- CLARIFICATION 28 MAY 2019
Google revives controversial cold-fusion experiments
Well, is it or is it not?
I came to know about Dr. Malcolm Kendrick from his being attacked by the same trolls that attacked me (and that I am in the process of suing.) He describes himself as a “sceptic,” but it turns out that some kinds of skepticism are called, by believers in scientific orthodoxies, “denialism.”
In the name of “rational skepticism,” they attack anything that questions their beliefs, and I’ve been seeing this for years, often promoting “scientific positions” that I generally agree with, but with toxic argument, often severely ad hominem, and, themselves, pseudoscientific.
Before I link to Kendrick’s post, I will point out that Kendrick expresses no opinion on the wisdom of vaccination or non-vaccination, he simply points to facts, and, as well, to the toxic treatment of anyone who questions what has become an “orthodox” opinion about vaccination, which I have also seen, and have pointed out in the past. Simply reporting in media that anti-vaccination opinions exist has been attacked, see my post, Astroturf or idiocy?
If we want public policy to be grounded in genuine science (don’t we?), it is crucial that scientific inquiry not be biased by reasoning from conclusions, by the emotional reactions that are actually not to fact, but to imagined conclusions from the examination of fact.
I.e., there are those who fear that if questioning the wisdom of requiring universal vaccination is allowed, or the questioning of claims as to the benefits of vaccination, people will not vaccinate, and, “Millions of children will die!“ That is a hysterical reaction, and vastly exaggerated. Under some circumstances, non-vaccination may increase a risk, but how much? And mainstream opinion will not just vanish, if it is at all sound, and so most children will continue to be vaccinated, and so this imagined vast harm will not occur.
Science does not tell us what public policy should be. Rather, if used rationally, it can inform us as to probabilities and possibilities. If used under the domination of reactive psychology, it can lead us seriously astray, but that is not “science,” it is a social phenomenon that pretends to be scientific.
So, Kendrick. Enjoy.
Excess heat is the result of mismeasurement of input power, caused by neglecting AC power.
McKubre expressly ignores AC noise power from fluctuations in the ohmic resistance. However, it’s not hard to add the missing term back into the energy budget model. If the ohmic resistance is fluctuating R±r, then PAC ≈ α²PDC, where α = r/R. V will be fluctuating V±v, with v = Ir = αV. In other words, α = v/V, so the peak-to-peak fluctuations in voltage suffice to obtain the value of α for a given amount of drive current, I.
Kort would be correct, if the AC has significant power at frequencies approaching or above the sampling rate. McKubre used a constant-current power supply with high bandwidth and slew rate. The source of AC noise is variations in resistance due to bubble formation. Bubble formation varies with conditions, but key in understanding McKubre’s work is understanding control experiments.
Bubble noise is low-frequency, because bubbles are gross physical phenomena that cannot move rapidly. The scientists working on these experiments use high-bandwidth oscilloscopes to examine the cell voltage. It will have substantial noise at audio frequencies. However, at high frequencies, it’s flat, very low noise.
Frequency is missing in Kort’s calculations. McKubre measures input power by sampling cell voltage at high frequency, and averaging the samples for a period, then multiplying the average by the constant current to give the power for that period. While there is a theoretical error introduced, if the frequency of the noise is low, the amount of power missed is negligible.
You can certainly add detail to the noise model by using something more sophisticated than a simple square wave model for the fluctuating resistance. A square wave model gives PAC = α²PDC, whereas a sine wave model gives PAC = ½α²PDC. It doesn’t really matter which model you use, for the purpose of demonstrating that AC noise will be present at a level ≈ α²PDC. Whether it’s measured directly or estimated from a simple model, it clearly needs to be included in the energy budget.
Instantaneous power will vary. But what is really being measured is input energy, which is the integral of power. Power is varying with the resistance noise. But how rapidly? There is AC power, all right, but it is at low frequency and does not affect the instantaneous power for short sampling times, when both current and voltage are close to constant. So the measure of net energy per sample time is easily as accurate as is needed.
My own cell kits, designed to measure neutrons (and not heat), were mentioned:
It’s easy to make your kits work. Just make sure that you have a whole lot of bubbling, and then pretend there is no AC noise power, and pretend the heat (from the AC noise) comes from some mysterious effect that no one has ever seen before. Then you can telephone up the press and speak over the phone using this same non-existent AC signal power. Recall that Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic.” Telephony, as you know, is a magical effect, since a voice signal somehow propagates over a line driven with a constant current
In hindsight, Kort was trolling, thinking up any possible argument, no matter how irrelevant. The kits I designed (and one was sold and run), did not measure heat at all. They were designed to detect neutrons. So Kort was, as it were, in a fog, not paying attention to fact, but only to whatever would seem to support his ideas. I was slow to react to the trolling, but eventually did. AC signal power is not “non-existent” in the McKubre approach, but is actually measured, by sampling at sufficiently high frequency.
But we can short-circuit all this argument:
Hypothesis: Input power is significantly mismeasured by using the McKubre method, due to bubble noise.
Prediction: Excess energy will appear based on the level of bubbling. [Kort actually predicts this, above]. It will appear regardless of cathode history, depending only on the current and loading relationship. For a fully loaded cathode, it will reliably appear.
Experimental results: In SRI P13/P14, P13 was a light water control cell in series with a heavy water experimental cell (P14). After reaching high loading, there were three current excursions following the same current profile. In the first two of these, no significant excess power appeared, in either cell. In the third, significant excess power appeared in the heavy water cell. An error due to bubble noise would have appeared in all three excursions.
Thus, mismeasurement of input power in the McKubre work, if it exists, cannot be explained by bubble noise.
(As I recall, somewhere, Kort asserted that deuterium bubbles would behave differently from hydrogen bubbles, hydrogen being much more buoyant, so bubbles would be smaller and thus cause less variation in resistance. That’s probably correct, but still irrelevant, because of the self-control, i.e., the same cell, same conditions, but different results. The obvious difference is cathode history, the material shifts in many ways.)
(As well, bubble noise would still affect the measurement of excess power in the light water cell, but all that is seen at higher current is increased noise in the power, not significant excess power.)
The bubble noise possibility was examined by Dieter Britz as a result of Kort’s writing about this on Knol. Electrolysis power calculation. Britz is a skeptical electrochemist, but careful and very knowledgeable.
The task he undertook:
We have, some years ago, investigated the effect on power calculation of cell current and
voltage fluctuations in galvanostat configurations that were close to instability , as in fact
used in published work [3, 4] and concluded that there was no significant effect, even if there
were current fluctuations, as long as these are uncorrelated with the cell voltage fluctuations –
as they were found to be. However, the recent claims invoke a factor not taken into account
in the earlier work, that is, the finite reaction time of the current control circuit, or its finite
slewing rate. It is true that this means that whenever the cell resistance changes, there is a
current transient away from its controlled value, and it takes a finite time for this to relax back
to the nominal value. This might in principle lead to a computed mean power different from
that obtained from the mean cell voltage multiplied by the (assumed) constant current, or even
multiplied by a fluctuating current’s mean. This will be examined in this report.
Britz first does the math, and then runs similations, summarizing the result in graphs. His label has:
Figs. 2, 3 and 4 show the various time functions. Clearly there are perturbations to all
quantities, but these relax again to close to what is expected at the end of the resistance changes.
Some very small errors in the mean power remain after the resistance changes, however, but
only for rather unrealistically large τ .
And he had defined τ
We assume a constant current generator, which however responds with a certain time constant τ to a step change in load resistance.
Then he goes on:
Although the above already seems to lay the charge of wrong power calculation to rest, it might
be of some interest to look at a better model of cell resistance. In a previous paper , we
recorded cell voltage against time at constant current over 6.5 s, and got the trace seen in Fig. 5.
Sampling was at 10 kHz, and the paper shows a power spectrum of the signal, from which we
note that it flattens out at about 3 kHz, so there are no significant components above that
And then he looks at this in detail. His conclusion:
For realistic cell resistance fluctuations and current control circuits, the long-term running mean
power calculation is correct within small error bounds. The time constant of the control circuit
(or its slewing rate) will not, in practice, lead to false power calculations, and therefore not to
significant excess power artifacts.
Kort was very aware of this paper, but has continued, years later, promoting his delusions.
(He wrote a document where he argues for this in detail, I will review that separately.)
The argument here is that the reported heat from cold fusion could be due to a radioactive contaminant in the heavy water used, and he asserted radon as the possible source of heat and helium.
Kort (Caprice) was correct that Radon would produce both heat and helium.
If there is Radon contamination in the Deuterium gas, that Radon gas will enter the cell along with the Deuterium. Whatever Radon enters the cell will then decay with a half-life of 4 days, producing three Helium atoms inside the cell along with 23.9 Mev of heat from the decay sequence. In addition, the decay products will react chemically with the Deuterium to form metal deuterides, releasing some additional amount of exothermic heat.
This discussion went around and around, including participation by Dr. Storms, and Barry never acknowledged what was the utterly obvious and radical implausibility of this proposal. Instead, his last comment on the page was:
Abd are you familiar with the Ouroboros? For purposes of our (non-)discussion here, we can think of the Ourobouros sigil as a metaphor for a Baloney Ingestion Cult. —Caprice 10:54, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
Kort displayed, in his comments, radical unfamiliarity with the experimental evidence in the field of cold fusion. He made hosts of counterfactual assumptions. He did not understand that there were many different kinds of experiments, and confused fact from one experiment with that from others. Instead, he focused on his theme, that “The null hypothesis had not been falsified.”
As I understand this, it would be that every “possible” alternative hypothesis had not been considered and shown to be false. Yet there is an unlimited number of possible alternative hypotheses. Normal scientific process focuses on what appears to be reasonably plausible. Kort invented an alternative hypothesis that was radically implausible from the outset, and never acknowledged that. Thus his Ourubouros image was appropriate for his behavior. I did not state this at the time, at least not on Wikiversity, but Kort was a troll, arguing for the sake of arguing, never conceding points.
Hypothesis: Radon contamination produced the heat and helium.
Inference: Heat and helium evolution would be greatest with new heavy water, and would steadily decline.
Experimental evidence: heat and helium do not appear in new experiments; with the Fleischmann-Pons protocol, they appear after weeks of electrolysis. The “contaminants” Kort talks about are not present in heavy water used for these experiments, but only after lengthy operation of the cell.
Conclusion: Radon contamination is not the source of heat in cold fusion experiments.
Kort had counterfactual concepts of what happens in the FP experiment:
To my mind, the most obvious explanation is that the Deuterium was not the reagent, but the solvent that carried all those contaminants into the cell. Almost surely those contaminants were in the heavy water from which the Deuterium was manufactured, and ended up as impurities in the Deuterium.
In the first quoted comment, Kort has the idea that deuterium gas is manufactured, and then enters the “cell” (which is the assembly of container, anode, cathode, electrolyte (heavy water plus a salt such as lithium deuteroxide), sometimes a recombiner, and temperature sensors).
I attempted to explain to Kort his many misconceptions. It was a waste of time, perhaps.
As far as I know, only two materials were introduced into the cells — the electrolyte and the deuterium.
The electrolyte is deuterium oxide (heavy water) and a salt, often lithium deuteroxide or lithium chloride. As well, the cell contains palladium metal, typically platinum as the anode, and, of course, the cell itself might be glass, which can (and does) introduce “contaminants.” However, Kort is not thinking quantitatively, and imagines that “contaminants” may be present at high levels. The heavy water used is typically 99.9 atom percent D. The major contamination is light hydrogen. There are other elements at very low levels. After the experiments, in some reports, there are increased levels of some other elements, but the levels are still extremely low. The only element being produced in these cells that was not there initially is helium, and the levels of helium are easily a million times higher than the next-most common new element: tritium.
How is loading ratio determined? Isn’t it the case that more fuel must be introduced (and supplied for a longer duration) to get higher loading ratios?
Again and again, Kort demonstrated that he had no clue as to fact, i.e,. what is actually done in cold fusion experiments. Yes, for the loading ratio to be increased, more deuterium must enter the palladium, but if we consider a cell with a recombiner, this is not “introduced” to the cell. Rather what is happening is that deuterium is moving from presence in the electrolyte into presence inside the metal.
The first major difficulty in cold fusion experiments is obtaining high loading, over 90% or so being where the effects might be seen. Above 70% or so, the reaction of deuterium with palladium starts to be endothermic. At the time that Pons and Fleischmann announced, it was commonly thought that 70% was the practical limit at STP. Hence the “negative replications” were content to reach that loading. They were, then, doomed to fail.
To reach the higher loading, extensive electrolysis was needed. There are, then, other artifactual possibilities that Kort did not here consider.
When you do electroplating, you expect the cations in the electrolyte to plate out on the cathode. When you find metals plated onto the cathode, the most plausible hypothesis is that the metals that plated onto the cathode were cations in the electrolyte. It’s the most plausible hypothesis because it’s exactly what one would expect. —Caprice 20:22, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
This was irrelevant to the basic discussion, because the levels of such findings are very, very low. In fact, the cations that plate onto the cathode do not come from the electrolyte, generally, but from other cell materials. They come from the glass and they come from the anode (a small amount of platinum dissolves in the electrolyte and then can be found on the surface of the cathode. In fact, some palladium dissolves and then plates back, which may actually be important (from much later discoveries).
But this was irrelevant because the levels are far, far below those necessary to explain heat and helium.
Kort did not continue to assert this radioactive contaminant hypothesis.
Subpage of barry-kort
This page collects miscellaneous comments by Barry Kort, some copied from spam pages preserving old video comments. Where the comment was simply a copy of another document, that is stated and the copy is not repeated, it should be on the page supra.
Wired Cosmos, copy of “Analysis” and a comment: October 22, 2014
I have no theory to offer regarding claims of helium production. My depth is in electrical engineering and telephony (signal and noise power).
I’d love to have Peter Hagelstein check the work that I did with Dieter Britz and others to model the omitted AC power term arising from transient voltage fluctuations that appear during the phase when the Pd lattice is fully loaded, when the drive current is jacked up, and when bubbles are rapidly forming and sloughing off the surface of the electrodes. This is the condition which McKubre and Storms both say are present when excess heat is produced.
Do you see all those bubbles forming on the surface of the electrodes and then sloughing off? What that does is produce a random time-varying resistance in the circuit.
It is well known (from first principles in electric circuit theory, as well as in telephony) that when you drive a time-varying resistance with a regulated current (whether regulated DC or SuperWave), the load generates its own AC current that has the characteristics of burst noise.
Because the regulated power supplies are trying to maintain a regulated current, they have to work hard to suppress and cancel these noise signals that are being transmitted out of the cell. In doing so, the regulated power supplies must inject an equal and opposite signal, so as to maintain the specified regulated current profile (whether DC or SuperWave).
In the reports that I’ve had access to, I found the experimenters were relying on an energy budget model that ignored the additional energy being pumped into the cells so as to maintain a regulated current in the face of a rapidly fluctuation load resistance.
In the cases where the experimenters had published enough data for me to apply the correct model from AC circuit theory, I found that the “anomalous excess heat” was exactly accounted for by the overlooked AC power injected into the cells to countermand the noise power being transmitted out.
- Weilerpsiblog: March 31, 2013 cites “Excuse me sir“
The hypothesis of “censorship” is trivially falsifiable. TED is not silencing them. TED is encouraging them to speak their theses under the marquee of their own name, rather than under the name of TED as an endorsing sponsor.
There are many who speak their theses sans endorsement from me, even on my own personal blog. Here is an example from the dubious field of “Cold Fusion” …
“Excuse me sir, but exactly how did you falsify the Null Hypothesis?”
- Copy of Hagelstein MIT lecture video, comment about 2014 or 2015
Peter, you begin describing Mike McKubre’s experiments at around 90 minutes into the video. There is something about McKubre’s assumptions that troubles me. As you know, he drives his cells with a constant current power source, and he makes an important assumption (as spelled out in his EPRI paper) that all the electrical power going into his cells is DC power with no AC power contribution. He therefore only measures the DC power, by multiplying the average DC voltage by the value of the constant current. McKubre notes that when the electrodes start bubbling (which doesn’t happen until the palladium lattice is fully loaded), the ohmic resistance of his cells begins fluctuating as bubbles form and slough off the electrodes. He notes the corresponding rapid voltage swings across the cell terminals as his constant current power supply ramps the voltage up and down to track the rapidly time-varying resistance. He makes the crucial assumption that there is no resultant RMS AC power to reckon. But if one applies 2nd year EE circuit analysis, one finds that there is some AC power contribution that goes as the square of the fluctuations in cell resistance. If you work out the math, you find that if the ohmic resistance is fluctuating R±r from the bubbles forming and sloughing off the electrodes, then PAC ≈ α²PDC, where α = r/R. So, for example, a 17% fluctuation in load resistance would produce an additional 3% of AC power over and above the baseline DC power. One should be able to demonstrate this effect straightaway by driving an old-style desk telephone (the kind with a carbon-button microphone) with one of McKubre’s constant current power supplies and show that the telephone handset still works, and the AC audio signal power level can be measured with a VU meter. I ran the numbers for two of the singular experiments highlighted in McKubre’s EPRI paper and found that the AC power contribution closely matches his reported excess heat.
Copy of Hagelstein MIT video, comment About 2014 or 2015
About a year after CBS 60 Minutes aired their episode on Cold Fusion, I followed up with Rob Duncan to explore Richard Garwin’s thesis that McKubre was measuring the input electric power incorrectly. It turns out that McKubre was reckoning only the DC power going into his cells, and assuming (for arcane technical reasons) there could not be any AC power going in, and therefore he didn’t need to measure or include any AC power term in his energy budget model. Together with several other people, I helped work out a model for the omitted AC power term in McKubre’s experimental design. Our model showed that there was measurable and significant AC power, arising from the fluctuations in ohmic resistance as bubbles formed and sloughed off the surface of the palladium electrodes. Our model jibed with both the qualitative and quantitative evidence from McKubre’s reports: 1) McKubre (and others) noted that the excess heat only appeared after the palladium lattice was fully loaded. And that’s precisely when the Faradaic current no longer charges up the lattice, but begins producing gas bubbles on the surfaces of the electrodes. 2) The excess heat in McKubre’s cells was only apparent, significant, and sizable when the Faradaic drive current was elevated to dramatically high levels, thereby increasing the rate at which bubbles were forming and sloughing off the electrodes. 3) The effect was enhanced if the surface of the electrodes was rough rather than polished smooth, so that larger bubbles could form and cling to the rough surface before sloughing off, thereby alternately occluding and exposing somewhat larger fractions of surface area for each bubble. The time-varying resistance arising from the bubbles forming and sloughing off the surface of the electrodes – after the cell was fully loaded, enhanced by elevated Faradaic drive currents and further enhanced by a rough electrode surface – produced measurable and significant AC noise power into the energy budget model that went as the square of the magnitude of the fluctuations in the cell resistance. To a first approximation, a 17% fluctuation in resistance would nominally produce a 3% increase in power, over and above the baseline DC power term. Garwin and Lewis had found that McKubre’s cells were producing about 3% more heat than could be accounted for with his energy measurements, where McKubre was reckoning only the DC power going into his cells, and (incorrectly) assuming there was no AC power that needed to be measured or included in his energy budget model. I suggest slapping an audio VU meter across McKubre’s cell to measure the AC burst noise from the fluctuating resistance. Alternatively use one of McKubre’s constant current power supplies to drive an old style desk telephone with a carbon button microphone. I predict the handset will still function: if you blow into the mouthpiece, you’ll hear it in the earpiece, thereby proving the reality of an AC audio signal riding on top of the DC current.
Copy of Hagelstein video, comment About 2014 or 2015
Barry, there is something about the NANOR device that I don’t understand. According to the slides (if I am reading them right), Schwartz is sampling the voltage and current once every 4 seconds. Why isn’t he sampling at the Nyquist Rate corresponding to the slew rate of his regulated power supply, as would be necessary to properly integrate v(t)*i(t), so as to capture the AC power as a function of fluctuations in resistance as bubbles form and slough off the surface of the electrodes?
See this analysis of AC Burst Noise for McKubre’s cells.
ac burst noise | barrykort
Copy of video 2014
Do you see all those bubbles forming on the surface of the electrodes and then sloughing off? What that does is produce a random time-varying resistance in the circuit. It is well known (from first principles in electric circuit theory, as well as in telephony) that when you drive a time-varying resistance with a regulated current (whether regulated DC or SuperWave), the load generates its own AC current that has the characteristics of burst noise. Because the regulated power supplies are trying to maintain a regulated current, they have to work hard to suppress and cancel these noise signals that are being transmitted out of the cell. In doing so, the regulated power supplies must inject an equal and opposite signal, so as to maintain the specified regulated current profile (whether DC or SuperWave). In the reports that I’ve had access to, I found the experimenters were relying on an energy budget model that ignored the additional energy being pumped into the cells so as to maintain a regulated current in the face of a rapidly fluctuation load resistance. In the cases where the experimenters had published enough data for me to apply the correct model from AC circuit theory, I found that the “anomalous excess heat” was exactly accounted for by the overlooked AC power injected into the cells to countermand the noise power being transmitted out.
Facebook September 23, 2016 (at the bottom and see “more replies”)
- Barry Kort Yes, Varda, I know it’s impolite. But I spent the better part of a year failing to explain to Dennis Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax that he had become enthralled with a bogus story.
It is not healthy to become obsessed with bogus stories and end up wasting one’s life peddling rubbish.
- Barry Kort https://www.quora.com/Were-Martin…/answer/Barry-Kort
- Barry Kort http://wiredcosmos.com/…/24/lets-explore-cold-fusion/…
- Barry Kort https://sites.google.com/site/barrykort/ac-burst-noise
- Barry Kort http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cold-fusion-is-hot-again/…
- Barry Kort Here is why I found Edmund Storms not to be a reliable or trustworthy source: he departed from the protocols of the scientific method in an astonishing way, leading him to commit the Fallacy of Confirmation Bias. http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/…/excuse-me-sir-but…
- Barry Kort As ever, Dennis Lomax takes the lead in promoting public ignorance as his most significant contribution to the decline of human civilization. I see you have quite an avid following, too.
- Barry Kort Yes, Varda, I know it’s impolite. But I spent the better part of a year failing to explain to Dennis Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax that he had become enthralled with a bogus story.
Barry Kort, as Wikiversity user Caprice, discussed cold fusion with Abd Lomax (and a few others) in 2010. Because of the deletion of the cold fusion resource on Wikiversity, even though it was restored on the CFC wiki, it’s a bit tricky to find his contributions, they might extend into 2011. (User names are in page history, but the account does not exist on CFCwiki.)
Here is a list of the Wikiversity conversations:
- Argument 1 Trolling, not serious.
- Cold_fusion/Excess_Heat/Clarke_Foreword *
- Argument 2 Interesting enough to investigate, but wrong.
There were also various other conversations.
- Talk:Learning_civility about interaction with Edmund Storms
- User_talk:Lbeaumont#A_Request about power calculations
Kort also wrote blog posts relating to this and his interactions with me:
- Excuse me sir, but exactly how did you falsify the Null Hypothesis? DECEMBER 08, 2010
- Cold Fusion Chorus DECEMBER 12, 2010
- Steampunk Science and Technology DECEMBER 17, 2010
- Antinomy and Antagony DECEMBER 22, 2010
- Poopular Culture DECEMBER 23, 2010
- Equal Time for Abd DECEMBER 24, 2010
- Up In Smoke JANUARY 01, 2011
- Steampunk Fusion Dream JANUARY 01, 2011
- Classical Gas JANUARY 03, 2011
- A Slew of Noise JANUARY 09, 2011
- Wallucinations JANUARY 11, 2011
- Tiny Bubbles JANUARY 05, 2011
- Junk Science JANUARY 26, 2011
- I Am a Man of Constant Comment JANUARY 28, 2011
Kort created a video out of our interaction, uploaded Apr 25, 2011:
And he wrote a paper on the topic, date not known, but before October, 2014.
- October 22, 2014 copy of “Analysis” (collapsed by moderation: Answer doesn’t directly answer the question) Account appears to have been created to copy the paper to Quora.
There was a paper written as a result of the conversations:
- Dieter Britz, Electrolysis power calculation, self-published, February 25, 2011
As noted by Dieter Britz, Barry Kort commented on a knol article
- Entrained Mist and AC Burst Noise last edited Feb 26, 2011
See subpage for Comments on blogs, Facebook, videos, etc.
Subpage of barry-kort/
Forgive them, Thevenin, for they know not how to reckon AC transient power.
“The worst error you can make is an unexamined assumption.” ~Jed Rothwell, Lessons from Cold Fusion
About a year after CBS 60 Minutes aired their episode on Cold Fusion back in 2009, I followed up with Rob Duncan to explore Richard Garwin’s thesis that McKubre was measuring the input electric power incorrectly.
It turns out that McKubre was reckoning only the DC power going into his cells, and assuming (for arcane technical reasons) there could not be any AC power going in, and therefore he didn’t need to measure or include any AC power term in his energy budget model.
McKubre justified his fateful assumption thusly:
Under current control, the cell voltage frequently was observed to fluctuate significantly, particularly at high current densities where the presence of large deuterium (or hydrogen) and oxygen bubbles disrupted the electrolyte continuity. By providing the cell current from a source that is sensibly immune to noise and level fluctuations, the current operates on the cell voltage (or resistance) as a scalar. Hence, as long as the voltage noise or resistance fluctuations are random, no unmeasured RMS heating can result under constant current control, provided that the average voltage is measured accurately.
Together with several other people, I helped work out a model for the omitted transient AC power term in McKubre’s experimental design. Our model showed that there was measurable and significant AC power, arising from the fluctuations in ohmic resistance as bubbles formed and sloughed off the surface of the palladium electrodes. Our model jibed with both the qualitative and quantitative evidence from McKubre’s reports:
1) McKubre (and others) noted that the excess heat only appeared after the palladium lattice was fully loaded. And that’s precisely when the Faradaic current no longer charges up the lattice, but begins producing gas bubbles on the surfaces of the electrodes.
2) The excess heat in McKubre’s cells was only apparent, significant, and sizable when the Faradaic drive current was elevated to dramatically high levels, thereby increasing the rate at which bubbles were forming and sloughing off the electrodes.
3) The effect was enhanced if the surface of the electrodes was rough rather than polished smooth, so that larger bubbles could form and cling to the rough surface before sloughing off, thereby alternately occluding and exposing somewhat larger fractions of surface area for each bubble.
The time-varying resistance arising from the bubbles forming and sloughing off the surface of the electrodes — after the cell was fully loaded, enhanced by elevated Faradaic drive currents and further enhanced by a rough electrode surface — produced measurable and significant AC noise power into the energy budget model that went as the square of the magnitude of the fluctuations in the cell resistance.
Specifically, if the ohmic resistance is fluctuating R±r, then PAC ≈ α²PDC, where α = r/R.
To a first approximation, a 17% fluctuation in resistance would nominally produce a 3% increase in power, over and above the baseline DC power term. Garwin and Lewis had found that McKubre’s cells were producing about 3% more heat than could be accounted for with his energy measurements, where McKubre was reckoning only the DC power going into his cells, and (incorrectly) assuming there was no transient AC power that needed to be measured or included in his energy budget model.
I suggest slapping an audio VU meter across McKubre’s cell to measure the AC burst noise from the fluctuating resistance. Alternatively use one of McKubre’s constant current power supplies to drive an old style desk telephone with a carbon button microphone. I predict the handset will still function: if you blow into the mouthpiece, you’ll hear it in the earpiece, thereby proving the reality of an AC audio signal riding on top of the baseline DC current.
Transient AC Power and Wavefronts of Traveling Waves
Let’s go back to McKubre’s fateful assumption. McKubre writes:
Under current control, the cell voltage frequently was observed to fluctuate significantly, particularly at high current densities where the presence of large deuterium (or hydrogen) and oxygen bubbles disrupted the electrolyte continuity. By providing the cell current from a source that is sensibly immune to noise and level fluctuations, the current operates on the cell voltage (or resistance) as a scalar. Hence, as long as the voltage noise or resistance fluctuations are random, no unmeasured RMS heating can result under constant current control, provided that the average voltage is measured accurately.
Now let’s parse that, one sentence at a time.
1) The cell voltage frequently was observed to fluctuate significantly, particularly at high current densities where the presence of large deuterium (or hydrogen) and oxygen bubbles disrupted the electrolyte continuity.
So we begin by observing that there is fluctuating resistance, and an associated fluctuation in cell voltage. So far so good.
2) By providing the cell current from a source that is sensibly immune to noise and level fluctuations, the current operates on the cell voltage (or resistance) as a scalar.
This is the key part of the unexamined assumption that needs to be carefully examined.
3) Hence, as long as the voltage noise or resistance fluctuations are random, no unmeasured RMS heating can result under constant current control, provided that the average voltage is measured accurately.
But wait! When the power supply is slewing (meaning the voltage is either rising or falling at the slew rate), the voltage pulse and the associated current pulse are in phase. In fact they amount to a transient wave front propagating from the power supply into the cell. There is real power in a transient pulse, which must be computed by the application of appropriate mathematical models for the transient AC power in the wavefront of a traveling wave. The appropriate mathematics for this can be found in the annals of telephony (among other places).
If the slew rate is fast (e.g. 1.25 A/μsec in constant current mode and 1 .0 V/μsec in constant voltage mode), then the Nyquist Sampling Rate to capture this brief interval when the voltage and current pulses are in phase has to be at an even higher frequency. Otherwise, the power in the AC transient will never be seen, never be measured, and never be reckoned in the energy budget model.
