OT: Nutritional science

I have at various times mentioned Gary Taubes and the scientific initiative he started, NuSi. The relevance to cold fusion is that Taubes was the author of Bad Science, a book which contributed to the cold fusion rejection cascade; so it is ironic that Taubes, later, confronted a series of information cascades. Sometimes his work is thought of as a defense of the Atkins Diet. It is, far more, an indictment of Bad Science in the field of nutrition, and in this case, Taubes is exposing the dark side of public science, whereas with his book on cold fusion he was aligned with it.

Taubes, it is safe for me to say, is not informed on subsequent developments with cold fusion, and appears not to have been thoroughly informed as to developments even before he closed out his book; rather, he mostly focused on the early history, which was, let’s say, quite a mess, with mistakes made on all sides. I intend to engage Taubes when the field is ready. Not quite, not yet. (I have already communicated with him, and he wanted what he wrote to me to be confidential, but I believe, again, I can say that he was friendly, and gave me a fair bit of his time, and he was supportive of my work. The work he is doing with nutrition is extremely important, and I would not want to distract him from it unless the potential value were very high.

Some involved with cold fusion treat Taubes as … let’s say, “not nice.” My experience differs, but I am informed by his later work and his integrity with respect to it, I look back at his cold fusion work and frame it as that of a young, struggling writer, with a family to support and a tendency to put far more work into a project than he’s likely to be paid for. He needed to finish it.

There is a review of Taubes in Beaudette’s excellent book, Excess Heat (2002), page 319 in the 2nd edition. I agree with all or at least most of the criticisms; however, for the other side, he says:

“Taubes contribution was considerable. He did the heavy legwork needed to write the who-struck-John part of the story. Without his book, the history of the saga would have lost much.”

Where comments elsewhere are sufficiently off-topic of a post or page, I will move them here. If some agreement appears, I may update this page. Meanwhile, just a little background on the Atkins diet:

Wikipedia: Atkins diet.

The Atkins diet, also known as the Atkins nutritional approach, is a low-carbohydrate fad diet promoted by Robert Atkins and inspired by a research paper he read in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The paper, titled “Weight Reduction”, was published by Alfred W. Pennington in 1958.[1]

The Atkins diet is classified as a fad diet.[2] There is only weak evidence supporting its effectiveness in helping achieve sustainable weight loss.[3][4]

This is actually an outrageous bias in the lede, which should be rigorously neutral by consensus. A sign of this is the references in the lede; in theory, everything in the lede should be established in the body of the article, and supported there for verification, with no reference being necessary in the lede itself. However, the reality is that editors — including administrators — often are not adequately informed about the topic to understand the difference between neutral coverage and biased coverage, they may easily think that the bias is “factual.” I have not yet checked the references, but it should be fairly easy to find references to Atkins as a “fad diet,” because that is a fairly common opinion. Just as one can find references to cold fusion as “pathological science.” But it is offensive to refer to cold fusion as “pathological science,” because that is reporting, without attribution, an opinion, a judgment. They are claiming “is,” i.e., definition and it is not part of the definition of Atkins that it’s a “fad diet.” Fad is something that happened to the diet, not the diet itself. Notice that the passive “is classified” is used. Classified by whom? Yes, the reference should supply that, but cold fusion is classified as a scientific reality that was improperly rejected. By some. Fact, but certainly not appropriate in the lede of an article on cold fusion!

The issue of where Atkins got the diet from is too much detail for the lede. I’ll see if it is in the article. The “only weak evidence” ignores the massive evidence that Taubes amassed, and that there is even weaker evidence for alternative approaches to weight loss. “Weak,” then, can be misleading the reader. Atkins was a cardiologist. Is that relevant?

When I began following the Atkins approach, over a decade ago, I found general agreement among my own health care practitioners that the approach was effective, and my own experience confirmed that, and what I read — and because my health was at stake, I read extensively — also confirmed it. Yet some of my first edits on Wikipedia were to the article (or a related one) and that is where I discovered, for the first time, that Wikipedia administrators were overworked and underpaid, making snap judgments that did not actually understand the issues. So the notes:

[1] Pennington AW (1958). “Weight reduction”. Journal of the American Medical Association. 166 (17): 2214–2215. ISSN 0002-9955. doi:10.1001/jama.1958.02990170112033. Retrieved 2014-07-14.

