All of ObliqueFault's Comments + Replies

I was using it to mean "arbitrarily much food". My position is similar: If you eat just until you're full and you get moderate exercise but you're still overweight, you should talk to your doctor. You may still need to change your eating or exercising habits, but you should do research first, and not make any sweeping changes all at once.

Changing your habits is always difficult, and that's where the willpower comes in. It should only be needed until you settle into your new habits, though. And you should never have to be constantly hungry, o... (read more)

Caloric expenditure is not strictly a function of behavior. Holding all else constant, including amount of exercise, reducing caloric intake will also reduce expenditure.

I know, this is why when people stop dieting and return to their original level of consumption, they sometimes end up heavier than before, as Janet mentioned. It's usually better to increase exercise rather than decrease calorie intake, but this thread is about diet, so I haven't really gone into that.

Sometimes it will reduce it by more than the reduction in intake.

Not to say it ca... (read more)

The last I heard, losing weight tends to increase appetite, not lower metabolism.
Hang on - does "as much 'good' food as you want" mean "arbitrarily much food", or does it mean "enough to sate appetite and no more"? My position is that the latter ought to be okay, and if it isn't, it's because something is wrong that needs to be dealt with directly, using thought and observation, not willpower.

Thanks for pointing out something else I should have clarified in my first post.

I'm not trying to compare the metabolisms of multiple people. Some people can eat a lot more than others and maintain a healthy weight.

All I'm saying is that if a single person wants to lose weight, and they reduce their caloric intake (or increase caloric expenditure) while keeping everything else the same as they were doing before, they will lose weight. And I agree that if the person returns to old habits, they will gradually return to their original weight.

You're right in... (read more)

Caloric expenditure is not strictly a function of behavior. Holding all else constant, including amount of exercise, reducing caloric intake will also reduce expenditure. Sometimes it will reduce it by more than the reduction in intake. Sometimes it will cause the body to fail to maintain muscles properly, in which case the reduction in expenditure will persist even after returning to old habits. The energy-balance story is not literally false, but it is so oversimplified that it's useless; and worse, it acts as a curiosity stopper. If you are repeating it because you believe that hearing it more times will help people improve their health, then please stop, because it won't.

I agree with everything you said until you mentioned that sugar is the real cause of people overeating. There are a lot of possible reasons for someone to overeat, and none of them, in my opinion, are solely dietary. The cause may be psychological - for example, a lot of people eat when they're depressed or bored. I myself sometimes succumb to the latter. Some people hate to exercise. Willpower will help in all of those cases.

The only case I can think of where sugar might be considered the culprit is if someone drinks way too many sodas, for example. ... (read more)

The bit about sugar being a cause for misregulation of appetite was a parenthetical remark, which the rest of the comment does not depend on. That said, I think you're drastically underestimating the amount of harm sugar does. Blood sugar is one of the main mechanisms for regulating appetite, and drinking soda completely destroys its functionality. Regarding nutrient deficiencies, I wasn't just talking about micronutrients like vitamin C, but also to macronutrients. For example, if someone's problem is that they aren't eating any fat, then no amount of low-fat food will ever suffice to make them feel full.

From the New York Times article:

On the one hand, we've been told with almost religious certainty by everyone from the surgeon general on down, and we have come to believe with almost religious certainty, that obesity is caused by the excessive consumption of fat, and that if we eat less fat we will lose weight and live longer.

Either Taubes is throwing out a straw man here, or his opponents are ridiculously simplistic. It's pretty well established that some fat can be good for you, and length of life is based on a whole ton of factors.

The problem with... (read more)

If this is the case, what mechanism explains the steady decline in willpower over the last 70 years?
I disagree that weight management boils down to simple physics. An active fat person can expend more energy and take in less calories than a thin person that eats a lot. And the fat one will not lose weight - the thin one will not gain. Willpower is not the answer. You hold your breath, use your willpower to keep from breathing and in a few minutes you will lose your willpower. Use your willpower to not drink any liquid. After a couple of days your willpower will disappear and you will have a drink. Use your willpower not to eat and in a few weeks your willpower will get weak. It is a trap for the fat. They are told to use their willpower to lose weight and for a few months it may work but soon you have to eat even less to keep losing. You end up eating practically nothing. Eventually you are not fat and you eat like everyone else. The weight comes back with interest and you would have been better off if you hadn't dieted. It is possible to lose weight but not if the only thing you can bring to it is willpower. You also need some information about what to eat and how to exercise and how slowly to take it. I do agree with you about the money make in the nutrition/diet business.
No, this is wrong. If you have to use willpower to suppress your appetite, then either one of your appetite-regulation mechanisms is malfunctioning, or your appetite-regulation mechanisms are working correctly but you're deficient in a vital nutrient. Telling people to use willpower to eat less is harmful in both cases - in the former case, because it stops them for looking for the real cause of their overeating (usually sugar), and in the latter case by making them starve themselves (usually of protein).

China's been using that strategy for a very long time, and it's netted them quite a large expanse of territory. I would argue that China's current powerful position on the world stage is mainly because of that policy.

Of course, if space colonization gets underway relatively soon, then the nibbling strategy is nearing the end of its usefulness. On the other hand, if it take a couple hundred more years the nibbling can still see some real gains, relative to more cooperative countries.

Territorial expansion didn't work for the Nazis because they didn't stop with just Austria and Czechoslovakia. The allies didn't declare war until Germany invaded Poland, and even then they didn't really do anything until France was invaded.

