Skip to content
February 11, 2014 / JayMan

HBD is Life and Death

In this post, I don’t mean in the way some people might think (though it does work in that sense too), I mean in terms of longevity.

Mainstream thinkers, and some in the HBD-sphere, are fascinated and confounded by the persistent variation in health and lifespan of different peoples around the world. This has given rise to ideas like the “French Paradox,” the “Hispanic Paradox,” the “Stroke Belt,” etc. These are ongoing “mysteries” that are most confusing when you approach the situation from the paradigm that we know exactly what leads to health and long life (usually along the lines of “eating right” – whatever that happens to be at the moment – “exercise”, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, keeping thin, etc.). These “paradoxes” arise when incongruities to this wisdom are found in the world – and there are many. Instead of doing what researchers like say, Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending, would do when you come across these mysteries – that is, at least recognize that your paradigm is faulty – what do they do? Throw their hands up in confusion and/or ignore the offending facts altogether. The latter makes it so much easier to continue as if your standard paradigm was correct.

This was recently illustrated with a rather poignant example.  As many of you know, Gary Taubes recently wrote an article for the New York Times explaining why we are so ass backwards when it comes to health and nutrition. There’s not much new there. Basically he said what he, and I, have been saying for some time now – that medicine suffers from an over reliance on methodologically unsound research – especially observational studies – to derive understanding of health and the roots of human disease. While the reasons for this are somewhat understandable, fundamentally, this is no excuse if the goal is understanding human health and how to potentially help people. Much of what Taubes pointed out was affirmed in lengthy commentary by James Thompson.

Despite all this, Dr. David L. Katz, (“Director, Yale Prevention Research Center; Principal Inventor, NuVal; Editor-in-Chief, Childhood Obesity“) wrote a rebuttal to Taubes’s piece in which he dismissed the key bits of Taubes’s criticism about the methodological shortcomings of the current research, and cited the same faulty observational studies and randomized controlled trials with tiny samples to support his case for the conventional wisdom!


As disappointing as this is, this is not very surprising, unfortunately. I actually have quite a bit of experience with that, as my Twitter followers would know from my various debates with the true believers out there. (And if you’re one of them, note that I’m not trying to be mean; I am mere challenging you to think critically about your faith in the conventional wisdom). Indeed, quite timely, there was a recent article about “non-financial” conflicts of interest in academia, which noted, basically, that “people involved in a field for a long time will have established views that they will not give up easily.” Dr. Katz seems to fit the bill of this type of researcher, among numerous others. Scientists often have much more to lose than money by challenging their established view, especially if they built their career on some line of thinking.

Fortunately, you have people like me to act as a foil for this thinking.

In that, I wanted to look at those “mysteries” that befuddle mainstream researchers. One of them is the geography of life expectancy across America (from here; note that the color scales are different in each map):

article-2003691-0C93534A00000578-991_634x527 article-2003691-0C94413200000578-936_634x496

These are not separated by race. But I wanted to dig into the very basic confusions that exist on this topic.

So hmmm, where have we seen these before? Oh, I know!

White Liberal Counties

It is clear that something’s up in the Old South (that is, Colin Woodard‘s Greater Appalachia and the Tidewater/Deep South). By contrast, certain northern nations, particularly Yankeedom, the Left Coast, and parts of the Far West seem to live long and prosper. But why? Along the Tidewater/Deep South, it is clear that the relatively shorter lives of Blacks are involved. But Appalachia shows that it isn’t just a race issue. Some Whites live longer than other Whites. Woodard and David Hackett Fischer illustrated that intra-White regional differences are at the core of a great many things across the North American continent. One of these is health.

Let me show you something else:

800px-Stroke_Death_Rates_2002-2007_Adults_35+_by_county_USThis is the “Stroke Belt,” a region of America (also, interestingly, in Dixie) with an anomalously high rate of stroke deaths.

For this, while Blacks are clearly part of the equation for the heightened stroke deaths across the Deep South/Tidewater (indeed, there is some evidence that infections make Blacks more vulnerable to strokes), it isn’t just Blacks. Here are stroke deaths for Whites only (from the CDC):

Stroke WhitesOnce again the usual suspects crop up: Greater Appalachia, the Tidewater, and the Deep South. However, stroke risk also appears elevated on the Left Coast as well.

But note where life expectancy is particularly good and stroke risk is particularly low: El Norte. Which brings me to the “Hispanic Paradox.”

Anatoly Karlin recently commented on this. That is, Hispanics tend to live longer than you would “expect” given their socioeconomic status and conditions like obesity and the classic “health markers” and such:

us-life-expectancy-by-raceNow you know I’ve had a few things to say about that (for which those who are familiar with this might know where I’m going with this).

