Speech: Science For Smart People

After a few days of hassling with Final Cut Pro (which I don’t like very much … Adobe Premiere is more user-friendly), I managed to get clear versions of my slides into the video of my speech. So here it is, Science For Smart People, the speech I gave on the low-carb cruise.

Dr. Michael Fox, one of the other speakers on the cruise, told me later he enjoyed the speech very much and thought I should be giving it in medical schools, but was concerned the section about the HERS estrogen trial might needlessly scare women away from taking hormones.  The estrogen women are given today isn’t the same kind used back then.  I asked him to explain on camera, so he did.  I included that interview at the end of the speech.

If you’d like a DVD copy after viewing, you can now order this speech or Big Fat Fiasco (or both) from this page. Since my wife and I are the shipping department, we’ve simplified things by charging a flat $14.99 for either DVD, shipping included, no extra charges for outside the U.S. You can also order both speeches on DVD for $24.99.

(Note to those of you outside the United States: we occasionally receive overseas orders for the Big Fat Fiasco DVD. No need to place that order. If you order the Fat Head international DVD, Big Fat Fiasco is already included as a bonus track.)


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147 thoughts on “Speech: Science For Smart People

  1. Chris

    Hey Tom, your videos are great. I do have one suggestion, I thought of this while watching your previous speech “Big Fat Fiasco”.

    Have you considered, rather than doing the video where we see you in the darkness and the powerpoint to the side, simply making the powerpoint the entire video itself and using the audio as voice over? You can even synchronize the powerpoint to change slides at the same time you did in the real video. I suggest this because with you in the darkness both times, nothing is added to the experience other than you voice and the powerpoint itself…

    And great job both times! I love these!

    It certainly looks that way on YouTube. For some reason, if you watch the DVD on a TV, I show up better.

  2. Elizabeth Mattick

    **APPLAUSE** That was awesome! I now have another video to tell everyone to watch! 😀

    Thank you.

  3. Be

    WELL DONE! What a witty yet informative presentation. YOU make me want to come to the cruise next year. I MIGHT even get up for a 9:30am presentation, but I think you should be the keynote speaker after we have had a few glasses of wine!

    If I have too many glasses of wine, I think I’m a keynote speaker even if I’m not scheduled.

  4. Brian

    I think giving the speech to medical schools is a good idea – journalism schools, too. Maybe you can do a test run at the NY Times.

    Good stuff. Looks like you had a great time.

    It was a blast. Nothing like giving a speech for an intelligent audience and then hanging around with them for a week.

  5. Amy Dungan

    That was great Tom! I’ll definitely be getting a copy of this. Too many people don’t understand how those headlines and conclusions are formed. Bravo!

    That’s what worries me. I have people tell me they’re afraid to eat red meat because it “causes” cancer, and I cringe.

  6. Ricardo

    Hi Tom or to anyone else interested. I was just searching for new videos about Gary Taubes when this line kind of caught my attention. I am not against Gary Taubes or trying to defame him or anything its just i found this video really interesting. Just wondering what everyone thinks thank you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-jbDwkHzlI

    That’s the CarbSane idiot continuing to demonstrate why the “Sane” part of her internet handle is so ironic. She has developed a pathological obsession with Gary Taubes and literally goes all over the internet, searching for anywhere his name is mentioned, and leaves dozens of comments, all the while insisting on remaining anonymous. She’s apparently mortally offended that Gary is actually paid to write books and spells his name Taube$. He tried to engage her in discussion, but she preferred to remain on the attack, so he gave up.

    She began trolling this blog as well, then started lifting pieces of my posts and putting words in my mouth, then criticized me for the words she put in my mouth. I finally blocked her from posting here, along with a couple of people with stalker-like personalities.

  7. Chris

    Hey Tom, your videos are great. I do have one suggestion, I thought of this while watching your previous speech “Big Fat Fiasco”.

