Marsh et al. "Serotonin Transporter Genotype (5-HTTLPR) Predicts Utilitarian Moral Judgments" 2011-10-07T07:08:54.108Z · score: 10 (13 votes)
A Sketch of an Anti-Realist Metaethics 2011-08-22T05:32:10.596Z · score: 16 (23 votes)
Meta: A 5 karma requirement to post in discussion 2011-01-20T06:22:13.396Z · score: 46 (53 votes)
Dutch Books and Decision Theory: An Introduction to a Long Conversation 2010-12-21T04:55:40.303Z · score: 21 (21 votes)
Karma Motivation Thread 2010-12-13T21:59:08.756Z · score: 23 (25 votes)
Pet Cryonics 2010-11-11T00:13:18.011Z · score: 6 (7 votes)
Open Thread: May 2010 2010-05-01T05:29:40.871Z · score: 3 (8 votes)
The Red Bias 2010-04-20T11:42:27.556Z · score: 33 (39 votes)
Ethics has Evidence Too 2010-02-06T06:28:24.157Z · score: 21 (32 votes)


Comment by jack on Undiscriminating Skepticism · 2019-06-04T21:19:05.113Z · score: 30 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Link: Biotech Corporate Email Hacked · 2014-12-03T04:14:51.334Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Running the numbers: Cryo vs Discount rate · 2014-06-05T05:22:35.767Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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.)

Comment by jack on Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014 · 2014-06-05T05:03:29.260Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Truth: It's Not That Great · 2014-05-06T07:15:55.814Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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 obviously there are all sorts of truths that aren't actually significant). And I actually think that is true even if you call it information gathering, though 'information gathering' is certainly vastly less poetic and lacks the affective valence of Truth.

Comment by jack on Truth: It's Not That Great · 2014-05-06T07:00:14.387Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What is meant by heretical?

Comment by jack on Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014 · 2014-04-10T23:08:37.358Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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 benefit from being around other people learning web development all the time and it will keep you from slacking off. Remember that this isn't college. You don't get a certificate or degree. So the point isn't to get through the program. The point is to learn as much as you possibly can while you're there.

Also, If you're still on the edge about doing it, I strongly recommend it. App Academy easily had a bigger beneficial impact on my life than anything else I've done. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

Comment by jack on Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014 · 2014-04-09T05:28:27.694Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hey Jayson. What's your programming background?

Comment by jack on What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility? · 2014-03-27T06:22:25.974Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

...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 believe they're addicted to cigarettes, and most say they'd like to give up the habit. The CDC reports 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.

There is a lot of moralizing around smoking and I suspect those numbers are inflated. It's like if you call people up and ask them if they recycle or plan on voting. People give answers that they think others want to hear: that's not the same as reflective equilibrium. Also, the fact that people are interested in quitting doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it is pleasurable. It's very pleasurable, which is why people start and continue. They often want to stop because they know that it causes cancer. But they still derive pleasure from it.

Not true in general. Another paper 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."

So up to 90% of smokers know some of the less well-publicized health risks? The numbers for lung cancer and emphysema must approach 100%. Don't cherry pick your evidence.

As to the rest of your comment: I'm not claiming cigarettes are a boon to humanity. The question was what ways of making a profit cause the largest loss of utility and I was objecting to an answer that failed to consider the actual value created by an industry.

Comment by jack on What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility? · 2014-03-27T06:09:30.415Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility? · 2014-03-27T06:07:35.879Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility? · 2014-03-25T06:46:28.191Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Rationalists Are Less Credulous But Better At Taking Ideas Seriously · 2014-01-30T05:15:48.318Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Polling Thread · 2014-01-26T09:35:24.456Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does Patriarchy explain the left tail too?

Comment by jack on Physics grad student: how to build employability in programming & finance · 2014-01-09T06:19:52.830Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-08T04:13:04.514Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity? · 2014-01-07T06:50:43.485Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

FYI, I'm going to keep citing him.

Comment by jack on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-06T10:55:54.642Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-06T10:17:08.104Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-06T10:05:33.350Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity? · 2014-01-06T09:39:37.233Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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 for.

E.g. Stephan Guyenet, whose arguments against Taubes account of carbs and insulin causing weight gain you posted earlier, thinks that no unbiased person who is familiar with the literature can believe there is a causal link between sat fat and cholesterol and heart disease.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity? · 2014-01-01T23:02:00.713Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity? · 2014-01-01T22:56:31.899Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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 obesity problem more generally.