Note, also, that the transient AC power is independent of the actual slew rate. The same amount of transient AC power is injected whether the slew rate is fast or slow.
Another way to model it is to use Fourier Analysis. Assume there is a sinusoidally varying load resistance going as R + r sin ωt. Then to obtain a true constant current, the active regulated power supply has to meet the rising and falling resistance. So, for example, if the power supply is trying to maintain a constant 1 A DC current (with no AC), the power supply has to produce a matching voltage given by 1 A × (R + r sin ωt) Ω. If the power supply can do this with no signal processing delay, and if there is no signal propagation delay in the medium between the power supply and the load, then this will indeed produce a perfect constant current and there will be no AC power.
But active power supplies have a non-zero signal processing time (given by the slew rate). Moreover, there is non-zero signal propagation delay in the circuit between the power supply and the load. Let this total round-trip delay be τ. Then the voltage produced by the power supply and delivered to the load will be 1 A × (R + r sin ω(t-τ)) Ω. The phase shift is given by φ = ωτ. The worst case is when φ = ωτ = π, in which case the AC power injected by the hapless power supply is PAC = [α²/sqrt(1-α²)] PDC, where α = r/R. The general formula, as a function of phase shift, φ = ωτ, for any harmonic, ω, in the Fourier Series is
PAC(ω) = ½[1 – cos(φ)] [α²/sqrt(1-α²)] PDC = ½[1 – cos(ωτ)] [α²/sqrt(1-α²)] PDC
where α = r/R and τ is the round trip propagation delay and signal processing delay at harmonic frequency, ω, in the Fourier Series for the time-varying resistance.
So when ω ≈ π/τ, there will be significant AC power that (to a simplified approximation for r ≪ R) goes as ½α²PDC, where α = r/R. If the fluctuating resistance arises from the formation of bubbles on the electrodes, then there will be very high-frequency components from the perturbation in load as bubbles form and slough off the surface of the electrodes. Note also that if the magnitude of the fluctuation, r, is very large (e.g. 80% of R), then the injected AC power can exceed the DC power.
Finally, note that the propagation delay isn’t even an exact constant at any given frequency when the conducting medium is an electrolyte. When the charge carriers are electrons, the propagation speed is about one-tenth the speed of light in a vacuum. But in an electrolyte solution with H⁺ or D⁺ ions (as well as other species of charge carriers), the portion of the signal carried by those ions of molecular weight, n, propagate more slowly, going approximately as C/(18360×n). The effect is to render τ to be an exponential distribution with the leading edge of a pulse traveling in about 0.1 μs and the trailing tail lagging by about 500 μs, depending on the mix of species of charge carriers in the electrolyte. It’s worse in heavy water than light water because Deuterium ions have twice the atomic weight of Hydrogen ions, and so they travel at half the speed of protons.
DRAFT. if this is being read on an archive site, be sure to check the original page for updates.
Subpage of Rational-wiki
This study was attacked before it was even started. See the subpage, Reddit.
I came across this from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog. I’ll be riffing on this. First, Naughton is not a careful reporter, he’s sloppy, but, then again, he’s a comedian, not a journalist or academic, and he is writing about topics that will be obscure to most, such as actual Wikipedia process. What he wrote:
Remember the kerfuffle when a rogue editor at Wikipedia targeted Fat Head for deletion? He was, you’ll recall, the same editor who deleted articles about Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Jimmy Moore, and pretty much anyone who recommends low-carb diets or disputes the Lipid Hypothesis.
The editor in question, originally “Skeptic from Britain,” (and my page) could not delete anything, he was not a Wikipedia administrator. Was Skeptic from Britain a “rogue editor”? Not really. There is a whole faction of editors (including some administrators) who act in similar ways, but SfB is actually a long-term banned editor (best known as Goblin Face), Darryl L. Smith in real life, according to my research (extensively documented on pages here). He is able to do what he does because of the cooperation of many editors.
Ravnskov was not proposed by SfB, but by EEng, a snarky editor. (One of the problems with Wikipedia is that too many users with no life treat it like an MMRPG, an opportunity to display adolescent hyper aggression, to win by making others lose.) SfB, however was quite active in that AfD.
In the Fat Head deletion discussion, Jimbo Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) commented about the nominator:
Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial namechanger and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project.
When SfB “retired,” he claimed he had been outed on the internet. I was, in fact, accused of being SfB by his brother, on Encyclopedia Dramatica. That is how I came to look at SfB. What I found was that the only outing had been by troll socks, accounts that appear and create disruption (like outing), with no history of comment, and often repeating the same message under different names. The outing named the user who was the only Keep vote in the Jimmy Moore deletion. And that behavior then loudly rang the Darryl Smith bell. This was a sophisticated form of impersonation socking, Darryl’s standard MO, used to harass anyone who criticizes him.
So then I looked at edit timings, spending days compiling and studying data. This was clearly Darryl Smith, previously Debunking spiritualism, now moving from attacking spiritualism and parapsychology (and me, for the sin of having exposed his impersonation socking on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the WMF meta wiki), into exposing his “Dislikes = Fad diets, LCHF quackery, pseudoscience.” Did he find a new paymaster? I don’t know.
SfB, before going on a massive Wikipedia editing binge, ending with his “retiring” in December, 2018, had made a few edits to RationalWiki as John66, pursuing the anti-low-carb agenda, and when he did retire, John66 started up in earnest and is still quite active. There, he is now a sysop (RatWiki gives out that easily). The entire RatWiki site is largely dedicated to identifying and exposing “quacks, charlatans, pseudoscientists, and conspiracy theorists.” Is that astroturf? Well, maybe, to some degree. More likely it is a pile of nut cases itself (with a few exceptions).
On the conspiracy side, Darryl Smith has claimed (through socks identified behaviorally and sometimes with technical data) that he has been paid by “a major skeptical organization.” These organizations are dedicated to “debunking,” which is where the genuine skeptical movement went, losing its original scientific underpinnings and methods, becoming highly pseudoskeptical.
It is not skeptical at all, it is a “believer” movement, believing in “mainstream opinion,” even when it is not actually “evidence-based.” I.e., “evidence-based medicine” — what a great idea! — becomes “widespread opinion-based” — and widespread opinion can be highly vulnerable to astroturfing, or more deeply, to the effect of research funding and promotion.
Deletion discussions on Wikipedia, while they are sometimes influenced by opinions like “quackery,” turn on “notability,” which in Wikipedia policy is based on the availability of sources for verification of article content, and what sources are usable can be highly controversial, but if there are mainstream “secondary sources,” sources that review primary sources, or that have a business necessity for fact-checking, these will be considered “Reliable source.” Wikipedia policies are arcane to the uninitiated, because “Reliable” does not mean “reliable.” Get it?
The articles on Kendrick and Moore were deleted because of lack of adequate coverage in reliable source. That can change. “Quackery” as claimed by SfB was irrelevant, but it fires up his own support base. By guidelines, the number of votes doesn’t matter, it is the arguments that count, but in reality, some administrators are lazy as hell and just look at the votes. You can tell by the close comments. I have never seen an administrator even reprimanded for a “consensus is delete” close where it was not a “snow closure” — massively obvious — but actually not a true consensus. Sophisticated users will know how to appeal a decision, so, in theory, this is harmless. In practice, the project is slowly warped toward either majority opinion, neutrality be damned, or toward the opinions of a highly motivated faction, which can wear down and burn out users interested in creating a neutral project (i.e., following traditions of academia, that were the basis for the original encyclopedias, or of journalism, as represented by Sharyl Attkisson.)
So, that Wikipedia article on Attkisson. From the message she has in her TED talk, I expect to see her attacked on Wikipedia. Sure enough, this is how it is done (current version)
In her reporting, Attkisson has published stories linking vaccines with autism, despite the fact that the scientific community has found no evidence of such a link. Seth Mnookin, Professor of Science Writing and the Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, described Attkisson as “one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved.”
I immediately notice a very unlikely claim reported as a “fact.” “The scientific community has found no evidence,” is essentially a lie. There is evidence, but it is also possibly countered by other evidence. “There is no evidence” is a common claim of fanatics, when there is evidence. When someone is guilty of a crime, they are likely to say, “They have no evidence,” but in court, a case will be immediately thrown out if there is no evidence. Rather, in an unbiased proceeding, plaintiff and defendant will present evidence (vetted for being admissible) and the judge or jury will balance and weigh it.
“No evidence” is rhetoric, fake news, and a tell-tale sign of someone attempting to influence opinion by lying or misrepresenting reality. So how is this allowed on Wikipedia? I will look at the process below, but the notes are:
Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has accused the liberal watchdog group Media Matters of targeting her reporting, and believes someone may have even paid for them to do it. […]
Attkisson’s reporting has come in for a fair amount of criticism as well, and not just because it frequently targets the Obama administration. She has previously published stories about possible links between childhood vaccinations and autism, and stood by those reports on Sunday even as Stelter noted that doctors believe framing the idea as a “debate” is dangerous and encourages parents to not vaccinate their children. (The majority of the scientific community disagrees with that assertion and the CDC says there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. A famous 1998 study that did purport to find a connection between autism and a vaccine was retracted in 2010.)
“I’m not here to fight doctors,” Attkisson said. “I’m just saying that factually, I’m not here to advocate for one side or the other. I’m just saying factually, there are many peer-reviewed published studies that do make an association, and the government itself has acknowledged a link.”
The article’s expression was confused. The “assertion” just before the claim of majority disagreement was that framing the idea as a debate is “dangerous.” This is a classic fascist argument, by the way, used to suppress dissent. Socrates was condemned for “corrupting the youth” by asking dangerous questions. However, they mean that the majority disagree with a “possible link between vaccination and autism.” This is commonly not represented accurately. The claimed link is, as I understand it so far — I’m gradually becoming more informed on this — between MMR trivalent vaccine and autism. I am very skeptical about this claim. But I would not agree that it is impossible. In any case, “majority” implies that there is dissent within the scientific community, and not merely some single crank (or, for that matter, a single visionary). This is actually contradictory to “there is no evidence.” Rather, first of all, most of the scientific community is not specifically informed, that’s normal. Rather, what can be found is that certain organizations, possibly influential, have issued conclusions. Based on balanced weighing of evidence, or otherwise, these, as science, will stand as evidence for the conclusion, but it is opinion, interpretation, not fact. (Evidence is fact or “witnessing.”) It might even usually be correct, in some way, but “science” goes astray when what is interpretation and opinion becomes “evidence,” and is used to deny that evidence even exists.
Is Atkinsson correct? The CDC page cited now redirects to a different page, with no reference to autism. The Politico article was dated 04/21/2014. The archive.org snapshot of that page the day before shows concern about autism, and then has:
a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.
That review clearly is about a weighing of evidence, and does not support the idea that “there is no evidence.” Is Attkisson correct that “the government itself has acknowledged a link”? The evidence shown above does not contradict her statement, which is vague and could mean almost anything. What Politico was reporting on was a CNN interview.
(the interviewer there actually supported the idea that there is a campaign to discredit Attkisson. That, of course, does not end up on Wikipedia!)
In that interview, it is not impossible, nor would it even be surprising, if Attkisson’s views were not flawlessly expressed, or were obsolete. Her actual stand is that people should not blindly depend on her opinions or anyone else, but should dig and think for themselves, and carefully, because there is a great deal of intentionally or carelessly deceptive information available. On that stand, I agree with her completely. Even if the autism/vaccine link was a mistake. Demonizing critique (anti-vaxers are called “murderers”) “controversializes” the very process of free democratic review that is essential to science and to sane public policy.
It is fascist, and, yes, fascism can be on the left or the right. It always has “good reasons” for suppressing dissent. After all, who can be against trains running on time? Or, for that matter, the public being protected from “quackery” and “pseudoscience”? Those vague hazards are not actual risks except to those who choose to follow them, and so fascism protects the public from its own “wrongness,” which itself alienates elements of the public, which can see that forces are attempting mind control. The anti-vax hysteria is fueled by suppression. (And it can itself be fascist, see my fascism post linked above.)
Whew! That’s just the first footnote.
33. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes The Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic In 70 Years. This is a Forbes blog story, it has apparently been taken down. Archive.org. The author is Steven Salzberg. From his Wikipedia article:
Salzberg has also been a vocal advocate against pseudoscience and in favor of the teaching of evolution in schools, and has authored editorials and appeared in print media on this topic. He writes a widely read column at Forbes magazine on science, medicine, and pseudoscience. His work at Forbes won the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.
The “widely read” is editorial insertion, not sourced. The link is to the column itself, violating policy. (I.e., it does not establish notability of the column, though this can be allowed with editorial consensus.) The Prize is awarded by, surprise!, the Center for Inquiry, the descendant of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which became, contrary to its title, a debunking organization going after any fringe science. That “Critical Thinking” award is for “Skeptic Authors,” but the only “Skeptics” awarded are those who debunk skeptics as “pseudoscientific,” whether they are or not. (This faction would call “cold fusion” “pseudoscientific” on Wikipedia, and tried many times, even though the basic ideas are testable, have been tested, and the bulk of the evidence confirms that there is an anomaly and that it is nuclear in nature. But who cares about evidence, if you can simply attack “believers” as “die-hards” and “cranks,” and “pseudoscientists” ? and if you can exclude clear Reliable Source (so judged by Wikipedia policy and the community) as “biased” or “written by believers.” (RS policy has to do with publishers, not authors).
His first version of the Forbes post, 7/23/2012. His tag line:
Celebrating good science by fighting pseudoscience and bad medicine
This is an activist, with axes to grind. The headline is not science. Period. No evidence is advanced that “antivax” caused the rise in cases. He wrote:
Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the credulous, anti-science, anti-vax CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.
That was a libel, but it demonstrates how the thinks. This is pseudoskepticism that, as Attkisson points out, becomes an extended ad hominem argument, as a red flag. It was changed later by the version cited on Wikipedia, to
Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has repeatedly and persistently reported on the purported link between vaccines and autism long after such a link was widely discredited.*
Notice the use of weasel words on one side and affirmative statements with no evidence and actually contradicting some evidence on the other. “repeatedly and persistently,” is how many times, out of a very busy career. And she reported on the link, when, and has her reporting been complete. “Widely discredited” simply could mean that a few people have discredited her, or a vast mob of people like Szalzberg. It’s meaningless, showing only a mass of opinion.
Again, I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m saying that this is conclusory, opinion, not fact, and why was this cited?
It appears that the Attkisson article has been used as a coat-rack for attacking her and anti-vaxx. And that is what happens to anyone who offends the faction. I covered the like of this here, on another person who actually supports vaccination but dared to repeat what anti-vaxxers think. , same pattern with Sarah Wilson. Journalist reports fact (in this case, her idea of what some people think), and is attacked viciously. (in this case, all that undue nonsense was removed from the article a few days ago. But Wikipedia process is entirely unreliable, and initiatives that would have made it reliable have been strongly resisted.)
Still on the sources for the Wikipedia article:
34. A blog, The panic virus, entirely devoted to attacking criticism of vaccines. Not reliable source. Vaporized. Archived. More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, by Seth Mnookin. In addition to much hysteria, what it had on Attkisson was conclusory and based on various concurring opinions (other bloggers!), not any kind of overall survey. This is an information cascade, not “science-based.” There may be some science referenced, to be sure, but science is not a body of conclusions, rather it is a large body of evidence (actual “knowledge”, much of it from, at best, controlled experiment, but interpretation is always conditional and subject to revision based on new evidence, as well as recognition of possible deficiencies in previous analysis. And that is how and why science moves on. Bottom line, this was correctly attributed as Mnookin’s opinion, and he might be considered notable. Is there any balancing evidence? I will look at the history below to see if any was asserted.
Mnookin, by the way, has a book and all this could be seen as pushing his point of view. Authors commonly display a bias toward their own point of view, big surprise? Not.
The book is The Panic Virus, so he could be seen as creating a business around this. (Much as Gary Taubes is accused of doing around low-carb, on the opposite side from the Wiki fanatics. It is plausible that Taubes has a bias, and Taubes actually calls his latest book, The Case Against Sugar, the “argument for the prosecution.” Biased. Now, does “biased” mean, “to be excluded from public discourse and respect”? People with one point of view commonly call opposing views “deluded” or “biased.” The defense very often claims the prosecution “has no evidence.”
Both of which are irrelevant arguments, conclusory, not related to fact.
The Wikipedia article on Attkisson continued:
In 2011, Paul Offit criticized Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines as “damning by association” and lacking sufficient evidence in his book Deadly Choices. In the medical literature, Attkisson has been accused of using problematic rhetorical tactics to “imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” Attkisson said that she favors vaccinating children, but claimed that research suggests that “a small subset of children” have brains that are vulnerable to vaccines. She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.
35. So, again, a book. Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
This is the argument of medical fascism. The choice not to vaccinate may, if the mainstream is correct, increase risk, but only very slightly for any individual. There is an increased collective risk only if the number of those making that choice rise to a significant percentage of the public. Vaccines are also not completely effective, complicating this.
If a vaccine were 100% effective, it would fully protect the public that chooses to be vaccinated, and others would be at risk, presumably with their own choice, or that of their parents. It is a common fascist practice to take over parenting from parents, in favor of something “better.”
The non fascist answer to the refusal problem would be education, but if the education is fascist propaganda (i.e., excludes and demonizes contrary opinion), it will increase the power of anti-vax arguments, because the oppression can be seen readily, and it does not increase trust in authorities, it has the opposite effect.
I do not conclude that because fascist suppression is used against the anti-vax movement, therefore the pro-vaccination evidence cannot be trusted, but many people will think that and support, then, conspiracy theories.
In any case, this source amounts to a very strong critic of anti-vax attacking a journalist for reporting the other side. It is clear that Attkisson has been criticized, but what is the overall balance? How notable is this, for a Wikipedia biography of a living person?
What is obvious is that critique has been collected, with weak sources being used.
36. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Article in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed journal. Copy here.
This is a fascinating article and I could agree with much of it. (I.e, anti-vaxxers use “tactics and tropes.” But so to the critics of “vaccine denialism.” In any case, the article does not mention Attkisson in the body, but cites two sources in footnotes, i.e.,
 Gorski D. Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, . Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/anti-vaccinepropaganda-from-sharyl-attkisson-of-cbs-news-2; 2011 [accessed 25.08.11]. [Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/61D4kploa]
 Attkisson S. Autism: why the debate rages, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/autism-why-the-debate-rages-15-06-2007/; 2007 [accessed 24.04.11] [link corrected]. [Archived by
WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5yAqYL0p2].
 was the “science-based medicine blog” which is affiliated with the debunkers at CSI and often is full of attacks on skeptics of mainstream ideas. Snark rules there, as it does in many “debunking” venues. From the Vaccine article:
Works critiquing the anti-vaccine movement are often accused
of being propaganda [89–91]; those on the other side of the issue
accuse anti-vaccine activists of propaganda as well [92,93].
The blog piece has been taken down. This comment about propaganda is certainly true of both sides. “Propaganda” is conclusory information designed to influence. Neutral reporting is not propaganda, through propaganda might refer to it. It is obvious that both sides of this issue create propaganda. That is normal for political activism. 92 establishes the obvious, but this is not what is supported by the Wikipedia article.
179 supports this from the Vaccine article:
4.2.4. “You can’t prove vaccines are safe”
This accusation demands vaccine advocates demonstrate vaccines do not lead to harm , rather than anti-vaccine activists having to prove they do. Claims such as “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out” or “Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics”  imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit. This involves arguing based on a lack of evidence – not knowing something is true is taken as proof it is false, or not knowing something is false is proof it is true. Likewise, because there have been no studies conducted with the specific conditions antivaccination groups ask for , this lack of knowledge means vaccines are not safe. Lists of questions to ask vaccine proponents  are circulated with the intention of stumping them, with the inability to answer taken as evidence against vaccination.
I have bolded the statement from Attkisson. The “trope” here is an alleged “implication,” that “vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” That should be a simple fact (about scientific process). If there were no evidence, this would be a terminally weak argument. At the time, however, 2007, the Wakefield et al article linking MMR vaccine to autism had not yet been retracted, and there is (I think) some other evidence. (Attkisson certainly claims it.) Behind this “trope” is an assumption that there is no basis for suspicion, hence the skeptical argument is converted to a straw man argument, essentially, “Because we are ignorant, I’m right.”
What is actually in the CBS source:
6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.
And, as well, what was quoted. That was a reasonable piece of reporting at that time, and might still be, the question has become more difficult. The section then goes on to report more, all more or less standard journalism. She points to what was certainly, at the time, a live debate. She was pointing to the incompleteness of knowledge, and, yes, that would still leave vaccination as a “possible culprit,” but she certainly also asserted evidence to suspect vaccination. It’s worth reading that CBS report, it is an example of what she has been attacked for. Reporting.
Fascist attack on the media. It’s not just Donald Trump!
(Many other tropes in the Vaccine article are like the above. Yes, there are fanatics and those using logical fallacies, but, as noted in what was quoted above, this happens on all sides, except what might be called the “journalistic” or “academic side,” sometimes. When we become more interested in reality, as distinct from our opinions and interpretations, we move toward journalism. I like the Vaccine article, in part, but, as presented, it has a likely effect of “debunking” vaccine skepticism as if it were all based on such tropes. What is missing is a list of tropes on the other side. The article author has a clear position: the abstract concludes with: “Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”
This is an ad-hominem attack on an entire movement, when such movements will be internally diverse and will also be, for the most part, sincere, not “disengenuous.” The author of the article has a clear and strong position, and fails to recognize that behind most of the “tropes” is a reasonable core, a claim that has some truth, at least under some circumstances. It is necessary to recognize “disengenuous claims” by all sides, not just one side. Most urgently, when opinion is considered to rule instead of balanced evaluation of evidence — all the evidence! — we fall into the rabbit-hole of fascism, of the domination of factions and people who believe they are right, which is never “scientific.” In science, we attempt to prove we are wrong!
The article begins with:
… a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined
“Power has shifted.” Shifts in power are always vociferously opposed by those holding excess power. “The legitimacy of science is questioned.” What the author is calling “science,” is not science, but “expert opinion,” which may or may not be based on science. Experts put their pants on one leg at a time, and are just as capable of attachment and bias, not to mention financial incentives, gross or subtle, as anyone else.
Most people don’t take the time to study issues, even when they are crucial to their health, they simply are looking for whom to trust, as if there is some infallible person to trust. Such people will be vulnerable to propaganda from either side, whichever they trust more, for reasons that can be complex, based on personal history.
What has happened with the internet is that minority opinion can still organize with relative ease. In response, the mainstream (which is loosely defined and there is always the possibility of a “silent majority”), has become more severely repressive and even punitive toward minority opinion (though it always has been to some degree).
In the vaccine debates, minority opinion is excoriated as highly irresponsible, if expressed, and murder at worst. And, of course, the minority, noticing the suppression, readily develops a conspiracy theory (which may or may not be real) and accuses the mainstream of murder. Of innocent children, of course. Both sides shout “Think of the children!”
One more source:
37. The Daily Beast. Scandal blog. Sharyl Attkisson: ‘I Don’t Care What People Think’ About My Reporting
This is a fairly balanced story. It is used to support this text in the article:
She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.
Well, did they? I do remember that Wikipedia is not about truth, but about what can be verified. So the fact alleged fact here is that she said two things. What did she actually say ?
Attkisson says she is very much in favor of vaccinating kids, but that peer-reviewed studies have suggested the possibility of a “small subset of children” who suffer from difficult-to-detect immune dificiencies that might make their brains vulnerable to certain vaccines, much like some children are allergic to polio vaccines.
But she says Big Pharma has actively discouraged scientific research into possible linkages, and that pharmaceutical advertisers similarly persuaded CBS and other broadcasters not to run stories questioning the risk of vaccines for certain children.
Well, have they? I have not seen evidence either way on that, not yet, anyway. This is a personal interview, in which she may state her suspicions, or it might be knowledge. At this point, from the interview, I don’t know which it is. But the story of Big Pharma (and other established interests) influencing research is routine, an understanding of the problem has become widespread, with increased requirements for funding and conflict-of-interest disclosures.
Never mind that a CBS News veteran, who asked not to be named, says Attkisson’s vaccine-autism reports were eventually killed not because of advertiser pressure, but because they weren’t adequately supported by scientific evidence.
None of the reports I have seen so far were such. I.e, reporting what people think and claim need not be supported by “scientific evidence,” it is ordinary journalism, and the decision of whether or not a claim is “adequately supported” is for review panels of experts (and that itself can be flawed if the panel composition has been warped, which has happened.)
“The fact is, the government has acknowledged there’s a link,” Attkisson says, citing the recent admission by a senior Central for Disease Control epidemiologist that he and his colleagues improperly omitted from a 2004 study the data that tended to support such a link. “They simply say it’s not a causal link.”
No link, no way to check this yet.
What I see as factual here is that she suspects influence from large corporations. It is not black and white, i.e., advertiser pressure or “scientific” evidence or lack of same. What if the advertiser points out the alleged problem? What Attkisson is reporting is that she was prevented from reporting on what she found. Now, that’s an editorial decision, but she decided to give up a contract with a million dollars left on it, if I read the source correctly, effectively not being willing to work under those conditions. That increases her credibility, her stand was contrary to her personal interest. As presented on Wikipedia, this looks like “conspiracy theory,” a common pseudoskeptical trope, though it is not really a conspiracy theory to suspect that large interests would act (and spend money) to defend their interests, that the would support research likely to increase their profits and discourage or at least not support research that might damage profits.
But this little piece of the article does fairly present what she said.
Now, how did the article get this way? Looking at history, I see my old friend, JzG, a blatant and obvious and uncivil POV-pusher who has gotten away with it for years, one of the people who may have complained to get me globally office-banned by the Wikimedia Foundation. For what? Unknown. In any case, here are some fun JzG edits, in reverse date order
- 20:48, 5 February 2019 Reverted good faith edits by 22.214.171.124 (talk): It’s significant that she broadcaSTS ON WINGNUT CABLE (TW)
- 10:53, 27 January 2019 →Anti-vaccine reporting: don’t especially like primary sourcing but Mnookin is a published authority so probably OK in this case. [Yup. He knew it was a problem, but did it anyway].
- 10:47, 27 January 2019 Reverted to revision 880322583 by Snooganssnoogans: Revert the usual whitewashing (TW) [what he reverted was closer to sources.]
There was a strong level of churning on the Vaccination section. That’s basically quite old news, why was it still in so much flux? (My answer: there is currently a great deal of hysteria about anti-vaxx as pseudoscientific misinformation causing epidemics, etc. From history, JzG’s point of view would be obvious. He is regular and very predictable, has been for years. Whenever a neutral presentation of sourced fact makes an article subject look less crazy, the faction will call it “whitewashing,” as if the job of the project is to blacken reputations. To the pseudoskeptics, that is exactly their agenda, to attack “pseudoscience” and “quacks” and anyone who gets in their way.
- 09:54, 26 January 2019 Reverted to revision 879123820 by Ser Amantio di Nicolao: More neutral title since she is anti-vax (TW) [He just lied.]
- 19:10, 10 January 2019 (→Reporting on vaccines and autism: more to the point) [Changes the head to “False reporting on vaccines and autism“]
Yes, indeed to the “point,” the POV (point of view) that JzG has been pushing for years. The sources do not support that conclusion. Some of these things were discussed on the Talk page, on which JzG demonstrated his standard rigidity and contempt for other users. He was recently reprimanded by the community and may have gone off on in a huff, he has not edited at all for three weeks, from a pace of many edits per day. It has been noticed, see his talk page. 9 March, he was in Bangalore. So maybe he is travelling.
So what’s the point?
Until we wake up to our need for truly reliable journalism, that avoids unnecessary conclusions (or, more practically, that walls off and distinguishes between fact and opinion) — just as we need reliable government and reliable institutions of all kinds — and until we become willing to work toward this goal, trustworthiness by design, little will change, my prediction. Existing structures are almost all vulnerable to corruption of various forms.
When we become aware of problems, what do we normally do? Most of us do nothing, we don’t believe that reform is actually possible. A few become activists and create organizations, which, of course, we create using standard models, which are intrinsically vulnerable, or in a few cases, we go for an anarchist model, which, without protective structure, predictably devolves into one of the standard models. See the Iron Law of Oligarchy.
It is known how to create organizations that are not as vulnerable to this, (it has been done here and there) but few know it and understand it. And what I’ve seen, when I have described the approaches to others, is that they will say something like: “I am so glad that someone is thinking about this.” Subtext: so that I don’t have to, end of topic. One of my old questions:
How many people does it take to change the world?
Two, but most people won’t lift a finger. Literally.
Is there anyone out there willing to take responsibility for the future of humanity? Comments here are open. Let me know!
subpage of democratic-fascism
Comment by Jed Rothwell on The core of fascism
In reply to Abd ulRahman Lomax.
You can be as wrong as you like, as long as you do not endanger other people.
Yes, of course. However, the core is actually “harm” other people, because “endanger” can be fuzzy, and can involve a balance of risks. It could be said that by drinking alcohol, we endanger others, because we may then exercise poor judgment, as in deciding to drive. But we decided that the harms of prohibiting alcohol (which were also many) outweighed that risk, and we address drunk driving in other ways. These are edge cases, where harm may not immediately be obvious. Who knew that outlawing alcohol would feed the growth of organized crime?
Other people include your own children. Their rights outweigh yours.
They can. However, under normal conditions, the natural advocate for the rights of children is their parents, and a common fascist move, historically, was to remove responsibility for children from parents and place it in collective activity. Against this, there are obviously some parents who are a danger to their children. The present balance is that anyone may report to child protective authorities that a child is in danger, and mandated reporters (therapists, teachers, police are among them) are legally compelled to report. Those authorities will then investigate and report. I’ve had close and extensive contact with child welfare authorities over the years. My experience has been quite positive, partly because I always welcomed the concern. This is what they know: they have the power to remove custody in an emergency, at their discretion, and to seek permanent removal through legal action. They also know that doing so may cause serious harm to the child. Foster care is available, but can also be abusive, with abusers skilled at concealing it. Normal parents love their children and do not want to harm them, so if there are problems, child protective authorities will attempt to work with the parents, providing them with support, which also increases monitoring of the situation. It works.
(Cases where social workers become abusive are rare, my impression. Parents may request that a different worker be assigned to a case, that would be ordinarily routine. Unfortunately, many parents become hysterical when they are reported, and do not respond well. And, of course, some are actually abusive and a danger to the children. But it is not correct that the child’s rights “outweigh” the parents’. In a legal action, both will be considered. The right to safety will generally outweigh the right to freedom of choice of a parent over a child. When there is apparent conflict, the state may appoint an advocate for the child, and if the child is old enough, the child’s wishes may be considered.
Society must protect them from people who would not put seat belts on them, or vaccinate them, or send them to school. I do not think parents should be allowed to educate children at home. It was not allowed until the 1960s, and it was a bad idea to let it happen.
Three cases. Does not putting a seat belt on a child create a clear and present danger? It can be so argued, though the specific risk is low. I have never heard of parental rights being terminated because of a seat belt violation. However, a bill has been filed in Florida that would allow “the Department of Children and Families to investigate adults for child abuse if a child passenger is injured or killed because they weren’t properly restrained.” Unless the law is strange in Florida about what DCF can and cannot do, anyone (at least in Massachusetts where I live) can make a report to DCF about anything believed to be child endangerment, and they must investigate. So why is this law necessary? Further, it does not allow investigation if the driver of the car is found to have failed to require seat belt usage. That would be the situation of risk. Already injured is horse out the barn door. Weird, indeed.
This report of a mother not having seat belts fastened for her kids, the seat belts were the least of it. That woman needs help, and so do her kids. None of this approaches serious fascism, but there is just a tinge of potential for it in the emotional reaction. (In that first, there is no assessment of actual risk, just some scary statistics that could easily be misinterpreted, and probably are being so. 723 auto accident child deaths in 2016. 35% were not restrained. Unstated and possibly unknown: How many deaths would there have been if all had been restrained? We know that 2/3s of the deaths occurred even if restrained. So we cannot blame all those deaths on lack of seat belts. Some of them, probably. However, the limit looks like it might be about 89.
Nevertheless, if the limit of collectivist fascism was a caregiver being investigated for child abuse because a kid was not wearing a seat belt, which doesn’t seem to be happening yet, I would not be writing about it at all.
The medical professional always informs people of the dangers of a vaccination these days.
Notice the extreme language, “always.” That’s a sign of an attachment to a point of view. It’s simply not true. It may be a norm, it may be common. I’ve been vaccinated recently against the flu. I don’t recall any clear information about dangers. It is possible that I signed something with information in fine print. I really don’t recall, and I was vaccinated at a drugstore. Very informal. But voluntary vaccinations are not the issue here, the issue is (1) mandatory vaccination and (2) reliability of the information available. I know for a fact that “standard of practice” can be far, far from best practice, given all the information. I’ve learned how to extract better advice from professionals, who are faced with social and legal restraints, all in the name of preventing quackery and malpractice by punishing professionals who follow their own opinions, even if these are carefully researched. Basically, I explicity take full responsibility for my own choices, and they then will tell me what they think, having made sure I know the “standard advice.”
But the very research on which science-based medicine would be based, in theory, has been warped, at least in some cases.
Before they inject you (or your child) they make you sign a paper with a long list of the dangers. No one is ignorant of the dangers unless he signs without reading the paper.
I recall none such, ever, with seven children. Now, how do you know what “they make you do,” such as would enable you to state, with confidence, that this is what is always done? If you don’t sign the paper, is there then a penalty (yes, of course, they won’t vaccinate unless they can get a court order)! If it is constrained, it is not consent! It’s a slippery slope. The fact is that there are parents who believe there is danger, or “the risk of danger.” If they believe that, should they be legally compelled to consent? As I’m pointing out, that would not actually be consent. Rather, then, the law would allow the professional to treat without consent. More commonly, regulations on vaccination prohibit school attendance if not vaccinated. I was not allowed to volunteer at San Quentin State Prison as a chaplain without a TB vaccination. I have a daughter with a positive TB test result, because she was vaccinated in Ethiopia with a method (BCG) that creates the immune response.
Slippery slope. This is a diversion, because mandatory vaccination is the issue, not required consent.
We are now living in the golden age of personal and parental autonomy. Parents have never had so much freedom to raise their children as they see fit. If you think people had more freedom in the past, you have not read social history.
Jed, you commonly assume ignorance on the part of those you disagree with. It’s offensive. There are ways in which parents today, in the U.S., have more freedom and ways in which we have less.
For example, in New England from the 17th into the 19th century, if parents did not teach their children how to read, or did not take them to church, or teach them “an honest calling,” the state could take the children away and put them in a foster home. See the Massachusetts Bay School Law (1642):
This was locally enforced, and the law is roughly consistent with law to this day, but obviously religious education no longer applies. This amounts to requiring that children know enough to understand the dominant culture, and is not unreasonable, and it could be argued that this is necessary.
At that point there was no mandatory free public education, so this was actually requiring either school or some form of “home schooling,” which is sometimes a misnomer. The modern movement is partly “alternative schooling” and partly “unschool,” which focuses on non-school methods of education (which has deep philosophical and substantial support from research). One of my seven children was out of school from “6th grade to 8th grade,” by her choice, and she did very well indeed. She decided to go to high school largely for social reasons. To do this legally in Massachusetts required setting up a “home school plan” approved by the local Superintendent of Schools. Without that, DCF would have declared me responsible for “educational neglect.”
Fascist? A little. Not a lot, given the available alternatives, the legal and practical realities. She signed up and personally paid for North Star, Alternative Education for Teens (she was 12 when that started, they accepted her). The last year, my plan for the Superintendent was very simple: I didn’t quite say it this way, but close: She will do whatever the hell she wants, at North Star three days a week, where she can be tutored in whatever subject she chooses, read whatever she wants or her iPhone, and be entirely responsible for her life, buying her own food and paying for everything personal on a fixed budget (social security), receiving only free rent and transportation.
That really was fascist, as were many laws into the 20th century. The Bill of Rights was a dead letter in many ways. However, I think the trend has gone too far the other direction.
For thousands of years the world has been going to hell in a handbasket. The opinion here is about the same as what Mussolini expressed in what I cited in the blog post to which Jed was responding.
I do not know if smallpox vaccinations were given worldwide, but in the 1950s in the U.S. and Japan, everyone got smallpox vaccinations. See:
In the comment to which Jed was responding, I reported the fact about smallpox vaccination in
Australia and New Zealand. Again, Jed, as appears common, is careless about “everyone.” Certainly many did. Smallpox was a terrifying disease, with high fatality rates. What those rates would be today, I don’t know, but the linked Wikipedia article estimates the fatality rate at 30% of those who contracted the disease, and it was highly contagious (hence quarantine was routine).
Jed doesn’t know, because he didn’t look at sources I cited. Again, this is a trait of popular fascism. He doesn’t need to look at sources, because he already knows the truth, which is about his conclusions, not the details of historical fact. He does not back up and become thoughtful and deliberate and careful. It’s not just about this!
The point is that smallpox was eliminated without universal vaccination. Vaccination played a major role, but it was not necessary to vaccinate everyone. The major concern about smallpox today is “weaponized smallpox.” It existed, and it is known to be possible to reproduce it. So if there was an outbreak, would everyone be vaccinated? That depends on details. Smallpox vaccination has risks, see Smallpox vaccination and adverse reactions. Guidance for clinicians.
For me, vaccination would be contraindicated, were I not already immune (I might still be) because I have had atopic dermatitis, a specific risk factor. However, it’s important to understand the role of quarantine.
The quarantine of persons who have been infected or with risk of having been infected is routine, with dangerous infectious diseases, and mandatory, and I have never seen this called “fascist,” nor would I call it that, because it is a prudent and necessary measure, preventing harm and not causing commensurate harm. It’s temporary, and modern testing may be able to limit its application.
In Australia and New Zealand, only strict quarantine was used, apparently, few were vaccinated.
In any case, such decisions must be made by medical authorities based on the best scientific information available. If they say everyone should get a vaccination, citizens should do as they are told.
That is the state propaganda in a fascist regime. In a democracy (practicing the real thing), public agencies make recommendations, and do have a range of active discretion, but citizens retain, to the extent possible, individual choice.
In a fascist state, Big Brother, who loves everyone like his own children, makes the decisions. The Father of the people. Now, how does Jed feel about the Father of the People’s decisions, through the Ministry of Energy? On cold fusion? After all, we can’t have millions of dollars being wasted on research into pseudoscience, proven long ago to be an error! Just the other day, there was this Answer on Quora. (I also answered that question. If I commented on that other answer as Jed often comments, he’d be whacked by Quora moderation — if anyone complained. I took a small risk with my comment. I do pretty well on Quora, but there are still complaints, and I’m occasionally warned. I appeal this and normally they are withdrawn.)
When the oral polio vaccine was developed, every single U.S. citizen lined and took it — as they damn should have.
A friend of mine died because his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine. He actually developed polio where it was extremely rare and with no other source of infection (this was not a coincidence as is sometimes pretended, see Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?
I am not arguing against vaccination, only noting how there is advocacy mixed with science, and that paper shows it. I agree that jumping to conclusions from isolated reports can be hazardous, but raising suspicion from isolated reports is not “unscientific.” That paper was designed to deprecate and defuse concern. Whether or not it actually accomplished that would require more study than I have put into this issue, and the vaccination issue is not a major focus of mine.
My actual stand is that parents, to the extent possible, with all issues affecting their health and that of their children, should research the issues for themselves, as far as possible, and have the necessary discussions with medical professionals. It is part of the job of professionals to educate them. When professionals take a paternalistic approach, and treat patients as ignorant children, to be told what to do, they may fail in their job, because many parents will detect the attitude and reject it, deciding instead to trust others.
Thus the stand of “issue is closed, vaccines are perfectly safe!” if argued with disrespect for alternate views, actually causes rejection and harm, even if it is true that vaccination is, overall, more beneficial than harmful (as I personally think likely.)
Fascism. long term, backfires, creating antifascism, which can also be destructive. As should be clear, here, I am not arguing against collective decision-making, only oppressive enforcement without necessity, not respecting freedom of choice.
We need to learn to work together, to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate, and that requires high levels of tolerance for dissent, that can be channeled into constructive discussion.
We cannot have individual parents making decisions that might endanger themselves, their children and other people.
It is already handled legally, when anyone creates substantial risk for others, that communities and authorities will intervene. However, “might endanger” could be carrying it too far. To justify intervention and the deprivation of freedom of choice (which includes religion and decisions about diet, for example), the risk must be substantial, not merely speculative.
Currently measles is in the news. The concern about measles vaccination was originally about MMR, measles, mumps, and rubella, measles itself being, I think, the major disease addressed by that triple-valent vaccine (it is three vaccines in one).
With modern treatment, I do not know the risk of death and serious complications from measles, it may be a bit more than one in a thousand. However, measles remains a rare disease, even with the “epidemic” being declared. In spite of recent media reports, the CDC does not consider that there is a measles epidemic in the U.S. There are much larger outbreaks in Venezuela and Brazil, a few thousand cases per year, and it looks like the fatality rate is on the order of 0.1%.
The public health goal for vaccination is given as 95%. It is not necessary to vaccinate everyone to create “herd immunity.” If there is more than 5% refusal, it is possible to consider alternative measures. I am following discussions in a heart-disease related blog, and there is sometimes mention of vaccination there, and doctors have spoken up that, faced with parental refusal to vaccinate, keep up the conversation, they respect the parents and their rights and their love for their children, but also don’t stop communicating what they know, and they report that, long-term, the parents agree and allow vaccination. That is how to handle misinformation, not by suppressing and condemning it. (And once in a while, what is considered misinformation is actually closer to the truth than mainstream opinion.)
With the risk of actually contracting measles as low as it is, well under one chance in a million if one is simply enrolled in school in the U.S., and then under a few chances in a thousand of long-term harm if infected (I had measles as a kid, big deal! — but sometimes it can be fatal, just not often), the risk to a child from not being vaccinated is well below other major and routine risks, including death from automobile accidents. Not vaccinating a child under those conditions is definitely not child abuse, whether or not it is optimal.
Whose welfare is being considered if the child is not allowed to attend school? The vaccinated ones will remain low risk. (But vaccinations are not 100% effective, another fact sometimes not mentioned). Which is a greater risk to that child, being excluded from school or allowing unvaccinated attendance? (Or, the ultimate consequence in some places of vaccination requirements, seizure of custody from parents, tossing the kid into a foster care system with major risks from that. Foster care is not a particularly safe choice, and child welfare authorities will avoid it unless it is truly necessary.
It would be like letting people install wiring without an electrician’s license, drive at any speed they like, ignore traffic signals, or give away tainted food on the streets. The whole point of having a government is prevent things like that.
I have installed wiring with no license. Perhaps you should report me to the police? I haven’t done it for years, so good luck. People do it all the time. Under some conditions, one might need to have the wiring inspected. If we did not want people to do this, why do we allow the materials to be sold to the general public? What is much more strictly regulated is people representing themselves as electricians without a license, which mostly happens because a customer complains.
I can drive at any speed I like. The basic speed law prohibits driving at a dangerous speed, which varies with conditions. I have been ticketed three or four times in Massachusetts (over 18 years) for exceeding speed limits (a different offense), and in every case, I appeared and appealed if necessary and, in every case, was found not responsible (by default, actually, the tickets were never fully prosecuted).
I was always driving at a normal speed for the stretch of road involved, and there are regulations governing how speed limits are set, that are often ignored. So many speed limit signs are illegal? Who watches the watchers? It is obvious why so many speed limits are set too low and I saw the actual communications between the town and the Highway Department for the first case. The city wanted a low limit so the engineers were drastically over-ruled with no justification given. Just a decision.
Makes it easy to “tax” out-of-town people driving through. Safety? It is well known that speed limit signs have little effect on travel speeds, so putting up a sign doesn’t make the road safer. But it means that any time the town police want, they can go out, and since nearly everyone is travelling faster than the speed limit in that place, stop whomever they like. Steady revenue. And I also talked to a neighbor who had been stopped in that same location (it was two towns to the east of mine). The officer would let you go if you showed some “affinity.” This was never prosecuted, but if I had needed to go to an appeals court, I’d have subpoenaed the town records to see how many tickets were issued to out-of-town residents. I’d bet resident speeding citations were rare.
(I considered all this fun and educational. The judge in the last dismissal joked with me, and the rapport created helped a bit, maybe, in a later case before that judge (completely unrelated, but the legal system is staffed by human beings. At least so far!)
As to giving away tainted food on the streets, this is a much fuzzier issue than it might seem. Actually tainted food, yes, obviously a problem, but free food programs have been shut down for technical issues where the real goal was to prevent feeding unwanted poor people and the homeless, considered a nuisance. No actual problem with the food. Fascist? Maybe, sometimes.
The main problem I see here is knee-jerk expression of opinion without actual research and consideration of alternate points of view. As well, demonstrated is a strange knee-jerk trust in “the authorities,” which is, in some senses, un-American.
You wrote: “I have never heard of parental rights being terminated because of a seat belt violation.”
Neither have I. In Georgia, violators are fined $50, and the law specifies “violation of this Code section shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se.” What is your point?
It would appear that Jed considers parents who do not consent to vaccination to be neglectful, such that parental rights might be terminated. What did he actually write?
To take a far less extreme example, parents in Georgia are not allowed to drive children in cars without seat belts. I think that is a reasonable law. On rare occasions, seat belts have caused casualties, but we insist that parents must use them because they save many more children than they kill. I think it is equally reasonable for the law to say no parent should be allowed keep a child from being vaccinated for common, dangerous diseases such as tetanus or polio. The benefits of these vaccinations far outweigh the dangers. Only a doctor should be authorized to exempt a child, and only for a valid medical reason.
Now, he did not recommend that rights be terminated, though that would be a logical extension of the idea. Do we “insist that parents must use [seat belts].” Not actually. Rather, we set up a possible consequence. The fine is small and a citation is not terribly likely under most circumstances where seat belts are not applied for all children. I was in a car with a woman with two children, and one of them refused to sit with his seat belt. We stopped the car and waited until he put on the belt. Some parents, though, might tell the kid he’s in trouble when they get home, particularly if they are not willing to be patient. There are two risks there: there is a small risk of injury to the child from a short period without a belt, and there is a risk of a citation, which is larger but much less serious. Parents balance risks all the time. But here we have a suggestion that the state interfere, and that the state mandate “valid medical reason,” where any doctor may reasonably fear prosecution if he or she agrees with a parent’s concern about vaccination. That’s a huge consequence. For what is arguably a very small risk. Terminally small, under most conditions. (I estimated something like one in a hundred million of a serious consequence to the child.) Not putting on a seat belt is probably a larger risk. And that is the point: from hysteria over a non-existent “measles epidemic,” fascist measures are justified.
Again, to emphasize, I am not claiming that the health risks from vaccination are major, rather I am concerned about the political risks of extending the loss of individual freedoms. There are ways to both protect the public and preserve freedom, but they are commonly passed over, and the general excuse is that the public is ignorant and does not deserve freedom, they will be deceived by quacks and charlatans and pseudoscientists and fanatics of all kinds. Jed ignores all this in favor of shallow “I’m right and you’re wrong” arguments, and the propensity for that was part of my original topic on this issue.
“That’s a sign of an attachment to a point of view.”
No, it is a sign that I know the laws, and I know how to use Google.
And this is a sign of how careless Jed is. He cites the Georgia law, over which there is no dispute, except in one way: that’s a law and enforcement of the law is distinct and can be different. Nevertheless, that law as written has many ameliorating provisions, and all this reduces the possible oppressive impact. I support that law myself. Further, fines are not automatically levied upon citation, generally, the person may appeal the citation and go before a judge, and judges may then use discretion.
My comment about attachment was in response to this:
The medical professional always informs people of the dangers of a vaccination these days. Before they inject you (or your child) they make you sign a paper with a long list of the dangers. No one is ignorant of the dangers unless he signs without reading the paper.
“It’s simply not true. It may be a norm, it may be common. I’ve been vaccinated recently against the flu. I don’t recall any clear information about dangers.”
Then your memory is faulty. It is Federal law that all patients must be given this information, and they must sign for it.
Jed thinks in black and white. If the law says that something “must be done” therefor it is “always” done. I was not talking federal law, but actual practice. Now, could my memory be faulty? Well, what I said was true. “I don’t recall.” My memory is not, then, complete, because I was not watching for a paper. What I remember is that it was all very quick. I might have signed something. I recall nothing about dangers, nothing was said about dangers, but it is entirely possible that I considered the paper a mere formality, I had already decided to get the vaccination, trusting my doctor (who has generally recommended flu vaccination, but I’ve never had an extensive conversation with him, and flu is a clear and present danger. One of my children nearly died a few weeks ago from H1N1 flu. Now how thoroughly has this year’s vaccine been tested?
What was obviously false is “always.” My friend who died from polio contracted from his daughter’s live oral vaccine, was he informed of the risk to him? Did they even ask? I don’t know, but my sense is not, this was in the 1970s. As well, there was obviously no vigilance, he was sent home from the hospital twice, and the second time only readmitted because the taxi driver refused to take him, he was so obviously and dangerously ill.
Jed is claiming something on which he could not possibly have information (unless there is some central database verifying all consent forms for authenticity.) If millions of vaccinations are being given by pharmacist’s assistants, how many times will the assistant forget to get the consent form? It’s not that it is a crucial issue. I did obviously consent, but without actually reading the form, that I’m clear about. I have never read one such, and I have been extensively vaccinated (for adoption travel, in particular).
Ironic here is that Jed is claiming that parental consent should be irrelevant, so why is he insisting that written consent is always obtained? It’s obvious to me: Jed will drag up any fact he can to make his position seem reasonable and necessary. And that is an element in popular fascism. We saw it in what I mentioned about the argument tweeted at Sarah Wilson, when she asked about documentation on vaccine effectiveness. The answer was “smallpox,” vaccine for which was certainly effective, but it was also risky, and has been terminated as a program because the risk of being infected with smallpox has gone to very low levels, vaccination now being mostly limited to military that might be exposed to weaponized smallpox (and there is controversy over that).
Jed then brings in more irrelevancy, not on a matter actually being disputed. Nevertheless I read it.
“What’s a VIS?
A VIS or Vaccine Information Statement is a document, produced by CDC, that informs vaccine recipients – or their parents or legal representatives – about the benefits and risks of a vaccine they are receiving.
VISs are required by law
All vaccine providers, public or private, are required by the National Vaccine Childhood Injury Act (NCVIA – 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26[2 pages]) to give the appropriate VIS to the patient (or parent or legal representative) prior to every dose of specific vaccines.
The appropriate VIS must be given prior to the vaccination, and must be given prior to each dose of a multi-dose series. It must be given regardless of the age of the recipient. See ‘Ways to give a VIS.’ . . . ”
I suggest you be a little more careful before asserting what is “simply not true.”
I have long suggested Jed be careful how he interprets what he reads, and he has long dismissed it, even when I demonstrated that he was drastically misquoting the target of his criticism.
I never denied that there is a requirement, and actually wrote “It may be a norm, it may be common.” Something mandated by law is a “norm. ” But Jed, in his mind, equates “legally required” with “always is done.”
I sign many, many consent forms, and where I generally trust the provider of the form, that if there is really something I need to know there, they would tell me, I often don’t read it. A provider is waiting for me, and to read a long form with small print will waste their time. Yes, I could insist, but I usually don’t. What I know is that I am still protected, legally, if the provider is negligent. Those forms provide a layer of protection, but not absolute protection.
Reading that, I now remember more, because what is described on that page, a computer display being allowed, is what I do, now, recall. And it was not working properly. It was impossible to read the detailed statement on that display, which only showed maybe two short lines at a time, so I skipped it. Was I properly informed? Questions like that make lawyers rich. It could be argued either way.
And is that VIS accurate? The current VIS are here.
Are these balanced? Are possible controversies explained neutrally? I did read the statement for the flu vaccine I took. It can cause some serious problems, but only rarely, the VIS claims. I am personally in a higher-risk group as to possible harm from flu. If I were more seriously concerned here, I would read the antivax material on the VIS, I’m pretty sure there are likely to be criticisms. But I’m not. I might talk with my children about this, there are still two young grandchildren.
And what all this boils down to is “Do we trust the government?” As a state is fascist or devolves toward fascism, trust becomes mandatory, it is no longer voluntary, if it ever was.
Government, in my view, can be trusted only to the extent that the public is vigilant and collectively identifies and challenges governmental excess and error. Institutions that form to do that are themselves subject to fascist tendencies. There is really no substitute for an informed public.
The public need not be informed on everything, it is enough if some serve and report and warn. When those who criticize the government or “false consensus” are rejected ipso facto, as “fringe,” say, we have popular fascism.
Personally, I generally trust the U.S. government, but not without exception, and provided that criticism of the government is not suppressed. Hence I am quite concerned about the situation with Andrew Wakefield (warning-Wikipedia article, likely to be a battleground, not necessarily reliable), not because I believe he was right, but because, quite simply, it’s worrisome. Many published papers, in hindsight, have drawn unwarranted conclusions, but punishment for that is rare, only deliberate fraud is commonly sanctioned, and this is because science requires freedom of speech, which must includes the freedom to be “wrong” by some standard or other. The issues are complex and I do not consider myself adequately informed to come to final conclusions, but I can see the operation of popular — and governmental — fascism. “Fascism” is not a problem because it is necessarily wrong. It is generally harmful because it suppresses the freedom that allows full consideration of every issue to proceed in depth.
(And anti-vaxxers can be just as fascist, or even more so.)
Democratic fascism? Is that an oxymoron?
No. Fascism, here, I am giving the broadest definition. See the blog post, The core of fascism. The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views, opinion, or even states of being, resulting in suppression of the unpopular.
Obviously, some expression of opinion is literally dangerous, causing immediate and present danger. Key to fascist suppression, as distinct from mere protection from immediate harm, is that it occurs in the absence of an immediate and clear harm, at best a remote risk, sometimes not even existent, only imagined.
Some opinions are toxic, no doubt, but suppressing them does not change them, it drives them underground, which can then generate far-reaching effects, and continued suppression drives a state toward stronger and stronger suppressive measures, with some elements, and sometimes the state itself, resorting to violence.
I started to address this topic because my work with cold fusion led me into conflict with a suppressive faction. Nominally, this faction supports scientific skepticism, but, there has long been a problem, noted by some of the founders and early supporters of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry into Claims of the Paranormal, that skepticism can fall into “debunking,” which then easily becomes an ad-hominem attack on “kooks, cranks, quacks, pseudoscientists, etc.” and various opinions (and even eyewitness reports and scientific papers) become identified with this and are dismissed without any need to consider evidence. In other words, scientific investigation has been lost in the noise.
This is what Truzzi, one of those founders, called “pseudoskepticism.” I define that as skepticism that forgets to be skeptical of one’s own opinions, or what is viewed as popular, or what the pseudoskeptical faction on Wikipedia calls the “Scientific Point of View,” to distinguish it from what is supposedly policy there, NPOV, or Neutral Point of View (which is journalistic and academic, and, in fact, scientific).
Because I have an interest in health (and specifically my own health!), and because I was attacked on RationalWiki for my work — the attack article started there, long story, introduces me as “an American conspiracy theorist who is best known as proponent of pseudoscientific cold fusion,” I began to return to this study (I had done some research years ago to decide how to address my own cholesterol levels and weight gain).
“Conspiracy theorist” is a straight-out lie. The alleged conspiracy theory is what was called there the “RationalWiki Smith brothers conspiracy theory,” which, by the way, it is forbidden to describe on RationalWiki, it would corrupt the children. This is not merely a theory, it is demonstrated fact, with voluminous evidence, including direct admissions from one “Smith brother” (Oliver D. Smith), admissions from Oliver as to his brother, and much less direct evidence, but still overwhelming, about the other brother, Darryl L. Smith, who wrote that article. Whenever that “conspiracy theory” has been described, it has been as a straw man, not what I have actually written about.
Notice “pseudoscientific cold fusion.” On what basis is “cold fusion” called “pseudoscientific,” or is there a pseudoscientific form of cold fusion?
Cold fusion is the popular name for a set of effects first clearly noticed and announced in 1989. The effect (most notably anomalous heat) was difficult to reproduce, and there were many failures, but eventually, there were many confirmations, and, as well,it was reported that helium was being generated proportional to the heat, and that is widely confirmed. This leads to a hypothesis, that the heat is generated by the conversion of deuterium to helium, which is verifiable. This is, absolutely, “scientific,” and it is being investigated scientifically, as I suggested in my Current Science paper (2015), funded with a $6 million grant. So, by calling this “pseudoscientific,” they are not skeptical, they are in willful disregard of reality, and because all this has been pointed out, and they persist, liars.
And the same person is now going after fringe opinion in medicine and health. As an example of “medical fascism,” I have seen opinions that “statin skeptics,” those who question the usefulness of the massive prescription of statins — it is coming up on almost everyone — are “murderers,” on the idea that if statins reduce death from heart attack, and people refuse statins because of what is called “denialism,” then some people will die that might otherwise live.
For how long would they otherwise live? What is the reduction in overall death rate from taking statins? As I was prescribed a statin and I am not taking it, what is my increased risk? What are the risks of taking statins? Are there any? How do I balance these? And how solid is the research on which all this is based? Has it been influenced by funding from drug companies, which have billions of dollars in revenue at stake? Has public discussion been thorough and balanced?
I’ve been investigating these, and a connection with cold fusion is that the author of Bad Science (the best early history — though strongly skeptical — of the Fleischmann-Pons fiasco — called the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century by Huizenga), Gary Taubes, went on from “bad science” in this field to even worse in the scientific investigation of diet and then obesity and associated health issues, and is being attacked by exactly the same people.
Scientific fascism. Dismissal by popular opinion, with whatever contradicts common views being attacked as pseudoscientific or worse. Evidence be damned.
What was originally adopted (recommendations about reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet) based on what seemed like strong indications, knowing that this was not conclusive, but merely indicative, on the argument that delay could cost millions of lives, became an unassailable dogma. Pieces of it were quickly shown to be incorrect, but the “fat hypothesis” and the associated “cholesterol hypothesis” as the cause of heart disease,” simply was patched, ad hoc, and sailed on undisturbed, even if it is entirely possible that the recommendations issued caused millions of premature deaths.
On subpages here, I will look at examples and discussions of medical fascism.
A common example is “vaccine denialism.” There is no doubt in my mind as to vaccination, in general, having saved millions of lives. However, there are also complications. How common are they? How thorough is monitoring for them? Are there alternatives to vaccination for the control of disease? Should parents be allowed to exempt their children from vaccination?
The issues raised cut to the core of the boundary between collective welfare and protection and fascism. Where is that boundary? How can we decide? When suppression is or becomes fascist, it becomes impossible to have the kind of clear discussion and debate that is essential to deliberative democracy, and a democracy, to that extent, descends into popular fascism (or governmental fascism, with the government enforcing what is popular.)
Rothwell. Begun with a discussion between me (Abd) and Jed Rothwell, a long-term cold fusion activist, who supports mandatory vaccination and would prohibit home schooling (which are related topics).
