Seth Roberts has passed away

by on April 28, 2014 at 6:50 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

The sad news is here, from his sister, he collapsed while hiking.  This is a shock, as I had email with Seth less than a week ago…

For the pointer I thank Denis.

Addendum: Ben Casnocha has an excellent appreciation.

1 Thehova April 28, 2014 at 7:37 am

Awful news. RIP.

2 Ray Lopez April 28, 2014 at 8:25 am

Never heard of him until now. From a Google Groups photo he looks young (40-ish). His Wikipedia entry does not indicate an age. RIP / DEP. It reminds me a bit of the ‘Grape Nuts’ fitness guy back 30 years ago who advocated some diet to make you healthy but died young.

3 Mark Thorson April 28, 2014 at 9:20 am

Euell Gibbons, who died not terribly young at 64. According to Wikipedia, he died of a complication of Marfan’s syndrome, which is a genetic disease.

4 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 10:39 am

First, I dont know Seth and Im sorry to hear of his passing nonetheless. If Tyler has enough regard to mark his life, then he is likely someone worth knowing.

Something related to your Grape Nuts remark: John Robbins, son of the Baskin Robbins founder, Irv Robbins, is a radical left wing hippie who has written books about health and nutrition. He boasts, among other things, that his lifestyle would help you live to be 100.

He vociferously criticized his father for the unhealthy practice of eating ice cream daily. Irv lived to be 90. John has at least 24 more years to demonstrate that he will outlive his father and 34 years to prove he can fulfill the title of his own book.

I only briefly read some of the comments about Seth, and there were several references to Omega 3. That is an important part of one’s diet, but as a fatty acid you can actually overdose on it. I hope this wasnt the case with Seth.

The current fads of paleo diets and Cross fit are disturbing. They are creating 10% fit people and 90% injured and malnourished people. The diet is based in the flimsiest and most ridiculous of premises, and the ballistic exercises are very dangerous if not done perfectly. The cult-like devotion to them scares me more.

There are very few secret formulas for eating right and exercising. These fads appear to work only because they focus the preponderence of one’s attention on two narrow points of focus.

Learning that Seth lived in Berkeley says a lot too. The place is a den of mysticism and self-effacing conformism to fads, ironically in the spirit of non-conformity.

Whatever the cause, I hooe his life and passing instructs the world. That is, IMO, the greatest honor a life can bestow.

5 Ray Lopez April 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

@Willitts – “I only briefly read some of the comments about Seth, and there were several references to Omega 3. That is an important part of one’s diet, but as a fatty acid you can actually overdose on it. I hope this wasnt the case with Seth.” — funny you mention that, since on his blog page there was a comment about a guy who warned Seth about OD’-ing on Omega 3, because apparently Seth had miscalculated some aspect of the dose of Omega 3 needed (I read the remark quickly today but that’s the gist). The guy had wrote that a short while ago he had warned Seth about this mistake, and Seth had acknowleged the mistake and presumably corrected for it. Also reminds me of the outdoors fitness guy who died in Alaska (“Christopher Johnson McCandless” “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Wild_(book)”) supposedly due to some toxicity problem with eating wild plants (one theory at least).

6 buddyglass April 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

If you’re malnourished on the paleo diet then you’re doing it wrong.

7 Joshua April 28, 2014 at 5:39 pm

No true Scotsman would eat a Paleo diet.

8 buddyglass April 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Hah. Except, no. If you think I’ve committed a fallacy, tell me which of the following you disagree with:

1. The goal of the paleo diet is all-around good health.
2. Malnutrition precludes “good health”.
3. It is possible (and not unreasonably difficult) to achieve proper nutrition while adhering to “paleo” restrictions.

One can obviously adhere to the paleo restrictions but eat in such a way as to malnourish one’s self. You could eat only celery, for example. This would be counter to the specified goal of the paleo diet, though, which is to achieve good health. In other words, if you ate only celery you’d be “doing it wrong”.

For the record I don’t eat paleo. In fact, I just ate three sublimely processed Quaker Oats granola bars full of refined sugar and other terrible things. I just object to the notion that the paleo diet is a recipe for malnutrition.

9 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 6:49 pm

@buddyglass

Actually, I think you reinforced the fallacy with your “explanation.” 🙂

ALL “diets” are purportedly for “all-around good health.”
ALL diets have the potential for malnutrition just like EVERY exercise has the potential for injury
ALL diets require behavior modification, self-discipline, or both, and failing in either subjects the user to never-before experienced risks

Personally I do not believe in “diets” per se. I believe in moderation and common sense. The diet that is best is the diet that “works,” and “works” means achieving your objectives. Failing to meet your objectives equals a failure of the diet.

I never said that “paleo” is a recipe for malnutrition. What I said was that it is a fad, and like all fads emotion trumps sense. The entire concept of “paleo” is that we eat what we naturally evolved eating. This, in and of itself, is a MONSTROUS fallacy. Evolution ensures only local optima, not global optima, and evolutionary success is fleeting. If they don’t get basic evolutionary science right, I have my doubts about the diet.

But if it is stupid and it works, it aint stupid. I don’t argue with success and the paleo-nuts certainly appear fit and healthy. The problem is that you have selection bias, survivor bias, and no objective benchmarks and measurements to demonstrate they are fit and healthy. I don’t care what you choose to do with your body, but I’m not going to drink the paleo kool aid.

10 buddyglass April 28, 2014 at 9:17 pm

ALL “diets” are purportedly for “all-around good health.”

Maybe not all. Not entirely sure, but I think there are some that are up front about being a temporary thing to bring about rapid weight loss and not a permanent “optimal health” solution. One can also imagine a hypothetical diet whose restrictions preclude proper nutrition, meaning if you follow that diet and wind up malnourished it’s a “feature” and not a “bug”.

Paleo is neither of those. It’s billed as a long-term solution that is “nutrition aware” and within whose restrictions one is supposed to be able to achieve proper nutrition. From my understanding of the restrictions, both those claims are true. You can follow paleo for the rest of your life and not suffer malnutrition. You can also follow paleo and guarantee malnutrition, per the “only celery” example.

The truth or falsehood of my claim that “if you’re malnourished you’re doing it wrong” hinges on whether “proper nutrition” is part and parcel with “following paleo”. If eating only celery counts as “following paleo” then my claim is false; one can be “doing it right” and still suffer malnutrition. If, however, one must eat a variety of foods and guarantee adequate amounts of essential nutrients in order to “follow paleo” then I stand by what I said.

I agree that interest in paleo is faddish at the moment. That said, I think its a pretty good plan to follow if you’re going to follow a diet. At least, compared to some of the other faddish diets that have gone before it. (Atkins anyone?)

11 Willitts April 29, 2014 at 12:02 am

@buddy

You’ve come across two other logical fallacies. First is begging the question. You have defined the paleo diet such that you cannot be wrong about its objective being a correct execution. I may have been question begging as well, but only so that we both have a consistent definition of diet for discussion.

Clearly a hunger strike is a diet for which the objective is not long run health. But you and I both know thats not what we are talking about.

A temporary binge-purge diet still ostensibly has the long run objective of all around health unless you are doing it as part of an orgy, and you know thats not what we are talking about.

Vegetarians often have dual physical and moral objectives, and dual objectives always have tradeoffs except for rare global optima. Although they often suffer from malnutrition, they frequently wont admit it. So, ostensibly, they are striving for all around health.

Im not saying paleo is unhealthy either by poor design or infeasible execution. Im only calling its efficacy into question. I have clearly seen apparent success. I think the failures havent been properly explored yet and thus the success rate is questionable. If people cant stick to it, it isnt feasible.

I generally applaud any “diet” that involves conscious choice about what people stuff down their pie holes. But success for paleo could be akin to talking to plants to keep them healthy – it isn’t the talking that works, but the fawning attention.

The second fallacy is lost contrast. You have suppressed the option of failure in execution of the paleo diet, and hence left a successful implementation as the only remaining choice. I have no doubt that paleo is “designed” to ensure proper nutrition. I simply have my doubts about the skill and knowledge of the designers.

Most chiropractors I know can sound very intelligent about their craft, but it doesnt take long before they resort to misstatements about physiology and appeals to mysticism. For all I know, chiro works, but I dont think chiropractors have a clue either A) that it works or B) how it works. Their livelihood depends on believing it works and convincing others it works. I doubt many of them consider failures any more than hedge funds include the losers in their performance attribution.

12 Aaron Luchko April 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Seth Roberts big thing was the Shangri-La diet (poorly named). The basic theory is it tries to manipulate the body’s set point by ingesting some tasteless calories in between meal times, supposedly it results in a spontaneous reduction in total calorie intake. I think the set point theory is standard nutrition science, his proposed mechanism for manipulating it not so much.

From the sounds of it he moved more towards an Omega-3 based version of the diet. I tried it a few years back and after a couple months started dropping some weight but I could never figure out if it was placebo or not. Either way I would be very hesitant before positing a link between his passing and his self-experimentation.

13 Willitts April 29, 2014 at 12:11 am

If I were a medical examiner, that’s the first place I’d look after tox screening and other basic diagnostics.

Homeostasis is a tender equillibrium. It does not take much to throw it off. Unusual diets and exercise are often hazardous.

On the other hand, people with real medical conditions often self-experiment out of desperation. You may very well be right that his unusual diet was caused by rather than the cause of his fatal condition. And, of course, they may be completely unrelated or cointegrated.

I appreciate now why you are hesitant to jump to conclusions. Thanks for setting us straight.

14 Aaron Luchko April 29, 2014 at 12:29 am

I haven’t followed his self-experimentation but if it was just a bunch of Omega-3 from flax I think it’s a pretty innocuous diet. It’s not uncommon to drink straight olive oil every day and I don’t believe it’s associated with anything bad.

As for an underlying medical condition I’m aware of none. I know he was previously overweight, apparently he lost some weight on a vacation, started speculating as to the cause, then came up with a mechanism and tested it through his self experimentation and diet.

Certainly I hope they perform an autopsy if for no other reason than was relatively young, but my hunch is the cause of death will be unrelated.

15 Brandon Berg April 29, 2014 at 4:12 am

The oleic acid in olive oil and the alpha linoleic acid in flax meal are different substances with different biological properties. In particular, ALA has blood-thinning properties that increase the risk of bleeding, hence the speculation that this may have been the cause.

16 Douglas Knight April 28, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I think he was in grad school about 1976-1981, and thus about 60.

17 Thanatos Savehn April 28, 2014 at 8:59 am

His blog is very junk sciency; what was the appeal?

18 dearieme April 28, 2014 at 9:32 am

Spirit, pluck, inquisitiveness, creativity, rejection of the me-too routine investigations so often passed off as science.

19 prior_approval April 28, 2014 at 9:58 am

His self-experimentation apparently represented the highest stage of science.

20 Just Another MR Commentor April 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

The highest stage of science is infact represented by the creation of microfounded, parameter matched calibrated, backtracked models in a dynmaic stochastic framework.

21 Rahul April 28, 2014 at 11:45 am

Immigration?

22 Jason Y. April 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

The more difficult it is to understand how a conclusion was reached, the sounder it is. Of course.

23 Baphomet April 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm

I do not even see any junk science; I see an eating disorder.

24 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Not commenting about the deceased subject here:

If a person demonstrates some irrational behavior in one major aspect of their life, does that impeach the rationality of other important aspects of their life?

Can we, say, trust an economist who believes in astrology? Or can people successfully compartmentalize their stupidity?

25 Marie April 29, 2014 at 8:46 am

“Can we, say, trust an economist who believes in astrology?”

I guess that would depend on which century we were in.

26 Mr April 28, 2014 at 10:28 am

Does this mean we should stay away from fish oil?

27 Bill April 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm

No, butter.

