2

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Soft Paternalism & the Paleo Diet

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 11, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Hi All,

Do you feel that the Paleo lifestyle's emphasis on healthy living, if broadly applied, would lead to fewer people leading the 'unbalanced' lifestyle that great achievements often require?

I don't think everyone should train like an elite athlete or use caffeine, sugar, and Adderall for marathon study sessions. For most of us, our health and that of our loved ones is paramount. But, would we want to forgoe the fruits of their labors or encourage a society where they cannot flourish? Surely basic respect for each person's right to conduct his own life will prevent us from off-the-wall actions. But, in an attempt to better comprehend the philosophical aspect of the Paleo lifestyle, I wonder how we would be different without the geniuses who wouldn't exists without modernity.

Thanks for reading & I look forward to your comments, Mike

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 06, 2011
at 11:01 PM

...It took some bravery to step up and potentially lose "it" when I decided I wanted to be healthier. And you know what, I did momentarily lose interest in art if only because I was having so much fun being a somewhat normal human. However, I did pick it up again and when I did I was amazed at the leap I had made. The previous work seemed annoyingly therapeutic, perhaps entertaining to those who are fascinated by emotional imbalance in artists, but a bit embarrassing from my new vantage point. I still have the aesthetic skills, plus a better focus to finish projects, win, win.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 06, 2011
at 10:53 PM

I think some of my physical and emotional health issues as a child made it easier for me to sit still and hone my art skills, so that by the time I was in college I was leagues ahead of my peers when it came to aesthetic and creative ability. If I had been healthier I probably would have been out there playing more and working on my art less. This did kind of locked me into the mindset of the "broken" artist being more likely to create great work, and that actually held me back from improving my health for a long time...

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 15, 2010
at 06:32 PM

Nico, call me ignorant if you like. But you sound unconvinced yourself, if you say "These arguments might be wrong..." Show me proof that eating grains is bad independent of a diet that is too high in calories, and I may start to believe you.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 15, 2010
at 06:25 PM

Amanda, a defender of the paleo diet himself defends the archeological record (as sparse as it is from that era) as NOT representative of the age of death of the average specimen (excuse me for using that term to refer to human beings.) So you tell ME how trustworthy the "skeletal record" is. (Jeesh, you people should get your stories straight!)

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 13, 2010
at 06:14 PM

P3christopher, I love the phrase: "Elite performanccec in a world of 6.5 billion souls means superlative concentrarion and natural ability." Well put.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 12, 2010
at 12:26 PM

Agree pretty wel with nico here

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on November 12, 2010
at 12:22 AM

Bill- I have no problem with people offering dissenting views. I do kinda have a problem with people making attacking a position they are clearly ignorant of. Look- there are scientific arguments about the harmfulness of grains- particularly gluten grains. There are also scientific argument about how the body regulates satiety and how the food we eat effects this mechanism. These arguments might be wrong, but you clearly have not taken the time to look at those arguments, then you come on here and talk as if you have it all figured out. That I have a problem with.

95601768ec9cb75cc3a9cbcd2271ed14

(2206)

on November 11, 2010
at 10:24 PM

Bill--so are you saying that written record is ultimately more trustworthy than skeletal record? Because it is possible to assess some markers for health in pre-agricultural people from their remains. Further, the idea that written records are the only way to judge what happened in history is pretty short-sighted.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 08:38 PM

I think we already have the answers. I don't know why people keep trying to reinvent nutrition. Eat a balanced diet. Limit caloric intake. Get enough exercise. Anything else is a gimic. We have had many diets including low fat, low carb, vegetarian, as well as other quirky ones that emphasize special subcategories of foods. They all have quirky unifying philosophies. And they all come and go. They are fads. This one is no different.

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 08:27 PM

Bill, I see your point that appealing to an unknowable past may weaken the argument. Perhaps the most direct answer to your question would be a randomized clinical trial. (Double-blinded would be nice but it's hard to make bread look like steak!) The trial, without recourse to history, would ask whether one diet was better than another for certain aspects of a certain group's health. Hopefully, you'll be a member of that group and interested in the aspects of health the study investigates. Would something like that address your concerns? What, in your opinion, is the closest to that today?