This is a study of the RationalWiki article on Gary Taubes (Wikipedia) as created by John66 (Darryl L. Smith), as of January 18, 2019. The lead:
Gary Taubes is American author, journalist, low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) promoter, anti-sugar campaigner and cholesterol denialist. Taubes disagrees with mainstream medical advice on dieting. He believes that refined carbohydrates and sugars should be avoided, not fat. Taubes disputes the evidence that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.
Taubes has been accused of misrepresenting scientific data and quoting medical researchers out of context to support his biased low-carb agenda.
Smith is expert at cramming a series of dense misrepresentations into a few words. As is typical, the “mainstream” is presented as if monolithic, when it never has been on this subject, but rather “majoritarian,” i.e., there is are dominant views, never fully accepted by experts, and especially not the researchers. Dietary advice can lag science by decades.
Taubes is not an ordinary journalist, he is a science journalist, specifically, highly qualified for that. Smith had edited the Wikipedia article on Taubes. Taubes’ qualifications are ignored in the RatWiki article. From Wikipedia:
Taubes has won the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996–97. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy.
low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) promoter. So a journalist researches a topic in depth (Taubes spent years on his investigations) and reports what he finds. If what he finds shows that widely-held opinion is not based on science (more than weakly), and that there are contrary hypotheses that fit the data better than what supports mainstreamopinions, and then he acts to secure funding for research to address open issues, is he “promoting” the contrary hypothesis?
Calling him a “promoter” is an attempt to toss him in the basket with “woo diets” and “quack medicine.” Most solidly and persistently, what Taubes is promoting is science and scientific skepticism.
anti-sugar campaigner. His book lays out the case against sugar. In fact, his conclusions (i.e, his formed opinions from review of the evidence) about the general harm of sugar are widespread. Again, though, the attempt is to portray him as a fanatic, as Smith does with all his targets.
Taubes disagrees with mainstream medical advice on dieting. What Taubes does in his books on fat and obestity is to examine, in detail, the history of the “mainstream views,” which radically shifted around 1970, to almost the opposite of what they had been before. On obesity, especially, he goes into excruciating detail on the shift.
Anyone who challenges popular views, that happen to support major vested interests, is going to be widely attacked, it’s like clockwork. As a member of the public, critically interested in the issues (this is about my health and that of my children!), that someone criticizes a skeptic (or an advocate of mainstream views) does not negate the views, rather, if this is done within scientific — or journalistic — protocols, I will want to see specifics.
Perhaps now is the time to use a meme.
I am fully aware of this problem (“confirmation bias”), and so is Taubes. It is possible to criticize anything. Taubes’ general opinion on nutritional science is that the state of it is poor, there is a great deal that has been accepted on faith or wishful thinking about what is actually shown in the studies that have been done. Taubes examines all this, presenting copious evidence. And, of course, he’s not perfect! But is he significantly incorrect?
He believes that refined carbohydrates and sugars should be avoided, not fat. This is typical for RatWiki. An unorthodox conclusion or hypothesis is presented as a “belief.” And then everything from that person is presented as flowing from what they believe, as distinct from what they have witnessed, or for a journalist, what they have found in sources and analysis seeking reality.
Was Taubes seeking reality or was he just trying to write a popular story, to advance his career? I’ve been following Taubes for more than a decade. He does far more research into the topics that he has been engaged to write about than makes sense economically. What he has been able to accomplish, besides selling some books, is funding for research, and not research to “prove” his ideas, but to test them (and, as well, “mainstream” ideas.)
His ideas are not new, in fact, but definitive research has not been done, studies have been flawed, etc. Decisions were made based on other than science, based on unscientific ideas that, if wrong, they would do no harm.
Smith is going after a genuine scientific skeptic, because . . . because why? Well, it could be from his relationship with the faction that has, to some degree, protected and encouraged him on Wikipedia and RatWiki. He has discovered that his attack articles are popular with the Rats. He is lying about his identity and motives, and this is a fundamental problem with the wikis, where they allow not only anonymous editing, but anonymous administration. It removes personal responsibility. That was a choice that Wikipedia made early on, and it became fixed in stone. RationalWiki takes this to an extreme, originally for the lulz.
Note 1 points to a Guardian review of Taube’s latest book, The Case Against Sugar. The story covers the same suggestions as I have been making here. Smith clearly believes that the idea of Sugar Bad Fat Good is preposterous and he knows that many, maybe most, of the Rats will agree with him.
Gary Taubes’s latest assault on the ruinous effect of sugar on our lives and the promotion of fat-free diets is detailed and compelling
For the last 15 years, US journalist Gary Taubes has been the self-nominated public enemy No 1 of the global “healthy eating” establishment. His heresy has been to argue powerfully and publicly that the official diet advice we have been encouraged to follow since the 1970s is fundamentally wrong. It is refined carbohydrates and sugars that we should be avoiding, he says, not fat.
His apostasy was dismissed by many health professionals in a sustained, near operatic chorus of censure. After all, he had committed the cardinal crime of suggesting that august government nutrition professors and the academic researchers who inform them had made an inexcusable error of judgment, with catastrophic consequences: an epidemic of obesity and diet-related ill-health of a magnitude that had no precedent.
Taubes’s latest book, The Case Against Sugar, looks to be less controversial, if only because so-called guardians of public health have of late subtly re-emphasised in government eating guidelines the role of sugar as a dietary villain, adopting what Taubes calls the “we knew it all along” approach. They have yet to admit that the natural saturated fats they have long demonised, such as butter, are healthier than the highly refined liquid oils and polyunsaturated margarine spreads they continue to recommend, even though the scientific inadequacy of this advice is being steadily exposed. In Taubes’s view, major nutrition authorities “have spent the last 50 years blaming dietary fat for our ills while letting sugar off the hook”.
How is it that Smith can cite this article, the sense of which is radically opposed to his article? Well, he needed a source to claim that Taubes “believes” what he wrote. It does not, in fact, support that wording. Taubes has explicitly term his views an “alternative hypothesis.” That is, he infers his views from study of the evidence, and he is, himself, sufficiently convinced to (1) share what he has found and (2) pursue testing. He gathered millions of dollars to do this, and that work is under way. He is going to be called every name in the book, as the Guardian article points out.
Will Smith go on to create an article on Joanna Blythman, who wrote that story for the Guardian? How about a story on the conspiracy of greedy book authors and journalists to deceive the public for fun and profit?
Taubes disputes the evidence that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.
Smith either doesn’t care about accuracy, or doesn’t know enough to distinguish between cause and risk factors, and the history on this issue is huge. “Saturated fat” would have to mean “saturated fat in the diet,” and studies showing that were early, weak, and inconclusive. That idea is almost entirely discredited among current researchers, but still lives on in recommendations, and, even more in the memories of those who followed the recommendations and have not kept up on the research.
Reference 2 is a Taubes article in the New York Times, January 27, 2008. I notice right away that the article is quite old, but it is presented as evidence for a current position. Smith’s text is a misrepresentation of what Taubes actually wrote, even back then.
Taubes does not generally dispute “evidence.” That is an ontological error that Smith could be expected to make. He disputes some of the conclusions from evidence, particularly when one looks at all the evidence. “Believers” and “pseudoskeptics” dispute evidence, often claiming “there is no evidence,” when there obviously is. Practically speaking, and in ordinary language, we become “beleivers” when we have seen enough to come to conclusions based on the preponderance of evidence, but if we follow the scientific method, this is never a certainty, it is provisional — and ideally we are open to correction, particularly if extraordinary evidence arises.
These are serious accusations if made about a professional journalist. From the Guardian article, we can expect accusations like this. An accusation like that without evidence is meaningless or worse. Let’s look at each one. First, the link is to the RatWiki article on quote mining, and it is hilarious to see this from Smith. Quote mining is practically all that he does!
3. A blog post from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the most dedicated promoters of supposedly healthy diets that weren’t, and attackers of anything that disagreed with them. (I used to receive their newsletter, years ago. I never noticed that they were actually promoting science, i.e, research to confirm the recommendations they were making, so they would be a poster boy for what Taubes has uncovered. “Science” that is not. The title: The Truth About the Atkins Diet.
Okay, what is the truth? I was advised to try the South Beach diet in about 2004 by my physician. My wife was on Atkins, and I read the South Beach book and Atkins, and decided there was more science behind Atkins than Agatston, the South Beach author, with what might be called “Atkins light,” which avoids saturated fats. My doctor did not argue with me, and encouraged me. And the diet worked (which is now well known, and that’s what his nurse told me when I mentioned Atkins). I lost about forty pounds, was down to a healthy weight. Sometime around 2005 I did a lot of reading on Atkins, the arguments for and against, and I found that most negative comments flat-out did not understand the Atkins diet, and misrepresented it. So what do we have here?
Taubes claims that it’s not fatty foods that make us fat and raise our risk of disease. It’s carbohydrates. And to most readers his arguments sound perfectly plausible.
Yes. This was about the NYT article, “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” which was added,
Taubes has mentioned, by the editors. His title was “What if fat doesn’t make you fat?” And that is actually a quite reasonable question. Does fat make us fat? How would we know? I know the arguments, but let’s see what CSPI comes up with:
Here are the facts—and the fictions—in Taubes’s article, which has led to a book contract with a
reported $700,000 advance. And here’s what the scientists he quoted —or neglected to quote—have to say about his reporting.
Right away, I notice that they are effectively claiming to have interviewed or obtained statements from all those quoted. Have they? I don’t know, and it will take some time to research.
Perhaps the most telling statement in Gary Taubes’s New York Times Magazine article
comes as he explains how difficult it is to study diet and health. “This then leads to a research literature so vast that it’s possible to find at least some published research to support
virtually any theory.”
He got that right. It helps explain why Taubes’s article sounds so credible.
“He knows how to spin a yarn,” says Barbara Rolls, an obesity expert at Pennsylvania State University. “What frightens me is that he picks and chooses his facts.”
She ought to know. Taubes interviewed her for some six hours, and she sent him “a huge bundle of papers,” but he didn’t quote a word of it. “If the facts don’t fit in with his yarn, he ignores
them,” she says.
Instead, Taubes put together what sounds like convincing evidence that carbohydrates cause obesity.
However Taubes does massive research. He does not use all of it. This is someone claiming that Taubes ignored what she sent him. She does not know that. She only knows, if it is true, that he did not cite her material. Taubes did explain how the “fat myth” developed. As is accepted here, the literature is vast.
In his 2008 book, Taubes goes of the history of concepts about obesity, and quotes many many publications. That the cause was carbohydrates was a very common idea until roughly the 1970s. The switch to fat being the problem was heavily influenced by the idea that fat also caused heart disease. Much of that early “consensus,” and it did become a widespread opinion, where contrary views were attacked and even suppressed (which is still going on to some degree), was utterly wrong and has been rejected, but the “cholesterol” and “fat” hypotheses keep morphing, with ad hoc explanations, a sign of defective theory.
“He took this weird little idea and blew it up, and people believed him,” says John Farquhar, a professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University’s Center for Research in Disease Prevention. Taubes quoted Farquhar, but misrepresented his views. “What a disaster,” says Farquhar.
CSPI is not a reliable source. First of all, the “weird little idea” was widespread, long before Atkins and Taubes, and, second, it is not established that Taubes misrepresented anything. It is possible,. for sure, but CPSI does not seem to care about fact, but about spin. They also have this from Farquhar:
“I was greatly offended at how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across
as supporters of the Atkins diet,” says Stanford’s John Farquhar.
The plot thickens. Farquhar said something, accurately quoted, apparently, but Farquhar did not like what it implied, in the context of Taubes’ “story.” The Atkins diet was, still, by 2002, roundly condemned and to support Atkins would seem to be a major heresy. By 2002, there was little evidence on the issue of the safety of the Atkins diet, and lots of inference that it must be Bad. What did Farquhar actually say?
Looking for it, I came across a sensible article, and various fanatic ravings. )The latter cites some NuSi research that supposedly falsified Taube’s hypothesis, but that is far from clear. It is simply another claim. That latter also cites the CSPI article. In other words, find a loon, find a flock of loons. No surprise.
Taubes quoted Walter Willet, David Ludwig, Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, Kurt Isselbacher, Katherine Flegal, Kelley Brownell, William Dietz, Basil Rifkindm, Alan Stone, Judith Putnam(?), Michael Schwartz, Albert Stunkard, Richard Veech, George Blackburn, Linda Stern, Sam Klein.
This is what Taubes wrote about Farquhar:
This is the state of mind i imagine that mainstream nutritionists, researchers and physicians must inevitably take to the fat-versus-carbohydrate controversy. They may come around, but the evidence will have to be exceptionally compelling. Although this kind of conversion may be happening at the moment to John Farquhar, who is a professor of health research and policy at Stanford University and has worked in this field for more than 40 years. When I interviewed Farquhar in April, he explained why low-fat diets might lead to weight gain and low-carbohydrate diets might lead to weight loss, but he made me promise not to say he believed they did. He attributed the cause of the obesity epidemic to the “force-feeding of a nation.” Three weeks later, after reading an article on Endocrinology 101 by David Ludwig in the Journall of the American Medical Association, he sent me an e-mail message asking the not-entirely rhetorical question, “Can we get the low-fat proponents to apologize?”
This is astonishingly clear. First of all, did Taubes accurately report what was said to him? I would assume he has interview tapes. Assuming the quotes were accurate, and the interpretation of what Farquhar said reasonable (it all fits with his later complaints, actually!), he did not want his ideas to be repeated, and Taubes correctly pointed out that these were not to be repeated as his belief. And Taubes did not do that. He was claimed to have mentioned these things as possibilities, i.e., “might.”
The Farquhar complaint appears to be fluff, someone highly involved with the nutritional and policy establishment who did not want his true views or ideas to be known. What was misrepresented? I found nothing claimed. It would only be, then, the context, which was clearly speculative, that Farquhar might be undergoing a “conversion,” clearly presented with some evidence of this, but not a claim that he was a “supporter of the Atkins Diet.” (As an example, he might have been acknowledging the possibility that Atkins “worked,” for weight loss, but then still be unconvinced that Atkins was safe — which was a common comment on the research results coming out by 2002 or so that Atkins did work as well or better than other diet recommendations, that it had not been proven to be safe.
The irony in all this was that massive health recommendations to avoid cholesterol in the diet (Eggs Bad), and fat, originally all fat, only later it became saturated fat, when the obvious result of that advice would be an increase in carbyhydrate consumption, were made without any showing that this was safe, and if Taubes is right — and he’s not far off, I suspect — the cost of that was millions of premature deaths. Millions. The consequence of not distinguishing solid science from weak inference and politics.
Still on the CSPI post:
Farquhar did give more detail to CSPI:
Taubes’s article ends with a quote from Farquhar, asking: “Can we get the low-fat proponents to apologize?” But that quote was taken out of context. “What I was referring to wasn’t that low-fat diets would make a person gain weight and become obese,” explains Farquhar. Like Willett and Reaven, he’s
worried that too much carbohydrate can raise the risk of heart disease.
“I meant that in susceptible individuals, a very-low-fat [high-carb] diet can raise triglycerides, lower HDL [‘good’] cholesterol, and make harmful, small, dense LDL,” says Farquhar.
Farquhar is agreeing with Taubes much more than disagreeing. Taubes did not claim what he is objecting to. It is true that one could synthesize that. The question still stands. Low-fat proponents did not clarify the point and clarify that to be sustainable, low-fat must mean high carb, and they did not limit the advice, nor, in fact, was it based on study of low-fat diets.
Where Taubes differs from Farquhar is in an understanding that carbs are more dangerous than previously recognized, not confined to particularly susceptible individuals. The real issues are quite complex, but yellow journalists and pseudoskeptics make it very simple: there are cranks and fringe believers on one side, and experts and scientists on the other, and if a scientist is on the “crank” side, Q.E.D., they are cranks. Reality doesn’t matter, only opinions.
Carbohydrates are not what has made us a nation of butterballs, however. “We’re overfed, over-advertised, and under-exercised,” he says. “It’s the enormous portion sizes and sitting in front of the TV and computer all day” that are to blame. “It’s so gol’darn obvious—how can anyone ignore it?” “The Times editor called and tried to get me to say that low-fat diets were the cause of obesity, but I wouldn’t,” adds Farquhar.
This is, again, remarkable. So there were fact-checkers at the New York Times, editors who reviewed articles, and Farquhar can read their minds, what they “wanted.” In what Taubes reported, he gave Farquhar’s opinion, apparently reasonably fairly.
Farquhar is weird, my summary. He knows enough to suspect that Taubes might be right, but doesn’t want anyone to know, and his alternative idea is that the problem is enormous portion sizes and lethargy, an idea which Taubes traces back to early origins and intensely deconstructs, with massive data. Cause and effect have been completely confused. There is an obesity epidemic. What caused it? There is an obvious suspect, but there is an attempt is to erase the evidence with a lot of hot air.
I think this topic is important, too important for anyone to sit back and trust anyone without verification. When I started to see Smith going after Taubes, I decided to buy the rest of his books. I just finished Why We Get Fat, and next is The Case Against Sugar. Notice that the title is not Proof that Sugar is Evil. As to why we get fat, Taubes cites centuries of research. Talk about quote-mining, it appears that when the “consensus” was being formed, countless studies and a great deal of evidence was ignored, and as contrary evidence appeared, it was always explained away, even clear and strong evidence that something was off about “mainstream” thinking.
Again, the CSPI article, about the misleading claims.
CLAIM #1: The experts recommend an Atkins diet.
TRUTH: They don’t.
The reality: some do and some don’t, and this is obvious. The article, however, simply did not make the claim stated. Instead, it talks about a “small but growing minority have come to take seriously what the low-carb diet doctors have been saying all along.” It talks about researchers starting to actually study the Atkins diet, and some early results from that. I could find no actual recommendation from any expert, and Taubes was not dispensing advice. So the CSPI article is misleading.
An Atkins diet is loaded with meat, butter, and other foods high in saturated fat. Taubes implies that many of the experts he quotes recommend it. Here’s what they say:
Atkins is an ad libitem diet for protein and fat. It only restricts non-fiber, nutritive carbohydrates. Atkins did not specify saturated or unsaturated fats, and in the early days. the l0w-fat opposition to Atkiins did not discriminate, all fats were considered bad.
So an Atkins diet is only “loaded” with fat if that is what the person wants to eat. Taubes, in his later work, strongly advises against eating more than appetite. However, ultimately, Taubes’ conclusion from review of the evidence is that saturated fats are not, in general, harmful, and may even be cardio-protective. But that goes against the opinions of many!
I still remember buying margarine because the propaganda was that it was better for us than butter. This was everywhere, my adult life experienced the full force of the “anti-fat” crusade. I trusted my doctor and did not actually research the issue, so I reduced fat, and began, for the first time in my life, at about 40, to be a pasta-eater. What Taubes “implies” is in the mind of the reader. That statement, though, is a retreat from what is in the headline. It is just “many,” instead of being a blanket statement about experts. That is still misleading: Taubes was clear that this was still a minority. So the error was?
It’s clear: In 2002, “Atkins” was still a synonym for “dangerous quack fad diet, it doesn’t work except for a little while, while you lose water, it gives you bad breath, constipation, you lose weight only because the diet is so boring that you eat less, etc., and you will die from the fat clogging your arteries.”
That “artery clogging” trope I remember from the CPSI Nutrition Action newsletters. When they would describe how much fat was in a MacDonald’s hamburger with french fries, it was always prefaced with “artery-clogging.” They may have convinced that company to replace lard with trans-fats, which switch had no basis in science, only the assumption that trans fats were either safe or less harmful than saturated fats. (I think the idea was that trans fats are liquid at room temp, whereas saturated fats tend to congeal, so the idea that they could clog arteries seems to make sense, until we realize that fats do not actually enter the bloodstream as such.
According to Taubes, Harvard University’s Walter Willett is one of the “small but growing minority of establishment researchers [who] have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet
doctors have been saying all along.” True, Willett is concerned about the harm that may be caused by highcarbohydrate diets (see “What to Eat,” page 7). But the Atkins diet? “I certainly don’t recommend it,” he says. His reasons: heart disease and cancer. “There’s a clear benefit for reducing cardiovascular risk from replacing unhealthy fats—saturated and trans— with healthy fats,” explains Willett, who chairs Harvard’s nutrition department. “And I told Taubes several times that red meat is associated with a higher risk of colon and possibly prostate cancer, but he left that out.”
Again, no misrepresentation, because Taubes did not claim that Willett endorsed the Atkins diet, and because of the heart disease concerns, it could have been unethical to do so, until and unless he became convinced that the heart disease and cancer risks were red herrings. That is a concern about red meat, and the Atkins diet does not require red meat, at all. It merely does not forbid it. As to the claim about an association with cancer, association is the weakest of evidence, unless it is quite strong. Is it? CSPI doesn’t verify this, because they are not interested in reality, but in promoting their decades-old agenda, all the while claiming some reprehensible agenda on the part of Taubes.
I looked this issue up. I don’t trust the official organizations, from years of reviewing what they recommend, I know (independently from Taubes) that these organizations can develop conflicts of interest and, for whatever reason, do not do what I’d hope for them: facilitate genuine scientific consensus, while delineating where there is still a level of reasonable controversy. The Cochrane Collaboration was intended to be that. How successful they have been, I’m not sure. There are difficulties in doing this, and organizations tend to become corruptible if precautions are not taken early on, and maintained.
In any case, what I found was mostly very unspecific, with only vague claims that conflate association with risk. The official cancer organizations tell us their conclusions, but do not reference what they were based on. How difficult would it be to have a page for those interested with sources and more detail about the recommendations, limitations, etc. I do not trust organizations that come to strong conclusions, of major import, but do not disclose how they arrived at them. I have seen far too much to naively believe that being “nonprofit” somehow immunizes them to bias. I have seen the opposite, too many times (and even as a board member of a nonprofit organization, a free clinic, very noble, very good, and easily corrupted).
(Non profits have executives who are often very highly compensated, and these organizations must raise operating funds, and if they make recommendations not to the liking of those who support them, what happens to that support? This is simply ordinary social function, not a conspiracy theory. If a nonprofit recommends what is contrary to general opinion, it can be devastating to their support. We need organizations that are truly supported by those they serve, the public, but mostly the public is asleep.)
This was the best, and could reward more study. I am reminded of the flawed epidemiological studies that set of the whole anti-fat crusade. The risk of cancer from red meat, appears, at first glance, to be quite small, as absolute risk, and in real decisions about diet, what I need to know is absolute risk, to compare, for example, with the risk of obesity, which is very, very risky. If an Atkins diet is more effective at controlling obesity, that could totally outweigh the cancer risk.
There are some recent papers on the protective effect of sun exposure. When this is pointed out, the risk of skin cancer is always brought up, and I’ve seen a generation of people become sun-averse because of all the propaganda about skin cancer. Turns out that if all-cause death rates are considered, sun exposure is associated with a lower death rate. Skin cancer can be caused, but most skin cancers are relatively easily treated, not fatal. Narrow analysis of data on one disease can generate very misleading recommendations.
CLAIM #2: Saturated fat
doesn’t promote heart disease.
TRUTH: It does.
Because we say so. Really, the evidence on this is very weak, at best.
“Fifty years of research shows that saturated fat and cholesterol raise LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol, and the higher your LDL, the higher your risk of coronary heart disease,” says Farquhar
Is Farquhar to be trusted? This is supposedly the “Center for Science in the Public Interest.” Someone who claims “fifty years of research” with no references is unreliable. Farquhar, from what he said to Taubes, not contested, cannot be trusted to reveal what he actually understands and considers possible, but is determine to protect himself, so determined that he errs badly, as he should have known. I understand why Taubes became so noplussed about Bad Science in the field.
Farquhar is repeating ideas, relied on by CSPI as if “fact,” that I think were obsolete by that time, but that certainly are now. Cholesterol in the diet does not raise blood cholesterol, at all. Hence the older advice to avoid egg yolks, high in cholesterol, has been withdrawn. The evidence on LDL is complicated, and studying the effect of saturated fat is difficult. Under some conditions, people with higher LDL appear to have a lower risk of all-cause death.
If we read that section of the CSPI article carefully, they are talking about relative strength of evidence, which can be quite subjective. Basically, the question is controversial, but they take one side and call it “Truth.” This is the behavior of fanatics, which I concluded they were long before I became aware of low-carb diets. They quote another supposed expert, who uses clear scientific terms like “good” and “bad.” Bad sign.
CLAIM #3: Health authorities recommended a low-fat diet as the key to weight loss.
TRUTH: They didn’t.
Ah ha ha, ah ha ha ha ha. This is a huge red herring. Some did, and the net impact of the recommendations, when they tricked down to my doctor, was to go on a low-fat diet. It was not for losing weight, it was over concerns about cholesterol. This is all about interpretation of what the health authorities recommended, where much of it can be ignored in favor of recommendations that can be interpreted differently.
I see again and again on this page that Taubes was “wrong” because what he pointed out as being an unscientific consensus among health authorities is contradicted by health authorities. The implication was of extensive misquotation and misinterpretation, and they failed to show that. They are misleading their readers, in order to establish that they have been right all along. This is not “science in the public interest,” it was far from it. It was political and self-interested activism.
CLAIM #7: The Atkins diet works because it cuts carbohydrates.
TRUTH: If the Atkins diet works, it’s not clear why.
Well, this is clear: this is an example of how they present opinions as “Truth.” “Not clear” is a judgment, an assessment, indicating confusion. Who is confused? That’s left out, it is presented as if it were an objective fact. Again, very common for fanatics.
The Atkins Nutritional Approach (calling it a “diet” is somewhat misleading) does one essential thing: it encourages the person to monitor the carbohydrates they eat, by reading labels and the link, and to limit those carbs, exempting fiber, and to follow appetite and common sense about everything else. There are indeed speculations, and attempting Atkins low-fat is strongly discouraged, and probably quite dangerous, because the only other possibility is protein, and high-protein, low fat diets are very dangerous. The Atkins approach works for many people, that’s obvious, it’s really not debatable. It can work long-term (because the diet allows thorough enjoyment of food, I have never become bored with an LC-HF diet). Today, I have been seriously restricting carbs, I normally keep them low, but I wanted to see what would happen with zero carbs. I commonly have two meals a day. So for the first meal, I had a 6 oz ribeye steak, lightly broiled. Delicious. For a second meal, I’m still eating it, I savor it, a piece of sushi-quality tuna, thawed from flash-frozen, 4 oz, eaten raw with no-sugar soy sauce. Delicious!
(My other nourishment for the day is heavy cream in two cups of coffee. On other days, I eat eggs (sometimes with a single piece of toast and butter, about 10 grams of net carb), vegetables such as Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Salmon — broiled with parmesan cheese sprinkled on it, which browns like breading would, and I have a wide variety of foods in my cupboards, food that makes my mouth water when I think about eating them, and that I find thoroughly satisfying. I melt butter on the vegetables and sprinkle them with Parmesan.)
So then, as to an alleged danger:
The problem: All the protein that Atkins recommends leads to acidic urine.6 “And there’s no dispute that an acid urine leaches calcium out of bones,” says Blackburn.
What this shows is that Blackburn has no clue what he’s talking about. This is an old canard about Atkins, that it is a high-protein diet. It is not, unless someone cuts carbs and tries to go low-fat. Atkins diets tend to be moderate-protein. As Taubes points out in How We Get Fat, there are cultures where the diet is almost all meat, and in those cultures, strong effort is put into eating as much fat as possible, it is preferred. These people did not have the diseases of civilization until processed foods were introduced to them. Someone doing Atkins’ approach may use ketostix or equivalent urine test strips. I’ve done that many times, the purpose is to verify that one is actually burning fat for fuel. The ketone levels I saw were on the order of 15 mg/DL, occasionally as high as 40, which is considered “moderate.” Ketoacidosis is what they are talking about, a complication of diabetes, and the ketone levels can be on the order of 150-250.
Too much protein in a diet is known to cause health problems. This can arise with an Atkins diet if one eats lean meats, avoiding fat. In general, making major changes in diet, I recommend medical supervision. That does not necessarily mean doing what the doctor says, but communicating about what one is doing, and listening to the doctor, as well as the other side of it, the doctor listening to you. Doctors are constrained by standard of practice, but if one learns how to ask questions, it is possible to encourage a doctor to say what they really think, and, as well, how they what they know, and where they don’t know the answers to questions. A good doctor will admit ignorance, and will, naturally, tell you what the standard of practice is and, if asked, what they think about it.
There is no substitute, though, for becoming informed oneself, there is so much misinformation out there — including misinformation promoted by “experts.” Read the studies! Read the critiques, if it matters for your health, become familiar with the arguments, and then make your own choices, taking responsibility for your choices. That is general advice on how to live, not just about diet and cholesterol and statins.
In this case, my choice is clear: CSPI is full of what the body rejected. They are absolutely not to be trusted.
Okay, but Smith cited five sources for his claim. Impressive! Must be true then. Not. The number of sources matters far less than the reliability of the sources, and we already expect, from other sources, that Taubes is going to be criticized up and down, right and left, and inside and out, for any perceived defect in his articles, which is to be expected when one challenges what amounts to religious belief disguised as science. Bad sugar or bad journalism? An expert review of “The Case Against Sugar”.
This is a blog post by someone who calls himself an “expert.” Not particularly a good sign. This source, being a blog, was rejected on Wikipedia, absolutely inappropriate there. (And I see an IP edit, rather obviously Smith, reverting the removal, using a Tor node. Because of context, this was certainly Darryl Smith, first edit I have found that was him, there, after the “leaving” claim. But Smith is asserting this as a criticism, which it is.
This is an interesting review, but it boils down to a complaint that The Case Against Sugar is a case against sugar, instead of a neutral scientific review. Guyanet, the blogger, deserves much more attention that I would give him here. Smith in the text that he sourced with five references, actually made three claims:
- misrepresenting scientific data
- quoting medical researchers out of context
- to support his biased low-carb agenda.
Guyanet would be expert on some scientific data, at least (and does write like an expert). On that point, though, he accuses Taubes, not of misrepresenting the data but of cherry-picking, not reporting all the possible relevant information. Quoting out of context is not supported by this source. Guyanet does claim this is coming from a biased personal agenda, but he does not really determine it, and he is not an expert on journalistic psychology. In the book reviewed, Taubes is acting as a book author, continuing a theme, as a result of personal conclusions developed in approaching the topic as a journalist. So I will want to examine Guayanet more closely. He cites another source as a second expert review. Okay, following Guayanet’s thinking, this would be the Defense against Taubes’ prosecution. So who is the judge and jury?
Well, someone who needs to know. And I need to know, so that’s me. I will take my time in deliberations.
And then I find that Guyenet is offering his own “lose weight program.” Basic is free, Pro is only $9.;99 per month. Hey, a Guy has to make a living!
The second expert is intensely involved in conflict with Taubes, over a story that will be told as part of all this. These are not functioning as neutral experts. But Guyenet does point out good things about the Taubes book, he simply advises taking it with salt, which is ironic, because Taubes also, before getting involved in the very hairy controversy over fat and obesity and heart disease, also debunked myths about salt for Science magazine.
I also advise healthy skepticism, that does not depend on authority, other than realistically, understanding that authorities can be, literally, dead wrong. Choose authorities carefully, then trust and verify! I’ve learned with doctors to become informed so that I can ask informed questions. If I don’t know what questions to ask, and so I don’t ask, I usually get no answers, just “advice.” If I ask ignorant questions, I get answers designed to communicate with someone who is ignorant. Funny how that works!
The third source,  is another blog, an example of “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” This is total fluff, an echo of the CSPI post, only 14 years later. I am far from inspired to read it in detail (quite differently from Guyenet, who at least raises issues of interest.
The fourth source,  is Big Fat Fake / The Atkins diet controversy and the sorry state of science journalism. by Michael Fumento. The site is heavy with intrusive ads that make it hard to read the page. This is quite old, 2003. He claims, like some others, that Taubes only presented one side of the issue (in a newspaper article, clearly limited for space, with Taubes basically using the opportunity to raise a question. He did not write: “It’s all been a big fat lie,” but “what if?”
My introduction to Taubes on diet was Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is voluminous and heavily referenced. Did he cherry-pick there? Perhaps. Telling all sides of a story can be a formula for creating books that nobody will read. All authors will do it, at least all successful authors. But that’s not the end, if we have a free society. Others can write, and then other still can review and assess, and ultimately reviews appear in journals that are dedicated to science and not to supporting orthodoxy. It can take decades, sometimes more. Anyway, Fumento has:
There is a nugget of truth in Taubes’ criticisms of establishment dietary fat advice. Well-meaning but misguided health officials and health reporters, joined by opportunistic anti-fat diet book gurus, have convinced much of the public that the major culprit — perhaps the only culprit — in obesity is dietary fat. Avoid fat, we were told, and you won’t get fat. Given license to eat as many calories as we wanted from the other nutrient groups, many of us have done exactly that. This goes far to explain why almost one-third of us are obese and almost two-thirds of us are overweight. But even here Taubes is no pioneer; the damage caused by fat-free fanaticism was pointed out long before. (See, for example, my own 1997 book, The Fat of the Land.)
He is agreeing with Taubes’ central point. Taubes also states, over and over, that his ideas are not new, and credits older sources, going back into the 19th century. Taubes, however, has been very effective in his “pointing out” of what was known for a long time. Atkins based his nutritional approach on scientific research (deficient, to be sure, but as well-founded as what became the wide-spread and heavily-promoted guidelines, and common medical opinion that rather rapidly turned upside down with inadequate evidence. When I told my doctor about my first experience with Atkins, he took me into his office and pulled a book from the shelf, a book from the 1920s about diabetes, in which it is explained that many cases of diabetes (meaning type two) can be resolved by a diet that avoids starches and sweets, and for others, there is insulin (which was fairly new then). Later, diabetics were sold the idea that they could eat anything they wanted as long as they took insulin. This was terrible, terrible advice, and I suspect it had commercial motives behind it. However, he goes on:
Moreover, the Atkins-Taubes thesis of “fat won’t make you fat” encourages obesity in a similar way: It offers carte blanche for consuming limitless calories, only this time swapping carbohydrates for fat. Taubes made that swap while presenting a far less scientific case than is presented in an Atkins infomercial.
This is unrealistic, imagination. People eating a high-fat diet simply don’t consume “limitless calories” unless they force-feed themselves and continue eating beyond appetite — which is quite unpleasant! Fat satiates. The point of the Atkins diet is that, setting aside carbohydrates, appetite will normally restrict how much we eat. Whether Taubes “insulin hypothesis” is correct or not, when I went on a low-carb diet, hunger disappeared. I found that, once in ketosis, burning fat, I simply did not get “hungry” in the same way as when I was eating carbs. That’s what Atkins and Taubes predicted, and this story is repeated by many, many people who have tried Atkins for long enough to go into ketone metabolism. One doesn’t get hungry, that sense of an urgent need. Rather, one continues to eat for various reasons, some useful, some not so useful. One eats for pleasure, and Atkins allows, essentially, most of my favorite foods from childhood. One eats for health, choosing foods for nutritive value, and one eats for habit, I have called it an oral addiction. Gotta put something in my mouth!
And if I don’t have low carb snacks available, I’ll fudge on the diet. A few bean chips, high fiber, but nice and crunchy …. and I keep eating them. Just another won’t make that much difference. . . . This is all very familiar, since I spent a lot of time studying addiction.
Very important for an Atkins diet: have food available that will satisfy. To satisfy the desire for “crunch,” the best thing I have found is crackers made from flaxseed. I pretty much have to make them myself.
Bottom line, Fumento didn’t understand the Atkins approach. It does not encourage “limitless calories.” It encourages appetite-limited calories (which requires discipline with regard to oral addictions, which is not difficult, once it is distinguished for what it is). I have never enjoyed food as much as since I started Atkins, and quantities are quite limited. I simply eat food that I enjoy tremendously, and it satisfies me. If someone is not satisfied on an Atkins diet, something is missing, and I’d recommend consulting with experts. At the very least, there are forums where questions can be asked, and experts do reply.
Consider this experimental science, where each person can test and find out what works for them. I found forums.lowcarber.org/ very useful, over a decade ago, I haven’t looked lately. Remember not to trust anything just because it is on the internet, but consider suggestions as being ideas to investigate. Find out!
(The idea that there is one diet best for everyone is probably quite incorrect. Taubes makes this point in What Makes Us Fat, we differ genetically, there is variation. And studies and statistics will not tell us what is best for us, they can, at best, give some guidelines, possibilities.)
Fumento deconstructs the CSPI objections to Taubes, the claimed misrepresentations.
“I thought [Taubes’] article was outrageous,” Reaven says. “I saw my name in it and all that was quoted to me was not wrong. But in the context it looked like I was buying the rest of that crap.” He adds, “I tried to be helpful and a good citizen, and I ended up being embarrassed as hell. He sort of set me up.” When I first contacted Reaven, he was so angry he wouldn’t even let me interview him.
But his position on Atkins was all over the Internet in interviews posted long before Taubes talked to him. Do “low-carb diets like The Zone [by Barry Sears] and Atkins work?” one asked. Answer: “One can lose weight on a low-calorie diet if it is primarily composed of fat calories or carbohydrate calories or protein calories. It makes no difference!”
I find it rather obvious what happened. Reaven was attacked by colleagues for appearing to agree with Atkins, which was rank heresy. It makes no difference is the calories-in, calories-out concept that is commonly asserted as basic physics, which is misleading, as Taubes has amply explained. There is the controversial issue of metabolic advantage — which Reaven was denying, without evidence. There is a complex interplay between insulin levels and appetite and “energy.” If it doesn’t matter what kind of diet one eats, as long as calories are low, how about eating something that will satisfy hunger with fewer calories? If it is fat, the argument always was, fat is calorie dense, compared to carbs. But it is also more satisfying, and the idea of eating too much fat actually makes me feel sick. But carbs? This is the common wisdom about “Chinese food,” the commercial restaurant kind, which is often high carb. Eat it and you are hungry an hour later. The mechanism for that is obvious. Fat has no such effect.
The fifth source is another blog, title in all caps, GARY TAUBES IS A BLOWHARD. The blogger seems to think like Rats. He covers a Taubes blog post on the “red meat cancer” issue. In fact, it’s more about Zoe Harcombe. Nuff said. Why should I even read a blog that is so obviously a personal attack, not about the science.
His about page has “So who the hell are you and why should I even listen to your stupid podcast?”
Indeed. He says nothing to indicate why, at least not on the subject of Taubes. He has a BS in Nutrition and an MS in the same, but he is young and I see no clue that he actually understands the issues — unlike Guyenet. It’s appropriate that Smith cited him, because his thinking is like that of Smith: grossly oversimplified, defending I Am Right by claiming Someone Else is Wrong. There is one point he raises that I intend to check, because that issue of red meat interested me, and I wondered what Taubes had to say about it, and he has links. I noticed problems with the conclusions when I looked at what might be the same paper. This is also a blog. The author does not make his identity clear, but appears to be Seth Yoder.
So, reflecting the spirit of opinionated blogging that is amply demonstrated in the cited post:
SETH YODER IS A SELF-IMPORTANT ORIFICE FOR WASTE DISPOSAL
This is an issue of extreme importance, affecting millions of lives. People are being accused of being “murderers” for stating their opinions, including journalists and scientists, and it is possible (there is evidence, enough to “indict,” if not to convict) that mainstream advice has caused millions of unnecessary deaths. Some think it is proven, but there is always the question of who is the judge and jury. And in that context, and on that topic, someone who has done an incredible amount of work, whether or not is conclusions are correct, stimulating and facilitating genuine scientific investigation, is condemned as a “blowhard.”
After having written what is below the second headline, I found another article, same author, same day: The deadly propaganda of the statin deniers: The drugs DO protect you from heart attacks but as this devastating investigation reveals thousands are refusing them
That article continues, at the bottom, with the screed I covered below, but the screed did not reference the main article, explaining the oddities I reported below. This article, on the face, is better, actually giving more evidence, but misrepresenting many significant facts. I’ll cover that in Deadly Propaganda, a parallel page not written yet.
By BARNEY CALMAN FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 17:21 EST, 2 March 2019
Statistics are one thing. But it’s hard to argue against the dangers of stopping taking statins when they’re staring you in the face.
The dangers were not staring him in the face, and one doesn’t know if it is “hard” to argue against the dangers of stopping if one does not look at evidence, all of it, instead of an anecdote that actually tells us very little but what is already accepted by all sides. But he doesn’t look at all sides, obviously. This is typical of a yellow journalist, and so I was not surprised to see, in the Wikipedia article on the Daily Mail, this:
The Daily Mail has been widely criticised for its unreliability, as well as printing of sensationalist and inaccurate scare stories of science and medical research, and for copyright violations.
However, I know this about Wikipedia, from long experience. Unless there is a notable source not only criticizing, but asserting that criticism is “wide,” in which case, as an interpretation, this would normally be attributed in the text, “according to,” not merely in a reference note — unless, of course — this was itself widely known, being found in many neutral sources, that statement is an example of Original Research being allowed to creep into Wikepedia articles. Nevertheless, I’ve notice the Mail being a sensationalist publication before, and I looked at the sources a little. They were good enough to allow that text as a first approximation, but I did not read all of them. The sources were the The Guardian, citing Wikipedia itself, which rejected the Daily Mail as “reliable source,” The New Yorker, Forbes, and more, getting close to fact. The Guardian article is remarkable for its reasonably correct understanding of Wikipedia process, which is relatively rare. This article on cancer articles in the Daily Mail is hilarious, and, unfortunately, right on, and, also unfortunately, the Guardian may itself have gone downhill, I’ve seen a number of examples.
As to the Mail, this is a brilliant example. The headline and the lead shout “yellow journalism” to me. He starts with what he actually saw (which is great, in itself, a human story), but he has already telegraphed what he thinks it means, and the interpretation is an easy, casual one, ignoring the actual science of the field.
Last week, I met 49-year-old Colin Worthing as he recovered in his hospital bed following a heart attack in the early hours of Tuesday. He had been prescribed cholesterol-lowering tablets ten years ago but quit them – without any medical advice – having ‘heard they don’t really work’.
All sane medical advice is against quitting a prescribed medication without consultation. He did, based on his own casual, uncareful interpretation of what he had “heard.” Statins do work, certainly to lower cholesterol, but what effect do they have on heart health, what are the side effects, and what alternatives are there? Nobody, again nobody sane again, will suggest stopping any medication without at least having a conversation with a medical practictioner, and if one doesn’t believe the practitioner, then getting a second opinion. Instead, he stuck his head in the sand, without knowledge, just depending on rumor — but also on his feelings, which now he rejects. But he is still ignorant, as we will see.
Colin suffered his first heart attack in 2009, with little warning. ‘It was a shock as I’d felt well otherwise,’ he said. ‘Later I was told I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My mother has heart problems, so I think it runs in my family.’
First heart attacks are commonly like that. He says “little warning.” He didn’t already know that he had high blood pressure and high cholesterol? This is someone who neglects normal routine medical care. That is high-risk, at least for many.
He was prescribed statins and blood- pressure-lowering medication. ‘I took them to start with, but I felt lethargic.
There is a high probability here that he was experiencing a known statin side-effect. It’s quite dangerous, actually, if ignored. He sensed that it was due to the statin, but did not consult with his practitioner as to alternatives. There are alternative recommendations with higher effect on cardiac risk, with fewer side effects, but he shows no sign of being aware of them. So, this is known: there is an increased death rate from “non-compliers” with statin prescriptions, but that could easily be because non-compliers may have poor health in general, or at least poor health practices. The increase, by the way, is not large.
I was always hearing on the radio that statins didn’t really work, and drug companies were just trying to make money by getting us all on tablets. You do start think there’s no smoke without fire.’
Drug companies are trying to make money? Who knew? To think, I always thought they were charities, out to help people with no regard for profit. Not. This was irrelevant nonsense, not a reason to stop statins. There is a fire, in fact, but he has not recognized, not yet, the true source of danger to himself. Instead, he just got knocked upside the heat, a warning that he’s been running blind without a clue, and his immediate reaction is not to look for the cause in himself, it is in those nasty stupid critics.
If someone says, on the radio, that “statins don’t work,” they are being misleading. The truth is far more complex, and, in fact, still controversial. The real question is about real risk vs. relative risk and real options. Comparing a statin with “doing nothing” might actually save one’s life, in some cases, but this is not a sane choice, if one is actually at risk. Instead of researching the issue himself, he was passive, listening to the radio, and doing nothing positive for his health, nothing reported. He had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and there is no sign that he continued measuring these things, that he made what might be advisable changes to his diet, that he started an exercise program, universally recommended for people with a risk of heart attack, that he had diagnostic tests, like stress tests, not even measurement of C-reactive protein, which is a better risk predictor than cholesterol, none of that.
In 2013 he decided to stop all medication. ‘I wrote to my GP saying I no longer needed my repeat prescription, and never heard any more,’ he says.
The GP left it in his hands, obviously not having educated him. Common. But the GP is not being blamed here for not responding, though this was an obvious failure. Instead, these events are being used to blame doctors and scientists and others who are skeptical about the benefits of statins, as if his case proves something.
Over the next five years he felt well, ‘although I suppose I was stressed with work, and I did put on quite a bit of weight’.
In other words, he had two clear risk factors (stress and major weight gain), more predictive of heart attack than cholesterol. He did nothing about it, because he “felt well.” And, in a way, he was well, but at risk, and ignoring the risk, because, after all, heart disease runs in his family, and he’s going to die, and he doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to go to a doctor to hear bad news, which is what he expects, my guess. He is actually a good argument against the head-in-the-sand approach to self-care. Taking statins or not taking them is a choice that is wisely made with informed consent, so he had a choice: either trust his GP blindly, or ask his GP to educate him, ask his GP about what he is hearing, ask his GP about risks (not just “risk factors”), and keep in communication, or believe the conspiracy theory. He chose to believe that theory, which was actually irrelevant. Statins have effects, they “work,” but how well and for whom. It is obvious if one becomes informed: Not everyone is benefited, and it is possible some are harmed. How many? Informed consent would require that he do much more than passively take medicine or decide to quit based on rumors. It would require him to take responsibility for his choices. But in spite of a second heart attack, he still has not done that. But it’s soon after that additional warning, and it is possible that he will wake up and realize that his biggest enemy is his own ignorance and lack of attention to his health.
And then, at about 1am on Tuesday, he woke feeling clammy, with a familiar tightness in his chest. ‘I knew it was a heart attack, and called 999.’
Right. That, however, is not what I would do. Because I’ve been paying attention, even though I have never had a heart attack, I carry a small vial of nitroglycerin tablets with me, I would take a nitroglycerin, which is very fast-acting, and if the symptoms disappeared, I’d make an appointment for a consultation. If the symptoms did not disappear, and in 15 minutes, I would take another dose. If they did not disappear within 15 minutes, I would call 911 and take a third dose. I’ve been told that if the symptoms are going when the paramedics arrive, I can decline transport. Not being in communication with his doctor, he had no clue about any of this.
(But if the symptoms were severe enough, I would call 911 at the outset. Again, because I have been in cardiac rehab, I am sensitive to the mildest angina, but it has never been strong enough to take one tablet.)
Colin was rushed to hospital where he had surgery to insert a stent which will keep blood flowing through his cardiac arteries while he awaits a full heart bypass operation. His consultant at Hammersmith Hospital, London, Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, said: ‘We regularly see patients who, like Colin, have stopped taking statins because they believe the myth that they don’t do any good. In fact, he’s one of the lucky ones. He’s alive.
How did the author find this patient? It’s rather obvious. He was writing a story about statin denialism and the terrible harm it causes, over which there have been many scare stories. So he reached out for a case, and was supplied one. But was that heart attacked caused by stopping statins?
From this story, he was one who experienced a statin side effect, and had he continued without addressing the problems, he might have died from something other than a heart attack. Statin side-effects can be serious, especially if they cause reduced exercise.
‘There will be numerous reasons his heart disease progressed so far, but one of the factors will be because he stopped taking statins.’
That’s true, there will be numerous reasons. A “factor,” which must refer to a “risk factor” is here being confused with a cause. His stopping statins did not cause his heart attack. It is possible that it did not reduce a possible cause, but this cannot be known, because statins do not address the primary causes of atherosclerosis, that’s obvious. If they did, they would be much more effective than they are.
Colin added: ‘I was a fool to stop taking the medication. Who cares whether or not someone is making money from statins. If I had carried on taking them, I might not be where I am now.’
It’s possible, and it is also possible, even likely, that if he had done nothing more effective than taking statins to address his heart condition, he would also have had a heart attack.
He may not get any more warnings. He has a stent, which will, in his condition, probably extend his life, that’s crisis care, and medical science has gotten quite good at it.
He is still a fool, my opinion, he has not taken responsibility for his own choices and is, instead, focused on irrelevancies, like the conspiracy theory. I hope that he wakes up. This is not about whether he takes statins or not, it is a change in attitude.
I am still studying the research, and may be continuing that for the rest of my life. But it appears, so far, to me, that while statins have been shown in some studies to reduce risk of a cardiac event by 30% or so, that is a reduction in absolute risk of about 1%. It is difficult to apply the statistics to a case like this. From what we know, it is likely that this patient would have been in the 2% that had a heart attack, even though they were taking statins.
And if he focuses on cholesterol, and is happy that his cholesterol is reduced and uses this as an excuse to feel safe, and does not take other, more powerful measures, and they exist, he will remain at high risk.
The evidence is staring Calman in the face, but he ignores it for a sensationalist story. Because he is reaching millions with this, he may cause real damage, cost real lives, so . . . special place in hell.
And a special place of reward for those who carefully report reality, what they actually experience, and who practice the real methods of science, which include and even require full attention to criticism, to skepticism. Suppression of skepticism is fascist and may, under some conditions, be populist. It is not science-based. Scientific response to skepticism requires a serious consideration of criticism, and the design of studies to test theses and possible criticisms of prior work, until the issues are so settled that contrary opinion truly and naturally becomes the extreme fringe, safely to be ignored.
We are not there yet.
To paraphrase Donald Tusk, there is a special place in hell for the statins deniers who continue to fuel public confusion and a vague perception that the drugs, as Colin said, ‘don’t really work’.
OK, I don’t actually believe in hell. Or Donald Tusk, much, for that matter. But they need to realise that the ultimate fallout from high-risk patients, such as Colin, stopping proven treatment will be illness, disability and death. Debate should – must – be at the heart of science. Just because someone has been awarded the title professor doesn’t make them right. And some of our greatest medical discoveries have come from so-called mavericks who ignored the orthodoxies.
Who the hell is Donald Tusk and why does Calman not believe in him? So this yellow journalist uses a highly inflammatory phrase to attack “doctors” for pursuing research and reporting results, and analyzing the results of other research, but he doesn’t believe it? I do believe in hell, and strongly suspect that Calman is in it. He is willing to lie and state as fact what he does not actually know, on a matter of high importance for public health. The patient is not in Hell, not from telling his story, merely possibly mistaken about some aspects of it. Nor is the physician. Simply being wrong is not enough to create the entry into hell. Lying can be, as an aspect of the general cause, denial in the face of clear evidence.
His last sentence, though, is true. This, however, simply suggests that we should, collectively, pay attention to the outliers, the alleged fringe (even where ideas are more outside the mainstream than those of the people he will be naming). It is very dangerous to suppress diversity of opinion, and even more so to suppress research results (the data is not opinion, if not fraudulent, and fraud in the reporting of data is rare.)
The public should, my view, wake up and demand that scientific controversies with major consequences be resolved with more research, better data, which, long term, leads to the decline of fringe skepticism. The expense of this would be minor compared to the cost of accepting a mainstream consensus that is not backed by thorough and careful — and unbiased — research. If drug companies want to support this, they would provide no-questions-asked grants to agencies not depending on them, but more on public support. Governmental support can help, but also tends, in the real world, to be dominated by political and economic considerations.
For we should make no mistake: the statins deniers are no Barry Marshalls.
(Barry Marshall discovered that H. Pylori caused ulcers.)
The trio mentioned in our piece aren’t the only ones. There is Dr John Abramson at Harvard, author of the misleading ‘20 per cent side effect’ BMJ study; Joseph Mercola, a discredited anti-medicine campaigner who claims to have millions of website views a day; Dr Uffe Ravnskov in Denmark, founder of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, and others.
It is a particularly insidious type of fake news they peddle, apparently from a respectable, credible source, but laced with misinformation. They seem now even to have the ear of policy-makers.
So far, he has not mentioned any others, so this was terrible writing or editing. It appears he had an earlier draft, and removed material from it, and did not properly revise the rest.
Calling them “statin deniers” telegraphs that they are deniers of reality, that they insist on some fringe idea in the face of clear evidence. The evidence is nowhere near as clear as Calman believes, if he is sincere and not simply being paid. Is that comment, mentioning that possibility, a conspiracy theory? Well, I look at the article and what is featured at the top? A drug advertisement. Now, to think that there might be some possible conflict of interest is not a “conspiracy theory,” it is simply common sense that it’s possible.
There is far more evidence for the Big Pharma influence on scientific opinion and coverage of it, than there is for the “author and Big Food conspiracy theory” of others about these so-called “denialists.” But it’s actually irrelevant to the central theory. Someone is not wrong because they publish a diet book, as Calman seems to pretend. If there are problems with statin research — and there are clearly problems with many studies I have seen — then the scientific and rational approach is to look at the problems, not toss insults at those who point them out. Who raised an issue is an ad hominem argument, fundamentally fallacious from a logical perspective, unless the credibility of the person is the issue.
So this statement: There is Dr John Abramson at Harvard, author of the misleading ‘20 per cent side effect’ BMJ study — “Misleading”?
That is given as if it were a fact. Do the readers of this article know what “BMJ” stands for, and what it is?
And then he has, about this: “apparently from a respectable, credible source, but laced with misinformation.”
Great! This yellow journalist is calling an article “laced with misinformation,” published by the BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal, published since 1840, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association, using “apparently” to call the publication in question, when it is not in any doubt at all, it is a respectable, credible source, if any source is.
That does not mean that an article may not be misleading in some way or other. Articles in peer-reviewed journals can have errors in them, or may draw misleading conclusions, sometimes, but a credible journal will not allow that. The public does not read the BMJ, in general, rather, they read media reports, if the media thinks something newsworthy, and often the media exaggerates or misleads, and especially media like the Daily Mail. So the article:
Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin? 22 October 2013
Calman refers to this as the “‘20 per cent side effect’ BMJ study“, adopting the language of critics of the “study.” It was actually a review, an analysis. The visible abstract does not refer to “20 percent side effects.” However, obviously the article did have something about the rate of side effects, because a correction was issued on that matter:
Corrections 15 May 2014 quotes or describes the withdrawn language:
The conclusion and summary box of this Analysis article by Abramson and colleagues
(BMJ 2013;347:f6123, doi:10.1136/bmj.f6123) stated that side effects of statins occur in about 18-20% of patients.
The authors also mistakenly reported that Zhang et al found that “18% of statin treated patients had discontinued therapy (at least temporarily) because of statin related events.”
However, the issue is actually much more complicated. In order to conclude that the report was a mistake, clarification from Zhang was sought. Zhang. The true rate of “statin related events” is not accurately known. The correction has:
The primary finding of Abramson and colleague’s article—that the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ data failed to show that statins reduced the overall risk of mortality among people with <20% risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years—was not challenged in the process of communication about this correction.
How was the article “misleading.” It overstated the evidence. What it stated was not necessarily false, as to the true rate of statin side effects, and from my review of testimonies by statin users, the official rates are probably understated, from many causes. What people need to know, and what is clear, is that there is a significant rate of undesirable side effects, and that not only should they not ignore criticisms of statins, they should be vigilant for possible side effects, and consult if they believe they find one. Either way, statins are not emergency care, they only have a small long-term effect on cardiac risk, at best. If one becomes uncomfortable taking statins, and this is crucial: consult, period. Investigate, neither stop without consultation or continue without consultation. It is not the job of patients to worry about the nocebo effect, and attempting to “educate” them about it would be to discourage the patient from carefully reviewing their own condition and identifying *possible* side effects. The choice to continue or discontinue in the presence of a possible side effect is a complex one. There is no one-size fits all advice, other than Consult, Communicate, Co0perate — and Take Personal Responsibility.
If on the one hand, you don’t trust your practitioner, it is urgent to find another. If you trust your practitioner, but think he or she might be mistaken in this case, get a second opinion, but be careful: if there is an error in “standard of practice,” it might be difficult to find a second opinion unless one does one’s own research and knows what questions to ask. A good physician will not pretend to knowledge and will tell you *if you ask* whether they personally know what is coming from their own experience and knowledge or standard of practice, and if the latter, they will tell you how they know (or will look it up to assist your research).
For many of us, without a scientific background, the core issue is personal trust. When I have found that a practitioner did not encourage me to question his recommendations, I fired him, I don’t need a petty god in my life. In that case, I checked on what he had told me, not only from my own research but also with other specialists. He was, quite simply, wrong, but apparently believing he was right or simply not willing to engage with a “stupid patient.” This is a problem: if a physician, believing the standard of practice is wrong , at least in some specific case, prescribes something else, he can be sued for malpractice and can lose his license. Because no advice, even if generally correct, guarantees a positive outcome, a bias is introduced that disallows physicians from recommending what they personally believe to be true. A way for physicians to handle that is through providing full information. I could imagine being handed a paper to sign that has, “I understand that the recommendations given me today deviate from standard of practice, as I have been informed, I recognize that I have the right to independently research this matter, or to obtain a second opinion, and I take full responsibility for my choices made with this information.”
Was this article “full of misleading information” The “20%” claim was slightly misleading as to the very high standards of that journal. But was it substantially misleading? Was there other “misleading information” in the article? Was the conclusion misleading? If so, the journal editors, on review, appear not to have thought so.
There was substantial controversy over this article. The Data Supplement is huge, with many letters and responses, reviewer comments, etc. There is a great deal of additional information and analysis in the Responses page.
What Calman has done is to take a strong position on one side of an obviously open scientific debate. But he is pretending that this is based on clear evidence, it is not. It is based on confusion and rumor and innuendo.
Invited to comment on the study which suggests thousands of patients have quit medication due to statin confusion, and of these, many will have heart attacks, Dr Kendrick claimed it was he who was the victim, as such a claim amounted to ‘reprehensible bullying.’
Again, Dr Kendrick was not mentioned before, and the study in question has not been cited. Kendrick has published the mail he received,
Something is off, because Kendrick refers to a photo that does not appear in what is visible to me of the article. I looked at the Sunday Mail main page to see if there was some photo and link “up front.” Nothing. It is possible that the article has been modified. The article itself contains evidence of additional material that is not in the text I can see.
Kendrick publishes both the mail from Calman and his responses, both before the article was published and after. He has this:
The Mail on Sunday have published a very long article attacking ‘statin deniers’ with pictures of me Zoe and Aseem at the front. I think I look quite dashing. Not as dashing as Aseem who is a very handsome swine, and also young, and intelligent – and brave. Yes, I hate him.
