No Non-Genuine Debates

I don't want to debate people about a conclusion that we agree on. Don't play devil's advocate to advocate something you think is wrong. Don't bait me to make arguments that you already knew and could have said yourself.

Why would anyone want to do that?

First, because they're uncertain. They don't believe X. They didn't reach X as a conclusion. But they can't fully rule it out either. They want to argue in favor of X without declaring themselves pro-X. They may think X is probably false, but they can't reach a clear conclusion with their current knowledge.

That's fine if you’re open about what you’re doing. If you have genuine questions and doubts, we can talk about it. Arguments for a position that you can't refute, but also haven't accepted, are fine. You don’t have to have reached a conclusion to argue for it; it’s also fine if you don’t have a conclusion yet (in which case we don’t already agree – in the sense of sharing the same conclusion).

If you're certain about your position, and we agree, then don't try to debate me. To debate, you either need to have stuff to learn or disagree with me. If you want to collaborate to develop the position further, that’s a discussion not a debate.

Why would someone want to debate if they agree with me and aren't trying to learn anything? Why play devil's advocate in that case?

A typical reason is they want me to tell them what to say to win debates with other people. They are acting as proxies for people who won't debate me so they can say my arguments to those people. Please don't. I want to debate with people who are being genuine. If the people who believe something aren't willing to debate me themselves, and you're convinced that something is wrong, don't try to debate me on their behalf in order to get me to say criticisms of people who don't want my criticism. Also, people sometimes mix this with plagiarism (using my arguments that they asked me for, but without giving me appropriate credit) which is even worse.

If you can’t win a debate yourself, you should reconsider your conclusion instead of trying to get me to win it for you. Based on your own knowledge, should you have reached the conclusion you did? Or should you have a more tentative conclusion that admits to some ignorance, confusion, etc.?

If you want help debating better – generally or for a particular topic – ask for that openly and directly. Ask for me to teach or help you in some way. Don’t pretend we’re debating while you’re actually trying to get a different kind of thing from me.

What if you want to make some arguments, and if they work it was a debate, but if they suck then it was never a debate and you were just asking for help? That is common but dishonest. Please don’t.


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Links for My Health Ideas

I’ve recently talked about health and food. This post gathers links in one place. Links within lists are ordered from oldest to newest.

Articles

Talking

Forum

Those are the forum topics with lots of unique content that isn’t on my blog or YouTube. You can also view all topics tagged with “health”.


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Problem Solving That Removes Warning Signs

When we make some change, there are sometimes visible bad results. These are a clue that there are likely also hidden bad results. If we come up with a solution targeted only at the visible bad results, we often leave the hidden bad results in place and make them harder to find and fix.

For example, the processing they do to vegetable oil makes it taste bad. The bad taste is a visible problem. It indicates the processed oil may be unhealthy. We’re lucky to have a warning we did something wrong. Some problems come with no warnings. However, companies responded by removing the bad taste from the oil. They didn’t take the warning seriously and investigate what hard-to-see problems it warns us of. And removing the taste in a factory hides the warning from consumers. Most consumers don’t know that they are eating something which tasted bad at an early stage in the process.

No consumer would think it was reasonable to take rotten food out of trash, which tastes bad, and then subject it to an industrial procedure which removes all the flavor – and then sell it to people who don’t know it used to taste bad. What’s done with vegetable oil is somewhat like that.

Another example involves the modern lifestyle and processed food diet in general. It led to some known problems. These problems were then dealt with. But maybe those problems were valuable warnings and a bunch of other less-visible problems were not dealt with. Concretely, they fortify some of our foods with things like vitamin A, C or D to address visible problems like scurvy or rickets. They know that their processing removed vitamins and other nutrients. Then they put a few things back into the food to prevent the most visible problems people have. But they don’t put all the missing nutrients back. And then consider the nutrients they know about and can re-add reasonably effectively. Vitamin supplements are often less effectively than eating whole foods containing the same vitamins. But even supposing it works, how much do they re-add? Enough to prevent visible problems. Not the optimal amount for health. Vitamin D recommendations and fortifications are based on studies of bone health and giving people enough to avoid rickets. However, vitamin D is useful for other things besides bone health, and the recommendations and fortifications are significantly lower than what our ancestors would have gotten from their diet and lifestyle (vitamin D comes partly from food and partly from sun exposure from UVB rays). So natural health and paleo diet type people recommend more vitamin D than the food companies fortify their foods with.

Another example is I have heard that it’s bad to punish your dog for growling. Growling is an early warning sign of a problem. If you get your dog to stop growling, then it may e.g. attack another dog without warning. (I haven’t fact checked this.)