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:41 PM

I like arguments I can prove. I don't like arguments I can't prove. And why should I accept that agriculture is a "recent" invention? It has been the norm for all of recorded human history! Where is the proof that humans were healthier before that?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:24 PM

A PaleoKit? Here's a thread on that: http://paleohacks.com/questions/13841/paleokits-i-love-them-but-which-is-the-best

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:21 PM

Books don't count as a get-rich-quick scheme. Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf took quite a bit of time to write and to be in a position to write those books. ... Who said you could *prove* the evolutionary argument? It's just *more likely to be true*, not certain. All you need to accept is that agriculture is a recent invention. Once you accept that you're pretty much off to the races. That's where the *presumption* of truth should lie. I repeat: it is only a presumption, but it is on the one side and not the other. As for evidence, look around the site, click on some links, and join some debates.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:17 PM

By the way, Paul, what is a PaleoKit?

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:04 PM

The "evolutionary" argument is convenient as well as unprovable. Additionally there is no proof that grains in the diet are bad. I should point out that there is more to be made on a diet fad than from the sale of food. More profitable are the books, clothing, and other associated items.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 05:56 PM

And as for the "rightness" of the paleo diet. We never claim we have *certainty* about our diet. Caution and skepticism reign on this website. But you can't implicitly assume the correctness of whatever other diet you may be eating, or have been eating your whole life. What's the justification for *that* diet? The only way to decide is hold them up side by side. And when you do that, the paleo diet not only has the presumption of superiority because of the evolutionary argument, but also probably has a preponderance of evidence in its favor. My educated guess takes me to paleo.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 05:49 PM

Actually, Bill, compared to most other diets, there is little money to be made on paleo products, since the message is a simple one: eat real food that human beings are supposed to eat. Sure, there are people making money off of supplements here and there, but the basic situation is not conducive to get-rich-quick marketing. I can't really wrap up a piece of pastured meat, put a celebrity's name on it, and sell it on infomercials.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:49 PM

That someone can be "accidentally right" presupposes there is something called truth that can exist totally separate from anyone knowing it or believing it. If it is "right" it is right whether we know it or not! If someone wants to prove the rightness of the paleo diet I'd like to see it independent of appeals to unknowable history. Whether it is a "good" hook or not depends on whether the diet is "right" don't you think?

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:33 PM

Considering Aaron & your response, I apologize that I phrased my question so poorly. I agree that "Paleo re-enactment" is not desired. I don't think that eating better will make people stupider. Nor did I mean to enter into the debate on how insanity & genius relate to one another. But, what of singular athletic achievements? Perhaps time will disprove me but I cannot find a elite middle-distance runner who eats Paleo. Similarly, what of Coleridge's Xanadu? Stability is a double-edged sword in that George Bernard Shaw Said "... all progress depends on the unreasonable."

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:11 PM

Bill, I agree that human society probably never lacked opportunistic individuals.But, they can still be sometimes acciendtally right. It is, however, difficult to separate fact from fiction. You raise an excellent point- it is foolish to base a diet on an appeal to an unknowable past. Health dimensions aside, it is unwise to use unverifiable assumption, which must be taken on fatith, in an appeal to rational diet design. But, for some, it is a good hook.

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 03:08 PM

Perhaps I didn't phrase my question well. Consider either someone who would have died in the wild, say due to congenital abnormalities but had great musical talent or the WWII British fighter pilots who used amphetamines to help them defend Britain. I daresay that either condition is far from 'paleo', but still something worth doing. Killing off the physically weak will make hardy humans but needn't make geniuses, many of whom where noted for poor health from birth.

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4 Answers

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3
0034e877123279fd4e16347f9829e514

on November 12, 2010
at 07:54 AM

Absolutely just as anti depressants will be the death of art and music. Elite performance begins where rationality ends. One does not get to be the best tennis player or golfer by leading a balanced life. Instead elite performance in a world of 6.5 billion souls means superlative concentration and natural ability.

So what? Do you care who can run a 2:06 marathon or that you can watch them when you are seventy?

Paleo nutrition is simply a modal or framework that we use to apply rational thought and observation to live healthful lives. I have not known many elite athletes but those that I have known were had specific natural talents that were optimized by extreme concentration in their field. Not something I was interested in doing.

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 13, 2010
at 06:14 PM

P3christopher, I love the phrase: "Elite performanccec in a world of 6.5 billion souls means superlative concentrarion and natural ability." Well put.

