Saturday, July 28, 2007

Obesity Magic Update

On Thursday 7/26/07 I posted on a study of obesity magic that proclaimed obesity was contagious from one person to another. I thought that some media probably would run with it but most wouldn't. Wrongo. I now find via Junksfoodcience.com that the majority of media are embracing and extolling it along with other intellectuals. (hat tip Junkscience.com.) I highly recommend reading the whole article. Host Sandy Szwarc reports:
Within hours of the press releases, a massive, well-orchestrated marketing campaign was off and running. By dinnertime yesterday, Google noted 300 nearly identical articles had been published about it and there were 500 by this morning. Television and radio reporters have been gushing over it, with MSNBC reporting that having a fat friend can make you fat and be downright dangerous for your health.
I do agree with Ms. Szwarc that this study is a prescription for a campaign of moral and social condemnation against people who are overweight. But why would the media rush en mass to endorse the spread of such obvious scientific voodoo?

In her essay "An Untitled Letter" in the book "Philosophy: Who Needs It" Ayn Rand was speaking of trial balloons attacking the concept justice when she wrote:

"It is a conspiracy, not of men, but of basic premises--and the power directing it is logic: if, at the desperate stage of a losing battle, some men point to a road logically necessitated by their basic premises, those who share the premises will rush to follow." (p-103)

I think this principle is at work regarding this study's popularity as well. The news media obviously shares at least some of the principles of this study like for example, the appeal to collectivism, the notion that the individual has no merit or value outside of some collective to which he can be assigned; the desire to dispense with causality by blatantly regarding associations and correlations as causal connections with no need to identify a causal mechanism. The attempt to destroy causality allows junk scientists to substitute anything they want for a causal connection and most often this is nothing more than their own biases and feelings.

Such scientists like those who wrote this study (and their supporters in the media) are obediently following the philosophic ideas of Immanuel Kant who said that the purpose of science is to study only "appearances." So if something can be made to "appear" to be true, like a correlation or association, then viola, it is true. According to junkfood science however, the study wasn't even a valid study but a computer animated virtual reality. Why would modern scientists have such an affinity for virtual realities? They can generate "appearances" at will.

This is a good example of the wrongness of the notion that philosophic principles have no effect on the real world, and why I agree with ARI that nothing less than a philosophic revolution will alter the course the world is currently on. This does not mean everyone has to become an objectivist, only that there needs to be more of them in academia. How many? I don't know. Just more.

(A copy of Philosophy: Who Needs It can be purchased at most book stores or here.)
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