Jim Allard’s Sept. 25 editorial, “‘In Defense of Food’ Merely Pseudo-Intellectual Discourse,” is all wet in accusing Michael Pollan of practicing pseudo-science. Michael Pollan makes no claim to be a scientist. In order to be pseudo-science, his claims would have to be masquerading as science; instead, Pollan acknowledges when he uses science and when he uses common sense. There is nothing hypocritical about using science intelligently as a guide while recognizing scientific knowledge is a work in progress, rather than mistaking the current state of science for absolute truth. Pollan never suggests, as Allard asserts he does, that “it is not the objective merits of a particular product that matter but whether it resembles what our ancestors ate.” Rather, Pollan finds a correlation between the objective merits of food and ancestral diets, and Pollan’s conclusion is supported by scientific evidence. Pollan criticizes not science itself, but scientism, which makes science into more than it is.
Pollan advocates liberating ourselves from a dependence on nutrition “experts.” Of course nutritionists know how to eat well, but filtered through the academic journals and the media to common folk like you and me, their advice is little use. Allard seems to suggest anyone without a biochemistry degree doesn’t deserve to evaluate their food choices. This is true elitism. Putting trust in “experts” has led to following various fads, from the low-fat craze of the ’80s to the low-carb craze of this decade; all of these crazes have been bad for public health, empirically speaking. The new, trans-fat-free KFC is hardly better than the old KFC, but sounds good when the experts say “avoid trans fats.”
Allard also accuses Pollan of opposing anything Western simply because it is Western, but offers no evidence of this besides Pollan’s indictment of “The Western Diet.” In fact, Pollan offers no criticism of any aspect of Western society beyond its diet, and the attitudes surrounding that diet. No criticism of Locke and Hume, Einstein and Curie, or MTV and Xbox. Certainly no criticism of rationality, which Mr. Allard says Pollan opposes while using arguments far less rational than Pollan’s. Does Mr. Pollan’s terminology offend Mr. Allard? If the “Western diet” were instead called “the jujube diet” or “the raindrop diet,” the diet would still have the same deficiencies, namely, it uses claims about nutrients to justify feeding us substances our bodies do not recognize as food and we are less healthy as a result.
I shudder to think of all the people who will continue eating Froot Loops to get their daily supply of vitamin C and energy bars to get their protein, instead of eating wholesome fruits, vegetables and lean meats, all because someone told them not to take Michael Pollan seriously. Before encountering Michael Pollan’s tremendous work I had come to many of the same conclusions, especially the ones presented in “In Defense of Food.” The real-food diet I devised for myself rid my body of over 30 pounds and an intestinal ulcer that “the Western diet” had given me by the age of 18. The fact is, Michael Pollan’s eating philosophy works for our health, and no amount of baseless attacks by Jim Allard or The Badger Herald will change that.
First-year graduate student
International public affairs