0
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:24 PM

I don't understand the question. We aren't advocating 'killing off' anyone. We are saying you will live longer and feel better if you eat healthier. This applies to everyone, but especially the weaker and sicker ones. Neither are way saying we should go back to the exact lifestyle that some hunter gatherer tribes may have had. What we are saying is we should eat foods that we are designed to eat in order to be healthier. There have been geniuses throughout history eating a variety of foods. Most of the geniuses of the past probably ate healthier than we do now just because we have such easy access to so much more crap food now. There is no reason to suspect that eating healthier will make people stupider. And while it is a common refrain in psychology that there is a thin line between genius and insanity, there is no one saying that one is a necesity for the other. Nor have I heard anyone say that diet alone can cure mental instability. Certainly, I think it could help in many cases, but personally, I think healthful living would only improve one's ability to think and be brilliant, not ruin it. There are plenty of historical figures who probably could have done even more for society if only they had been slightly more mentally stable. Stability does not destroy genius. It improves it.

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:33 PM

Considering Aaron & your response, I apologize that I phrased my question so poorly. I agree that "Paleo re-enactment" is not desired. I don't think that eating better will make people stupider. Nor did I mean to enter into the debate on how insanity & genius relate to one another. But, what of singular athletic achievements? Perhaps time will disprove me but I cannot find a elite middle-distance runner who eats Paleo. Similarly, what of Coleridge's Xanadu? Stability is a double-edged sword in that George Bernard Shaw Said "... all progress depends on the unreasonable."

0
Eedf46c82d0356d1d46dda5f9782ef36

(4464)

on November 11, 2010
at 02:40 PM

If the suggestion/question is that an exceptional individual would somehow be less exceptional because they are eating well and living healthy - no, I don't see how that could be a concern. Why would more health equal less creativity / intelligence / determination / enthusiasm / innovation / drive / etc?

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 03:08 PM

Perhaps I didn't phrase my question well. Consider either someone who would have died in the wild, say due to congenital abnormalities but had great musical talent or the WWII British fighter pilots who used amphetamines to help them defend Britain. I daresay that either condition is far from 'paleo', but still something worth doing. Killing off the physically weak will make hardy humans but needn't make geniuses, many of whom where noted for poor health from birth.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 06, 2011
at 11:01 PM

...It took some bravery to step up and potentially lose "it" when I decided I wanted to be healthier. And you know what, I did momentarily lose interest in art if only because I was having so much fun being a somewhat normal human. However, I did pick it up again and when I did I was amazed at the leap I had made. The previous work seemed annoyingly therapeutic, perhaps entertaining to those who are fascinated by emotional imbalance in artists, but a bit embarrassing from my new vantage point. I still have the aesthetic skills, plus a better focus to finish projects, win, win.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 06, 2011
at 10:53 PM

I think some of my physical and emotional health issues as a child made it easier for me to sit still and hone my art skills, so that by the time I was in college I was leagues ahead of my peers when it came to aesthetic and creative ability. If I had been healthier I probably would have been out there playing more and working on my art less. This did kind of locked me into the mindset of the "broken" artist being more likely to create great work, and that actually held me back from improving my health for a long time...

-4
D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

on November 11, 2010
at 04:04 PM

I get a hoot out of these attempts to appeal to some long lost healthy lifestyle that modern life has either forgotten or modern clamor for profit has somehow hidden for its own nefarious purposes! Everyone wants to look back to the past to forgotten blissful, healthy lives full of goodwill and caring. Some look to the 50's. Some to the revolutionary times. Some to ancient civilizations. Some to pre-civilized times.

Here's my take. Diets come and go with regularity. Every time a new one comes up, you can find it by a different name some time in the past. The trick to riding the wave is to package it in some new, attractive way that appeals to a modern sensibility or philosophy.

Its like those ever present get rich quick schemes. The scheme itself is not really that productive. But it sure is a great money maker for the ones who sell it. People are going to make money selling books and stuff for the paleo-market. Then it will die off to be replaced by the next money maker.

95601768ec9cb75cc3a9cbcd2271ed14

(2206)

on November 11, 2010
at 10:24 PM

Bill--so are you saying that written record is ultimately more trustworthy than skeletal record? Because it is possible to assess some markers for health in pre-agricultural people from their remains. Further, the idea that written records are the only way to judge what happened in history is pretty short-sighted.