Henry Harpending once posted on the apparent longevity of U.S. Hispanics. Lets look at something else:

These are maps of life expectancy at birth across Europe, in 2004 (males top, females bottom, from here). As we’ve seen before, there is a distinct southwest to northeast gradient in life expectancy, following the rate of cardiovascular mortality on the continent (of course, we know, thanks to NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman, that this is due to the Slavs’ poor diets).

These maps break it down further, so we can see the regional differences (from here and here, respectively):

life expectancy europe life_expectancy_at_birth_EU

As we can see, some countries have significant regional variation. Oddly enough, it is all the usual suspects (the U.K., France, Germany, and to a lesser extent, Spain and Portugal). A key part of the “Hispanic paradox” may be the somewhat long-lived Iberian component.

Of course, this would predict that life expectancies in Latin America would be on the high side. Are they?

whr_map2fThis is life expectancy across the world, 2003 (from the WHO). Life expectancy is highish in Latin America by global standards. The connection is especially evident in the more Iberian countries (e.g., Chile, Uruguay) vs. the more Indigenous ones (e.g., Bolivia). I suppose if I were more inclined, I could look up life expectancy with homicide and accidents removed (which is likely suppressing these numbers here).

Looking at life expectancies across the U.S., one can see that the life expectancy of each region is related to the predominant ethnic group that resides in them. Most striking is Greater Appalachia. As with the Celtic fringes of Britain, life expectancy is notably lower among the American Scotch-Irish.

That’s not the only problem that seems to plague the Borderlanders. They seem to be particularly prone to addiction, as seen by smoking:


Meth labs:

meth labs USAAlcoholism, at least by remaining dry counties (blue = wet; red = dry; yellow = mix):

1000px-Alcohol_control_in_the_United_States.svgMuch can be traced to Americans’ cousins across the Atlantic.

Indeed, as we saw in my earlier post A Fat World – With a Fat Secret?, obesity clusters by ethnicity. Americans are not anomalously fat by global standards, at least not when you consider race and the other Anglo nations – contrary to what the popular press would lead you to believe.

Indeed, the clustering of health and physiological features like fatness by ethnicity should not be surprising when you consider the heritable component to these things. But since conventional wisdom, even in the HBD-sphere, likes to blame health outcomes on lifestyle-only, some may be shocked by these patterns.

Now, while my discussion on the matter may give the impression that I believe diet and lifestyle plays no role in health outcomes, the reality is that this is not the case. I will concede that likely it does have some effect. It’s just that the evidence for lifestyle being the panacea it is commonly believed to be is lacking. One possible example of the role of lifestyle is the island of Okinawa. Okinawans, famous for their longevity, have been taking a hit lately, apparently due to the adoption of a Western diet. It is worth noting that some groups, especially those adapted to highly specialized diets, might be adversely affected by the shift to “Western” diets. This doesn’t appear to be a major problem for Japan in general (but may be true in China). Further research is needed.

And this brings me to my final point, and why the diet and lifestyle issue has been a real bugger for me: as with HBD-denial in general, the thing that pisses me off most is not the implications of the denial, which are rather significant to be sure. It is that it holds back the science. Imagine how far we could have gotten by now if we didn’t go the route that Gary Taubes laments (reliance on observational studies) and particularly, didn’t discount heredity and the fact that people are not interchangeable. I’d imagine we could have gotten a great deal further. Cochran and Harpending both lament the broad uselessness of both most scientists and modern journalists. Indeed, much of what I have discussed in this blog post is pretty low-hanging fruit, and could easily have been examined if someone bothered to look. Oh well, for now, at least, that’s why people like me are here.

8481887-close-up-of-a-beggars-hands-and-jar-of-coinsPlease see my earlier post about the new funding drive I’m running. Fortunately I have been able to make do with access to some of the computers I have to make this post. But I still need your help. Please, if you can and would like to help, donate. Thank you!


Leave a Comment
  1. Avery / Feb 11 2014 6:29 AM

    I strongly suspect that there is a rather complicated interaction between diet and genetics. Someone with the APOE-4 gene, for example, may respond differently to certain foods than someone without it. Given identical diets, both people might do great, terribly, or have completely different outcomes, depending on the particular foods involved. Some of us are probably better adapted to the typical American diet than others (my husband, for example, seems better adapted to it than I am, though we’re both better adapted than someone who lacks lactase persistence.)

    Huge confounder that most studies seem to completely miss.

    • JayMan / Feb 11 2014 7:37 PM


      Yes, strictly speaking diet likely interacts with genetics. As per The 10,000 Year Explosion, each group is differently adapted based on their historic diets. This follows some groups are better suited to the “modern Western diet” than others.

