2

votes

Evidence, How Important Is It?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 12, 2012 at 12:01 AM

The Paleo diet is popular but does not as yet have the support of the medical community or various dietetics organisations. This means that individuals who are interested in obtaining more information or advice about it must pursue their own lines of investigation by reading books, blogs or braving online communities like PH. There's a lot of information out there, of various quality and utility.

How important is having evidence to support such information, for example, the benefit of a particular food or dietary guideline?

What type of evidence do you consider most important for your nutrition decisions?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 26, 2012
at 04:52 PM

I suspect you'll like this (http://www.academia.edu/1142438/What_have_the_philosophers_ever_done_for_us) by Phil Hutchinson- if you look for 'David Colquhoun' you'll find the bit on evidence based medicine. Also: http://www.academia.edu/954117/The_Philosophers_Task_Value-Based_Practice_and_bringing_to_consciousness_underlying_philosophical_commitments

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 26, 2012
at 10:34 AM

Thanks for the tip re Hutchinson - any texts specifically that you recommend? In any case, I concede defeat ;). I conflated truth and belief, drawing on 'incredulity' towards the rationality- dominated discourse that has been dominant particularly in modern times (that's what I was meaning by modernity - the paradigm of uncoverving truth through western science etc.) Thanks for the engagement. By the way that Smith/Texas stuff reminded be in some way of Gettier. I vaguely remember that stuff, have to have another look lol

E6c14efded576a0bea38a2fe2beced6a

(689)

on October 23, 2012
at 01:52 PM

Said it before and I will say it again. N=1 is the answer to the vast majority of questions posted on this site.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 14, 2012
at 07:24 PM

Unfortunately I would suggest that the current peer review system is far less aggressive, nearly twice as slow, and serves only to propagate the biases of a few editors (who are all funded by companies with a stake in ensuring those biases remain).

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 14, 2012
at 12:42 PM

Ancil Keyes is the classic example but these days peer review is far more aggressive, rapid and responsive. Mistakes, unintentional or not, can be made but they get picked up very quickly.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 11:28 PM

What I mean, Luckie, is when people like you, and Matt and a host of others think its perfectly reasonable to derail topics with nonsense whilst not contributing in any meaningful way. Yet when a legitimate question is posed you rush to close it. By the way, is Jane D your alias?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:53 PM

P.S. As I see it, '[believing on] faith' by definition means believing something without evidence, so there's no controversy there about whether faith can be evidence. Fwiw I'm not too keen on evidence based medicine. It's either a tautology (and therefore true but useless) or it owes us an account of what counts as evidence (which is bound to be controversial). You might like what Phil Hutchinson has written about EBM.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:50 PM

Setting aside different cultures, even different people can have things justify their beliefs differently. e.g. if you know Texas is in the US and I don't, knowing Smith is from Texas justifies you believing Smith is from the US and doesn't justify me knowing it. So people have different beliefs and can be equally justified in believing different things BUT only evidence could justify their different beliefs, because that's what evidence is. But this isn't a free for all to count anything you like as evidence for anything you like, some beliefs are better or worse than others...

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:45 PM

... to be evidence isn't always evidence. Because evidence always justifies belief (that's what the word means).// It depends what you mean by "justified" when you say beliefs can be justified without evidence. Again, only evidence justifies belief, if by justify you mean gives epistemic reason to believe x! But one might be 'justified' in believing unjustified things if you mean 'I can sympathise with people believing x even though there's no epistemic reason for them to' (e.g. someone is in a bad emotional state and can't help believing x, despite having no reason whatsoever to believe it).

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:31 PM

Being argumentative is good. I don't think that it's useful to say that "modernity... is marked by striving for 'progress', pursuing truth through...rationality/science"- it's a generalisation of c, but I'm not even sure what it means. // I think it's pretty much true by definition (again) that you pursue truth by 'rationality'- if you talk about 'truth' that is- but whatever the case you definitely pursue *justified belief* by rationality! // There are two different things: it's true that what we take to be evidence isn't an indicator of truth, but that's just to say that what we take...,

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 13, 2012
at 04:31 PM

By feeding the trolls, do you mean you or nada?

