So recently I ran afoul of thoroughness and human decency: I posted to Facebook an article called “The Soy Ploy“, hosted on http://chriskresser.com/ and written by “… Nourishing Our Children, an organization dedicated to supported learning, behavior and health in children through optimal nutrition.” It was a mistake I hope you can all learn from.
You see, I posted the article without thoroughly checking for links to source materials (supporting studies or papers or articles or something). I had expected there to be some links embedded in the text, for the article makes frequent reference to research; when I found that there wasn’t even a single one I was shocked and disappointed. The fault lies with me; though no objection has been raised as to the veracity of the contents of the article (don’t fret, you can be sure we’ll get back to this), it can be correctly pointed out that neither Nourishing Our Children nor I nor anyone has sufficient authority to make claims, really any claims, and have them believed at face value. Passing on material like that, material that has no links or direct references to scientific support, and thus no convenient way of verifying it, encourages logical error. I apologize.
That said (I’m repeating myself but this bears repeating) I have not heard one real criticism of the contents of the article. The website owner, Chris Kresser, is an acupuncturist and a functional medicine doctor, so I heard a lot of guilt-by-association (“now, I’m not saying this means anything, but this guy’s an ACUPUNCTURIST”); Nourishing Our Children’s Authority as a source was compared to the Authority of other sources (who remain nameless, lost in the crowd called ‘consensus’), and dismissed. Criticisms like these are easy enough to laugh off as logical fallacies; it’s obviously easier to look up the background of the website in question than find evidence to refute its claims (or even articles disputing its claims, apparently).
There was one accusation that I’m not willing to laugh off, however: confirmation bias. We should be clear, this is not a criticism of the contents of the article itself; it’s a criticism of the writers for seeing only their side of the story, and it’s a criticism of me, for believing an article because it said what I expected it to say on a subject I’m familiar with. It is of course true that the article confirmed (that is, “stated”) something that I was biased towards (“already believed”). The deeper implication, however, is that all people in the “don’t eat soy it’s not good for you” camp (to say nothing of the “eat saturated fat”, “avoid sugar and grains”, “avoid industrial seed oils” etc. camps) don’t fact check and don’t allow themselves to be exposed to the truth, i.e. to unbiased research. “These small groups just go around and around citing each other to support their theories”. It’d be a worthwhile criticism (though not proof of anything), if it were true.
It isn’t, however: the leaders (well, the people I think of as leaders like Robb Wolf, Mat Lalonde, Mark Sisson, Loren Cordain, the Drs. Eades, Chris Masterjohn, Chris Kresser, John Welborn, Greg Everett and others) of the Paleo movement (the intersection of the above-mentioned groups) are as quick as anyone to present, review or criticize research that is related to the nutrition guidelines that they advocate. Robb and others advocate reading The China Study, T. Colin Campbell’s work that implicates meat consumption in cancer increase in developing rural villages in China. They often pass on articles by vegans and vegetarians advocating against meat. Further, many Paleo advocates have had to change their stances on various issues; many changed their views on dietary carbohydrates, to accommodate new information about the Kitaavans, who live in remarkable health ‘despite’ a diet that’s 60% tubers.
It’s this, the ability to admit when you’re wrong and change your views, that’s essential to science, and a sure sign that, if nothing else, one is aware of one’s biases and able to judge things with them in mind. The desire to “get it right”, not to have been right all along, is the only thing that protects any of us from being blinded by pre-conceived notions.
I acknowledged where I was wrong above; I did so in hopes that you’ll listen now, as I lay out the case for the contents of the article in question. There are two things I hope to get out of you (whomever you are) reading the following paper: the first is that I hope to show you that there is significant evidence that soy is unhealthy (whether or not you personally seem to react badly to it); the second is to convince you that I use parenthesis too much.
Go on to Part 2