    Have you considered, rather than doing the video where we see you in the darkness and the powerpoint to the side, simply making the powerpoint the entire video itself and using the audio as voice over? You can even synchronize the powerpoint to change slides at the same time you did in the real video. I suggest this because with you in the darkness both times, nothing is added to the experience other than you voice and the powerpoint itself…

    And great job both times! I love these!

    It certainly looks that way on YouTube. For some reason, if you watch the DVD on a TV, I show up better.

  8. Elizabeth Mattick

    **APPLAUSE** That was awesome! I now have another video to tell everyone to watch! 😀

    Thank you.

  9. Zachary

    Really good speech, I enjoyed every second of it. You are incredibly well spoken! I’ll share this with everyone I know, and I’ll make sure to buy this and the Big Fat Fiasco speech when I get a chance.

    Thank you.

  10. Be

    WELL DONE! What a witty yet informative presentation. YOU make me want to come to the cruise next year. I MIGHT even get up for a 9:30am presentation, but I think you should be the keynote speaker after we have had a few glasses of wine!

    If I have too many glasses of wine, I think I’m a keynote speaker even if I’m not scheduled.

  11. Katie @ Wellness Mama

    Wonderful as always… I’ll be passing this along! Definitely considering the low-carb cruise next year… sounds like so much fun!

    It’s a great time. I hope you can make it.

  12. Brian

    I think giving the speech to medical schools is a good idea – journalism schools, too. Maybe you can do a test run at the NY Times.

    Good stuff. Looks like you had a great time.

    It was a blast. Nothing like giving a speech for an intelligent audience and then hanging around with them for a week.

  13. Amy Dungan

    That was great Tom! I’ll definitely be getting a copy of this. Too many people don’t understand how those headlines and conclusions are formed. Bravo!

    That’s what worries me. I have people tell me they’re afraid to eat red meat because it “causes” cancer, and I cringe.

  14. Ricardo

    Hi Tom or to anyone else interested. I was just searching for new videos about Gary Taubes when this line kind of caught my attention. I am not against Gary Taubes or trying to defame him or anything its just i found this video really interesting. Just wondering what everyone thinks thank you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-jbDwkHzlI

    That’s the CarbSane idiot continuing to demonstrate why the “Sane” part of her internet handle is so ironic. She has developed a pathological obsession with Gary Taubes and literally goes all over the internet, searching for anywhere his name is mentioned, and leaves dozens of comments, all the while insisting on remaining anonymous. She’s apparently mortally offended that Gary is actually paid to write books and spells his name Taube$. He tried to engage her in discussion, but she preferred to remain on the attack, so he gave up.

    She began trolling this blog as well, then started lifting pieces of my posts and putting words in my mouth, then criticized me for the words she put in my mouth. I finally blocked her from posting here, along with a couple of people with stalker-like personalities.

  15. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    That video should be required viewing for journalists, physicians and patients.

    Thank you. I hope I can finagle my way into giving the presentation for meetings of those groups.

  16. Charlie Shaughnessy

    Wow, this was great! I love all these videos you keep posting. Keep em coming, Tom.

    I got a kick out of the Dr. Oz pwnage. You really pulled it off well this time, I think, haha!

    Dr. Oz appeared in four of the speeches. As he kept popping up on screen again and again, it got funnier and funnier. You’d swear we’d all planned it, but we didn’t.

  17. Zachary

    Really good speech, I enjoyed every second of it. You are incredibly well spoken! I’ll share this with everyone I know, and I’ll make sure to buy this and the Big Fat Fiasco speech when I get a chance.

    Thank you.

  18. Katie @ Wellness Mama

    Wonderful as always… I’ll be passing this along! Definitely considering the low-carb cruise next year… sounds like so much fun!

    It’s a great time. I hope you can make it.

  19. Peggy Cihocki

    This is fabulous. I almost wish I were still teaching science (taught both High school & Middle School at different times in my career) so I could show it to all my classes right at the beginning of the year. You’re entertaining, so they would listen for sure! Then I could move right into the rest of the course knowing they had a good foundation in science methodology–and a tool kit for recognizing bogus science. And they would have learned something valuable about nutrition, too! Of course, it might also disillusion them to learn that not all scientists seek the truth. I believe I’ll send a link to this site to some former colleagues who still are teaching science and also to the health teacher.

    Thank you. I figure if I can use my experience as a comedian to make the speeches entertaining, I’m more likely to get people to pay attention. Then I can sneak in some actual education.

  20. eddie watts

    cannot wait to get home and watch this!

    big fat fiasco i find is more useful at pointing to people now than fathead, simply because it is more recent and i gather you’ve learned a lot since that time.

    when it starts on ancel keys i imagine a lot of people who’d already seen fathead would switch off as going over same stuff again (although i agree you need to di it) which is a shame as there is so much more on the whole speech/presentation.
    also the special features has one of the experts, cannot remember which one, and i’d get someone to watch his part if nothing else. (tall slim guy with curly black hair)
    he gives a one line reasoning as to why low carb is good and high carb not good in humans, although i cannot remember it now as it was 2 weeks ago i saw it.

    That’s correct; by the time I wrote “Big Fat Fiasco,” I’d learned a lot more. If I re-made Fat Head today, it would be a different film.

  21. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    That video should be required viewing for journalists, physicians and patients.

    Thank you. I hope I can finagle my way into giving the presentation for meetings of those groups.

  22. Charlie Shaughnessy

    Wow, this was great! I love all these videos you keep posting. Keep em coming, Tom.

    I got a kick out of the Dr. Oz pwnage. You really pulled it off well this time, I think, haha!

    Dr. Oz appeared in four of the speeches. As he kept popping up on screen again and again, it got funnier and funnier. You’d swear we’d all planned it, but we didn’t.

  23. Peggy Cihocki

    This is fabulous. I almost wish I were still teaching science (taught both High school & Middle School at different times in my career) so I could show it to all my classes right at the beginning of the year. You’re entertaining, so they would listen for sure! Then I could move right into the rest of the course knowing they had a good foundation in science methodology–and a tool kit for recognizing bogus science. And they would have learned something valuable about nutrition, too! Of course, it might also disillusion them to learn that not all scientists seek the truth. I believe I’ll send a link to this site to some former colleagues who still are teaching science and also to the health teacher.

    Thank you. I figure if I can use my experience as a comedian to make the speeches entertaining, I’m more likely to get people to pay attention. Then I can sneak in some actual education.

  24. Linda Schuerholz

    Hi Tom – Great post. I have a question – The hormones that you are discussing – are they bio identical? I have been taking bio identical hormones for over 10 years now and the bi est (estrogen) is in pill form. Do I have an issue? I think I’ll ask my doctor about this (I see her next week). Thanks for your time.

    I believe the brand name for the estrogen-progestin combination they used in the study was Premarin. As Dr. Fox pointed out, many of the women in the study were well past the point of menopause and therefore already had plaque growth. He says that if women start hormone therapy early in menopause, they are less likely to develop plaques.

    Either way, yes, that’s a conversation to have with your doctor.

  25. eddie watts

    cannot wait to get home and watch this!

    big fat fiasco i find is more useful at pointing to people now than fathead, simply because it is more recent and i gather you’ve learned a lot since that time.

    when it starts on ancel keys i imagine a lot of people who’d already seen fathead would switch off as going over same stuff again (although i agree you need to di it) which is a shame as there is so much more on the whole speech/presentation.
    also the special features has one of the experts, cannot remember which one, and i’d get someone to watch his part if nothing else. (tall slim guy with curly black hair)
    he gives a one line reasoning as to why low carb is good and high carb not good in humans, although i cannot remember it now as it was 2 weeks ago i saw it.

    That’s correct; by the time I wrote “Big Fat Fiasco,” I’d learned a lot more. If I re-made Fat Head today, it would be a different film.

  26. Tara96007

    Awesome speech, already I’ve been able to spot some observational studies in the news. Its crazy that they go on these talk/news shows and talk about these as if it’s fact. Between this and Fat Head you’ve really helped changed my ideas about diet and what the “experts” are telling us.

