Sadly, most Paleo “leaders” (scientists, coaches, and nutritionists who are paving the way for the Paleo diet and lifestyle) have a poor (or incomplete) philosophy of science. Many believe that science proceeds by making hypotheses up, then testing them: pretty much the MO of Ancel Keys and T. Colin Campbell, thinkers whose methods we should not emulate. Or the MO of Steve Kotler and Peter Diamandis in arguing, in their book “Abundance,” that human life expectancy is genetically 30 years. Instead of saying that we induce knowledge from the evidence of the senses, they say we merely “guess and check,” or “make stuff up, then test it.” We need to correct this error! Please! I would love it if Wolf, Lalonde, and others — others too numerous to mention — would be as revolutionary in getting an objective, rational, real epistemology (theory of knowledge and science) in the culture as they are in getting an objective, rational, real lifestyle (diet, sleep, exercise) in the culture.
Before I continue, I want to say that, in practice, I think Paleo “leaders” have some really good methods of thinking: they use induction and integration: they cast their net wide and far for evidence; they look for causal relationships, not mere correlations; they connect what they learn to everything else they learn. They do some really good solid analysis and synthesis that I love. Update (2-25-15): they integrate biology, diet, health, exercise, sleep, dynamics, mechanics, electrodynamics, chemistry, paleontology, exercise science, zoology, botany, anthropology, and more. In practice, Paleo is light years ahead of convention. However, when it comes time to explicitly identify their MO, when it comes time to wax philosophical, they fail. They do not know what exactly and precisely they are doing, so they repeat what they learned here and there. If I did not stand on the shoulders of giants, if I had not learned from Aristotle and others, I’d be doing the same thing.
But back to our point. Epistemology, like diet and exercise, is practical — but even more practical, because it is more fundamental. Our implicit epistemology programs how we process all conceptual knowledge we form, use, and apply, whether at work, at play, at home, in judging people, in learning at school, in learning at home, in learning at work, in making moral judgments. It is ubiquitous. Like consciousness, it pervades our lives, because it is how we use (conceptual) consciousness. It is a point we need to address and correct.
A bad epistemology makes Paleo “leaders” look bad, and, I think, causes them some confusion. They end up contradicting themselves by attacking those use the very Platonic/Kantian methods they do. But they also turn around and agree with others who advocate the same Platonic/Kantian methods. Bury your head in your hands with disappointment. In a recent Podcast, the great Robb Wolf expressed frustration with some so-called “evidence-based medicine” practitioners who did not grasp Paleo. The irony. In line with the modern corruption of language that leads to 1984-speak — calling something the opposite of what it is (a corruption brought to us by Kant) — “evidence-based medicine” is not “evidence-based,” but follows an MO of “make crap up” (or an MO of “make up and test hypotheses,” if you prefer). So Wolf is frustrated with them for doing what he himself advocates in science and epistemology! In another podcast, he interviewed a math professor of his who, sadly and unfortunately, falls for the same stuff. She likes Thomas Kuhn, a master of waving his hands and presenting irrational thinking as objective reasoning, a master of using the ideas and Trojan Horse methods of Immanuel Kant.
But it’s also going to cause some failures and suffering, because that’s what a bad MO does — as Keys and other show us.
I might disagree with Peter Kreeft on a lot of things, but he is right on when he writes in “Pillars of Unbelief–Kant:”
Few philosophers in history have been so unreadable and dry as Immanuel Kant. Yet few have had a more devastating impact on human thought.
Kant’s devoted servant, Lampe, is said to have faithfully read each thing his master published, but when Kant published his most important work, “The Critique of Pure Reason,” Lampe began but did not finish it because, he said, if he were to finish it, it would have to be in a mental hospital. Many students since then have echoed his sentiments.
Yet this abstract professor, writing in abstract style about abstract questions, is, I believe, the primary source of the idea that today imperils faith (and thus souls) more than any other; the idea that truth is subjective.
The simple citizens of his native Konigsberg, Germany, where he lived and wrote in the latter half of the 18th century, understood this better than professional scholars, for they nicknamed Kant “The Destroyer” and named their dogs after him.
Kant, more than any other thinker, gave impetus to the typically modern turn from the objective to the subjective. This may sound fine until we realize that it meant for him the redefinition of truth itself as subjective. And the consequences of this idea have been catastrophic.
Wolf, Kresser, Lalonde, and many, many others, have some good ideas in Paleo and are on the right track, and I love them for it, but they are, unfortunately, generally lost at sea in philosophy, and, contrary to what they do in diet and health, follow convention blindly or ignorantly. (As I said: as I used to do, too!) They follow third-rate philosophers like Kuhn, who are advocates of Kant. They are influenced by Plato. So they are suffering in mind as they used to in body when they followed their bad diets of their early years.
Wolf and Lalonde and others should to the analog of what they did in nutrition. Just as they studied Weston A Price, Boyd Eaton, Loren Cordain, and others to free themselves of deadly convention, so also they should now study Hippocrates, Aristotle, Darwin, Galileo, Newton, Rand to free themselves of Kant, Kuhn, and Plato.
We need to do so. We need to get down to fundamentals. You ain’t got good ideas, you ain’t got nothing. You know what saved Dr. Terry Wahls? It was not a healthy body. It was an independent mind using induction and integration. She is heroic. She has taught me a lot and made me and my life much better for it. And I have conveyed these good health ideas to many people.