Nor am I as attractive as Zoe Harcombe. But hey, at least I got my picture in the national press. I wasn’t very keen on the bit where they called me self-pitying. But I was quite pleased that they included some of the stuff that I sent.
Kendrick is an entertaining writer. I had not heard of him until I was accused by a troll of being the owner of a sock puppet who had attacked him, and I investigated, and I recognized who the true attacker was, and it was not the person being bandied about by internet commenters, following suggestions from the same sock master. So I corrected those to protect the innocent, and started to read Kendrick. His series on the causes of heart disease is a clear account of the investigations of a true skeptic. And then I bought his books, at least the Kindle editions, not for “advice about statins,” but because the general issue of information cascades and mainstream error in science has long been of high interest to me.
In what I can read Kalman lied about Kendrick’s response. It’s that simple. Kalman is a troll who should not be in any responsible editorial position. He has the right to his opinion, but editorials should be labeled as such. Of course, the Mail may not care, their reputation is already trashed, and if they want sensationalism, hysterical screeds, he may be perfect for them, and they can all take their seat in Hell.
I am writing another review of an article on the cholesterol controversy that is far better, even though I consider it, in itself, misleading. At least it focuses on the issues! And it has links to sources, much of it is verifiable. If I look at the full debate in the BMJ on this issue, there is much information as well, links to sources and arguments by experts.
The issue is often presented as “Who should the public trust”? It’s not exactly the right question.
Nobody is infallible, but if we are paying attention, and if we act to inform ourselves and to test ideas, we are the world’s foremost experts on our own condition. Sanely, we consult with experts on the general field of interest, but blind trust in anyone else is dangerous, just as dangerous as blind trust in our own correctness. On the other hand, trust with eyes wide open will recognize when there are problems. Trust that also verifies and confirms, is far more powerful than blind trust.
Medical fascists, I’m starting to call them, do not want a fully informed public and they want to suppress and discredit and disable dissent, giving an old argument, that “quacks” or whatever term they use, it might as well be “socialists” or “liberals” or “fascists,” for that matter, will mislead the ignorant public. The answer to misleading information is not suppression and censorship, which the fascists would have, but verifiable information, or at least balancing argument, and all of us are responsible for our choices.
If I don’t have enough information, it is my responsibility to obtain it, if the choice matters to me.
Unless my doctors have actually lied to me or were grossly incompetent (in which case all bets are off), my doctors will not be sued for malpractice if I die because I chose to follow a recommendation that did not succeed in protecting me.
This is the obvious truth about statins and heart disease. They are not miracle drugs, silver bullets, that, if taken, strongly prevent heart disease. The reduction in risk is roughly from 3% to 2%. Another way to put this is that if I don’t take statins, I might die, and if I take statins, I might die, and if I die we don’t know, from that whether the choice was correct.
There are comparisons being made with vaccination, and “anti-vaxxers.” Vaccination, as a general practice, has made a *drastic* difference in the rates of many serious diseases, but there are also problems. I had a friend who died because his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine. He was maybe in his thirties and had never been vaccinated, contracted polio, and died from it. This was a rare event, and as a public policy, given that the vaccines have saved millions of lives, and that is not controversial, at least not to me, a decision can be made to tolerate some level of harm to a few.
However, what was missing in that situation was a careful review of family members, and informed consent by the whole family to the child’s vaccination.
There are physicians who work with patients who decline vaccination, not to condemn them, but respecting their choice, and keeping up communication, and when risk becomes high, these physicians find that patients are willing to take the risks of side effects.
Blaming the anti-vaxxers for poor educational outreach, accusing vaccine refusers of ignorance and child neglect, is not a solution, it will only harden opposition.
Medical fascism is not a sane path to better health care.
From what little I have seen of anti-vax information, there are some concerns that appear legitimate, and it should be easy to research these, thoroughly. Is it?
To be sure, one of the concerns is that safety studies were never fully completed. Why not? Fact: the drug companies are not going to perform those studies unless they must, and they would be the wrong manager of safety studies. We need systemic changes, we, the public, must take responsibility for supporting the best science. The system we have expects drug companies to shoulder that burden, and there are reasons for that, to be sure, for medicines that are not so likely to be useful, but . . . who watches the watchers? In theory, governmental agencies do this, but they can be a revolving door with industry lobbyists, where are the lobbyists for the public interest? The only ones I have seen are ones with an axe to grind already. We need facilitation of basic science, not predetermined political positions.
Most of what I have seen of anti-anti-vax discussions, is polemic and hysteria, itself. The risk of not vaccinating is normally low, in a vaccinated society. Yes, there is a possible risk, from what has become a rare disease, which must always be balanced against other risks, to be sane.
If giving poor medical advice is to be considered murder (as it was in a recent case where the advice was actually outrageous), then hundreds of experts, and thousands (or even millions through compliance) were possibly guilty of murder in the original advice on dietary fat and cholesterol. That advice has been modified and clarified over the years, but it is still seriously defective.
If a patient depends on statins for controlling atherosclerosis, and does not implement “life style adjustments,” the statin prescription might actually be causing harm. Some of those harmed will die. “Murder by Standard of Practice.”
Standards of Practice should be subject to continual review, with controversy recognized, not deprecated as “denialism.” Where objections are incorrect, that can be examined and addressed with care, not with blind certainty that what was recommended for a long must necessarily be right.
Semmelweiss was rejected because what his research found showed that doctors were transmitting puerpural fever to women giving birth, killing thousands of mothers, and that idea was so horrifying that it was rejected as not having any known mechanism. This was before Pasteur showed that bacteria could transmit disease, invisibly. It did not help that Semmelweiss himself was probably suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and became quite angry at being rejected, and extreme on his attacks on those rejecting his research. The lesson: just because someone is crazy (“conspiracy theorist” asserts insanity) does not show that they are wrong. Factual assertions should be checked, at least by somebody.
One of the problems in medical science is that media reports new research with lurid or exciting headlines that often do not reflect what is actually shown. So a paper that finds “there is no evidence for the benefit of statins for a certain population group,” becomes, “Study claims statins are useless.” Media want punchy headlines and “news you can use,” so they take information and massage it into what they think people want to read.
And we, the public, tolerate that and that makes us responsible for it. We could create reliable media, this is a horn I have been blowing for years. We don’t. Why not? Too much work, too much bother, and I think I’ll check Facebook or Apple News for something exciting, or watch the football game, or whatever floats my boat for a while, even if the stream is heading for a huge waterfall.
The patient example here was absolutely brilliant. The real problem of that patient was obvious. He was high risk, he had already had a heart attack! That is an extremely high risk patient, who made have needed a stent many years earlier. I’m not eager to have a stent put in, but if I have an actual heart attack, I’ll could easily be on my back in an operating room with a catheter in my heart and a cardiologist will look at the images and decide, on the spot, whether or not to insert one of those little beasties, and I am not so likely to second-guess him.
This poor fellow actually had a heart attack at 39, and obviously failed to take the warning seriously. He was very, very high risk, and became more so. He did nothing at all, at least nothing that is reported. He was extremely high risk! Statins are only a part of this picture, and his doctor recognized that. But since the story was about statin denialism, that fact is deprecated, given no real coverage. Instead the focus is on alleged sources of statin denialism, vague. There is no sign that this fellow read any of the “denialist” research. No, he listened to the radio, to discussion programs, and took away only a conspiracy theory, that he believed.
He suffered from denial, avoidance of reality, of what was really going on with his body, and he wanted to hear that this drug that he didn’t feel good taking was useless, but he did not then look for what would be more useful, and there is really no controversy that there are more useful interventions (and better measures of risk than cholesterol). It also looks to me like his original cardiac care was shoddy and incomplete. Did he have a cardiac cat scan or a stress test or other tests? Was he advised to maintain contact with his cardiologist? Did he have a cardiologist?
It was easy for his physician to write a statin prescription, but this is what the “statin skeptics” have been pointing out: Statins, if they are effective at all, are not powerfully effective to prevent heart disease (i.e, they are very unlike proven vaccinations). If they belong in a cardiac care regimen, it would not be as the foundation, as the core, the must-have. What belongs there is probably exercise (including, initially, monitored exercise. Here in the U.S., now and probably then, cardiac rehab would have been prescribed. It is fairly expensive, but also effective, if the patient realizes that they need to exercise, or their risk of death at any time becomes high, and then the patient continues to follow a program. A long-term program is not at all expensive, it can be free. So much walking, for example, so many times a week.
And then there is diet, and we need much more research on diet. It’s shocking how little is actually known; rather the field of nutritional science is full of “facts” that aren’t. They are ideas that became popular, with some scientific foundation, generally, but not enough to develop clear conclusions.
So exercise and diet. The actual causes and mechanisms of the development of atherosclerosis are not well understood. When we no more, it may become possible to design drugs with much more powerful effect than statins. If it is true that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease (and there are substantial claims of that), but is only, at best, an associated symptom of something else, then lowering cholesterol will not have much effect, if any, on disease progression. Statins also have other effects which may give some level of protection. The black and white arguments that yellow journalists love are “Statins are miracle drugs that save lives, except for people stupid enough to follow diet-book authors,” and “Statins are useless, and dangerous, and nobody should take them, and those that do are stupid blind followers or orthodoxy.”
It is not that reality is “somewhere in between,” and I would never suggest that “equal time” should be given to “two sides,” but rather that reality is not a position or point of view, and that it is never expressed fully in some simple-minded statement that attempts to shut off inquiry.
The fundamental problem, as seen long, long ago, is ignorance and attachment, combined. When we become more interested in reality, and trusting reality, rather than in promoting our own individual points of view, we will make progress, and the world will transform.
Subpage of science-and-medicine
Christopher Labos on February 15, 2019
He starts out with a conclusion. He does acknowledge that there was controversy, but claims it is time to consider it closed. I see a problem in that introduction. First of all, do we know the etiology, the cause and course of arteriosclerosis? Is cholesterol a cause or an associated “risk factor”? What do we know and how do we know it? What is possible, what is probable, and how do we assess these? These are questions I have in mind as I go over the article. If some measure is only a risk factor, associated but not causative, altering the measure will not necessarily reduce the actual risk.
The photo caption:
Two bags of fresh frozen plasma. The bag on the left was obtained from a patient with hypercholesterolemia, and is cloudy with undissolved cholesterol particles.
Source. No information on cholesterol levels. Okay, but the significance? So blood with lots of cholesterol looks different than blood with little. So?
A recent article in The Guardian raised an interesting question. Is cholesterol denialism a valid form of skepticism or pseudoscience? Is there valid debate surrounding the benefit of cholesterol medication or is the evidence and the scientific consensus clearly on one side of the issue?
It is true that we argue about cholesterol far more than the other cardiovascular risk factors. It is hard today to find anyone who doubts the harmful effects of smoking, diabetes, hypertension or the lack of exercise. So why is there a cholesterol controversy but unanimity on other risk factors?
Okay, the Guardian article, our subpage.
I found value there, but only by searching for papers she referred to and related documents. The article itself was next to useless except as a great example of assuming the status quo is better than whatever is proposed to replace it. If lots of people criticize something, and if danger is asserted without evidence other than established belief, well, dangerous ideas should not be allowed to be published. I find it so ironic that advocates of evidence-based medicine, allegedly scientists, will declare criticism of what they believe “denialism,” when skepticism and criticism is essential to science even if later shown to be wrong. And who decides when later is? There a many who appear to believe that they represent the “consensus,” but they do not actually measure consensus. Signatures for the open letter were solicited on a blog, and there were
Bosely claimed “More than 170 academics signed a letter.” This shows what? The actual solicitation and signatures were not limited to academics, nor by field of study. There are currently 169 signatures, but if we include the original authors, it becomes 173. Looking at affiliations and counting those that do not show an academic affiliation, there are roughly 55, leaving 128. This was meaningless, in fact, given the population involved. Yes, it would show that 169 people agreed with the letter, but out of how many? Science is not a vote and votes are meaningless, unless conditions are set for it to truly represent a community. This was on the order of a petition requesting investigation of charges of bias.
The essence here is a conspiracy theory, that journals are publishing articles favoring low-carb diets and the like as a conspiracy to promote some crank ideas. Perhaps book authors are pimping fads to make money selling books. Boseley, however is also a book author, with her own advice. Perhaps she has a conflict of interest? Were it not for her implication that others are promoting dangerous ideas to sell books, I wouldn’t comment on it. But she is implying that, which is a huge insult to any academic, as many of the cholesterol skeptics are.
I have concluded that Boseley had an axe to grind, there are way too many signals of high bias.
Why is there a cholesterol controversy? It is very obvious why. What is controversial? He does not begin with a definition. Cholesterol is found inside arterial plaque. That is not controversial. What is controversial is whether or not cholesterol causes the plaque, and, further, how blood levels influence this process or exacerbate it, and, further back, whether or not dietary cholesterol leads to harmful blood cholesterol, or saturated fats, or all fats, depending on what point in history we go back to.
Very many of the original cholesterol hypotheses (i.e, there are more than one) have been disconfirmed by more careful study, but the attack on skepticism has remained constant, never recognizing that, at least in some ways, the skeptics were correct. For decades, Dr. Atkins “nutritional approach,” he called it (not “diet” it is actually not restrictive, but prescriptive, eat what he suggests and you may not crave the things he suggests be avoided), it was called a “fad diet,” though it was actually quite old and whether it worked or not did not depend on its age, he was called a quack, etc., etc….. But when I told the nurse at my doctor’s office that I was starting out on Atkins, she had one comment, “Oh, that works!” And then that the Atkins diet works is ascribed to many asserted causes that are not necessarily real for the diet as it is, and misinformation about Atkins abounds. It is not a high-protein diet. Atkins was correct, and eventually funded research to test his program against other common ones. Surprise! In spite of being high-fat, Atkins eaters improved cardiac risk factors. And then, of course, he was accused of influencing the outcome of the study, but studies funded by companies with billions of dollars at stake are just good science? He had chosen a skeptical professor to fund. Smart guy, rest his soul.
Labos goes into the history of other controversies, that we allegedly forget. He covers disagreement over the harm of tobacco, blood pressure, the discovery of cholesterol, and then has
One of the earliest researchers in cholesterol was Nikolay Anichkov who in 1913 reported that rabbits fed pure cholesterol dissolved in sunflower oil developed atherosclerotic lesions, whereas the control rabbits fed just sunflower oil did not. At the time, this research had little impact and its importance was only recognized in retrospect. As Daniel Steinberg states:
If the full significance of his findings had been appreciated at the time, we might have saved more than 30 years in the long struggle to settle the cholesterol controversy and [Anichkov] might have won a Nobel Prize. Instead, his findings were largely rejected or at least not followed up. Serious research on the role of cholesterol in human atherosclerosis did not really get under way until the 1940s.
And just what is the significance? Dietary cholesterol does not cause atherosclerosis. If his findings were “rejected,” that is tragic. Research findings should be respected, and problems only arise in interpretation.
Cholesterol is found in atherosclerotic deposits. That is not controversy, but is this cause or is it effect? And how does the development and progression of such deposits relate to diet and to blood cholesterol level?.
Laboratories that tried to reproduce Anichkov’s results using dogs or rats failed to show that a cholesterol rich diet caused atherosclerosis. This likely occurred because dogs and other carnivores handle cholesterol differently from rabbits and other herbivores This led many to dismiss Anichkov’s results on the grounds that rabbits were not a good a good model for human physiology and that his research was likely irrelevant to humans.
Which still holds as an objection. Rats often are close to human response. So maybe rats are reactive to the cholesterol they were given, or the taste stressed them so much that they developed the arterial lesions that lead to initiation of the processes that build up plaque.
The criticism leveled against his research was not entirely unfounded.
On the one hand, I’d like to congratulate him for admitting the obvious, but what is rather obvious to me is that he still thinks it was at least somewhat unfounded, he still thinks this is relevant to human atherosclerosis, he has an axe to grind. Otherwise, without that, he would have skipped over this irrelevancy.
We have seen countless times how animal research does not translate into humans and to accept the “lipid hypothesis” based purely on Anichkov’s work would have been premature.
To say the least.
It should have been an invitation for others to pursue this new line of inquiry.
“Should have.” By what standard? This is obvious to me: Labos believes the lipid hypothesis. That’s okay. But it means that he is not a neutral judge, unless he could truly and consciously set aside what he believes, to study and make sure he understands what he is criticizing. He would, if interested in science, be attempting to prove himself wrong, not right. But, no, he’s convinced he is right and is only going through this exercise to prove that it’s totally silly to believe anything other than what he believes about cholesterol. He is pseudoskeptical about cholesterol skepticism. But, again, the conversation can have value.
Eventually in the 1950s John Gofman would begin his research in lipoproteins and determine that there were different types of cholesterol. Today of course we acknowledge that low-density particles like LDL are atherogenic whereas high-density particles like HDL are not. Gofman demonstrated this in the 1956 Cooperative Study of Lipoproteins and Atherosclerosis although the distinction of LDL and HDL would only come later.
Notice how fact is mixed with conclusions. Is LDL “atherogenic,” or is it merely an associated risk factor, or, third possibility, it has some effect on some more powerful, more critical cause? And notice, the early cholesterol hypothesis did not discriminate between HDL and LDL, and even deeper distinctions are moving into common practice.
I very much appreciate the link provided. The theme here is, ostensibly, “Why is there a controversy.” That link is to a review of the study. From that:
The Report provided an unprecedented majority and minority statement of the investigators. The group agreed that there was predictive value in the lipid measures. It diverged in interpretation.
Why was there controversy then? It’s fairly obvious. Social issues, and probably a drive to get “useful results” which can warp science. That page is part of HEART ATTACK PREVENTION A History of Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology which I intend to use thoroughly. But not yet.
Despite the controversy that surrounded the Cooperative Study of Lipoproteins and Atherosclerosis, there was evidence that cholesterol (regardless how you measured it) was correlated with coronary disease. The work of Carl Muller studying patients with familial hypercholesterolemia was also largely supportive of this link. The work of Brown and Goldstein and their isolation of the LDL receptor would prove the genetic cause of this disease and win the Nobel Prize, but this work was still decades off. However, it could be argued, with some validity, that individuals with a genetic cause for their high cholesterol were not representative of the general population. Nevertheless, by the mid-1950s there was enough interest in this new potential risk factor that large-scale epidemiologic studies were launched.
The launching of those studies was appropriate, given the evidence available. We do need to remember that correlation is not causation. Muller (article linked above) does not clearly relate to the issue under discussion. Of course there is “some validity.” I notice, again, how Labos is organizing his post. I have seen this from fanatics many times: they will assert a series of weak facts that they consider connected, and then they will assert that the preponderance of the evidence (which appears to be the number of facts claimed) demonstrates that their belief is therefore true. It is not the collection of evidence that is the problem, exactly, but the conclusions drawn from it. But then Labos does go closer to the heart of it.
The Seven Countries Study has certainly been one of the most notorious studies of the period and its originator, Ancel Keys, has become a popular target for attack. The main thrust of the attack is that he cherry picked the data in order to obfuscate the truth that saturated fats are unrelated to heart disease. The reality is slightly more nuanced and a detailed review of the Seven Countries Study highlighting its strengths and limitations can be found here for anyone who is interested. Suffice it to say, the main argument that can be leveled against the attempt to deny the role of cholesterol in heart disease is to point out that other studies have shown similar results.
Now, Labos appears to mindread Keys, which I would not do. But perhaps he is merely reflecting the claims. This is obvious: the Seven Countries were selected from a much larger possible set, and I’ve seen results plotted including the larger set. The alleged strong correlation disappears. Did Keys do this deliberately? Maybe. Maybe he had strong political motives, maybe something else. However, the link is to a remarkable document, a detailed defense of Keys that takes into account the critiques.
“Other studies have shown similar results” requires an assessment of “similarity,” which can easily be biased. Further, Labos is slipping from correlation (which Keys claimed and which may exist), subtly into causation, i.e., “role.” There is an abundance of evidence, almost too much. But what would a neutral review (if that is possible, I’m not sure) conclude? And, more to my interest (and Taubes as well, by the way) what research could be designed to definitively answer open questions?
If the opinion is spread that the question is closed, it has already been answered with overwhelming evidence, there will be two outcomes: one is some level of suppression of research and discussion, and the other is a hardening of positions. Nobody likes to be told that they are wrong, everyone knows they are wrong, and they should just shut up and, and what? Die? They are called “die-hards.” People who are willing to question authority, the popular wisdom are precious, if they do not go too far and attempt to oppress others. There is a danger in challenging the status quo. There are few who will welcome difficult questions. They condemned Socrates to death for asking inconvenient questions.
Semmelweiss, on puerperal fever, was right, and was rejected for two reasons: his study showed that physicians were causing the death of patients, many of them, and he also became highly caustic. The personal defects of critics, if we care about science and human welfare, must be set aside to examine claims. This cuts in all directions. I will be reviewing the document on Keys’ Seven Countries study and checking the information there against what is written about Keys.
Studies like the Ni-Hon-San study and the Honolulu Heart Study examined the rate of heart disease in Japanese men living in Japan, Hawaii and San Francisco. They found that compared to the men living in Japan, Japanese men who had migrated to Hawaii had higher cholesterol levels and higher rates of heart disease. Japanese men who migrated to San Francisco had still higher rates. The not-unreasonable conclusion was that the increase in heart disease was environmentally mediated and that as these Japanese men adopted the diet and lifestyle of their adopted country, their cardiovascular risk rose accordingly.
I will need to look at those, but Taubes, for example, attributes the rise in heart disease to the common modern diet, and what is stated here does not show that fat was the causal factor, nor does it show that cholesterol is causal, which is the substantial factual issue. If cholesterol is not causal, but merely associated, then treatments to reduce cholesterol are unlikely to work, except possibly through some associated effect. One of the predictions of the cholesterol hypothesis is that reducing cholesterol will reduce atherogenesis, and a strong effect would be expected, not a weak one. What is the reality?
Finally, we cannot forget the impact of the Framingham Heart Study. Begun in 1948 and still ongoing, this project has provided many insights into the causes of heart diseases. It established that risk factors like cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity all affected the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, it coined the term “risk factor”.
Suffice it to say, whatever criticisms one wants to level against the Seven Countries Study, there was plenty of other data suggesting a link between cholesterol and heart diseases. Not unsurprisingly, researchers eventually resolved to try and do something about it.
Looking forward to seeing what Labos writes about this.
(to be continued!)
Materialism and spiritualism, both, if presented as “scientific.”Which would then lead us to the ultimate: a belief that our experience is real, and, as, in addition, that our interpretations of it are meaningful.
The Landmark Forum proposes setting the second part of this aside. They have warned that what they are going to say is not the truth. So then they announce a “distinction.” “Life is empty and meaningless, and it is empty and meaningless that life is empty and meaningless.”
This is a “distinction,” a concept that distinguishes and sorts. In this case, it sorts our experience into two categories: “what happened,” and “what we made it mean.”
It is not uncommon for participants at this point to be highly offended. They draw conclusions from the distinction, completely ignoring the second half, concluding that, as an example, “Therefore they are teaching us that Jesus’ crucifixion was meaningless.”
They are not teaching that, and I know advanced graduates who are also major Christian officials, and clearly “believers,” i.e., they have faith.
Landmark is not setting aside the “reality of experience.” But “reality” is not a “meaning.” And there is more to all this, much more. To the point here:
On Malcolm Kendrick’s blog, February 19, 2019 at 4:31 pm, I posted this comment: (I have slightly edited it).
Ah, but we should sell the *most effective* placebos. There is a Nasruddin story, I tried to find it, but failed, so I will have to tell it, with your gracious permission.
Nasruddin had set up as a physician and had an apprentice to help him. One day, as a man was opening the garden gate to walk to the office entrance, the apprentice said, “I can see, by how this man is walking, what he needs!” Nasruddin said, “You can take this case.” So when the man walked in, the apprentice immediately told him, “Eat some pomegranates, you will be healed!” The man huffed, “You didn’t even ask me about my pains!” and walked out. Nasruddin said, “Next time we see one of these cases, I’ll handle it.”
So it came to pass that another patient came with the same malady. Nasruddin welcomed him, had the apprentice serve some tea, and asked him, when they were sitting comfortably, to what he owed the honor of the visit. The man explained his symptoms, and Nasruddin listened, nodding his head in sympathy, asking questions that showed he had heard everything. He then rubbed his beard, obvious in deep thought, and then he exclaimed, “Pomegranates! You need pomegranates!” The man left a large payment and left, happy to know he could now have hope.
So the “placebo business” already exists and it already uses sugar pills, and openly so. Homeopathy is Andrew Weil’s article. It sets up the inquiry into symptoms, and with a good practitioner, all the supporting aspects of medical manner, including whatever will fit the patient.
Nowadays, an ethical homeopath will never recommend that “evidence-based medicine” — that which is truly so — be abandoned for some sugar pills. Some homeopaths may believe in “water memory,” or this or that concept of the “spirit” of materials, that survives and is even enhanced by huge dilution. Personally, I’d prefer one more thoughtful and less certain, but that holds for medical practitioners in general. And there are exceptions to everything.
Homeopathy doesn’t work — or does not work well — when double-blinded, which is a huge clue. That is the same with all placebos. Homeopathy, I suggest, treats the mind, and the body through the mind and through language, and as another article suggested in comments on this blog pointed out, it is not necessary to “believe” the theory of homeopathy, one can (and I would suggest, should) understand that the remedies are physically all the same, in effect. But they have different names and indications. If they are cheap, and if the patient is not encouraged to abandon effective therapies, they are, at worst, harmless.
However, a more expensive placebo tends to be more effective. High-dilution remedies are prescribed when a more powerful effect is desired, and they require more work to make.
If you want a powerful placebo, then, see a homeopath. From how the placebo effect operates, I expect it will generally be more effective if you see an actual, trained homeopath.
If you want a downer, for some reason I cannot fathom, consult a pseudoskeptic who is sure that anything involving belief is nonsense, but who misses all the crap that he, himself, believes. “Faith is for stupid people! I believe in science-based medicine,” as if it actually exists, just because of his imagination and fervent desire.
Yes, there is such a thing as real science. Unfortunately, the state of medical science is primitive, too often. In addition to Doctoring Data, I recommend Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, as the investigation of a science reporter, who, ironically, also wrote Bad Science about cold fusion, which is a field where another information cascade ensconced itself (with his assistance!), where the “mainstream” firmly believes in “facts” that have not been correct for almost thirty years.
Taubes may or may not be right about the “insulin hypothesis,” but he does not pretend there is proof when there is not. And he actually has facilitated funding for basic research.
There are two brothers, long term trolls, who eventually realized that they could be more effective as trolls, not only by harassing their targets, but by creating articles on them on RationalWiki that would then show up prominently in Google searches. They have been doing this for years. One of their practices is to track all contributions from their target, create sock puppets, and harass them. The brothers are Oliver and Darryl L. Smith, and the particular brother involved in the harassment of Malcolm Kendrick on Wikipedia and RationalWiki is Darryl. Since I have become a major irritant for them, by exposing what they have done, I have become a much higher value target for them than Dr. Kendrick. So two birds with one stone, they love it.
I am sorry to bring up guilt by association but sometimes this is justifiable. You can define a man by the kind of company he keeps.
This is definitely one of the Smith brothers, there are many signals. Why does he lead with a fake apology about “guilt by association”? I suggest it is because I have pointed out that he does this in his articles, including his article on Malcolm Kendrick, and we know that he has read that page. See John66 here.
This blog is filled with loons and quacks that support Kendrick’s ideas. I have been digging around on various blogs posts going back years on this website. There are anti-vaccine activists that comment here, people that on a regular basis quote from known conspiracy theorists like Joseph Mercola and Gary Null, yet commenters here never call out this kind of quackery they endorse it.
Kendrick clearly does not censor comments on his blog (as he points out in responses), and therefore he cannot be held responsible for “loons and quacks,” if any are posting there.
The author of this post has defamed the entire community of those who post on the blog. Defamation need not be personal, apparently, it can be collective, so anyone in a group defamed could have standing to sue. Truth can be a defense, though it is possible that if malice can be shown, there can be exceptions. I.e., a true fact, asserted in a context to create a misleading impression, can be defamation.
I’ll just call this troll Smith, because there is a small possibility that this is the brother, Oliver, but I’d give it more than 90%, this is Darryl. I.e., Skeptic from Britain, John66, and many hundreds of others. His name and at least one address for him are known, and his brother is currently being sued in the U.K. and if anyone wants to get in touch with the plaintiff, leave a comment here with a real email address, which will not be published absent necessity, and I will verify it and forward it. My opinion: if someone libelled by the Smiths pursues the matter, a civil suit will have legs, and in the U.K., there is also criminal defamation. That is more difficult in the U.S., but civil defamation is actionable and, in fact, I filed an action yesterday. Ask me if interested. The defendants include John Doe 1-9. I know who they are reasonably well, but decided not to name them in the suit, to allow evidence to be developed in discovery before amending the action to include them. Two live in the U.K. Guess who! I could also amend the action, but I needed to get the ball rolling, for fund-raising to support expenses, etc. Back to what this troll wrote:
There are people that promote unproven cancer cures here, basically any kind of reality denying nonsense is supported. There are alternative medicine proponents here. There was even a lady promoting the disproven ideas of Cleve Backster that plants have consciousness.
OMG! “I know that they don’t, because I am an accomplished plant mind-reader, and when I read the mind of a plant, I always come up with ‘thanks for the CO2!’ and that is just an automatic message, unlike my own spectacular intelligent consciousness.”