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:11 PM

Bill, I agree that human society probably never lacked opportunistic individuals.But, they can still be sometimes acciendtally right. It is, however, difficult to separate fact from fiction. You raise an excellent point- it is foolish to base a diet on an appeal to an unknowable past. Health dimensions aside, it is unwise to use unverifiable assumption, which must be taken on fatith, in an appeal to rational diet design. But, for some, it is a good hook.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 08:38 PM

I think we already have the answers. I don't know why people keep trying to reinvent nutrition. Eat a balanced diet. Limit caloric intake. Get enough exercise. Anything else is a gimic. We have had many diets including low fat, low carb, vegetarian, as well as other quirky ones that emphasize special subcategories of foods. They all have quirky unifying philosophies. And they all come and go. They are fads. This one is no different.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:49 PM

That someone can be "accidentally right" presupposes there is something called truth that can exist totally separate from anyone knowing it or believing it. If it is "right" it is right whether we know it or not! If someone wants to prove the rightness of the paleo diet I'd like to see it independent of appeals to unknowable history. Whether it is a "good" hook or not depends on whether the diet is "right" don't you think?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:21 PM

Books don't count as a get-rich-quick scheme. Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf took quite a bit of time to write and to be in a position to write those books. ... Who said you could *prove* the evolutionary argument? It's just *more likely to be true*, not certain. All you need to accept is that agriculture is a recent invention. Once you accept that you're pretty much off to the races. That's where the *presumption* of truth should lie. I repeat: it is only a presumption, but it is on the one side and not the other. As for evidence, look around the site, click on some links, and join some debates.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:41 PM

I like arguments I can prove. I don't like arguments I can't prove. And why should I accept that agriculture is a "recent" invention? It has been the norm for all of recorded human history! Where is the proof that humans were healthier before that?

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 12, 2010
at 12:26 PM

Agree pretty wel with nico here

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:04 PM

The "evolutionary" argument is convenient as well as unprovable. Additionally there is no proof that grains in the diet are bad. I should point out that there is more to be made on a diet fad than from the sale of food. More profitable are the books, clothing, and other associated items.

4e40d2b9e1a762949a25b958762aa10d

(762)

on November 11, 2010
at 08:27 PM

Bill, I see your point that appealing to an unknowable past may weaken the argument. Perhaps the most direct answer to your question would be a randomized clinical trial. (Double-blinded would be nice but it's hard to make bread look like steak!) The trial, without recourse to history, would ask whether one diet was better than another for certain aspects of a certain group's health. Hopefully, you'll be a member of that group and interested in the aspects of health the study investigates. Would something like that address your concerns? What, in your opinion, is the closest to that today?

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:17 PM

By the way, Paul, what is a PaleoKit?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:24 PM

A PaleoKit? Here's a thread on that: http://paleohacks.com/questions/13841/paleokits-i-love-them-but-which-is-the-best

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 15, 2010
at 06:32 PM

Nico, call me ignorant if you like. But you sound unconvinced yourself, if you say "These arguments might be wrong..." Show me proof that eating grains is bad independent of a diet that is too high in calories, and I may start to believe you.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 05:49 PM

Actually, Bill, compared to most other diets, there is little money to be made on paleo products, since the message is a simple one: eat real food that human beings are supposed to eat. Sure, there are people making money off of supplements here and there, but the basic situation is not conducive to get-rich-quick marketing. I can't really wrap up a piece of pastured meat, put a celebrity's name on it, and sell it on infomercials.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 11, 2010
at 05:56 PM

And as for the "rightness" of the paleo diet. We never claim we have *certainty* about our diet. Caution and skepticism reign on this website. But you can't implicitly assume the correctness of whatever other diet you may be eating, or have been eating your whole life. What's the justification for *that* diet? The only way to decide is hold them up side by side. And when you do that, the paleo diet not only has the presumption of superiority because of the evolutionary argument, but also probably has a preponderance of evidence in its favor. My educated guess takes me to paleo.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on November 12, 2010
at 12:22 AM

Bill- I have no problem with people offering dissenting views. I do kinda have a problem with people making attacking a position they are clearly ignorant of. Look- there are scientific arguments about the harmfulness of grains- particularly gluten grains. There are also scientific argument about how the body regulates satiety and how the food we eat effects this mechanism. These arguments might be wrong, but you clearly have not taken the time to look at those arguments, then you come on here and talk as if you have it all figured out. That I have a problem with.

D9ad0d8ec9efab9a38349bf7caf305ad

(20)

on November 15, 2010
at 06:25 PM

Amanda, a defender of the paleo diet himself defends the archeological record (as sparse as it is from that era) as NOT representative of the age of death of the average specimen (excuse me for using that term to refer to human beings.) So you tell ME how trustworthy the "skeletal record" is. (Jeesh, you people should get your stories straight!)

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