Sometimes we go out of our way to get early warnings. An example is bringing canaries into coal mines. You could see a canary dying as a problem and solve it by keeping the canary at home. But then it’d be harder to know about more important problems like gasses building up towards explosion in a mine. Solving the problem by keeping the canary at home seems absurd in this context, but people often take similar actions for other issues.

This is partly related to how a lot of problem solving is (often accidentally) aimed at symptoms rather than underlying causes. People often try to fix the immediate problem they see instead of digging deeper to understand what’s really going wrong. By fixing the visible problem, they can cover up some other problems, accidentally or intentionally. Problem symptoms should often be seen as valuable warnings that help us know where to investigate, rather than as things to get rid of ASAP.


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Health “Experts” Betrayed America

They’ve known, mostly for over 30 years, that:

  • we need to eat some omega 3 (n3) and omega 6 (n6) fats
  • ratio of n3 to n6 fats is a big deal
  • n3 and n6 compete with each other in some ways
  • n3 helps with antioxidants and reducing inflammation
  • n6 leads to more free radicals and inflammation
  • 1:1 is a good ratio
  • humans historically ate roughly the 1:1 ratio
  • some people eating a regular diet with a lot of vegetable oil get very skewed ratios like 1:20, sometimes worse
  • n6 fats (high ratio) cause weight in rats and mice given equal calories eaten
  • vegetable oils have a lot of n6 fats (both amount and ratio)
  • algae has a lot of n3, and is eaten by fish, so fish are a good n3 source
  • if you eat a ton of n6 from vegetable oil, then supplementing some fish oil pills for n3, or eating fish a couple times a week, will not get your ratio anywhere near 1:1 (it still helps some)
  • the only realistic way to get a good n3:n6 ratio is to limit vegetable oil consumption
  • reducing vegetable oil consumption requires reducing processed and restaurant food
  • most vegetable oil people eat isn’t on purpose. a typical person who stops buying any bottles of vegetable oil, but makes no other changes, will still eat way too much vegetable oil
  • you are what you eat. your body is literally made out of food you ate
  • if you eat more n6, you end up with more n6 in your body, e.g. in your muscles
  • n6 is less stable than n3 or n9 to light, heat and oxygen
  • building your body out of less stable molecules is bad. that can lead to free radicals, inflammation and all sorts of illnesses including cancer. less stable molecules means damage is more common which means stuff breaks more … which means heart attacks, strokes, chronic illnesses, etc.
  • evolution designs plants with the most stable molecules it can. (I mean, due to selection pressure, plants with more stable molecules evolutionarily outcompete plants with less stable molecules). one of the main limiting factors for plants is they don’t want their fat to freeze. so plants use different fats depending on where they grew. tropical coconuts have the most stable molecules. Mediterranean olives have medium molecule stability which will stay liquid at temperatures they face. and the seeds for vegetable oil grow in cold climates like Russia and Ukraine, and have to use more unstable n6 fats that will stay liquid at those temperatures.
  • animal bodies being made of lower amounts of n6 correlates well with longer lifespan. source
  • regions where humans eat more n6 correlate with more coronary heart disease. source
  • there’s some kind of modern health crisis that they need to figure out

Scientists knew this in 1993. And they still knew it in 2017. It wasn’t ignored because it was wrong; it wasn’t refuted; some scientists are still doing new experiments about basically the same issue and trying to get the word out. But the amount of vegetable oil in our diet has continued to go up, reaching roughly 20% of American calories in 2022. They knew this was hurting people for decades and they kept doing it.

Industry knows it too, which is why they’ve been trying to create modified vegetable oils with more n9 instead of n6 (making it more like olive oil).

But the government and health authorities keep telling people that vegetable oil lowers cholesterol and is therefore good, and to avoid animal fats because they contain more saturated fats. The US government continues subsidizing growing plants that vegetable oils are made of, especially soy and corn.

(What happens to the remaining plant material from soy or corn after vegetable oil is squeezed out? It’s used for animal feed, especially for chickens and pigs, but also for farm-raised fish, cows and more. Chicken is not a food that human beings traditionally/historically ate much of, and pigs were problematic in ancient times due to disease risk which led to some major religions forbidding eating pig. Pushing our diet to more of those animals, instead of cows/goats/sheep/ruminants, is unnatural and has downsides. Wild caught fish is also a traditional/historical food.)

