Gary Taubes on Obesity’s Orthogonal Coverage

Gary Taubes has a great article in today’s Columbia Journalism Review. He covers a few topics related to the coverage of obesity, and writing about health and nutrition…most notably, he takes on the central question of how multiple writers covering the same topic (obesity), and using the same research, can come to such different interpretations.

So how are we to make sense of a situation when thoughtful investigations of controversial subjects not only disagree with the conventional wisdom—what the majority of front-line researchers are said to believe—but with each other? Why does this happen? How do we cover it as journalists and interpret it as critical readers? I’ll continue to use obesity and weight loss as the case study here because it is now the subject that I (arguably) know best […]

Like most things Taubs-ian, it’s worth taking a few moments to read, enjoy and understand his thinking. At the end, he offers this as (part of) his conclusion:

In interpreting science and medicine for the public and investigating issues so critical to the public health, we’re all biased, just as scientists are, by our perspectives, our experiences and our preconceptions. If we don’t start off biased, we will soon find ourselves consciously or unconsciously taking sides, and that will bias our perceptions from then on.

This, as it so happens, is a subject that has been very much on my mind as of late.


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