I have some time for a bit of fun tonight.
I’ve been reading about a rare event in Australia. An MP there has shown some common sense. You can read Dick Puddlecote’s take on that event here:
The occasion of that outbreak of common sense was an Oz Parliamentary enquiy into childhood overweight and obesity. You will immediately observe the conflation of ‘overweight and obesity’. It really does surprise me about how easily the Zealots get away with such juxtapositions.
Is there a definition of ‘overweight’? The Cambridge English dictionary has only two definitions:
- Heavier than permitted (eg. luggage).
But there is another hilarious take in the dictionary – synonyms:
“ample baby fat beefy blubber broad in the beam buxom chubby dumpy fatness fatten up fatty heavyset husky middle-age spread obesity pudgy puppy fat roly-poly rotund well built” and more if you care to look. I can’t be bothered to put in all the commas. Note the presence of the word ‘obesity’ in the synonyms.
Is that not wonderful? The meaning of the word ‘overweight’ is so ephemeral that the Cambridge dictionary could come up with nothing better than ‘ fat’, and its synonyms.
What this means is that academics who are supposed to quantify their research have no precise definition of what they are researching. Any figures that they produce about how many people are overweight mean sweet bugger all when the best meaning of overweight that can be produced is ‘fat’. You might, at the same time, question the meaning of the word ‘thin’.
But we all know what we mean by words like ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ and we do not need precise definitions. We know what a ‘fat salary’ means; we know what ‘thin gruel’ means.We do not need precision. But academic need precision to build their computer models. How do they build their computer models without precision? The trick that they use is averaging.
But that does not really help us in defining what overweight means. We need another trick. That trick was invented in the 19th century (or before?). It is ‘body mass index’. The calculation produces a number. The formula is weight divided by height squared. Thus, a man who is about six feet tall and weighs about 12 stones will have a BMI of about 20. (NB. For that calculation, I translated 6′ into 2 metres and 12 stone into 76 kilos). It can be confusing to make the correct statement about that number ’20’ as the BMI. What it should read, for that individual, is ’20 kilos per square metre’. Thus, the weight of our imaginary man would be 20 kilos x 4 square metres (since he is 2 metres tall, and 2 squared is 4. 4 x 20 = 80, which is 80 kilos – as near as damn it the weight of our man.
But, for a man who is over 6′ tall, is a BMI of 20 (kg per m²) a healthy weight? I have known lots of men who are very tall but slim, and I have known a lot of men who are very tall and heavily built (who tend to become prop-forwards in rugby teams). I doubt that any of them could be called ‘unhealthy’. And that is another thing – a high BMI or a low BMI does not mean unhealthy.
Combining BMI and the word ‘overweight’ is a double ephemera. It is a ghost multipied by a ghost. It is utterly meaningless.
And yet academics swear that their precise computer models are accurate, and can forecast the prevalence of, say, diabetes.
On the other hand, OBESITY, meaning grossly fat, really is dangerous for the individuals involved. And there we have another problem for the academics. A BMI score is meaningless. Which grossly fat individuals are in danger?
I had a most interesting experience some years ago. I was in Magalluf and, at the time, there was an international chess competition going on there. I decided to spend an hour or two ‘observing’. More than anything, I just wanted to see how such competitions proceeded since it is hardly possible to watch any one game. On the way there, I was passed by a grossly fat man. I mean gross. He was like a ball of fat on legs. Two Spanish girls were walking in the same direction. After the guy had passed us, the two girls could not help themselves – they emitted sounds of disgust, as you do when someone farts in the pub. But the funniest thing was that this huge, very wobbly lump of fat (overweight?) had come from the sports complex where the chess comp was being held! Were the girls cruel? I think so. I thought their thoughts, but did not make nasty hate-crime noises. If the guy had been to the sports complex and done some exercise, then he was trying, and that is the best that he could do.