You've found plenty of quotes from Taubes in which he doesn't really make that distinction. We can agree he is guilty of using hyperbolic language to make his point and avoids equivocating to make his writing sound better. If he wants to avoid being read uncharitably by you in the future he should stop that.

After talking about how mainstream sources do take things other than calories in -- calories out into consideration, and linking to someone (Guyenet) who seems to have actually taken these other things seriously in his consideration of the causes of obesity; you make Taubes' point for him by concluding that we should actually be talking about akrasia.

I've lowered my pre-series credence for the position that "Taubes is right about how low-carb diets work" due to the Guyenet piece. My credence for "Low-carb diets are more effective for losing weight than calorie counting" remains high. As does "Sugar and other easily-digestible, low-fiber carbohydrates -- not over-eating, portion-size or lack of exercise -- are the primary causes of the 'obesity epidemic' in the Western world."

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 4: What Causes Obesity? · 2014-01-01T21:43:35.843Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-30T10:46:04.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar? · 2013-12-28T02:08:17.271Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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 is wrong or dishonest-- especially with the context of a broader debate. Call it the Rationalist's Fallacy, in a world where everyone selectively emphasizes some facts to support their position someone selectively emphasizing facts that support their position provides little to no evidence about whether they are right or wrong, whether they are honest or dishonest or whether their work is net beneficial for the world.

Sorry, I should have said that earlier. I was worried about embarrassing Eliezer, but that was probably a mistake, insofar as it may have left people wondering why I was wasting my time on such an awful article. But it seemed worth addressing, insofar Eliezer apparently thought it made a good argument that crazed dietary scientists had killed millions.

Okay, well that makes some sense. But I sort of suspect Eliezer thought Taubes work in general made a good case that dietary scientists had killed millions and that was just the most convenient article he had when looking for cites.

knowing sweets aren't health food isn't rocket science.

Candy, sure. But there are tons of people who think yogurt with fruit(and corn syrup) on the bottom is health food. And juice. And Gatorade. I'll bet a lot of people have purchased a sugar filled cereal for their children after looking at the bottom of that food pyramid.

But what I don't get is why this confidence in the readers of the AHA pamphlet doesn't yield more charity when interpreting Taubes.

Taubes, on the other hand, is assuming the opposite of sophistication, if expects his audience to apparently have once believed Coke was a health food.

Nowhere does he say that. What he says is:

and then on the sugar or corn syrup in the soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks that we have taken to consuming in quantity if for no other reason than that they are fat free and so appear intrinsically healthy.

If we're assuming the reader has enough knowledge to understand that the government's recommendations have never been very high on sweets it's pretty clear that what Taubes is saying is that people end up drinking a lot of soft drinks (but this certainly applies even more to fruit juices and sports drinks) because they have been told that the primary thing they should do to avoid gaining weight is to avoid fat at all costs. Which, if not obviously true is certainly a very plausible hypothesis.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar? · 2013-12-28T01:39:24.210Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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 thought he departed drastically from the mainstream in terms of advice about sugar consumption. I certainly get this impression from his view on carbohydrates more generally and anti-fat and anti-saturated fat messages( which is what the books are actually about!). If Chris or someone posts something indicating that he is misrepresenting mainstream nutrition science there I'll change my min.

Then what was bad about it?

It's hard to reconstruct these things, but Nornagest's comment is basically what I remember. I definitely remember thinking Popsicles were healthier than ice cream because they didn't contain fat.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar? · 2013-12-27T22:08:35.665Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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 book and less in his second. The books' pitch has nothing at all to do with sugar: it's about the low-fat prescription.

All my life, the sugar message has been much more central then the "fat" message (this may be unique to me, as my parents considered pop to basically be bottled poison).

I definitely got a pretty strong anti-sugar message but (importantly I think) it wasn't a "sugar makes you fat" message.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T20:11:06.348Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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 clarity of Taubes' position.

