Dec 24 2010
A loon is defined as:
1. addle-head, addlehead, loon, birdbrain (a person with confused ideas; incapable of serious thought.
2. somewhat primitive fish-eating diving bird of the northern hemisphere having webbed feet placed far back.
According to one or the other of these definitions, University of Miami philosophy graduate student and dangerously ignorant science arbitrator Fredrik Haraldsen thinks that I am an American Loon, though personally I think I fit the second definition better than the first. Loons are cool birds, kind of a triple-threat; they can swim, fly and ambulate. Not exactly sure what Mr. Haraldsen can do. Does seem that he can slither pretty good though.
Scientific pseudo-skepticism is one of only a few professions (TV reality shows being the only other genre I can think of) in which it is possible to build up one’s street credentials by the simple act of being a sarcastic moron. In an idiots-on-stilts blog known as The Encyclopedia of American Loons, Haraldsen appears to be working through the alphabet, documenting what he believes to be the best in American loonery. The list, which as of now only extends to loons whose last names begin with A though E, seems to consist of preliterate-style bashings of conservative politicians, creation scientists and various New Age types. I particularly enjoyed seeing David Berlinski (who wrote what I still consider to be one of the best introductions to the calculus), Deepak Chopra, and Fritjof Capra (author of the Tao of Physics) on this roster. I am apparently something called ‘food-woo,’ and in Haraldsen’s addled estimation constitutes a
Frighteningly common type of crackpot who confuses anecdotal evidence and confirmation bias with science. Some of his advice may actually be harmful, so he must be considered moderately dangerous.
I always get a kick when a criticism wants to claim that something is both ineffective and dangerous at the same time. Sort of like the old codger in the diner who complains to the waitress that the food is terrible and the portions are too small. Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor information that confirms one’s own preconceptions or hypothesis regardless of whether the information is true. Now, for Haraldsen to be correct in this assertion he would need to present evidence that I’ve twisted evidence (studies, reports, research) to suit my beliefs or agenda. But again intellectual dishonesty wins out over truth and facts. I’ve authored numerous review articles that cite hundreds of studies about blood groups and physiology. In no instance has it ever been demonstrated that I misrepresented the data in those studies. (1,2)
Food woo is potent stuff, and Peter D’Adamo is one of the most influential. Now, there is some evidence that his suggestions are, indeed, partially founded on Eastern (more closely Japanese) superstition (many remedies that claim such background are not), though it must, for obvious reasons, be a relatively new kind of superstition. The Eastern connection does, of course, not make his crackpottery [sic] more likely to be correct.
Now, I have read this paragraph several times, and I still can’t figure out what this guy is trying to say. Is he trying to link my work with the Japanese pop-culture personality stuff? If he is, his criticism is off from the start: I’ve never endorsed any of that stuff. Perhaps it’s because Mr. Haraldsen appears to have no scientific credentials whatsoever, but rather seems to be pursuing post-graduate studies in philosophy; a noble profession, for sure, but (last I checked) one devoid of graduate level biochemistry. So, lacking the prerequisite ability to actually think for himself, Haraldsen is left to simply aggregate whatever extant material he can find that fits his opinion on the subject. True scholarship! Many aspects of Haraldsen’s toxic little blog remind me of the infamous Mr. Blackwell, famous for his widely publicized ‘Worst Dressed Lists’ of the 1960s and ’70s, except Blackwell was much more funny and erudite. Haraldsen just seems like a schmuck who very much wants to be the knight-errant.
But then again, who would not love to be called influential? That I like.
The problem with Haraldsen’s criticisms is that his only strategy centers around maniacally endeavoring to cover the subject in question with as much ad hominem manure as possible, so that he can stand back, point to the person in question, and exclaim for all to hear: “Look everybody! He is covered in manure!”
I’ve addressed the evidence shortcomings of the blood type diet theory numerous times. Fact is, subjecting this theory to the kind of proof these types of skeptics demand is simply outside the realm of rational possibility. You’re talking epidemiological scale research here. A minimal sample size for a study such as this would probably be around 1000 subjects–double this if the study were to be blinded and half the participants given sham-type diets. The minimal length of time would be six months to one year. So you are looking at a price tag in the millions of dollars.
Of course you can do little pilot-type studies, but they don’t mean very much. For example, we were able to show that the latter values (third and fourth blows) in a series of sequential breath hydrogen levels (a marker of either bacteria overgrowth or malabsorption) diminished significantly when individuals are placed on the recommended diet for their blood group. In addition we were able to document that breath hydrogen levels appear to be associated with ABO blood group and secretor status to some degree. However, these were uncontrolled and the number of subjects was quite small. (3)
More hard reporting:
D’Adamo’s schtick is the Blood Type Diet (a.k.a. blood type astrology), in which the members of each of the four main blood type groups are assigned their own regimen of foods to consume and avoid. … Apparently he is putting a lot of effort in capturing the Japanese market, as seen from his website.
Again with the Japanese? Enough already!
Oh… now I think I get it.
My website splash page used to feature an Asian girl in the background photo. But that image changes every two months or so. Now it shows a Latin-Middle Eastern type person (hard to say for sure, these are stock images). In another month it will show a young Caucasian man. I suppose this was Haraldsen’s clue that I was pitching the Japanese market.
What a ridiculous over-extrapolation.
The rest of the entry seems like he lifted entire parts from Wikipedia and The Skeptics Dictionary, two resources which, if I were Haraldsen’s grade advisor, would be grounds for a stern reprimand.
The consensus among dieticians, physicians, and scientists, however, is that the theory is unsupported by scientific evidence. Remember that the Galileo gambit is a fallacy, if you were ever attempted [sic] to go down that route.
Haraldsen should remember that argument from authority is also a fallacy, but then again there is nothing in that Haraldsen’s sophomoric blog that could pass for serious science discourse anyway.
- Not proven to universal satisfaction: Yes.
- Falsifiable: Yes.
- Extraordinary claims: No.
- Unscientific: No.
- Haraldsen: Juvenile Cadet.
- D’Adamo, PJ. The Non-transfusion Significance of the ABO Blood groups. Textbook of Natural Medicine (2005, 2010) Pizzorno and Murray, editors (Elsevier Publications)
- D’Adamo PJ, Kelly GS. Metabolic and immunologic consequences of ABH secretor and Lewis subtype status.Altern Med Rev. 2001 Aug;6(4):390-405.
- D’Adamo. PJ. A Breath of Fresh Air. 2009 Conference Proceedings, Institute for Human Individuality. Norwalk CT USA