All of Jack's Comments + Replies

Undiscriminating Skepticism

Feels like I should tie a bow around this, in memory of old Less Wrong. They got married 6 months ago.

Huh, that sure was an interesting series of comments. Thanks for updating this after so many years and providing a tiny bit of data (and humour).

Link: Biotech Corporate Email Hacked

If you could you might as well just register for the service and use it legally. It's not like any of those biology-as-a-service companies evaluate what their customers synthesize for pathogenicity.

1ChristianKl7yThey might have filters in place that alert them when someone tries to synthesise small pox or the Spanish flu.
Running the numbers: Cryo vs Discount rate

I'd say readers of Less Wrong are at least a standard deviation better off in life expectancy then what you get by just looking at age and sex (consider zip codes, income, race, substance abuse, risk-seeking etc.)

Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014

Hey. You might have had this question answered already but just in case: they don't have housing or dorms. But they do have room and allow you to put up a cot or inflatable mattress and sleep there for the duration.

0Psy-Kosh7yYeah, found that out during the final interview. Sadly, found out several days ago they rejected me, so it's sort of moot now.
Truth: It's Not That Great

Truth-telling seems clearly overrated (by people on Less Wrong but also pretty much everyone else). Truth-telling (by which I mean not just not-lying but going out of your way and sacrificing your mood, reputation or pleasant socializing just to say something true) is largely indistinguishable from "repeating things you heard once to signal how smart or brave or good you are. "

Truth-seeking as in observing and doing experiments to discover the structure of the universe and our society still seems incredibly important (modulo the fact that obviou... (read more)

4RichardKennaway7y"Information gathering" also suggests a stroll in the park, gathering up the information that is just lying around. Getting at the truth is generally harder than that.
Truth: It's Not That Great

What is meant by heretical?

3ChristianKl7yI personally simply copied the wording in the article above and wanted to test whether the claim is true. It seems indeed to be the case that there are a bunch of people who consider the statement about "truth" more heretical than "information".
1RichardKennaway7yI don't know how ChristianKl meant it, but in general it appears to mean either (1) "this idea is so utterly false that it must be strenuously opposed every time it rears its head", or (2) "the crowd say that this idea is so utterly false that it must be opposed every time it rears its head, therefore I shall defiantly proclaim it to demonstrate my superior intellect". The very concept of "heresy" presupposes that arguments are soldiers and disagreement is strife. "Heresy" is a call to war, not a call to truth.
Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014

Chris covered a lot of things. Re getting accepted, I think you'll be okay. You're ahead of where I was and I can tell you're smart. Do the prep work they give you, do some project Euler problems. I don't think you have to do the challenges in Ruby, but knowing at least one language well will help.

If you are accepted I strongly recommend a) Going to SF, not NY. The job market is better and I suspect the instruction is as well. B) If you don't mind too much: stay at App Academy (2016 edit: they no longer allow this). It isn't comfortable but you'll greatly... (read more)

0Psy-Kosh7yHey there, I'm mid application process. (They're having me do the prep work as part of the application). Anyways,,, I'm confused about that. App Academy has housing/dorms? I didn't see anything about that. Or did I misunderstand what you meant?
Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014

Hey Jayson. What's your programming background?

0Jayson_Virissimo7yI've got one year of a CS-program under my belt (so, basically some maths and Java) and am currently teaching myself Ruby via online tutorials.
What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility?

...I think that's misleading. While smokers like and presumably enjoy the relief cigarettes provide from cravings, I doubt that at reflective equilibrium they'd want to be smokers, or would approve of their smoking. When samples of smokers in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia were surveyed, about 90% agreed with the proposition that if they could live their lives again they would not start smoking, and a clear majority (67% to 82%, depending on the country) reported an intention to quit within the next year. In Gallup polls, most US smokers say they b