Taubes goes into the history of seeing problems with over-consumption of carbohydrates, it’s actually quite old, and with carbohydrate restriction as a useful approach. I’d need to do more research into the history of Atkin’s ideas, but this would belong in the article, not in the lede. It’s hard to find good help.

[2] Thalheimer J (2015). “Ketosis fad diet alert: skip low-carb diets; instead focus on nutrient-rich choices like whole grains, fruits and vegetables”. Environmental Nutrition. 38 (9): 3.

This is not a journal article, Environmental Nutrition is a newsletter. That is why I could not find this article in Google Scholar. The article begins with:

The Ketogenic, Atkins, and South Beach diets. These diets are all examples of the trendy low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating plans that claim you’ll lose lots of weight in little time. If you are eating less than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day, you’re following a ketogenic diet. Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel, so if you aren’t eating enough, your body will create an alternative energy source called ketones. The goal of an extremely low-carb diet is to get your body into this state, called ketosis, which is thought to speed weight loss.

This is all shallow and assumes we know more about nutrition than we do. “Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel,” is established according to what standard? The fact is that most people have never experienced the alternate metabolism, burning fat, when it’s dominant. There are cultures where fat is the basis of the diet, and I have seen how desirable fat was in a third-world country. When I really looked at my own history of food preferences, I realized that my favorite foods were fat or fatty.

There are three basic nutritional pathways: we can burn carbs, fat, or protein. The protein pathway is for emergencies, as an alternative to starvation. It will burn our own protein stores, i.e., muscle, mostly. Very dangerous, but it could save one’s life, after the fat stores have been burned.

Carboyhdrates are generally digested into glucose in the bloodstream. The resulting high levels of glucose are toxic, but … insulin is released which catalyzes the storage of glucose as fat, thus eliminating the toxicity and providing a store of energy for the future. As long as there is sufficient glucose in the food, we will not burn fat. We will burn some at night, when there may be a prolonged reduction.

When one is not eating sufficient glucose to support ongoing activity, the body will shift to burning fat. When it does this, there is a side-effect, the generation of “ketone bodies” in the bloodstream, easily tested in the urine, and Atkins plan followers will often buy and use “Ketostix.” There are two reasons: the first is a confirmation that one is actually eating low-carb, and the second could be to avoid ketone levels rising high enough to be dangerous. “”Ketoacidosis.” I have never heard of this actually happening to someone from following an Atkins plan, but it could happen, I’d think, of someone tried to eat Atkins but also making it low-fat. The objection that Thalheimer makes in this article is a common one among those who have not actually studied the diet and how it affects patients.

Ketosis risks. People on ketogenic diets can lose weight, at least in the short term, although scientists aren’t entirely sure why. It’s thought that production of ketones may help control hunger or improve the breakdown of fat. But there are risks and side effects involved in losing weight this way. Ketones are meant to be an emergency back-up system for your body, not a long-term energy source. They increase the body’s acidity, which can lead to low blood phosphate levels, decreased brain function, and increased risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones. People on ketogenic diets report higher rates of headaches, bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, general weakness, rash, insomnia, and back pain.

He is simply displaying ignorance. First of all, he acknowledges the weight loss. He makes it out as “short term.” That could be based on studies that show return of weight among people that don’t continue the food plan. That should be a no-brainer: go back to the way you were eating that led to the weight gain, and you will regain the weight and maybe even more. Often more.

The behavior is like that of addicts: the problem is considered something that will go away, all it takes is “will power.” This does not work for any addiction. What works is to find alternate ways of living that are even more satisfying than the dysfunctional ways.

He hints at why the Atkins diet may work, but doesn’t realize the full significance, because his thinking is mired in beliefs about the way things are “meant to be.” I.e., high-carb diets. Those are actually quite modern. We are omnivores, we can eat different kinds of foods (though we, unlike ruminants, cannot digest fiber, which is considered a carbohydrate. Fiber intake is excluded from “carb-counting” in Atkins diets.) Which kind of food is “preferred.” That turns out to be culturally sensitive.

He says that “the production of ketones may help control hunger.” This is what I know from my own experience: if I eat fat and protein and fiber, any hunger than I might have is sated. Fat, in particular, is satiating. It is actually difficult to “eat too much.” What I’ve found with long-term low-carb is that this effect declines to some extent, and I am finding that it may be necessary to pay attention to quantity. I eat far less food, as to weight, than I would have been eating were I eating normal carbs (like bread or pasta). I am still finding weight loss to be very slow, and I suspect that the initial appetite suppression is not so effective any more. However, this is remarkable: I don’t actually get “hungry.” So I’m largely eating for pleasure. “Getting hungry”, some think, is largely  a product of being habituated to glucose, from the “insulin crash.”

“People on ketogenic diets” do report the side-effects mentioned. However, many of these side-effects will be reported in any population. “Bad breath” is a symptom of ketosis, and is generally harmless, and ketosis tends to fade as one becomes, long-term, accustomed to the diet. I must be in ketosis, from what I eat, but ketone test strips no longer show it. To be sure, I need to buy some more, mine are expired…. I have fewer of the symptoms than, probably, the general population. I’ve never met anyone for whom the sometime “side effects” have been a deal-breaker. Constipation? Getting enough fiber? Treating constipation also tends to be very simple and effective.

And losing weight isn’t the same thing as gaining health. Cutting carbs from your diet means cutting out (or drastically cutting back on) proven health-promoting foods, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and all of their vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Replacing those carbs on your plate means loading up on protein and fats, so low-carb diets often cause increased consumption of less-healthful red meats and saturated fats.

Of course losing weight is not the same thing as gaining health. It is more of a symptom, (and could also be a sign of some disease process). First of all, he is not distinguishing Atkins “induction phase,” from maintenance, when the diet opens up; his concept of Atkins is just the very low-carb initiation. Long term, the food plan will still restrict “grains,” but the eating of whole-grain products will be encouraged over the highly processed forms. It does mean loading up on fats. Is that healthy or harmful. If he knows the basis for “nutritional science,” he would know how shaky is the evidence on that, and how contrary evidence was largely ignored. Atkins is not a “high protein diet,” this is a common error. It’s high fat. Are “red meats” unhealthy? Again, the evidence? What there is was in cherry-picked epidemiological studies. Are saturated fats unhealthy? The original mantra became that fat was Bad. Then, gradually, it became more sophisticated, but still clung to the Big Fat Lie. The relationship between butter consumption and death rates has been studied. What did those studies find? Does he have any awareness of the science? He’s not showing a sign. Rather, he is an “expert” writing recommendations for others, but not based on actual study, just knee-jerk reactions and ideas.

The bottom line. Carbs are the best way to fuel your body

He assumes that this would be true for everyone, but he cites not one piece of evidence for it. There are effects of habitually fueling your body with carbs, and effects of fueling your body regularly with fat. What are they? What is his definition of “best”? No clue. He assumes the reader will know what he means. If you don’t eat carbs, you won’t get diabetes, or if you have it, the symptoms will tend to abate. That’s been known for almost a hundred years. Does he have any clue?

(I would not consider this article Reliable Source for a scientific topic. It’s just his opinion, this wasn’t peer-reviewed, I’d bet. An editor approved it, but this could never appear in a scientific journal, it’s a popular article. When I saw the reference, I assumed “journal,” and wasted time checking Google Scholar. The guy has papers on ketosis, particularly about it as pathology, but that is almost completely irrelevant to the Atkins diet, which leads to what is commonly called “Benign dietary ketosis.”

Before I move on, has this been discussed on the article Talk page? Years ago, there were extended edit wars on related articles. Yes. Useless, but you can read it.

Citation doesn’t support claim.

This appears to have resulted in an improvement, this study is cited now.  Information has, however, been cherry-picked from the study. Overall, the evidence does not seem conclusive at all. What is reported is synthesis (a common Wikipedia problem: contrary to policy, but Wikipedia also demands that material that is not quoted be paraphrased; this often results in the introduction of an interpretive bias.)

As to the second source now cited on this, there is vandalism in the reference, demonstrating that those who might have edited this article at one time are no longer watching. I edited the article in 2005, it was on my watchlist. I’d have seen the vandalism. But, of course, I’m banned. I proposed and demonstrated a method for banned editors to make useful contributions without complicating ban enforcement. It worked. It was then attacked, probably because Abd proposed it. This resulted in significant damage!

But anyone could fix the vandalism. So I looked for the edit. OMG! Impossible! Here is the edit.

This is not a vandal editor, it’s worse. Doc James was not only an arbitrator, but a good friend of mine. So is that the author’s real name? It’s not given in citations. I still think this was vandalism, but done by a child or young relative of James with access to his computer when he was adding the reference. I’ll let him know. (I’d congratulate the kid on knowing how to type “poo,” and ask him not to do it again! I actually dealt with a user somewhat like this on Wikiversity, as an admin there. He responded and eventually became … a WMF administrator at a ridiculously low age. Good one, too.


