Is Fat Acceptance Skepticism or Denialism? Contrasting FA, FL, and HAES with Climate Change Denialism

As I said in my last post, people in the Fat Acceptance/Fat Liberation and Health At Every Size movements are compared to creationists, anti-vaccine activists, and, most frequently, climate change deniers. This actually does get under my skin a bit, since I don’t particularly want to be associated with any of these groups. (But ever since reading an article by William Saletan in which believing in no average IQ difference between the races is compared with being a creationist, critiqued here, it has seemed manipulative to me.) I do ask myself from time to time, “Am I comparable to a climate-change denier?” I think doubt is healthy, so I’m not particularly worried that I feel the need to do that. But I think it’s time to work out my thoughts with a blog post.

And this is why I was happy to come across an article by David Brin that is highly relevant to this issue: Defining Climate Change “Deniers” and “Skeptics”. (Some parts of it are more relevant to the FA/FL movement, and some parts more relevant to the HAES model.) There are two different ways that FA advocacy can be contrasted with climate change denialism: 1) the differences in the science and the mainstream reaction to the science, and 2) the differences in the response to the science. Brin’s article looks at both the science and the climate change denier or skeptic’s response to it, so I’m using it as a jumping-off point for contrasting both point 1 and point 2. The question, as he puts it:

What traits distinguish a rational, pro-science “skeptic” — who has honest questions about the AGW consensus — from members of a Denier Movement that portrays all members of a scientific community as either fools or conspirators?

Already, we have some clues as to how (most of) the Fat Acceptance movement is different from (most of) the climate change deniers. I haven’t seen any attempt to paint scientists as fools in FA. I’ve seen some (IMO, unobjectionable) claims that living in a sizist society and/or the fact that one’s funding depends on “Obesity Epidemic” fears and weight loss industry money leads to unconscious bias. (Off the top of my head, I remember Linda Bacon saying as much. And BTW, if you are a scientist reading this and you are tempted to respond by saying, “scientists would rise above sizism because they were trained to analyze objective data rationally,” I say to you, “LOL” and “Science says you’re wrong”.) I haven’t seen anyone claim that scientists are plotting a deliberate conspiracy to fool society in order to get their money–something that you do see among climate change deniers. Many FA bloggers and commenters take pains to point out that they think anti-obesity campaigns such as Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign is done with good intentions.

Next, Brin discusses several characteristics that he believes separate climate change deniers from true skeptics. I’ve basically gone point-by-point, but I skipped a few that weren’t applicable to Fat Acceptance or Health At Every Size.

WHO IS AN EXPERT? I don’t think we’re on the ‘denialism’ side there. I haven’t seen anyone in FA/HAES claim that they were an expert unless, like Linda Bacon, they actually qualified for that title.

“Skeptics first admit that they are non-experts in the topic at hand. And that experts tend to know more than they do.

“This does not mean experts are always right! But this simple admission separates our Skeptic from the Deniers, who partake in the modern notion that vociferous opinion is worth as much as spending twenty years studying atmospheric data and models from eight planets.”


Next, the Skeptic is keenly aware that, after 4,000 years of jokes about hapless weathermen who could not prophesy accurately beyond a few hours, we recently entered a whole new era. People now plan three days ahead pretty well, and more tentatively as far as 14 days, based on a science that’s grown spectacularly adept, faster than any other. Now, with countless lives and billions of dollars riding on the skill and honesty of several thousand brilliant experts, the Skeptic admits that these weather and climate guys are pretty damn smart.

The Skeptic further avows that this rapid progress happened through a process of eager competitiveness, with scientists regularly challenging each other, poking at errors and forcing science forward — a rambunctious, ambitious process that makes Wall Street look tame.

Deniers also share this utter reliance on improved weather forecasting. They base vacations and investments on forecasts made by… the same guys they call uniformly lazy, incompetent, corrupt hacks.

Here’s an area that’s more relevant to the difference in the science (point 1) than the difference in reaction (point 2). Science and research related to BMI and health has moved forward in recent years. And a lot of it is arguably moving in our direction–in any case, inarguably away from the calories in calories out, eat less move more, oversimplified model of humans as bunsen burners or bomb calorimeters. Leptin was only discovered in 1994. A new consensus is growing that it is impractical for people to lose significant amounts of weight. There are now many studies confirming the ‘Obesity Paradox’ (or ‘Obesity Paradoxes’, since that term is used both for higher survival after heart attacks, and greater life expectancy for ‘overweight’ people and comparable-to-normal life expectancy for ‘class 1 obese’ people), enough for a meta-analysis.

