Dear Dietitians of South Africa and HPCSA prosecutors —
Take a look at this brief clip from the movie Boogie Nights:
That character, like many in the film, is a doofus. But he nonetheless possesses a capacity Nature provides to (most) humans as a useful form of self-correction: namely, he recognizes when he looks like an @$$hole.
I look like an @$$hole right now!, like guilt, is uncomfortable to experience but also crucial for the well-being of both individuals and society as a whole. When people are devoid of the capacity for guilt, they become sociopaths. When people are devoid of the capacity to recognize I look like an @$$hole right now!, they engage in behaviors that prompt normal people to shake their heads and say, What the @#$% does that @$$hole think he’s doing?!
Dietitians of South Africa and HPCSA prosecutors, you look like @$$holes right now — and not just in your own country. Trust me, countless people around the world are watching your ongoing attempt to prosecute Professor Tim Noakes and saying to themselves (and everyone else), Holy @#$%! Why don’t those @$$holes just accept that they lost and leave the guy alone?
I realize it’s difficult for @$$holes to recognize their own @$$hole behavior — after all, that’s the root of the problem. So I’ll take the opposite approach and explain how people who aren’t @$$holes view this entire sorry episode. You won’t change your minds or behavior, of course, but perhaps you’ll understand why if people recognize you on the street, they stop and whisper to each other, “Hey, look! There’s one of those @$$holes who kept going after Tim Noakes.”
Things people who aren’t @$$holes understand, but you don’t:
1. Nobody should be prosecuted for answering a question tweeted to him by a fan.
I won’t even bother explaining that one.
2. It isn’t necessary to prosecute people who offer contrary dietary advice if they’re actually wrong.
People seek alternative dietary advice for exactly one reason: they want better results than they’ve gotten with other diets. Tim Noakes recommends a diet he believes helps people become leaner and healthier. If he’s wrong, people will discover that for themselves. They’ll flock to the internet to warn others that a low-carb, high-fat diet made them sicker and fatter or whatever.
But of course, that isn’t happening. Instead, people are flocking to the internet to describe how switching to the kind of diet Noakes recommends has changed their lives for the better. That’s how it happens in a marketplace of ideas: bad advice eventually gets squeezed out by advice that actually works. Obviously, that scares the hell out of you.
3. Tim Noakes isn’t your real problem. Results are your real problem.
Yes, I know you want to believe that people are questioning the standard dietary advice because of Tim Noakes. But as much as I applaud his work, he’s not the reason people are turning away from you. They’re turning away from you because they’re not happy with the results of the advice you offer.
Noakes is just one of countless conduits for advice that just flat-out works for many, many people. In an age of nearly unlimited access to information, people who are frustrated with the standard dietary advice are going to seek and find alternative advice.
4. There’s no positive outcome to your continued harassment of Tim Noakes.
You seem to believe that if you keep prosecuting until you get a guilty verdict, people are going to say to themselves, Oh, so Noakes was found guilty this time? Well then, those dietitians must have been right all along. I’m going to go back to the diet they recommend.
No, that isn’t going to happen. You apparently don’t realize it yet, but the days of people simply kowtowing to supposed experts are over. Nassim Nicholas Taleb put it rather nicely in the opening of an essay describing what he calls The Intellectual Yet Idiot:
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
You will not regain any respect by prosecuting Noakes. In fact, the more likely result is that more people will view you the way Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described the medical establishment in his book Doctoring Data:
I feel they are like those highly decorated generals in North Korea with the funny hats. They look splendid and important, but the only point of their existence is to suppress dissent and keep an idiotic regime in place.
Maybe you’ll get your precious guilty verdict this time around. I pray you don’t. But either way, nearly everyone who becomes aware of this ongoing harassment of a principled scientist will see you as a bush-league version of The Spanish Inquisition.
You look like @$$holes right now. Your failure to recognize that makes you your own worst enemies.
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