Aug 3, 2017

Razer: Pete Evans releases new wellness ‘doco’ as philosophy and science crumble to low-carb dust

At no time in human history have so many been so cultish in their devotion to so many bad ideas.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Oh, shit. Pete Evans has a new movie out; one that makes the claim that “food is medicine” and that tragic and common disorders like Alzheimer’s can be undone by the power of leafy greens. I could do as I have hitherto done and spend the day on the phone to biochemistry departments in the effort to understand how Evans’ foundational assumptions about the human liver, those based on the “research” of a “wellness expert” whose single enumerated qualification seems to be that she was “raised in a prominent medical family”, are demonstrably bunkum.

Or, we could all just give up on pursuit of this truth thing. In the present era, doubt has given way to absolute denialism and expertise is reviled to the extent that its opposites, like Pete or Donald Trump, are able to claim a peculiar new legitimacy, based entirely on their assurances that there are Things They Don’t Want You To Know.

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19 thoughts on “Razer: Pete Evans releases new wellness ‘doco’ as philosophy and science crumble to low-carb dust

  1. Roger Clifton

    In an increasingly populist world, the increasing anger of the wounded climate will be increasingly taken as evidence of an angry God. We are not so intelligent ourselves; we think that by mounting prayer wheels on our skylines we will be forgiven for their fossil backup that wounds the climate all the more.

    1. Altakoi

      I agree, that has long been my main concern as well. The End of Days will be taken as proof not rebuttal.

    2. AR

      Whereas the hardened containment vessel domes that you would like to see strewn across the land are … what, the Eye of God?

  2. Damien

    The legacy of the enlightenment was only sustained by a hierarchical structure of information distribution (which was imperfect but generally worked pretty well).

    The internet has destroyed this hierarchy, so the internet, for all its benefits, has also destroyed the concept of “truth”. We’re now seeing the legacy of the libertarian wet-dream of freedom from any centrally imposed “ideal” (other than the ones they want to centrally impose of course).

    Welcome to the era of the Dunning-Kruger effect overlord.

  3. Andrew Reilly

    Historically, people have believed all sorts of things, and for the most part it doesn’t matter. For most people it doesn’t even matter if they think the earth flat or round, because the GPS in their mobile phone knows precisely how non-round it is, and so did (some of the) people who built it. It just shows the way. Could be magic.
    I don’t know any more about Paleo Pete than you’ve written in previous columns, but it seems to me that he’s a cook, who publishes recipes of various sorts. Why does it matter what he thinks when he devises them? The people who eat his food will, presumably, still be fed.

    1. Helen Razer

      The public insistence that “food is medicine” and can be used in the place of actual medicine or therapies for a range of disorders, including heart disease and autism, is generally thought of as dangerous.

      1. Andrew Reilly

        How dangerous, though? You can’t make people go to the doctor, at least until they get wheeled into emergency, where they might have ended up anyway. A feed of fresh food, with lots of green leafies (if I’ve understood the cuisine) is unlikely to do much actual damage. Some conditions, like autism don’t have any known “cures” anyway. The usual prescription for many other modern afflictions is “diet and exercise”. Or there’s probably a pill. My doctors recommend the former, with the latter as a threat.

        Regarding the general degeneration of discourse, the post-enlightenment: I first noticed what I catalogued as a “rise of occult thinking” in the eighties, when PCs were new, and non-technical acquaintences had their own preferred incantations and terminology, to make the beasts do their bidding. A sufficient level of arbitrary complexity to deny actual understanding, but useful none the less. How can anyone without ten years of postgraduate engineering hope to apply rationality to the world we now inhabit?

      2. Alexandra Wade

        I may be missing the point, but this seems like a dramatic over-simplification. There is quite a lot of good quality, consistent and valid research evidence for the benefits of certain foods and diets for the prevention of disease, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s/dementia (e.g. flavanols, polyphenols, omega-3s, the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet). Yes, be critical of everything presented to you as ‘evidence’, but by the same token don’t make blanket claims that everything is bullshit, and therefore has no value.