The American Heart Association and Harvard Don’t Care About Your Health

The mainstream health “authorities” are unwilling to tell people to reduce vegetable oil consumption. They advise eating too much n6 and won’t acknowledge that many people are eating even more than their recommendation. They keep trying to tell everyone not to reduce eating n6. A ton of what Americans eat is grain, sugar/sweeteners and vegetable oil, and the elites/“experts” want to maintain that status quo.

Harvard put out a 2019 articled called No need to avoid healthy omega-6 fats. Quotes:

The benefits of omega-3 fats from fatty fish and likely from plant sources like flaxseeds and walnuts are well known.

The n3 in flaxseeds is the wrong type. Our bodies can convert it to the right type. But people estimate the conversion is 3-10% effective. In other words, if you eat 100 grams of n3 in flax seeds, you get the same benefit as eating 3-10 grams of n3 from fish. Plus flaxseeds have n6 in them. Flax isn’t the solution here. I guess they know this and are being dishonest.

Omega-6 fats, which we get mainly from vegetable oils, are also beneficial. They lower harmful LDL cholesterol and boost protective HDL. They help keep blood sugar in check by improving the body's sensitivity to insulin. Yet these fats don't enjoy the same sunny reputation as omega-3 fats.

There are a few studies (not many, not enough) that look at health outcomes instead of just easy-to-measure markers/proxies like LDL. Some found that vegetable oil did indeed lower LDL (that’s uncontroversial) but that the people eating vegetable oil nevertheless had worse health outcomes (e.g. more heart attacks and deaths). Lower LDL is not necessarily a good thing.

The critics argue that we should cut back on our intake of omega-6 fats to improve the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6s. Hogwash, says the American Heart Association (AHA). In a science advisory that was two years in the making, nine independent researchers from around the country, including three from Harvard, say that data from dozens of studies support the cardiovascular benefits of eating omega-6 fats (Circulation, Feb. 17, 2009). "Omega-6 fats are not only safe but they are also beneficial for the heart and circulation," says advisory coauthor Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Do you see how hard they’re trying to get you to eat lots of vegetable oil?

The latest nutrition guidelines call for consuming unsaturated fats like omega-6 fats in place of saturated fat. The AHA, along with the Institute of Medicine, recommends getting 5% to 10% of your daily calories from omega-6 fats.

So the title says not to reduce n6 intake. And it’s “hogwash” that we should cut back on n6 intake.

But also 5-10% of our calories should be n6. If we get 20% of our calories from vegetable oil, that’s roughly 10% n6 right there without considering what else we eat.

And where did the 5-10% range come from? Historically humans ate under 5%, which is the recommendation you get from Paleo people, vegetable oil critics, etc. And that’s an amount you can easily get without trying even if you stop eating vegetable oils.

So first of all the average American is already over 10% of their calories being n6, and a lot of people are above average so they’re further over that recommendation. Yet they’re being told not to cut back on eating n6.

And second, the 5-10% recommendation seems like they maybe made it up just to legitimize current vegetable oil intake, not based on any medical reason. It’s maybe because it’s their way of trying to tell you to eat less animal fat, so they are setting a high n6 recommendation to balance out a low animal fat recommendation (for no good reason). They know our n3:n6 ratios are skewed to n6, and they know that’s bad, but for some reason they keep trying to tell us not to reduce n6.

Here’s a source with n6 intake recommendations. It says: In 1992, the European Scientific Committee on Food advised getting 2% of your calories from n6 (roughly 6 grams). In 2009, The European Food Safety Authority said to limit n6 to 10 grams per day (that’s 3.3% based on 2%=6g). In 2002, the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommended around 13.5 grams (that’s 4.5% based on 2%=6g). The Japan Society for Lipid Nutrition recommended 3-4% n6. The World Health Organization recommended 2.5-9%. Those are all under 5% except the WHO which gives a large range with a bigger top number. I think the WHO gave a larger maximum about based on the hypothesis that n6 lowers cholesterol and therefore reduces heart attacks, and based on hostility to saturated/animal fat. The website says other recommendations were based more on avoiding a deficiency rather than eating extra n6 on purpose to try to gain a special health benefit like reducing heart attacks.

Most Americans eat more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats, on average about 10 times more. A low intake of omega-3 fats is not good for cardiovascular health, so bringing the two into better balance is a good idea. But don't do this by cutting back on healthy omega-6 fats. Instead, add some extra omega-3s.

Telling people with 1:10 ratios to just eat some more n3s is bad advice. That won’t work. Raising their n3 consumption by 10x (without overeating on total calories) is way too hard. And a lot of people have a worse ratio than average and are hearing this advice. And some other sources claim the average is more like 1:20 not 1:10.

