Monday, September 5, 2011

Well it ain't Rocket Science, ain't It?

Reading Gary Taubes post this weekend got me thinking of the first time I worked with a bunch of PhD's.  I used to work at a mega-company known for its research.  In my department, there were a few, but then there was this other whole building of them.  Chemists mostly.  Tons of them, all walking around in their lab coats in nice hallways and better offices.  They had their own library.  They even had better pens than we did.

One thing I learned pretty quickly is that many of these chemists thought that when they got their fancy diploma, God had also included a key to all universal knowledge and wisdom.  And I also learned pretty quickly that I had better behave as if they were gods themselves, or my career would be about as terminal as my degree.

One day I went on an interview for a job in another division.  I was led into the office of the big VP.  He was a chemist and he had a PhD.  After the hello's, I started right in.

"Oh, you have a PhD", I gushed, "I'll bet you are really smart".  The VP answered,
"Not really.  Just persevering"
I thought, hey, I could work here!  At that moment, thousands of Canadian geese started flying around the building and they all landed right by the lake outside the VP's window.  We both decided that it was a delightful birdy omen.  I started work there the very next day.

One of the things I learned while working at the birdy place is that there are some very smart people who don't feel the need to tell everyone about it all the time.  They just quietly do their work and get things done, and through other people mostly.  I have been able to meet and work with others like this throughout my career, and it is such a pleasure.

Now, its not all PhD's who think they are such hot stuff, but many do.  And, some think that because they are from those fine institutions, they are smarter than all the others.  So here's what I have to say about that.  First, PhD's think they are the cream of the crop, but really they are only the top percentage out of all the people who apply.  Not a good representative sample of the entire population, I think.  Now maybe it is different in chemistry, but in my field, the only people who went along to higher learning right away were the dorks who couldn't get either a decent date or a decent job.  The rest of us (the smart, cute ones) were going off, getting married, making money.  So, if they were in the top 10 percent of the people who tried to continue on to grad school, well, they were still uglier than me and good luck with that.

Second, there was sure lots of crap talk on Guyenet's and others' blogs about the fact that Taubes doesn't have a PhD.  But really, the only advantage anymore to getting an education at some fine institution is that someone is checking your work and grading your papers.  There is quite a bit of interesting and challenging research work done in the private sector, and just because it doesn't get handed in to the agreed-upon professor for grading doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.  In fact, it may be more worthwhile.  In addition, the people who did the work usually were adequately compensated for their work.

Taubes can read and research all he wants on the internet.  If he wants someone to grade his papers, he can join any number of clubs and groups on Facebook and elsewhere or pop an e-mail to just about anyone.  It's not rocket science. 

One other thing I eventually learned about working at the birdy place is that I was brought in exactly because I knew absolutely nothing about what had gone on before.  It was my job to figure it out.  No need to be too smart for that, just persevering.  They already had alot of smart people, just that not enough were looking for the right things.

Gosh, someone needs to figure out this obesity mess!  Why not the rocket scientist?
And to end, here's another interesting take on rocket science here.  Enjoy!


  1. I couldn't have said it any better myself, totally agree! I think it's the people who aren't getting fully compensated but are merely seeking the truth to better their life and the lives around them, these are the people who deserve to be noticed. It takes determination and perseverance to find those answers.

  2. Hey Brash,

    Thought I would officially get on your blog and say hi.

    Moreover, I can't really believe what a minimal topic all this bullsh*t back and forth is about: a serving or two of a tuber(s)!

    On the practical level (which is where I try to remain), the argument is about adding back some tubers and/or rice. At base, we all seem to agree that sat fat/meat, veggies, minimal fruit is the way to go. Some of us are arguing that tubers and rice may be ok - for some - hell yeah they are. Guyenet has this bland thing going on probably due to uniqueness, but it is totally unnecessary, and only a fatty (or one who works with fatties) who lost weight and kept it off would know this.

    Guyenet's point, however, should not be thrown out as I believe - due to my work with fatties, that trying to create low-carb substitutes for all the treats they can no longer have can get them into trouble. This is where bland may be significant - of course it's bland when you begin, because of what you're used to. But bland quickly becomes luxury as your body changes; you just have to stay away from the frankenfoods of paleo - even if homemade. Of course, this could take months in some people and people want results tomorrow.

    I can see the reason for debating the science and the literature, but studies isolate a hormone, gland, effect, condition, etc., from the more complex organism/system. How can one ever think anything definitive will come from this pursuit? Is it hopeless - no. But I think we should be concentrating on the black box (the human organism), and not the isolated authorities and their results; or at least, the isolated authorities should supplement black box experience, not displace it.

    I've got so much more to say but I'll save that for other posts. I've been obese in the past (teenager) doing this way of eating for almost 20 years (obviously pre-Internet and blog drama), while (off/on) training hard as an athlete, serving as a Soldier, and for the past 4 years, working with others (with great success). I kinda know what works in the practical sense. I've been exposed to a lot due to my life's choices. Would love to share at some point.

    Anyway - here's my official hello.


  3. Hi Al! Thanks for your comment. I do believe that it is much much bigger than the addition of some tubers. It is a fight about who will carry the paleo banner. Will it be the "healthy" gym rats who used to be flabby, or the "deranged" red-faced fatties?
    Underlying much of the hoopla, I think, is our deep-seated hatred of fat people and our assumption that it is mostly due to a life of debauchery and a lack of mental toughness. And, that is the part I am really bored with.
    I think we might be coming closer to understanding why we overeat, but not why we get fat.

  4. Brash,

    I do think that, at the practical level, we are arguing for or against some tubers, and maybe some spices and seasonings.

    I "thought" that at the theoretical level, we were arguing about human physiology and metabolism, and the environmental factors which influence them, but it seems that some of us are arguing just to argue, and others to try and protect a novel idea.

    I don't follow you when you side gym rats, ex-fatties, against sick and current fatties - maybe I'm not yet tuned into your sarcasm and wit.

    Dare I raise an n=1 point, but for me, as in love, I used to hate fat. But I got past that and am indifferent now, truly trying to add to the solving of the puzzle, while helping others get back to health. So I need to remain within the practical bounds of this mess. We have to eat something while we figure it out (if ever).

    I completely agree with your last statement; and dysfunction of regulation sounds the most promising. Where the dysfunction is may be interesting but unnecessary for one to take action now.


  5. I was serious about it being a war between the cross-fitters and the fat low-carbers.

  6. "I was serious about it being a war between the cross-fitters and the fat low-carbers."

    Hmmm, I must not get out enough. Where is the center-mass of this war waged? And what is this war about, in your opinion?

    I really thought this was a war between the scientists, trying to market their specific theory.

    Oddly enough, I used to own a CrossFit gym; and at one time I was a fat-low-carber. I'm not sure where I sit with your assertion that we hate fat people, but I know I hated me when I was fat.

    But I completely agree that we hate the reasons (the mainstream ones) why we believe people are fat.


  7. You have convinced me to do a whole blog post about this.

  8. I look forward to it.

    Oh, and I expect to credited, and please cite in APA format ;)


  9. Oh, karma for me, dude! APA used to be a req. for all papers I assigned.

  10. I'm about to begin masters studies in exercise science and this was pounded down my throat for my undergrad. I am aspiring to teach at the university level in a distance ed program, so that's the background to that joke.

    On the other hand, I was somewhat elated to discover that I was able to return the "favor" to a Professor ; )

    A little more background, I'm recently retired from the Army and 41, not 21. Just doing life in reverse, as it were. Haha