        1. Hoojakafoopy

          I agree. It’s worth remembering that pharmaceuticals are produced by the pharmaceutical INDUSTRY, focussed not on health for health’s sake, but on how it can turn a profit. Not to say that modern medicine is bunkum, but I don’t see the harm in promoting the benefits of a balanced diet and enjoying regular exercise. However I haven’t seen the film in question & am no fan of Paleo Pete.

        2. Helen Razer

          Evans explicitly endorses avoidance of pharmaceuticals and therapies, declaring that “food is medicine”. His recommendations, seen by millions of people, include eschewing sunscreen in favour of a “healthy tan” and feeding your ASD child a diet he has developed, sans medical knowledge, in favour of early intervention therapies.
          Yes, the pharmaceutical industry can hardly be characterised as free from vested interests. Yes, eating a diet rich in plants and low in processes is good. But, come on. Criticism of big business (and let’s not pretend “wellness” is not a big business, with chain store chemists making up to 70% of their profits from the sale of herbs and vitamins) and advocacy for fresh food need not end in Pete Evans. He disseminates poor information to a large sector and he does NOT simply say “eat a better diet” but he encourages people, as did the infamous statins episode on Catalyst and as have the anti-vax, to distrust medicine. He is not just a humble advocate for leafy greens but an anti-civilisation extremist.

  4. paddy

    ” Pete Evans, a man always shy of citation”
    ROTFLMAO Bless you Helen. Line of the day. 🙂

  5. Dog's Breakfast

    I first posited, some time in the late 90’s I think, at the beginning of what I saw as rampant climate change denialism, that there are signs that we are entering another dark ages. Nutrition punditry, anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, the rise of the connectedness and influence of conspiracy theorists, fake news etc, that we are very possibly entering a new ‘dark ages’.

    I’m not so educated to know that philosophy and science are our greatest western traditions, or whether they just happened to occur at the same time, but I very much believe that this is the beginning of the fight, not the end.

    On the other hand, perhaps all these suspicious old buggers can die off and the generations following won’t buy into that crap so much, and restore philosophy and science to their rightful place.

    But that is not likely to happen while the world is spewing out so many MBA’s.

    Thinking, it does not teach.

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      Damn, please excuse repetition there, lack of editing makes a goose of me again! Oops

  6. Duncan Gilbey

    We are witnessing the death of Progress.

  7. mikeb

    I have been eating kale for years to improve my memory. Trouble is I can never remember any recipes.

  8. John Hall

    Maybe this is evolution at work. Anti vaxers and paleo victims will dye younger and won’t pass on their jeans to the op shops. Any who someone in North Korea will build the ultimate AI which will lead to a rapid retirement of the human race to pet or pest status and we won’t have to sit through another Master Chef and put up with Donald Trumps and Coal Crunching Nutbags.

  9. AR

    I think that it was Samuel Clemens who wrote “It’s easier to fool someone than convince them they have been fooled”.
    The “flight from Reason” began with the end of the first flush of hippiedom because its, few, maxims “don’t believe, find out” & “don’t obey without asking why” were just too damned uncomfortable making.
    It is often claimed that Jesus said that “he had come to sort the sheep from the goats” (though it was a common axiom in the Pentateuch) because sheep ar much easier to deal with, they clump together in a mob and are easily driven whereas goats have to be led, by the oldest doe.
    Most people, like sheep, are never happier than when there is another sheep’s bum directly in front of the nose because if something bad happens, it’ll happen to the one in front first.

  10. Wallywonga

    Great article. Being from a medical background I share the despair at not only the rejection of science, but the scientific model of proof.
    Not a comfortable feeling to be managing someone, to be told they “might try the Pete Evans Paleo” instead of a proven therapy.
    Not sure the reason; somehow science has come to represent establishment, but this doesn’t really explain why the ratbag right, who mostly espouse and defend conservative values, are often the most rabid anti-science campaigners.

    1. Wallywonga

      To add a bit of campery, there is a broadway song from Gypsy which sums it all up – “You Gotta Have a Gimmick”. Evans struggled for years in the oversupplied industry of TV chefs. He got sick of playing the “Look at Me” role, so voila, lets create a new way of thinking about food! Ego then took him down the murky path of “life saving”. Who would let scientific proof stand in the way of channel 7 celebrity status?

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