His last column was on the benefits of butter:
http://betabeat.com/2014/04/seth-roberts-final-column-butter-makes-me-smarter/

28 Brian April 28, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Yep, and I see from google that one of his blog posts from earlier this year talks of eating lots of butter over the last year as part of that self-experimenting. As bad as that may look now, I should say I’m skeptical of not only his (and most others’) conclusions on nutrition, but also of how much causality we should attribute to diet in one untimely death.

29 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm

If you were a detective or a ME trying to determine COD, I think you would take his unusual diet into prime consideration. When you have limited time and resources, you try the obvious suspects first.

30 Marie April 28, 2014 at 9:06 pm

I find that many of the people who are most interested in unusual approaches to health are ones that have a health condition that cannot yet be addressed well with typical medical approaches. If you’ve gone as far as you can with, for example, treating Hashimoto’s with replacement therapy, and you still feel crummy, you tend to look further.

Sometimes people have conditions that are not identified, but I think that inclines them this way also at times.

So I would guess the hooves being horses and not zebras will mean that, like the above referenced man with Marfans, Mr. Roberts will probably be found to have had an underlying undiagnosed medical condition. That’s normally what happens when folks die young and unexpectedly, anyway.

31 Willitts April 29, 2014 at 12:21 am

Yes, Marie, I see the point now and admitted this error above.

I also retract my bias toward the unusual diet as the most likely suspect. If a medical condition exists and it is, in fact, obscure, then an autopsy is not likely to correctly determine COD. The coexisting effects of the unusual diet may be falsely convicted.

On the other hand, some conditions manifest as cravings or compulsions which are the proximate cause of death and which conceal the underlying condition.

I was a prosecutor decades ago, and issues such as this came up in suspicious deaths. Defense attorneys were quite good at raising doubts in what appears obvious to the rest of us. Maybe those attorneys and their experts were engaging in sophistry, but it is worth keeping an open mind.

My fear here, as in a murder case, is the Type II error.

32 Marie April 29, 2014 at 8:46 am

@Willitts,
Sorry, missed your post above before commenting.

33 Marie April 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

Condolences to his family and friends.

34 J April 28, 2014 at 10:55 am

1. Looks like they took down his blog.

2. So what was the final conclusion? Go with flax seed oil? Fish oil? Omega 3? I’m just curious.

35 Thor April 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I take all of these, but in modest amounts. Flax seeds ground up and added to my cereal, supplementary fish oils, plus we eat wild salmon steaks 2-3x a week. We also eat nuts and berries, and put butter on bread (as opposed to tasteless processed stuff like margarine).

I didn’t know Seth Roberts.

Is there a term for the cognitive bias that says “if x is good for me, then x+1 is better for me”? (Not so much a fallacy as a very pervasive bias in our species. Did he suffer from that?)

36 J April 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm

So I guess that you like them. You seem a bit more health conscious than me 🙂 but what’s your verdict?

37 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I regularly take flax seed oil and omega 3 fish oil. I understand, though, that minerals and fat-soluble nutrients can produce overdose so I am judicious about it. If I eat fatty fish, I skip the fish oil tablets.

I am curious and concerned because even in moderation some things can be dangerous upon closer examination.

I wonder if Thor is my next door neighbor. 🙂

38 J April 28, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Thanks. For the sake of science I picked up some flaxseed oil tablets on the way home from work. Let’s see how it goes.

I also just had a great idea for a business. Maybe it already exists. Basically if you have some weird medical symptoms and your doctor can’t figure out what it is, you put a bounty up online and crowdsource it. If someone can figure out what you have, they get the reward. Maybe Not Another MR Commentor should get on that and make a killing.

39 Brandon Berg April 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm

No, he measured his performance using timed arithmetic tests and found that his performance improved with higher consumption of flax meal up to about 60g per day. He was not just naively assuming that more is better.

If hemorrhage due to excessive omega-3 intake was in fact the cause of death, which is pure speculation at this point, then his error would be mistakenly assuming that mental performance is an accurate proxy for overall health. Maybe there’s a trade-off between performance and stability?