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 13, 2012
at 09:14 AM

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's difference everywhere..

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 13, 2012
at 09:14 AM

Evidence viewed as justified regrading certain practices in a culture or with regard to some practice or other might not eg be viewed as being so in another sphere or culture. In this way faith that something works a certain way etc arguably constitutes justified evidence that it does work that way, in a particular discourse. This doesn't mean some things can't be viewed as more justifiably evidenced than others, but that there are different standards, and justified beliefs can simulattenously be udnerpinned by the 'same' evidence'.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 13, 2012
at 09:13 AM

You make a lot of good points that are difficult to argue with. Forgive me for being argumentative though ;) ‘Modernity' ie the period broadly since the Enlightnement is generally marked by striving for 'progress', pursuing truth through the exercise of rationality/science. Evidence based medicine in this context What I'm trying to get at is that what we see as evidence isn't necessarily infallaible and that there are practices and beliefs that are arguably 'justified' even where there is ostneibly, externally, no justifiable evidence.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 03:46 AM

@ BBF: How exactly do you consider that it would be common sense for most people to go against the advice of their Doctor or Dietician?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 03:44 AM

.. And this goes for the others who participate in derailing topics by up-voting trolls.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 03:41 AM

@ BBF: How exactly do you consider that it would be common sense for most people to go against what the advice of their Doctor or Dietician?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 12:55 AM

Tell me Matt, how much of the 25k rep came about from feeding the trolls?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Insofar as one is irrational to believe x, one is unjustified in believing x.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Nope. Evidence *by definition* justifies belief (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evidence/#EviWhiJusBel), otherwise I don't know how you're defining evidence. Evidence as I'm using it is neutral wrt whether it is scientific evidence or not and has nothing to do with "notions of progress." Ability to 'uncover' truth has nothing to do with it either, because evidence would count as evidence even if you couldn't determine the truth. Again, faith (believing without evidence) might be a part of belief formation, but it cannot justify belief...

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:10 PM

Wouldn't you say that the view that evidence, sciecne and notions of progress underpin justified belief is itself based on faith in one's ability to uncover a sole truth? In this way faith is an integral part of belief formation, and religious folk while irrational may have be justified in their beliefs...?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:38 PM

in other words, you're a troll

81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:18 PM

bravo jake, bravo.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:14 PM

Evidence is the only thing that *justifies* belief in things. Faith (non-evidence) might cause belief or be taken to justify belief, but (by definition) cannot justify belief. If religious people only 'believe' (engage in practices, without *believing* things to be true) then they don't necessarily need an evidential basis for 'believing.'

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 12, 2012
at 11:05 AM

That's a pretty harsh view. Not everyone necessarily has the same circumstances/know how that you do. Persanal responsibility/individualist ideologies are all well and good but there are broader things happening too surely...

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 12, 2012
at 11:04 AM

By definition religious people also 'believe' on the basis of faith. What sort of evidence/justifcation do you think that is :p?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 12, 2012
at 09:47 AM

go to the back of the class

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 12, 2012
at 09:39 AM

are such imbecilic answers and their encouragement necessary?

06ca9c524c28bc3fba95d4d90f8f43c6

on October 12, 2012
at 01:05 AM

without a doubt.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:48 AM

Absolutely and unequivocally.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:29 AM

Obviously evidence isn't very important if your first sentence "The Paleo diet is popular but does not as yet have the support of the medical community or various dietetics organisations." goes unchallenged. What do you base your assertions of why it is popular on? And just because an entire health organization doesn't support something in unity does not mean it has no support within that community.

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:05 AM

The Paleo diet is common sense and if someone lacks that common sense, perhaps they SHOULD be unhealthy.

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11 Answers

9
09bdfdb3be1bb05b8aea79d55afd9e30

(174)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:16 AM

The n = 1 type? Changes I have experienced and witnessed in my partner are evidence enough for me.

