The reviewer states:
It alarms me that the author of this book has no credentials at all. He seems to just search out other peoples research and then puts it together into what he believes to be true. Perhaps if he were to somehow get a study funded into his nutritional beliefs it might be better then just printing a book which anyone can do.
What we’re really talking about here is legitimacy and it’s a huge problem for alternative health researchers. The above review may be ignorant but its point is not invalid. Be it a fallacy or not, deference to authority and group opinion is necessary in most endeavors in life. It is simply not possible to gather all possible facts and process them all. It is a biological/evolutionary adaptation and it is a valid strategy.
Belittling established institutions or pointing out that credentials don’t make a person’s arguments valid doesn’t actually get us anywhere (no offense to Matt). It’s reactionary and won’t earn respect. More importantly, it doesn’t explain why anyone should shift their trust from one information source to another: specifically from organizations like the American Heart Association and The Harvard School of Public Health to people like Matt Stone. We live in a very successful and advanced society and much of that is due to science. There is a deep level of trust in our scientific institutions and to suddenly challenge that in one field brings up too many questions. Is our scientific community compromised or just getting it wrong? Is there outside influence? What other areas might be compromised? Who can I trust? Do I need to be an expert in everything?
People working in sustainable agriculture have similar issues challenging the established scientific dogma. For them, it raises similar questions. Trust me, the farmer row-cropping 1000 acres of corn and soybeans is not going to respect the “hippie” sustainable farmer.
For me, the question on who to trust is already resolved. Similar to Matt, I have done my own nerding out on nutrition. Unlike most people, I like to understand things at a very complete level. When things don’t make sense to me or seem to contradict, I like to follow up on it. Gary Taubes was the first to challenge my unquestioned trust in the nutritional establishment, and he did it with very cogent and well-stated arguments. But I didn’t just take his word for it.
The problem with established institutions is they don’t have reply to criticisms. Most of what’s out there in alternative health is a waste of time and I understand they cannot be burdened with continuously replying and sifting through a ton of garbage. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is they rely on appeal to authority and ad hominem even for valid counter-arguments. People like me never get to see a full debate. It just looks like the establishment is turning their back, over and over.
The thing is you do not need to be an expert to make a counterargument. You just need to understand some basics about formal logic, statistics, and the rules for conducting experiments according to the scientific method. Anyone that understands these points can clearly see when a “non-expert” is making a counter-argument that is valid. I’m using the term “valid” here in a very specific and formal sense. Once such an argument is made, any established institutions that are promoting a contrary view must answer it. To not do so is to lack integrity.
Anyone who has explored the alternative health world for a while has seen dozens of valid counter-arguments and virtually with response from established institutions. The bottom line is there is no dialogue. There is one unquestioned view and contrary evidence and counter-arguments that point out invalid interpretations of data, incorrectly organized studies, or the like are being ignored, even when they come from credentialed professionals.
My own experience trying to get around this problem was rather educational. I decided to go straight to the horses’ mouth and contacted the U of M School of Epidemiology. For those that don’t know, Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Study is one of linchpins in the belief that we should lower cholesterol and saturated fat intake. The U of M still supports this view despite many valid criticisms.
I was put into contact with Henry Blackburn, who worked on the study and took it over after Keys’ death. He provided me with two things. One was a paper he wrote titled “The Evolution and Culture of Mass Disease”. The other was a recommendation to read The Cholesterol Wars by Daniel Steinberg, a book I ordered for fifty dollars and spent an intense amount of time reading and reviewing.
The paper presents a perfectly viable hypothesis: that modern lifestyles have evolved too rapidly and we are those out of touch with the hunter-gatherer lifestyles we are adapted to. Unfortunately the paper simply states things as fact that are contrary to available information, and it does so without citing references. For example, it states that H-G tribes ate low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat. Really? That’s news to me. Check out the second video in that link at about 30 seconds in and you will clearly see contrary data.
What about Steinberg’s book? Bottom line: no solid evidence. Nothing but specious and circumstantial evidence for a theory that got promoted to national attention in order to save public health. That may have been okay except for two things. First, it’s invalid and irresponsible to base public health recommendations on a supposition. Second, the book contained a couple leads towards alternative theories that were not followed through on. And it’s not a little thing. Different hypothesis for heart disease lead to very different public health recommendations. I was working on my own review of the book until I came across Chris Masterjohn’s, which already states everything I was going to state. There’s too many details there for me to copy here but the end result of all this is I had a complete loss of faith in the nutritional establishment.
That’s a very serious problem. I ended up following my own nutritional beliefs for over a couple years. Like I stated in my first paragraph, subjects like nutrition are just too complex to become an armchair expert. There’s too much information. I thought I was being healthy but I ended up following some pretty bad advice, which is why the point made in the above review is totally valid. I wrecked my health and my body is still recovering. The only person that pulled me out of that mess is Matt Stone.
Matt’s no dumbass. He’s read over 300 books and worked with dozens of clients. He has experience but more importantly he has passion. I’m good with computers not because I went to college but because I had a strong desire to understand how they operate from transistor to operating system. I’m good with programming not because I have a degree, but because I like the beauty and satisfaction of a clean, well-structured program. Matt’s been through the same crap as a lot of us: failed diets, orthorexia, etc., and he decided he was just going to damn well get it straight.
It’s been a long journey for him. I stand behind him because I know his commitment to accurate and useful information goes above any desire to look good, achieve recognition, or make money. His writing style might be fun and provocative but don’t let that fool you. He always supplies cogent and straightforward arguments, and that’s why we respect him. And unlike our established health institutions, I trust his integrity.