40 MikeW April 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I worry that all we’ll ever have is “pure speculation” as to what killed Seth. As curious as I am about it, I have to admit it’s none of my damn business. His family has no obligation to release details, though such a release would bring welcome closure to those of us who regularly followed his blog and woke up this morning saying, “WTF happened?”.

It could be omega-3. But Roberts had a lot of strange (to me) food habits. He was big on fermented foods, vitamin D megadosing, bedtime honey, butter, fasting. Take your pick on what the culprit was, but maybe it was some completely unforeseeable cause, such as a congenital weak spot in an artery wall or an embolism from his frequent trans-Pacific travel.

41 Willitts April 29, 2014 at 12:30 am

Good Lord!

Vitamin D is fat-soluble and suceptible to overdose. Aside from hypercalcemia, it can exacerbate existing kidney problems. Effects can be fatal in a month.

Megadoses of A, D, E, K or any mineral is dangerous. Megadoses of water soluble vitamins just gives you expensive urine.

42 Brandon Berg April 29, 2014 at 4:28 am

Not at the doses he was taking (5k-10k IU per day, it seems).

43 Mark Thorson April 29, 2014 at 12:15 am

Quoting from Vegetable Fats and Oils (2nd ed.) by George S. Jamieson, American Chemical Society Monograph Series Number 58, page 266:

It should be observed that flax seed as well as the press cake contain a cyanogenetic glucoside known as Linamarin. The cake, however, from “hot pressing,” is innocuous to cattle. The heat apparently prevents the action of an enzyme in the seed upon the glucoside and stops the evolution of hydrocyanic acid from the cake in the presence of moisture.

44 Mark Thorson April 29, 2014 at 12:10 am

Of all food animals, the pig is most similar to a human. Like humans it is by nature an omnivore, unlike cattle, goats, and sheep which are herbivores. The USDA publication Atlas of Meat Inspection Pathology (USDA, 1972) is a guide for meat inspectors, not human nutrition. But here are some interesting comments on the effects of flaxseed consumption on pigs, quoting from pages 165-167:

Steatitis (“Yellow Fat” Disease) in Swine

Definition. — Steatitus (“yellow fat” disease) in swine is a yellow pigmentation of adipose tissue associated with the use of fish products and flaxseed as feed.

Distribution and incidence. — Steatitus usually occurs near fisheries where cannery wastes are fed to swine. The disease is also found on fur ranches where the remains of mink feed containing fish products are consumed by pigs. The use of feed containing other substances possessing highly unsaturated fatty acids, such as flaxseed, will also produce the disease.

Feeding swine rations containing excessive amounts of highly unsaturated fatty acids and inadequate quantities of tocopherols causes porcine adipose tissue to contain a yellow, acid-fast pigment. The pigment consists of fat soluble and fat insoluble fractions and the latter possesses acid-fast staining characteristics. Fat cells can
incorporate and stabilize unsaturated fatty acids as “storage fat” if vitamin E, an antioxidant, is added to a ration rich in unsaturated fatty acids.

The fat of affected swine has an odor of fish that can be accentuated by heating the tissue. Swine having steatitus tend to be thin and in poor physical condition.

Macroscopic appearance. — Subcutaneous and mesenteric fat, in particular, show the alterations characteristic of this dietary disease. Affected fat is slightly opaque and firmer than normal and varies from bright yellow to yellowish brown.

Microscopic appearance. — Foreign fat globules, some of which contain an acid-fast pigment, are deposited in the interstices of the adipose tissue. This deposition appears as fine droplets or, quite frequently, as larger discrete globules in groups or islets of variable size. At time the globules have a pericapillary and periarteriole location. Adipose cell tissues themselves are usually not affected. Occasionally, foreign fat globules are seen within adipose cells and their presence is interpreted to represent a permeation into the normal storage fat rather than a disturbed metabolic process. Foci of inflammation composed of collections of macrophages, neutrophils, eosinophils, and an occasional foreign-body giant cell may be present between the adipose cells. These macrophages and giant cells contain droplets of yellow fat. This inflammatory reaction is the basis for applying the name “steatitus” to the condition.

