There are people in this world who act as though science is merely a matter of opinion, and as we all know, everyone has one of those! Apparently, Rhodes Scholars and Google scholars are equal and their opinions are granted equal weight.
I experienced this disturbing phenomenon yesterday on Facebook. I should have seen it coming because the topic of discussion was weight loss. Someone posted a request for information on how to lose weight, and of course everyone has an opinion on that.
Surprisingly, someone mentioned The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, and suggested the person who wants to lose weight adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet. Yay! I then entered the discussion by mentioning a book called Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis, which I found to be a really nice overview of years of scientific research into nutrition and weight loss. I also mentioned Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live website and books and his “nutritarianism”. These are all credible, evidence-based resources based on sound science.
Sounds good so far, right? I mean, who’s going to argue with years of research on thousands of people, with all credible evidence pointing toward a whole foods, plant-based diet being the best for human health, including reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight? Fool proof, right?
One of the original poster’s friends left a comment advising the original poster to consume more protein, particularly protein shakes.
As this is dangerous and irresponsible advice (high protein diets have been thoroughly debunked), I left a benign comment to contradict this person, indicating that in fact consuming more protein would not be helpful in the goal of weight loss or achieving good health.
This person then proceeded to argue with me about types of protein and that she’s been doing a high protein, low carb diet for a month now and has lost 10 pounds. I responded that animal proteins are not superior to plant proteins, plants contain all the proteins we need, high protein diets are dangerous, and people often lose weight initially on a high-protein diet, because they are losing water weight, they almost always gain it all back and then some in the long term.
She then told me that I should respect her beliefs as she was respecting mine. I told her that certainly everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but we were not discussing beliefs—we were discussing ways to lose weight and live healthfully. I kept pointing out that I was basing my comments on science, and I identified where I was getting my information. The woman who was arguing with me never named a single reference—she just kept telling me to respect her beliefs. I said it was irresponsible to advise someone trying to lose weight to consume more protein when doing so is harmful. She told me that I sounded like I just don’t want anyone to eat meat and that she loves a nice juicy steak every now and then. I responded to that with “That is very unfortunate”, because it’s too bad that people desire foods that are so damaging to their health, just because they taste good. I wasn’t being anything other than sincere—it is really unfortunate. I was also told that everyone is different—what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, to which I responded that the only diet conducive to good health in humans is a whole foods, plant-based diet, which is supported by scientific evidence.
Then the original poster joined the discussion and told me to back off, as I had proven my point and I had been argumentative and borderline insulting.
I re-read the entire thread, trying to figure out where I had been insulting or argumentative, and found nothing that could warrant that assessment.
I did, however, figure this out: in order to be perceived as “nice” or likeable, you have to agree with everything everyone else says, even if it’s harmful, or dangerous, or just plain inaccurate. If you disagree with someone, even if you are polite and offer them credible information to counter their assertions, you are an asshole.
I was told that what I was saying was just an opinion, and that anyone can look online and find something that says the opposite.
…except, I didn’t find the information online, as I am not a Google scholar. I’ve been learning about diet and nutrition for years now—11, actually, since I became vegan. I don’t click on blogs or media stories for my information, because part of my learning has been to understand how to tell the difference between real information and click bait. I have read The China Study, Eat to Live, and Proteinaholic.
I have also looked at those “articles” and other sources that say eating meat is good for us, or whatever, and either the science is not done correctly, or it’s not reported accurately by the media, or, as in anything said by the Weston A. Price Foundation, it’s just not science at all.
In short, I have learned to think critically, to look at who is funding what study and who is reporting it and how, and how the study was conducted, and that we need to look at more than a single study to get accurate information. I don’t just look for information that supports my beliefs, but I have yet to see any credible science demonstrating that eating meat, dairy, or eggs is conducive to good health in humans.
So I resent being told that I have to respect the opinion of someone who knows nothing about nutritional science and doesn’t even know what a meta-analysis is or understand the difference between fact and belief.
I resent being told that in presenting facts that are contrary to what people want to believe, I am “argumentative” and “borderline insulting”.
I resent that after reading a great deal to enhance my knowledge and then using that knowledge to try to help someone and prevent them from harming themselves by taking bad advice, I am told that my knowledge is really just belief and opinion.
I resent that clueless, ignorant people who have no understanding of even rudimentary science (What is protein? What is a meta-analysis?) think their opinions are equal to mine.
I don’t think I am better than anyone, but I have read things from actual reliable sources that others don’t know about. I don’t understand why presenting sound, credible science to help someone make an informed decision causes others to get so incredibly defensive and angry with me.
I removed myself from the conversation. I wish the original poster the best of luck losing weight while getting such terrible advice and rejecting the knowledge of someone who has actually read accurate and factual information about it. I hope she isn’t harmed in the process.
ETA: There is a saying that goes something like, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” However, I think we need a new definition of insanity. I think it should be, “The definition of insanity is continuing to believe something, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.” I am deeply disturbed by the cognitive dissonance displayed by many individuals, and it makes me question how we can ever progress as a species when we are constantly being held back by people who hang on desperately to beliefs even when presented with facts that contradict those beliefs. Humans are a truly frightening species.