      The very high heritability of BMI (.75-0.8) and, to a lesser extent, the high heritability of cardiovascular disease demonstrates that individuals are differently adapted to diet. This suggests that some people might be better on some diets over others, and so on.

      The thing to keep in mind here, and what I was trying to convey in this post, is that there isn’t some optimal wonder diet for each person that will ward off ill health and/or delay death. Some people are intrinsically healthier than others. This likely is the result of both genetic load and the effect of various metabolic strategies that have evolved. Too great a stress on health through lifestyle is largely a waste of time, based on what I’ve seen.

  2. Sisyphean / Feb 11 2014 9:33 AM

    The best example of diet effects for me has always been the North American Natives. Tall, strong and lean people in every description at contact, only to be killed in droves and forced onto reservations where they’ve been fed low grade crap, chiefly refined wheat flour, refined white sugar, and processed lard, ever since. Now when you ask them about their traditional foods, you’re far more likely to hear about fry bread (wheat flour fried in lard caked in sugar) than succotash or pemmican. These people have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes II in the USA, bar none.

    Interestingly, those that have gone back to their traditional foods have seen reversal of the diabetes and obesity but it’s nigh impossible to take away addictive things like sugar (and white flour is basically also just sugar) and many can’t stop themselves from going back to the cheap sugar trough. Like alcohol the sugar genie isn’t going back into the bottle and those who haven’t had centuries of adaptation to handle it will suffer.

    That said, I’m not saying diet is the only thing that matters, far from it, I’m just providing an extreme counterpoint. Western Europeans, especially the core, can tolerate sugar, alcohol, and flour in greater amounts than other populations but that doesn’t mean those things are good in unlimited quantities. Of course, when you do have unlimited quantities it’s the impulsive who tend to overindulge, while the circumspect do not.


    • JayMan / Feb 11 2014 7:41 PM


      Yes, it almost goes without saying, as per The 10,000 Year Explosion, that historically foraging groups are the least adapted to the modern Western diet.

      The key question, and, really, what everyone wants to know: how much of the problems of modern industrial people can be blamed on diet/lifestyle? It’s understood that people with a less deep history of civilization would be in big trouble today. That question is a lot harder to answer, and, in many ways, a big part of my series of posts on this topic is to try to answer it.

    • Sisyphean / Feb 12 2014 9:00 AM

      I agree and I think the problem with that question is that given the huge population growth since the advent of agriculture and the fact that as medical technology has improved more and more children who would have died (like me, I was a cesarean section baby, had childhood pneumonia that would have killed me and had a life time of allergies that led to many infections) going on to reproduce, we’ve got a lot of genetic variation going around. The answer is likely to vary a lot.

      I do best when I restrict wheat and sugar, but dairy is fine for me and alcohol isn’t terribly addictive for me. If I were like a lot of people on the internet right now I’d be out telling everyone the evils of sugar and wheat and how dairy and alcohol are really fine, only that’s not true for the lactose intolerant and it’s not true for the french who seem to do fine with their bread and sweets or the Irish and scots irish who still struggle with alcohol (but also make some darn good varieties of it).

      I say good luck to you, but until someone is willing to grab several thousand people and perform double blind longitudinal studies with completely controlled diets, we’ll only have the choice between rumors, self experimentation and bombastic bullshit to go by. I chose the self experimentation route.


    • Tikka Linnut / Feb 18 2014 3:17 PM

      You suggest that “North American Natives” are somehow genetically pure throwbacks to 10,000 years ago…when nothing could be further from the truth…and especially given that tribal membership these days can involve as little as a 1/32 “blood quantum.” It may well be the Appalachian hardscrabble genes kicking in where frybread addiction and the resulting obesity are concerned.

    • Sisyphean / Feb 18 2014 3:59 PM

      @Tikka Linnut “You suggest that “North American Natives” are somehow genetically pure throwbacks to 10,000 years ago”

      I suggest nothing of the sort. I said ‘at contact’ meaning the accounts of the early European settlers after 1492.

      I am well aware that there has been interbreeding between members of the native tribes and various European groups but I find it hard to believe that you’re making the case that the gross diabesity among extant Native American populations is due to this genetic admixture. The rate of Diabetes type 2 in the worst U.S. State (West Virginia) is about 12% according to whereas Native populations are routinely in the 14+ percent range and in the tribes in Arizona some are higher than 35% (cite CDC website: Now bear in mind I am NOT saying that there is anything wrong with the Native peoples, just that they are not adapted to the diet Europeans brought with them namely buttloads of sugar, super refined wheat, distilled alcohol. Those things mess up Europeans too, given enough time and quantity but they tolerate them better and as Jayman has pointed out: higher IQ people with better impulse control are less susceptible to over indulgence.