(Side note: I’m a little disappointed that Brin didn’t address, in his note about the overlap and differences between weather and climate, that it’s easier to predict an overall trend than the little ups and downs within that trend. A metaphor I’ve seen is that it’s easier to say that it will be colder in the winter than what the temperature will be on a particular winter day.)


Skeptics go on to admit that it is both rare and significant when nearly 100% of the scientists in any field share a consensus-model, before splitting up to fight over sub-models. Hence, if an outsider perceives “something wrong” with a core scientific model, the humble and justified response of that curious outsider is to ask “what mistake am I making?” — before assuming 100% of the experts are wrong.

“In contrast, Deniers glom onto an anecdotal “gotcha!” from a dogma-driven radio show or politically biased blog site. Whereupon they conclude that ALL of the atmospheric scientists must be in on some wretched conspiracy. Uniformly. At the same time.”

We cannot say too often that, just because nearly all of experts are in consensus, their paradigm might still turn out to be wrong. Still, the Skeptic admits this is rare in science history. Moreover, a steep burden of proof falls on those who claim that 100% of experts are wrong. That burden is a moral, as well as intellectual geas.

The Denier, in contrast, cares little about the history of science, and especially has no understanding of how the Young Guns in any scientific field… the post-docs and recently-tenured junior professors… are always on the lookout for chinks and holes in the current paradigm, where they can go to topple Nobel laureates and make a rep for themselves, in a manner much like Billy the Kid. (Try looking into the history of weather modeling, and see just how tough these guys really are.)

Here’s another section that’s relevant to point 1 as well as point 2. There seems to be more disagreement among researchers about the interaction between weight and health than on whether anthropogenic global warming is happening. Not all the researchers who are questioning things are in complete agreement with Fat Acceptance; probably most of them aren’t. But there are scientists like Steven Blair, Jeffrey Frieden, Arya Sharma, and Linda Bacon, most of them Not-So-Young Guns, who question either part or all of the mainstream view of obesity. And Fat Acceptance and HAES advocates glom onto studies more than anecdata.


The guys who benefit from keeping us on the oil-teat are… foreign petro-princes, Russian oil oligarchs, and Exxon. That is where the money flows.

Our Skeptic admits that these fellows have Trillions (with a T) staked on preserving things as they are — on preventing America from moving toward energy efficiency and independence. He admits that a conspiracy among fifty petro oligarchs seems more plausible than some convoluted cabal to “push green technologies” — a supposed conspiracy involving tens of thousands of diverse people, most of them nerdy blabbermouths, squabbling over far smaller sums of money.

This part is a pretty strong contrast to the situation in obesity research. There isn’t any money in Health At Every Size. There are no big corporations interested in promoting Fat Acceptance. The big food corporations want to say that their food doesn’t make people fat, and that as long as you get some exercise you can stay thin, not that being fat is okay, because in general, their customers don’t want to be fat. They want to promote products like Special K and 100 calorie packs (with a big premium for the health benefits or the individual packaging) and “diet” products–they’ve already incorporated the Obesity Panic into their business model. Meanwhile, weight loss is a >$60 billion dollar industry. And of course there are government grants for the anti-obesity crusade as well.


Clearly, the Skeptic accepts that some things ought to be done, urgently and with full force of national and public will, even-though and even-while he nurses doubts about the likelihood of the full Global Warming scenario. She does not armwave vaguely against “rash actions,” but actively engages in negotiation over which urgent efficiency measures to promote. Even if only as a precaution.

Let’s look at the “which actions are rash actions” bit first. If you are overweight and listened to the mainstream advice and lowered your weight to a normal weight, assuming that you were able to maintain your new weight successfully, you may have just lowered your life expectancy. “May” because we aren’t sure whether switching weight categories really switches your risks to those of your new weight category. And it is a lot of work, for the rest of your life, even if you’re successful–and a lot of work for nothing assuming you aren’t–perhaps most comparable to a “rash action” that would have a significant negative effect on our economic growth, with only a 5% chance of having an effect on global warming, and with the additional caveat that if it does have an effect, we’re not sure it would actually reduce warming much or at all [“reduce warming” is “improve health” in this metaphor]. Attempting a radical weight loss corresponds to a genuinely ‘rash action’ rather than prudent risk minimization.

On the other hand, HAES corresponds to a sensible risk minimization strategy that should work whether or not the obesity epidemic hype is accurate. Many FA/HAES advocates say that they would be in favor of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program if the language about weight was removed. Many HAES advocates point out that if eating healthy and getting enough exercise leads to ‘healthy weights’, obesity fighters have nothing to lose by promoting HAES. Most HAES advocates are in favor of measures to remove food deserts and ensure that people have access to opportunities for safe, fun movement. (Coercive measures to get people healthy, on the other hand, are generally opposed.)