... (read more)
-2satt7yAlthough I expect that plays a role, I believe the effect is small. Even in 1978, when anti-smoking campaigns were far less intense than in the 1990s & onwards, most smokers in a Gallup poll agreed [http://www.gallup.com/poll/163763/smokers-quit-tried-multiple-times.aspx] that "[a]ll things considered" they'd like to give up smoking, and while there was more agreement in later surveys the increase was gradual (66% in 1978 vs. 74% in 2014). Unfortunately the data for the other attitude-related questions don't reach back as far, although it looks to me like the proportion of smokers answering yes to "Do you consider yourself addicted to cigarettes or not?" has been broadly constant since that time series began in 1990, though the 1990 data point does happen to have the highest proportion answering "No" (graph available further down the page at the previous link). Meanwhile, the proportion answering "No" [http://www.gallup.com/poll/157466/smokers-light-less-ever.aspx] to "If you had to do it over again, would you start smoking or not?" has grown at only a sedate pace (83% in 1991, 88% in 2013). A reference [http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/22/suppl_1/i27.full#xref-ref-14-1] in an anti-smoking journal article by Robert Proctor points the way to some older data from "A Study of Cigarette Smokers' Habits and Attitudes in 1970 [http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=plw56b00&page=2]", a market research survey of "a representative nationwide cross section [http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=plw56b00&page=3]" of adults, prepared by Roper Research Associates for Philip Morris. In that sample [http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=plw56b00&page=15], 23% of smokers said they "have no intention of quitting", whereas 72% responded that they'd either "like to stop smoking" but doubted they would, or that "[i]n all likelihood [they]'ll quit smoking before too long". Another table [http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/
What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility?

As someone who occasionally smokes while not being addicted to it: it is definitely enjoyable for people.

What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility?

Yes, other drugs are not unmitigated evils either. I've heard heroin is a 1000 times better than sex. The fact that it will eventually kill you and likely ruin your family life doesn't change that. I think alcohol and caffeine probably come out on the positive side of the ledger while most don't. But it is hard to say.

What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility?

A lot of industries are going to look really bad if you only score one side of the ledger. Given that a huge number of people continue to smoke and enjoy it, despite knowing the negative implications for their health it seems reasonable to assume that tobacco companies supply the world with a great deal of utility, in addition to the lung cancer.

6satt7yAbsolutely. However. While that's obviously true... ...I think that's misleading. While smokers like and presumably enjoy the relief cigarettes provide from cravings, I doubt that at reflective equilibrium they'd want to be smokers, or would approve of their smoking. When samples of smokers in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia were surveyed [http://www.davidhammond.ca/Old%20Website/Publication%20new/2004%20ITC%20Regret%20-%20NTR%20\(Fong\] .pdf), about 90% agreed with the proposition that if they could live their lives again they would not start smoking, and a clear majority (67% to 82%, depending on the country) reported an intention to quit within the next year. In Gallup polls [http://www.gallup.com/poll/157466/smokers-light-less-ever.aspx], most US smokers say they believe they're addicted to cigarettes, and most say they'd like to give up the habit. The CDC reports [http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/quitting/index.htm] that in 2010, 43% of US adults who usually smoked cigarettes daily actually did stop smoking for multiple days because they were trying to quit. Not true in general. Another paper [http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/15/suppl_3/iii65.full] based on data from that four-country survey tells us that "[a]bout 10% or more of smokers did not believe that smoking causes heart disease. Over 20% and 40% did not believe smoking causes stroke and impotence, respectively." I remain extremely sceptical, not only because of the evidence I summarize above, but also because of economic, philosophical & cognitive considerations of the sort LW likes: * Tobacco manufacturers, in effect, value a life at ~$10k. This is far less than other estimates of the monetary value of a life [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_of_life#Estimates_of_the_value_of_life], at least in developed countries. Is everybody else effectively over-valuing lives, or are tobacco companies effectively under-valuing them? * I can a

Enjoy it? Or want it because they're addicted? What we want and what we enjoy are not guaranteed to be aligned.

8A11AF827yThis would likely be true of many other (hard) drugs if there had been a history of legally selling them instead of nipping their markets in the bud. In fact, this would probably be true of wireheading too if it was practical, and ultimately, orgasmium [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Orgasmium]. Willing to bite that bullet?
Rationalists Are Less Credulous But Better At Taking Ideas Seriously

App Academy was a great decision for me. Though I just started looking for work, I've definitely become a very competent web developer in a short period of time. Speaking of which if anyone in the Bay Area is looking for a Rails or Backbone dev, give me a shout.

I don't know if I agree that my decision to do App Academy had a lot to do with rationalism. 4//40 is a high percentage but a small n and the fact that it was definitely discussed here or at least around the community pretty much means it isn't evidence of much. People in my life I've told about it have all been enthusiastic, even people who are pretty focused on traditional credential-ism.

Polling Thread

Does Patriarchy explain the left tail too?

1Izeinwinter8yYou mean the bit where boys are more likely to get into academic trouble ect? Heck yes. dont mistake patriarchy for a system that actually helps men - it is a social pathology and not kind to either gender. At all. It contains ideas about identity and status that can and will fuck you. The bad boy trying to be cool by blowing of class and acting out against authority didn't come up with that set of behaviors de novo.
Physics grad student: how to build employability in programming & finance

App Academy is live-work in San Francisco: meaning lots of people bring air mattresses and stay in the office and get a gym membership to shower. My understanding is that they are working on making the NYC office live-work as well.

[LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist

This back and forth is delightfully ironic given the micro-reactionary content of Well-Kept Gardens.

[LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist

Also, there is no particular reason why learning that a group's average IQ is a standard deviation lower than you thought before should cause a decrease in your sympathy and empathy for that group. I see no one in that camp saying "How can we use this information to optimize charities?" which is the obvious first question if you care about the people you're talking about. Why would a fact about an innate feature that people can't control shrink your moral circle?! I'm sure there are exceptions, but it is eminently clear reading reactionary blogs just who they care about.

6buybuydandavis8yIf anything, I'd expect it to increase sympathy.
[LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist

The problem isn't the word. If you describe a policy that meets the official definition, but don't use the word people still hate the thing you're talking about and know it is called eugenics.

People actually call things that are less controversial than actual eugenics, "eugenics". E.g. Project Prevention.

5ChrisHallquist8yThe word isn't the whole problem, but this a case where not using the word would be painless and beneficial. "Eugenics" is a problematic word because it's now associated with involuntary sterilization and Nazis. But for some reason, some supporters of voluntary human enhancement will go and use the term for things they support. They can't control whether other people use "eugenics" to attack all kinds of things they don't like, but the least the former group could do is avoid actively aiding the latter group.
[LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist

I would enthusiastically answer yes to both questions. The first is a million dollars for 35 minutes of moderate discomfort. The second signals that I'm both tolerant and confident in my heterosexuality. I don't even have to ponder this.

It gets more interesting as the price comes down and I would have clarifying questions if we wanted to determine the exact level, and the answers would probably be different. I don't know how common my answer is, but I suspect very common among my demographic cohort (white, urban, mid-twenties, of the liberal tribe). A rationalist friend recently gave his price as $200, which would be too low for me.

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity?

That you would say this tells me that your picture of how mainstream science works and the merits of Taubes' critique is even more distorted than I realized.

That was fun, but seriously. I posted it precisely because the nonsense about sat fat causing heart disease is one of Taubes biggest cudgels against nutrition science and it's something many experts are now admitting the medical establishment has been wrong about for decades. I'm confused how you came to a conclusion about Taubes without looking into it. It's probably what he deserves the most credit ... (read more)

1ChrisHallquist8yIt's possible Taubes is right about saturated fat, but he's sufficiently unreliable on other issues that I wouldn't trust a word he says about saturated fat. And yes, this matters, because prior to this series Taubes was who everyone was citing [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jdx/critiquing_gary_taubes_part_4_what_causes_obesity/a9i6] for the "look how horribly wrong mainstream nutrition science is" claim.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity?

Not "unfair" just not relevant to whether or not he is essentially right.

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity?

You quotes from mainstream sources certainly indicate that the nutrition science community is familiar with the diverse factors that can lead to obesity-- but that's not surprising and wouldn't be surprising to Taubes. The issue has never been that the mainstream refuses to recognize that heredity, medications, hormones and altered metabolism can contribute to individuals being overweight. The issue is that these facts contribute almost nothing to the medical and nutrition authorities response to individuals trying to lose weight or to the world's growing... (read more)

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity?

The CDC diet and nutrition website at this very moment says:

Diets high in saturated fat have been linked to chronic disease, specifically, coronary heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend consuming less than 10% of daily calories as saturated fat.

6private_messaging8yTo provide the context for those unfamiliar with Taubes' views on the polyunsaturated and saturated fats: (Since most dietary fats are a mix of saturated and polyunsaturated fats, the layman accessible advice would be to cut down on fats, and on the other side, Taubes has to proclaim both to be ok).
0Eliezer Yudkowsky8yKeeping in mind that 'saturated fat' is not fat with extra fat, it is the fat which doesn't have chemically unstable double-carbon bonds. I wonder how much of this idiocy is just because of 'saturated fat' sounding like fat with extra fat in it, and 'polyunsaturated fat' not being called 'poly-unstable reactive fat'.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

There is meaningful disagreement between those positions, but none of them dispute conservation of energy.

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar?

No. I'm taking issue with his misrepresentations of what they were saying.

I don't see outright misrepresentations. I see a focus on what Taubes thinks they did wrong.

Agreed. So why are you defending him?

Because everyone fails Less Wrong's standards for argument and discussion. Everyone here could spend 24 hours a day pointing out dark epistemology in the writings of public intellectuals and we would always have more work to do. If you're going to target a particular person it doesn't seem worthwhile unless the central content of the persons's work ... (read more)

2Douglas_Knight8yIt's not just a matter of singling out that source, but of singling out a claim. Many people complain that these posts are not representative of Taubes's work, that Taubes says little about sugar and lots of about general carbohydrates and fat. But they are representative of Eliezer, who talks only of sugar and not of fat. He makes the specific error of claiming that dietary scientists praised sugar. Going by Chris's quotes, Taubes does not make that error.
-2hyporational8yWould you mind tackling some of these questions [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jdw/critiquing_gary_taubes_part_1_mainstream/a8ze]? Please inform me if they're below your standards.

Because everyone fails Less Wrong's standards for argument and discussion...

Let me put it this way: if I found distortions as bad as Taubes' in an article or book I'd previously been citing or recommending to people, I'd stop citing and recommending it.

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar?

Case in point: I recently won a $500 bet about whether or not refined sugar was at the base of the food pyramid.

So that's an interesting data point. If this is a common view among paleo/low-carb people than I would certainly agree that Taubes is to blame.

Sure, but its the focus of this particular less wrong thread. Throughout the book, Taubes style is to present his information as outside of the mainstream when much of the time, its right in line with the mainstream.

I didn't get this impression about his position on sugar from his books. Never thoug... (read more)

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar?

Taubes actually agrees with mainstream nutrition on this, but misleads his reader into thinking the opposite.

I think that a) Taubes probably wants a more aggressive anti-sugar stance than, say, the government has taken. And b) his readers aren't actually being misled-- they know what the mainstream dieting advice has been.

To be fair to Taubes, I think its largely a ploy to sell books (everyone wants the secret information, not the standard), and if people find it useful to absorb that message, more power to them.

Sugar is one chapter in his first b... (read more)

7EHeller8yI think this is where you disagree with the main post (and with me). I know several people who have read Taubes that have no idea what the main stream nutrition advice is (they are steeped in paleo blogs that paint a very dismissive straw man of mainstream nutrition). Case in point: I recently won a $500 bet about whether or not refined sugar was at the base of the food pyramid. Sure, but its the focus of this particular less wrong thread. Throughout the book, Taubes style is to present his information as outside of the mainstream when much of the time, its right in line with the mainstream. Then what was bad about it?
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Although you claim that it was done simply to "to explain to you why I'm not going to debate the subject with you," you said nothing about that in your earlier post.

Back one more post:

And precisely how I might disagree with those definitions isn't important since you and I aren't going to have an extended conversation about this. If you're curious you can read the discussion I'll have with Chris.

I was trying to be polite...

I will -- it's pretty obvious why you keep trying to shift the exchange away from your earlier claim about the clari

... (read more)
-6brazil848y
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar?

Taubes is critical of the government for failing to say or do more about sugar. You seem to take issue with the fact that he doesn't give mainstream nutrition authorities props when they don't screw something up. Yes, I suppose the FDA could have encouraged people to consume more high fructose corn syrup and good on the government for not doing that. Taubes is a polemicist. He's taking a side in a debate. He is not a rationalist-- and he is using arguments as soldiers. He's also constrained by popular science book length limit.

I'm sure the direct content ... (read more)

Taubes is critical of the government for failing to say or do more about sugar.

Except he doesn't even acknowledge what they did say about sugar, and portrays their recommendations as a mirror image of the Atkins diet.

You seem to take issue with the fact that he doesn't give mainstream nutrition authorities props when they don't screw something up.

No. I'm taking issue with his misrepresentations of what they were saying.

Taubes is a polemicist. He's taking a side in a debate. He is not a rationalist-- and he is using arguments as soldiers.

Agreed... (read more)

I think the point is that the mainstream nutrition is just as against refined sugar as it is fats (they are in the same area in the pyramid). Taubes actually agrees with mainstream nutrition on this, but misleads his reader into thinking the opposite. Taubes and mainstream nutrition largely AGREE, but Taubes paints himself as a contrarian. To be fair to Taubes, I think its largely a ploy to sell books (everyone wants the secret information, not the standard), and if people find it useful to absorb that message, more power to them.

As an anecdote, when ... (read more)

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

An ad homenim is an attempt to tarnish a person's position by criticizing the person. I'm not doing that at all and if anyone else is unable to a definition by googling they can ask me and I'll point that in the right direction. I brought up my opinion on you as a poster to explain to you why I'm not going to debate the subject with you.

But by all means, take my response as a concession. You're victorious and have successfully show Gary Taubes position to be unclear.

9Douglas_Knight8yI have on many occasions, including this one, googled "refined carbohydrate" and I am not convinced that I have found anyone who means anything by it, let alone that a significant number of people mean the same thing by it. Added: no, a lot of people do mean something: they mean "carbohydrate."
-3brazil848yWell you have certainly criticized me. Although you claim that it was done simply to "to explain to you why I'm not going to debate the subject with you," you said nothing about that in your earlier post. Here's what you said: Besides your nasty tone, there was nothing in there about it being an explanation for why you did not want to have a discussion with me. I will -- it's pretty obvious why you keep trying to shift the exchange away from your earlier claim about the clarity of Taubes' position. By the way, it's fascinating that you perceive a simple request for a definition as "debate." I haven't yet disputed that you have accurately summarized Taubes' position.
6brazil848yIn the time it took you to compose this thinly-veiled ad homenim attack, you could have easily Googled, cut, pasted, and linked this definition which is supposedly so easy to find. But instead, you prefer to change the subject from the definition of "refined carbohydrate" to my merit as a poster.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

So I don't take the weight gains from a high-carb diet to be directly analogous to a diabetic injecting insulin. Mainly, I'm talking about artificial insulin injection here just as a simply rebuttal to the notion that weight gain/loss is entirely about eating too much/ not exercising enough. People naturally tend to underestimate how much biochemistry influences decisions, mood and personality. It's a product of lingering Cartesian mythology.

That said, most of what I've seen on insulin and leptin resistance emphasizes peak insulin level in the minutes to ... (read more)

2Raoul8yThen it's a good example, and I'm with you that your weight is determined by more than whether you have the willpower to say "today I'm going to exercise and not eat too much". (Though most researchers probably agree with Taubes on this: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2013/01/comment-in-nature.html [http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2013/01/comment-in-nature.html] .) I think Stephan on Whole Health Source does a good job of refuting Taubes' claims on the particular importance of insulin resulting from carbohydrate consumption (I can't remember specific posts, but I think there are several others in addition to the one Chris linked to), but it might be that I would think otherwise if I were a bit more knowledgeable. He had some sort of falling out with Taubes at some point, and, like Taubes, he has a theory about what causes obesity ( http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/11/brief-response-to-taubess-food-rewad.html [http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/11/brief-response-to-taubess-food-rewad.html] ) and is presumably disproportionately likely to interpret evidence in ways that support his theory.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

I don't think weight gain from insulin treatment has anything to do with the diet and exercise decisions people make. Obviously, as a matter of fact they take in more calories than they burn.

2hyporational8yI think you're correct, but I'm not sure how this translates to low carb dieting. You can make any healthy person eat too much if you give them insulin. Give them enough, and they will die if they don't. Some diabetics obviously take too much insulin, and this will make them eat more. Taking too much insulin is a decision. Do you find this agreeable? A common problem with diabetics is many of them eat unnecessarily large evening snacks out of fear of nocturnal hypoglycemia even if they take just the correct amount of insulin. This leads them to get hyperglycemia in the morning, which leads to upping the dose and the cycle continues.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

What's weird is that agriculture-- or at least the modern food system apparently also makes it much easier for low-status people to get fat, even when their children are starving -- pdf.

0hyporational8yHaving children is not about reproduction, it's about locally high status ;) Thanks for the paper.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

The whole thing confused me, but the edit helps a bit. There is nothing particularly wrong with "Calories in, calories out" it just fails to illuminate anything at all which is why it's a bad response to make to any claim about the effects of diet. It also, as a practical matter leads to people thinking about their size as the result of a system where their best control levers are how much they eat and how much they exercise. If trying to eat less and exercise more is a bad way to try to lose weight then attacking the model as simplistic (despite... (read more)

2ChristianKl8yThat's wrong. There meaningful disagreement about whether "Calories in, calories out" is true. Deciding whether it's true matters. There are three positions: 1) It's the calories stupid. People should count calories and reduce their intake an then they will lose weight. 2) People can't just reduce calories easily. They need to take into account all sorts of psychological factors to successfully reduce calorie intake. This means making certain food choices that result in different levels of hunger. 3) Calories in doesn't matter much, you can eat 4000 kcal a day like Dave Asprey and still be fit and not gain additional weight. There are plenty of paleo folks who argue 3) in some form but most not as strong as Dave Asprey. It's imporant to know when someone argues in favor of 2) and when in favor of 3).
5Brillyant8yI sense there is a great deal of bias surrounding this topic. The goal is to lose weight, right? And this guy being discussed is an advocate of the Atikins diet, right? All I meant (and all I said) is that "Atkins works through the drastic reduction of the type of calories that make up 40-60% of American diets: carbs." I conceeded that "There are lots of variables in regard to the psychology of dieting, physiological advantages to consuming certain foods and nutrients & genetic predispostion of metabolism" And concluded that "dieting and body weight is fundamentally about simple caloric arithmetic". ... From my wikipedia reserach, Atkins includes a two week "Induction" phase which involves what appears to me as nothing more than carb-eliminating & portion control. Over the course of two weeks, I posit two things tend to happen to an Atkins dieter: (1) they lose weight through a rather dramatic reduction in calories & (2) they form some habits. (1) leads to some increased positivity and will to continue & (2) helps them stick to the diet with less will power expenditure. (In many cases I've seen, and as a result of their increased will positivity and new habits, people incorporate some other helpful weight loss measures concurrently, such as consistent exercise, which furthers their efforts.) You seem to be suggesting this is more complicated and magical than I think it need be, and then critiicizing my simpler solution. OF COURSE dieting is hard because of lots of well established psychological and physiological reasons. I'm not trying to discount that. But pretending Atkins works primarily by some other mechanism other than calorie reduction is, in my current opinion, not true. If I'm wrong, show me. You mentioned insulin as a variable I'm ignoring... And then you said cases like those "don't make up a very significant fraction of people who are obese in the modern, western world". ... By the way, I think I've made this clear, but I'll make it cle
1hyporational8yThanks for the clarification. It illuminates the goal. There are smart and stupid ways to achieve that goal. I think simple calorie restriction without other concerns is a stupid way to achieve that goal, but I also think scolding anyone who states the goal is damaging to the goal of making people smarter about their diets. Through the power of connotation it's just going to make you look like a perpetual-motion-machine-quack to anyone not familiar with your arguments. It could also make them come up with smarter ways to restrict calories the easiest way possible, which could be limiting carbohydrate intake. ... but it isn't. The question is how you do it, and I think you agree. People interpret low carb diets all the time too as a permission to eat for pleasure as much as they want. Hedging against misunderstandings is advisable no matter what we're talking about.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Basically all hunter-gatherer societies, as far as I know.

2hyporational8yAh, that's reasonable, but could be just because food is more difficult to get, and exercise isn't optional.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Again, huh? All of your replies in this thread sound like they're replying to a position I haven't taken.

2hyporational8yPerhaps you should make it clearer what your position is then. The ifs were there because I wasn't sure I understood you, so I was replying to a hypothetical.
0[anonymous]8yThere are three positions: 1) It's the calories stupid. People should count calories and reduce their intake an then they will lose weight. 2) People just can't reduce calories. They need to take into account all sorts of psychological factors to successfully reduce calorie intake. This means making certain food choices that result in different levels of hunger. 3) Calories in doesn't matter much, you can eat 4000 kcal a day like Dave Asprey and still be fit and not gain additional weight. There are plenty of paleo folks who argue 3) in some form but most not as strong as Dave Asprey.
4hyporational8yWhich part confused you? "Huh" won't help me to help you, nor will it help me understand you.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Why does it happen?

Well that's what insulin does. It's the hormone that mediates growth in adipose cells. If a person has broken insulin regulation (aka diabetes) and then you start injecting them with the stuff there is a good chance they'll get fat (the effect of insulin is a little more complicated than that, such that people react differently-- obesity has a significant genetic component).

There are a lot of known hormonal and metabolic disorders that can cause obesity. They don't make up a very significant fraction of people who are obese in the mod... (read more)

0hyporational8yExamples?
1Brillyant8yI would agree this is true. From my recall and simple research, something like ~17% of individual metabolism is dependent on factors that are suspected to be genetic, and this, as a result of simple arithmetic, can lead to obesity fairly easily. (e.g. we eat and exercise identically and end up at very, very different weights). I still don't understand what the mechanism by which -- apart from simple caloric arithmetic -- Atkins works? Are you saying it is a result of its effect on insulin in the body? Since, like you, I don't suspect (though we may be wrong) insulin-caused obesity is a significant % of the western world, it still is my view that the Atkins diet is primarily nothing more than an "eat less" diet disguised as pseudoscience.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Not buying what? I'm just explaining the position and asking what you find incoherent about it.

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

So people undergoing insulin treatment (for example) get fatter because they start overeating and stop exercising enough?

1hyporational8yFor example, it's not clear to me whether you are for or against this position in form of a question. Should it be?
0hyporational8yIf they get hypoglycemia because of too much insulin then yes, this would make them eat more. If you're hypoglycemic you won't like to exercise either. If insulin can store energy from thin air, I would like to understand the mechanism.
7Raoul8yI think Chris is probably taking Taubes a bit literally (and I agree with the revenue-cost analogy), but I like http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/carbohydrate-hypothesis-of-obesity.html [http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/carbohydrate-hypothesis-of-obesity.html] , which he linked to in Part 1. There's quite a lot in it about insulin (too much for me to summarize here), but I've copied a couple of particularly relevant paragraphs below. Obviously if you can see any issues with them then I would be interested in hearing them. "The idea of fat gain in insulin-treated diabetics (argument #3) is not as airtight as it might at first seem. On average, diabetics do gain fat when they initiate insulin therapy using short-acting insulins. This is partially because insulin keeps them from peeing out glucose (glycosuria) to the tune of a couple hundred calories a day. It's also because there isn't enough insulin around to restrain the release of fat from fat cells (lipolysis), which is one of insulin's jobs, as described above. When you correct this insulin deficiency (absolute or relative), obviously a diabetic person will typically gain weight. In addition, short-acting insulins are hard to control, and often create episodes where glucose drops too low (hypoglycemia), which is a potent trigger for food intake and fat gain. "So what happens when you administer insulin to less severe diabetics that don't have much glycosuria, and you use a type of insulin that is more stable in the bloodstream and so causes fewer hypoglycemic episodes? This was recently addressed by the massive ORIGIN trial (17d). Investigators randomized 12,537 diabetic or pre-diabetic people to insulin therapy or treatment as usual, and followed them for 6 years. The insulin group received insulin glargine, a form of long-acting "basal" insulin that elevates baseline insulin throughout the day and night. In this study, insulin treatment brought fasting glucose from 125 to 93 mg/dL o
0Brillyant8yI'm ignorant as to why that happens, and I'll assume it is true. Why does it happen? And what percentage of the general population do circumstances like this (or other such examples) apply to?
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

But anyway, you seem to be saying that, according to Taubes, if you simply avoid eating refined carbohydrates, you can eat other foods ad libitum and avoid obesity. Is that pretty much it?

Yes.

Also, could you define the phrase "refined carbohydrates" for me?

No. There are adequate definitions that are easily googleable. And precisely how I might disagree with those definitions isn't important since you and I aren't going to have an extended conversation about this. If you're curious you can read the discussion I'll have with Chris.

-3brazil848yThis is just a bookmark post, no need to respond.
2brazil848yIf that's the case, then it's odd you wouldn't simply take a few seconds to Google, cut, paste, and link your definition. Your choice seems to support my hypothesis that Taubes' position is unclear. If you choose not to back up your claim that Taubes' position is "plenty clear," I will choose to draw my own conclusions. Your choice and my choice.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Taken literally, this is false. Children voraciously isn't literally an epiphenomenon of their growth. If it were, children would still grow regardless of how little they eat. But in fact, not eating enough when you're a kid stunts your growth.

It is literally true. Notice the tense. It's not an effect of their growth it's an effect of their being something that is growing -- having a hormonal system that is aligned toward increasing size.

1hyporational8yAre you saying that children would grow eating nothing? If not, what's with the word games? Cells won't grow from nothing unless they're made of nothing.
-6ChrisHallquist8y
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

My current view is that weight loss (or gain) is simply (calories eaten - burned).

This is like saying that the success (or failure) of a product is simply (revenue - cost). Or that the key to winning a sporting contest is to score more points than the other team.

2[anonymous]8yBeing reminded of obvious things isn't always useless. (For example, Stein's law “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop” is a tautology if you think about it, but...)
6hyporational8yIf you're going to argue that certain diets make it easier to eat less, why attack the "calories in, calories out" position like that (complain it's simplistic when it's true)? It's just going to confuse the hell out of your readers. Whether you're dieting, devising a product or competing at sports it helps to know what the goal is, because you can usually get to it in various different ways. Edited for hopefully a bit more clarity.
4Brillyant8yUnless I'm wrong, there is a large chunk of the population who believe diets have some magical element that differentiates them from other diets. Atkins, from my limited understanding, involves a magical element, coming up with a sciency-sounding explanation for it.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Yeah, I was trying not to pull you ahead. But dealing with the big picture is more my style.

Taubes certainly does say things that seem to suggest that, but what it would even mean for that to be true?

I think he says it pretty directly actually. Good Calories, Bad Calories:

When Rony discussed positive energy balance, he compared the situation with what happens in growing children. “The caloric balance is known to be positive in growing children,” he observed. But children do not grow because they eat voraciously; rather, they eat voraciously because t

... (read more)
-2ChrisHallquist8yTaken literally, this is false. Children voraciously isn't literally an epiphenomenon of their growth. If it were, children would still grow regardless of how little they eat. But in fact, not eating enough when you're a kid stunts your growth. Of course, one way to defend Taubes here is to assume a lot of his rhetoric isn't meant to be taken literally. But the farther you go in that direction, the less he ends up disagreeing with mainstream nutrition, and the harder it is to make sense of the things he says about how awful mainstream nutrition science is supposed to be.
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

His position seems plenty clear to me as far as anyone's position is clear: Obesity isn't about pigging out, it's about consuming refined carbohydrates.

4brazil848y(I've gotta say, the word "about" has always peeved me whenever people claim that "X is about Y." Ever since I was in college and I heard feminists asserting that "rape is about power not about sex." ) But anyway, you seem to be saying that, according to Taubes, if you simply avoid eating refined carbohydrates, you can eat other foods ad libitum and avoid obesity. Is that pretty much it? Also, could you define the phrase "refined carbohydrates" for me?
Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux

Playing gotcha with with quotes that don't hedge enough on extreme cases of caloric intake doesn't seem like the best way to go about this. Maybe concentrate the critique a little more?

Taubes would agree that someone who is overweight necessarily has consumed more calories than they have burned. He's said so in maybe every interview I've ever heard with him. His claim is that that is epiphenomenal to a metabolic condition that prevents people from using fat as an energy source, which is in turn caused by excess carbohydrate intake.

Is there good reason to think he is wrong about that? Or does mainstream nutrition science agree with that view-- despite what they've recommended to people for the last 30 years?

6[anonymous]8yI really like this fragment.
3ChrisHallquist8yJack, This is looking ahead two posts into my plans for the series, but it seems to me that Taubes' position on calories ends up not even being coherent. This idea of calorie intake and expenditure being an epiphenomenon... Taubes certainly does say things that seem to suggest that, but what it would even mean for that to be true? If you could explain in a little more detail what you think Taubes is trying to say here, I'd appreciate it. But I've re-read the relevant sections of Taubes' books several times, and I can't see a charitable way to interpret it.

Playing gotcha with with quotes

Perhaps part of the problem is that it's not 100% clear what Taubes' position is. It's arguably in his financial interest to leave his position ambiguous. There is huge marketing value in giving people permission to pig out; at the same time it's easier to defend his position if he doesn't approve of pigging out.

Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 1: Mainstream Nutrition Science on Obesity

This is the kind of post that requires citations. Quote Taubes describing nutrition science orthodoxy and then quote an authoritative source from the establishment.

I say this not to just demand citations for citations sake-- it's just that it's easy to model how Taubes would respond to this post when all you're doing is asserting things. He would, at minimum, assert the opposite.

2ChrisHallquist8yYou're right. I'm planning on discussing relevant sources in much greater detail in future posts, but I'll add in some quick links when I get to my parents' house tonight. (Sending this from my iPhone while on a plane.)
Local truth

I read the title and immediately thought "that's a phrase that's going to bother people".

The fact that people here tend to prefer wordy literalisms to a catchy bit of clear poetic license is really illustrative of Less Wrong's cognitive profile.

I'm sure it goes hand-in-hand with everything I like about the place, but it is a custom that irks me.

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