As Levinovitz recently said in an interview, "Science is not great at constructing narratives. That’s its virtue and its downfall. Scientific inquiryAs Levinovitz recently said in an interview, "Science is not great at constructing narratives. That’s its virtue and its downfall. Scientific inquiry has to divorce itself from what makes the best story, and science writers, myself included, are in the business of making science compelling by telling stories."
The story - or should we say proven fact? - he presents is that diets strongly resemble religions. Everyone peddling a new diet or new religion/spirituality claims to have the answer for staying "healthy" (a word used just as often to mean "moral" as "not sick"). Throughout history, no one peddling the answers to guaranteed longevity or eternal happiness has been proven right. (If they were, their methods would be almost universally embraced, like seatbelts and the idea of keeping the kitchen separate from the toilet.) But we are still listening to every generation's new theories about the ideal way to live long and stay healthy because we are still afraid of illness and death.
While the book's title suggests an attack focused on the gluten-free fad, Levinovitz goes after several diets trending now and in recent history. He does an excellent job of showing how to tell a myth from a scientific finding, and how to identify mission creep - e.g., trying to get people to stop eating factory farmed food because the process is bad for the environment by telling them it's also bad for their bodies. In other words, how to sort our cultural forces from scientific facts.
He also adds to the growing evidence that just trying out a diet because everyone's doing it can be dangerous, especially if you have an unidentified condition. Dieting usually leads to bingeing, and intense elimination diets have been found to put your body under stress by raising your cortisol levels.
With this in mind, his book is as informative as it is necessary to the discourse.
He didn't convince me. His generalizations about human nature are far too broad - based on and applied to only the American political landscape. ApartHe didn't convince me. His generalizations about human nature are far too broad - based on and applied to only the American political landscape. Apart from an overly simplistic summary of India - which quite unfairly portrayed the country as monolithic - he ignores anything other countries have to teach us.
I'm convinced the age of paralyzing partisanship in the U.S. is due much in part to our two-party system. Other democracies - like Germany, my country of residence - manage to distance political action from group identity by offering voters a rainbow of choices. While social issues are debated openly and with passion, whom you voted for is considered a private matter and not one that is at all easy for outsiders to ascertain thanks to the lack of a conservative vs. progressive binary. In America, one need comment on only two or three issues before anyone can guess what color state you'd prefer.
Haidt ignores these examples, as well as those of so many other countries - Europe, Canada, New Zealand - that have more successfully integrated the liberal ideals he originally embraced into the mainstream of their societies. Cultures like Japan's, whose morals in no way can be separated into the Western right vs. left binary, are absent from his analyses.
This is all too bad because his microcosmic moral arguments - e.g. the ethical questions he poses to survey-takers - are stimulating. His America-centric view, however, renders his conclusion faulty. ...more
A very readable break-down of which alternative methods work, and which don't. His analysis of the placebo effect is fascinating, and his exposé of thA very readable break-down of which alternative methods work, and which don't. His analysis of the placebo effect is fascinating, and his exposé of the natural remedies that have been proven to increase rates of cancer and heart disease is terrifying. His personal experiences with the imperfections of mainstream medicine were also helpful in illustrating why almost everyone at some point has had a reason to hate doctors and hospitals. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone....more
Once again, the hilarious rantings of a highly-educated, high-strung man-child openly disgusted by the habits of other people and even more disgustedOnce again, the hilarious rantings of a highly-educated, high-strung man-child openly disgusted by the habits of other people and even more disgusted by his own self.
We've seen him in the works of Gary Shteyngart, Woody Allen, Jonathan Franzen, Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, and Joseph Heller, and he is nothing if not deeply polarizing. Depending on your tastes and your sense of humor, this self-involved, passionate proselytizer will either leave you laughing or seething. But every generation needs their own comedic neurotic to rant about the absurdities of modern life, because every year sees the invention of new absurdities. Ferris shows that there's plenty to religion, dentistry, baseball and the Internet that is rant-worthy.
With a pitch-perfect wit, attention to detail, and willingness to show raw emotion, Ferris's Paul O'Rourke left me utterly beguiled. In real life, I would find him endlessly exasperating, but that's the point of reading literature - to get inside the head of those you regularly dismiss and understand them. It is simultaneously endearing and uncomfortable when you end up relating to them. And that is good literature's greatest achievement.
A few brilliant graphics that prove the wonders of the form, alongside some very mediocre ones.
McCandless argues in the foreword that Knowledge is oneA few brilliant graphics that prove the wonders of the form, alongside some very mediocre ones.
McCandless argues in the foreword that Knowledge is one step beyond Information - you get the former once you've properly processed the latter. But in so many of his graphics, "knowledge" looks a lot more like mere opinion. Instead of demonstrating the radical originality of the post-modern movement, as he did in his first book, he instead reveals its dark underbelly - i.e., indulging and advertising lifestyles. Factoids about meditation, tips on health, platitudes about good relationships and other things he's into all converge to look like he's trying to pass off his Pinterest boards as enlightenment. In this way, the medium becomes irritating, because you can't engage in reasoned debate with a graphic.
The best ones in the book (the story of evolution, UK pay gaps by occupation) seem to better fit McCandless's definition of "information" than "knowledge." He's tried to do something different, but should've stuck to what he did so well. ...more
Sheila Heti shows us what anyone who's in on any urban art scene already knows - that women can be hipster jerks, too. Petty, pretenThat was terrible.
Sheila Heti shows us what anyone who's in on any urban art scene already knows - that women can be hipster jerks, too. Petty, pretentious, shallow, and terrified that baring any bit of their authentic selves will cost them their cool factor, they muse, pontificate, wonder, and laze about the world with absolutely nothing to offer it but their self-absorption.
If some of the ideas laid out here were separated into individual quotations or poems, I might have the patience to consider their value. The Ugly Painting Competition had promise.
But an entire story like this just makes you wanna scream.
So now when Sheila Heti asks, "How should a person be?" the answer is soundly, "Not like you."