E6c14efded576a0bea38a2fe2beced6a

(689)

on October 23, 2012
at 01:52 PM

Said it before and I will say it again. N=1 is the answer to the vast majority of questions posted on this site.

6
06ca9c524c28bc3fba95d4d90f8f43c6

on October 12, 2012
at 01:19 AM

Looking at the current trends in worldwide health, especially as it relates to obesity, it doesn't take a lot of mental muscle to realize that something is wrong with the current system and dietary guidelines. Realizing that a problem exists is the first step in attempting to solve it. As mentioned by other posters, the self experimentation yielded the most dramatic results that myself and others have had.

To take it a step further: I had an anecdotal discussion with my father about the current state of health and nutrition compared to the food choices he had growing up. A little background: This was a fairly isolated mining town in rural america that was self sufficient. Their food consisted of:

  • Their own grassfed meat
  • fresh fruits and vegetables from their gardens
  • raw dairy (used to make their own butter) they even still have the butter churn as a decorative piece in their home.
  • Organ meat typically liver and onions once a week.
  • Their own chickens
  • Deer and other wild game

Also add in the fact that they worked outside (Vit D.), followed their circadian rhythms (got up with the sun, went to bed at night). The only thing lacking from the diet was a multitude of fish as they didn't have access (landlocked state, fairly isolated location).

From talking, he couldn't remember any incidence of obesity or health problems arising from it. Even though everyone worked underground without respirators and smoked fairly heavily, except for black lung from the coal dust and smoking there weren't any health problems. I would even suggest that their diet helped them to survive longer than typical people would today in those conditions.

This conversation coupled with my own progress, observations, research, and common sense made me a believer.

Matt
PhysiqueRescue.com

6
2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:03 AM

bacon .

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 12, 2012
at 09:39 AM

are such imbecilic answers and their encouragement necessary?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 12, 2012
at 09:47 AM

go to the back of the class

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:38 PM

in other words, you're a troll

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 03:44 AM

.. And this goes for the others who participate in derailing topics by up-voting trolls.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 13, 2012
at 04:31 PM

By feeding the trolls, do you mean you or nada?

06ca9c524c28bc3fba95d4d90f8f43c6

on October 12, 2012
at 01:05 AM

without a doubt.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 11:28 PM

What I mean, Luckie, is when people like you, and Matt and a host of others think its perfectly reasonable to derail topics with nonsense whilst not contributing in any meaningful way. Yet when a legitimate question is posed you rush to close it. By the way, is Jane D your alias?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:48 AM

Absolutely and unequivocally.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 13, 2012
at 12:55 AM

Tell me Matt, how much of the 25k rep came about from feeding the trolls?

5
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:56 AM

evidence is great -- but too often we have evidence without properly understanding the question or the methodology.

Take Ancil Keyes, how far back did he set nutritional science because of a flawed (I know I am being nice) methodology.

For me, the important thing is to ask the right question, construct a proper experiment, and then evaluate the evidence.

Sorry for the tangent, but to bring it back to point, that is one of the reasons I think the primal/ paleo diet worked for me. There were no answers, just lots of questions and conjecture. It made sense, but I had to figure it out for myself (with plenty of guidance from books/blogs/paleo hacks).

That is why it worked, I was able to definitively build the evidence for myself and not just accept the status quo.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 14, 2012
at 12:42 PM

Ancil Keyes is the classic example but these days peer review is far more aggressive, rapid and responsive. Mistakes, unintentional or not, can be made but they get picked up very quickly.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 14, 2012
at 07:24 PM

Unfortunately I would suggest that the current peer review system is far less aggressive, nearly twice as slow, and serves only to propagate the biases of a few editors (who are all funded by companies with a stake in ensuring those biases remain).

4
00cd3b6f51530a6832fcda1712edbec3

(2411)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:19 AM

How important is having evidence to support such information, for example, the benefit of a particular food or dietary guideline?

Extremely.

What type of evidence is sufficient for you?

Basic biochemistry.

