Archive for the “Random Musings” Category

While I was on the cruise, this YouTube video made a splash. It was hailed as the death of the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis. Take a look:

Several readers emailed to ask what I thought, and I replied that since I hadn’t seen the study itself, I had no opinion yet … although little alarm bells went off in my head when I saw that the researcher being interviewed was Kevin Hall. If the name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he was the lead researcher on a recent study that was reported in the media with headlines like FOR FAT LOSS, LOW-FAT DIETS BEAT LOW-CARB DIETS HANDILY, NEW RESEARCH FINDS.

I wrote about that study in this post. The (ahem) low-carb diet provided 140 grams of carbohydrate per day – including 37 grams per day of sugar.  Yeah, just like Dr. Atkins recommended.  The low-fat diet, meanwhile, was truly a low-fat diet: just 7.7 percent of calories from fat.

Hall responded to that criticism by saying he had to choose a moderate-carb diet to keep protein constant across both diets.  Several readers responded to that response by producing (within minutes) two low-calorie diet plans, one very low-fat, one very-low carb, both with identical protein.  So Hall’s explanation doesn’t hold up.

The diets lasted a whopping six days each (everyone in the study was supposed to do both diets), and the difference in weight loss was a non-significant one-tenth of one pound.

In the full paper, I saw that 19 people completed the sort-of-low-carb diet, but only 17 completed the low-fat diet … and yet the researchers didn’t restrict their comparison to the 17 people who completed both diets, and didn’t provide individual data for any of the dieters. And the paper included this strange paragraph:

The data were analyzed using a repeated-measures mixed model controlling for sex and order effects and are presented as least-squares mean ± SEM. The p values refer to the diet effects and were not corrected for multiple comparisons. One female subject had changes in DXA % body fat data that were not physiological and were clear outliers, so these data were excluded from the analyses.

My impression was that Hall designed the “low fat beats low carb handily” study to get the results he wanted — perhaps assisted by tossing out a data point or two.  Clear outliers, ya know.

Those complaints about his earlier study notwithstanding, if a study is conducted and analyzed honestly, then the data is what the data is. Like I said, I haven’t seen the study he’s explaining in the video. But Dr. Mike Eades took a careful look at the video, screen-capping some of the charts so he could analyze them, and also dug up the abstract. I’d suggest you read his entire post, but here’s the first punchline:

In the video, Hall declares that the study shows there’s no metabolic advantage to a ketogenic diet. Got that? No metabolic advantage. But the title of the abstract is … wait for it … Energy Expenditure Increases Following An Isocaloric Ketogenic Diet in Overweight And Obese Men. And a sentence in the abstract clearly states:

Therefore, an isocaloric ketogenic diet was associated with increased energy expenditure of ~100 kcal/d.

Perhaps it depends on your definition of “advantage,” but that sounds like an advantage to me.

After watching the video and reading Dr. Eades’ post, here’s my opinion of the study: I don’t really care either way. As Paul Jaminet pointed out during a podcast, there are more than a million diet studies in PubMed. You can find almost any result you want. I’ve seen studies in which a lower-carb diet led to more weight loss, even on the same number of calories. This one, for example:

On the 1,800-kcal reduction diet consumed over a 9-week period, diet A contained 104 g carbohydrate/day; diet B, 60 g; diet C, 30 g. The three-man subgroups were matched as closely as possible on the basis of maintenance caloric requirement and percent body weight as fat.

Weight loss, fat loss, and percent weight loss as fat appeared to be inversely related to the level of carbohydrate in the isocaloric, isoprotein diets. No adequate explanation can be given for weight loss differences.

But I’ve also seen studies in which restricting calories led to the same average weight loss whether the diet was low-fat or low-carb. And I suppose if someone did enough digging, he could find a metabolic ward study where people lost more weight on a high-carb diet than a low-carb diet.

Again, I don’t really care. People don’t live in metabolic wards where their food intake is carefully controlled. They live in the real world. And in the real world, people respond to their appetites. For many people, myself included, switching to a low-carb diet resulted in (after years of frustration) losing weight without going hungry.

AHA! THAT MEANS YOU CONSUMED FEWER CALORIES THAN YOU BURNED!

Of course I consumed fewer calories than I burned, you @#$%ing moron! That is always HOW we lose weight. And consuming more calories than we burn is always HOW we gain weight. But as I’ve said many times (and will keep saying until I’m blue in face), HOW we get fat isn’t the same as WHY we get fat.

