Tuesday miscellany – catching up with Prof Tim Noakes

I had intended to link to and comment on a range of things, but then started out writing with reference to Prof. Tim Noakes. And because it’s now time for me to satisfy my carb addiction, that’s all you’ll get (Noakes, I mean, rather than carbs. Each to their own there.)

First, the planned debate between him and Dr. Jonathan Witt will no longer be going ahead. It’s a pity, this, because at least Prof. Noakes would have had to work a little harder to rebut Dr. Witt than he did in rebutting Dr Anthony Dalby, who recently called the Noakes diet “criminal”.

This is because Dr Witt is thin, while according to Noakes, Dalby “happened to weigh 120kg”. And as we’ve previously learnt from the same source, veracity and scientific credibility has an inversely proportional relationship to body mass.

You can read Dr. Witt’s account of why the debate won’t go ahead in the above link (paragraph 2). Noakes is of course unperturbed, commenting to TimesLive:

I do not understand why you pay any attention to Dr Witt, who has absolutely no qualifications in this field and is a few years out of medical school.

In the same piece linked immediately above, you’ll read about how Noakes denies ever making the claim that if you’re not eating carbohydrates, you don’t have to worry about getting cancer. On Twitter, he’s again denied saying it,

and has also been more emphatic in accusing others of making this up

It must be truly irksome having to deal with a doppleganger, so we must sympathise with Prof Noakes for having to endure the misrepresentations of “the other Prof Tim Noakes”, who told the Franschoek Literary Festival audience (timestamp 53m20s) that he could “guarantee” us no diabetes, cancer or dementia on a high fat diet.

In other news, Robin Williams (a vegetarian) killed himself, which apparently meant that Prof Noakes had to retweet someone – two days after Williams’ death – saying that vegetarians are twice as likely to suffer from mental illness than meat-eaters. Some thought this insensitive, while others said that retweets don’t mean that the retweeter endorses the sentiment.

Fortunately, Noakes cleared this up for us on the same day, endorsing the sentiment in an extended conversation on Twitter where he independently posted supporting evidence for the claim that vegetarians might be more likely to suffer mental illness. He then defended the evidence against all comers, whether opposed on the grounds of bad science or insensitivity. A man of principle, then.

In entirely unrelated news, a journalist who has previously attracted his praise for writing about sugar “addiction” was told that she will “go far” if she plays the ball, not the man. Unless the ball is fat, or just out of medical school, that is.

In light of these sorts of comments, you might think that no matter how often people might report beneficial results on the LCHF diet (sorry, not a diet, but an “eating plan for life”), it’s unfortunate that its advocates need to overstate their case via using examples of suicides, or to deflect criticism through ad hominem attacks.

But think carefully about that conclusion, because there’s a multiply-degreed (and very thin) person out there who “has yet to meet an obnoxious LCHF advocate”.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.