To avoid any reduction in vegetable oil (since it says not to cut back on n6) while raising n3 that much, the’d probably have to cut out lots of fruits and veggies, and other stuff. Their diet would be focused on eating the vegetable oil then enough high n3 foods like fish to try to make up for it, with a limited amount of space left in their diet for other stuff.

Instead, it makes way more sense to just eat less vegetable oil. But most mainstream health “experts” don’t want to say that. Are they shills for industry? Genuinely convinced that eating so much vegetable oil is going to save us from heart attacks any day now? Or do they have some other massive bias unrelated to truth and reason? It’s hard to come up with a better explanation.

Read The Science

I’ll close with the beginning of that 2017 scientific paper which I linked earlier:

Abstract

Soybean oil consumption is increasing worldwide and parallels a rise in obesity. Rich in unsaturated fats, especially linoleic acid [omega 6], soybean oil is assumed to be healthy, and yet it induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver in mice. Here, we show that the genetically modified soybean oil Plenish, which came on the U.S. market in 2014 and is low in linoleic acid, induces less obesity than conventional soybean oil in C57BL/6 male mice. […] While Plenish induced less insulin resistance than conventional soybean oil, it resulted in hepatomegaly and liver dysfunction as did olive oil, which has a similar fatty acid composition. […]

Introduction

While humans have been cultivating soybeans for ~5000 years1, soybean oil has become a substantial part of our diet only in the last few decades2. This increase in soybean oil consumption is due in part to a reaction to large-scale population studies in the 1950s and 60s, which showed that a typical American diet rich in saturated fats from animal products was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease3,4. It was subsequently assumed that most if not all saturated fats are unhealthy and conversely that all unsaturated fats are healthy, this despite the ambiguity of evidence of cardio-protective effects of vegetable oils, which are rich in unsaturated fats5,6. Similarly, it was assumed that whatever is healthy for the heart is also healthy for the rest of the body although this assumption was never rigorously tested7,8. Nonetheless, vegetable oil, and, in particular, soybean oil, began to replace animal fat in the American diet starting in the 1970s, resulting in an exponential rise in soybean oil consumption that parallels the increase in obesity in the U.S. and worldwide2,9,10. Indeed, soybean oil is the component in the American diet that has increased the most in the last 100 years2. It constitutes >60% of all edible vegetable oil consumption in the U.S11. and is ubiquitous in the American diet, especially in cooking oil and processed foods.

Soybean oil is comprised of primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly linoleic acid (LA, C18:2), an omega-6 (ω6) fatty acid that makes up ~55% of soybean oil.

I think this topic is disturbing, says really negative things about mainstream elites/experts/authorities (including government and large companies), and should get people to be less trusting. (Lots of small companies are untrustworthy too, but there’s more variance; some are better.)

Some other health topics where more knowledge also reduced my trust in the status quo include: sunscreen, caffeine, decaf tea and coffee, MSG, milk homogenization, food dye, and olive and avocado oil fraud (which is poorly policed by government or industry).

We don’t live in an adequate, safe, competent, trustworthy world.

Disclaimer: I’m not a health expert or scientist. This is not diet or medical advice. On the other hand, I’m an expert critical thinker. Judging arguments and finding errors is something I’m good at. So when I say don’t trust the experts, I’m speaking as an expert ;)


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Tribalist Medical Journal Editors

The Art of Problem Solving: Accompanied by Ackoff's Fables (1978):

Fable 5.1. SMOKING PREVENTS CHOLERA.

Early in the war against cancer the medical profession's battle against smoking began. Numerous studies were published showing that smoking and lung cancer were positively associated. This could not be contradicted, but the inference drawn from such studies—that smoking causes cancer—could be. Again, smoking may be a cause of lung cancer, but their correlation is not an adequate basis for asserting that it is.

One study published in a prominent medical journal showed a strong positive correlation between per capita consumption of tobacco and the incidence of lung cancer over a number of countries. A causal connection was incorrectly inferred. To show that this was the case, Aesop used the same data on per capita consumption of tobacco for the same countries but substituted the incidence rate of cholera. He obtained a negative correlation that was stronger than the positive correlation revealed in the article. Using the same logic as that which appeared in the original article, Aesop prepared another article almost identical to the original except for the conclusion; he concluded that smoking prevents cholera. He submitted this article to the same medical journal in which the original article had appeared. It was rejected because, according to the referees, it was facetious. Aesop wrote to the editor admitting that he had been facetious, but then, was this not true of the original article? Why, he asked, had it been published? He received no reply.

