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Pathological Science, Part 3


In the final installment in his series on pathological science, Gary Taubes claims institutionalized skepticism is a necessary trait in any legitimate scientific field. He brings this claim to bear on modern research on nutrition and chronic disease and notes a tendency to act on poorly formed or ineffectively tested hypotheses. Scientists who call for the implementation of such hypotheses ask for trust without having performed the rigorous research necessary to earn it, Taubes claims, and when this practice becomes the norm, an entire field of research can become pathological. “A healthy scientific enterprise allows for no shortcuts,” he writes.

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November 14th, 2019 at 10:38 am
Commented on: Pathological Science, Part 3

Gary, do you see the internet as more so hindering or helping the effort to combat pathological science?

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Joe Westerlin
November 12th, 2019 at 9:00 pm
Commented on: Pathological Science, Part 3

The road to hell was no doubt paved with good intentions.

Is it possible that the branch of "the mess" dealing with nutrition's impact on our health, found its humble beginnings in well-intentioned junk science? "Eating more than you burn makes you fat" sounds about as simple & sexy as "spending more than you make, makes you poor". It's almost too easy, one would question the reason to even test the hypothesis at all, let alone doing so with rigorous scientific protocol.....time and time again.

Perhaps at first, the ominous 'they' only deceived themselves (not a crime), and only later did the external deception begin, when the unintended consequences of state-sponsored malnutrition became so profitable....for so many.

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Jim Rix
November 12th, 2019 at 2:41 pm
Commented on: 191112



med ball cleans

single arm bent over rows, 44# kb


Mike, best to you. Hopefully your sup is an older person who remembers what PE used to be like, as PE today, at least in my kids' former school district, is a joke. Don't know if you're a PE teacher or not, but if so, better to enlist allies among the other departments so it doesn't look like the PE teacher's pet project. And even better if you can convince your own principal first, to show you aren't jumping his/her authority. Hope you're successful!

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Bruce Warren
November 12th, 2019 at 2:40 pm
Commented on: 191112

Re The Music Lesson by Vermeer, there is a very interesting documentary called "Tim's Vermeer" about a scientist's efforts, with no artistic training or skills, to recreate the painting through the use of a mirroring technique. His theory is that since Vermeer's interiors are so photorealistic he must have painted them by this method. Fascinating stuff.

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Richard Feinman
November 12th, 2019 at 3:21 am
Commented on: Pathological Science, Part 3

My comment on Young's rat experiment is that while it is more perfect than recent phone calls, the interpretation may be premature at least as described in the excerpt. It is important to attend precisely to what stimuli have been altered and what behavior is measured. As described, covering the floor with sand was able to INHIBIT a learned behavior -- almost surely, temporarily. We know rats could re-learn the location of the food -- possibly more slowly although that is also not known or easily learn from scratch on sand. A great deal is known about animals' ability to navigate space and the so-called "place cells" of the hippocampus in rats, have reached a degree of sophistication that would make it inappropriate to call this cargo cult science. In fact, we may learn from what's wrong with Young's interpretation: Be careful not to assume that a necessary stimulus is also sufficient until you've removed other stimuli. Most important, and here we have a good analogy to the mess in nutritional research, do not assume that one variable is controlling in a multivariable set up. All Young knew is that as he did the experiment, sound was required but reasonable hypotheses to test are that sound is required if and only if the lights are on (rats prefer the dark). The idea that, e.g. saturated fat of the thousands of nutritional stimuli is reliably controlling is absurd in the absence of appropriate controls and high relative risk which are both rare.

Ref: Muller, R and Kubie, J. (1990) The firing of hippocampal place cells predicts the future position of freely moving rats. Journal of Neuroscience

DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.09-12-04101.1989

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Mike Andridge
November 12th, 2019 at 3:09 am
Commented on: 191112

Watching "The Motivation Factor" on amazon. Amazing. Proof of what is on my heart. Now how do I present this to my superintendent at my school district? I've got lots of thoughts, but looking for suggestions. Honestly want help. I want to be professional to help make the most impact.

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Matthew Letarte
November 12th, 2019 at 1:07 am
Commented on: 191112

Even though I am pretty sure this 2 on 1 off is meant to balance the 4 on 1 off from last week, I am still disappointed today's a rest day

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