Climate alarmism is not even wrong

I happened to catch a bit of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s press conference defending the Trump’s Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The men and women of the press kept asking Pruitt, in so many words: ‘All the climate scientists believe that climate change is real and dangerous, so why don’t you?’ Careful thinkers will recognize this as the Argument from Authority, and therefore not a valid argument. But in any event, I have a question for all those ‘scientists’ telling us that climate change is a grave threat: How will we know if you’re wrong? Because if ‘climate science’ is really science and not just advocacy, the scientists should specify the specific circumstances that would disprove their theory.

An important scientific principle states that a scientific hypothesis must be refutable; that is, the theory must give us a way to determine if the hypothesis is false. For instance, Albert Einstein, when he put forward his General Theory of Relativity, specified some specific circumstances (having to do with the apparent positions of stars during a solar eclipse) that would refute his theory. This scientific principle is closely associated with the work of the great philosopher Karl Popper.

For Popper, a theory is scientific only if it is refutable by a conceivable event. Every genuine test of a scientific theory, then, is logically an attempt to refute or to falsify it, and one genuine counter-instance falsifies the whole theory.

Following Popper, if climate alarmism is scientific, then what is the ‘conceivable event’ that would falsify it? To date, the predictions of climate alarmists have generally proven to be wrong, but none of these failures has prompted climate scientists to abandon their alarmism.

For instance, in 1988, NASA’s top climate scientist, James Hansen, predicted that a rising sea level would submerge New York City’s West Side Highway within 40 years. We are now nearly three quarters of the way to Hansen’s deadline, and New York tidal gauges have risen only about three inches. If the West Side Highway is still above water 11 years from now, will that be sufficient to refute climate alarmism?

In 2007, Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University predicted that Arctic sea ice would completely disappear by summer 2013. When that did not happen, he revised his prediction to summer 2016 and wrote a book called A Farewell to Ice.

Yet, when figures were released for the yearly minimum on September 10, [2016], they showed that there was still 1.6 million square miles of sea ice (4.14 square kilometres), which was 21 per cent more than the lowest point in 2012.

Other scientists have made similar predictions regarding sea ice.

The view was supported by Prof [Wieslaw] Maslowski, who in 2013 published a paper in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences also claiming that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2016, plus or minus three years.

If Arctic sea ice still exists in September, 2019, will that be sufficient to refute climate alarmism?

Climate scientists predicted a rising global temperature, but until the most recent El Niño event, the global temperature had been flat for nearly 20 years. This failed prediction is referred to by climate scientists as the ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in global warming, terms that implicitly assume that global warming will resume. None of the climate scientists predicted this ‘pause,’ which seemingly constitutes a very significant contradiction of the theory. Yet even this prolonged pause was not sufficient to shake the confidence of alarmists. How long would a pause have to last in order to refute climate alarmism?

To the best of my knowledge, climate alarmists have never told us how we can know if they are wrong. But if their theory is not refutable, then it is not science, but an ideology. As physicists like to say, a theory that is not refutable is ‘not even wrong,’ meaning that it does not rise to the level of a legitimate hypothesis. So far, climate alarmism is not even wrong.

Academic Feminists Get Punked

I have to laugh whenever climate alarmists argue that we have to respect alarmist climate research because it is published in “peer reviewed” journals. Anybody who believes that peer review is some kind of unassailable imprimatur of legitimacy can’t possibly have much personal experience with the actual peer review process. As I was discussing with a colleague recently, the dreary incompetence of peer reviews is perhaps the most singularly disappointing aspect of the entire academic experience.

The deficiencies of peer review were hilariously exposed back in 1996 by Alan Sokal in his famous hoaxing of the postmodern journal Social Text. Sokal got the journal’s peer reviewers to approve a spoof article that argued, among other absurdities, that physics is a social construct.

Now comes recent news of another successful Sokal-like hoax. The journal humiliated on this occasion was a ‘gender studies’ outlet called Cogent Social Sciences. And this time the thing argued to be socially constructed was not physics but, ahem, the penis.

Penises are problematic, and we don’t just mean medical issues like erectile dysfunction and crimes like sexual assault. As a result of our research into the essential concept of the penis and its exchanges with the social and material world, we conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations. The conceptual penis presents signi cant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

Linking the ‘conceptual penis’ to climate change was clearly calculated to increase the paper’s chances of publication. As was the paper’s unambiguously anti-penis and anti-masculine perspective.

We didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, we stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (we stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”). After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.

The hoaxing authors clearly knew their audience and played to its man-hating prejudices. The paper may be filled with contradictions and inconsistencies, but the one constant is its anti-male narrative. As the authors themselves admitted,

We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal. . .

But could a nonsense paper taking the opposite position–that maleness is intrinsically good–ever publish in a respectable journal? That seems like a much tougher sell. The hoaxing authors essentially chose the anti-male position deliberately, because they knew that was the way to get published.

By agreeing to publish this anti-male nonsense, academic feminists not only revealed themselves as bereft of intellectual standards, but they contradicted their own feminist theory. Feminists argue that we live in a ‘patriarchy’ in which men control all of society’s levers of power, and use that power to actively oppress women. And yet, the patriarchy somehow allows ‘respectable journals’ to publish even hoax papers so long as they are anti-male.

That’s the ultimate contradiction that the feminist reviewers failed to acknowledge.

So-Called Experts: Wrong on Salt Too

Almost three years ago, I questioned the declaration by FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg that Americans needed to eat less salt.

“The current level of [sodium] consumption is really higher than it should be,” said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. That’s why they’re preparing “voluntary guidelines” for the food industry encouraging them to stay below certain salt levels.

While the guidelines will initially be voluntary, health groups are lobbying for mandatory standards — lobbying that will only grow more intense if businesses refuse to comply once the standards are released. If businesses don’t go light on the salt “then FDA should start a process of mandatory limits,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael Jacobson.

At the time, I replied as follows.

For FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg to say that salt consumption is “higher than it should be” implies that she knows how high salt consumption should be. But the fact is that science has not credibly established how much is the right amount of salt, or how much is too much.

In the three years since I wrote that, a number of studies have been published showing that a low-salt diet is actually worse for health than is a moderate or even high-salt diet. The latest evidence comes from the Framingham Offspring Study, an extension of the famous Framingham Heart Study, one of the most prestigious and well-funded long-running health studies. Notwithstanding the assertions of FDA commissioner Hamburg, the Framingham study “implies that most Americans are consuming a perfectly healthy amount of salt,” and more remarkably, that “lowering sodium intake doesn’t reduce blood pressure.”

Consuming fewer than 2,500 milligrams of sodium daily is actually associated with higher blood pressure…
The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, equal to a teaspoon of ordinary iodized table salt.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Hence, lowering salt intake is supposed to lower blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. But the study found that supposition to be unfounded.

Moreover, the lowest blood pressure was recorded by those who consumed 4,000 milligrams or more a day — amounts considered dangerously high by medical authorities such as the American Heart Association.

Let that sink in. The Framingham subjects who had salt intake levels that the American Heart Association considers “dangerously high” actually had the lowest blood pressure.

The lowest readings came from people who consumed an average of 3,717 milligrams of sodium and 3,211 milligrams of potassium a day.

The report directly contradicts advice from the American Heart Association, which recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day to reduce blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association is a dubious organization that proffers a lot of bad advice and takes money from the soft drink industry.

And also the federal government, of course, is on the misguided anti-salt bandwagon.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that sodium intake be lowered to 2,300 milligrams per day for the general population.  The report is a joint project of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture.

As for Margaret Hamburg, she stepped down as head of the FDA in 2015. Has she at any point apologized for attacking the dietary habits of Americans without knowing all the facts? Probably not, since I presume she is pretty busy defending herself from a federal racketeering lawsuit that was filed against her last year. The suit alleges that she engaged in a conspiracy to approve dangerous drugs in order to benefit her husband’s hedge fund.

