Sunday, November 6, 2011

Deer Hunting, Part I

It is deer season in North Dakota, and on opening day, I went out hunting with four other men. Between the five or us, we got three deer, two does and a buck. Unfortunately, I was one of the two that did not shoot something. We simply ran out of time, as it got dark. I guess that is what next weekend is for! We saw two or three dozen deer during the day, and only two or three other hunters. That is the benefit of living in a geographically large state, with a very small population (670,000 people, about one third of whom live in Fargo).

It was a very good experience. After each kill, we had to field dress the carcass and carry it back to the truck. Since hunting was only allowed on opening day after 12 noon, and since it got dark at about 6:30 p.m., that was not a bad record. Each kill took time to deal with the dead animal. We cleaned the last one in the dark, using flashlights, and could hear the coyotes baying at the moon. I suspect they fed well that night, on all the dear guts left from the field dressing of each kill. This was my first time hunting (after going Paleo, I thought it would be a good thing to kill some of my own meat) and I expect to make it an annual event.

I grew up in Utah, and deer hunting there is very different, as two of my brothers who still live there assure me. For one thing, the deer in Utah are mule deer, and are considerably larger than the white tail deer we hunt in central/eastern North Dakota. But the biggest difference was that North Dakota is basically flat: no lugging deer carcasses up and down mountains. Lugging them back to the truck across flat terrain was hard enough. It gave me new respect for Mark Sisson's advice to move and lift heavy things on a regular basis.

Assuming I get my deer next week, I am very tempted to take up bow hunting as well. There is something deeply primal about stalking a deer with a bow, then having to chase the animal down after it is wounded.

The only problem with North Dakota deer: I am pretty sure these deer spent much of the last two months gorging on corn and other crops, as this is an agricultural state. So much for grass-fed deer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Credibility and the "Safe Starch" Debate

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his
salary depends upon his not understanding it."  --Upton Sinclair

Are all carbohydrates bad? No. In a post today on Robb Wolf's blog about meat and potatoes, Matt Lentzner said:  "Judging a food solely by its macronutrient composition is stupid. It’s hard to believe it has taken us 50 years to figure that out. We have good fats (saturated and omega-3’s) and bad fats (omega-6’s), good carbs (starch) and bad carbs (fructose), good proteins (meat) and bad proteins (gluten). It’s the quality of the macronutrient, not it’s classification, that makes it good or bad."

I agree with Lentzner that it is quality, not classification, and that it is stupid to judge a food solely by its macronutrient composition. I didn't always believe this, but I do now.

Why is it so hard to understand that there might be "good carbs," or, in the parlance of the debate du jour, "safe starches?" Why is the idea of a "safe starch" so threatening to so many people?  The whole safe starch debate was really surprising to me, until I stumbled across the quote above by Upton Sinclair. Then, all of a sudden, a light went on.

It appears to me that the major proponents of the "all carbs are bad" school of thought (I won't name names, but it isn't too hard to do) all make a good portion of their livelihood (if not all of their livelihood) from promoting this idea. It also appears to me that the major defenders of the safe starch debate, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, do not make their livelihood promoting the Perfect Health Diet, so they are more flexible in and open to accepting new information. The same is true with Kurt Harris and his Archevore diet and for others. Their livelihood does not depend on defending a certain belief or viewpoint at all costs, so they are able to go against the grain when strong evidence is available.

The idea that there may be "safe starches" (good carbs) must be incredibly threatening to those whose livelihoods depend on not believing this idea. So they reflexively defend it at all costs. As a professor at a state-sponsored university, I do the same thing when people suggest cutting state funds for higher education. I am not immune to the impulse. Even if I intellectually understand the arguments about out-of-control higher education spending, I am viscerally against them, as my livelihood is at stake. So I am not throwing stones, just seeking more wisdom on the topic.

But it does lead me to this conclusion: arguments made by those without a vested interest in the debate are more credible than those made by people whose income is threatened by the debate. Just as I lack credibility on questions of funding for higher education.