Something that intregued me about the session which Dick P talks about was the nature of the person who was appearing before the enquiry and making claims about the importance of taxing sugar. Her name is Jane Martin – ‘Jane Martin, BA (Hons), MPH’. I did not know what ‘MHP’ meant so I looked it up. It means ‘Master of Public Health’. It is hard not to ‘laugh out loud’, it really is. How does a person become a ‘MASTER of Public Health’? Is there a difference between ‘Professor’ of PH, ‘Doctor’ of PH, and ‘MASTER’ of PH? Here is her profile from Cancer Council Australia:
Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) and Alcohol and Obesity Policy at Cancer Council Victoria
Jane Martin, BA (Hons), MPH, is Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) and of Alcohol and Obesity Policy at Cancer Council Victoria.
The OPC is a partnership of Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Australia Victoria, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University. In her role at OPC, Jane advocates for policy and regulatory reform to prevent overweight and obesity, with a focus on food marketing, labelling, and tax and pricing measures.
For over twenty-five years, Jane has worked extensively in public health advocacy, first in tobacco control then in obesity prevention. Her interests lie in advocacy, policy oriented research and using evidence based arguments for policy reform.
She has published a number of book chapters, papers on tobacco control and obesity prevention policy, and is active in the media and with other related advocacy initiatives. She is a member of the Expert Committee on Obesity for the Australian Government’s National Preventative Health Agency, the National Advisory Group for the Parents Jury, Chair of the Public Health Sub-Committee of the Australia New Zealand Obesity Society and is on the Board of Family Planning Victoria.
In 2011 Jane was awarded the Jack Brockhoff Foundation Churchill Fellowship to study advocacy strategies to encourage government to adopt evidence-based policies to prevent Australians becoming overweight and obese and travelled to the UK and USA for eight weeks from late 2012.
The question that come into my mind is, “Who pays her and what for?” Do university student pay her to teach them, or do they also pay her to amuse herself? Does the Gov pay her to teach, or to amuse herself?
But the best thing in Dick P’s exposure is that she could only spout generalities in her evidence to the Inquiry, which ‘Peter Phelps, an Australian politician and Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council’, tore apart. She could only fall back on slogans. It really is weird. The only thing that she could suggest, to deal with grossly fat ‘children’, was to tax ‘sugary drinks’ for everyone. But the number of grossly fat children is minuscule, so why impose taxes on everyone? Why not address the problems of those few individuals?
But I am as sure as sure can be that the Oz Government will side with the academics. What choice does the Oz Government have? It set up the pre-eminence of Academics. Are there Academics in Oz who decide which boat people heading for Australia should be allowed in and which should be detained on an off-shore island? Do they have a computer model depicting which boats should ‘sunk with all hands’, and which should be allowed to berth? They should have, since they have no affinity or affection for their fellow human beings.
It has become obvious, as Blakeman MP has has just recently announced, that the objective of Tobacco Control is to destroy the tobacco industry. That is also the objective of the WHO. Health has little to do with it – it is political. It is about the use of land. Land should not be used to grow tobacco plants when it could be used to grow potatoes. That ‘aspiration’ was vocalised by a previous UN WHO boss who said that those countries which grow masses of tobacco plants could ‘diversify’. “Let the eat cakes” comes to mind.
What seems to be happening is that ‘Academics’ are assumed to produce ‘truth’. After all, they are ‘experts’, are they not? The reality is that they are not ‘experts’ at all. It is like ‘academic experts’ describing how a garage mechanic goes about conducting an MOT test. The only ‘expert’ there is the mechanic. Collating information is easy. Expertise is not easy.
I am beginning to detest ‘experts’, and I am surprised that Universities tolerate them. I am surprised that our Government allows time paid for by student fees to be used for extraneous purposes. Academics who are paid by student fees should not use that time for personal pursuits. They should use their own time for those pursuits. Witness the collection of ‘offices’ which Jane Martin has accumulated above. Did she accumulate those offices in her own time or in student-paid time?
There is a corruption, but, like carbon monoxide, you cannot smell it.
Finally, for tonight, a ditty. The words of the song ‘Those were the days’ need only be changed a little:
These are the days my friend,
We know they’ll never end,
We’ll sing and dance forever and a day.
We’ll live the life we choose,
We’ll fight and never lose,
For we are Dons and sure to have our way.
Acedemics are often described as ‘Dons’, but you do not see that description much these days. ‘Don’ = ‘Boss’. I dare say that the use of the word ‘Don’ was expunged around the time that academics became ‘Experts’.
Gosh! How I detest them!