Goop and the Chronicles of Activated Charcoal

(No one else can resist a good clickbait heading – why should I?)

You’ve heard about “activated charcoal”, right? It’s fantastic stuff, that apparently absorbs all the rubbish toxins from your gut/liver/blood/spleen while delivering an excellent Instagram opportunity (image swiped from Eater):

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On the death of expertise

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I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.

Worse, it’s dangerous.

An excellent essay by Tom Nichols at The Federalist.

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.

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Don’t look now: ugly food!

OK, that was a ruse. I will not show you pictures of ugly food, but if you’d like to see some, you can head on over to the Daily Mail, who today are featuring this ridiculous piece:

Just take a moment to read paragraphs two and three of this “story” again, and behold a wonderful example of non-evidence-based argumentation. I’ll summarise:

Fact 1: Nigella tweets some pictures of ugly food/ugly pictures of food

Fact 2: More than 250,000 followers regularly “gobble” up her recipe posts, including these pictures of ugly food/ugly pictures of food.

Conclusion: She could be in danger of losing followers.

What’s missing here? What sort of thing might indicate that there is an actual danger of her losing followers, and that this might be in any way related to ugly pictures of food/pictures of ugly food?

…???

Yes, maybe some facts and figures about how she actually is losing followers would do it.

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On food porn and pseudoscience

Here’s Steven Poole’s response to the inevitable “food porn” talk that Nigella’s caramel-covered face generated in December last year:

‘The fact that food-talk slips so easily these days into sex-talk might be interpreted as part of the more generalised pornification of everything; but I think it represents a different trend: the foodification of everything. Food is the vehicle through which we are now invited to take not only our erotic thrills but also our spiritual nourishment (count the number of cookbook “bibles” and purple paeans to the personal-growth aspects of stuffing yourself in memoirs such as Eat, Pray, Love), and even our education in history (the fad for food “archaeology”, cooking peculiar dishes from centuries-old recipes) or science (which Jamie Oliver says pupils can learn about through enforced cooking lessons). Food is now the grease-smeared lens through which we want to view the world. It’s an infantile ambition. A baby learns about the environment by putting things in its mouth. Are we all babies now?’

He concludes by asking ‘What if we began to care a little more about what we put into our minds than what we put into our mouths?’

Good question. And speaking of which, here is Poole more recently in the New Statesman withYour brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks’:

‘An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism – aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash – and it’s everywhere.

… Happily, a new branch of the neuroscienceexplains everything genre may be created at any time by the simple expedient of adding the prefix “neuro” to whatever you are talking about. Thus, “neuroeconomics” is the latest in a long line of rhetorical attempts to sell the dismal science as a hard one; “molecular gastronomy” has now been trumped in the scientised gluttony stakes by “neurogastronomy”; students of Republican and Democratic brains are doing “neuropolitics”; literature academics practise “neurocriticism”. There is “neurotheology”, “neuromagic” (according to Sleights of Mind, an amusing book about how conjurors exploit perceptual bias) and even “neuromarketing”. Hoping it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon, I have decided to announce that I, too, am skilled in the newly minted fields of neuroprocrastination and neuroflâneurship.’

It’s a good rant. I’ll look forward to reading his forthcoming You Aren’t What You Eat.

 

Homeopathy to blame for obesity! #ten23

This morning I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. I had a handful of headache pills too, and I think some opium for good measure. This is how I felt afterwards:

Well, OK, I felt a little sick first, but that’s only because I’m not used to stuffing hundreds of sugary ‘pillules‘ into my mouth at once. Which is really to say that I’m not used to stuffing my mouth full of sugar (unless it comes in the form of a brownie). But once I had washed them down with a good glug of water, I felt pretty good, and I can now say from personal experience – along with the experiences of my fellow overdosers – what we already know of homeopathy: there’s nothing in it. Except sugar, of course, and a large dose of bullshit.

This is serious. Do the 50,000+ fools (the Beckhams and the Queen included) who opt for homeopathic treatment every year in the UK realise how many empty carbs are in that stuff? And here everyone’s been pointing fingers at McDonald’s and Coca Cola for making the world fat.

Yes, there is one born every minute, but if you are going to stuff yourself full of sugar, you could at least make sure it tastes of a brownie.