Okay, so science vs. pseudoscience is something I care passionately about, and I expect at least some PHers to feel similarly. (Or maybe not... lol.)
So here is my general gut instinct on how PH should handle pseudoscience: if you post a question about a book, belief, journal article, or practice that is backed up by bad science or pseudoscience, I expect everyone at PH to chip in and point that out. I don't care if your belief is pro-Paleo, pro-vegan, pro-religious, anti-religious, pro-low-carb, or pro-low-fat. Bad science is bad science.
One common question I've been asked, in response to my very verbose comments in some relevant threads, is "Why do you care? Why can't you just leave us alone to look for pro-Paleo evidence in the Bible? This thread is a valuable resource to me and other Christians."
And my response is: well, I care because you are doing one of several things: looking only for confirmatory evidence of conclusions you already hold; disregarding contradictory evidence; thinking sloppily; or generally espousing ideas that are overwhelmingly contradicted by the data. This is the kind of thinking that plagues much of the medical/scientific literature on nutrition already, and it has caused significant harm in the last several decades. I don't want to see PaleoHacks become a place where those habits are encouraged -- do you?
My general premise is that pseudoscience, bad science, and sloppy thinking are to be avoided. And not just avoided, but rather actively sought out, exposed, and thoroughly criticized (politely!). Look at how Mat Lalonde criticizes the sloppy thinking behind some commonly held beliefs in the Paleo community. That is an excellent critical thinker at work, and that is the kind of standard to which we should all aspire. When we see others falling prey to sloppy thinking, we should be quick to point that out, all the more so when their conclusions are similar to ours.
I think there are some confounding factors here that make a level-headed discussion of this issue difficult:
Some people cross the bounds of civility. Not cool.
Some people interpret legitimate criticism of bad science as being "offensive" and "not respectful" of other people's religious beliefs. I have a real problem with this. I don't think pseudoscience or bad science should be given a free pass just because it's in line with your religious beliefs. If you believe that humans are not the product of evolution, I think it's legitimate for me to say "you have no idea what you are talking about, scientifically speaking, and your conclusions are contradicted by overwhelming evidence." I am not being disrespectful of your religious beliefs (as long as I state my criticisms politely). I am pointing out that you are a bad scientist.
I don't presume to speak for PaleoHacks. So, here is my initial proposal, on which I would love to have some input:
Questions ABOUT pseudoscientific or allegedly pseudoscientific books, beliefs, and practices are fine (in my opinion). For example, I asked a question about oil pulling and someone pointed out that the reasoning behind oil pulling appeared to be pseudoscience (and I agreed).
Actively spreading bad science or pseudoscience in the answers or comments is something that should be downvoted and criticized. For example: if I say that oil pulling makes your teeth cleaner because it's homeopathic or relies on your golden flower nature or because some extra-scientific text supports it, you should rip my argument to shreds (politely).
If someone criticizes your position politely, and on scientific grounds, this is not "bashing someone's faith." It is being a good critical thinker. It is pointing out other people's bad science, pseudoscience, and sloppy thinking. I would criticize bad reasoning whether it came from a theist, an atheist, a vegan, a Paleo-eater, a homeopath, or a Nobel-winning scientist. Or even Stephan Guyenet.
If someone criticizes your position (on any grounds) but not politely, then by all means accuse that person of faith-bashing, slap him or her with warnings and suspensions, and so on.
What say you all? Does anybody else care? Should people who propagate bad science on PH be allowed their discussions in peace? Or should we go after them relentlessly but politely? Or something else altogether? I know how some of you think, but I'm interested in hearing more voices.
In the words of Jack Webb (Dragnet) - "Just the facts, Ma'am."
The point of paleo (to me) is to go where the science leads and make corrections as we go.
If someone wants to know about alkaline water or homeopathy, I would be quick to say - no effect better than placebo, and someone's making a lot of moola on those scams.
I know people who swear by ph water or homeopathy or magnets - which is to say the mind is a powerful tool. But the hard science has to rule here, even if we don't know what it is yet.
As a site where people interested in Paleo can discuss and get information to better their lives, obviously scientifically respectable information is very valuable here. However there doesn't seem to me anything in the terms "paleo" or "primal" or even "evolutionary diet" that require anyone to accept science as the best or only way to think about this stuff, nor that they ought not also include things you might consider woo in their lives and decision making processes.
The suggestions you're making come across to me as being purely evangelical about your own ideology, and in some cases the way you have chosen to phrase things (eg - "the critical thinkers" implicitly only being those people who think the way you do) is flat out insulting. Now I don't particularly care about what your opinions of religions people are, nor even that you have your own ideology about the relative values of science and everything else. But the evangelical and conversion-oriented tone of your proposal here is a problem for me. I recall having seen that we've already had some mockery in threads about paganism or yoga. We really don't need any more of it; it's hostile and it helps no one.
I think discussing these things is fine as long as they are in the context of healthy eating or some aspect of a healthy lifestyle (i.e. exercise, fitness, stress, etc).
But if you post something like: "I believe Jesus was probably Paleo even though he fed fish and bread to 5000 people. Do you believe that God wants us to be Paleo?", then you are off your rocker and the question should be immediately deleted.
But to Jae, I do not claim to believe in the 'science' that you claim is concrete. I also don't necessarily agree with the timeframes that scientists want to put on 'dating' objects, and that we can be certain that dinosaurs ruled the earth 65 million years ago. What if it was only 11 million years ago? That would put the scientists off base by a measly 54 million years. Whoopsie! That dinosaur deal is just a quick example. I know about radioactive and carbon dating. I know about layers of earth sediment, and redshift light theory, and the mathematical distances that our modern telescopes have measured. I am edumacated. But I have read some very reasoned and sound arguments against those things that make me, as a primarily rationally thinking person, question the integrity of those scientific ‘facts’. Some people believe VERY firmly that saturated fat is unhealthy to put into your mouth and intentionally swallow. Some highly qualified doctors, nutritionalists, and well respected medical professionals believe it even now as I type this, and they would defend their position as absolute FACT, undeniable based on this report or that study. And yet I disagree, and it would (and does) upset them when I do so.