Ackoff wrote some good stuff about how correlation and causation are different, but people keep mixing them up. This is one of the stories he shared about it.

The journal’s unwillingness to correct errors or discuss anything – and publication bias for correlation-based conclusions they agree with – is really worrying. It shows how irrational academic journals are. They sure don’t have Paths Forward or other reasonable error correction mechanisms, transparency mechanisms, critical debate mechanisms, etc.

I contacted a journal about DD misquoting Turing. They wouldn’t fix it. But I’m just a random guy who emailed them. Ackoff has high status. He’s a prestigious author, a successful professor and consultant, etc. He gets access to lots of status-gated opportunities.

Despite Ackoff’s status, the journal wouldn’t engage with him. High status is often ignored when people don’t like what you’re doing/saying. Also, low status is sometimes ignored when people like what you’re doing/saying. So how important is status, really? How much is it just an excuse people use? It’s not really an excuse because they generally don’t say it, and it’s pretty common to deny deciding by status.

Is status a tiebreaker among people with the right conclusions, but in-group/out-group type stuff takes precedence? They choose between acceptable people by status, but high status out-group members are treated differently. Is tribalism just more important than status? They do give Putin some special treatment due to his status despite him being out-group – too much, actually. I think that’s partly because they actually see him as kinda in-group – a fellow politician. They don’t want to assassinate Putin because he’s in the same category as them – world leader – and they don’t want world leaders like themselves to be assassinated. They’d rather 100,000 citizens die in war than raise the risk that they get assassinated.

Ackoff is in-group for many purposes but when he questioned their anti-smoking propaganda he was out-group. Even though I don’t think he’s actually pro-smoking, just pro-logic/reason/correctness. I read Ackoff as wanting high standards for scholarship and truth-seeking, and being anti-bias. And that is in fact not what the journal editors are like. It’s what they lie that they’re like. But you’re supposed to use those things as tactics to show you’re superior to actual out-groups like churches/pastors, win debates, push for the elite agenda, etc. You’re not supposed to challenge the rationality of other people in the group. They’re a bunch of fakers who don’t like being exposed.

So anyway, the simple explanation I came up with that seems plausible is that tribalism trumps status. Status is primarily for ranking people within the same tribe. It applies much less, and somewhat differently, for cross-tribe comparisons.

Disclaimer: This is just a quick, initial theory. I’m thinking out loud. This is not something I’m confident about. Criticism and alternatives are welcome.

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand wrote some relevant stuff, e.g. in The Virtue of Selfishness:

One cannot offer a literary masterpiece, “when one has become rich and famous,” to a following one has acquired by writing trash.

The status you gained with your fans doesn’t transfer well if you change who/what you are. They liked you for one thing but won’t automatically like you for something else. Status can be pretty specific and non-transferable. You can’t just gain status with a group then say/do stuff that challenges that group – then you’re acting like the out-group (and, worse, a traitor – someone who left the in-group for the out-group instead of being born and raised into the out-group).

Similarly, if a physicist comes up with weird ideas about polyamory, their status as a smart physics person will not get many people to listen. People will just say they’re good at one thing but bad at something else. Specialization is common. Even smart people have weaknesses and can be cranks or conspiracy theorists about something else. (Imagine how fast people will turn on you if you say UFOs are real or the Earth is flat. It’s really hard to even get a hearing for that, and get any debate about it, even if you’re already very high status. Especially if you say it in public. If you say it to one person individually, they’ll know your public status is still high, and you could hurt their status, and you could deny having said it, so they’re still under pressure to get along with you, so they might try to say non-committal stuff and the kind of person who actually debates stuff might engage in some debate.)

There’s a bunch of stuff related to status in The Fountainhead including about second-handedness as well as salons, drawing rooms and dinner parties. And there are the pretzel comments:

The battle lasted for weeks. Everybody had his say, except Roark. Lansing told him: “It’s all right. Lay off. Don’t do anything. Let me do the talking. There’s nothing you can do. When facing society, the man most concerned, the man who is to do the most and contribute the most, has the least say. It’s taken for granted that he has no voice and the reasons he could offer are rejected in advance as prejudiced—since no speech is ever considered, but only the speaker. It’s so much easier to pass judgment on a man than on an idea. Though how in hell one passes judgment on a man without considering the content of his brain is more than I’ll ever understand. However, that’s how it’s done. You see, reasons require scales to weigh them. And scales are not made of cotton. And cotton is what the human spirit is made of—you know, the stuff that keeps no shape and offers no resistance and can be twisted forward and backward and into a pretzel. You could tell them why they should hire you so very much better than I could. But they won’t listen to you and they’ll listen to me. Because I’m the middleman. The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line—it’s a middleman. And the more middlemen, the shorter. Such is the psychology of a pretzel.”