Watch them quote this and claim that I have agreed with Backster’s “disproven” ideas. I actually never heard of him.
There is a RationalWiki article that mentions Backster, The_Spirit_Science.
Investigating that led me to many interesting observations, but they are too off-point to report. Smith will mention Backster on Kendrick’s blog because it’s a dog whistle for RatWiki pseudoskeptics, not because it will be relevant there. Really, someone mentions “plant consciousness” and therefore Kendrick is keeping “bad company”? I don’t believe Rupert Sheldrake’s theories are scientific, but I’d sure welcome a chance to sit with him and laugh about it all, as, my guess, we would. One of my models is Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders of CSICOP, a genuine skeptic, and “believers in the paranormal” loved him because he actually listened and was interested in scientific investigation, which is quite distinct from the “debunking” that took over that organization. I’ve linked to the RatWiki article, which is only slightly weird, it’s a stub only, in spite of how significant Truzzi is in the history of skepticism. Wikipedia. has much more, and I’m glad I looked, there is a book I will want to get about correspondence between two of my favorite skeptics: Truzzi and Martin Gardner. (My third favorite skeptic: Carl Sagan. And then there is Gary Taubes, and since he calls himself a “skeptic,” Malcolm Kendrick and a host of what RatWiki calls “denialists” who are actually skeptics.
Why Truzzi? Well, if you really look at Truzzi, he coined the modern usage of “pseudoskeptic,” whereas I have seen pseudoskeptics deny that such exists. RationalWiki does have an article. By the standards given there, RatWiki reeks of pseudoskepticism. Long story.
David Bailey that regularly comments here is a paranormal believer and alleged psychic. He is an admin on the Skeptiko paranormal podcast owned by a paranormal nut Alex Tsakiris. Another commenter Abd ul-Rahman Lomax is a known conspiracy theorist and cold fusion pseudoscience nut.
- Alex_Tsakiris started by David Gerard, who is not a Smith, but who has often supported them as a RatWiki functionary. Maintained by Forests, David1234, Trolling_Imposter, Crackpot_Hunter, and Skeptical, all probable Smith socks (and characteristically Darryl), and there may be more, as impersonation socks trolling for reaction against other users.
- Abd ul-Rahman Lomax started by Marky (Darryl L. Smith), as part of threatened retaliation for exposing impersonation socking on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. Maintained by many Smith socks (both Darryl and his twin, Oliver), with trolling by impersonation socks. (I made one edit to that article, as Abd (when I was still a sysop on RationalWiki), but there are at least five impersonation socks in the history, using my name, or prior account names of mine elsewhere, or other names associated with me, such as the most recent, “Coldfusions,” not me, and the troll “Lomax is back” is also not me, of course. Who is doing this? One guess: Darryl L. Smith has a long history of creating impersonation socks, he has used them to high effect.
Basically this blog attracts proponents of pseudoscience and woo, not any rational individuals. There is virtually no science here, that is why these insane ramblings are almost limited to a blog on the forgotten side of the internet. I did some private emails to seven known cardiologists in the UK, they said Kendrick is on the extreme verge of fringe science and he is not taken seriously by the medical community as they lack evidence, four of them had never heard of him and two of them described him as a “quack”.
Not at all surprising. Smith also contacts media and creates responses elsewhere, where others repeat what he has written on RatWiki, and then he quotes them on RatWiki as evidence for his claims. Anyone who challenges mainstream views may be claimed to be a “quack,” and “fringe” is not a specific defamation. “Extreme verge” is an exaggerated statement, how many said that? This is the interpretation of possible comments (as little as one, or simply lying), by an attack dog. But I would not wonder to find that some cardiologist or other called Kendrick a “quack,” privately or even publicly.
Reading the blog, I’m led to read scientific papers, on all sides of the issues. Pseudoskeptics have no understanding of the value of diversity of opinion.
Leading doctors also called Semmelweiss a lunatic, and, in fact, he was, probably suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but . . . he was also right, with quite strong evidence, and by ignoring the evidence he reported, they became responsible for many thousands of gruesome deaths. All to avoid being merely ignorant of a harm, tragic but not morally culpable. A responsible physician would have looked at the evidence. One did and realizing that he had caused the death of his niece, whom he loved, committed suicide, a truly unfortunate response, because he could have, instead, become committed to working to communicate the research, thus saving more lives than he harmed.
Here, Darryl is clearly trolling, not actually engaging in any serious communication, and that’s his MO. He does not provide any actual evidence (and that is typical). It’s all ad hominem, and in some places — not this –he would be trying to induce others to indulge in it. He also knows that sometimes his trolling will draw a target into response he can then quote for defamatory purpose.
He will research identity and find whatever he can use to assert “crackpottery.” A person who simply voices their personal opinion on a very personal issue (their own health! and what they found in their own research toward making persona decisions) will be called a “crackpot,” by one of the most cracked of pots, not useful for encouraging the growth of any thing of beauty, a deranged pseudoskeptic. Smith is not a real skeptic, obviously, he is a believer in “mainstream belief,” that is, anti-fringe, but skepticism is essential to science, and that includes skepticism of what is widespread belief, which RatWikians commonly redefine as “denialism.”
Göran Sjöberg is a metallurgical engineer he has no credentials in medicine and is another one of these low-carb high-fat crackpots.
He has not written an article on this person because it will take him some time to put together a collection of juicy quotes. I looked up Dr. Sjöberg, impressive. Smith will scour every contribution he can find, looking for snippets that can be quoted that will appeal to the juvenile pseudoskeptical community on RationalWiki. If the book he is working on is written, especially, Smith will scour the internet looking for negative comments, and those will be presented as “the response of the medical community,” or something like that. If Sjöberg has written anything that can look unconventional, it will be reported, cherrypicked. I was surprised at all the stuff he found on me, stuff I had forgotten. But, in fact, what I had actually written was fine! (In one case, he was directly wrong, attributing to me what had actually been written by someone else. I pointed that out on the talk page. It was ignored, because he wanted to make the point that I had been involved in an “abusive cult,” and to claim that I had called it that. I had not. If one reads the cited source, one can tell that I never wrote that.
But this is what he does, and few at RationalWiki restrain him in the least.
Nobody is required to have “credentials in medicine” to study a field of relevance to their personal health. One does not become a “crackpot” by concluding something different from “standard of practice.” If I had followed the standard of practice, I would be missing important parts of my anatomy, and, ten years later, I’m intact and the risk that I will regret the choice has become zero. My physicians have always encouraged and supported my study of evidence, and my taking of responsibility for my own decisions.
The course I decided on (“watchful waiting”) was actually recommended as reasonable, not high-risk, by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, that had just been published, for my exact condition. But my specialist would not have recommended it, because of “standard of practice.” The risk was not zero, and, this was cancer, and if it spread, he could have been sued. (This will lead into a study of Smith’s article on Marika Sboros, where she made a similar recommendation and has been attacked for it.)
But my doctor could tell me the truth and give me his personal opinion when asked when I asked. One previous specialist I had consulted ridiculed what I’d found, and told me many things that showed he was actually ignorant of the state of research (it was shockingly bad), so I dumped him and found a doctor who was more informed — and a better listener.
“Standard of practice” would have had me go into a panic, and demand that the cancer be removed!!! Yesterday, if I can get an appointment!
Because I have a cardiac blockage, though no heart attack, standard of practice says I should have an angiogram, a complex and very expensive procedure, with many possible complications, and, for someone in my condition, no significant improvement of life expectancy. They don’t tell you that unless you ask! And sometimes what they honestly believe isn’t so. Read the studies! It’s your health! Is that important enough to tolerate some difficulty and to warrant spending some time reading complicated papers? (The language can be difficult if you are not used to reading papers. So, are you brain-damaged so that you cannot learn new words? Can you look them up, can you ask others to help you understand the paper? If you are brain-damaged, fine. Name a health care proxy and trust the person you name, pick your physician well and trust her or him. But if you are not brain-damaged, it is entirely rude to lay that burden on another. If my doctor lies to me, he’s risking malpractice, if I’m around to be the plaintiff, but if he tells me his opinion and includes information about the standard of practice, and lets me decide, no, no risk from me, even if it turns out he is wrong, and as to my family, little risk if he has done what I suggest. I have left the hospital more than once, AMA (Against Medical Advice) and I always sign the forms, because it is rude to make them responsible for my choices. (and it never caused harm, because they will be extremely conservative, whereas I can balance risk, cost, and benefit.)
And what would be the approach of a “rational skeptic”? Would it be, “believe the official dogma”?
Or would it suspend belief and investigate?
I could go through countless other commenters here but I will leave it there. This website is filled with absolute cranks and a crowd of reality denying anti-science kooks. It amazes me that people actually think they are pro-science here, delusions of grandeur! The place is a NUT-HOUSE. LOL.
What I see is many people citing actual studies, and pointing out good science and some, ah, questionable studies. This is — or can be — real skepticism.
(I also see a few people commenting with ideas I consider very fringe. But so what? I am not the “fringe police.” Darryl is, and has expressed at various times that he is on a mission. He has also bragged that he has been paid to expose “pseudoscience.” It would not be by Big Pharma. There is a whole community of
cranks pseudoskeptics who wallow in the supposed idiocy of others, and there is money available. There are “professional skeptics,” who give talks on “skeptic cruises.” Ah, diversity. Sometimes I wonder, what does Reality mean by this? Some realities may remain forever mysterious, get over it.)
Many commenters have formed beliefs, that’s normal. Are those beliefs “pseudoscientific”? The pseudoskeptics on RatWiki do not distinguish between personal decisions and choices and claims of “science.” Those who actually study the science know that there is much that is not clearly understood, and that some come to premature conclusions, which sometimes become standard of practice, official recommendations, while the actual scientists have said, “We don’t know that yet, more study is needed.”
And because politicians have said, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out more,” official recommendations were created based on what seemed like a good idea at the time, whether it actually was or not.
Gary Taubes, who is also under attack by Darryl, has documented thoroughly how all this happened, thirty to forty years ago. I just bought the last two books. I don’t believe something is “true” because Taubes writes it. He is a highly experienced journalist and is pretty careful, but analysis is his. Is he correct? Generally, I agree, but Taubes himself claims we need more research to form fixed conclusions. Some conclusions are obvious, though, such as the conclusion that cholesterol does not cause heart disease, if one looks at the history of the idea and then at the nature of the studies underneath the old conclusions and then how they evolved. The idea is pseudoscientific, in practice, because it appears to not be falsifiable, i.e., evidence after evidence appears, indicating no causality — or a weak one — and yet the cholesterol hypothesis is either kept the same, ignoring the evidence, or, slowly, it is revised to keep the core idea, but modify the details, moving the goalposts and continuing to claim that skepticism is dangerous and should be suppressed, even though the original guidelines are now known to be utterly preposterous. It was not long ago that eggs were considered to be terribly risky, because they have high actual cholesterol content. What happened with that? Fat in the diet was pronounced dangerous to be reduced, with the belief that this would save millions of lives. Did it? Originally, it was all fat. Hence the promotion of “low-fat diets.” Then it became saturated fats, especially animal fats. Then the kind of fat became more sophisticated. Then it was shown that fat consumption was poorly correlated with cholesterol levels and heart disease. If at all. With cholesterol, originally it was all cholesterol, then it was LDL cholesterol, then it became more sophisticated, such that the original recommendations, if followed, would be nonsense. Again, moving the goalposts. That is what pseudoskeptics and pseudoscientific believers both do.
(The definition of pseudoskeptic in the RatWiki article is warped against what they actually do, ignoring the fundamental characteristic of pseudoskepticism, which is belief as actually displayed, not merely some utterly untestable idea such as “no evidence would convince them.” That someone believes something is reasonably discernable. A hypothetical is imaginary, unless they claim it as their belief. What is common, though, among pseudoskeptics, is that they will claim a standard of proof that would satisfy them. With cold fusion, a device they can purchase at Home Depot to demonstrate the effect. So does that mean that they have no pseudoskeptical belief? Of course not! What they have done is to predetermine something that would convince them, so they won’t look like a Pseudoskeptic, which is Bad. But that is not the standard. It’s an excuse.)
Once guidelines were created, it then became “dangerous” to publish research that did not confirm the guidelines, that could suggest they were in error. Which could cause some ignorant people to disregard standard medical advice and, OMG, thousands will die! But they do not actually know that, it’s an imagination.
Dissent is suppressed, not as what we think of as some evil conspiracy, but, rather, people believe the nonsense they continue to support. It’s a collective delusion that this is “science-based medicine.” There is a distinct issue with conflict-of-interest research, promoted by people who will profit from certain conclusions. That is slowly being addressed, but it will remain as a problem until the public realizes that a system which requires to profit motive to fund research incentivizes such actions, and until we take responsibility, as the public, for research we need. Taubes got a few million dollars donated. Bake-sale funding. We need billions to do this right, and we need to study and develop methods to do it right. Until then, we are babes in the woods. The situation will not improve much by complaining, only by taking action, and we often err in understanding the problem, falling into blaming the bad guys instead of realizing that we have allowed a system to be maintained that creates and encourages “bad guys,” who are simply filling niches in they system, as biology will do with any environment.
Back to the titled subject:
Homeopathy is one of the favorite targets of pseudoskeptics. I am personally highly skeptical of the “theory of homeopathy.” I am, in practice, a materialist, but with a decision to keep in mind an opposing view, I will call “spiritual,” which holds that there is a “spirit” behind everything. A common name for that spirit is Mind.
And, in fact, all I experience is Mind. Behind that, I refer to Reality, and some atheists have criticized me for capitalizing the word. Why? This would show me that they believe that there is no unique entity, Reality. Do they really believe that?
And then, of course, there are connections between Mind and Reality. What I think affects my body, and vice-versa.
Both positions are pseudoscientific if asserted as scientific. Pseudoskeptics commonly assert that whatever they think is wrong is “pseudoscientific” without actually considering testability, which is crucial to the “official definition” of pseudoscience.
(“Cold fusion” is actually testable, and has been tested, with results that demonstrate, by a strong preponderance of the evidence, a nuclear reality to what was originally found as a heat effect, and those experiments are replicable, and have been rather widely confirmed (contrary to common opinion), with confirmation with increased precision possible, and actually fully funded and under way. So is this “pseudoscience”? On what basis?)
Materialism, if asserted as if a “scientific point of view,” is pseudoscientific, because it is untestable, and a basic skeptical principle is “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and, in addition, pseudoskeptics often assert that “there is no evidence,” when there is plenty.
(They confuse evidence with proof, and there is a lost performative in their understanding of proof, which is the judge, the person interpreting the evidence. Proof is evidence that convinces a judge. It is actually subjective, but where that conviction becomes widespread, it is “social reality.” They commonly and very naively think that “proof” is material, with no subjective aspects, as if it is thing, with material weight and clearly distinct characteristics aside from a judge’s reaction to it.)
But social reality is not Reality, consensus can fall short. And so a true “scientific consensus” would remain open to contradiction, “anomalies,” studying which will generally expand understanding in some way. An anomaly means “something not understood.” What is not understood indicates an edge to knowledge, a frontier. A “scientific consensus” that rejects contrary evidence based on being “fringe” or “crackpot” is pseudoscientific, and “fringe” is the frontier, this is all well-known to sociologists of science who study the “demarcation problem.” RationalWiki, Wikipedia. The RatWiki article is far inferior, even though it is better than the run-of-the-mill RW article. They state the problem to emphasize religion, obviously because most Rats are antireligious, even though the demarcation problem is not about religion at all, it’s about science.
A genuine skeptic will hold as possibilities what can appear to be mutually contradictory hypotheses, and Reality can be approached this way, and that is ancient wisdom, ignored by these trolls who imagine that they understand what they shallowly read, better than those who have spent decades or more studying it. Socially disabled, they are.
Reality is reality, and is not confined by our ideas about it, and “material” and “spiritual” are ideas. These are polar opposites, and enlightenment is generally found in synthesis. One of my favorite questions to ask is:
What arises when we look at something from two different points of view at the same time?
I will see what answers appear in Comments, before giving one of my own.
Looking at recent developments on Wikipedia with “fringe” and “quacks,” I’ve found many symptoms of a systemic corruption, and this will show how the project lost its direction, at core and in a failure to honor the original community intentions, it’s become quite explicit. This started with looking at the user page of Roxy the dog. Wikipedia made what may have been a fatal error in not only allowing anonymous edits (probably necessary and highly useful) but also in allowing advanced privileges for anonymous accounts. In this, it deviated widely from academic traditions. It eliminated the “responsible publisher” for itself, creating mob rule.
This protected the Foundation, but not the project. This is classic: organizations are formed for purposes, but their own survival, if it comes into conflict with the purpose, becomes a priority. So if the trial of “community governance” fails — in the absence of clear structures that create responsible actors — nothing can be done. It’s up to the community, not the site owners. Wikipedia is famously not a reliable source. Why not? Precisely because there is no responsible publisher!
The possibility existed for a community project to become more reliable than any such effort in history. That is, in fact, why I worked on Wikipedia as long as I did. But the radically unreliable governance, vulnerable to participation bias (whoever happens to show up in specific discussions, and where some kinds of factional canvassing are allowed, plus the possibly random nature of who closes discussions, where bias in closing could be very difficult to detect, and, if detected, they shoot the messenger), led to a conclusion that the situation was unworkable.
Wikipedia will be replaced by a project that harnesses what Wikipedia has done, but that adds reliable governance and responsibility. This may be for-profit or nonprofit, it could be done either way.
It was clear to me at one point that Jimbo Wales (with Larry Sanger the founder of Wikipedia) was interested in governance reform. However, something was missing, and I’m coming to think that what was missing was an understanding of neutrality. He almost had it, but it’s clear that knee-jerk “popular,” not academic or scientific, responses, very obviously not neutral, took over for him. And this then explains, in part, how “popular factions” came to dominate Wikipedia, as many have noted. They lose, sometimes, their control is not absolute, but it creates a steady pressure and, over time, it’s apparent to me, the project has devolved away from neutrality, and a particular faction has, many times, opposed neutrality and has declared allegiance to a point of view, and they act to push that point of view.
Anyone trained in journalism will recognize the problem, how it infects the language and overall tenor of pages. Blatant violations of neutrality policy, misrepresentations of sources, in favor of attempting to create in readers POV impressions, are, in some areas, practically the rule rather than a transient exception. Revert warring is tolerated, if done by factional editors, who are considered “valuable volunteers” precisely because they work tirelessly for their point of view.
Editors with contrary points of view are isolated and sanctioned and topic- or site-banned. Editors promoting SPOV (“Scientific point of view,” when they go beyond limits in that promotion, may be sanctioned, but also are regarded as heroes. And so if they are actually banned, they often come back. Wouldn’t you?
This is what Roxy the dog has from Wales:
“Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.”
“What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.“
Roxy the dog uses this as I’d expect, to justify a series of claims of being justifiably biased. First, what exactly did Wales say, in what context.?
Wikipedia developed a procedure for creating a neutral project and he is referring to it, but he overspecifies that procedure, narrowing it in a way that favors the bias Roxy the dog displays. Was this merely accidental, incautious?
and, in fact, it’s obvious. From that page:
Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a Change.org petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as “lunatic charlatans”, was widely reported on Twitter.
I’ve been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.
In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.
This is common.
There is skeptic organization and this blog is proud of it. But if others point to organization, it’s a “conspiracy theory.”
Indeed, I have seen over-reaction, suspicion that, say, drug companies are paying editors to promote statin drugs and attack cholesterol skeptics. I find that implausible, but this is what happens where there are organizations that operate behind the scenes.
Sheldrake and Chopra have popular support, and people with popular support will be defended by some, often people with no real understanding of how Wikipedia works, and so they violate rules. But wait! Wikipedia Rule Number One, promoted by Wales himself, was “If a Rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it!” (WP:IAR)
I used to point out the Corollary, that if you have never been blocked for breaking the rules, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.
The vision of the original Wikipedians has been lost, and this was practically inevitable (see Iron law of oligarchy), if protective structure was not created, and it was not.
Wales response was to a petition asking for reform.
As is common with reform efforts, what might be a valid objection to the Wikipedia status quo was mixed with lack of understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and a point of view. The title of the petition shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia and the process of creating an encyclopedia.
Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.
I will list problems with this request:
- Wales was not in charge of Wikipedia, he was the Founder, not the Governor. (In the other direction, he remained influential.)
- Wikipedia is not a site for “scientific discourse.” Wikiversity was, and could have remained so, but that was demolished, ultimately, by the faction, early this year. It was trivial to create neutral discourse, and it worked for years.
- The policies on inclusion were not the problem, the problem was lack of workable enforcement structure. The structure worked, though very inefficiently, for handling vandalism and isolated point of view pushing, but, increasingly, as factions developed power, poorly with factional point of view pushing.
MAR 23, 2014 — No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.
Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.
The blog claims that the organizers of the petition were “tone-deaf,” because they quoted Larry Sanger, thus, allegedly, irritating Wales. Sanger was quoted in the petition:
Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.”
Sanger’s comment was a simple conclusion matching what many, many, with high experience with Wikipedia, have found. That happens. It happens in all directions, but . . . factions that represent the “fringe” are, by definition, not popular, and that condition in the population will be reflected in the editorial community, so these factions are readily identified and their efforts interdicted, whereas the faction that is biased toward a popular point of view, can operate with far higher impunity, and in the absence of neutral enforcement, that bias can dominate.
This happened to some extent with traditional encyclopedias, but these were generally written with high academic integrity. Wales became confused on this issue, and was, himself, tone-deaf. Many have complained, and the complaints are routine and remain common. Wales only looks at what was wrong with the petition, and fails to practice what he preaches:
“to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”
So Wikipedia sails on, undisturbed by self-examination, supporting the “Scientific Point of View,” which is an oxymoron.
Rather, the Pillars of Wikipedia include one that would, if followed, establish journalistic and academic integrity:
|Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view|
|We strive for articles in an impartial tone that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence. We avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as “the truth” or “the best view”. All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy, citing reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors’ personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.|
Wikipedia proposed a solution to crowd-sourcing, to allow it to be verifiable. “Reliable” source does not mean “correct.” It refers to independently published sources, presented with a neutral tone. Stating an interpretation as if fact without attribution is not “honesty.” It’s easy to convert, say, a non-neutral interpretation (which might be found in a reliable source) into a fact by attributing it. “According to . . . ”
Yet there are “skeptical faction” editors inserting their own interpretations as if fact, even about living persons, or entire fields. Because I just noticed it, here is an example, about Gary Taubes:
Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsisent [sic] with known science surrounding obesity.
The source is a book review, and such a review is the opinion of the author, particularly if it is an off-hand comment. What the review actually has, besides praise for the book (“… has much useful information and is well worth reading “):
some of the conclusions that the author reaches are not consistent with current concepts about obesity.
Are “current concepts” the same as “known science”? In fact, Taubes is challenging common concepts, explicitly and deliberately, as not being rooted in “known science,” i.e., known through the scientific method. This has been his theme for his entire career. The editor, however, believes what he has written and so considers that interpretation of the source to be a simple restatement.
The reviewer was not precise. “Current concepts” has a lost performative. Whose concepts? I used “common” as a vague term that would cover what I think is true. The concepts Taubes is challenging became common about forty years ago, through a political process that was only peripherally scientific. Documenting that has been much of Taube’s work.
This begins the lead:
Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American journalist, writer and low-carbohydrate diet advocate.
Is he? This was there until a few days ago:
Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer.
To the faction, many examples can be shown, “low carbohydrate diet advocate” is a dog whistle to call skeptical attention to a person, who, in other contexts , might be called a “fad diet promoter,” “quack,” and “charlatan.”
Remember, verifiability not truth. The statement about “diet advocate” is not sourced. It’s misleading. What Taubes has been advocating is twofold:
- improved public understanding of the history of the lipid hypothesis and the demonization of fat, as well as the evidence of the “diseases of civilization” being associated with high refined carbohydrate consumption,
- but, more important (certainly to him), the encouragement and facilitation (read funding) of scientific research into diet. Taubes is not a ‘believer,” but he has drawn some conclusions and has been acting on them. That is normal in science. Wales wrote:
If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
First of all, he was misstating the actual policy. “Published in respectable scientific journals” is not the actual standard, and such publication can happen without “replicable scientific experiments,” that is only one aspect of science, and the reliance is not on “replicable,” but on “confirmed,” i.e., actually replicated, as shown in peer-reviewed reviews of a topic, secondary sources. Many facts can be reported (with maximum freedom, by guidelines) if attributed. The attribution should be to a reliable source, but the source may be weaker, though still reliable. The skeptical faction uses their own factional publications, that focus on “debunking” and are not neutrally peer-reviewed by experts in the fields, as if reliable source, it’s been common for years, whereas independently peer-reviewed secondary source reviews are excluded by the faction as “junk” or “fringe believer author.”
These are obvious violations of the neutrality pillar, but are tolerated because of a false opp0sition as reflected in Wales’ defense of Wikipedia.
A paper that was invited by a major peer-reviewed journal of high reputation, with Gary Taubes as one of the authors:
This review treats the topic with academic tone. It presents a variety of major points of view. This is what Wikipedia could be like, were it actually supporting science. Instead, it is supporting a highly judgmental and often fanatic debunking point-of-view.
Another example: Wales wanted to see “replicable experiments.” That is not required for notability, Wales is actually substituting his own ideas for the policy, but . . . I was banned from cold fusion on Wikipedia and the claim was made that I was promoting it, and this was often connected with claims that “cold fusion” is “pseudoscience.” In fact, what I was promoting, what was actually important to me at the time, was Wikipedia neutrality and genuine consensus process. However, when I was banned from the topic, I then investigated “cold fusion” more thoroughly, and eventually wrote an article, published in a significant journal, which would, in theory, satisfy the claims Wales made:
Okay, a review. Check. Peer-reviewed. Check. Describes multiple confirmations of a crucial experiment, that demonstrates that there is a real anomaly, that looks like it could be fusion (but probably not what most physicists would think of). Check.
Okay, is that cited? I don’t know if anyone attempted it. It was cited on Wikiversity. Much older and weaker sources on claims of helium detection (deprecating them) have been cited on Wikipedia, and remain. As I was about to be topic banned for the second time, I put up another review in a journal of very high reputation for consideration on the Reliable Source Noticeboard. It was found usable as reliable source. And after all that, was the source allowed? No. Immediately removed every time presented.
Peer-reviewed review in a major multidisciplinary journal, Naturwissenschaften. Check. Stronger source than any other source used in the article. If editors think it was a mistake, it could be attributed.
See the arguments against it on RSN. That discussion was narrow and focused but was never “closed.” Consensus was clear. The paper is RS, and as with all sources, to be used with appropriate caution. Just because something is in reliable source does not make it “truth,” it makes it notable. And wikipedia was properly founded on notability, established by what is found in responsible publishers.
So what happened then? I have made the point often that the major problem with Wikipedia has been inefficiency. To establish what should have been accomplished by a reference to policy and guidelines, a matter of a few sentences, took a massive discussion. A responsible publisher would go bankrupt if their editorial process were like this.
There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who understood the policies and attempted to apply them neutrally. They burn out, faced with editors who ignore the policies, are persistent, and who are enabled to continue this, year after year.
removes reference to Storms (2010) based on argument rejected at RSN. Editor: ජපස, who has changed his name many times. He is the one who made the argument about Storms being an editor. That was an attributed reference, clearly neutral. This reverted the edit of Enric Naval.
Eventually, in 2015, the bibliographic reference to Storms (2010), and another citation of it, were removed by JzG, a highly involved factional editor and administrator who had been reprimanded by the Arbitration Committee for his actions with regard to cold fusion. Apparently nobody noticed. Jzg removed the reference to the 2007 book, and the 2010 journal review of cold fusion. His edit summary:
(pruning some WP:PRIMARY, including for example a book review written by a True Believer. We have sufficient high quality sources that we don’t need to dumpster-dive.)
These are the arguments that completely failed to be accepted at WP:RSN. Are there stronger sources by Wikipedia RS standards and the standards for science topics? What was left was weaker, or if not weak, substantially older.
None of these were primary sources, and he’s highly experienced, so . . . he lied, they were all secondary. (2007) was published World Scientific, an academic press, and (2010) was discussed above. The Book Review reference is unclear. JzG also removed material cited in Simon (2002), which is an academic secondary source review (a book), not a “book review”). He did remove from the bibliography one primary source (at least arguably so), Shanahan (2006). There was an appalling discussion in talk, no consensus, and the editor objecting was “reminded” about discretionary sanctions, which was essentially a threat that he could be blocked. This was a blatant and smug display of factional POV editing, and, as usual, without consequence, JzG (and William M. Connolley), sailed on, undisturbed, as they have for years. (In two cases, I took them to the Arbitration Committee, JzG was reprimanded, Connolley was desysopped. But the net effect was, with extensive effort, long term, zero. Discretionary sanctions were established as a result of the second case, (with neutral enforcement, a good idea), but it has only been used to support the skeptical faction and threaten or block anyone appearing to have a different point of view.)
In 2015, Current Science published a special section on low-energy nuclear reactions. It included a number of reviews of aspects of the field, written by major researchers (and one journalist, me). There was mention of this in the article that resisted removal, it’s still there. However, none of those papers are cited in the article, in spite of being recent specific reviews of aspects of the field, on topics discussed in the article.
Wales is either ignorant about what actually happens on Wikipedia, or he’s lying. I prefer the former interpretation, but I also hold him responsible for maintaining his ignorance in spite of complaints. Instead of actually investigating the complaints, or setting up a review process, he smugly proclaimed an extreme interpretation of the policy that then, very clearly, encouraged the SPOV-pushers. I’ve seen a shift since that time, and this might explain it.
