Here is what we should be learning to do in school. As it is now, unfortunately, students are told pre-digested ideas; they are not informed how the ideas were developed; principles like Newton’s laws of motion are presented as commandments; abstract, complex ideas in biology are, to students learning them, empty words to memorize. Students should be taught how an idea derives from the evidence of the senses and what chain of reasoning was used to develop it. (Teachers should push back (as much as possible; they should not jeopardize their jobs or career or family) on the philosophic ideas and values requiring them to teach Platonically. If we had only private schools, their job would be much easier and their teaching much better.)
A good example of how to think is found in Dr. Becker’s “Study Results Can Sometimes Be Misleading” (December 12, 2012). She writes:
As soon as the University of Illinois study was published, online media outlets picked it up and ran articles with headlines like: “High-protein diet may be unhealthy for kittens,” and “High-protein diet not so good for kitty’s belly. Kittens fed a high protein diet have less beneficial gut bacteria than those who eat a more balanced diet.” 2
The biggest factor to consider is that the two diets used in the study were, unfortunately, dry food formulas, which means they were seriously deficient in a nutrient felines MUST get from their diet — moisture. We also know most dry pet foods are cooked twice: once when the protein is rendered (turned into meal), and a second time when the kibbled mixture is extruded to form small, crunchy nuggets. This extreme processing also changes the structure of proteins and destroys vitamin A, vitamin E and the B-group vitamins, at a minimum.
Next we have to wonder about the protein source used in the dry food diets. It was unnamed in the study abstract, so we don’t know whether the food contained animal protein, a less biologically appropriate protein (for example, from a plant), or a combination. Generally speaking, dry pet food made with animal protein contains rendered meat by-products, which are more difficult for pets to digest than human grade meat.
Lastly, we don’t know what exactly constitutes ideal numbers of friendly gut bacteria in kittens. Generally when we look at GI bacteria issues, we look at the balance of good-to-bad bugs. Quantifying that a kitten has a certain number of this or that bacteria may only be relevant to overall GI flora health and species. So the fact that the study kittens eating the higher protein food had lower levels of certain species of friendly bacteria isn’t particularly significant, in my opinion.
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We need to delve into the why and how of claims. What is the evidence? What is the reasoning? What is the standard? A proper standard for judging what are good and bad gut bacteria in cats is not the gut bacteria in people, or in some segment of domestic cats, but is the gut bacteria found in healthy wild cats, who eat a natural diet.
Not being able to reason properly has, as one can infer from the article and its implications, profound implications in our lives and the lives of those we love. Reason is life-giving.