We need to see that real science is inductive and integrated: it is based on the evidence of the senses, it develops by forming concept of things and by identifying causal relationships, and it is formed by logically and non-contradictorily putting this knowledge together into a unified whole: whether biology, physics, fluid dynamics, gravitation, economics, evolution, philosophy. We need to make sure we are not wrong in our ideas, we need to “test” — or, to speak more broadly, to check an idea for contradictions against the whole of our knowledge — but that is only a small part of science.
For Plato, in contrast, science was about turning inside one’s head and “making crap up,” as I like to disdainfully call it. Science was not based on the evidence of the senses, but on imagination. Science was not extrospective (though, yes, psychology and some other sciences must of necessity involve some introspection — but that is not what Plato meant), but was introspective. For Plato, to do science, you must turn away from the world.
Kant was similar, but, as we learned above, said that truth was subjective — but, even worse, he said that the human mind created the world as we knew it. Yes, Kant said that not merely truth, but all we perceived, was subjective: it all, truth and reality, was the subjective product of group consensus. At least Plato recognized an objective reality. Kant was not even good enough to do that. Kant said that science was a creation and mandate of the social consensus. Hence, the Nazis, children of Kant, believed that Nazi science was different than English science and Nigerian science, and the two could not communicate. They had no common ground. (Sounds like Marxist ideas about the proletariat and bourgeois, because it is.)
So science is just “making crap up.” According to this theory, there are two kinds of scientific propositions: those we have shown to be false, and those we will show are false. But nothing is true. Truth is the recognition of reality, but if there is not reality, there is not truth. The philosophy on which this idea is based does not recognize truth: getting reality right; conceptualizing it right. The philosophy on which it is based claims we are not and cannot be in touch with reality. It says that, instead of perception connecting us to the world, perception and reason disconnects us from the world. Because we perceive, it says, we do not perceive. Because we reason, it says, we do not know reality. Bizarre? Yes. It is. But it is a pervasive belief in modern society. Especially that bastion of corruption, the modern university and high school. (Not all of them, but most.)
Such views of science, perception, reason, and reality gave us the triumph of Ancel Keys and George McGovern.
And such views run counter to Wolf’s and LaLonde’s and others’ acceptance of evolution, objectivity, and reality. (As I said, what they do and what they say are not the same.) How the hell would some faculty of “making crap up” evolve? It has no practical utility. (Remember, we are not talking about making up stories and fiction (useful for entertainment) here, which is a different topic altogether.) But science, reason, logic do have practical utility. They make sense in light of evolution: hunting, socializing, judging, moving through our environment, engaging in complex movement.
We will be in a better position when we in Paleo get our epistemology in line with reality and evolution just as we did with our diet and lifestyle. But how? Read Hippocrates. Read Galileo (e.g., his Two New Sciences (free on the Internet Archive) and Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo). Read Aristotle. Read Physics for the Inquiring Mind by Eric Rogers (buy on Amazon or read free on the Internet Archive). Read Introductory Physics by Herbert Priestly. Read the work of Michael Fowler (start with his Galileo and Einstein). Read Mill’s writing on induction (Mill’s Methods). Read Advice for a Young Investigator by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (Free pdf on science.net). Read The Logical Leap. Read Rand on epistemology. Study and learn physics, chemistry, biology, from a historic perspective so the inductive steps are captured, and you get to see the evidence and reasoning it took to get us the truth. Let’s recognize that science is fundamentally inductive, and use that perspective to build a better culture and better selves. Let’s see how concepts are really formed, and throw out the Platonic and Kantian convention that impairs, injures, or destroys us.
Robb Wolf. Diane Sanfilippo. Loren Cordain. Liz Wolfe. Matt LaLonde. Katy Bowman. Chris Kresser. Sarah Toth. Art DeVany. Sarah Ballantyne. Mark Sisson. Sarah Fragoso. The Cavemen Doctor. Terry Wahls. Relentless Roger. Jamie Guined. Mike Eades. Esther Gokhale. Richard Nikoley. Nora Gedgaudus. Tom Naughton. Stefani Ruper. Denise Minger. And so many more. But I need to stop listing them. Taking forever. Love you guys for what you are doing in Paleo and to improve America! Please, please, make your epistemology, your “cognitive operating system,” and that of our culture, real, objective, and effective, as you make diet, exercise, and health real, objective, and effective! We need to get the mechanism of reason right, as we get the mechanism of health right.
Update (2-28-15, 8:54 PM): Other works to read are:
1. Philosophical Issues in Aristotle’s Biology edited by Allan Gotthelf and James G. Lennox
2. Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle’s Biology (Oxford Aristotle Studies) by Allan Gotthelf
3. Aristotle: ‘Historia Animalium’: Volume 1, Books I-X: Text (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries) by Aristotle and Allan Gotthelf — and other volumes
4. De Partibus Animalium I and De Generatione Animalium I by Aristotle and Allan Gotthelf
5. Aristotle: On the Parts of Animals I-IV (Clarendon Aristotle Series) by James G. Lennox — and other volumes/books
6. Aristotle’s Philosophy of Biology: Studies in the Origins of Life Science (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology) by James G. Lennox
7. Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle: Essays in Honor of Allan Gotthelf by James G. Lennox and Robert Bolton