45 libfree April 28, 2014 at 11:01 am

Very sad. He will be missed.

46 Andy April 28, 2014 at 11:05 am

The tragic irony of Seth Robert’s passing is that his recommended N=1 sampling and experimentation should make you doubt not only all of his findings but his entire methodology. RIP and condolences to friends and family.

47 gwern April 28, 2014 at 11:59 am

n=1 self-experiments aren’t that bad. The problem is, to speak a bit ill of the dead, Roberts systematically rejected randomization, blinding, appropriate statistical analysis, ignored power, published only anecdotes that supported his views, and wasn’t interested in fixing any of these problems even when they were very cheap to add (and he was well aware of the endless shortcuts he was taking – though he never criticized his own work the way he was able to criticize, say, Posit Science’s brain-game studies). When I did better self-experiments, I often reached different results.

48 Ray Lopez April 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm

@gwern – so Pasteur experimenting with himself to cure what was it–rabies?–was / wasn’t bad, right? LOL but I agree with you N=1 is not good for long term conclusions. N >= 30 is the usual test to achieve 95% confidence with Gaussian populations if memory serves.

49 Brian April 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Seth did discuss anecdotes contrary to his claims on his blog, often in the comments. Most recently, he had the rather large walk back on reduced salt intake based on a British epidemiological study. Since he had been so contemptuous of epidemiology in the past, I wondered if something was wrong with him.

50 Douglas Knight April 28, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Gwern has an N=1 experiment which shows that Seth ignored contrary experiments.

51 Alex Chernavsky April 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

gwern wrote, “[Seth Roberts] published only anecdotes that supported his views”. I have an anecdote that does not support your view. Seth blogged a few times about his belief that eating soy products was detrimental to brain function. When I presented him with contrary evidence, he presented that evidence on his blog, as well. See: http://blog.sethroberts.net/2014/03/21/assorted-links-314/

52 Prior Probability April 28, 2014 at 11:52 am

This is terrible news. But what is it about hiking and academic theorists? According to Jeremy Adelman’s astute biography of Albert O. Hirschman, it was a hiking fall that also led to Hirschman’s physical decline.

53 Rahul April 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

The Segway dude died in a hiking fall too. Kinda.

54 Ray Lopez April 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm

But falling is a leading cause of death with old people? The Greeks have a phrase that rhymes: “death (comes to the old) from s hitting or falling” (rhymes in Greek).

Now try this test: stand on one foot, don’t close your eyes, and you should be able to stand upright for at least 10 seconds. Now close your eyes and try it again. You won’t last over 5 seconds if you’re over 40. Unless you are a super stud like me. Make sure you don’t try this while on stairs.

55 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Many elderly people break their hip and THEN fall. It would be more correct to say that osteoporosis killed them.

This is yet another example of evolution taking a wrong turn. While standing upright gave mankind marvelous advantages, our hip bones were not particularly well made for an upright gait over an extended life span. As life expectancy rises, we should expect to see more titanium hips. Also dentures, heart valves, prostate surgeries, and other diseases/degradations associated with longevity. This is another reason Obamacare and Medicare are doomed.

56 Rahul April 29, 2014 at 4:56 am

Oh! I didn’t know that;. Assumed the hip breaks post impact.

57 Joshua April 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Dean Kamen? I’m not seeing anything about his death.

58 eddie April 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm
59 Todd Fletcher April 28, 2014 at 12:06 pm

A real loss, but his family and loved ones can take comfort in his having helped many many people. I was one of them, and was the focus of a post on his blog because I cured 15 years of excema using things I learned from him.

RIP you have earned it Seth

60 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Wow, what did you do? I have a relative with excema.

61 Douglas Knight April 28, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Probably “probiotics” (or other fermented foods?) or maybe fat, but only under extreme deprivation.