The entire gist of the article that the diet is a fad is incorrect has no proper source.

These all went nowhere because Wikipedia structure does not support the stated policies. People who know and understand the topic are often unwelcome as “POV pushers.” People who know how to use Wikipedia dispute resolution structure may get banned if they step on any admin toes. (Admins do not like to see their decisions reversed!). What was called “Wikipedia Rule Number One” is kept for nostalgia, “If a rule prevents you from improving an article, ignore the rule.” People who try that get stomped on, unless their actions are popular with administrators. (In the early days, it worked. What happened? Problems of scale, plus the Iron Law of Oligarchy.)

[3]  Gudzune, KA; Doshi, RS; Mehta, AK; Chaudhry, ZW; Jacobs, DK; Vakil, RM; Lee, CJ; Bleich, SN; Clark, JM (7 April 2015). “Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review.”. Annals of Internal Medicine. 162 (7): 501–12. PMC 4446719 Freely accessible. PMID 25844997. doi:10.7326/M14-2238.

Yes. This is a review of studies that showed that Akins was as effective or sometimes more effective than common “standard” recommendations. None of these are actually conclusive, because of the problems noted.

[4] Harper A Poo; Astrup, A (2004). “Can we advise our obese patients to follow the Atkins diet?”. Obesity Reviews (editorial). 5 (2): 93–94. PMID 15086862. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00137.x. Despite the popularity and apparent success of the Atkins diet, documented scientific evidence in support of its use unfortunately lags behind.

“Poo” is some kind of vandalism. This study asked a practical question for physicians, and assumes that something must be proven before being recommended, which ignores that people have to eat something, low-fat diets was strongly recommended and pushed, and the avoidance of saturated fats is still heavily promoted (I know, because I just went through cardiac rehab, and nutritional advice was pushed that included this), but this was never conclusively established.

I have found that physicians are — sensibly — loath to recommend anything that is not “standard of practice,” even when they know much better. Any patient could die, that’s a standard risk of being alive, and the best advice can fail. If they have recommended standard of practice, they cannot be successfully sued. If they have recommended anything else, they can. To get better advice from doctors, I needed to be pro-active, because, even from the best, the first advice I’d get was standard. So I needed to research the issue and then ask lots of questions, and good doctors would answer the questions honestly. If a doctor didn’t do that, I got a different doctor! I’m responsible for my health, and I need honest advisors.

Now, this is beautiful. From that article’s abstract:

Low-carbohydrate diets have been regarded as fad diets, but recent research questions this view.

This is what happens on Wikipedia with articles on controversies. Instead of building deep content, with the article being a neutral summary of deep content (which is what really happened with most paper encyclopedias), the article becomes patchwork pieces, often promoting some point of view or other, but typically not completely obvious about it, except to someone who actually knows the topic. Instead of seeing “POV pushers” as resources (someone with a POV, a Point of View, can be an excellent POV detector for differing points of view), Wikipedia decided to ban them because they could not, it was believed, be supervised effectively. This is the issue that I attempted to take to the Arbitration Committee. All attempts at Wikipedia reform went down in flames, or at least it was common. The structure became highly inflexible, in the name of flexibility.

How could Wikipedia be a summary? Where would the deep content be?

Wikiversity! Wikiversity was (and generally still is) neutral by inclusion, rather than neutral by exclusion, like Wikipedia. There was a question asked about the topic on that Talk page. Instead of giving the person a place to ask their question, they told the person they were wrong for asking it. It was behavior like this, all too common, that led my choice to abandon Wikipedia. I came to actively dislike too much of the community, and I saw that changes to structure that might stop enabling and encouraging abuse were opposed by an entrenched faction, with too few users realizing the issues, almost everyone just looked at the immediate case, and how it appeared, instead of looking at the structure, and when I pointed to structural defects, it was though that I was blaming the individuals.

When I tried to link the Wikiversity cold fusion resource from the Wikipedia cold fusion article, that was immediately removed, in spite of sister wiki links being normal. The arguments made no sense. Another Wikiversity admin attempted to add the link, it was immediately removed as well.

Yet anyone who attempted to discuss the article on the Talk page was slapped on the wrist. Sometimes the article and talk page were semi-protected to stop this. Nobody was ever told, as far as I recall, that they would be free to discuss the topic on Wikiversity, under the WMF umbrella, with a neutrality policy.