So why do say all this? Because you claiming what is and isn't pseudoscience is not as clear as you make it seem. Really intelligent scientists disagree with some of your assertions, and have some solid scientific reasoning behind their stance, but are normally squashed in mainstream when they try to trumpet those viewpoints. Is that right? Is that fair? How can we know for sure if that is fair? Even that very question is subjective, and morally driven.
I normally don't like to mix in my personal beliefs too much with this stuff, which is why I usually just take a outside viewpoint and analyze the situation almost as a third person looking in. That's the reason why threads that discuss personal religious beliefs and such get shut down. Because even the comments I am making here will likely awaken emotion within people and be taken as an attack on their beliefs, surely not my intention. It may also make people really not like me anymore, also not quite what I'm after.
So there you have it. This is why Melissa (and others, of course) are quick to head off these discussions if they fall outside the context of Paleo health and become too emotionally charged for people, especially when comments are made that disresepctfully attack the core beliefs of others, even if it’s not the commenter’s real intention.
Unfortunately this is the internet, most of us are anonymous, we don't have to pass any exam to answer questions on here. Whilst it stays this way both the questions and the answers will have to be allowed to fluctuate between the realms of pseudo-science and more sensible stuff.
Personally I don't trust anyone on here and am weary of everything, like if someone has a "Dr" infront of their name. But there is interesting stuff to be found here too.
The big problem here is what is it that you call "pseudo science". Of course, I agree with you that the logic should not be flawed, as in the case of someone looking just for confirmatory evidence, etc. Anyway, there may be some scientists here at PH but most people are not scientists, and even scientists often disagree with each other. So if you reject any view that does not have a strong, solid scientific proof most people would be unable to participate. Moreover there are a number of issues that are very much relevant, nevertheless are not appropiate for a scientific debate, for instance, "how do you like a certain meat" or "did anybody lose this much weight eating potatoes" (personal experience, hard to translate into real science). Both scientific issues and personal experiences are reasonable issues at PaleoHack.
I've actually never seen this be a problem. I thought that the thread about Body By God was pretty decent and there were many skeptical voices. However, I will delete answers that do that answer the question or that are rude (up to my discretion). I realize that many people on the internet do not know what is rude and not rude. It differs between cultures, but there are many diplomatic skeptical voices out there that I do not delete.
Overall, I've found that woo mongers here don't last very long. People downvote them and voice skepticism. They realize that this is not the sort of place that tolerates crap.
That said, I believe that these sort of question are off topic (Body by God is not a paleo book) and not something that can be hacked as I explain here and will solve us all a lot of problems by closing them. Religion and paleo is an interesting topic, but one that does not do well on this site because it's outside our scope.
Well (and this relates to my last posting), "just the facts" will only get you so far in the paleosphere. For example, "ketosis is bad for you"....fact or not? It seems to be up for debate, according to which expert/blogger one is reading. Or this: "You should/shouldn't consume dairy on a paleo diet." Again, it's up to individual schools of thought or even individual people and their own n=1 results. So to suggest that there is some kind of scientific acid test for every piece of information that passes our threshold here seems like a difficult argument to maintain, once we get even a little bit into the particulars.
Ugh. I'm hesitant to say what I think, here Jae, especially since our discussion is probably largely behind this proposal. It will probably get me down votes, but that's OK.
I can't not include a reconciliation of my religion into the Paleo lifestyle. To me, my religion is more important than nutrition, or living paleo.
Personally, I see enough parallels between the Bible and Christianity to reconcile my beliefs. I have an evolutionary creationist viewpoint backed by the long-day and canopy theories.
Having said those things, I don't understand (and correct me here...) who is qualified to call what I think, "pseudoscience" (a pejorative term in our context-I think)?
"If you hold religious beliefs XYZ, and you want to discuss whether or not they are consistent with Paleo, you better be prepared to offer up some actual scientific reasoning and not purely extra-scientific or pseudoscientific reasoning for those beliefs"...How can you decide? Are you saying that there should be a canonical requirement for posting? i.e. 'You must think x,y, and z to post on PH, otherwise you will be relentlessly corrected by those who have a better view than yours.' How's that?
It's up to the moderators and Patrik, and it's an interesting proposal, for sure, but I think it's slightly pretentious and closed-minded.
I don't subscribe to any sort of mysticism, but if one considers anecdotal evidence to be pseudoscience, then I would have to say that earnest anecodotes can be just as valid, if not more valid, than a peer-reviewed scientific study funded by a pharmaceutical company. We all love to fling scientific papers around, but I remain just as skeptical of those as of "I do this and this is the result."
What is science? Here is a great site: http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/science-definition.html
I am an environmental scientist by education and by trade. So, science (and the scientific method) is near and dear to me. I have been taught to question everything around me. And I really LOVE this site, because it combines a wealth of scientific knowledge as well as plenty of human knowledge (n=1).
I can find all the scientific papers I want (and you can find a paper to back up any viewpoint out there). Many have great information, many don't. I find that a lot of academics and high-level scientist have lost their ability to really truly impart their knowledge to the regular person, which to me is an epic failure - I digress...
I want to know what works for the regular paleo people out there and how they adapt to situtations. I guess I want to know more of the human side of paleo rather than the science.
Is paleo more science or pseudoscience? 10 Answers
[meta] Non-paleo viewpoints 13 Answers