What happens when someone from outside a field engages in debate with those inside the field? It depends. The more self-confident a discipline is, the more those in the field will simply point out errors in fact and logic. The less self-confident a discipline is, the more it will circle the wagons and try to exclude scholars based on lack of the approved credentials.
In general, I think allowing disciplines to keep folks from other disciplines out is dangerous. In my view, every important scientific question needs at least two disciplines looking at it. The different incentives in those two disciplines then gives some hope that there will be a bit of competition and some difference in perspectives.
Today, I thought it would be entertaining to show you some of the abuse that has been heaped on me for daring to get involved in thinking about diet and health without bowing down to those who have credentials in the field of nutrition.
For perspective, I need to emphasize that for my purpose today, the tweets below focus on the most negative moments in the Twitter discussions. There were some good substantive discussions along the way and usually a degree of rapprochement toward the end of each Twitter discussion. So people can rise above this type of exclusionary credentialism that claims a scientific monopoly on certain questions for a field. But people’s initial reflexes are often quite contrary to the ideals I personally have for open intellectual debate. You will get some sense of the ideals I have for open intellectual debate in my tweets below.
I should also note that sometimes when people are helpful and send me links so I can see more clearly what they are thinking, I discover that I have been in the middle of a scientific debate within the field. Rather than saying something ridiculous, I find I am saying what one side of the debate within the field is saying. In any case, expressing and acting on a view is a great way to get corrected, challenged, or to begin to get relevant data or experience.
Finally, note the circularity in some of the debate below. The starting point is debating whether Jason Fung encouraging people to experiment with a 28-day fast could possibly be reasonable. Then people question my credentials. I say it is really Jason Fung’s credentials that are at issue, and that he is an MD. Then someone says his credentials are worthless because he is encouraging people to experiment with a 28-day fast. I would submit that Jason Fung has a lot more experience with seeing what happens with 28-day fasts than everyone else in this Twitter discussion.
By the way, don’t try a fast longer than 48 hours without reading Jason’s books (and the cautions in them) first. And I can also warn you that if you don’t make the transition to a low-insulin-index diet first, fasting even 24 hours is likely to be miserable. See my section of links on “The Basics” at the bottom of the post.
Update May 30, 2019: Here is another more recent twitter thread that refers back to the post above. A few of the most interesting tweets from this thread:
Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:
I. The Basics
II. Sugar as a Slow Poison
III. Anti-Cancer Eating
IV. Eating Tips
V. Calories In/Calories Out
VI. Other Health Issues
VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise
Julia Belluz and Javier Zarracina: Why You'll Be Disappointed If You Are Exercising to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies (my retitling of the article this links to)
IX. Gary Taubes
X. Twitter Discussions
XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health
See the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities” and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.