I tried explaining the difference in this post by pointing out that HOW your toilet overflows (more water entering the bowl than draining out) isn’t the same as WHY your toilet overflows (a clog in the drain pipe). But toilets don’t have appetites, so let’s use (or re-use) a different analogy:

Suppose I have a rather serious alcohol problem that’s affecting my life, and not in a good way. After getting a snootful, I tend to become annoyed by friends and acquaintances who haven’t fully recognized my superior understanding of all things and thus have the gall to disagree with me now and then. So I get in touch to correct their erroneous beliefs and offer strongly-worded advice on how they should fix their lives, careers, diets, social media sites, professional relationships, or whatever – for their own good, of course. As a result, my friendships soon have the life expectancy of a second lieutenant on Iwo Jima.

Waking up with a hangover one afternoon and recognizing the problem may actually be with me instead of everyone else, I vow to limit my drinking to two scotches per day from now on. But no matter how sincere the promise, one drink always leads to another and another and another. Next thing I know, I’m getting punched by strangers in bars for reasons I can’t accurately recall. I curse my lack of discipline and wonder what the @#$% is wrong with me. I really, really, really want to drink less but can’t seem to do it. So I turn to science.

“Why do I drink so @#$%ing much?” I ask the science world.

“Because you’re an alcoholic,” the researchers answer.

“But WHY am I an alcoholic?” I ask.

“Because you drink too much,” the researchers answer.

See the problem? The amount of alcohol I consume only explains HOW I get drunk. It doesn’t explain WHY I get drunk. Because you drink too much isn’t an answer; it’s simply a restatement of the problem.

But now let’s suppose something amazing happens. After making significant changes in my diet, I find my urge to drink has dwindled. I can go out on Saturday night and have two glasses of wine with dinner, then stop. That craving for a third, fourth and tenth drink just isn’t there anymore. (Long-time readers may recognize that this is partly a true story.)  It’s not a character issue, because I’m not resisting an urge.  The urge is gone.

“Why don’t I get rip-roaring drunk every time I drink like I used to?” I ask the science world.

“Because you don’t drink as much as before,” the researchers answer.

“But I used to have this powerful urge to keep drinking, and now I don’t. So it must have something to do with biochemical changes brought on by the new diet.”

“No, no, no,” the researchers reply. “We’ve done studies on this. If we get 20 people drunk for a week by having them knock back 10 scotches per day, then lock them all in a cell and give them two drinks per day for another week, they’re all equally sober at the end of the second week. Doesn’t matter if they’re alcoholics or not, and it doesn’t matter if we feed them chips or cheese while they’re drinking. So obviously the cause of alcoholism is drinking too much, and the cure is to drink less. It’s simple.”

That two-drink-per-day study may exist, and it may have been honestly conducted and analyzed. But I don’t care. It doesn’t tell me diddly about WHY alcoholics drink too much. It also doesn’t explain WHY a change in diet caused my appetite for alcohol to shrink.  Everyone remains equally sober on two drinks per day isn’t useful information for a problem drinker trying to walk past an open bar.

Several studies, including this one, have demonstrated that switching to a low-carb diet causes many people to eat less – even though they’re not counting calories or trying to eat less:

On the low-carbohydrate diet, mean energy intake decreased from 3111 kcal/d to 2164 kcal/d. The mean energy deficit of 1027 kcal/d (median, 737 kcal/d) completely accounted for the weight loss of 1.65 kg in 14 days.

If you spontaneously cut your calories by more than 1,000 per day – and yes, end up consuming fewer calories than you burn as a result – then something very positive has happened to your metabolism.  But I don’t think it’s quite as simple and direct as Fewer Carbs => Less Insulin => More Fat Burning.  Or to state it in reverse, I don’t think getting fat is as simple as More Carbs => More Insulin => More Fat Storage.

This is already getting to be a long post, so I’ll explain why I believe the “alternative hypothesis” needs some revising in my next post.

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Hiya Fatheads,

Well, this Saturday I made a slight shift from being a Fathead, and instead became a Fat Ass. As in Fat Ass 5k.

The Fat Ass is a 5k run/street party that a few folks dreamed up nine years ago while sitting in a local pub. The gist of the idea was, “what kind of race could you do that even people who hate running would like?” Since then, it’s grown to around 3,000 runners and over 1,000 other “Friends of Fat Ass” entries. It’s a huge party that starts Friday night with bands, food, beer, cigars, etc. Not exactly the standard pre-race protocol.

I figured signing up would be a motivator to knock the cobwebs off the running gear from last year, as the Abe’s Army starts in a couple of weeks. I did a couple of short neighborhood runs to prep, so I’m ahead of last year’s efforts.

All the profits go to charity (hence the “Friends of Fat Ass” entries), and they’re hoping the cumulative take for the last nine years is going to tip over $1 million after they total up this year’s numbers!

It starts in front of the old Illinois state capitol, and winds around several blocks of the downtown area. It’s two laps to complete the 5k (that’s 3.1 miles in ‘merican). The streets are closed down for a couple of hours for the event. It looked like this as people started showing up a little after 9 for the 10:00am start.

As things get moving, it’s a pretty good crowd. This is about 3/4 through the first lap, so the crowd is already spread out. The real runners are long gone.

I managed to run (jog) most of the first lap, except for stopping to snap some pictures; then did run/walk splits the second lap. Besides the competitive runners, the not-so-competitive runners, and the walkers, this event has tons of people who are just there to have fun. You see all kinds of costumes, but these were some of my favorites, especially given this event’s moniker!:

Besides a lot of non-traditional running gear and runners, you see lots of other things not normally found in a race. Here’s one of the very first “aid stations”:

i

If you’re going to be pounding granola with marshmallows and chocolate chips to keep your energy up, you’re not going to want to wash it down with some nasty, chemical-laden sports drink, so Rolling Meadows, a local microbrewery, staffed another aid station:

I passed it up for actual water the first lap, then had a taste on the second. There were also giant marshmallows, ice cream, and people throwing donut holes available along the route. Oh yeah, and entertainment. There were probably 8 or 10 music groups playing at various spots around the circuit.

Plus, if you forgot to get a haircut before the big race, there was a station where you could pull over and take care of that!

Guess who else showed up — Elvis Himselvis! The 1975 version. Looks like maybe The King should’ve been lacing up and doing a little running himself.

There was a major traffic backup of runners in front of the shaved ice concession. You just had to run around the lines that formed in front of the various concessions on the route. There were tacos and corn dogs at other stands.

I was surprised to see that contrary to media reports, it turned out that the Illinois legislature actually was in session during the race:

Still no budget, though. Oh well.

Once you’re at the finish, there’s food, beer, munchies, fruit, etc. The one thing of which you don’t want to get between and an other runner is this:

At the end of a good run, the only thing you enjoy more than stopping running is that big bottle of cold water. After that, you hit the other tents. The meal for the participants was pretty good given the pork theme of the event. The chips and bun went in the trash, but the rest was very tasty.

As the run finishes and things move into the afternoon, the crowd starts to grow and the party is on.

The band is just starting to set up, but I’m not sticking around. The Wife and I have other activities for afternoon and evening.

I do stop by to get a picture with the mascot before the long walk back to the car.

Not a bad way to start your Saturday morning.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Greetings Fatheads,

Well, it’s sure been an eventful year in Illinois politics, what with the veto-proof Democratic legislature and the Republican governor putting together a surprise last-minute deal for an honest-to-goodness balanced budget that will get the 100+ billion pension debt paid down over the next ten years, AND address the unfunded state retiree health benefit obligations ($56 B), while knocking down the $5+ billion backlog of bills to vendors dating back over a year now, and simultaneously restoring state services to the indigent, and even finally opening our state museum and public parks again.

PSYCH!

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Man, if you could see the look on your face! Sometimes, I just crack myself up.

Actually the unfunded pension liability rose over $6 billion last year to over $111 billion (in a record up market), retiree health beneficiaries are one year closer to insolvency, and state vendors (including social service NFP’s) are still registering red on the “How Screwed Are We?” meter, but at least according to the budget — …

Oh wait, there is no budget.

I don’t mean a budget for this year. I mean the fiscal year 2015 budget, that started July 1, 2015 and is ending in less than two months. They haven’t finished passing a budget for that. It’s not looking so good for 2016 either.

Not to worry — welfare checks and state worker checks (including the legislators who haven’t passed a law to pay anything) are still going out. Just not the ones for if you, say, sold the state some office supplies; or rent a building to them; or provide care to the mentally disabled. Little stuff like that.

You would be forgiven for thinking that our elected officials, who are demonstrably incapable of discharging even their most basic, simple tasks, are just absolutely useless. You couldn’t be more wrong — they’re much worse than useless.

They may not be able to do things like pass a budget and allocate funds for things like taking care of poor people, funding schools, building roads, and sundry other basics that even libertarians like me understand people now want government to do (not agree, of course, but understand); but that doesn’t mean they aren’t busy.

Sorry. I know I didn’t give you a “Politics!” trigger warning, but that’s not the real point of this post. Here’s the point:

As I confidently predicted here and reiterated here, the bureaucrats have completed their inevitable march to addressing one of the most dangerous health scourges facing our nation…

… yes, after three years, the $100,000 a year, state-employed lick-spittle turds who are being funded by the USDA to get raw milk out of the market apparently wore down the mom-and-pop operators who had to take time off (lose income) every time they (re-)proposed new regulations.

Remember kids — regulators never get you with brains, competence, or results. They always win by exhaustion.

As elaborated in my prior posts, they can’t just make raw milk illegal. When they want to take away something the Bigs (Ag, Pharma, Banking, or in this case Milk) don’t want to have to compete with, they just regulate you to death.

[Here’s the short version if you didn’t read those previous posts:

“after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

‘I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.’

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

‘I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.’

It’s what they do.]

The first posts were after a 2013 hearing. The followup was from 2014. Our betters had to lay in the weeds for over another year, but then they did exactly what I said they’d do. It’s like Gravity.

Right again. Dammit.

So starting in July, when I go to Linda’s farm — where I can always walk around and see the cows my milk comes from, and see the operation, and walk through the barn she milks in, there will be a few other things in place.

For my protection, of course.

Like, she’ll have to get a permit from the insolvent Illinois government. But first,she’ll have to complete an inspection by the incompetent Illinois government. She’ll have to take samples and pay for a lab to test the milk for a few weeks to get the permit, then do regular ongoing tests. Any day anyone buys milk, she’ll have to store a sample of the milk for two weeks. If the department doesn’t like the way her barn looks, they can shut her down until she makes it look nice to them and they re-inspect her. Getting an inspection rescheduled could be difficult as the state doesn’t have a budget, so they can’t hire more inspectors, and even if it did they don’t have any money to pay for more inspectors.

[They can also shut her down if one of her free-ranging egg chickens walks through the milk barn. Hey, it sounds harsh, but you have to be cautious about  the whole “avian flu” thing that used to wipe out whole geographic areas of birds and spread disease until we started safely housing hundreds of thousands of chickens in legal, government approved and inspected warehouses; cutting their beaks off; and force feeding them antibiotics. Hmmm, I may have that backwards.]

Every time I buy a gallon of her delicious “creamy milk” (as The Grandkids call it), she’ll have to write my name, address, and phone number in a log that she has to keep for six months and make available to the egregiously misnamed Department of Public Health. She’ll have to have a placard up (in letters at least 2 inches high) that states:

“”Warning: Milk that is not pasteurized is sold or distributed here. This dairy farm is not inspected routinely by the Illinois Department of Public Health”

Wooooooo. Scary. It’s supposed to be, anyway.

Also, she’ll have to provide me with “Department-approved consumer awareness information.” It will say things like:

“”WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain pathogens that cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly, women who are pregnant and persons with weakened immune systems.”

Plus, it’s now illegal for any raw milk producer to sell yogurt or cheese made with their raw milk, even if they pasteurize it as part of the process. Wouldn’t want any of these folks being able to earn a value-added premium for their products.

One of the last items in the new reg states that the Department can suspend or revoke the dairy farm permit whenever:

“the Department has reason to believe that a public hazard exists”

So since “the Department” is being funded by the USDA, and the USDA’s position is that there is absolutely no such thing as a safe glass of raw milk, somewhere down the line, you can bet “the Department” will determine that they have reason to believe that anyone producing and selling raw milk constitutes a public hazard.

I’ll say it again,

“It’s what they do.”

I feel so much safer.

Tom should be back next week, hopefully with highlights of the Low Carb Cruise. Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Hiya, Fat Heads!

Been awhile since I’ve got to sit in The Big Chair — trying to remember what all these buttons do.

As Tom mentioned, The Middle Son and his amazing girlfriend told The Wife and me a couple of months ago that they where going to get married. We were thrilled. Then they told us where they wanted to get married. Here’s a hint from this post from about a year ago:

I’d been adamant for the last several years that I wasn’t coming back. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. House facing the Gulf (we actually have two houses this time to accommodate all 15 people), The Wife and I doing most of the cooking, everyone else doing most of the cleaning, hanging out on the beach, watching the shrimp boats go out with the dolphins trolling behind them for the freebies that fall out of the nets.

It’s just that we’ve done it several times and I was done. I kept arguing that I didn’t want to have a one destination bucket list. This year, The Wife pointed out that this would be the first time The Grandkids would be able to come, too, and wouldn’t it be great to see them at the ocean for the first time.

n.b., folks — there’s no actual defense against that one.

Yep. Back to Dauphin Island. Turns out there are other things besides “The Grandkids first time” that there’s no defense against. It’s becoming a family joke. One of the folks I work with suggested maybe I should look in to buying a burial plot down there, since that seems to be where I always end up anyway.

It will be a great and joyous time, and it’s coming up fast — the end of this month. Tom and Chareva and their girls are coming, lots of the rest of the family, a few good friends — around forty people or so at last count.

And I’m never going back. This time I mean it (Ha!).

As Tom also mentioned, my responsibilities in preparing for the occasion essentially consist of showing up. This is an approach I mastered early on, and every semester urge the young men in the Economics class where I am a guest speaker to adopt. The key, as I serendipitously discovered with The Wife (who was at the time The Fiancee), is to take a job about 700 miles away shortly after you’ve bamboozled your betrothed into accepting your proposal. So then you essentially can’t be involved in any of the decision-making for the wedding – photographer, venue, dresses, tuxes, food, entertainment, etc., etc., etc.

But, as I explain to them, “guess what — YOU DON’T GET TO MAKE ANY OF THOSE DECISIONS, ANYWAY, because it’s not your day. It’s hers!”

You get the exact same amount of decision-making power, but you don’t get dragged all over to various vendors, shops, and venues, and then have to give your opinion before being told the correct answer. You just have to fly in a couple of days ahead of the wedding, get your tux fitted, do the bachelor party, then show up for the wedding.

It’s a beautiful system. Pass it on.

Anyway, it’s to the point where Spring looks like it may stick around now, and I took a trip out to Linda’s farm last week and thought I’d share some pics. I’ve been dropping in once in awhile to get some eggs, but things just seemed to pop into full season this past week. Here’s the front pasture, really greening up now.

Linda and her sister Kim took the “pick up the old grocery store produce once in awhile and compost it” approach we were doing and really got serious about it. Here’s the current work area, which should be next year’s compost…

… and here’s part of this year’s compost from their efforts last season. There’s another three or four mounds this size off to the side. Black Gold!

Linda’s hedge trimmers/weed eaters have had their annual maintenance and are all primed up for the season.

Here’s Tartar, our cow who’s now given us our third calf after getting out of the “freezer” and into the “breeder” column by surprising us with her first calf a couple of winter ago.

Here’s this year’s calf. It’s a heifer and Linda named her “Tofu.” She got a name because I think we’re planning on keeping her as a breeder also. The Oldest Son has been wanting to get in on a share of a cow, and this will give us two breeders for four families (1/2 a cow each per year, hopefully) instead of three families splitting one cow a year.

Here’s last year’s bull, who will be heading to the freezer in late fall after getting to spend the Spring and Summer on pasture.

Linda’s second set of “bacon” is also coming along nicely.

After three months of maybe being able to get a couple of dozen eggs every other week or so, Linda’s egg layers are in full production mode. I’ve been getting 6 or more dozen a week, and she’s got other customers.

Our next batch of 100 day-old Freedom Ranger chicks arrived via Post Office the first week of April, so these guys have about another week in the coop/brooder until they get moved into the “tractors” on the pasture, where Linda moves them daily and they can get sunshine, organic feed, bugs, new grass and fresh water every day, and generally “express their chicken-ness” until mid-summer. Then The Oldest Son and I show up, bring the Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker out of the barn, and start re-stocking the freezer.

Finally, we’re on the verge of being able to get real milk again. A couple of Linda’s milk cows calved recently, and will have “extra” pretty soon. This one should be having her calf any minute!

So, Spring is finally here and we’re looking forward to this year’s supply of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and milk — knowing and respecting where every bite and drop came from.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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I leave town on Friday for the low-carb cruise.  I’d planned to write one more full post this week, but as usual, I’ve got a lot to wrap up before leaving.

The Older Brother will be taking over the Fat Head chair while I’m gone.  I wasn’t sure he’d be available, since The Middle Son is getting married in a few weeks.  But The Older Brother assured me his main wedding responsibility is to show up on time.

I’ll check comments when I can.  Other than that, I plan to spend my time on the ship relaxing, socializing, reading and sleeping as late as I choose.

See y’all when I get back.  (I’ve lived in the South for six years now, so I believe I’m entitled to use “y’all” without feeling too self-conscious.)

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How’s this for perfect timing? The day after I wrote a post about weenies, Politico.com posted a news item that demonstrates the weenie mentality in action:

In a sign that the nutrition space is as defensive as ever, Nina Teicholz, an author who has publicly criticized the science behind the government’s low-fat dietary advice, was recently bumped from a nutrition science panel after being confirmed by the National Food Policy Conference. The panel instead will include Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education. The event is set to take place in Washington next month.

Teicholz, of course, is the author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, which presents a detailed history of how we ended up with our current dietary advice. So why the heck would she be disinvited from a panel on food policy?

Teicholz said she was disinvited after other panelists said they wouldn’t participate with her.

I see. And who are the other panelists?

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will speak on the panel, along with Barbara Millen, the former chairwoman of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Angie Tagtow, executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Wootan said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work.”

Um … as opposed to CSPI’s dead-on-accurate description of trans fats as safe and coconut oil as dangerous back when they were harassing restaurants and movie theaters into switching to trans fats? Or the USDA’s dead-on-accurate description of cholesterol in eggs as a contributor to heart disease?  (Maybe my memory is getting faulty in my old age … didn’t both organizations have to reverse those positions?)

If Teicholz doesn’t present credible arguments, then the non-weenie approach would be to welcome her onto the panel and point out where she’s wrong. But of course, this isn’t about credibility. It’s about avoiding a debate against a woman who would kick their asses all over the stage.

But hey, that’s part of the weenie mentality: they hate having to debate people who don’t agree with them. That’s why they demand “safe spaces” where they can’t be challenged. That’s why they accuse people who disagree with them of creating a “hostile environment” as a strategy for stifling dissent.  That’s why they’d rather attack the messenger than debate what the messenger has to say.

The Big Question is: if they’re convinced they’re right, why are they so afraid of debate? Why don’t they just stand up and vigorously argue in favor of their positions instead of trying to silence the opposition?

That’s the topic of this post. We’ll be venturing into the political/cultural realm again, so consider this your trigger warning. If you haven’t retreated to your safe space by the beginning of the next paragraph, don’t complain to me if you read something here that annoys you.

Still here? Okay, then.

The brief answer to the “why do weenies hate debates?” question is: their beliefs aren’t based on facts or logic, so they’re scared @#$%less of being challenged by logical people armed with facts … not because we might change their minds (we won’t) but because we might change the minds of other people listening.

Now for the expanded answer.

You may have heard the saying you cannot reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into. Sooner or later, logical people discover that for themselves – because they end up in debates with illogical people and are stunned to see indisputable facts bounce harmlessly off their brains like little rubber bullets. Apparently it’s always been that way. Even Aristotle explained that some people form their beliefs based on logic and facts, while others form their beliefs based on emotions.  Logic and facts have no effect on the emotional thinkers, Aristotle explained.

In a lovely little book titled Explaining Postmodernism, philosophy professor Stephen Hicks wrote about the intellectual heritage of objectivists vs. subjectivists — that is, logical types vs. emotional types.

Objectivism traces its modern roots to the Enlightenment thinkers, most of whom were British: Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes (not British), John Locke and Adam Smith. Their works emphasized rationalism, the scientific method and individual freedom. Thomas Jefferson, to name one stellar example, was deeply influenced by Locke. To quote professor Hicks:

Individualism and science are thus consequences of an epistemology of reason. Individualism applied to politics yields liberal democracy … individualism applied to economics yields free markets and capitalism.

Subjectivism, by contrast, began as reaction against the Enlightenment thinkers — ironically, in part to save religious faith from the onslaught of rationality. Its proponents were mostly German: Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg W.F. Hegel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (not German), Martin Heidegger, and of course Karl Marx. They specifically rejected reason and logic in favor of subjectivism.

Simply put, an objectivist thinks like this: If it’s true, I’ll believe it. A subjectivist, however, thinks like this: If I believe it, it’s true. Or the flipside: If I don’t believe it, it’s not true.  If you’ve ever debated a nitwit subjectivist, you may have had the experience of offering some objectively true fact, only to be treated to a reply of “Well, I just don’t believe that.”  Oh, okay, that settles it, then.

As Hicks explains, objectivists and subjectivists also have very different ideas when it comes to the function of language. Objectivists view words, ideas, logic, debates, etc., as tools we use to discover the truth. But  subjectivists (a.k.a. post-modernists) view language as a weapon to be wielded in the battle for dominance. Therefore, what you say doesn’t have to be true. It merely has to be effective in battle. (There is no “true” after all, except what you believe.)  Or as Hicks summarizes the subjectivist strategy when it comes to words, if you can’t debate your opponent on the facts, change the argument by calling him a racist instead.

Hicks explains these differences in the two mindsets to answer a question he poses near the beginning of the book:

A related puzzle is explaining why postmodernists — particularly among those postmodernists most involved with the practical applications of postmodernist ideas, or putting postmodernist ideas into actual practice in their classrooms and in faculty meetings — are the most likely to be hostile to dissent and debate, the most likely to engage in ad hominem argument and name-calling, the most likely to enact politically-correct authoritarian measures, and the most likely to use anger and rage as argumentative tactics.

Whether it is Stanley Fish calling all opponents of affirmative action bigots and lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan, or whether it is Andrea Dworkin’s male-bashing in the form of calling all heterosexual males rapists, the rhetoric is very often harsh and bitter. So the puzzling question is: Why is it that among the far Left — which has traditionally promoted itself as the only true champion of civility, tolerance, and fair play — that we find those habits least practiced and even denounced?

Hmmm, doesn’t that sound just like college administrators promoting the weenification of students by demanding triggers warnings, safe spaces and speech codes?

Hicks doesn’t claim subjectivists never attempt to cite facts or offer what they consider persuasive arguments.  Of course they will.  Those are verbal weapons they’re happy to wield in battle.  The difference is that they’re just as happy to ignore facts and logic when it suits them. That’s why they cherry-pick their evidence.  They’re not interested in weighing the evidence to reach a conclusion; they’re only interested in selecting the weapons that support their cause.

Look at the vegan zealots who show up here now and then.  They’ll happily post a link to some weak study showing an association between meat and this-or-that disease.  But if I reply with links to studies where the association is exactly the opposite, or point out all the confounding variables, facts and logic become little rubber bullets bouncing off their brains.  Then they’ll yell “murderer!” and (if we’re lucky) go away.

Another lovely little book I’d recommend to anyone who wants to understand the weenie mindset is Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. (Sadly, it’s just as relevant now as when it was written in 1951.)  In a nutshell, here’s how Hoffer describes what he calls true believers:

  • They often have low self-esteem and are typically frustrated with their own lives or the world in general.
  • Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of idealism, identity and certainty.
  • They value the collective more than the individual and believe individuals should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the collective good.
  • They believe that by imposing their beliefs, they can bring about a better future.
  • They can ignore or rationalize away all contrary evidence, as well as logical inconsistencies in their own beliefs.
  • They consider anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs an enemy and want to silence those who disagree.

Here are some direct quotes from Hoffer:

They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident only by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich only by making others poor.

It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy.

The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.

Sounds just like The Anointed, doesn’t it? It also sounds eerily like the loony-left fringe on college campuses.

So of course the weenies want to stifle debate. In their weenified minds, words are not tools we use to discover the truth. Words are weapons, and if other people are allowed to wield those weapons freely, by gosh, the wrong side might win. People in the audience might be swayed to abandon the “correct” position. They might decide The Anointed got it all wrong about saturated fat and cholesterol and salt and red meat and whole grains.  Heck, they might decide The Anointed were wrong about all kinds of things.

That’s why Teicholz was disinvited. It’s also why so many colleges – the supposed centers of free and open inquiry — have become such a joke.

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