27 November 2019
Flogging a dead horseradish: “The Game Changers” got a lot wrong, but are you completely guilt-free? Part 2.
Welcome back, let’s get straight into it. As I stated in Part 1, I have little interest in The Game Changers documentary specifically. What I am endeavouring to do with this series of articles, is use the documentary as a case-study to demonstrate the application of concepts related to rationality, truth-seeking and just more generally,…
Welcome back, let’s get straight into it.
As I stated in Part 1, I have little interest in The Game Changers documentary specifically. What I am endeavouring to do with this series of articles, is use the documentary as a case-study to demonstrate the application of concepts related to rationality, truth-seeking and just more generally, why humans believe what they do – right or wrong, justified or not.
Today, I will continue that task.
In my last article, I discussed the law of entropy and the imbalance of potential truth to mistruth that will inevitably exist. This is important to understand, as I now want to introduce a subsequent concept that is important to grasp if you wish to improve your critical-thinking skills and get incrementally closer to unearthing the reality of the world we inhabit.
The Opposite of Untrue isn’t True
The opposite of incorrect, is not correct. The opposite of wrong, is not right.
However you want to phrase it, if you’re in an erroneous place, simply reversing your stance, or the process used to get there, will almost certainly not make you correct. As established previously, there is an abundance of delusion, misconception, error and inaccuracy that exists, so locating the truth or what is “real” can be supremely difficult. Therefore, oversimplified strategies like reversing the inputs, process or interpretation of something is by no means likely to make it valid.
To cut the philosophical superfluity, let me illustrate this mathematically. Take for example the following equation:
3 + 5 = 18
Now, you have been informed by a trusted source that the equation is wrong. So you think to yourself, “well now that I know it’s wrong, I can simply reverse what I did and it’ll be correct”
3 – 5 = 18
Nope, still wrong.
“No stress,” you say, you simply reversed the wrong component of it, easily fixed.
3 + 5 = -18
Nope. Try again.
(-3) + (-5) = 18
Again, no good.
“Ahhh!” You say, “now I get it. Instead of reversing the inputs, or the function I was using, I needed to use an orthogonal function. I should have been multiplying and dividing, rather than adding and subtracting.”
So you try the following:
3 x 5 = 18
3 ÷ 5 = 18
Incorrect. You cannot simply reverse the process or use opposing inputs in order to generate a correct outcome from an incorrect one.
Furthermore, you can’t even rely on methods that diverge in a perpendicular manner from your previous attempts. No matter how you reconfigure the variables, you cannot create the truth from incompatible and incongruent premises.
This is an important concept to understand, because we so frequently use something that is determined to be wrong, as a starting point for locating what is right. However, as we have established, everything except a minutiae of possibilities is wrong.
Therefore if practically everythingis wrong, then being wrong is not a reliable or valid landmark for locating what is right. Correct and incorrect are not statistically related. They aren’t positively correlated, or even inversely correlated – they are simply not correlated.
Decision theorist and artificial intelligence researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky phrases it like this:
“If you knew someone who was wrong 99.99% of the time on yes-or-no questions, you could obtain 99.99% accuracy just by reversing their answers. They would need to do all the work of obtaining good evidence entangled with reality, and processing that evidence coherently, just to anti-correlate that reliably. They would have to be super intelligent to be that stupid.”
The truth must be incrementally discovered using a logically valid, self-correcting system – like that of science, mathematics or critical thinking – not by immediately teleporting oneself to random locations along a spectrum of beliefs.
So just because The Game Changers got a lot wrong, doesn’t mean your attack or opposing stance is correct, regardless of how many people jumped on the bandwagon.
The truth is important, but why?
Why do we value truth? Or, to start a step further back, why do some of us value truth more than others?
Personally, I value truth because of its utility. It is much more useful and reliable, on average, than mistruth. I say ‘on average’ because, depending on the context, mistruth can at times offer a higher utility function – click bait and fake-news for example.
However, when it comes to health and the human body, you are probably more concerned with the validity that is associated with truth, rather than the benefits that can be associated with mistruth, such as entertainment or the ability to manipulate.
This is in part why I think many of the attacks on the documentary were illogical. By far, the majority of people who watched the documentary already don’t eat enough plants. Eating more plants likely would have improved their health and performance! And I can say that because there is a plethora of valid scientific studies showing the positive impact of eating more plants.
Do you really think your meme or disparaging infographic about the documentary helped improve people’s health and performance to the same degree that eating more plants would have?
No, I didn’t think so.
A true rationalist is not just someone who criticises what they see as wrong, but also considers the ramifications of their criticism, and whether it aligns with their values. As a coach, or science communicator, you must be careful to critically examine what you consume as well as what you convey.
Just because you know can see that The Game Changers overplayed their hand, by say, a hypothetical 10% on the benefits of plants, don’t come out so strongly against it, that your opinion on the matter can be used to support or solidify someone else’s beliefs, when they might currently be undervaluing the benefits of plants by a massive 60% (hypothetically). Like the carnivore diet advocates for example.
While I understand that you can’t be entirely responsible for what people do with the information that you put out, I do think many “evidence-based fitness professionals” came out so strongly on the offensive against The Game Changers, that they both directly and indirectly supported many of the arguments made by those who eat only meat.
I just shook my head watching all this unfold. I mean, I at least would rather people eat plants and believe they possess nearly magical qualities, than people not eat them because think they are the cause of all ill health in the modern world and a purely animal-based diet will fix that.
Here we have the concept of the noble lie, a divisive and controversial concept in philosophy, although one that I think has merit. However, I’m unsure how Plato would feel knowing that some of his greatest philosophical work was now being discussed in relation to plant-based diets and social media sh*t-storms, but I digress.
Finally, I will reiterate a point I have written about elsewhere (hyperlink – team science article): While prominent fitness intellectuals often warn against treating information in a binary manner – they still continue to treat sources of information in a binary manner.
This is still dichotomous thinking, just one step removed.