Evidence from large, well-designed clinical trials with run-in periods of at least 1 year, preferably repeated by 3 different research groups, with funding not attached to groups with an obvious agenda to influence the study results.

81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:18 PM

bravo jake, bravo.

2
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 10:06 AM

Evidence is (by definition) the only thing that justifies belief in things.

No single type of evidence is better than other types of evidence- it's either evidence of a certain value or it isn't.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 12, 2012
at 11:04 AM

By definition religious people also 'believe' on the basis of faith. What sort of evidence/justifcation do you think that is :p?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Insofar as one is irrational to believe x, one is unjustified in believing x.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:10 PM

Wouldn't you say that the view that evidence, sciecne and notions of progress underpin justified belief is itself based on faith in one's ability to uncover a sole truth? In this way faith is an integral part of belief formation, and religious folk while irrational may have be justified in their beliefs...?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:45 PM

... to be evidence isn't always evidence. Because evidence always justifies belief (that's what the word means).// It depends what you mean by "justified" when you say beliefs can be justified without evidence. Again, only evidence justifies belief, if by justify you mean gives epistemic reason to believe x! But one might be 'justified' in believing unjustified things if you mean 'I can sympathise with people believing x even though there's no epistemic reason for them to' (e.g. someone is in a bad emotional state and can't help believing x, despite having no reason whatsoever to believe it).

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 13, 2012
at 09:14 AM

Evidence viewed as justified regrading certain practices in a culture or with regard to some practice or other might not eg be viewed as being so in another sphere or culture. In this way faith that something works a certain way etc arguably constitutes justified evidence that it does work that way, in a particular discourse. This doesn't mean some things can't be viewed as more justifiably evidenced than others, but that there are different standards, and justified beliefs can simulattenously be udnerpinned by the 'same' evidence'.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:14 PM

Evidence is the only thing that *justifies* belief in things. Faith (non-evidence) might cause belief or be taken to justify belief, but (by definition) cannot justify belief. If religious people only 'believe' (engage in practices, without *believing* things to be true) then they don't necessarily need an evidential basis for 'believing.'

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Nope. Evidence *by definition* justifies belief (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evidence/#EviWhiJusBel), otherwise I don't know how you're defining evidence. Evidence as I'm using it is neutral wrt whether it is scientific evidence or not and has nothing to do with "notions of progress." Ability to 'uncover' truth has nothing to do with it either, because evidence would count as evidence even if you couldn't determine the truth. Again, faith (believing without evidence) might be a part of belief formation, but it cannot justify belief...

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:50 PM

Setting aside different cultures, even different people can have things justify their beliefs differently. e.g. if you know Texas is in the US and I don't, knowing Smith is from Texas justifies you believing Smith is from the US and doesn't justify me knowing it. So people have different beliefs and can be equally justified in believing different things BUT only evidence could justify their different beliefs, because that's what evidence is. But this isn't a free for all to count anything you like as evidence for anything you like, some beliefs are better or worse than others...

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 13, 2012
at 09:13 AM

You make a lot of good points that are difficult to argue with. Forgive me for being argumentative though ;) ‘Modernity' ie the period broadly since the Enlightnement is generally marked by striving for 'progress', pursuing truth through the exercise of rationality/science. Evidence based medicine in this context What I'm trying to get at is that what we see as evidence isn't necessarily infallaible and that there are practices and beliefs that are arguably 'justified' even where there is ostneibly, externally, no justifiable evidence.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 13, 2012
at 09:14 AM

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's difference everywhere..

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:31 PM

Being argumentative is good. I don't think that it's useful to say that "modernity... is marked by striving for 'progress', pursuing truth through...rationality/science"- it's a generalisation of c, but I'm not even sure what it means. // I think it's pretty much true by definition (again) that you pursue truth by 'rationality'- if you talk about 'truth' that is- but whatever the case you definitely pursue *justified belief* by rationality! // There are two different things: it's true that what we take to be evidence isn't an indicator of truth, but that's just to say that what we take...,

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:53 PM

P.S. As I see it, '[believing on] faith' by definition means believing something without evidence, so there's no controversy there about whether faith can be evidence. Fwiw I'm not too keen on evidence based medicine. It's either a tautology (and therefore true but useless) or it owes us an account of what counts as evidence (which is bound to be controversial). You might like what Phil Hutchinson has written about EBM.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 26, 2012
at 04:52 PM

I suspect you'll like this (http://www.academia.edu/1142438/What_have_the_philosophers_ever_done_for_us) by Phil Hutchinson- if you look for 'David Colquhoun' you'll find the bit on evidence based medicine. Also: http://www.academia.edu/954117/The_Philosophers_Task_Value-Based_Practice_and_bringing_to_consciousness_underlying_philosophical_commitments

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on October 26, 2012
at 10:34 AM

Thanks for the tip re Hutchinson - any texts specifically that you recommend? In any case, I concede defeat ;). I conflated truth and belief, drawing on 'incredulity' towards the rationality- dominated discourse that has been dominant particularly in modern times (that's what I was meaning by modernity - the paradigm of uncoverving truth through western science etc.) Thanks for the engagement. By the way that Smith/Texas stuff reminded be in some way of Gettier. I vaguely remember that stuff, have to have another look lol

2
47edf681280750c3712a3a56f2eae33b

on October 12, 2012
at 04:10 AM

Try it and see if you like it and if it works for you your anecdotal and personal evidence should be enough... OR... Take a look at what is in peoples shopping baskets next time you go grocery shopping. If you have a belly like that person and a cart that resembles that person, maybe you ought to check out what's in my basket. Not to toot my own horn but I've seen real results in speed, weight loss and muscle tone going Paleo. Ran 10 miles, lost 30 pounds figured, what the hell, Giants in the Playoffs I'll have a (5) candy bar and some (whole bag) of chips. Giants win, I lose. Wake up 10lbs heavier and 2 minutes slower, so there's my evidence. Hate the feeling that I lost the gains so fast but the deal is it is a lifestyle and so is being a fat ass, if you like it, no worries, I like fat guys, but I'm not one and I don't perform my best like that.

2
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 12, 2012
at 12:36 AM

In the end I'm a bottom line sorta fella. I go with what shows to work in a clinical sense.

Evidence based health care is informed by science (cumulative knowledge of studies and experiments), experience, and preference equally. So that is my answer here also.

1
6fece842bd1bcf5724f458a302a2156e

on October 12, 2012
at 12:27 PM

Evidence would be important to people trying to convince a partner or doctor. Most UK doctors know that a balanced diet without junk foods is best for people. The only element many might argue over are things like dairy and bread which I regard as minor issues. Very few people who know much about health in the UK would suggest eating processed rather than unprocessed foods was good.

0
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on October 12, 2012
at 02:46 PM

I lost over 100lbs and I've kept it off well past those statistically relevant two years. Penn and Teller had this show they called Bullshit on Showtime and they did an episode on diets. Their conclusion? Nobody actually loses weight permanently via diet and exercise.

I think, before paleo, this was true. Low carb will help you lose a lot of weight, but if you don't understand paleo concepts, you won't keep it off. It is amazing how those neolithic foods kept me addicted. I thought I was doing good back in the day with my peanut butter and whey protein shakes- I did lose weight, but I didn't know I was setting myself up for failure. Eventually my discipline wore down and I started eating more crap. Buying pizza, beer, and ice cream on Friday became a regular thing. It seemed like I could maintain while cheating on the weekends, but when I ran into stress, well, the SAD began to encroach on the whole week.

So, my own experience has to serve as my evidence, because there aren't enough people eating paleo to affect the statistics. Statistically, the fitness/diet industry is still pretty much a scam. It is a rough gig to try and start teaching truth in the midst of it, as Robb Wolf found out via his troubles with Crossfit HQ.

0
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 12, 2012
at 09:53 AM

A complete lack of scientific evidence didn't stop the current consesnsus from being formed...

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