And that comes up again later:

Kent Lansing said, one evening: “Heller did a grand job. Do you remember, Howard, what I told you once about the psychology of a pretzel? Don’t despise the middleman. He’s necessary. Someone had to tell them. It takes two to make every great career: the man who is great, and the man—almost rarer—who is great enough to see greatness and say so.”

Another quote:

“We have to have the Palmers,” she said, “so that we can get the commission for their new store building. We have to get that commission so that we can entertain the Eddingtons for dinner on Saturday. The Eddingtons have no commissions to give, but they’re in the Social Register. The Palmers bore you and the Eddingtons snub you. But you have to flatter people whom you despise in order to impress other people who despise you.”

Another:

He had forgotten his first building, and the fear and doubt of its birth. He had learned that it was so simple. His clients would accept anything, so long as he gave them an imposing façade, a majestic entrance and a regal drawing room, with which to astound their guests. It worked out to everyone’s satisfaction: Keating did not care so long as his clients were impressed, the clients did not care so long as their guests were impressed, and the guests did not care anyway.

Journal editors seem to care more about an imposing façade, majestic entrance and regal drawing room to impress the public than about integrity, science or truth.


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Do You Really, Actually, Genuinely Want Unbounded Discussion?

When people post in the Unbounded section of my forum, and claim that they wanted unbounded discussion and criticism, I broadly don’t believe them. I tend to treat it like somewhat less bounded discussion.

What could people do to convince me that they actually want unbounded criticism?

You could build up a positive reputation by responding well to criticism and other comments, and by putting effort into learning. That helps. And there are other reasons to do those things. But there are also more direct approaches.

You could show knowledge of what unbounded criticism looks like. You could write some essays attempting to do unbounded criticism of some example stuff. One good source of examples/targets is public intellectuals. They’re suitable because there is public information available to discuss, they say some somewhat intellectual things, they have volunteered to be criticized, and they have generally already been flamed a lot and developed a thick skin so they won’t be hurt if some random guy on some random forum says something negative about them (even if they actually saw it). I think some of them can read their own subreddit, read some negative comments, and be emotionally OK. Others can’t, but they are frauds who should consider changing professions and leaving more room for other more deserving intellectuals to get attention. To be clear, this is not a comment on celebrities – just the intellectuals who claim to be rational. There is no particular reason someone good at acting, singing or sports should be good at being insulted or criticized, but intellectuals should be good at it. This particularly applies to the sort of intellectual who debates people, says they’re involved in truth seeking, says they’re smart and have good ideas, or something like that.

You could write self-criticism.

You could engage in highly critical debates and share them.

You could explain what you did to become emotionally stable.

You could explain what problems you identified and solved to become better at taking criticism.

You could find and read things I’ve written about various types of criticism that people sometimes don’t like. You could respond to and discuss those articles and ideas. There are some in Being Open to Debate (and Judging Intellectuals) and there are many more you could find elsewhere.

You could brainstorm more things that could go on this list and do those.

You could read some of my past debates and comment on some of the criticism I said. You could share thoughts and opinions on parts where people got upset by criticism. You could talk about what happened, how they could have had a better perspective, where in the debate you could see things going wrong, what early warnings signs there were (and how you could identify those in yourself), etc. You could also do this with other debates that didn’t include me.

You could talk about what you’ve done to become less biased and what you’ve done to test that it worked. You could do similar things regarding being social, second-handed, and more.

You could talk about the purpose and meaning of unbounded discussion. What are the upsides? Downsides? Why do it or not? What’s it like? How does it end? What rules, guidelines or limits are there?

When someone says they want unbounded criticism, but I’m not sure they’ve even read a single example of someone reacting negatively to some of my unconventional criticism, and they don’t explain any self-improvement projects they’ve done to gain the very-hard-to-acquire super power of actually wanted unbounded criticism, then I’m not really going to believe them.

Ultimately, you have to put effort into being good at unbounded discussion. If you’ve actually put in a lot of effort, you could communicate about that. If you don’t share about any effort – what you did, how it went, etc. – then I’ll probably just guess that you didn’t do it.


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I Less Often Reply to Anons

I reply less to short term, temporary identities. Why?

They don’t have a positive reputation. They haven’t shown any past willingness to put in effort, past knowledge, etc. They’re just throwaway accounts.