62 Ali Choudhury April 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm

RIP, I really liked his blog. Always interesting.

63 Walter April 28, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I firmly believe in man-made global warming and firm science behind it.

But the complete reevaluation of the harm of saturated fats in the last 10 or so years is intriguing. Were there skeptics about the harm of saturated fats that were mocked and ignored back then? Is there any chance that the science behind global warming could ever witness such a complete revision?

64 Brandon Berg April 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Atkins, for one.

65 prior_approval April 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Only when the physical properties of CO2 change.

Or when albedo values regarding ice and sea water change.

The actual physical properties involved are not in doubt. The magnitudes and mechanisms are a different story. For example, our models have been hopelessly inadequate in accurately describing what is being observed using real time data in the Arctic – the pace of change there has outstripped even the most pessimistic forecasts.

66 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Or when we realize that factors far more influential than human CO2 production are causing climate change.
Or when we realize that mitigating efforts for climate change are more costly than doing nothing.
Or when we realize that the models for HOW CO2 regulates global climate are wrong.
Or when we realize the data were deliberately misrepresented.

67 prior_approval April 29, 2014 at 2:51 am

I said nothing about the source of the CO2.

However, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is also empirically determined data, with all of the caveats that such data deserve. For example, at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

68 dearieme April 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm

“Is there any chance that the science behind global warming could ever witness such a complete revision?” “The science”: sensu stricto, no, there being so little involved – a simple business of CO2 and its absorption bands. Upon that tiny base has been erected a great mound of mathematical modelling of doubtful merit complemented by a bunch of historical records of short span, laden with uncontrolled biases, and subject to “adjustments” which are some of them doltish, and other almost certainly dishonest. To top that off you have to take the view that all change in a warmer direction is an unmitigated disaster, so that mankind must stage a major retreat from industrialisation to establish a world of noble savages powered by vast bird-choppers. All this in spite of the fact that, as far as anyone can tell, there have been several periods in the present inter-glacial that were warmer than the present. The whole thing is an evangelical, puritanical pseudo-religion for a secular age, started largely by people notable for hubris and incompetence, who later defended their doctrine by mendacity. The perpetrators are many of them the equivalent of the preaching ninnies and crooks who, I understand, infest some American TV channels.

69 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 7:08 pm

LOL, well done.

70 prior_approval April 29, 2014 at 3:05 am

And that part about albedo?

Again, with real time data, and a documented physical mechanism?

Caveats in using data are part of attempting to form an accurate basis for further research.

Which is why the failure of current climate models to accurately forecast what is happening in the Arctic as observed using real time data is so interesting. Anyone decrying the accuracy of such models has more than sufficient data, stretching back decades at this point, to support their claim.

And yet, no one who points out the supposed sorry state of climate science is apparently interested in using one of the best documented cases where current climate science models continue to fail to predict empirically observed conditions.

71 dearieme April 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

“Were there skeptics about the harm of saturated fats that were mocked and ignored back then?” Yup; many, many. The evidence base for the whole thing was always pretty shonky. I suppose the odds favour its being replaced by some different doctrine based on flimsy evidence.

72 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I once attended a lecture by a man whose research showed that serum cholesterol levels were uncorrelated with cholesterol in the diet.

The crux of his lecture was not that he was right and that his colleagues were wrong, but that there were strong forces in academia, business, and politics that conspired to bury his research regardless of its merit. Money and power had trumped science.

The only “consensus” about AGW is that the people who believe in it are greatly rewarded for doing so.

73 ChrisA April 28, 2014 at 9:03 pm

@Willitts – “serum cholesterol levels were uncorrelated with cholesterol in the diet.” I believe that is the medical consensus now. I still have the healthy cookbooks from a few years ago preaching at me to minimize the use the eggs though.

74 Mazalya April 28, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Yes – Mary Enig wrote an excellent book which in part critiqued the saturated fat/heart disease hypothesis:
Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol
http://www.amazon.com/Know-Your-Fats-Understanding-Cholesterol/dp/0967812607

I think she’s now with or associate with the Weston A. Price Foundation. It’s a very interesting book, btw.