  3. Staffan / Feb 11 2014 10:28 AM

    One problem is how to go forward. If you take the fact that some form of paternalism may be inevitable and direct this concern to certain ethnic groups it becomes a liberal’s worst nightmare. Especially if the genetics behind it is linked to things like impulsivity and low self-discipline. I doubt it matters much that there are some White people on both sides of the fence.

    • JayMan / Feb 11 2014 7:46 PM


      Since, at least for Europeans and their offshoots, I am less convinced that modern diet is a huge problem, I am not worried so much about what to do to “fix” it. Some things can’t be fixed. Even assuming that European health problems can be traced to lifestyle, that it itself will not be amenable to change. I don’t see much changing in the near to medium term.

      I think the huge take away, and the primary thesis in this post, is that genetics has been an underappreciated factor behind health and lifespan variation. Newer, better research simply needs to be genetically informed (even though even that is no guarantee).

  4. Owen / Feb 11 2014 12:47 PM

    Since you charts show a spread of less than ten years between average lifespans and because smoking takes on average a dozen years off your life, your charts are useless unless you can factor out smoking rates.

    In fact, it looks like your map of life expectancy is just a tobacco marketing map. If we could identify life expectancy for nonsmokers — maybe with insurance data — then we could really tell something about race, diet, culture, and lifestyle. As it is you’re just ignoring the elephant in the room.

    • JayMan / Feb 11 2014 7:48 PM


      Sure, smoking rates are likely involved in some of this variation. I suspect it’s not the sole or even primary factor, however. The fine analysis you have in mind might not really be possible, because non-smokers are systematically different from smokers, which may confuse your findings. I wanted to do a fairly simplistic overview here. Trying to control for this or that often just muddles your results.

    • Anthony / Feb 13 2014 2:06 PM

      Owen – look again at the life-expectancy and smoking maps. The smoke zone is north (and uphill) of the low life-expectancy zone.

  5. panjoomby / Feb 11 2014 8:07 PM

    Excellent post – your 2nd to last paragraph tops it all! Huzzah!

    I’m donating not only b/c of your blog (& your great 2nd to last paragraph) but for your enthusiastically salient points & comments at other blogs – it’s like you’re more than one person – alas, would that there was more than 1 JayMan:)

    just as most people expect lifestyle to have more of an effect than it does (sadly, environment rarely trumps nature – except when we get bonked on the head), most people expect education to have more of an effect than it does – as if it can overcome IQ/biological pre-wiring, etc. which is sad for the poor teachers whom we expect to turn lead into gold – this environmental zeitgeist is bound to be rough on them.

    • JayMan / Feb 11 2014 8:18 PM


      Thank you!

      And yup, pretty much… 😉

      Well I have a new JayMan in development.

    • Staffan / Feb 12 2014 9:49 AM

      Teachers have both lead and gold, and confirmation bias, to work with so they are probably doing ok. But physicians (and probably social workers) who have only lead to work with will be disappointed again and again. Which may explain their suicide rates.

    • Sisyphean / Feb 12 2014 12:56 PM

      @Staffan I completely agree with you, it’s amazing what someone’s profession can do to their outlook. I’ve watched bright eyed young men turn into cynical curmudgeons after only months of experience in police work. It can be hard to remain objective when you are constantly faced with the worst of humanity.


  6. franklindmadoff / Feb 11 2014 8:43 PM


    You may be interested in seeing some graphs I prepared recently on this topic.
    Derived from this research:

    What I find interesting is:
    1) The SES gaps for both blacks and whites are very large, about 10 years (much larger than the white vs black gaps)
    2) The white-black gaps are pretty consistent with respect to SES (no massive leap out of the bottom quintile as some might expect)
    3) The poorest asians and hispanics far outlive most whites and blacks (asians across the entire spectrum)
    4) The asian and hispanic LE does not appear to change much with respect to SES

    Curiously (and perhaps unsurprisingly) the state wide averages show a similar pattern with respect to state wide median income (a very crude proxy for average group SES).

    Like you, I tend to lean more towards genetic explanations here, but I suppose what I find most striking is that even if it was mainly lifestyle the data would suggest that on some fairly basic things that ought to be under the control of the theoretical control of the individual (as opposed to taking the view that the environment is highly deterministic). It seems to me if these researchers really believed it was the actual behaviors of low income hispanics (or better yet asians) and that genetics plays little to no role then they’d should be able to replicate this and see some pretty pronounced effects….[I won’t hold my breath]

    • JayMan / Oct 19 2014 9:15 PM


      Thanks a lot for those! Sorry I didn’t get to comment on them before, but they are a fine addition to the information here. I may have to edit the post to incorporate them.