People often repeat the same mistakes. When they use a consistent name, I can know what to expect from them. I can work around those mistakes, or not reply when I know it's repeating something that already came up before, or refer back to a prior conversation.

If a new person makes a mistake for the first time, I’d handle that differently than an existing person making a mistake for the tenth time. With a new anonymous account, I can’t tell which case I’m dealing with. So it’s hard to answer.

I could ask a question but that brings us to another problem. Anonymous people are less persistent. They more often leave at any moment in the discussion. Asking a clarifying question is investing in the future – it’s doing something with no immediate benefit for me right now in hopes of maybe getting something good in the future like a better conversation. That is generally not an investment I want to make with anonymous people who might leave at any moment.

What can anonymous posters do to help with these problems? Here are some ideas: Put higher effort into your posts, and make the effort visible – e.g. say what your goal is and what actions you already took to try to accomplish that goal. If you couldn’t find the information on google, say that instead of just asking a question that I might think you could answer by googling. Provide more upfront value instead of potential later value. Address why you’re anonymous – e.g. if you want privacy for a specific personal topic, I’ll be more sympathetic since that reason makes sense. You could also direct message me your identity if you just want anonymity from the general public. You could also make stated commitments about how much you’ll persist in the discussion, however that doesn’t work well when you can just break your word and switch names.

Having no reputation to protect can result in worse behaviors.

I have talked multiple times about how to ask better and higher effort questions. I’ve talked about explaining your ongoing, independent, autonomous problem solving process, what you already did, and where you got stuck. When people ignore this, I respond less. When short term anonymous accounts ignore it, I don’t really have a good option except to ignore them. Trying to tell someone about higher effort questions is a reasonable option with a persistent identity which I can tell once or twice, and then if they keep doing it I can point out it’s a recurring problem. I sometimes like to talk about patterns of errors. They’re an important issue. I might or might not want to do that with a persistent identity. But if it’s an anonymous account, they could do the error ten times on ten different anonymous accounts without me knowing there’s a pattern. They could be a very bad listener without me seeing what’s going on. Having short term anonymous names, and switching them, deprives me of information about the problems in the conversations, and makes the conversation even less like an unbounded, rational conversation with ongoing long term problem solving.

In general, I’m trying to demonstrate other people’s flaws to them less, even if asked, but especially if not asked. It’s not my job to point out their errors. And I certainly want to do that less with anonymous accounts that’ll probably not appreciate it and will probably just stop responding. Or they might get upset, be a jerk about it, say things they shouldn’t have … and then switch identities for the next conversation so that I’ll underestimate the risk of the new anon getting triggered. (I’m also more distrusting of explicit appreciation or praise than I used to be. The majority of the time it’s actually done for manipulative reasons, not as part of the pursuit of objective truth. That’s very foreign to how I think and act, but I’ve come to accept that it’s widespread. Note: This does not mean that you should cut back on praise or appreciation comments. I do not prefer that and I’m not requesting it. For more of what I think about that, see Specialist Creators with Small Audiences.)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Beware Processed Food

There seems to be broad agreement that something significant is currently going wrong with health in the modern world. It seems related to food, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and more. It affects some countries, like the USA, more than others.

There is widespread disagreement about the underlying cause. What should we blame? Fat, sodium, gluten, carbs, overeating, under-exercising, lectins, meat, dairy, soy, sugar, caffeine, vaccines, microwaves, chemical additives, pesticides or GMOs? A lot of potential culprits involve what people eat, though some don’t.

My current, tentative understanding/opinion/conclusion is that there’s something bad about the modern, industrial, mass-produced American/Western diet with its heavily processed food. We don’t know exactly what it is, but something in our food and beverages is bad. Disclaimer: I am not an expert on food and this is not diet advice.

People see improvements on many different alternative diets, particularly diets that have already worked OK for a culture for hundreds of years. The common theme for why many diets work appears to be that they cut down on processed foods and eat more whole foods. There seems to be a pattern there.

Our heavy reliance on a small number of foods (including over half our calories from 4 seeds) seems bad. Eating more variety is generally better.

If I’m right, not all diets would help. An example diet that doesn’t reduce processed foods well is a vegan diet that uses fake substitute foods, like fake meats and cheeses, which are designed to resemble the real thing. Replacing a burger with a portobello mushroom, slice of eggplant or black beans is fine but obviously a different food. Replacing a burger with soy (Impossible Burger) or pea protein (Beyond Burger), plus refined vegetable oil, may taste like a lot like a burger, but it’s probably less healthy than a burger, not an improvement. Be wary of highly processed recipes meant to mimic real foods.