Further, the Skeptic admits something pretty darned creepy and suspicious — that the main “news” outlets pushing the Denier Movement are largely owned by those same petro-moguls who have benefited from delayed energy independence. (Just one Saudi prince holds 7% of Fox, while other princes own smaller shares, plus a lot of Rupert Murdoch’s debt, stock and commercial paper. Russian oligarchs and international oil companies own other portions.) Because of this, the Climate Skeptic has moved away from getting any of his news or sense of “reality” from propagandists who are paid to keep America divided, weak, passively addicted to dependence, respectful of aristocracy, and mired in “culture war.”

Elaborating a bit: the Skeptic has noticed that the Denier Movement is directly correlated — with almost perfect predictability — with a particular “side” in America’s calamitous, self-destructive Culture War.

Nope, there’s no real money in promoting Fat Acceptance or Health At Every Size. And all I see  is equal-opportunity fat-hate from the left and the right. The form of the fat-hate and the proposed solutions tend to be slightly different, but both sides of the Culture War scapegoat the ‘Obesity Epidemic’ on their favorite villains. On the left we’re symbols of overconsumption; perhaps we’re innocent dupes as in WALL-E; perhaps we’re dumb lazy rednecks. On the right we’re a symptom on the weakness of current generations; we just lack willpower and self-control; we’re the natural outcome of a generation of “everyone gets a trophy.” (This supposed ‘generation’ seems to have been going on at least since Generation X, and yet I was born in the early 80s and don’t remember getting a whole bunch of trophies.) Fighting obesity is seen as apolitical and safe enough that it’s the ideal campaign for the First Lady. The two sides of the Culture War may have a lot of disagreements, but they can set them aside when it comes to the War On Obesity.

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26 Responses to Is Fat Acceptance Skepticism or Denialism? Contrasting FA, FL, and HAES with Climate Change Denialism

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m glad you’re writing about this. I read some skeptic blogs since I am a fan of the scientific method and I despise quackery and pseudoscience, and I feel a sort of kinship with the skeptic movement. However, I’m aware that a lot of them would scoff at the idea of HAES and FA and perhaps even call me a denialist because I think our collective cultural bias about fat people has contributed to an overblown and hugely profitable “epidemic.” Sometimes self-identified skeptics are too little skeptical of the status-quo. And the thing being investigated here – human biology – is anything but straightforward. The conclusions we reach will almost always be overlaid with our cultural biases, whereas in the pure sciences it’s more difficult for that to happen. People make the mistake of equating the apparent rigour of pronouncements about the health effects of obesity with those of advances in physics and chemistry. And wouldn’t it be great if we could have the same certainty in the biological sciences as in other areas of scientific inquiry? It would make life seem so much less uncertain and messy and frail.

    • Yes, those are pretty much my thoughts as well. You mean “not skeptical enough of the status-quo,” right? Just believing anything that is stamped “SCIENCE” isn’t skepticism either (case in point: evo psych). I consider myself a skeptic, although I don’t spend a whole lot of time on “skeptic community” blogs. I even put “skepticism” in my blog description and everything….

      It’s not like they’re not used to dealing with messy biological areas, like the anti-vaccine movement. (Although the anti-vaxxers could call themselves “the skeptics” on this issue, usually people in the skeptic community are pro-vaccine.) If you want to be truly part of the “reality-based community” you have to include history/history of science, but it seems like people want to believe that scientists are perfectly objective android-like beings who will never be influenced by prejudice, and history shows that that’s not true.

      I really liked this essay by Natalie Reed about what drew her to skepticism and the disappointment she felt in the end with the skeptic community:

      What I was, or thought I was, was a skeptic, and what I cared about, and was passionate enough about to become a part of all this, was skepticism. The skepticism I believed in wasn’t about some little club for people to get together and tell each other how smart they all are for not believing in incredibly silly things like UFOs, Bigfoot, psychics, ghosts and the Loch Ness Monster… nor was it even necessarily about activism focused on address dangerous misinformation and charlatanism, like “alternative medicine”, anti-vaccination propaganda, or the aforementioned psychics (though such activists absolutely had my respect and, whenever possible, support). What I saw in skepticism was a shared set of values… something similar to the intellectual humility and hesitation I valued and saw as necessary to helping human beings cope with our irrational, flawed perceptions and brains, and helping minimize the amount of harm we inflict on one another through the mistakes those flaws and limitations inevitably lead us to make.

      I saw in skepticism a great deal of potential, too. It was a community that had until recently been very much based in the “hard” sciences and in addressing the more objectively falisfiable beliefs that people held, like cryptids, UFOs, alt-med and paranormal phenomena. But I saw absolutely no reason that skepticism couldn’t be compatible with the social justice issues I also cared about, like feminism. I saw in feminism a lot of repeated mistakes made due to a lack of critical inquiry and self-reflection, and rejection of the value of science and that kind of critical thought, and I also believed that a whole lot of what feminism, and other social justice movements, were trying to address was very similar kinds of irrational beliefs and assumptions, stemming from similar human needs and limitations as beliefs in the paranormal. Misogyny, sexism, cissexism, gender binarism, racism, able-ism… these things didn’t seem meaningfully different to me from pseudo-science, new age, woo, religious faith, occultism or the paranormal. All were human beings going for easy, intuitive conclusions based on what they most wanted or needed to believe, and on what most seemed to them to be true, without that moment of doubt, hesitation and humility that skepticism encourages.

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  3. We cannot say too often that, just because nearly all of experts are in consensus, their paradigm might still turn out to be wrong. Still, the Skeptic admits this is rare in science history.

    This is not true.

    Scientists will tell you that it is not true that a prevalent paradigm has rarely been proven wrong.

    My father has a doctorate in astrophysics. When I was young, he was a professor of that study. I grew up around scientists and engineers, and have done a pretty fair amount of reading on the history of science for a non-scientist. And it simply is not true. Because every single model prior to the ones we use now has been disproven. So have some of the ones we use now, at least partially.

    The “skeptics” who do not admit this are those who fetishize science.

    Science is a process that regularly seeks to disprove its own paradigms. It’s definitionally part of science. It succeeds less often — a hypothesis must be robust to gain a lot of supporters — but it does succeed, and paradigms change and hypotheses are replaced.

    Kepler’s Laws are not going to be tossed out, sure. But we’ve replaced multiple very popular models of the structure of atoms, for just one example. Hell, the idea that the laws of physics have always been the same isn’t the prevalent one anymore (apparently they were very different right at the beginning, have possibly changed several times, and we can’t be sure they aren’t going to change again; we can even replicate some of this in the lab). Newton is one of the giants of science, and a whole bunch of his ideas have been disproven or radically changed (for example, there are entire scales and levels of reality on which Newtonian laws and forces completely fail to describe what is happening) — we just don’t talk about that much. All manner of generally-agreed-upon scientific ideas have changed.

    Sorry, but this one is a pet peeve of mine. I really wish “skeptics” would quit saying this shit.

    • FWIW, David Brin has a phD in physics. I don’t know if Brin considers himself a “skeptic” or not.

      It sounds like you’ve studied this particular area more than me. I wonder how much of it depends on whether you define “a paradigm turns out to be wrong” as “it’s mostly right, but we need to tweak some things” vs “all or mostly wrong” i.e. evolution of a a paradigm vs. revolution? I don’t doubt that there will be some changes to the global warming/climate models in the future, but that’s quite different from anthropogenic global warming proving false. My impression was most of those multiple models of the atom are examples of a mostly-correct paradigm being modified, not completely thrown out–is this correct? My interpretation of that quote from Brin was that he was saying that models being mostly wrong was rare, especially since he went on to talk about “before splitting up to fight over sub-models”.

      • No, there have been models of the atom that have been thrown out entirely. And several of the things I’ve mentioned have been truly revolutionary even when they do not disprove the entirety of a model. Relativity was entirely revolutionary in its effects on physics, even though it left Newtonian physics largely intact on most directly observable. It was revolutionary is many ways, but one of them was definitely that it demonstrated that Newtonian physics was not applicable to all physical actions, and was not entirely accurate to many of them. “Tweaks” can be revolutionary when the thing they’re tweaking has been considered absolute and universal.

        And anthropogenic global warming is basically unfalsifiable, at least within our likely lifetimes. There is no way to compare it to a world without human-made pollution and heat. The preponderance of evidence will probably continue to support it, but there really isn’t a way to disprove it for at least a century or two, and even then it will still be a preponderance of evidence.

        Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a climate denier. Global warming is definitely happening, and we are almost certainly at least influencing it. But the hypothesis makes predictions mostly over the long term, and even then, we simply don’t know enough about past prehistoric and pre-human climates change to form really good models of what it’s looked like without human influence.

      • Well, I did say “most of” those models, not “all”.
        “Tweaks” can be revolutionary when the thing they’re tweaking has been considered absolute and universal.
        I don’t think I said that they couldn’t be? Although I was talking about “evolution vs. revolution”, I would still put that under “evolution”–a “revolutionary” tweak added to a still-generally-correct model instead of displacing it is still an “evolution” of the model, to me.

        You don’t think that if, over the next 30 years, temperatures go back to what a model NOT including global warming would predict, the preponderance of the evidence would shift away from global warming? (Without any obvious stuff like volcanic eruptions counterbalancing the increased CO2.) Granted, it wouldn’t be disproved with certainty, but I think the balance of the evidence at that point would be that global warming was false.

  4. Annabelle says:

    Very interesting and thoughtful essay. FWIW I personally DO think there’s a pseudoscientific streak at work in some sectors of fat acceptance – including Linda Bacon and some of the HAES team, who cherry pick data when it suits them. Any study, no matter how poorly put together, will be embraced, while solid science is ignored or rejected. What makes this so egregious is that it undermines the credibility of Bacon’s own work.

    The recent op-ed by Paul Campos in the NY Times was another example, where he trumpeted a study that itself has been questioned. He (rightly) got a drubbing for presenting a study on mortality without looking at the issue of morbidity, which is one of the key issues around fat and health.

    The theme of ‘correlation is not causation’ has been taken up with a vengeance by fat acceptance bloggers, who then use this to dismiss out of hand any research linking obesity and poor health outcomes. And so on.

    • Your comment got stuck in the spam filter for a while…

      I don’t think there are too many studies, of any type, that haven’t been questioned. Studies being questioned is what’s supposed to happen; it means that science is working right. I suppose you mean that it was more questioned than others, but that does tend to happen to any study that suggests advantages to being fat. I don’t see how it’s a flaw that he doesn’t bring up morbidity when he’s talking about a specific study and that study did not examine morbidity.

      As far as “any study” being embraced by Linda Bacon, I haven’t looked at every single study she’s endorsed, so I can’t say anything substantive about that.

  5. G says:

    I’m glad you posted this! As a scientist (one who works in a climate-related field, actually) and a skeptical person I’m always taking flack for my FA/HAES stance (and being compared to anti-vaxxers/climate change deniers/etc stings!)

    But it’s funny, you know? The first thing they teach us science people when we get to grad school is how to poke holes in the scientific literature, i.e. Whaaat’s an error bar? How is 10 subjects a representative sample? Self-selected/self-reported WTF?! and so on. And my sciency friends send me papers as proof about how fat is unhealthy, and then get mad when I point out the holes in the work. (Of course the awful joke that is “health journalism” never asks ANY questions…)

    And I know it’s “anecdata” but my own experience with HAES is at least as important to me as any literature. I know biology is complicated, but we formulate models of how things work based on our observations, and if my experience contradicts your “generally accepted” model, maybe it’s your model that needs work. Saying I (and other people!) can be fat and healthy and happy isn’t as preposterous as claiming faith in Bigfoot or homeopathy.

    • And my sciency friends send me papers as proof about how fat is unhealthy, and then get mad when I point out the holes in the work.
      Getting mad at a state of affairs that’s their own fault is kind of funny…

      (Of course the awful joke that is “health journalism” never asks ANY questions…)
      Yeah, unfortunately most health journalists don’t have enough science background to do a good job asking questions… and even if they did, people just aren’t as likely to question something that doesn’t contradict their worldview as something that does. Which is why, although they need to bring in a surrogate “mainstream scientist” to do it, they’ll ALWAYS present quotes from an “opposing viewpoint” on a HAES story, but usually not present an “opposing viewpoint” on an Obesity is Bad story.

      And I know it’s “anecdata” but my own experience with HAES is at least as important to me as any literature.
      It may be anecdata, but OTOH it doesn’t really contradict biological science to say that not everyone will respond uniformly to a particular treatment. I mean, you can’t really get your risk of death from experience, but you can get data like how you feel as well as things like blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc.

      • G says:

        I suppose I mean more along the lines of a refuting of the simple, broad idea that fat == unhealthy, not on a specific risk. I suppose people can VFHT me all day long, but for now my health is excellent, I’m active and fit and with a little luck it’ll stay that way.

        I would be thrilled if they had opposing viewpoints on zomgObesity stories, but Linda Bacon would probably get bored of all the phone calls. 🙂

      • I would be thrilled if they had opposing viewpoints on zomgObesity stories, but Linda Bacon would probably get bored of all the phone calls. 🙂 Yes.

  6. bbeck310 says:

    This gets a lot wrong, because it characterizes skeptics vs. deniers based primarily on their motives rather than whether they observe the scientific method. But the previous commenters all pointed that out.

    More important is a very close parallel between climate change alarmists and obesity alarmists that you don’t mention: Both stop at the “this is happening” stage, have little proof that “this is a problem,” have no proof that “my solution works,” but then proceed to call anyone a denialist who points out that the existence of a change doesn’t imply a problem, a particular solution, or even any solution.

    The logic of climate change alarmism has to run as follows:
    1. The earth’s temperature is increasing, which is caused by carbon emissions.
    2. The earth’s temperature increasing would hurt humanity and the planet.
    3. Reducing carbon emissions by carbon taxes/cap and trade/whatever will solve the problem without costing more than it’s worth.
    4. Therefore, we should pass carbon taxes/cap and trade/whatever.

    The logic of obesity alarmism has to run similarly:
    1. Americans/people worldwide are getting fatter on average as measured by BMI.
    2. The increase in BMI will hurt humanity by decreasing life expectancy, increasing health care costs, etc.
    3. Fat taxes/mandatory weight loss plans/calorie disclosure on menus/dieting will solve the problem without costing more than it’s worth.
    4. Therefore, we should have fat taxes/mandatory weight loss plans/calorie disclosure on menus/dieting will solve the problem without costing more than it’s worth.

    In both cases, there is substantial evidence of statement 1, weak evidence of statement 2, and no evidence or contrary evidence of statement 3. If statement 2 or 3 is false in each case, then statement 4 doesn’t follow–both are “we should do something to solve the problem; this is something; therefore we should do it” logic. We know, from the same models used to predict catastrophic global warming, that even the Kyoto protocol would make maybe a 2% dent in the rise in global temperature, which means pretty clearly that we shouldn’t incur the massive cost of the protocol. We know, from tons of studies, that the long-term success rate of dieting is less than 5%. But neither fact stops the alarmists, who stop at their good evidence of statement 1 and say, “If you don’t think you should diet/cut carbon emissions, you must be in denial!”

    • This gets a lot wrong, because it characterizes skeptics vs. deniers based primarily on their motives rather than whether they observe the scientific method. But the previous commenters all pointed that out.

      You can’t “observe the scientific method” unless you’re actually doing a study, and this post is primarily concerned with non-scientists. I think you mean “accept scientific evidence”? And I don’t think it does focus primarily on their motives, it focuses on whether they accept any scientific evidence and whether they fairly evaluate both the evidence and proposed solutions, and whether they’re prone to conspiracy theories (i.e. whether they evaluate their opponents fairly). And I don’t think ANY of the previous commenters were trying to make that point. Did you read the comments?

      • bbeck310 says:

        You certainly can follow the scientific method without performing a study–the scientific method is about “proving” a theory by trying your hardest to falsify it failing. The fact that others are performing the actual experiments to falsify the theory doesn’t change the way of thinking. “Accepting scientific evidence,” if we define scientific evidence as “conclusions reached by scientists” (which is the usual way the term is used in fields like climate science and obesity research), is not following the scientific method. This is the sort of thing Feynmann railed against when he criticized fields like psychology as “cargo cult science” for adopting the trappings of science–peer review, lots of numbers and statistics, Ph.D.’s and lab coats, controlled experiments, etc.–without observing the core principle of the scientific method. And that principle is a sort of scientific honesty, where you try your hardest to falsify your own theories, rather than trying to come up with experiments to confirm your own theories.

        Motives was probably a bad word–“credentials” was more what I was going for (see Michelle’s comment about the apparent rigo(u)r of obesity pronouncements or G’s comment about poking holes in the scientific literature). Motives come up more in Brin’s original post, with the description of how skeptics have to acknowledge the role of foreign petro-dollars in anti-climate change advocacy (apparently the $500M purchase of Al Gore’s CurrentTV by Saudi-controlled Al Jazeera isn’t worthy of mention). Either way, motives and credentials are irrelevant; it’s the evidence that matters.

        Anyways, the real problem is that no one’s provided any scientific evidence of a working solution to either obesity or climate change, so there’s no justification for anything like a solution. That whole “1% precautionary principle” thing is very unscientific, along with being the rare case where someone on the left side of the political aisle will approvingly quote Dick Cheney (and only to apply to global warming–not to fighting a war against Pakistan). A 1% chance of catastrophe still doesn’t justify a solution with a 1% chance of success and a 90% chance of making things worse.

      • You’re not using any widely-used definition of “the scientific method”. I don’t think “accepting scientific evidence” is usually defined the way you define it, either; the easiest way to explain it is if you’re looking at a scientific paper, it’s more about the “results” section than the “conclusions” section.

        “Credentials”? I don’t have any credentials. Are you saying that I’m calling myself a denialist? The point of this post was that I don’t think that I (and like-minded individuals) am a denialist. And then you talk about “motives” in the Brin piece, but the motives are about the media people the deniers listen to, not distinguishing the skeptics vs. deniers… So maybe you think my argument is that FA/FL/HAES people, or at least the ones I like, listen to/respect the opinions of the people with the proper credentials, whereas a denialist doesn’t? No. We are challenging the opinions of (most of) the credentialed people. But WRT the conclusions and proposed solutions, not the data.

        That whole “1% precautionary principle” thing is very unscientific I don’t see how science can address the 1% precautionary principle at all. It’s a statement about how cautious someone thinks we should be. It’s nonscientific, not antiscientific. Science doesn’t do “should”. Also, you can’t scientifically test global warming solutions without actually testing them, i.e. trying them out, so I don’t know how that’s supposed to say anything for or against those proposed solutions. Thought experiments are not part of the scientific method.

  7. I don’t believe in global warming and I don’t believe in health at any size.

    “For years I have tried to get certain parties to pay attention to these issues. It is hard when you realize the people meant to stand up for your “fat rights”, a lot of them are not willing to face reality. I

    would be ok, with HAES admitting, “LOOK our SYSTEM has LIMITATIONS.” It is good for the midsized fat who have tired of the failed diet treadmill. We realize for those facing severe obesity, that there are serious limitations here.”

    The healthy and wealthy fat, who are able to work, and function do not even live in the same world like someone like myself. Being told, you must accept this, and by the way “do your best” is no longer an answer. People are going to be having shorter lives. That is not be a fat hater or down on fat people, it is a FACT.

    I will never understand the rejection of any non harmful FAT CURE.

    I feel like they are flying the WHITE FLAG. You only got two options they tell us. Ok, maybe TODAY there is FEW OPTIONS, but what about TOMMOROW?”


    I know I have many times in a variety of different ways.

    I never want anyone to go through what I have. I want a future where there is HONESTY.

    How many 500lb people are in HAES? A few exceptionally healthy ones? I dare say the first time, you can’t breath or sit by the pool in 90 degrees at one of the conference hotels, that social foray would be over.

    To me being as “healthy as possible” means ANSWERS not cop-outs. It’s the reason I survived 15 years after being near 700lbs. It is the reason I write this blog. Whatever happens to me, I am glad I spoke out. Fat people deserve better.

    I think some of the HAES people mean well but they need to look at the BIG PICTURE.”

    [Nope, there will not be a global warming debate on my website, especially one phrased as disrespectfully as the one here, and with these same old tired points.]

    You know when people are selling you lies, there usually is PROFIT attached.

    Size acceptance has become an enabler to the diet industrial complex.

    By plan????

    Who knows….

    but certainly nothing is challenged as we get poisoned by adulterated food, and people in the USA especially get fatter and sicker.

    I do see size acceptance and the whole “global warming” “climate change” as the same thing.

    Ever heard of the phrase?

    Hegelian Dialectic?

    It’s happening with OBESITY.

    • They would be able to make even more profit if they came up with weight loss drugs that worked. As I mention, though, leptin was only discovered in 1994. Jeffrey Friedman’s work is promising, but that sort of thing is a long way off, I think. In some ways I’m not sure we’re ready for them; we need to grow up and ditch our childish attitudes about weight or we’ll just be giving them to everyone who wants to look like a supermodel.

      • Why would they cure fatness? Say goodbye to all the weight loss industries, low fat food, and other money makers including all the pharmaceuticals for the co-morbs like diabetes. It’s like the cure for cancer that never seems to come as cancer grows worse and worse and one reads ominous stuff online about how this would be cure was suppressed. I agree there people who probably would abuse such a thing with 130lb people gobbling it down to be 100lbs and anorexic but one thing I can’t join size acceptance with, is the “We don’t want a cure ever contingent”, I guess I’ve suffered from being fat way too much, symptom of other health problems or not.

      • Well, I don’t put too much stock in “ominous stuff online”.

        The problem with your theory for why they wouldn’t want to cure fatness is… Have you ever heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma? There’s a lot written about it if you want to look it up. In this case it works in our favor*. If no one comes up with a weight loss drug, that’s the best solution for all the corporations. However, if one corporation comes up with a weight loss drug, they make all the money from the weight loss drug and the other corporations get squat. That corporation will “betray” the others. And that’s only looking at the pharma companies. I don’t think that the diet companies and the pharma companies are owned by the same people, so Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig can’t do anything to stop pharma from ruining their business model. Weight Watchers goes out of business? Not their problem.

        If you want to speak out and say that you do want a cure, that’s exactly what you should do. And the people who don’t want a cure should say that they don’t want a cure. Within size acceptance is one thing, but in the larger world I don’t notice any shortage of fat people saying that they want to be thin.

        [*ETA: “our favor”–“our”=consumers. I don’t want a cure myself, at this point in my life, but I believe that it should be available to those who do.]

  8. “Nope, there’s no real money in promoting Fat Acceptance or Health At Every Size. And all I see is equal-opportunity fat-hate from the left and the right. The form of the fat-hate and the proposed solutions tend to be slightly different, but both sides of the Culture War scapegoat the ‘Obesity Epidemic’ on their favorite villains. On the left we’re symbols of overconsumption; perhaps we’re innocent dupes as in WALL-E; perhaps we’re dumb lazy rednecks. On the right we’re a symptom on the weakness of current generations; we just lack willpower and self-control; we’re the natural outcome of a generation of “everyone gets a trophy.” (This supposed ‘generation’ seems to have been going on at least since Generation X, and yet I was born in the early 80s and don’t remember getting a whole bunch of trophies.) ”

    You ever meet anyone that realizes both left and right are a LIE and work in tandem for the same agenda? And understands how they both converge to the same place, for service to those who want to profit from suffering and lust for power?

    There is a reason in America, that civil liberties are disappearing under the watch of both false parties and the economy is being crushed.

    Take this one step in your thoughts further…

    Now look at size acceptance and the diet industrial complex.

    Picture them as Democrats vs. Republicans.

    Both enablers to each other.

    “As I have written before BOTH SIDES serve each other and fat people slip through the cracks. While the public is trained like Pavlovian dogs to bow before their scales, and see obesity as a wholly hyper-personal responsibility problem, this keeps the populace dumbed down and fat people scapegoated as a whole. Why wouldn’t size acceptance be dumbed down too? Perhaps there is a reason I see the endless lines of the SAME kind of people saying the SAME kind of things over and over barring those with a different voice from the door. I mean after all, would the powers that be allow true questions out there? It is a question to think about.”

    • Take my thinking one step further… past cynicism and into paranoia? This reads like a conspiracy theory to me.

      I think there’s too much corporate money in politics and I don’t think there’s as much distance between left and right as some people, but “a LIE” makes it sound like you think they don’t “really” disagree about anything and are both serving some secret agenda.

      I suppose you think that HAES is serving the diet industry by not pushing for research into effective weight loss? But is that really the job of HAES? And do you realize how much money the first pharma company to make an effective weight loss drug will make? It would probably be their most profitable drug of all time. The diet companies might not like it, but there’s jack shit that they can do about it. Lucky for them it’s not happening anytime soon.

      • I don’t believe all conspiracies are theory. Anyhow too many shut down their mind at that phrase like Palovian dogs, someone mentions tin-foil or something and we are expected to believe that the “perpetual wars” started for the supposed war on terror, have nothing to do with what was outlined in the Plan for the New American Century or that fluoride is really good for us, so forth and so on.

        The corporate money is RUNNING the politics. Your politicians are bought and sold by Goldman Sachs on downward, bankers, and multi-national corporations. Hey I want to know why size acceptance is so rigid? What is the motive? Why do they have to ostracize people like me and why the focus on “We Don’t want a Cure” or the sheer denial? It leaves people between two crappy choices, “accept/love your fat and stay sick” {over certain sizes of course} or come join the diet industrial brigade, where we will take all your money and you stay fat. Sounds like the Republican/Democratic party game doesn’t it? Obama can keep doing the same policies as Bush save for a few progressive social crumbs thrown to the masses, and destroy civil liberties with NDAA and send troops to Africa and it’s all acceptable. Well I do not think it is acceptable that fat people are only given two bad choices, and I think they both “serve” one another.

        What can HAES offer anyone? They certainly won’t be a challenge to corporations that are adulterating our food, adding GMOs, HFCS and MSG like gangbusters to all the food. Hey the fat people of America are HAPPY, leave them alone, as they get slowly poisoned and see their metabolisms collapse. Tell even the 500lb woman, she can be “healthy at any size”, it’s like 1984 around here, where I am told to deny my reality and pretend the weight has not made me sick or that weight never comes as a result of illness.

        There won’t be a fat cure, they aren’t interested. It’s like the “war on cancer”, the “war on drugs”, the “war on terror”, designed to fail from the start making billions of dollars of profit for some. Yeah I know that may sound too conspiratorial for some. I know when I am being conned and when HAES tells me a healthy life is possible at 500lbs, they have lost their minds, their system also FAILS when there are outside environmental and illness factors making so many fat and sick!

      • I debated whether to delete this comment. Fluoridation? Seriously?

      • Also, I’ve actually seen weight gain as a result of illness brought up fairly frequently in FA/HAES spaces online. Almost every time fat and disability comes up, in my experience, people bring up how other people tend to assume that disabled people are disabled because they’re fat, but that it can often be the other way around, that they’re fat because they’re disabled. (Either from not being able to do as much movement, or from a disease/the medication for a disease that also caused the mobility issue.)

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