  7. chrisdavies09 / Feb 12 2014 12:14 PM

    Red haired people of European descent apparently have different sensitivity to pain compared with people with different hair colours and also require higher doses of anaesthetic. I wonder if there have been any studies done with regard to sensivity to or tolerance of alcohol, nicotine, and narcotics; or differences in the μ-opioid receptor gene or similar factors in red haired caucasians relative to other groups. Red hair reaches peak world frequency in the Scottish. They also have very high rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, heroin and cocaine use, etc. when compared with many other European populations. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a strong genetic component involved in this behavioural trait which has replicated itself in the parts of America which were originally settled by the Scots and Scots-Irish.

  8. chrisdavies09 / Feb 12 2014 12:23 PM

    Human genetics: Redhead receptor

    “People have red hair because they possess a variant melanocortin-1 receptor gene. This also affects their sensitivity to pain and pain relief…”

    “The melanocortin-1 receptor affects pigmentation across the animal world, from human hair colour to bird plumage. Interestingly, though, it also has an influence on other aspects of physiology – including pain responses.
    Jeffrey Mogil and colleagues at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, recently discovered that some variants of the MC1R gene make people and mice more sensitive to pain and to pain relief mediated through the kappa-opioid receptor in the brain.
    Clinically, though, pain relief mediated through the mu-opioid receptor is more important. Now, the McGill team has found that mice lacking a functional MC1R gene, as well as human redheads, are also less sensitive to painful stimuli and more responsive to a morphine-like compound that acts through the mu-opioid receptor.
    The redhead variants of MC1R have been thought to be non-functional versions of the receptor. However, Kimberley Beaumont and colleagues in Brisbane have found that they may still be active, but coding changes in the MC1R gene prevent the receptor being transported to the surface of the cell.”

  9. panjoomby / Feb 12 2014 1:44 PM

    i remember when the default explanation for why women live longer than men was that men worked & their jobs were stressful — an idiotic environmental nicety quickly & easily accepted by the masses! the difference is clearly biological, yet in the 1960s sloppy environmental mesmerism was headed thru the roof – #1 with a bullet 🙂

  10. Luke Lea / Feb 12 2014 10:08 PM

    Having recently reached the beginning of my 73rd year in this world and looking back one of the things I notice is how powerful a force is conformity. Most people want to fit in way more than they want to discover what is true or false. Strangest of all the smarter you are (at least up to a point) the stronger this force is. You see it on campus of course in the form of political correctness. You see it in the highest reaches of academic economics is the almost totemic worship of the phrase — not the reality, mind, or even the “official” orthodox view which you can find in advanced textbooks on the subject — of free trade. You identify here a third area (there are probably more?) of medical research, especially in things related to diet and health. It is a little like fashion. In fact it is fashion. And just like new fashions and changes in fashion it almost impossible to figure out where the fashions began. Sometimes in Paris, sometimes on the streets of Haight Ashbury, sometimes (who knows) in the secret sanctums of the gay fashionistas. I think LSD in the sixties had a lot to do with the freakish new fashions in opinion — e.g., naive cosmopolitanism (remember John Lennon’s Imagine — don’t tell me he wasn’t stoned when he wrote that). Hell, the whole phenomenon of multiculturalism is probably a mind artifact of those psychadelic drugs which were so ubiquitous among the college-age elite. Don’t tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. I even experienced a little of it myself. Those drugs were a cultural solvent that melted away the conditioned reflexes that established the old fashions (I think it was liberalism) and replaced them with these ridiculous forms of new craziness that are now wrecking our society.

    Another wrinkle is that the lower classes are much more immune to these kinds of influences. They are less conformist in many ways –e.g., in New England our cultural betters talk about the importance of racial tolerance, equality, etc.., but down here if you go to the graduation ceremonies for people getting their GED’s (or whatever those high school equivalents are called) you see biracial couples all over the place.

    Anyway, the notion that human beings, the vast majority, are rational creatures is clearly a joke. Only a few eccentrics fill the bill, and not many of them.

    I’m talking about you JayMan! BTW I tried to make a contribution but PayPal wouldn’t accept my debit card. Whatta ya supposed to do?

    • Luke Lea / Feb 12 2014 10:17 PM

      Let me amend that last but one sentence above. It is mainly about our educated and cultural elites I am referring to as unrational creatures. Lower down the social spectrum a more reasonable realism rules — has to, or you couldn’t survive.