Nor were external links that were obviously useful allowed, again, on arguments that were not actually policy-based. (And that exclusion continues.) Whatever excuses could be dredged up were used. For a few years, lenr-canr.org was globally  blacklisted at the request of a Wikipedia administrator who was actually reprimanded for personally blacklisting it, and there was no legitimate reason for it. Eventually, I requested the lifting of the blacklisting and it was sanely granted, but I was, before the request was granted, I was banned from the topic for “writing too much.” Never mind that the comments there had been made necessary by bull-headed and repetitive argument from that same administrator…. who also was deeply involved in the bans of number of users who had exposed his ignorance. Even when they went about it civilly; indeed, the term “civil POV-pusher” was coined to refer to people like this.

Ah, Favorite Topic.

That review, though it is a bit old, directly questions what is reported in the article as if it were fact, i.e., “fad diet.” It is not difficult to neutrally present all this. Much of this is generic, about low-carb diets, not just Atkins.

My intention in pointing to the Wikipedia article was to point to some resources on Atkins and related diets, but, ah, I got hung up. It often happens when I look at Wikipedia, particularly where I have knowledge of the topic. “Poo” is pretty funny. These things are all over, actually. If vandalism is not immediately caught, it can often last for many years. What this shows is that few are actually reading the references! I remember a reference I caught about Attention Deficit Disorder, I think it was, where something seemed wrong to me about the usage of an article, but I could not find an on-line copy. So I went to a medical library. Sure enough, the article had been misunderstood, which commonly happens with Wikipedia editors, with or without an axe to grind. This is why “convenience copies” are important, when they exist, and that is why the legally hosted copies of articles on lenr-canr.org were useful to link.

The articles were reliable source (not lenr-canr.org). A host of misleading arguments to the contrary, that, by the time I was finished, had become lies, were presented and continued to be presented. They are not only still excluded, but that source for reading such papers, actually recommended in peer-reviewed papers, such as Storms (2010), was not allowed as an external link. Why not? Basically, a faction that includes administrators with a strong point of view, prevented it. And when that was actually confronted, the Arbitration Committee shot the messenger.

I worked for weeks, at one point, to get one single link approved, in the article on Martin Fleischmann. I set up consensus process, and strong consensus did appear, the link was used, and stood for years. It was eventually removed. Weeks of effort, pushing that boulder up the hill. The faction just keeps on and eventually pushes the boulder down the hill, or someone else pushes it, not realizing how much work went into it. The result is that working on Wikipedia can be a huge waste of time, and many long-time users have figured that out. (In theory, it should not be so difficult, but in practice, against an entrenched faction, it is extraordinarily difficult.) In this case, the reference was removed with the entire section containing it with this edit. Looks like nobody noticed. Again, I’d have seen this edit, but, of course, I stopped watching Wikipedia long ago. Heavily discussed content was removed with no reason given, no talk page discussion. The user appears to have an interest in electrochemistry. No user page.

The fact is that adding convenience copies to all or nearly all of the Fleischmann papers cited would be trivial. I only worked heavily on that particular one because, in it, Fleischmann explained their goals in doing what they did, that found an anomalous effect. It is not what is commonly claimed (without evidence, just conjecture).

So, some more links on low-carb diets or Atkins:

The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need to Know (Literally)

This is quite good, though some claims are overstated. Basically, the “as much as you want” is not necessarily true, because if we keep eating beyond natural appetite, we can still consume too much. What is true is that normally, appetite on an HF moderate protein diet will self-regulate. I never, ever feel deprived. But I can still eat too much! When I realize this, that I’m eating out of some kind of habit, and lower how much I eat, I am not left hungry!

They don’t really talk about what makes an Atkins program fail, but they give hints.

I found that I needed to make sure that I always had delicious foods that I would thoroughly enjoy, and I also learned how to create enjoyment. Both. Before I eat anything, I look at it and tell myself how great it’s going to taste. I start to salivate, just thinking about it. I won’t do this with cardboard, no matter how much good I think the fiber will do. I do it with foods that are *normally considered delicious or at least very decent.” And I use spices that I like, etc.

