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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, February 16, 2003
2:11 PM

Champion debunker Michael Fumento has urged me to actually read his article in the March issue of Reason, Big Fat Fake. He noticed my blogging about the Atkins low-carb diet, and my passing comments about his piece attacking author Gary Taubes. (I cited Fumento comments that are skeptical of the Atkins claims, and said hell, it works for me). Fumento, summarizing his Reason story, wrote me last week:
It shows in no uncertain terms that Taubes, on his way towards that $700,000 book advance, committed some of the most serious journalism ethics breaches in the last several years.

So I'll read it. Now there's a radical idea. I'll try to contact Taubes as well. Of course it'll be impossible to definitively settle anything on a blog, but fairness demands that I take a stab at giving Taubes a chance to answer. A la' Michael Bellesiles and John Lott, Taubes no doubt will respond to the Reason piece in some forum and in that case I'll link to it.

There are two issues in front of us: First, whether the Atkins diet works. That question isn't as simple as it seems. Second, whether Taubes, as charged by Fumento, has sold out for a book advance and distorted or misrepresented the beliefs of health experts and the research they have conducted. Mr. Fumento tells me the Reason article focuses primarily on the second question.

I've admired Fumento for a long time, ever since his 1993 book The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS--How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media and Partisan Politics. More recent titles include Polluted Science: The EPA's Campaign to Expand Clean Air Regulations and The Fat of the Land:The Obesity Epidemic and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves.

So I have a little cognitive dissonance here. I respect Fumento. But I sense that you can't go after Taubes without also questioning the validity of the Atkins diet, which, from where I anecdotally sit, is an open-and-shut case. But the Reason piece is more about Taubes than about Atkins.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that the sign of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time. This is more like two-and-a-half opposing ideas, so you can see my problem.

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