    • JayMan / Feb 13 2014 12:17 AM

      @Luke Lea:

      Haha thank you!

      Very interesting and insightful comment!

      As for how to send me money….hmmm well, that sucks, but I gotta think of something else. Maybe when I don’t have a migraine. Hey maybe the net fairies will provide a way for your dollars to end up in my fund by morning… 😉

    • panjoomby / Feb 16 2014 10:25 AM

      @Luke Lea: i liked (& am still pondering) your comment about lower classes/lower SES being less conformist: “come to low SES-Land, where PC hasn’t caught on!” – an excellent observation!

      the liberal elite PC-hive-mind is rampant – socially rewarding each other for their “enlightened” ways. like unto a religion, yea, verily, & thus it came to pass:

      “ALL people are exactly equal, ALL group means are exactly the same… We liberal elites believe in evolution (except the bit about different geographic groups with different environmental selection pressures selecting for different traits) …nothing to see there, move along!” 🙂

  11. gerf / Feb 12 2014 10:52 PM

    It appears you don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation. Not surprising.

    • JayMan / Feb 12 2014 10:58 PM


      Was your comment directed at me?

      Apparently you are new here…

  12. Luke Lea / Feb 12 2014 11:12 PM

    Here is something JayMan should like ti see if he hasn’t seen it already. Most of his readers too I suppose. Hat tip Lubos Motl:

  13. Gottlieb / Feb 13 2014 1:27 PM

    I think that diet could relate to the personality type of people . If you are an energetic person ( as I am ) recommended should be a light diet , preferably vegetarian or low meat consumption. However , we tend to consume more foods that relate to our personality , especially in our society where the variety of food is immense . I think that the meat may have effects in enhancing the negative traits of a type of irritable personality (mine again) . For some stomachs , the meat can be more difficult to digest and this can result in greater emotional irritability.
    It’s a game that seeks to mitigate the negative personality traits through appropriate containment means the same as the diet.
    Diet is one of the cultural means to select genes , where the culture seems to be related not to the average type of personality, of a population , but the main types and combinations of personality traits .
    The diet can maximize your health but to a particular individual (and or family) level only.

  14. George / Feb 13 2014 2:34 PM

    Hey JayMan, do you find it odd and a bit incongruous for you to discuss how when people with a theory about health find evidence that contradicts their theory they ignore said evidence, then talk approvingly about Gary Taubes who is one of the worst offenders in this respect? For the longest time Taubes has simply been ignoring the fact that countries that eats lots of carbs are very thin and much healthier than Americans. It’s like he just doesn’t want to see that and his theory is more important to him than any kind of annoying contradictory facts.

    It’s very unsettling and makes me question the value of anything Taubes says. To me, the paradigm modern case of someone refusing to deal with the evidence because of an emotional connection to theory is precisely Taubes himself – he’s the best off the cuff example I can think of this intellectual sin.

    Its interesting to me how someone can exalt a principle and then immediately fail to follow it. It’s almost like a religious person paying lip service to morality but cheating and deceiving others. Its almost as if by invoking the exalted principle they then feel that this gives them some kind of immunity or armor against having to actually adhere to it. Well, I am a religious person how can I possibly be dishonest? Well I just said that people ignore evidence in favor of theory, obviously I am well aware of this tendency so clearly I can’t possibly be guilty of it myself!

    • JayMan / Feb 13 2014 2:49 PM


      Please see my post on Gary Taubes. I never said I agreed with everything he said.

      For the longest time Taubes has simply been ignoring the fact that countries that eats lots of carbs are very thin and much healthier than Americans.

      That, by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean anything. See here and here.

  15. George / Feb 13 2014 5:26 PM

    Yeah, but its also the case that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Americans ate quite a lot of carbs and that overall carb eating in America hasn’t really gone up. So even if one wishes to see Americans as somehow uniquely unsuited to carbs whereas all sorts of unconnected other countries spread across the world, like France, Switzerland, and Japan, and whose populations flowed into the American gene pool, are somehow suited to carbs, Taubes theories make no sense. But the guy is beating his dead horse and doesn’t care. He’s a man on a mission.

    It’s just absurd to quote Taubes about good thinking habits and about things like properly evaluating evidence and good science – its like quoting Hitler as an expert on anti-Semitism. In fact, some things Hitler said about Jews were quite correct (he acknowledged they were capable businessmen), but I think it’s grotesque to quote him as an expert on Jews with the caveat that one doesn’t, after all, agree with everything he says.

    Taubes is a good example of the modern charlatanism.


    • JayMan / Feb 13 2014 5:31 PM


      Again, you’re missing the point. I’m not saying Taubes’s hypothesis is correct, for you’re right, there’s plenty of issues with it. He is dead on when it comes to the problems with how diet and health are research, and that’s the points I cite.

  16. gerf / Feb 14 2014 1:51 AM

    Yeah, it’s difficult to take this seriously. Your monolithic rambling essay apparently amounts to: “Complex models are hard”. Is this any great insight? Is there any reason to suspect that mainstream models aren’t the best models based on current understanding? Sure, better models will arise in the future, this all seems like tilting at windmills to me.

    You are making the perfect the enemy of the good, and you’ve got nothing better than the good to offer up instead.

    • JayMan / Feb 14 2014 4:24 AM

      A) You sure? See my previous posts on the topic (see the category).

      B) You’re free to disbelieve, but in the future, please offer a more substantive criticism. I’m starting to lose my patience here.

    • gerf / Feb 14 2014 4:32 AM

      Your response doesn’t appear to be well formed. Am I sure of what? What is it you think I disbelieve?

      If your thesis was more (or less) profound than “Complex models are hard” it might serve you well to state your thesis clearly.

    • JayMan / Feb 14 2014 4:36 AM


      Read these posts:

      IQ and Death

      Even George W. Bush Has Heart Disease

      Trans Fat Hysteria and the Mystery of Heart Disease

      Do not comment on this again until you have done so.

    • gerf / Feb 14 2014 2:36 PM

      I appreciate the authoritarian sentiment. I’ve read them.

      IQ and Death: Further demonstration that you don’t understand correlation. There isn’t any semantic sense to a “true correlation”. In fact, that post does a great job of illustrating how hard it is to model complex systems.

      Even George W. Bush Has Heart Disease: Generally incomprehensible data dump. Are introductory paragraphs and conclusion anathema or something? I think you’re trying to say: “The jury is still out w.r.t exercise and heart disease.” Sounds rather mundane, and the presentation is a mess.

      Trans Fat Hysteria and the Mystery of Heart Disease: A little more easy to follow, but looks to mirror the Bush one as: “The jury is still out w.r.t trans-fats and heart disease.”

      How far off am I?

    • JayMan / Feb 14 2014 2:43 PM


      Quite a bit, because nowhere did you mention my main point, that health advice we’re given doesn’t necessarily have the support of the evidence.

      Now that you’ve left your piece, I think I’m done with you, since you’re not adding anything to the discussion. Talk about not saying much. If I were you, I’d choose wisely about my next comment.

      And about my “authoritarian” sentiment, on this blog, I am King, Lord, and Emperor. Don’t like it? Don’t comment. Capisce?

    • gerf / Feb 14 2014 3:26 PM

      Based on the fact that I was off by “quite a bit”, about the most constructive thing I can add to the discussion is the suggestion that you make an attempt to present your main point more clearly.

      As for being an advocate of evidence based medicine, there are certainly some other very good bloggers in that space, Steve Novella being primary.

      Good luck with your blog!

  17. Denise / Feb 14 2014 2:38 AM

    Just curious – have you received any Bitcoins?

    • JayMan / Feb 14 2014 4:25 AM


      Yes, why?

  18. szopeno / Feb 18 2014 5:43 AM

    Interesting, especially after reading Greg Cochran blog entry: NE population have lower life expectancy, while they have higher percentage of ancient populations descended from huter-gatherers. Could that be simply that Spaniards descend more from population of farmers, who had more evolutionary time to adopt to farming lifestyle, while NE europeans descend from people, who adopted farming more recent, therefore havinf less time to adopt?

    • JayMan / Feb 18 2014 5:16 PM

      Yup, give me a minute… 😉

    • Greying Wanderer / Feb 18 2014 8:34 PM

      “while NE europeans descend from people, who adopted farming more recent, therefore havinf less time to adopt”

      yep, also early days but maybe different amounts or *different bits* of Neanderthal admixture.

  19. vijay / Feb 18 2014 1:09 PM

    You still dont accept debit cards!

    • JayMan / Feb 18 2014 5:15 PM


      That’s strange. It should. I will take a look at it!

      Hold on to those bucks! 😉

  20. thoward / Feb 19 2014 2:36 PM

    OT, but you haven’t posted in a while and I saw your comments on Twitter regarding the Sanders’ & Bailey study on gay brothers (which hasn’t been published yet). I guess Bailey presented the results (or part of them) in Chicago last week.

    I can’t help but think of Cochran’s “geneticists do what they do” mantra when it comes to this topic. (Although Bailey is not a geneticist, he works frequently with Sanders.) GC seems to value Bailey’s work).