If literally anyone else thinks this they are welcome to say so and I will talk with them about it. Done now.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 3: Did the US Government Give Us Absurd Advice About Sugar? · 2013-12-27T20:06:31.276Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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 of a nutritional recommendation is getting conflated with the practical effects it has on what people eat, especially in the short-form article context that you start out quoting from (why, by the way is that your jumping off point? It seems totally ill-suited as a best-version of his argument).

The part that Taubes ridicules about low-fat cookies and so on comes from a section on snacks that doesn't come with a recommended number of daily servings. I suppose if you read the AHA pamphlet knowing nothing else about nutrition, you could take that as a sign that the listed snacks are wonderfully healthy and you should eat as much of them as you like. But anyone familiar with the standard nutrition advice of the time would understand that the intended meaning is "if you snack, choose the low-fat options"—not that you should necessarily be snacking much at all. That may or may not have been good advice, but it's not nearly so absurd as Taubes makes it out to be.

Wait, the American Heart Association can get away with assuming that level of sophistication in their (much more general) audience but Taubes isn't allowed to assume we know the government wasn't literally recommending people drink soda and infer that he is complaining about relative levels of emphasis-- the focus on fat over sugar?

I also worry that people who haven't read Taubes will think you're talking about a central argument of his. This entire sugar digression is basically tangential to the bulk of his critque.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T18:54:07.242Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T10:28:32.084Z · score: -4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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.

I have however-many years of reading your comments here and your barely-positive karma ratio to remind me that you will be drawing your own conclusions completely independently of someone else being able to back up their claims.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T10:24:39.638Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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 hours after eating rather than a moderate difference in baseline insulin. What is going on is probably more complicated than a straight-shot from carbohydrates to insulin to fat. We probably need a more committed, more knowledgeable or less busy defender of Taubes here.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T08:22:08.926Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T08:20:17.153Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T08:06:26.481Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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 it being a tautology) seems like a reasonable thing to do. That is-- aside from being uninformative it also seems like it might have counterproductive effects as far as people interpret it as dieting advice.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T06:17:33.021Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T06:13:30.037Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T06:11:14.712Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-27T00:35:01.592Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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 modern, western world-- but it in some societies it's probably the only way some people ever get /got fat.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T23:47:52.568Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T23:41:57.188Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T23:38:49.937Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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?

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T23:36:59.154Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T23:05:49.544Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T23:01:41.758Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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 they are growing. They require the excess calories to satisfy the requirements of growth; the result is positive energy balance. The growth is induced by hormones and, in particular, by growth hormone. This is the same path of cause and effect that would be taken by anyone who is driven to put on fat by a metabolic or hormonal disorder. The disorder will cause the excess growth—horizontal, in effect, rather than vertical. For every calorie stored as fat or lean tissue, the body will require that an extra calorie either be consumed or conserved. As a result, anyone driven to put on fat by such a metabolic or hormonal defect would be driven to excessive eating, physical inactivity, or some combination. Hunger and indolence would be side effects of such a hormonal defect, merely facilitating the drive to fatten. They would not be the fundamental cause. “Positive caloric balance may be regarded as the cause of fatness,” Rony explained, “when fatness is artificially produced in a normal person or animal by forced excessive feeding or forced rest, or both. But obesity ordinarily develops spontaneously; some intrinsic abnormality seems to induce the body to establish positive caloric balance leading to fat accumulation. Positive caloric balance would be, then, a result rather than a cause of the condition.”

Why We Get Fat includes more like the above, but the copy I have with me doesn't allow for easy copy and pasting. But that's the story basically. Yes, people who are fat are going to necessarily have had a positive caloric-intake balance from when they were not fat. But that doesn't mean that the causal node to intervene on is a) how much a person eats or b)how much they exercise. Taubes's claim is that the fat composition of your body is determined by your hormones, insulin in particular which is secreted based on your blood-sugar levels. Your body then overeats -- or avoids burning calories-- to compensate.

Illustrative of this effect are a wide variety of lab animal experiments that induce obesity by manipulating the animal's endocrine system while controlling food intake.

Why don't we start there. What do you find incoherent about that?

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T21:41:06.999Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 2: Atkins Redux · 2013-12-26T19:59:00.463Z · score: 18 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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?

Comment by jack on Critiquing Gary Taubes, Part 1: Mainstream Nutrition Science on Obesity · 2013-12-25T19:38:54.221Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

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.

Comment by jack on Local truth · 2013-12-22T21:39:28.335Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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.