I have no idea if the charges are true or not, but however it turns out, I retain little trust in the people who occupy positions of authority in America today, especially political appointees like Margaret Hamburg. Take what they say with about 57.36 grains of salt, or 3,717 milligrams. That should keep your blood pressure down.

So-Called Experts Lost the Trust of the American People

Tom Nichols is a professor and soi-disant expert on foreign and defense policy. He is apparently upset that people aren’t paying him enough attention.

It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem. The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites–and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.

Well, people don’t as a rule lose confidence in experts that maintain a good track record of success. New England Patriots fans, for instance, generally retain a high degree of trust in the judgment of Bill Belichick. Only when supposed experts screw up do people start to lose confidence. And the fact is that, over the past 15 years or so, America’s experts and elites have put together an appalling record of failure that has resulted in real suffering for millions of ordinary people. Professor Glenn Reynolds offers a few of the more prominent examples.

It was experts that gave us the financial crisis, it was experts that gave us the Middle East meltdown, it was experts who gave us the obesity epidemic and the opioid crisis. And yet the experts pay no price for their failures, and cling bitterly to their credentials and self-esteem, while claiming that the problem lies in the anti-intellectualism of ordinary citizens.

Hard to improve on the pithy elegance of Reynolds’ statement, but I would like to point out just a few more of the recent failures of the elites, including the fact that many of the most eminent economists in the country said that Obamacare was going to be a resounding success.

A different group of experts at the FAA maintained until 2001 that airline passengers should not fight back against hijackers. Good thing the flight 93 passengers did not follow the advice of the experts.

Doctors spent decades telling Americans, “Stay out of the sun, you’ll get skin cancer.” Then half of Americans ended up deficient in Vitamin D, one of the most potent anti-cancer agents. Doctors also made statins the most-prescribed class of drugs in America, even though statins can cause severe unintended harm, and despite the fact that the lipid theory of heart disease on which the drugs are based has been all but discredited.

Over the last year and a half, every professional political prognosticator told us that Donald Trump would never win the GOP nomination, and then they told us that he could never win the presidency. They also told us that Brexit would never happen.

Given the record of failure, I sympathize with people wanting to “assert autonomy” from the credentialed-but-hapless experts. Trust is not given; it has to be earned. And the way to earn trust is through real success, not through lame-ass credentialism. Nichols’ piece should be re-titled “How the Experts Lost the Trust of the American People.”

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll close with a pic that sums up the state of ‘expertise’ in America today. But first, let’s introduce one of America’s foremost experts on nutrition and obesity.

Kelly Brownell is Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and is a professor of public policy. He also serves on the board of directors of the Duke Global Health Institute.

In 2006 Time magazine listed Brownell among “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in its special Time 100 issue featuring those “.. whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”…

Brownell has advised the White House, members of congress, governors, world health and nutrition organizations, and media leaders on issues of nutrition, obesity and public policy. He was cited as a “moral entrepreneur” with special influence on public discourse in a history of the obesity field and was cited by Time magazine as a leading “warrior” in the area of nutrition and public policy.

Brownell is the guy on the left.

Beware Big Soda

We’ve reported previously attempts by the sugar and soft drink industry to whitewash the role of sugar in chronic disease. In particular, the sugar industry in the 1960s paid Harvard researchers to divert attention from sugar by focusing on saturated fat as a cause of heart disease. Similarly, the soft drink industry pays health organizations to go easy on sugary drinks.

Regarding the influence of Big Soda on nutritional advice, more evidence came to light this week in the context of the election for the presidency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest group of dieticians in the United States. The contest got really interesting when one of the two finalists, Neva Cochran, was exposed for having ties to Big Soda.