    What gets to me are the headlines, ranging from the ridiculous, “Geneticists prove gay is in the genes,” to the better “Genetics is not the entire story of homosexuality” and the inconsistency and misleading write ups in the articles. Even Bailey’s words appear designed to be pc as in ” there may be genes” followed by “we found evidence for two sets that affect whether a man is gay or straight.” “May be ” versus “we found evidence” sounds quite contradictory. The political game here is the same ole, same ole.

    And Sanders: ” ‘We don’t think genetics is the whole story. It’s not. We have a gene that contributes to homosexuality, but you could say it is linked to heterosexuality. It is the variation.'”

    Am I right? Those words say NOTHING.

    From this link:–politics.html (Don’t you just love the headline? “Do you have gay DNA?”

    “Bailey told The London Times, ‘Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice. Our findings suggest there may be genes at play and we found evidence for two sets that affect whether a man is gay or straight.’ However, Bailey’s research does not support the existence of a sole ‘gay gene.’ He said sexuality was also formed, to a significant degree, by environmental factors. ‘Don’t confuse ‘environmental’ with ‘socially acquired’,” he said. ‘Environment means anything that is not in our DNA at birth, and that includes a lot of stuff that is not social.’ Dr. Alan Sanders, associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, who led the study, told The Telegraph, ‘We don’t think genetics is the whole story. It’s not. We have a gene that contributes to homosexuality, but you could say it is linked to heterosexuality. It is the variation.’

    “Bailey told The London Times, ‘Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice. Our findings suggest there may be genes at play and we found evidence for two sets that affect whether a man is gay or straight.’ However, Bailey’s research does not support the existence of a sole ‘gay gene.’He said sexuality was also formed, to a significant degree, by environmental factors. ‘Don’t confuse ‘environmental’ with ‘socially acquired’,” he said. ‘Environment means anything that is not in our DNA at birth, and that includes a lot of stuff that is not social.’ Dr. Alan Sanders, associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, who led the study, told The Telegraph, ‘We don’t think genetics is the whole story. It’s not. We have a gene that contributes to homosexuality, but you could say it is linked to heterosexuality. It is the variation.'”

    I don’t know much about the politically smart way of doing business as researchers, but Sanders, the lead researcher, has a site devoted to this study, all of which seemed to be a way of assuring the gay lobby that they shouldn’t worry about the research nor the what it might actually find. For a long time the site updated the public (as if the grant was tied to such an update) about the course of the study and it included media coverage updates of the study. Then, for years, nothing.)

    Of course, the practical side of all that public relations is that he needed to see to it he got enough English speaking gay volunteers, the goal being 1000 pairs of gay brothers. It appears they fell short of their targeted sample size, but still, the sample size is large. Nonetheless, Sanders appeared last year in a video made by Truth Wins Out, a GLBT group wanting to spread the word that gays are gay by nature not by choice and devoted to stamping out therapists who claim to be able to help men who wish not to be gay to tamp down their homosexual desires.

    I don’t have anything against that group and their stated goals of reducing discrimination against homosexuals, but it seemed that Sanders was essentially misleading or at least overstating what genetics research has actually “revealed” about male homosexuality.

    To say it’s genetic….but only in part…and that only some of their sample showed linkage to xq28 or that only some showed similarities on chromosome 8 says little, doesn’t it?

    Hope you do a post on it when it comes out and give your take.

    • JayMan / Feb 19 2014 4:41 PM


      I think you’ve pretty much covered what I would say on the matter, beyond what I’ve already said over at Audacious Epigone’s.

      Fantastic comment.

  21. Assistant Village Idiot / Feb 19 2014 9:13 PM

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Max Planck

  22. Steve Sailer / Feb 20 2014 5:45 AM

    I suspect that the bad part of Kentucky-West Virginia is the center of the coal mining region. Coal mining used to employ huge numbers of workers, but the UMW pursued higher wages through strikes, which led to major increases in productivity, so mining employment is now way down. Coal mining was associated with one major occupational disease, black lung disease, but it’s not implausible that there are other environmental hazards remaining in the region. Another factor is likely that a lot of the more ambitious people have moved out, leaving behind the less energetic and more fatalistic.

  23. disenchantedscholar / Feb 2 2015 3:44 PM

    Reblogged this on Philosophies of a Disenchanted Scholar and commented:
    Life extension is often a question of reducing mutative load.


  1. linkfest – 02/17/14 | hbd* chick
  2. More Maps of the American Nations | JayMan's Blog

Comments are welcome and encouraged. Comments DO NOT require name or email. Your very first comment must be approved by me. Be civil and respectful. NO personal attacks against myself or another commenter. Also, NO sock puppetry. If you assert a claim, please be prepared to support it with evidence upon request. Thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: