Let’s talk some more Taubes

Some reacted negatively to my applause for Gary Taubes.

Let’s discuss.

My admiration for Gary Taubes is not about the diet stuff–people are too damn obsessed about nutrition–and always fight about what’s good and bad to eat. I had a physician partner who would always ask me if I was eating healthy–my, my, you mean like a rabbit or a wolf?

My admiration for Taubes is about his analysis of my favorite junkscience subject–epidemiology as practiced by EPA and pubic health researchers. My admiration is best understood if you consider what Taubes says in the small excerpt from his long essay in science on epidemiology in 1995:

“With epidemiology you can tell a little thing from a big thing. What’s very hard to do is to tell a little thing from nothing at all”…journals today are full of studies suggesting that a little risk is not nothing at all. The findings are often touted in press releases by the journals that publish them or by the researchers’ institutions, and newspapers and other media often report the claims uncritically…And so the anxiety pendulum swings at an ever more dizzying rate. “We are fast becoming a nuisance to society,” says [Dimitrios] Trichopoulos. “People don’t take us seriously anymore, and when they do take us seriously, we may unintentionally do more harm than good.” As a solution, epidemiologists interviewed by Science could suggest only that the press become more skeptical of epidemiologic findings, that epidemiologists become more skeptical about their own findings–or both.”

From, Gary Taubes, Epidemiology Faces Its Limits. Science. 269(5221):164-169. July 14, 1995.

Now those of you who would call him a huckster may think his opinions on food and diet things are wrong, but no journalist, in my experience, is more articulate on the issues that energize this web site. NONE. Most important, he stands with us on junk epidemiology.

In fact when I try to get politicians, writers, even scientists to pay attention on the silliness of small association epidemiology, they all get that glazed eye look. They let the junk scientists at the EPA continue. They have no stomach for the fight.

Wanna read a guy who tells the truth about a very important part of scientific inquiry–read this essay by Taubes and don’t judge him because you disagree with his opinions on diets, there isn’t enough evidence on diets to settle the dispute, so do what you want about diets, and belong to whatever church you want, high fat, low fat yadayada:

Taubes G, Epidemiology faces its limits Science 14 July 1995:
Vol. 269 no. 5221 pp. 164-169 Science 14 July 1995: 164-169.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7618077 Sorry, there is a pass in, but that the original.

A good commentary on the epidemiology essay and the continuing violations of good rules of epidemiology by prominent researchers and journals.

http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2004/02/epidemiology-beyond-its-limits.html

AND, of Course,

The Taubes essay on nutrition that summarizes his analyses over the years, he got started with Adkins and other diet issues, and this is the derivative declaration. I agree with it, and I think diets and food fetishes are the product of anxiety and a hope for some magic, but I am an advocate for the theory of the tragedy of life and that there is not much magic, certainly not much in food. I like Italian food, now that’s maybe magic.

Taubes on diets and food fetishes and concerns:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/magazine/16epidemiology-t.html?_r=2&ref=magazine&

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5 responses to “Let’s talk some more Taubes

  1. Taubes is thorough. He is honest. He is well worth a read. He has done the work you would have to do to make sense of complex areas of science. Much of science now is just to get a publication. Good estimates indicate published science claims in the best journals fail to replicate 80 to 90% of the time. THERE REALLY ARE SCIENCE CROOKS. Read that twice. And most often the authors of these papers will not make their data sets public. Trust me science is not science at all. Back to Taubes. He is through and honest.

  2. Taubes says obesity is caused by carbohydrates. Period. Sure, he has said some good things, like calling the indictment of dietary fat as absurd. But he has jumped the shark into never never land.

    • Try reading his books and articles before you comment!

      • He is the only mainstream science writer who has taken a proper stance on the perils of bad small association epidemiology. I think well of him for what he’s written. So you don’t like the diet nutrition stuff? Actually the ongoing hot disputes about what’s good or bad about diets are not very interesting to me–they border on silly. People all worked up about sugar and fat. I am the oldest of ten kids. My mother put the food out and didn’t fret too much for a good reason, the intestine is a non thinking thing, it breaks things down to vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbs and fats. Then the non congnitive liver makes them work without making judgements about good, bad, approved, not. I know that people can live healthy lives with what obsessives call junk food. Food is not my thing, but I like Taubes because he showed some courage in taking on the junk epidmiology industry, people like ascherio and willet.

        I know some healthy eaters who got fat. So should I worry? Today my wife was reading to me from some horse nutrition promotional literature–they were making recommendations that were over the top, just like the health food stores and the diet advocates. I admit I am not interested. When I use a drug and know generally that it has been proven effective in decent testing, with some unfortunate exceptions–when someone hypes a nutrition idea–I lose them right after they tell me how many things it makes right.

      • Scuse me, I didn’t look to see that the reply was to someone else. Please accept my apology. I thought I was looking at a note that said I should read what Taubes has written.

        Obviously that is what makes me a Taubes fan.

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