It’s the nature, stupid!

Poor nature. It gets so abused. And I’m not even talking about the stuff we humans inflict on it with our cars, industries and nasty habits like smoking. I’m talking about all the bullshit claims people make in its name.

“Nature” is, of course, one of the big motivators for following the LCHF/Paleo diet, despite a fair bit of evidence suggesting that that is more of a paleo-fantasy (including recent findings of “stone age” tooth decay suggesting that hunter-gatherers weren’t very good at following the Paleo diet). But never mind that. Here’s a recent comment from Tim Noakes:

All creatures on this earth (including most humans) eat in response to biological signals that keep them healthy when eating the foods with which they co-evolved over millions of years. Provided humans are eating the foods with which they co-evolved, their brains should be able to tell them how much of the different foods they should eat. We do not need to tell a single animal in the Kruger National Part how much of which different foods each needs to eat. But put them in a zoo and feed them foods which differ by the tiniest amount from that with which they co-evolved, and they rapidly become ill as are most elephants in North American zoos suffering as they do now from obesity, heart disease and infertility. But this does not happen to anywhere near the same extent in the wild.

My opinion is that the same applies to humans – direct them to eat only healthy foods and let them decide how much of which different foods they need to eat.

I’ve written before about how fascinated I am by what I see as a contradiction between the notion of neuroplasticity (our brains evolving and adapting to new behaviours) and the idea that our guts apparently remain a couple of million years behind.

And as for animals behaving as animals should – sure, but how do you then account for the fact that crocodiles can climb trees (yes, seriously), even though they were not “designed” to do so (it’s pretty cool, they even use sticks and twigs to hunt birds). Or what about baboons, which are ‘basically fruit-eaters, but they also eat seeds, flowers, buds, leaves, bark, roots, bulbs, rhizomes, insects, snailscrabsfish, lizards, birds, and small mammals‘ – and probably your Nik-Naks too, if you don’t keep your car windows closed.

It seems to me this preaching about our “natural” states gets us into far more trouble than into good health and clever thinking. This goes even beyond the “naturalistic fallacy“, which assumes that everything natural is good, and everything unnatural is bad (do you wear glasses or contact lenses? You evil, bad person) to the point where people make claims in the name of “nature” that are just wrong, and in some cases, stupidly dangerous.

To wit, the awful site called “Natural News“, which I was happy to see get a nice smackdown in Slate this morning:

Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties. In addition to whole lemons, the site pushes organic green shakescilantroblueberries, and spirulina as surefire cancer fighters. Whisper it, though, because Natural News has exclusive information suggesting that the government will silence anyone who pushes natural cancer cures.

We’ll never be rid of tripe like this—shortcuts to immortality are irresistible—but it’s important not to confuse hopeful superstitions with science. If you loosen your grip on the anchor of evidence-based medicine, you’ll find yourself drifting dangerously toward conspiracy theory.

It would be nice to assume that people who dabble in silly conspiracy theories occupy a space far from what is considered “science”. Alas, our esteemed Prof himself – whom many anecdotes people trust with their lives – proves how easy it is to get the two confused:

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Where does this link go? To Natural News (which, as the Philosopher has pointed out, also features pieces by AIDS denialist David Icke, who also believes that the British royal family are reptiles).

Sadly, this is by now unsurprising, as Noakes is also a fan of the Weston Price Foundation, an organisation that writes a lot of nonsense about the supposed link between autism and vaccinations, about the wonders of homeopathy, and about the “dangers” of MSG and its ‘evil twin aspartame’ (both of which are also red flagged in the Real Meal Revolution, despite there being no evidence to support that either are harmful, regardless of what a quack like Joseph Mercola says).

If what’s natural is what comes easiest to us and is most abundant, I think stupidity wins the prize.

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