    Thanks 🙂

    I have to admit, back when I was writing for a little health magazine, I didn’t understand the difference either. This stuff ought to be taught in journalism school.

  27. Josh Goguen

    I enjoyed this very much. I’m actually a little jealous of your ability to blend humor with education.

    I seem to recall you have the same ability, but thank you.

  28. Laurie

    Tom, this speech is wonderful. I continue to learn from you, blogs, my fellow scientists (I am one, I sheepishly admit), but I also learn almost the most from comments. The article in the ‘Atlantic’ about Dr Ioannidis you mentioned is illustrative. I read it and was amazed, but I made a point of making sure to read the ‘letters to the editor’ the following issue. The article author was David H. Freedman and he was taken to task by a Dr Schwartz. Atlantic published Dr Schwartz’s letter and also Freedman’s response. The response is here:
    “Robert Schwartz has a right to consider my article inflammatory, but he offers no evidence that any of it is wrong, let alone specious. What’s more, he seems oblivious to the trap that anyone who tries to dismiss John Ioannidis’s work immediately falls into: if we are to maintain such a high regard for prominently published research findings, then we must take Ioannidis work seriously, because they are prominently published; and if his work is negated by methodological flaws, then those same flaws negate most published findings. Ioannidis’s work is in fact frequently cited and even lauded by medical researchers of all stripes, including- contrary to what Schwartz implies-statisticians, with relatively few objections. The medical community should indeed be esteemed for its successes with the disorders Schwartz mentions. Tragically, there would not be space in this entire magazine to list the disorders that continue to plague us.”

    Sounds like a good, healthy debate. I’m sure Dr. Ioannidis has tweaked quite a few egos with his work.

  29. Barbara

    Hi Tom,

    My 10 year old daughter (in 4th grade) has been assigned a “scientific method” project. They have to begin with a question, make an hypothesis, plan and conduct an experiment, make OBSERVATIONS, and collect data, then draw conclusions.

    It is perfect timing since she read the cereal box (yes, we have cereal in our house:() which proclaims itself as “heart healthy”! I was then able to explain about good science and bad science.

    I’m impressed that she’s learning about the scientific method in fourth grade. Their version of making observations, if it’s in that order, must be part of collecting data from the experiment. Either way, you have a future critical thinker on your hands.

  30. Auntie M

    That was fantastic! I’m sending a link for this to my parents, who both take cholesterol meds. My mother is also constantly telling me about how she read about this or that study, then gets a little annoyed when I ask questions. If it’s in print, it must be true.

    I desperately want to go on next year’s cruise, but I’m not sure if I can. I’m on bedrest and am supposed to be out of school until January 3, if things go as planned. I don’t think taking a week off in May (without pay) is going to fly with either my husband or my principal. 🙁

    I hope you make it to the cruise somehow. Great group, great topics, and I know you’d enjoy it.

  31. Linda Schuerholz

    Hi Tom – Great post. I have a question – The hormones that you are discussing – are they bio identical? I have been taking bio identical hormones for over 10 years now and the bi est (estrogen) is in pill form. Do I have an issue? I think I’ll ask my doctor about this (I see her next week). Thanks for your time.

    I believe the brand name for the estrogen-progestin combination they used in the study was Premarin. As Dr. Fox pointed out, many of the women in the study were well past the point of menopause and therefore already had plaque growth. He says that if women start hormone therapy early in menopause, they are less likely to develop plaques.

    Either way, yes, that’s a conversation to have with your doctor.

  32. michael

    Just playing devil’s advocate here. You say, “Your diet can not be lowering the risk of heart disease and raising it at the same time.” Sure it can if high fat raises the risk and low carb lowers the risk. Even if you could not have one without the other, which you certainly can, there are plenty of examples of competing processes in the body. You can turn a cell aging gene off, which extends your life, except it increases your risk of cancer, which shortens your life. You make good points in your presentation, but you might want to reword this part.