I think most Atkins diet failures (i.e., the people go off the diet and gain the weight back, as they mention) are due to people not having adequate coaching. Just handing someone a brochure isn’t enough. People tend to think of a “diet” as meaning deprivation. You can see claims that the Atkins diet is “boring.” OMG! For me, at least, it’s the opposite! I don’t need to eat a lot. Today, I took a chicken thigh and broiled it lightly, cut it up and tossed it in a pan with some butter and green beans (nuked from frozen in one of those microwaveable packages), and added a TIkka Masala sauce (moderate carb, high fat) and cooked it a little. It was absolutely delicious. I doubt I’ll eat anything else today but, of course, the heavy cream in my morning coffee, which I call “my fuel.” My guess is that I’ll lose a little weight today, maybe. I do the same basic recipe with Brussel sprouts or broccoli florets or asparagus spears. Or I use boneless beef ribs, very fatty and delicious, in this stir-fry.

I tend to eat cashews or almonds as snacks and can easily rack up too much food doing that. I don’t think “too many calories,” but that could be one measure of it.

Atkins Diet Plan Review from WebMd, generally reliable.

This is decent. It includes some “standard of practice” recommendations, like avoiding salt, which is apparently not necessary for anyone without established disease or special conditions. If avoiding salt harms appetite and enjoyment, I’d personally suggest going ahead and eating a salted food. Of course, if you have high blood pressure, all bets are off. Pay attention to your health and your unique needs! One size does not fit all.

My favorite foods as a kid were steak and baked potato with plenty of butter and sour cream. So, now, I rarely eat the potato, but once in a while (every few months, perhaps), I do. Atkins also did, with that butter and sour cream. And the skin, of course, the best part if crispy. (Fat slows down digestion of carbohydrates, apparently, as does fiber, so when I eat carbs, it is often with butter or the like. Coconut oil is fantastic!)

As the article notes, “Does bacon and eggs for breakfast, smoked salmon with cream cheese for lunch, and steak cooked in butter for dinner sound like a weight-loss menu too good to be true? If you love foods like these and aren’t a fan of carrot-filled diets, Atkins may be right for you.”

Bacon and eggs sounds great to me, but I’m a Muslim, so forget the bacon, unless it’s beef bacon or turkey bacon. I sometimes eat eggs with mayonnaise and maybe a little mustard, or with cheese, and stir-fried (fritatta style) with mushrooms or perhaps garlic or whatever I want to put in. Quick and easy, and I always have the ingredients in my refrigerator or on my kitchen shelves.

Smoked salmon with cream cheese? Darn! You mean I have to eat it? Please don’t throw me in the briar patch! Steak cooked in butter? I’m not Jewish, but I’d just skip the butter if I was, and use something kosher and delish, and choose steak with lots of fat (the best kind, and everyone knows that!), maybe just broil it, and not overcooked. The Keyes study that was used to claim Fat is Bad For You excluded France….

How about shrimp, lightly cooked, with some kind of sauce, maybe. Mayo with a little catsup is great (not too much, they put SUGAR in catsup. But don’t run screaming from the room. Atkins dieting need not be fanatic, and a tablespoon of catsup has about 5 g of carbs. Don’t eat too much!) Or I could use Tikka Masala sauce, the one I’ve found has 6 g of carbs in a 2 oz serving. Heh! I probably used twice that much with that chicken! The green beans I included would be 6 grams of carb minus the 3 grams of fiber. If I want a snack, I may eat two olives stuffed with bleu cheese. Less than 2 grams total and delicious.

I could make my own sauces without sugar, but today I’m still under 20 grams. No stress, no worry.

A relatively recent article by Taubes in the New York Times:

(Diet advice that ignores hunger).





Science, pseudoscience, and legal decisions

On my bus trip home from Washington, DC (where I went from Miami), I had plenty of time to read and write comments on E-cat World, where there are many claiming the settlement of the case means that Rossi technology is real. On the other side, here and elsewhere, some are complaining that it is tragic that Rossi v. Darden did not go to trial, because then Rossi would be prevented from “fleecing more sheep,” or the like. Yet all a verdict in that case would have established, almost certainly, was some kind of fraud, on someone’s part, and fraud may have nothing to do with underlying reality. It shows that a judge and/or jury was convinced, which can be a matter of truth, or a matter or skill or lack of skill on the part of attorneys. And then arguments may continue forever.

