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(Simplicity vs. Complexity in Diet: Where Do We Find Truth?--continued, Part C)

Dietary utopias and the
tar baby of science

Can there be a harmonious relationship between simplicity and complexity? As we have said, there is no escaping at least some complexity. The only real choice concerns the manner in which you want to deal with it. What would be optimum is for the overall scheme or logical "container" into which the complexities fit to itself be reasonably straightforward to grasp, so that the complexities are acknowledged and awarely "corralled" in areas that put them out into the open where they can be dealt with more straightforwardly and consciously.

Choice: deal with complexity in science or have it infect your overall logic. Hopefully one wants to do this without the surrounding logical container being so oversimplistic or unrealistic that it generates additional complexities of its own in the form of fallacies, hidden contradictions, justifications characterized by convoluted reasoning, and so forth. In the view being outlined here, the overall conceptual approach is simpler because the complexity gets put where it more logically belongs: in the procedural realm of weighing the scientific details and evidence that support the simpler, higher-hierarchical-level concepts presented.

Put another way: Less complexity in this approach is found in the reasoning but is fully dealt with in the area of science where it has its rightful place. With the more idealistic diets, scientific complexity is avoided but at the expense of more complex reasoning that becomes necessary to avoid or rationalize the evidence that puts one's ideological tenets into question. (Whether humans were originally vegetarian or ate meat, etc.) In the end, convoluted justifications that are generated to maintain a static belief system in the face of the progressive discoveries of science make things more complex than if the science were just dealt with up front.

Trying to simplistically deny science is emotional instead of rational. In one way or another, proponents of overidealistic vegetarian diets that are based on philosophical naturalism are being forced to start dealing with scientific details because of all the attention and information that's becoming available on early human evolution and meat-eating and the dietary behavior of primitive hunter-gatherers. In response, because there is getting to be so much evidence having to be explained away, there are some people who prefer to take the path of avoiding the complexities almost entirely and try to do end runs around them in the form of dismissing the science almost altogether. This is typified by the epitome of oversimplistic responses: emotional slurs that don't even attempt much reasoning but just label science as "cooked," "brain-damaged," "scientism," etc.

The tar baby of simple-minded attempts to deflect science. In general, though, the attempt to avoid scientific findings is a tar baby that sucks one into even more complexity, as science continues to advance and more things have to be rationalized in order to keep pushing them away, unless one is going to be a complete ostrich. Usually, rather than meeting the complexities on their own terms, oversimplistic attempts to deal with them are made that only further entangle one and compound the complexities.

Those who may have previously ignored scientific research become concerned to explain why it doesn't really say what it does. But when questions are asked by someone who is actually familiar with it, the conspicuous shortcomings in their knowledge are revealed and the self-created trap closes shut. Those who proudly avoid or jeer at peer-reviewed journals don't hesitate to comment on the finer scientific points in research they haven't read, which often results in statements that are soon found to be contradicted by items in the research they didn't hear about. Because little attempt is made to understand the details of the research, unknowing assertions are made about it that dig even deeper logical holes to reason one's way out of later.

Before, the complexities were too complicated to wade into and too irrelevant to bother with. Now they are easily interpreted and the meaning clear to see for all but the scientists, few of whom understand the real implications of their own research, which are usually the opposite of what they think.

The culinary art of butchering science. Others who have long seen the headlights of science coming have kept busy constructing convoluted dietary "proofs" not seen anywhere in the halls of science, to justify the jungle diets of apes for savannah-dwelling humans. Compatriots point others to the proofs in justification for their diets while admitting they can't really follow the reasoning themselves. And at the same time the chef concocting the proofs is chopping, dismembering, and transforming the meaty research of science into a fruity-smelling salad of no-longer-recognizable ingredients that even most of their invited guests find hard to chew on, the real scientists whose research they are butchering up for others are labeled hacks.

Complexity: can't live with it, can't live without it. To add another degree of complexity and contradiction, it's common to simultaneously maintain while doing all of this that the science really isn't necessary, in any event, because anybody should be able to see what the truth is without it. This conflicted, schizophrenic stance toward the complexities of science is the end result of a process where it's believed that one side (simplicity) should be able either to do without, or to dominate, the other (the details). But like a marriage with an overbearing partner, one keeps finding it doesn't make a happy marriage. The implicit attitude is almost as if one were saying: Complexity--you can't live with it, and you can't live without it. You think you want to get a divorce one moment, but later you want to make up again.

It takes a relationship between equally respected partners to make a harmonious, happy union.

In the end, dietary idealism generates more
complications and ignores simpler explanations

Accepting "the messy reality" is simplest. We all know that reality can be messy, but we often deny it. "Things have to be more simple than that!" we plaintively exclaim. Ironically, however, an approach that consciously embraces the necessity of dealing with some complexity as a co-partner (including especially the unexpected messiness we often run into in the real world, not just the complexities of science) ends up being more simple overall than a more utopian approach. Why? Because it doesn't generate unnecessary baggage having to explain that messiness or complexity away. (The numerous examples addressed in the section below will clarify this.) Complexity is not gotten rid of or attempted to be stamped out, but it assumes a more natural relationship of coexistence with its partner simplicity that's more harmonious.

Doing this, however, requires a different schema that repackages the simplicities and complexities into different areas than before. Because of this initial unfamiliarity it might at first seem more complex. However, to see what is simple about it requires only a small shift in one's underlying mental stance or "mindset."

"What is" vs. "what ought to be." What is this shift? If you're really interested in health rather than just identifying psychologically with a diet or dietary philosophy that you believe might get you there, you become more interested in "what is." It's the simple difference between beginning to care more about "what is" than what one thinks "ought to be." But this doesn't mean giving up worthy goals. It means redefining them.

What is the REAL goal? In pragmatic realms like health, presumably the REAL goal you want is the end result (good health), not the method you use to get there. But if you care more about what you think "ought to be" (100% veg, 100% raw, 100% instincto, etc.) rather than "what is" (the results you and others are getting, as well as what science suggests about what might work) then you are forced to come up with justifications why what ought to be isn't what is :-) , whenever there is a conflict between the two. Because you don't really have a choice when "what ought to be" is more important to you than "what is." Trying to save a specific conception of "what ought to be" by explaining away "what is" is the core dynamic that starts making things more complex.

The shift from utopianism to pragmatism simplifies reality. However, when we relax our grip on "ought to be" and focus on looking at "what is," and make that our priority, explaining the sometimes messy realities becomes a lot simpler. If our real, underlying goal is "health" rather than "being 100% blah-blah-blah," then seeing "what is" gives us a better handle on how knowledge of just what this "what is" is, and what it is right now, might help us reach our underlying goal of "health" in the future. The concern becomes "what is" working or "what is" not working for yourself and others, "what is" actually reliable evidence (from both your experience and others', as well as from science), and the details to support that or not.

Forgoing knowledge of "what is" for a "what-ought-to-be" identity. When you get sidetracked into wanting to be an identity (100% this or 100% that) more than you care about knowing what the results of things actually are (what your experience and others' really suggests; what scientific research suggests), that is the point at which "what is" gets sacrificed to "what ought to be." We say we want to know the truth, but in the realm of diet it's easy to get seduced into merely wanting to be an identity instead. Therein lies the complexity.


(Examples: How the Most Idealistic View Ends Up Being More Complex)

Back to Psychology of Idealistic Diets
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