Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. Though they appear unrelated to each other, the articles are about the incompetence and maliciousness of all those supposedly “credentialed” and “trusted” experts- whether they are psychiatrists, nutritionists or administrators.
Link 1: The Vindicated Parents
The history of autism is not one in which expert opinion has covered itself in glory. Almost as soon as the condition was identified, psychiatry produced an explanation for it that was even more blithely indifferent to the need for proof than the anti-vaxxers have been: “Refrigerator mothers,” the medical establishment insisted—“mothers not loving their children enough”—are what turn children autistic. The main proponent of this theory, and the great villain of autism activism’s early years, was the sketchily credentialed Bruno Bettelheim, whose claim to the title of “doctor” resided in a degree in art history but who somehow managed to persuade the profession and the media that he was the foremost child psychologist in the land.
Autism parents, on top of coping with sometimes devastatingly disabled children—mute, seizing, self-harming, violent—were typically informed that this nightmare was all their own fault. The treatments recommended by Bettelheim and his followers ranged from ineffective (therapy to fix the mothers) to what we now realize is exactly the wrong approach: placing autistic kids in an unstructured and overstimulating environment to make up for the alleged deprivation and rigidity of their families of origin. All of this, cause and treatment, was decreed to parents with the force of categorical authority. It was largely autism parents, some of them medical professionals themselves, who in the course of the 1950s and 1960s would force the experts to change their minds- although Bettelheim fought hard against organic theories of autism’s origins to the bitter end.
Link 2: Why the calorie is broken
Measuring the calories in food itself relies on another modification of Lavoisier’s device. In 1848, an Irish chemist called Thomas Andrews realized that he could estimate calorie content by setting food on fire in a chamber and measuring the temperature change in the surrounding water. (Burning food is chemically similar to the ways in which our bodies break food down, despite being much faster and less controlled.) Versions of Andrews’s ‘bomb calorimeter’ are used to measure the calories in food today. At the Beltsville center, samples of the meatloaf, mashed potatoes and tomato juice have been incinerated in the lab’s bomb calorimeter. “We freeze-dry it, crush into a powder, and fire it,” says Baer. Humans are not bomb calorimeters, of course, and we don’t extract every calorie from the food we eat. This problem was addressed at the end of the 19th century, in one of the more epic experiments in the history of nutrition science.
There’s also the problem that no two people are identical. Differences in height, body fat, liver size, levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and other factors influence the energy required to maintain the body’s basic functions. Between two people of the same sex, weight and age, this number may differ by up to 600 calories a day—over a quarter of the recommended intake for a moderately active woman. Even something as seemingly insignificant as the time at which we eat may affect how we process energy. In one recent study, researchers found that mice fed a high-fat diet between 9am and 5pm gained 28 per cent less weight than mice fed the exact same food across a 24-hour period. The researchers suggested that irregular feedings affect the circadian cycle of the liver and the way it metabolizes food, thus influencing overall energy balance. Such differences would not emerge under the feeding schedules in the Beltsville experiments.
Anything is better than drinking lead-poisoned water. But when Walmart, Coca Cola, and Nestlé are the only ones stepping up and offering alternatives, the future looks pretty grim. Today, a coalition of America’s largest companies announced that it would be putting together a trucklift for Flint, collectively donating water to meet the needs of the city’s 10,000 school children for the rest of the calendar year. The companies are also encouraging others to support the Flint community through the nonprofit website Good360. This is all very good news for the water-strapped citizens of Flint. But you know who else depends on the likes of Walmart for safe drinking water? People living in third world countries that lack basic sanitation. Seriously now. Where the hell is the government? Where are people that landed Flint in this horrible public health crisis in the first place? Walmart has been donating water to Flint since July of 2015, and six months on, the taps are still churning out industrial waste. As The Atlantic points out, water donations from the entire state of Michigan don’t come close to the amount of clean water Walmart, Coke, Nestlé, and Pepsi have agreed to shore up—the equivalent of 6.5 million bottles.
What do you think? Comments?