In a tweet, Anna Macnak, a member of the academy and a dietitian from Texas, revealed Cochran’s clients included the American Beverage Association, the soda industry’s lobbying group, and the Calorie Control Council, a group representing the low-calorie food and drink industry that functions as a trade group for artificial sweeteners.

Cochran’s pro-sugar bias was evident in her nutritional advice, at least as reflected by her tweets before she set her tweets to ‘protected’.

Cochran positions soda as part of a balanced diet, Pfister noted, explaining she even goes as far as promoting soda as a necessary source of calories for active kids and teens in a tweet that reads “Calorie needs R personal. Active teens: soda, lemonade, sweet tea & choc milk can replace calories & fluid. #Advisor.”

Cochran even illustrated her tweet with an old propaganda ad put out by the sugar industry in the 1960s.

Nothing says ‘cutting edge nutrition science’ quite like tweeting 50-year-old industry advertising.

Conveniently, Cochran also tweeted against soda taxes.

“Soda taxes fall flat – @USATODAY editorial. Better-informed consumers, not taxes, can help prevent obesity. #Advisor” Cochran’s tweet read.

Not sure what qualifies dieticians to pontificate on the effects of tax policy, but hey, it’s a free country.

When some nutritionists tried to make public Cochran’s ties to Big Soda, elements of the nutrition establishment tried to shut them down.

Days after her tweet posted, the academy emailed Macnak and asked her to remove the tweet. In the email chain obtained by Mic, the academy told Macnak that her tweet provided a negative bias against Cochran, one of the two candidates. Using social media to spread negative messaging about candidates is in violation of the academy’s code of ethics, the academy said.

A member of the academy since 2008, Macnak noted that she sought transparency and wasn’t attempting a personal attack on Cochran. She was committed to “full disclosure of any real or perceived conflict of interest,” she said.

The academy’s response to Macnak’s concerns? They’ll put off discussing them until the spring, ostensibly after a new president would be elected.

When Kyle Pfister of Ninjas for Health, a startup that consults for public health organizations, included part of Macnak’s emails with the academy in a Medium piece about the presidential election. Representatives from Medium told him they received a complaint that he included “private communications…without the consent of all parties involved.” Medium asked him to edit the post or they would take it down.

A spokesperson for Medium later told Pfister he would not have to revise his post after all because Medium allows users to post email exchanges with “people speaking on behalf of business or organizations,” Pfister said in an email. Medium later confirmed to Mic that the post “was flagged as being in violation of Medium’s rules. On review it was found not to be in breach.”

“Censorship is yet another industry tactic to silence critics,” Pfister said. “It also seems to be an admission that these corporate connections are a problem, if so much effort is going into hiding them.”

Indeed. There certainly seems to be a lot of attempted censorship going around these days. That’s what happens when so many people rely on lies to maintain their wealth and status.

Fake News: ‘Climate Refugees’

For some time now, scientists have understood that Louisiana’s coastline is rapidly sinking under the weight of sediment dumped by the Mississippi River.

The sinking of Louisiana’s Gulf coast could be due to the shallowest delta sediments pushing down the underneath layers, a new study suggests.
Louisiana’s coastal erosion causes the loss of land at a catastrophic rate of 25 to 35 square miles per year, equivalent to one football field every 15 minutes.
Many scientists believe that the subsidence, as the sinking is called, takes place because as sediment accumulates and the Mississippi Delta thickens, the crust of the Earth as a whole gets pressed downward…
[C]ompaction of the most recent sediments, near the surface, causes the land to subside.
The young delta sediments, rich in water and heavy, are pressing down and squeezing the water out of the older sediments beneath and allowing the surface to sink[.]

The problem in Louisiana is not that the sea is rising but that the land is literally sinking. The problem is one of geology, not climate. But that didn’t stop fake news outlets like CNN and the New York Daily News from attributing the problem to “climate change.”

