Lack of balls or lack of brains?

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In my last post I hinted strongly at the occurrence of cognitive dissonance in a recent editorial. I don’t actually think there is much dissonance out there in the world of science. People aren’t really suffering emotional distress from feelings of holding conflicting ideas. Those who sense something is wrong usually acknowledge it and resolve their confusions. Most often when we find obvious contradictions in the same texts in scientific journals I think there are two main reasons; Lack of balls and lack of brains.

Lack of balls is a naturally occurring phenomenon due to the peer review system. If the editorial mentioned in my last post had concluded that carbohydrate restriction is the solution to all our problems it probably wouldn’t have been published, and we would have missed out on all the good stuff that was also in it. Somewhere along the way the writer possibly swallowed a medium sized camel and experienced the consequent testicular shrinkage.

Lack of brains is also no rare happening. Either as lack of actual thinking power or lack of brains for dinner, the two are closely related. Still, dissonance is rare. Pure stupidity, I believe, more frequent. Many, simply do not know any better.

I finally finished Lindebergs “Food and Western Disease: Health and nutrition from an evolutionary perspective.» Despite the joy of finally reading this exiting book, at closing the book after reading its last page I felt a strong sense of disappointment. Lean meat! LEAN MEAT! Come on, Staffan.

Here is a book with tons of great science, nearly two thousand references and a great and interesting study to top it off, but when the author seem to miss some of the absolute basics about fat and disease, I find it unlikely this is due to fear of not getting published. It seems his honest opinion. On top of it all, Lindeberg clearly over interprets many studies. Often, the references do not support the statement they accompany and the belittling words that should have been there with the statement, are left out.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Are my standards to high? How can I get so disappointed because of a few blunders in an otherwise great book? Nobody’s perfect, I know, but I just so much want someone to get everything right, or at least all the important stuff. Reading books about diet can be tedious, as I am sure many of you agree with. We’re all looking for that one book to make all other books in it’s field superfluous.

The one thing I do know is that I can’t keep going with my standards at the currant level. It’ll only make me an angry, stressed out old man. Right now there is too much non sense out there, and I need to find a way to deal with it. 

So I’m taking a break right now.

13 kommentarer

  1. Hi Pal,

    Very much agreed — until the end! Very sorry to hear of your stress, and need for a break.

    Why not have high standards, and yet overlook faults? The source of stress is not in the standards, but in lack of sympathy for human weakness. Error more often leads to comedy than tragedy. Why not laugh at it?

    I think you would find our book more to your taste. I'd be happy to send you a copy. If you're interested send me an email at

    Best, Paul


  2. How funny – I was just going to comment that Kurt Harris and Paul and Shou Ching Jaminet lack neither balls nor brains… their difference in approach I believe stems from Paul and Shou-Ching being scientists and Kurt being a clinician.

    Actually, I really loved Lindeberg's book. But clearly he's read a little too much Cordain and not enough Wise Traditions 😉


  3. Pål,

    A Swedish friend of mine found a quote where Lindeberg admitted he didn't want to take on the establishment on fat. I plan to post about it sometime today.

    I'm not sure I follow the logic of high standards leading to nutritional nihilism or agnosticism or whatever you want to call it.

    Isn't all science an approximation? The fact that Lindeberg seems to be purposefully pandering with his stance on fat is disheartening, but Galileo also had to pander to the Church in order to save life and limb. Perhaps Lindeberg feels it's more important to pander a bit than not preach from the wilderness.


  4. Paul, you're absolutely right. The source of my stress is not the standards but a gradually increasing inability to to sympathize, and it stresses me. Just going to have to find my way of dealing with it. I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be like this. I'm still taking a break to do lots of thinking and eating some chocolate, possibly a lot of chocolate. And your book is high on my reading list. In the meantime I am really enjoying your blog.

    Emily, I too should have loved Lindebergs book, that's the problem. I'm getting to emotional about science and have trouble disregarding peoples minor faults. I'm afraid of becoming a bitter old man.

    praguestepchild, I would love to read that post when it's out. «Isn't all science an approximation?» I believe it is. I'm the one with a problem, not science.


  5. Pål,

    It's a rambling ignorant addended post but here it is for better or worse:

    Dr Annika Dahlqvist has apparently been critical of his stance on lipophobia and fruit for quite a while and quotes him admitting he doesn't want to rock the boat SFAs.

    I really should be much more knowledgeable about all this before trying to write about it, I haven't even listened to Dr Dahlqvist's interview with Jimmy Moore, but I threw it out there because my Swedish friend brought it to my attention.


  6. Read the Tao te Ching. WIll help you handle these problems. I feel same way sometimes, but things are the way they are and I try to let go now rather than get upset when people tell me raw food bars with agave nectar, dates, and cashews are a good «detox»


  7. Thanks for the tip Avishek. I often return to Suzukis «Zen mind, beginners mind» when I need to re calibrate. For now, I'm getting by with the new Paul Simon album and staying away from science reading.


  8. Hi,

    When «stuff» causes you stress, it's time for a break. Enjoy!

    I've decided that my top priority right now is to find a special lady to share my life with, so blogging takes a low priority. Just about everything in the world of diet, nutrition & fitness has been written about, but there's still plenty of random stuff! :-p

    Cheers, Nige.


  9. Although I have no objection to being described as a clinician, I do have a background as a medical and basic scientist as well.

    I was an a assistant professor for 2 years at Iowa, and over a 6 year period I published and presented both clinical and basic research, as well as mentoring and teaching medical and graduate students. I also reviewed papers submitted to several major journals, including, Radiology, AJNR and Spine.

    This experience definitely informs my thinking and the skepticism with which I read studies, and my opinions would surely be less informed without it.

    The reason I can say exactly what I think is because my paycheck is 100% uncoupled from my opinions about medicine and science.


  10. And I hope you’ll keep saying exactly what you want in the future Dr. Harris. Science needs it. No doubt the source of a paycheck matters. Also, everyone who’s ever published something knows how difficult it can be with co authors, differences of opinions and constant compromising. A good compromise can be recognized by the fact that all parts are equally dissatisfied with it. Perhaps we should go for a system in science where all published scientists are required to have a blog where their personal opinions are laid out. In any case, 100% honesty is required for real scientific discussions.


  11. Pål

    I've been reading you from the beginning and I'm sorry to hear about your frustration. I get it.

    I've been doing by blog for about the same time but I haven't made a crack. Here's a disease that effects millions, that's verified scientifically yet I can go to a conference and people react as if I've just stepped off the moon when I bring up Ketosis Prone Type 2 diabetes.

    I spend hours sifting through documents, reading blogs and making notes and I sometimes look up and think, «What's the use?».

    But then I remember why I started this blog and the people who this happening to and I pick back up the stack and start again. I start again because every great once in awhile, I get a note which basically says that I saved their life. Maybe that's enough.

    I once thought I was writing for a group. Now, I find, I'm writing for a voice, maybe a single voice that needs me. So I really get the frustration and I hope you come back soon, if for no other reason then that one small voice.


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