This is an ECW post that refers to Stanley Meyer. Analogies prove nothing, but provide indications, and there are analogies between Meyer and Rossi. There are also massive signs of pseudoskepticism in the critique of Meyer, and pseudoskepticism is belief, often masquerading as science. Genuine skepticism is essential to science, pseudoskepticism avoids the scientific method. Continue reading “Science, pseudoscience, and legal decisions”

A guiding light: The Guerilla Skeptics

Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia

If you would like to join our project, we would love to have you. Open up a Wikipedia account, friend me on Facebook so I can add you to the Secret Cabal and write to me at GSoWteam@gmail.com

This is behavior that has gotten other users sanctioned on Wikipedia. As Susan Gerbic gains experience, and as experienced users join GSoW, they will exert power, Wikiedia is highly vulnerable to coordinated factions, it is vulnerable even to uncoordinated, ad hoc factions (which is what I confronted, and the evidence — which was clear — was rejected by the Arbitration Committee, and even deleted, later). The problem is Wikipedia decision-making process, which is arcane when conflict is present. Few know how to navigate it. Those who know, on what might be called the “believer side,” will be attacked and sanctioned as “POV-pushers,” but GSoW is pushing a POV, it’s been called “SPOV,” the “Scientific Point of View,” which is a misnomer, because science has no point of view, it is a process that transcends point of view, thus CSICOP, “Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.” Notice: not “Skeptical Investigation,” because science is always skeptical, but not opinionated.

The other side, the “believer side” is disorganized, generally, and uninformed. And then neutral Wikipedians, who may be skeptical but who seek to follow encyclopedia creation process and policy, are considered “believers,” or otherwise as enemies, by the SPOV faction, and may face threats or the reality of sanctions, if they make any mistakes at all, whereas the SPOV users who make mistakes are supported by factional administrators, often the same administrators who push for sanctions or declare and execute them.

I studied all this years ago. The Arbitration Committee majority, my opinion, saw the problem but had no idea how to fix it, and the Committee tended toward black-and-white decisions, implementing retroactive application of new ad hoc policy, that never created precedent. A bureaucratic nightmare in a community that supposedly rejects bureaucracy. So instead of a functional bureaucracy, with responsible bureaucrats, they get ad hoc bureaucracy, disorganized and following no clear policy, such that user could expect community response, i.e., “rule of law,” they get a complete mess which most sane users abandon after they realize what’s going on, leaving behind an increase in those who love to exercise power over others.

All created naturally without intention. So who is responsible?

We are.

Susan Gerbic, in that post, outs some of her members. I would guess with permission. I would hope with permission!

I want to make clear that I consider Arbitration Committee’s past sanctions of those who participated in an “interest group” mailing list to be short-sighted and immature. The problem is not coordination, the problem is a decision-making system that is vulnerable to factional editing. In that environment, there is a motive to create factional communication, and it will happen. It is unavoidable, but most of it will be invisible. It cannot be prevented, and most factions never become visible. GSoW is unusual. In fact, it should be encouraged, with some policy caveats. How to deal with the problem is not necessarily a simple issue, but if it is resolved, Wikipedia would become far more reliable.

So to her members. She gives a list of articles and names members. So here I will associate those with the Wikipedia accounts, if it is clear or likely.

From Gerbic’s post:

December 2015 I announced that GSoW was going to focus on Skeptic Books. We had big goals and worked off this Wikipedia list. This list was envisioned and written by GSoW and during the 6 months we focused on this Book Project we completely expanded this list of over 500 books. 

From the timing, yes, very likely created by a GSoW member.

List of possible members, numbers of edits in parens where small. There are some who edited the page who are general Wikipedians; however, editing the page shows possible interest in the topic. It would take more careful research into the overall editing patterns of the user to confirm or disconfirm possible factional POV, rather than “cabal” affiliation, or the cabal may have some long-term sleepers who become — or were — already Wikipedia editors and who continue.

Being listed here is not, in any way, an allegation of policy violation. Possible policy violations will be considered separately.

2013: NmillercheDaniel Skitt (17), LineJockey (9),, (2) DynamicimanydJoshH21122.109.40.153 (1), (2), Jin-oh Choi (7 edits), LarianLeQuellaOttRider?, Caem586Rjmail98.217.42.67 (1), Your Funny uncle (22), BuboetheratBullRangifer?, KConWiki?, PetertrussellMrBill3JoolzztNorthamerica1000?, Dthomsen8?, Bgwhite?, JourneySarah?, JustAGal?, 

2014: Welsh?, OnlydemiDodafiskarBrainDadProper StrangerNederlandse LeeuwLaurencarr24PCHS-NJROTC?