Isle de Jean Charles, located 80 miles from New Orleans, has been sinking slowly. Since 1955, it has lost 98% of its land mass to rising sea levels, devastating hurricanes, and the construction of oil and gas canals along the marsh.
The latest research shows that, if the current rate of global warming continues, sea levels have the potential to rise more than three feet by the end of this century.
That would certainly mean the end of Isle de Jean Charles. Today, only half a square mile of land remains above water.

The sea level has been rising for 20,000 years, and since 1955, it has risen only about five inches. Needless to say, a five inch rise cannot submerge an island that had been 11 miles long and five miles wide.

Recognizing the danger, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $48 million to the state of Louisiana in 2016 to relocate the community to higher ground, off the island — making the residents of Isle de Jean Charles the country’s first-ever climate refugees.

“Climate refugees.”

TV Clown Talks Climate

Many years ago, an astronomer was asked by a magazine to write 500 words on the question “Is there life on Mars?” The astronomer understood that neither he nor anyone else really knew the answer, so he copied the words “nobody knows” 250 times.

That was a good example of somebody not claiming more scientific certainty than really exists. In contrast Bill Nye, an actor who plays a scientist on TV, claims to understand much more about the human impact on earth’s climate than anybody really does. Nye was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, and Carlson asked Nye an excellent question.

To what degree is climate change caused by human activity? Is it a hundred percent caused by human activity, is it 74.3%? It’s “settled science,” please tell us to what degree human activity is responsible.

Nye’s answer was astonishing.

“A hundred percent!” Nye interjected. “If that’s the number you want. Humans are causing it to happen catastrophically fast.”

Tucker vs. Bill Nye the Science Guy

Now, most scientists believe that in the last 130 years or so the Earth has warmed by about 1.4 Fahrenheit degrees. That figure is not so precisely measured as some would have us believe, but it’s probably the case that some warming has occurred. Nye’s argument, if I am interpreting it correctly, was that this warming had to be caused by human activity since natural changes in climate cannot occur within periods as short as a few decades or even centuries.

Nye: Instead of happening at time scales of millions of years or let’s say 15,000 years, it’s happening on a time scale of decades and now years.

Carlson: What would the climate look like right now without human activity.

Nye: It would have looked like it did in 1750.

Oh? Natural forces couldn’t have changed the climate since 1750? I am not a climate scientist, but I’ve read enough to know that earth’s climate can in fact change significantly in a matter of centuries or even decades. For instance, as a result of the Little Ice Age, the climate was considerably colder in the year 1400 than it had been in 1200. And this is just one of many instances of rapid change in earth’s climate. Evidence suggests that the average temperature can change several degrees in just a single century. The observed increase of 1.4 degrees over the last 130 years therefore lies well within the possible bounds of natural fluctuation.

Evidence also suggests that the current warming trend began at least as early as 1800, when humans could not yet have been responsible. Nye is therefore wrong about the climate remaining naturally unchanged since 1750. Also, significant temperature fluctuations have been documented occurring over just a few decades, during periods when humans can have had little or no impact. Notwithstanding Nye’s assertions, natural temperature fluctuation can certainly occur over a few decades.

Judith Curry, who happens to be a real climate scientist, provided a good summary of the evidence in her December 2015 testimony before Congress. Contra Nye, Dr. Curry points out that the relative influence of humans versus natural factors remains unsettled.

Anthropogenic climate change is a theory in which the basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain owing to feedback processes. Scientists agree that surface temperatures have increased overall since 1880, humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have a warming effect on the planet. However there is considerable disagreement about the most consequential issues: whether the warming has been dominated by human causes versus natural variability, how much the planet will warm in the 21st century, and whether warming is ‘dangerous’. [Emphasis added.]

As Dr. Curry notes, the fluctuations in temperature over the 20th century cannot easily be explained by human influence alone.

If the warming since 1950 was caused by humans, what caused the warming during the period 1910 –1945? The period 1910-1945 comprises over 40% of the warming since 1900, but is associated with only 10% of the carbon dioxide increase since 1900. Clearly, human emissions of greenhouse gases played little role in causing this early warming. The mid-century period of slight cooling from 1945 to 1975 –referred to as the ‘grand hiatus’, also has not been satisfactorily explained.

