BUTTER AND THE SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS

Those few of you who read my Blog or my postings on Facebook know that I am not a fan of the “scientific consensus.” Actually, it’s not the actual scientific consensus with which I have a problem. It is the fact that as soon as said consensus forms, its first course of action is to suppress any dissent. Don’t be fooled by the high-toned talk that comes out of the academic arena about integrity, honesty or the search for truth. That’s all crap. If you are a dissenter in the realm of academic institutions or as they are called today, a ‘denier,’ your chance to get tenure may be threatened. Your very job may be at risk. Your opportunities to be employed at another institution will likely be impossible.

History is replete with ‘deniers’ who turned out to be right in their dissent of the scientific consensus. I include in this Galileo Galilei who is persistently cast by the liberal left as a representative of the consensus who was silenced by the denier Catholic Church. The facts are exactly the reverse. The Church adopted the scientific consensus and Galileo was, in fact, the ‘denier’ who was punished by the Church.

In the mid-1950s, a physiologist named Ansel Keys studied diet and coronary disease in 7 countries and came to the conclusion that the key to heart health (he coined the term “heart healthy diet”) was to restrict cholesterol and fat. Although he admitted there was very little evidence that diet affected atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) he began a campaign to rid American’s diets of those deadly fats and cholesterol. That lack of clear evidence did not prevent a number of health related organizations from signing on to Keys’ mantra through the 1960s. In 1968 Senator George McGovern established the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.

In 1977 McGovern’s committee established the scientific consensus by publishing a report written entirely by political activists on McGovern’s staff with absolutely no expertise in the field of nutrition. The report stated that Americans should cut their fat intake to less than 30% of total calories. The report was turned into official US Government policy by Carol Foreman, a consumer activist who had been appointed assistant secretary of the Dept. of Agriculture’s Food and Consumer Services.

After the fact, the government solicited the opinion of the experts on the subject and then ignored what most of them said – that there was no real proof to support the government’s scientific consensus. But scientific consensus it was and the effects spread quickly through Americans’ diets. Farmers bred the fat (and the wonderful taste) out of pork. Cholesterol became the watchword for the grocery shopping public. But most of all, butter was declared public enemy #1.

There was just the teeniest tiniest little problem. It was ALL wrong. In the ensuing years the occasional denier popped up and quietly disappeared. But the scientific studies piled up. It is now known that the scientific consensus was wrong, though shades of it persist in the culture. Walter Willett, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, told the New York Times, “A lot of people had made their careers telling people to eat margarine instead of butter. When I was a physician in the 1980s, that’s what I was telling people to do and unfortunately we were often sending them to their graves prematurely.”