Not Written About Climate Science, But It Could Have Been

Michelle Minton on flawed government nutrition guidance and the science behind it:

Congress, of course, is an inherently political entity. And so when it — or any other government-appointed body — privileges one theory over another, it creates bias that trickles down to the research community. The problem is not simply that the government makes decisions on the basis of imperfect information, but that government intervention, itself, can distort the development of research.

For example, the theory that dietary fat plays a large role in cardiovascular disease was controversial in the scientific community, even as the government began relying on it to develop the first federal nutritional guidelines. In fact, a lot of the existing research contradicted it. Nevertheless, the theory flourished. Why? In part, no doubt, because researchers — many of whom rely on government grants — faced risks associated with bucking the new zeitgeist created by the government.

  • CC

    Having written grant proposals, I can tell you that often the RFP is written in a way that excludes alternate hypotheses or contradictory evidence. Try getting a grant showing that white lab mice are especially prone to cancer or that too little salt in your diet is dangerous. In the physical sciences it is easier to get grants to study basic mechanisms, but more bias is infiltrating even there because NSF (etc) want to be "relevant".

  • Mike Powers

    I never get this. The same people that tell us how we should totally listen to the government about everything A: ignore stories like this, or handwave them away with "oh well everyone is wrong sometimes and private industry would have been worse!", while B: telling us how utterly horrible it would be if Republicans ran everything.

  • antiquarian

    Gary Taubes's book Why We Get Fat blew the final shreds of the Food Pyramid (and of the credibility of nutrition scientists) out of my mind. He cites so, so many examples of primitive societies in which their previous, mostly-meat diets resulted in almost no obesity, diabetes or other major problems, and which bloated up and got sick pretty much the moment governments started importing "modern" carb-heavy foods for them. I wouldn't be surprised if the abysmal failures of modern nutrition science turned out to play a disproportionate role in popular distrust of government, since it's a field of study that hits so close to home.

  • Rick Caird

    I noticed that too. When I tell the true believers in AGW that the science is skewed, they express horror that I could think that.

  • kidmugsy

    If one scientist makes a public statement it might be about science. If the statement is by more than one all it ever means is "Give us your money".