Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unwarranted Extrapolation

A personal note -- I don't understand people who think there is one diet -- in great detail (types of foods, percentage of fat / protein / carbohydrates, etc.) -- that is absolutely and clearly optimal for every single person everywhere. How can we ignore the evidence?

But beyond the evidence, just consider the reasoning. As many of you know, I have a chronic disease. If there was a very specific diet that controlled my symptoms, it would be optimal for me. But I would never think to claim that everyone simply must follow the diet that works for me!

Bill Clinton went 65 years eating about the worst diet possible. He did a great deal of damage to his body. Now he's much healthier eating a mostly-plant-based diet.* So this worked for him, in his circumstances.

But even if loads of people were willing to adopt his very-low-fat no-bread no-nuts etc. etc. diet (which they never will), why would anyone think this was the optimal diet for, say, a 4-year-old? Or a 13-year-old? Or a pregnant woman? Or a football player or ultramarathoner? And there is nothing to say that a different diet (and/or other lifestyle changes) wouldn't have worked for Clinton -- we have no control group in this situation.

This isn't really an issue for VO members, who focus on the animals, rather than trying to glorify their personal diet / denigrate everyone who doesn't eat / think just like them. But we should keep this in mind when we come across claims that apply to a specific population or circumstance.

-Matt Ball

* PS: Clinton's diet -- eating fish and/or eggs ever week -- could easily cause more suffering and/or death than someone who eats beef and dairy every day.