Inability to Evaluate Risk in A Mature and Reasoned Fashion

A while back I wrote a long post on topics like climate change, vaccinations, and GMO foods where I discussed the systematic problems many in the political-media complex have in evaluating risks in a reasoned manner.

I didn't have any idea who the "Food Babe" was but from this article she sure seems to be yet another example.  If you want to see an absolute classic of food babe "thinking", check out this article on flying.   Seriously, I seldom insist you go read something but it is relatively short and you will find yourself laughing, I guarantee it.

Postscript:  I had someone tell me the other day that I was inconsistent.  I was on the side of science (being pro-vaccination) but against science (being pro-fossil fuel use).   I have heard this or something like it come up in the vaccination debate a number of times, so a few thoughts:

  1. The commenter is assuming their conclusion.  Most people don't actually look at the science, so saying you are for or against science is their way of saying you are right or wrong.
  2. The Luddites are indeed taking a consistent position here, and both "Food babe" and RFK Jr. represent that position -- they ascribe large, unproveable risks to mundane manmade items and totally discount the benefits of these items.  This includes vaccines, fossil fuels, GMO foods, cell phones, etc.
  3. I am actually with the science on global warming, it is just what the science says is not well-portrayed in the media.  The famous 97% of scientists actually agreed with two propositions:  That the world has warmed over the last century and that man has contributed to that warming.  The science is pretty clear on these propositions and I agree with them.  What I disagree with is that temperature sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 concentrations is catastrophic, on the order of 4 or 5C or higher, as many alarmist believe, driven by absurdly high assumptions of positive feedback in the climate system.   But the science is very much in dispute about these feedback assumptions and thus on the amount of warming we should expect in the future -- in fact the estimates in scientific papers and the IPCC keep declining each year heading steadily for my position of 1.5C.  Also, I dispute that things like recent hurricanes and the California drought can be tied to manmade CO2, and in fact the NOAA and many others have denied that these can be linked.  In being skeptical of all these crazy links to global warming (e.g. Obama claims global warming caused his daughter's asthma attack), I am totally with science.  Scientists are not linking these things, talking heads in the media are.


  1. tmitsss:

    If i am accused of being anti-science, I ask which is safer Organic Food or Irradiated Food?

  2. Reformed Repub:

    That airplane article was a painful read. Cabin pressure is below 1 atm, so it is actually low pressure. This is why our ears pop when we ascend.

    Air is already high in nitrogen, and pumping in pure oxygen would be toxic, assuming there was not a fire to kill everybody first.

    I cannot believe people take her seriously.

  3. Justin:

    "The air that is pumped in isn’t pure oxygen either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%. ... The nitrogen may affect the times and dosages of medications, make you feel bloated and cause your ankles and joints swell."

    The Food Babe has annoyed me for years, but this is remarkably misinformed even compared to the low bar that is her previous work. At this point I honestly can't tell if she is really that dumb, or actually the most successful troll in history.

  4. Solomon Foster:

    To be completely fair, "The air that is pumped in isn’t pure oxygen either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%. To pump a greater amount of oxygen in costs money in terms of fuel and the airlines know this!" doesn't reflect anything about being unable to understand risk. It's 100% about not understanding the most basic facts about the Earth's atmosphere.

  5. tmitsss:

    You know who had 100% oxygen? Grissom, Chaffee and White on Apollo I. May they rest in peace. (until today I did realize that the Mercury and Gemini programs used 100% O2)

  6. Jim Collins:

    I originally thought that she had a nice tan until I read that airplane story and realized her skin color wasn't the result of a tan. It's because she's full of shit. Aircraft pressurization air is bled off from the engine's compressors before combustion. Usually it is from two places, the first being one of the initial stages of the compressor for cold air and the other is a later stage where the air is warm from being compressed. It is a mixture of these two that controls the climate in the aircraft cabin.

  7. bigmaq1980:

    "Choose a seat as close to the front as possible. Pilots control the amount of airflow and it is is always better in their cabin." - Food Babe Travel Essentials

    OMG. Seriously?

  8. SamWah:

    As I recall, airliner pressurization is about normal pressure at 8000 feet ASL. This woman is waaaaay less intelligent than she thinks.

  9. Matthew Slyfield:

    This made me laugh the most from the good babe article: "If you experience a headache, pains or aches, think about using
    turmeric, garlic or willow bark which are all natural alternatives to

    Note: willow bark is the natural source for aspirin. willow bark is not an alternative to aspirin, it IS aspirin.

  10. Mike:

    I could not make it past the 1st few paragraphs. this has to be a piece from The Onion, right? Just thinking about dissecting the errors gives me a headache.

  11. Rick St.Amand:

    The really sad part are the comments from the adoring fans... Ohhhh my God.

  12. kidmugsy:

    "That the world has warmed over the last century and that man has contributed to that warming.' It probably has warmed, but it's impossible to put a number on it because the data have been pummelled to exaggerate the effect. As for part of it being caused by humans - could be, but there's nothing much that you could reasonably call evidence for the proposition.

  13. markm:

    Not quite. Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, a considerably safer chemical derivative of the "natural" salicylic acid found in willow bark. Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, but in high concentrations it will burn your skin. In fact, an acne treatment that I used as a teenager used salicylic acid to peel a thin layer of skin off, hopefully taking the plugs from plugged pores with it. Now, think of what that will do to your stomach, assuming that the willow bark tea was strong enough to treat your headache. Aspirin isn't entirely safe, but you can be sure of the dose, and you can take it for much longer before it eats holes in your stomach.

    That's the problem with "natural remedies" - plants don't grow to be eaten or cut up and rendered down for drugs. They grow to grow and spread their seeds, but animals, insects, and fungi munching on them interferes with that. Thus most wild plants protect themselves by _naturally_ growing at least one poisonous chemical. Humans gradually learned to deal with that in various ways: leaching the poison out (taro, e.g.), selective breeding of a non-poisonous (but much less pest-resistant) variety (most cultivated food plants), or by using low doses of particular poisons as drugs. But when you extract those drugs without a chemical lab, you never know exactly what you're getting. So to keep "natural remedies" safe, usage is recommended at such low doses that they are likely to be ineffective.

  14. Brian J.:

    Absolutely hilarious.... thank you for one of those very rare, uncontrollable belly laughs. I couldn't breath. My partner thought I was crying.... well I was.

  15. Andrew_M_Garland:

    Fewer hurricanes now and in the near term. The blame may partly go to global warming.
    === ===
    The decline in hurricane numbers occurs as a result of a combination of internal (natural processes) as well as a bit of an influence from anthropogenic climate change—an influence which is projected to mount a downward pressure on Atlantic hurricane numbers going forward.
    === ===

  16. Steve Merryman:

    The biggest takeaway from the Food Babe is to avoid flying because it clearly makes you stupid.

  17. jhertzli:

    Another Food Babe quote: "Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver. "

  18. Phantom_Phlyer:

    I surprised that frequent flyer Food Babe didn't raise the risk of radiation exposure from cosmic rays. Aircrews flying regular long distance flights are classified as "radiation workers". Compared to Joe Doe at sea level who gets an effective dose of about 0.300 mSv annually, the high flying frequent flyer gets more than ten times as much: 3.07 mSv, which exceeds the nuclear power worker at 1.87 mSv and the medical professional worker at 0.75 mSv. What does it all mean in terms of additional excess cancers? Probably little or nothing. Here's a link if you interested: