as much as it does the general public.

F5a8a14fc6a4d33c2563d0dd3066698a

(714)

on September 06, 2011
at 10:06 PM

Maybe you know more scientists than I do, but my background is Philosophy, and I am pretty sure most scientists don't care two figs about the Philosophy of science.

0
74c1777d7d39b053ca64c065dcdb0072

on September 05, 2011
at 04:51 PM

I like shift's diagram but it is really too complex for the average person to use.

Gary Taubes is interesting and there are many people who would say that Fructose is a dose dependent hepatoxin (Lustig, Lalonde,etc.) Do I or many of them think its the only answer? Most people would say it is much more complex than one factor and we are going to have to have a slightly more nuanced answer than avoid fructose.

Even though they are feuding, both sides want to fund studies and prove themselves right. At the end of the day, there is not much money funded research in consumption of whole food so we do not see mainstream academic departments working on this.

Disagreements are good as long as people are willing to test their guesses and move forward.

I think Fenyman put it best how science should evolve in The Character of Physical Law which Taubes cited

In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.

it.

-3
Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:25 AM

No and no.

Taubes rode in on Atkin's horse. He's contributed nothing original. His kind of research is sophomore level lit searches followed by freshman level analysis. No lab work, just a lot of sensational hot air.

In short he's a journalist sold by the word. His contribution to science is on the same level with Ron Hubbard.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on September 03, 2011
at 03:10 AM

I would say, although I love bio-chemists that he reaches a wider range of people that are inaccessible to our bio-chemist bloggers. He opens the door for people to even find paleo.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on September 03, 2011
at 06:18 PM

Jack you missed thhq's point (and was the brain shrinking comment necessary?). Doing the kind of research and presenting the information in a manner that will pass muster of critical review to earn that degree is different from Gary hiring researchers to go out and bring him back papers he's admittedly only skimmed most of the time who then relies on interviews with scientists about their often decades old research. One can imagine an interview of Einstein by Taubes: "Anything new since you came up with your theory of relativity?" No? OK then ... that settles that. This is not research.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 03, 2011
at 03:45 AM

When Gary Taubes earns a PHD proving his pet theory I'll pay attention. If he spends his book royalties endowing a chair in nutrition he earns my respect. But right now the money is only feeding his ego.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on September 03, 2011
at 05:29 PM

I dont think a degree means shit and I have three of them. When you think a degree means something your brain has shrunk in my view.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:52 AM

ha! harsh .

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 05, 2011
at 06:58 PM

Well I certainly didn't expect any upvotes for what I said. Maybe 34 years of being a research scientist has shriveled my brain. But I have had the satisfaction of seeing a lot of arrogant gasbags get what they so richly deserved. While they prattled about the importance of their discoveries I tried to develop better communication skills (saying what you mean clearly and succinctly) and giving others credit. As a researcher I wouldn't want to tie the paleo concept to a nutball journalist that thinks he's Copernicus. The concept needs more Framingham. More open minds. Less science fiction.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 07, 2011
at 01:05 PM

karlub I like reading Fallows for his insight on east Asian economics, and Steinbeck for his observations on California in the 1930's. They're dispassionate observers making no claims to be either economist or sociologist. They're my models of good writer/journalists. Taubes on the other hand mixes journalism with op/Ed pseudoscience. Bad science and bad journalism. No like everyone else downvote me please.

F5a8a14fc6a4d33c2563d0dd3066698a

(714)

on September 06, 2011
at 10:04 PM

THHQ: The problem with primary researchers is they are brilliant at their niche, and it is niche-work on which they are incentivized. The type of cross-disciplinary synthesis that Taubes did with GCBC is a rare achievement in that not many scientists have broad enough interests to care, and those that do wouldn't get paid to do it. You are criticizing a journalist for not being a researcher. I could just as easily criticize a researcher for not writing for me, and synthesizing similar papers into their articles upon publication. But that would be unfair. It isn't what they do.

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