75 Katy April 29, 2014 at 11:47 pm

My understanding is that Enig is now dying of some form of cancer.

I knew Seth, he did not look well at all the past few years. He aged quite dramatically over just the few years I knew him and gained quite a bit of very visible weight. He never mentioned this in his blog.

76 sabril April 29, 2014 at 4:56 am

Well first you need to define “man-made global warming.” Does it mean any increase in global surface temperatures which is caused by man’s activities, regardless of the amount of the increase and regardless of the activities which caused the warming? Or does it mean something else?

I debate global warming with people all the time and most believers don’t seem to have a clear understanding of what exactly they believe in.

77 gunther April 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm

“Is there any chance that the science behind global warming could ever witness such a complete revision?”

Absolutely — as soon as the alarmist community moves on to the next global ‘crisis’.

78 Willitts April 28, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Is the hole in the ozone layer still a problem? I was once told that we’d all be dead by now. I haven’t heard about it in years.

79 Curt F. April 28, 2014 at 9:21 pm

While I’m sympathetic to your larger point, the ozone hole is not an example that serves your purpose. After the banning of CFCs under the Montreal protocol and other subsequent international agreements, the level of CFCs in the atmosphere began to level off. As a result, climate models predict the seasonal ozone hole over the Antarctic will cease to form beginning in about 2067. Thus the climatology community as a whole likely feels the problem is solved and that there is no need for further alarmism.

80 Willitts April 29, 2014 at 12:35 am

Thank you. I feel better in any event although my wife yells at me if I go out without sunscreen.

81 prior_approval April 29, 2014 at 2:46 am

Depends where you live –

‘Has ozone loss contributed to an observed increase in sunburns and skin cancer in humans?

Yes, Punta Arenas, Chile, the southernmost city in the world (53°S), with a population of 154,000, has regularly seen high levels of UV-B radiation each spring for the past 20 years, when the Antarctic ozone hole has moved over the city (Abarca, 2002). Ozone levels have dropped up to 56%, allowing UV-B radiation more typical of summertime mid-latitude intensities to affect a population unused to such levels of skin-damaging sunshine. Significant increases in sunburns have been observed during many of these low-ozone days. During the spring of 1999, a highly unusual increase in referrals for sunburn occurred in Punta Arenas during specific times when the ozone hole passed over the city. And while most of the worldwide increase in skin cancer rates the past few decades has been attributed to people spending more time outdoors, and the use of tanning businesses (Urbach, 1999), skin cancer cases increased 66% from 1994-2000 compared to 1987-1993 in Punta Arenas, strongly suggesting that ozone depletion was a significant factor.’ http://www.wunderground.com/resources/climate/holefaq.asp

Empirical data from a group of people who, one can reasonably assume, had no interest in such self-experimentation.

82 Dan April 28, 2014 at 8:32 pm

I’m sorry to hear of his passing.

I have heard that excessive Omega-3 consumption can thin the blood and can impair the body’s ability to form blood clots and stop bleeding. People often collapse when they have internal bleeding. I wonder if his Omega-3 consumption was involved in his passing.

83 Mr April 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm

So rather than 3 grams a day maybe switch to 1 gram of omega 3

84 Willitts April 29, 2014 at 12:39 am

Typically, as in my case, it is a palliative for excessive serum cholesterol. It does thin the blood and prevent clotting as daily aspirin and statins might otherwise do.

Moderation in most things is usually appropriate and rarely harmful.

85 andrew' April 29, 2014 at 5:05 am

~60 sadly normal.

Maybe we just all die, possibly a little sooner because he didn’t live longer.

86 DK April 30, 2014 at 12:23 am

RIP, Seth.
For a tenured Berkeley guy, he was amazingly kookish but in a thoroughly entertaining way. Lots of the things he was on might be true and the equal number is probably not. Drinking 5 liters of water per day to slim down is crazy and dangerous. Good thing Seth was also a practical person.

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