2015: Gronk Oz188.25.25.155PapaSmirkJollyfisch,,  Neptune’s TridentVaDawn

2016: Topbanana?KrelnikPh250076.174.20.198JulieMay54 is notable in the editors, supported deletion of the article in Articles_for_deletion/Skeptic’s_Library. Susan continues:

 What happened is that GSoW went through a complete turnaround with its training, organization and leadership. It was a massive change that I called GSoW 3.14, because of this we lost our focus on the Skeptic Book Project. 

So I apologize to anyone out there that was expecting great skeptic book pages to be turning out every couple days. The fact is that it takes a very long time to write a Wikipedia page correctly and everyone on my team has busy lives and we are all volunteers after-all.

Yes. She noticed.

Enough with the excuses, lets see what we did turn out. 

Right. We watch with interest.

Several of these books were not done in the last 6 months, but in the last few years. I’m going to include them anyway as they were created by GSoW and well worth some extra attention from our community. 

Tracking the Chupacabra by Ben Radford was created by Nathan Miller in June 2013. 

I Sold my Soul on E-bay by Hemant Mehta re-written by Christine Daley Feb 2014

Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait was created also by Nathan Miller as well as Plait’s other book Death From the Skies

God Sent Me: A Textbook Case on Evolution vs. Creation was a Wikipedia page I wrote after reading a review of the book in a Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The book was written by Jeffery Selman. 

The Psychology of the Psychic written by David Marks was created by April Poff

Paranormality by Richard Wiseman I wrote March 2016

Psychic Blues written by Mark Edward received a brand new page by April Poff

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova was written by Janyce Boynton

Flim-Flam! by James Randi was rewritten in August 2014

Mysterious New Mexico written by Ben Radford was written by April Poff

Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend written by Joshua Blu Buhs received a brand new Wikipedia page from Janyce Boynton

Far far less than was our intention. Yet, each of these pages are strong, well researched pages that our community can be proud of.

And giving us plenty of material to look through for factional editing. Thanks, Susan. Most of this is likely to be decent encyclopedic work, my opinion starting out.

One more thing. What do the numbers look like? How many views have these Wikipedia pages received in the time that GSoW can say they took responsibility of the page?

This number is only a page view count, we can not know if these are unique visitors or how long the viewer stayed on the page. Just raw page views.

As of the writing of this blog on July 31, 2016 they have received

57,016 total views

4,387 in the last 30 days

975 in the last 7 days

Still quite an achievement.

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Compared to what? My top Answer on Quora has about 800,000 page views. One Answer. However, it’s a factual Answer to a silly Question, that’s part of what made it popular, the deadpan literalism, sarcastic or not? That shows what is popular! Susan is demonstrating how to lead a project. My question for her would be if she knows how to turn it over. There are signs in what she writes that maybe not. She’s the leader and that’s that. But this is guesswork on my part.

Her greatest accomplishment so far: doing what she has been doing since 2013, and not being sanctioned.

If you would like to join our project, we would love to have you. Open up a Wikipedia account, friend me on Facebook so I can add you to the Secret Cabal and write to me at GSoWteam@gmail.com

My experience is that many will complain about situations, but few will actually do something. Fewer still will persist. It is the human condition, so far.

My plan here is to, if there is any interest, examine the vast array of linkages now exposed as possibly connected with the “cabal.” So far, I’ve seen nothing that truly violated policy. But I have not looked carefully at that AfD, at the voting there. There has been no seriously controversial editing on the List page, the GSoW work there was mostly unopposed, except for that AfD.

So what about the AfD? The arguments given for deletion were cogent, though it is possible that a consensus solution would be Merge.

The result was keep. LFaraone 05:48, 26 November 2013 (UTC).

This was a classic lazy close. In theory, Wikipedia does not vote. But many administrators treat AfDs as a vote, and just look at what appears to them to be a majority opinion. “Wiki” means “quick,” and these processes often exemplify that. To study an AfD, to consider all the arguments, to assess consensus with a consideration of who might be involved and who might not, would take hours. What Faraone did took minutes. And then, nobody and no faction being seriously offended, he was elected to the Arbitration Committee in 2014. This is adult supervision on Wikipedia:

LFararone, own work:

Very nice, to be sure. I have not reviewed anything else from LFaraone, nor do I plan to. He might be brilliant, it is only in this case that he did not explain his close, when there were real issues involved that remained and are still active, likely. Basically, the notability of the books and authors. And, again, I have not studied the article. Yet.