The role of natural forces is also reflected in the fact that warming has been occurring since at least 1800.

Apart from these unexplained variations in 20th century temperatures, there is evidence that the global climate has been warming overall for the past 200 years, or even longer. While historical data becomes increasingly sparse in the 19th century, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project has assembled the available temperature data over land, back to 1750:

The Berkeley Earth analysis shows a warming trend back to 1800, with considerable variability around the turn of the 19th century. Some of this variability around the turn of the 19th century can be attributed to large volcanic eruptions; this was also the time of the Dalton solar activity minimum (1791-1825). Paleoclimate reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere climate–such as from tree rings and boreholes–indicate that overall warming may have occurred for the past 300-400 years. Humans contributed little if anything to this early global warming.

But according to Nye, this “early global warming” never happened.

Part of me thinks that Nye should never be allowed on TV to talk about science, but another part of me thinks he should talk about climate as much as possible in order to more fully discredit climate fearmongering.

Like I Said, Fat is Good


Eating fatty foods such as red meat, cheese and butter could actually be good for your health, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Ireland found that overweight middle-aged men who switched to a diet high in natural saturated fats and low in carbohydrates grew slimmer and healthier.

The diet also led to a reduction in blood pressure and glucose levels, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Professor Sherif Sultan, a heart specialist, said: “We urgently need to overturn current dietary guidelines.”

“People should not be eating high carbohydrate diets as they have been told over the past decade.”

The past decade? Dude, it has been four decades.

Settled Science: Right-Wingers are Hotter

A recent study published in the Journal of Public Economics, a pretty prestigious journal, finds that rightist politicians are better looking.

[R]esearchers showed respondents photographs of political candidates in Finnish municipal and parliamentary elections, members of the European Parliament, U.S. candidates for Senate and governor, and candidates for Australia’s House of Representatives. They asked participants to rate the photographs on a five-point scale. The results suggested that politicians on the right are more beautiful on all three continents.

This isn’t the first study to find that conservatives are more attractive. A few years ago, a UCLA study found a similar result. At least the result held for female politicians, but not male.

They started the project by feeding portraits of 434 members of the 111th House of Representatives into a computer modeling program used by researchers in their field. Loaded with a database of hundreds of scans of faces of men and women, the FaceGen Modeler allows researchers to measure how much the details of any one face approach the average for either gender.

The model compared each representative’s face to the norm on more than 100 subtle dimensions, including the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheek bones, the shape of eyes, the contour of the forehead, the fullness of the lips and the distance between such features as the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip. Armed with these dimensions, the researchers were able to arrive at an amalgamated score assessing the extent to which the face exhibited characteristics common to men or to women. Theoretical values ranged from -40 (highly male-typed) to +40 (highly female-typed).

“We weren’t looking at hairstyle, jewelry or whether a person was wearing make up or not,” Carpinella said. “We wanted to get an objective measure of how masculine or feminine a face is, based on a scientifically derived average for male or female appearance.”

In addition to party affiliation, the researchers took into account each politician’s DW–NOMINATE score, a scale developed by political scientists that uses voting records to determine how conservative or liberal a lawmaker is.


[A] telling difference emerged among female politicians. The faces of Republican women rated, on average, twice as sex-typical — or feminine — as those of Democratic women.

The authors of the J. of Public Econ. piece offered some possible explanations for their results. As is the wont of economists, they looked to income.

Numerous studies have shown that good-looking people are likely to earn more, and that people who earn more are typically more opposed to redistributive policies, like the progressive taxes and welfare programs favored by the left.

I rather doubt that income explains very much of this phenomenon. Looks do correlate with income, but higher income people, while more fiscally conservative, tend to be more socially liberal. A majority of high income households–those above about $150,000 or $200,000–vote Democrat. The authors’ income explanation is purely speculative, and I doubt the facts would support it. The authors do, however, mention another explanation that seems more plausible–that people’s looks determine their ideology.