    I’d agree that a diet could in theory prevent one disease while encouraging another, but I don’t see how it could be promoting plaque growth (heart disease) and stopping or reversing plaque growth at the same time.

  33. Tara96007

    Awesome speech, already I’ve been able to spot some observational studies in the news. Its crazy that they go on these talk/news shows and talk about these as if it’s fact. Between this and Fat Head you’ve really helped changed my ideas about diet and what the “experts” are telling us.

    Thanks 🙂

    I have to admit, back when I was writing for a little health magazine, I didn’t understand the difference either. This stuff ought to be taught in journalism school.

  34. Marbry

    Very nice. You should give classes to professionals on presenting. 😉 That’s often a problem with people that are very smart and invested in their subject; they’re atrocious at communicating in a straightforward and engaging manner. For instance Dr. Fox at the end, who seems like a very nice fellow, it would have been much easier to focus on what he was saying if he had just varied his tone and pacing a little more.

    A bit like how so many software developers seem to like designing UI’s that have little to do with what the user actually wants to utilize them for.

    You also do a very good job in showing the rather blind faith that the public and apparently much of the medical community puts in published research to be complete and objective. It raises concerns about the ethics for some, and what I suspect for others is not really a conscious effort to deceive, but rather a passive “steering” toward certain conclusions. We are all human after all.

    A good book other readers here may enjoy that I think has a lot of relevance to the subject of misleading figures that you discussed is “How to Lie With Maps” by Mark Monmonier http://www.amazon.com/How-Lie-Maps-Mark-Monmonier/dp/0226534219 . The root problem in both cases being the (deliberate or otherwise) nudging of perception to one’s own end. It is very difficult to separate perception from supported fact for many. In fact with the constant deluge of marketing and advertising that we are besieged with one might argue that we are being trained to accept this deception.

    I appreciate the compliment. Dr. Fox is a soft-spoken type, but he was very engaging during his presentation for the group.

  35. Josh Goguen

    I enjoyed this very much. I’m actually a little jealous of your ability to blend humor with education.

    I seem to recall you have the same ability, but thank you.

  36. Jonas Gunnarsson

    Great speech!

    Will there be a “Scientists are Freakin’ Liars” T-shirt? 🙂

    I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s an idea.

  37. Laurie

    Tom, this speech is wonderful. I continue to learn from you, blogs, my fellow scientists (I am one, I sheepishly admit), but I also learn almost the most from comments. The article in the ‘Atlantic’ about Dr Ioannidis you mentioned is illustrative. I read it and was amazed, but I made a point of making sure to read the ‘letters to the editor’ the following issue. The article author was David H. Freedman and he was taken to task by a Dr Schwartz. Atlantic published Dr Schwartz’s letter and also Freedman’s response. The response is here:
    “Robert Schwartz has a right to consider my article inflammatory, but he offers no evidence that any of it is wrong, let alone specious. What’s more, he seems oblivious to the trap that anyone who tries to dismiss John Ioannidis’s work immediately falls into: if we are to maintain such a high regard for prominently published research findings, then we must take Ioannidis work seriously, because they are prominently published; and if his work is negated by methodological flaws, then those same flaws negate most published findings. Ioannidis’s work is in fact frequently cited and even lauded by medical researchers of all stripes, including- contrary to what Schwartz implies-statisticians, with relatively few objections. The medical community should indeed be esteemed for its successes with the disorders Schwartz mentions. Tragically, there would not be space in this entire magazine to list the disorders that continue to plague us.”

    Sounds like a good, healthy debate. I’m sure Dr. Ioannidis has tweaked quite a few egos with his work.

  38. Barbara

    Hi Tom,

    My 10 year old daughter (in 4th grade) has been assigned a “scientific method” project. They have to begin with a question, make an hypothesis, plan and conduct an experiment, make OBSERVATIONS, and collect data, then draw conclusions.

    It is perfect timing since she read the cereal box (yes, we have cereal in our house:() which proclaims itself as “heart healthy”! I was then able to explain about good science and bad science.