Similarly, some people eat a gluten free diet with highly processed substitutes like gluten free bread and pasta. Another diet that doesn’t cut processed foods is trying to eat a low fat version of the regular industrial diet, or any other version of the regular diet with a few specific things removed. Eating an “organic” version of the regular industrial diet also probably wouldn’t help much. Note that none of these questionable diets are traditional diets; instead, they’re all variants of the modern industrial diet.

Vegetable oils are commonly added to processed foods and might be one of the main problems. They’re a heavily processed food in their own right. They’re made with stuff like high heat, solvents, bleaching agents, etc. Note: “Vegetable oil” is a misleading name which mostly means seed oil and soybean oil, but excludes olive, coconut or avocado oil (which are commonly made with less processing).

Factory farms (and fish farms) mass-produce meat with poor living conditions and unnatural diets for the animals (the diets often involve a lot of US-government-subsidized soy and corn). The animals become unhealthy so the farms add bandaid solutions to cover up the problems, such as antibiotics and heartburn medication. They’ve also bred the animals to be significantly different than wild or historical animals, and the breeding wasn’t designed or tested for health, safety or nutrition. The breeding had other goals like producing a lot of meat quickly with less food, producing a large volume of milk, laying a large number of eggs, etc. (It’s easy to imagine how an animal that produces more milk, muscle or egg might have less nutrients in each ounce of food. Breeding larger plants could similarly dilute nutrients.)

Large plant farms overuse fertilizers and pesticides to cover up problems created from poor, unnatural growing conditions like dense monocrops. And they’ve bred and genetically modified the crops based on concerns like getting more food to market more cheaply, not health or safety. So our plants are different than what humans ate in the past. One thing they’ve done is breed plants to resist pesticides like Roundup so that they can use more of it (but, to borrow a quip, they neglected to also breed humans to resist Roundup). Another change is dwarf wheat (wheat with short stalks, since we don’t eat the stalk – this change might be fine; I don’t know). They’ve bred the parts of plants that we eat to be larger.

Note: There have been some efforts to modify plants for nutrition, such as golden rice, which has more vitamin A. Golden rice could reduce blindness and the deaths of children in poorer countries. Last I checked, they had a lot of trouble getting people to eat golden rice due to the golden color, and it’s a tragedy. Consumers can be unreceptive to plants designed for health rather than color, size, taste, texture, etc.

Here are some aspects of processed foods and the modern industrial diet, which could be good to reduce or avoid:

  • Over-eating the foods that the US government subsidies (e.g. wheat, corn, soy, dairy, factory farmed meat)
  • Eating foods unintentionally, without realizing you’re eating them. (They put soy, corn and vegetable oils in a bunch of packaged and restaurant foods. People apparently eat multiple tablespoons per day of vegetable oil without knowing. A lot of corn and soy is also mixed into other foods without people realizing what they’re eating)
  • Factory farms, processed meats, farm-raised fish. (One of the problems here is feeding a bunch of soy and corn to the animals instead of their normal diet, so you’re indirectly eating corn and soy)
  • Additives including: vegetable oils, gums, fillers, dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors, sweeteners. Generally watch out for any packaged food with a long list of ingredients (especially with weird names that you don’t recognize as a regular food)
  • Candy, chips (with vegetable oil), processed snack food
  • Drinking caffeine and alcohol
  • Processed drinks like soda and juice
  • Food extracts rather than whole foods. (The most concerning extracts require modern machinery or chemistry to get, and use things like solvents, bleaches, high pressure or high heat)
  • Shipping food long distances. (E.g. picking slightly unripe fruit in South America, where it’s warm when North America is cold, then shipping it to the U.S., then spraying it to change the color to look riper than it is. Maybe long distance shipping is fine if the food is effectively preserved first, e.g. by freezing, dehydrating, salting, pickling, canning, etc., but maybe not by adding modern preservative chemicals or just refrigerating it)

One can accept some ideas like this while remaining fairly neutral on specific diet ideas like: carnivore diet, paleo, keto, Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, etc. And you can still pick some of those that you agree with since they’re compatible with the anti-processed-foods ideas. But if in doubt about diet, and trying to be moderate/conservative, then less processed food and more whole foods looks like a good approach. There seems to be something wrong with the modern industrial diet even if we don’t know specifically what’s wrong.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on food. I have not extensively researched this. I am not offering advice or recommendations about what you personally should do. I’m just thinking out loud.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)