[G]ood-looking people are often treated better than others, and thus see the world as a more just place. Past studies have found that the more attractive people believe themselves to be, the lower their preference for egalitarianism, a value typically associated with the political left.

So people who are not good looking will gravitate to the political left. This interpretation was even endorsed by liberal blogress Lindy West, in response to the UCLA study.

American conservatism is profoundly tied up with the old-fashioned gender paradigm in which husbands are active providers and women are passive nurturers. In that paradigm, a woman’s job—the core of her femininity—is to make herself as pretty as possible…

I can imagine that liberalism actively attracts people who are shut out of that old-timey paradigm, because once you find yourself outside of it, it’s easier to call bullshit on the whole thing. The women who can’t “pass” for hot are forced to consider why. Maybe this is far-fetched, but I feel like people who feel less welcomed by the system are more likely to question the system.

People who are not good looking are more likely to end up as romantic failures. Having lost according to the rules of the game, they endorse a politics that seeks to change the rules by undermining social norms, mores, standards, and institutions. Sometimes you really can tell a book by its cover.

Biggest News of 2016: Death of the Cholesterol Theory?

Television news the last couple of days has been showing ‘year in review’ montages. These montages seem to focus almost exclusively on three things: the presidential election, terrorism, and celebrity deaths. While the presidential election was pretty remarkable, I want to argue that perhaps the most significant development of 2016 was the mainstreaming of skepticism regarding the lipid hypothesis: the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease.

The lipid hypothesis has been dominant for 60 years, and has profoundly influenced modern medicine and the American diet. It’s really hard to overstate its impact. As a response to the fear of fat, the food industry has developed a ‘low-fat’ or ‘non-fat’ version of seemingly every traditional food product: cookies, ice cream, yogurt–you name it. For a couple of generations now, everybody has been avoiding fat and/or taking statins to reduce cholesterol. After my uncle had by-pass surgery, he spent the last 20 years of his life scrupulously avoiding saturated fat. He even got the chef at his favorite restaurant to remove the chicken skin before cooking (even though every chef in the world knows that chicken is properly cooked in the skin and on the bone). Just before Christmas I found myself in a supermarket in Massachusetts where I overheard two elderly ladies discussing how drinking eggnog must be particularly unhealthy. “I’m OK,” said one of them, “as long as I take my cholesterol pill.” Statins have indeed become the most profitable drug in history.

And yet, the lipid hypothesis never was supported by very much scientific evidence, and the best and most recent evidence refutes it. The Massachusetts lady with the cholesterol pill is operating on multiple levels of delusion. There is in fact little or no connection between diet and serum cholesterol. It’s not like the cholesterol in the eggnog goes straight to your bloodstream; the body itself produces and regulates cholesterol. Second, the best and latest evidence contradicts the idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease. Patients with heart problems admitted to hospitals do not, on average, have cholesterol levels higher than the population as a whole. High cholesterol, in fact, is associated with longer lifespan.

If heart disease has a dietary culprit, it would seem not to be fat, but rather sugar and other refined carbohydrates.

In 2016, the truth about fat and cholesterol was finally reported by major publications, including the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Washington Post. Some of these stories appeared in previous years, but I believe I saw more this year than ever before. The word at last is getting out.

Maybe in another five years or so, your doctor will catch up with the Huffington Post and stop focusing on cholesterol numbers. Anyway, we can hope.

It’s really an amazing thing if you think about it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. And yet the medical establishment has been completely wrong about it for 60 years. Because they cured so many other diseases, everybody believed they must be right about heart disease too. But they were wrong, and they issued dietary advice that was particularly harmful. They told us to substitute toxic transfats for healthy butter.

Over two generations, how many people died prematurely by trying to follow the awful dietary recommendations, or by putting their faith in statins? Millions? The lipid hypothesis might be the second most deadly idea after collectivized agriculture.