    I’m impressed that she’s learning about the scientific method in fourth grade. Their version of making observations, if it’s in that order, must be part of collecting data from the experiment. Either way, you have a future critical thinker on your hands.

  39. Firebird

    There are people out there like CarbSane that are shills who are paid to go onto websites and create the kind of chaos she does in order to discredit those who have an agenda other than hers (or her bosses — corn refiners?)

    I don’t think she’s a paid antagonist, but her obsession with Gary Taubes is just plain weird. It borders on pathological.

  40. Auntie M

    That was fantastic! I’m sending a link for this to my parents, who both take cholesterol meds. My mother is also constantly telling me about how she read about this or that study, then gets a little annoyed when I ask questions. If it’s in print, it must be true.

    I desperately want to go on next year’s cruise, but I’m not sure if I can. I’m on bedrest and am supposed to be out of school until January 3, if things go as planned. I don’t think taking a week off in May (without pay) is going to fly with either my husband or my principal. 🙁

    I hope you make it to the cruise somehow. Great group, great topics, and I know you’d enjoy it.

  41. michael

    Just playing devil’s advocate here. You say, “Your diet can not be lowering the risk of heart disease and raising it at the same time.” Sure it can if high fat raises the risk and low carb lowers the risk. Even if you could not have one without the other, which you certainly can, there are plenty of examples of competing processes in the body. You can turn a cell aging gene off, which extends your life, except it increases your risk of cancer, which shortens your life. You make good points in your presentation, but you might want to reword this part.

    I’d agree that a diet could in theory prevent one disease while encouraging another, but I don’t see how it could be promoting plaque growth (heart disease) and stopping or reversing plaque growth at the same time.

  42. Marbry

    Very nice. You should give classes to professionals on presenting. 😉 That’s often a problem with people that are very smart and invested in their subject; they’re atrocious at communicating in a straightforward and engaging manner. For instance Dr. Fox at the end, who seems like a very nice fellow, it would have been much easier to focus on what he was saying if he had just varied his tone and pacing a little more.

    A bit like how so many software developers seem to like designing UI’s that have little to do with what the user actually wants to utilize them for.

    You also do a very good job in showing the rather blind faith that the public and apparently much of the medical community puts in published research to be complete and objective. It raises concerns about the ethics for some, and what I suspect for others is not really a conscious effort to deceive, but rather a passive “steering” toward certain conclusions. We are all human after all.

    A good book other readers here may enjoy that I think has a lot of relevance to the subject of misleading figures that you discussed is “How to Lie With Maps” by Mark Monmonier http://www.amazon.com/How-Lie-Maps-Mark-Monmonier/dp/0226534219 . The root problem in both cases being the (deliberate or otherwise) nudging of perception to one’s own end. It is very difficult to separate perception from supported fact for many. In fact with the constant deluge of marketing and advertising that we are besieged with one might argue that we are being trained to accept this deception.

    I appreciate the compliment. Dr. Fox is a soft-spoken type, but he was very engaging during his presentation for the group.

  43. Chris

    I’m so glad that you do all the leg work of tracking down the studies and really explaining how journalists arrive at their “headlines” that regular people, including my former organic grain self, repeat as fact. I haven’t seen Big Fat Fiasco yet because it just came in the mail, and I loaned to my officemate who doubted the changes I learned from fat head until she witnessed me lose 20 lbs in 7 weeks, and more importantly, changed from being pretty crabby all the time to almost sweet. She decided this week to eat chicken sausages for breakfast instead of her HUGE bowl of melon and grapes. So when I got “Fathead” DVD with Big Fat Fiasco, I just loaned it right to her. I won’t see you on a cruise because my husband would be seasick, but we both appreciate the work you are doing and
    how LCHF has made life really good now.

    Nice of you to help educate a friend. I hope she learns something from it.

  44. Jonas Gunnarsson

    Great speech!

    Will there be a “Scientists are Freakin’ Liars” T-shirt? 🙂

    I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s an idea.

Comments are closed.