No, if one does research and gets it published in peer-reviewed journals, it is inadequate to shift the Wikipedia balance, because the balance is maintained in the impressions and interpretations of editors, and it’s very well-known that when people have committed themselves to a position (by using language like “charlatan” and “fringe believers” and “crank”) they become resistant to change, and will continue to invent justifications and reasons to continue to believe the same.
Ironically, this is what this faction believes about others, that they are “die-hards” and “pseudoscientific.” If someone calls them “pseudoskeptical” or “pathoskeptic,” they will block or arrange for the person to be blocked, but claims in the other direction are routine and tolerated. Enforcement is biased, creating a long-term pressure away from neutrality.
Wikipedia could be transformed, but what has been created is so highly entrenched that it might take a major event.
I’ve suggested that a new encyclopedia could be created that uses Wikipedia content, routinely, but that creates a filter and process for reviewing it. I’ve suggested that such a site might pay authors and editors, and that it might sell itself as “Wikipedia, but more reliable.” And it would solicit donations, but would also sell advertising, carefully vetted to be reliable, itself, which is quite doable. (The advertising would pay for the writing and editorial work.)
Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If you use volunteers, they work for their own purposes. It can be great, but large human organizations pay management, even when they use many volunteers.
Everipedia looks like an effort in that direction, but it utterly fails to attract me, so far, nor does it look like it could attract the kind of massive use and participation that could take it beyond Wikipedia. The Everipedia article on cold fusion is a fork of the Wikipedia article (so far, what I’d expect, but, then, if I read the article, does it invite me to improve it? If so, I don’t see how or where.)
To succeed, an improved project must present something clearly better than Wikipedia, such that users would have an incentive to look up a topic there rather than on Wikipedia. There are also complications, Google being a major supporter of Wikipedia. But a better product does not have to be better in every way, just in some, and it could flag what has been fact-checked and reviewed for neutrality, for example, and what was merely copied from Wikipedia. (Everipedia may do that, I can’t tell, but Everipedia seems to be focusing on selling access to businesses or people who want to control articles about themselves. Not on setting up an expert review process or other structure that would create reliability.)
It would use Wikipedia’s process to create a level of reliability, and then improve it. It would make comparisons with Wikipedia easy, as an example, so that changes to Wikipedia would be imported as (1) automatic if the fork article has not been validated, or as (2) reviewed, as with the contributions of any non-empowered editor on Wikipedia.
The focus appears to be on how to preserve one of the major weaknesses of Wikipedia, anonymity. That’s a double-edged sword. The new project, if linked to Wikipedia, would already have a way for anonymous editors to contribute: on Wikipedia! It could also allow suggested edits on its own versions.
(Wikipedia could also bring in content the other way, through a process that was used on wikipedia when a banned user created an article elsewhere, and then there was a Request for Comment on importing that (radical change) as a single edit. This is actually a far simpler question than the one-edit at a time process Wikipedia follows: “Is A or B better?” )
It would need to have layers of detail. It could have better editorial review tools than Wikipedia. An example of something missing from Wikipedia is an ability to search history, the entire history of the project or of an article, or of user contributions. Now, you can obtain logs, but they are not generally searchable, except primitively. I do it, but by downloading histories (the logs will not retrieve more than 5000 operations), merging them, and then using search in a text editor or in Excel, and that doesn’t give me the editorial text, only edit summaries.
It is possible to search project full-history XML, but it can be incredibly cumbersome.
Everipedia is not showing signs of being well-designed and implemented. The FAQ I find far too complicated. Wikipedia made it easy and quick for anyone to edit. While “anyone can edit” fell apart to some extent, becoming more like “anyone can waste time trying to improve the project,” that ease of use was crucial to Wikipedia’s initial success. Wikipedia failed not from that, but from failure to establish reliable review process, something that is normally crucial for serious publishers.
Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.
(To assist someone who wanted to study the subject, I set up a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, and it actually attracted some notable scientists. But they did not regularly contribute, nor did they watch the pages. That project was deleted early this year when the skeptical faction extended its reach to Wikiversity. Long story. JzG was involved. They also deleted the Wikiversity resource on cold fusion, all based on the action of a single bureaucrat, not supported by the community. Efforts like that had always failed in the past. But the Wikiversity community that had always supported academic freedom and the inclusive neutrality of Wikiversity as distinct from the exclusive neutrality of Wikipedia (i.e., academic standards rather than encyclopedic) was, as usual, asleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
I rescued those resources. Cold fusion. Parapsychology. Wikiversity showed how resources could be inclusively neutral. (A clearer example, where there would have been, on Wikipedia, or any other single-level wiki, edit warring, is Landmark Education.) Parapsychology was neutral, I’d been very careful to set it up that way. Cold fusion might not have been completely neutral, (I’d written most of it) but it would have taken about five minutes, with no harm being done, to rigorously neutralize it. The Wikiversity cold fusion article was often attacked on Wikipedia, but it was open for editing, and it had not been at all disruptive. Real neutrality is not disruptive, certainly not in itself. Real neutrality, with good-faith participants, can normally find complete consensus, even in the presence of major controversies. Wikipedia never understood this.
If I just want to shoot off my mouth, or to enjoy writing, I’ll start a blog, not start up an account on a wiki. It is far, far easier and, believe me, far more fun. And I can actually obtain funding for it. (Thanks!)
As an example, I know much of the cold fusion research community. Only very small number have ever attempted to edit Wikipedia. Met with entrenched hostility, for the most part, the handful who tried it simply gave up quickly. The field needs funding, and funding is not obtained by writing about cold fusion on Wikipedia. The inefficiency of Wikipedia makes it seriously wasteful.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION, TO BE EDITED AND SUMMARIZED
Dr. Kendrick’s blog came to my attention because I was accused of being Skeptic from Britain. When I looked, it was clear who this was and I have verified the identity through a review of contributions, both on Wikipedia and on RationalWiki, a hangout for “skeptics” who are, much more often, pseudoskeptics.
Dr. Kendrick’s Wikipedia article, and low-carb food plans and related information, in general, were attacked by that faction. It has not been uncommon. The same faction attacks and attempts to suppress “non-mainstream” information in Wikipedia, far more than policy would allow, and often being decades out-of-date.
This page will examine the issues, and hopefully provide some guidance for those who tangle with that faction. Misunderstanding of how Wikipedia works is very common, so perhaps some of that can be cleared up. Continue reading “Malcolm Kendrick”
Simon Derricutt says:
December 7, 2018 at 9:05 am
Abd – I’m glad your demise is not obviously imminent, but I’m also aware of mortality and a limited (and undefined) time left.
Thanks. The awareness of mortality is quite useful, it readily suggests making full use of the facilities of life while they are available. My good friend David French just passed away. To me it was unexpected, but it appears he had been long ago diagnosed with cancer (form not specified) and the medicine that had worked for some years stopped working. I have prostate cancer, that is, I have been diagnosed. It turns out that most men my age, biopsied, have this cancer. Most of these cancers never cause an actual problem, and I did the research and found that, for my condition, “watchful waiting” was as good as any other response.
I encountered, from some, the “surely you want to take that out” idea. However, “taking that out” involves substantial risks, very real, not merely theoretical. When I found how low the risk of dying from prostate cancer actually was, I have only done one thing: I became more strict in a low-carb diet, because there is suspicion that cancer needs insulin for the rapid multiplication that characterizes cancer, and that rapid growth is what allows so many mutations. So far, so good. No symptoms, other than a normal benign enlargement of the prostate, again very normal with age.
And, of course, I see my urologist on a regular basis, I now have had two TRUSP biopsies (first one positive and the second negative) and then one MRI of the prostate, several years ago, and that gave us a baseline image, showing some areas of possible concern. Small, but there. Small enough that the second biopsy missed it. I am quite unlikely to die from prostate cancer. However, I do have a cardiac blockage, another story. So far, no heart attack, but it’s something being watched closely.
I will die from something. So my job now is to live as well as I can. Which is very well indeed!
The 2LoT stuff is actually a problem in technology, and it’s turned out that a friend has a technology that might make it possible whereas the technology I currently have access to is not sufficient. Maybe some data on that in a few more months. The difficulty is not in violating 2LoT, but in making the power output actually usable rather than a few microwatts (or in some cases picowatts).
The devil is in the details, and in harvesting statistical fluctuations. As you know, that is considered impossible.
Reality may be somewhat different than we’d thought.
Indeed. I would say it is always different than what we think, unless we simply “think” as in naming it, without specification beyond that.
Thinking is the manipulation of symbols, which manipulate concepts, and reality is not a concept. Concepts are models, useful or not, never the full truth. I just stated an impossibility, so maybe reality is different! However, my stand, developed to facilitate that “living fully” idea, is that reality is not what I imagine, it is better.
There’s a Feynman lecture [that], in passing, notes that momentum is not conserved in the interaction of two electrons passing each other orthogonally.
If you refer to it specifically, I’ll watch it, assuming it is available. I have “The Very Best of the Feynman Lectures.”
He didn’t specify a way in which that snippet of information could be utilised, but an interesting point is that the momentum is “carried away” in the EM field.
If it is “carried away,” it is conserved. Conservation of energy is global, not local. However, it works locally to a degree, where energy flows across a boundary are restricted.
Problem is, you can’t measure the difference between such a momentum-carrying EM field and one that isn’t carrying momentum. If you can’t measure it, is it real?
Aw, that’s an easy question. “Real” is not defined or confined, so whether it can be measured or not is irrelevant,having no bearing on reality. However, you have an incorporated assumption, using the word “can’t.” That’s a red flag word, showing a belief in impossibility. We all speak and write casually, at least often, but the language we use betrays how we think; I usually assume that there is a meaning behind the choice of words. Until we can measure it — as shown by measuring it! –, something postulated as an explanation is not “scientific,” but it could be “proto-scientific,” i.e., part of the scientific process.
Effects, almost by definition, can be measured. But I have not seen the lecture. If the “effect” truly cannot be measured, asserting it as a fact could be pseudoscientific. The value of such assertions is what?
If momentum is not conserved, then neither is energy. I’m running some tests on this….
The example is not of non-conservation of momentum, but only of the disappearance of momentum from easy measurement. I’ll need to see that video. I agree on the equivalence of those conservation “laws.”
Looks lower-hanging fruit than 2LoT since it’s stuff I can actually make with the tools I have, so 2LoT will need to wait a bit and we’ll see whether I need to redesign in a few months anyway.
Language problems… heat is actually a vector quantity, but the momentum vectors are random and cancel out and so it is regarded as a scalar.
Simon, you get sloppy and it creates confusion for you. What is “heat”? You have confused it with “energy.” Kinetic energy is a vector, yes. Is all energy a vector? Maybe. Maybe the energy of mass is energy moving in a very tight space.
Heat, however, is the sum of the absolute value of kinetic energies in a body. relative the center of mass. That is a sum of scalars, so it is a scalar. I’m not looking up how this is formally defined, though that would be useful. I’m going to go out to the gym and shopping, I’m out of medicine (a beta blocker I take to keep my cardiologist happy), I’ll be back later.
I survived the trip. Thanks, reality!
Maybe that’s part of the problem I’ve found it difficult to explain the underlying principles to other people. May be worth reading https://revolution-green.com/free-energy-by-simon-derricutt/#comment-4221783695 where it may become clearer. Lots of “may” there. There’s a cross-reference there to a currently-accepted mainstream science use of Graphene to convert Brownian motion to output power. Yep, it’s a ratchet that actually works. However, no mention that this violates 2LoT – even with Graphene that can’t be stated.
That was frustrating. The link shows no cross-reference showing what you claim here. I did google graphene and brownian motion and found what may be the reference, specifically work showing brownian motion in graphene sheets. There are then articles that are quite confused on what has been reported. Brownian motion is “perpetual motion.” It varies with temperature. Then the articles jump to a conclusion, a claim not made by the authors. For example, Synopsis: Jiggling Graphene summarizes an article in Physics: “Anomalous Dynamical Behavior of Freestanding Graphene Membranes
M. L. Ackerman, P. Kumar, M. Neek-Amal, P. M. Thibado, F. M. Peeters, and Surendra Singh, Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 126801 (2016), Published September 13, 2016. The summary was written by an editor of physics, not by the paper authors:
The random quivering of graphene membranes could be exploited to generate electricity.
The article abstract:
We report subnanometer, high-bandwidth measurements of the out-of-plane (vertical) motion of atoms in freestanding graphene using scanning tunneling microscopy. By tracking the vertical position over a long time period, a 1000-fold increase in the ability to measure space-time dynamics of atomically thin membranes is achieved over the current state-of-the-art imaging technologies. We observe that the vertical motion of a graphene membrane exhibits rare long-scale excursions characterized by both anomalous mean-squared displacements and Cauchy-Lorentz power law jump distributions.
I was about to report that the editor had made that unwarranted conclusion from the paper. But then I found a mention in the paper:
Properly understood, the random membrane fluctuations can be usefully exploited. For example, energy harvesting from the continuous movement of a massive system is an important application of stochastic nanoresonators .
Is this a “massive system”? Hardly! And reference 24?
 L. Gammaitoni, P. Hanggi, P. Jung, and F. Marchesoni, Stochastic resonance, Rev. Mod. Phys. 70, 223 (1998).
This paper has nothing about energy harvesting. The concept of energy harvesting from noise, i.e., random fluctuations, is very simple, and it doesn’t work. Rectifying AM radio signals to create the power for a primitive radio, I did that as a kid. That is not noise.
It is so hard to find good help . . .
Apparently, someone put that flight of fancy in the article, and the editors did not catch it. If one is going to contradict the Second Law, slipping it into a paper is setting up the editors to display ignorance or inattention. It happens. They miss stuff.
No, what could break the Conformist barrier is an actual experimental demonstration of 2LoT violation, which that paper certainly was not, but not called such. In fact, I’d suggest not even calling it an anomaly. “Behavior of a rectenna.” Get the effect out there, first, before interpreting it. Avoid making the natives restless by attacking their cargo cult science. Had Pons and Fleischmann announced “Heat behavior of palladium deuteride” instead of frikking “nuclear fusion,” we might be twenty years ahead.
A big problem is that if you believe something is impossible then normally you won’t attempt it, and if you do then you’ll probably not do it in the right way anyway.
Yes. That is, if there is a real effect, you have a great possibility of screwing it up, there are millions of ways. Key word here, “believe.” If you believe it is impossible, why would you try it anyway? Nothing better to do? Okay, the DoE was tossing money around, millions of dollars per month, I think. What a waste. That work was premature, rushed, pressured. The rush was because?
It’s hard to find good help!
We know the rules, but can we be totally certain that there are no exceptional circumstances where they don’t apply?
We cannot have rational certainty. We can have what might be called “operational certainty” or “practical certainty,” in which case we would rationally pay little attention to crazy claims.
The EMDrive is obviously impossible, since it violates CoM, yet experimental evidence points to it working.
You can find evidence pointing to anything, if your standards are sufficiently loose. In that old post you cited, it was fun to find reference to the independent tests of Rossi’s Hot Cat, as if that proved something. What it actually proved was what I’m repeating here, it’s hard to find good help. Some of the flaws in that mess were obvious from publication, the most obvious being the lack of a genuine control experiment, that showed the behavior of the device with the same electrical input power as the experimental run. Had that been done, the more subtle error, an error in assigning emissivity to the alumina, would have been found by them. Why didn’t they run a control? Someone told them that this could destroy the heating coils, which was utter nonsense, if it were done right. They believed whoever told them that, and dollars will get you donuts that it was Rossi. That test was not actually independent, and that kind of crap surrounded all of Rossi’s work. He was great at getting “independent scientists” to make phenomenal blunders.
None of this is evidence that the EmDrive doesn’t work. However, until the evidence is clear, far clearer than anything I have seen, I’m very unlikely to accept its reality, particularly as an argument for something else.
The reactive mind dislikes ambiguity, it threatens it, so it wants to find a conclusion, as soon as possible, please. No, not “please,” but “Stat, Dammit!”
I have no problem suspending judgment on countless problems. My job here is not actually to judge, but to live. Nevertheless, I routinely make practical decisions, relying on understandings that may well be defective. However, so what? Again, my job here is not to be right, but to be, to live, to witness. Interpretation is up to the Judge, and that isn’t me.
Going back to Newton’s derivation of CoM in the first place, I can see a loophole where, because of the limited speed of light, the action is not necessarily equal and opposite to the reaction, and this was also noted by Feynman. I can calculate the size of this inequality in various situations, too, using textbook physics.
I’d want to see details, not claims without them. We know that causality breaks down at the quantum physics level, but statistical causality remains. What looks like precise causality to us is averaging many stochastic behaviors. And the 2LoT is like that.
The EMDrive is thus not really impossible, after all, but a better design should be able to produce a much larger (and thus more useful) inequality of action and reaction.
You appear to be assuming that there is a real effect, taking a leap from a failure of an impossibility proof. That does not follow. It is a reasonable principle that “scientific certainty” (i.e., consensus) may be wrong. It does not follow from that principle that it is actually wrong. Betting that it is wrong, is likely a losing bet, more often than not. And certainly that does not establish the opposite. Most advances in science do not flip to the opposite, but to another way, something not anticipated.
Woodward’s Mach-effect drive has experimental evidence, too. We believe it’s impossible because momentum is always conserved. Logically, that belief is misguided.
I’m not sure I’d agree with “logically,” but any belief firmly held is not “logical,” it’s emotional. Who is this “we” who believe in impossibility? A routine assumption is not a belief, if it is known to be an assumption or operating principle, i.e., conditional.
Until I see clear evidence that momentum is not conserved, I will continue to use the principle in understanding physical phenomena. And so will most, I’m sure. It is far too well-established, and I don’t mean “politically successful,” I mean “useful.”
Back to LENR, we have experimental evidence that it actually works.
There is evidence, going back to the original claims. There is “extraordinary evidence,” if that is considered necessary. LENR does not challenge any “laws of physics,” except through blatant misunderstandings and unwarranted assumptions.
Therefore the theory that says it can’t work must be wrong.
Fuzzy. What theory says it can’t work? Basically, what happened is that people made up mechanisms and then showed that the mechanisms they made up would not work. It didn’t help that Pons and Fleischmann royally screwed up with a gamma spectrum, what a mess that was! And then they did not clean up the mess, by clearly acknowledging errors and explaining how they happened. They allowed rushed replications to take place without warning that these were very likely to fail. It was a Perfect Storm in many ways.
In the same way as the stuff I’m working on is because I’ve seen evidence that seems incontrovertible (though small),
What you have shown, Simon, can be considered evidence for your ideas, or it can be considered “possible evidence,” generally unconfirmed. I haven’t seen anything from you, yet, that approaches “incontrovertible.” We would need to get specific for this to be particularly meaningful.
it’s going to take effort to find out how to make it work better and a suspension of belief in “the rules”, and of course a suspension of disbelief in the experimental evidence.
There is a common confusion between evidence and the interpretation of evidence. I recommend believing in what one has actually observed, and the more interpretation involved, the less certainty is appropriate.
“Rules” are highly interpretive. They are never reality, per se. They are models or ideals. What I consider a scientific approach is to
- Suspend belief in everything being tested.
- Design tests to make yourself wrong as to what you are inclined to think.
- However, don’t work in a field unless interested in possibilities there.
- Love reality, as distinct from interpretation. Observation is as close as we get to reality.
- Create interpretations that are inspiring, that’s their utility.
- Attend to measurable results, and report them while distinguishing them from interpretation.
I haven’t stopped trying to think of a way to get LENR working better, just haven’t anything to add yet.
We are working on it, and there has been a major development. It’s not actually new, but somehow escaped much attention until Michael Staker, a metallurgist, gave a presentation at ICCF-21, which impressed McKubre, and McKubre wrote a presentation with Staker based on this idea, given at the Greccio conference this year, and I started to look at it, and KAPOW! Ideas really started flowing. There is coverage of this here under SAV.
Bottom line, almost thirty years of work with palladium deuteride, and most of us had no idea that the normal phases of PdD (alpha and beta) were metastable, not the true stable phases of the alloy. Rather they are more or less degrees of solution of hydrogen isotopes in the metal, the crystal structure is still that of the metal. As metastable states, they do not spontaneously convert to the gamma or delta phases, the crystal structure is too rigid, but … if you can take PdD to a high enough temperature, as the first-found approach, it will anneal into a more stable phase, gamma and/or delta. The gamma phase, which can be expressed as Pd7VacD6-9, “Vac” standing for a vacancy in the Face-Centered Cubic structure of ordinary Pd, and the delta phase, Pd3VacH4, were discovered and published in 1993 by Fukai, hence these are sometimes called “Fukai phases.” Problem is, take PdD up to about 400 C, the deuterium will escape rapidly. So, to keep this from happening, this was done in a diamond anvil press at 5 GPa. When material was so compressed and then heated, the lattice expanded at first, which was known and expected behavior. But then, over three hours, it shrank! When the material was returned to STP, it remained in this condition, and when heated above 400, it lost its hydrogen, but remained with Super Abundant Vacancies. (14% and 25% respectively) (If taken to annealing temperature (about 900 C), they returned to the normal very low vacancy rate Pd structure.
Now, what does this have to do with LENR? Well, with PdD, the FP Heat Effect does not appear until a loading ratio of about 85%. What was special about that loading? One would think that the effect would appear, perhaps at lower rates, at a lower loading! But it did not.
At 85% loading, the gamma phase becomes the more stable phase, that’s what is special. This does not at all guarantee that it will form. However, processes that stress the metal will encourage SAV formation, particularly at the surface. Codeposition may form SAV material ab initio (since it is building structure without an already-established metal lattice). And this, then, opens up a whole realm of experimental possibilities.
There may be something in Mills’ 3.5keV photons that is relevant, even though Mills would deny any connection with LENR. Possibly there’s something in shrunken Hydrogen, though if so it’s almost-certain that this would be a higher energy state and not below-ground. Electron orbitals seem to really be resonances, though again that begs the question of “resonances in what, exactly?”. Smaller multilobed resonances would naturally have a higher energy than ground-state. Maybe that ~3.5keV higher?
Approaching through theory is probably not going to cut the mustard. We need more experimental data. As to your ideas, you have often come up with thought experiments, but they have seemed to me to be “unphysical.” If you start with an observed anomaly, you may have have more success. Most anomalies, by definition, will prove to be misunderstood, not true new discoveries. But it is possible that you could find one, and people like you “maintain the frontiers,” so that others can sit fat and happy in what they believe they know. It’s important that some people think outside the box, and some of these are going to be ungrounded. That’s life.
These various “impossible” things need some solid experimental evidence of higher magnitudes of results before mainstream science will accept them as real.
Instead of worrying about “mainstream science,” understand it. As well, adopt what works from mainstream understanding. The mainstream is properly protected from many crazy ideas, largely by the journal system. Which also has a down side, but not so down that we would be wise to discard it. No, we can work with it, and use it. And we will.
For pretty good reasons science won’t relinquish one well-proven theory or truth until the new one is beyond contention.
Yes, and there are very strong reasons for that. I refer, generally, to “models.” A model does not have to be “truth” to be useful. It merely needs to work. The first step in moving the mainstream is to establish experiment evidence that shows an unmistakable anomaly. If we have a big blinking sign on it saying “HERESY!”, nobody will pay attention! No, the approach can be more like “Help us to understand these results!” People like to be helpful, most of us, at least.
And with this attitude we, ourselves, become open to new ways of thinking, which is modeling the behavior we may want to see in others.
I’m not complaining – that’s just the way the world works and it’s up to someone with a new paradigm to convince the rest of the world by doing it.
If they care. “Convincing others” is a weak motivator. Experiments done with that as a goal, it seems, usually fail to accomplish the goal. They stink of confirmation bias.
Incidentally, for some reason your link to “bizarre particles” doesn’t work. I found the article anyway, and can’t see the difference in the link. Odd….
This was an interesting typo. I generally load a URL and then copy it from the address bar, to avoid too-common typographical errors. In this case, apparently, my selection did not include the last letter, making “.html” into”.htm” which is also often used, so this would look good, but the site did not recognize it. I really appreciate when people point out errors like this. Thanks.
I found more on the graphene/energy story. Thibado’s university has a page promoting the idea: Using the Natural Motion of 2D Materials to Create a New Source of Clean Energy. That’s dated Nov. 21, 2017. There was nothing in the original paper that indicated this. Thibado explains his energy idea here. Is this entirely a thought-experiment? It assumes that energy can be generated by the random motion of the graphene, and there seems to be no awareness that this would be an apparent violation of the 2LoT. What this would do, if I’m correct, is to create a noise signal, not a regular periodic signal. I smell a rat.
Thibado’s group reported producing 10 microwatts of continuous power without loss from a 10 micron by 10 micron sheet of graphene. In a University of Arkansas video, Thibado noted that 20,000 of the microscopic sheets fit on the head of a pin.
Despite observing the effect for fewer than three hours, researchers postulated that the movement would continue forever, which would mean that its ability to create power would be endless. Thibado is presently working with the Naval Research Laboratory to develop a proof of concept for these miniscule generators, positing that they could enable any object powered by room temperature heat to “send, receive, process, and store information.”
From what I have seen, the group did not report producing 10 microwatts. Rather, Thibado, in the video, claims (my emphasis): “one of these 10 micron by 10 micron areas could produce 10 micro watts of power continuously so wouldn’t that be great?”
The idea seems simple. The sheet vibrates. However,it is rippling, and the ripples are random. The illustration in the video shows a periodic vibration. As I understand the situation, the material is moving in many directions, and it will not oscillate like that. Did they look at the stochastic nature of the motion, in deciding to declare this possibility? What happens when one side of the graphene piece approaches the electrode, and the other side, the other electrode (no net voltage, if they are balanced). Absent experimental evidence — which they did not produce, the three hours of observeration, I think, were of the rippling motion, and the concave/convex reversal, not induced power — I expect that the motion would be far more chaotic than shown, and the induced voltage and power substantially lower.
This is being called an “energy breakthough,” but is not yet a breakthrough, unless there is unpublished work. Call me if they actually measure power, dumped into a load.
On the Research Frontiers page, the figure reported for possible power:
Each Levy flight exhibited by an individual ripple measures only 10 nanometers by 10 nanometers, yet could produce 10 picowatts of power. As a result, each of these micro-sized membranes has the potential to produce enough energy to power a wristwatch, and they would never wear out or need charging.
It looks like Thibodo misspoke in the video, and they later corrected it on the Research Frontiers page, but not in the video. Ah, the vast difference between “could” and “reported producing.” It’s even more than the six orders of magnitude between micro- and pico-.
With 10 picowatts, could one power a watch? Looking on-line, a current of 1 microamp may be enough to run a watch, though that is pushing it some. If we imagine a voltage of say, 2 volts, that would be 2 microwatts. So a 10 microwatt power source could probably run a watch. But 1o picowatts, no. I conclude that the “micro” error stood for a while and was there when the “watch” text was added.
There is, by the way, a wristwatch that runs on the heat difference between one’s wrist and the air. That is *heat difference*. The graphene generator idea does not use heat difference, but rather random (Brownian) vibration in a material, doing work on the electrons in the generating wires or surfaces.
The university claims Thibado has a provisional patent on the idea. What I found was this application.
I see no sign of any actual test of energy harvesting, even on a very small scale. In 2017, Thibado was still speculating. Odd paper, that. “We recently discovered that freestanding graphene membranes are in perpetual motion when held at room temperature.” Brownian motion (and what they found is a variation on Brownian motion) is “perpetual motion,” it simply reflects the temperature of the material. The membrane is responding to molecular impacts on it, which are random, as to where they are located, so the material ripples. What they found was occasional flips between concave and convex, involving more carbon atoms. That, again, would be expected, I would think.
In 2018 (March):
Recent emphasis has been placed on scavenging vibrational energy as an alternative to batteries. A notable breakthrough is the discovery that freestanding graphene naturally possesses an intrinsic rippled structure, which can be used to harvest thermal energy from its vibrations.
Ripples in graphene form due to self-compression and the potential energy associated with a ripple as it under goes spontaneous buckling (change of curvature from concave to convex and vice versa) is a double well potential. Here, we discuss the relationship between the energy barrier which separates the two lowest energy configurations to the strain and height of the ripples in freestanding graphene. We then model the ripple curvature inversion dynamic, due to thermal energy using Langevin’s equation. Spontaneous mechanical buckling is the source of the energy that is to be harvested. The mechanical power of the system is calculated and we found that a 10 nm by 10 nm ripple can continuously produce 10 pW. Alternatively, a 10 micron by 10 micron sheet, which is our typical sample size, could yield 10 microwatts, which is more power than a wristwatch battery produces. Furthermore, a typical solar panel produces 100 W/m2, or 1,000 times less power for the same 10 micron by 10 micron area.
I find this appalling. They are tooting their own horn, presenting an unverified possibility, that they imagine, as a real and accessible technology (with “can,” instead of “could,” or “possibly could.” I have yet to find confirmation of their speculation. They here compare a speculative measure of “mechanical power,” which they calculate at 1o pw for a 10 nm ripple. Then they extrapolate this to 1o microns by 10 microns, their “typical sample size,” (a million times larger), and then they compare it with actual power of real devices, for 10 meters by ten meters, another million times larger.
This is a trick: it looks like 10 pw of AC power could be “harvested” from a 10 by 10 nm ripple, as a limit (there would be losses, if it works). What happens if the area of the device is, instead, 10 microns by 10 microns? Would the power be multiplied by the area, or would it be averaged? I don’t see that this has been thought all the way through, and thinking would be inadequate. What actually happens if this is tried?