Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cholesterol, courage, and normal human biases.

Chris Masterjohn, Phd is an interesting young man. I heard him on one of Jimmy Moore's interviews. He has a sharp mind, enthusiasm, and seems willing to listen to all sides. He has an informative website that I'm just starting to get into.  Warning: your preconceptions about cholesterol are very likely wrong. It is an essential molecule, present in every cell membrane in your body, the raw material for many hormones. It is NOT an intrinsically toxic evil substance created by Satan to tempt you to evil delicious tasting foods and then kill you before your time with crushing chest pain.

One of the most important myths Dr. Masterjohn discussed was that people seem to take on faith that industry (food and drug, for example) are terminally biased whereas universities and government are not. 

Bull. What an unbelievably faith based thought this is!

Government subsidizes the corn and soybean industries; therefore they are biased. Government is interested in increasing their control over each of us (if you don't believe this you really are naive.) That's why people put up with all the garbage they have to put up with to get elected! The desire to tell us all what to do for our own good is behind the "food pyramid" which very likely fed the obesity epidemic worldwide and has caused enormous harm.

Governments are also incredibly risk averse in many ways. Our own FDA has been known to delay approval of new drugs and allow Europeans to risk their lives first. Sounded OK to me, until I realized that thousands of Americans won't get needed treatment for several extra years because some FDA dude doesn't want to get blamed for the next Thalidomide. My father's life was turned around thirty years ago by a drug available in Europe and Canada but held up here; he could easily have died.

Universities increasingly get big dollars from patents from their research and have big donors to satisfy. They are biased. Universities and government funding have done a lot of good, but they also tend to fossilize "conventional wisdom" and, again, risk aversion leads them to not fund things that are "too radical." They want a safe payoff for their investments.  Part of the incredibly sordid and contaminated "global warming" tale has to do with biased grants.  I'm not claiming any expertise in climate science, but having been, years ago, part of a medical research team, anyone who wants to get a grant learns the buzz phrases you must insert into your applications.

In truth we all are biased; I am too (read the above.)  Some biases I know about firsthand include beneficence bias (the desire to do good overwhelms my objectivity) and confirmation bias (I give extra weight to things that confirm my previous opinions.)  Maybe I'll look into biases in an upcoming post!  Could be interesting.  (Wikipedia has a short list of various biases here, a place to start.)

A good place to start with ourselves is, what are my biases?  (NOT "do I have any biases?".  I promise you that you do.)  What are my biases and how do they hamper my life?


  1. David McRaney has an excellent book on cognitive biases called "You Are Not So Smart." I'm reading it now. He shares much of it at his blogs.


  2. If I'm not so smart, am I sure I want to find out?