It seems to me that the pluralistic countries aren't willing to risk war with a major power for the sake of a small and distant patch of land (and this goes double if nuclear weapons are potentially involved). They have good reason for their reluctance - the risks aren't worth the rewards, especially over the short te... (read more)

I was addressing the idea that a nation could greatly increase its wealth through conquest. Nibbling around the edges the way China is doing, or even taking the occasional bite like the USSR (though that didn't work out so well for them in the long run) isn't the same thing.

"(and why did it take so long for people to figure out the part about empirical verification)?"

Most of the immediate progress after the advent of empiricism was about engineering more than science. I think the biggest hurdle wasn't lack of understanding of the importance of empirical verification, but lack of understanding of human biases.

Early scientists just assumed that they were either unbiased or that their biases wouldn't affect the data. They had no idea of the power of expectation and selection biases, placebo effects, etc. It wasn't ... (read more)

Neanderthals were also in the Near East.

You have a point about the cultural explosion, though. Africans don't seem to be less cultural than non-Africans, despite the fact that they don't seem to have any links to Neanderthals. It occurs to me that this lack of a link, after all this time, exemplifies how slow gene sweep is in a population as numerous, long-lived, and spread out as humanity.

Actually, there is genetic evidence now.

There are genes lacked by Africans that are shared by Neanderthals and non-Africans. Interbreeding seems the most likely explanation for this pattern.

I wasn't doubtful about interbreeding - that is all over the news. I was doubtful about interbreeding being the cause of the cultural explosion. Like I said, no evidence. In fact, contrary evidence, since Neanderthals were largely a European phenomenon.

I'm going to nitpick a couple points here.

"There is considerable psychological variance between dog breeds: in 1982-2006, there were 1,110 dog attacks in the US that were attributable to pit bull terriers, but only one attributable to Border collies"

Though pit bull terriers are indeed much more dangerous than collies, it may not be entirely behavioral genetics. Unlike collies, pits are often trained to be aggressive. Pits are also simply much stronger and more resistant to pain than than collies, so their attacks are more difficult to defend ... (read more)

Another point about the (IMO, dubious) "pit bulls are more dangerous" claim. It's possible that young/aggressive/defensive male humans more often purchase dog breeds that look aggressive (or have an aggressive reputation) and young/aggressive/defensive male humans more often mistreat their dogs, leaving them chained and untrained. Similarly, dog breeds that look aggressive (or have an aggressive reputation) may elicit different, more dangerous, patterns of behavior (fear, fear-based-defensiveness, et cetera) than "Lassie dogs".
It only takes longer by a logarithmic factor, so overall, new genes are picked up at a higher rate.

You have me at a disadvantage because I don't know much about the history of statistics, but here is my view. Assuming the core principles of Bayesian statistics were demonstrably effective, if they were widely accepted and then later rejected or neglected for whatever reason, then that would be regression. If Bayes' and Laplace's methods never caught on at all until a long time later, and there were no other significant advances in the field, then that would be stagnation.

By these (admittedly my own) definitions, evolutionary biology didn't regress afte... (read more)

I said progress was stagnant, not regressing. All of Darwin's books have always been widely available and read, so no information was ever lost. Some of Darwin's conjectures were deemphasized, and the biologists of the time were right to do so; they didn't yet have the techniques to prove or disprove them, and mere conjecture should never be foundations of a scientific discipline. They weren't central to the theory anyway, and even Darwin considered them just speculation.

With modern technical know-how, such as radiometric dating and molecular clocks, th... (read more)

I'm not necessarily trying to conivince you of anything, just interested. Assuming that you are convinced that Bayesian statistics are the correct way to treat uncertainty, would you say that the field of statistics never regressed in that respect because the works of Bayes and Laplace were always around? That's a pretty good argument for reading the work of the old masters though, isn't it? (Not that you voiced any disagreement with that)

Unless I misunderstand him, his claim is that there hasn't been clear progress in the field since Darwin. My position is that there has been clear progress in the last 60 years. I concede that progress before that was slim.

Still, if the field has actually regressed between Darwin and mid 20th century (by today's standards) without evolutionary biologists of that time being aware of that fact that's evidence that progress in evolutionary biology is not necessarily clear, and reason enough to at least consider the possibility that the field might have regressed in other ways that we are not aware of.

Darwin wrote more than Origin and did talk about sexual selection.

Yes, you're right. Thanks for the correction.

The bulk of my point still stands, though. Evolutionary biology has made clear progress, especially since molecular biology took off in the 50's. Simplistically speaking, evolution is composed of mutation and natural selection, the latter of which was developed impressively by Darwin. But that was only half the story, so it was left to later biologists to complete the picture.

Progress in the last 50 years is a non sequitur response to a claim that the situation was dire 50 years ago. At least, if you claim to disagree.

Likewise, much in Darwin is part of contemporary evolutionary theory but was virtually unknown by evolutionary biologists half a century ago.

I disagree with the statement that evolutionary biology isn't making clear progress. I'm guessing you're talking about punctuated equilibrium, which was part of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (albeit not by that name), deemphasized by later evolutionary biologists, and later assertively brought back by Gould et al. However, this hypothesis is only vacillating in and out of 'style' because it 1) has scientifi... (read more)

I don't just mean punctuated equilibrium. Darwin wrote more than Origin and did talk about sexual selection. I agree that an interested amateur should read the modern textbook over Origin. It's not THAT good. If you can only read one book in a discipline it should pretty much always be a textbook unless the discipline is totally dysfunctional.