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belief intersecting with truth gives you knowledge. The difference between fact and opinion is great and help you discern if soy or dairy is the way to go. See John Robbins. What about aspartame as a healthy sweetener? And Gore and global warming

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Beliefs For Sale
Belief truth

We'd like to believe that what we believe represents the truth. What if it doesn't?

A couple of days ago, a friend e -mailed me a link to an article headlined "This 'Beloved' Food Can Cause Allergic Reactions For Years -- and Infertility For Generations."  

This food in question:  soy.  I consume a lot of it.   The link went to a respected and frequented web site of a doctor heralded for his holistic healing views.   He summarizes things he read elsewhere -- in this case here --  and then adds his own two cents about it. 

So is it true?  Is getting the masses to believe (unfermented) soy is a health food a "perfect example of how a brilliant marketing strategy can fool millions," as the Doc maintains. The Doc goes on to say that "the risks of consuming unfermented soy products far outweigh the possible benefits . . . [there are] thousands of studies linking soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility -- even cancer and heart disease."  Could soy even be responsible for the U.S. national deficit, the radiation scare in Japan, and the reason that Finnish girl in that beer bar in Helsinki on New Year's Eve in 1991 went home with someone else?

I didn't know what to believe.  A few months back,  I watched Food, Inc  and listened to a series of podcasts which covered the strong corn and soy lobbies in the United States.  The motives for the soybean lobby seemed clear:  hype soy's endless magical benefits, true or not, to get the population to embrace it and increase their profits.  If unfermented soy were really such a demonic food, it wouldn't be the first time the public was lied to.

On the other hand, soy being so terrible for you made absolutely no sense.  Tofu has been around since 164 BC, if you believe the most commonly held theory for its origins.    East Asians and Southeast Asians embraced it and, up to their recent lust for Western fast food, were leaner and healthier than the average American.  Edamame, a preparation of young soybeans in the pod, another unfermented soy dish, is commonly eaten by the Japanese, whose life expectancies are among the highest in the world.   If unfermented soy was as bad as the media was now saying, shouldn't the Asians who've traditionally been big consumers of it have suffered more reproductive disorders and infertility, immune system disruptions, and thyroid problems -- at least before globalization brought soy to the West and junk food to the East?

Prior to reading that link about the horrors of soy, I believed soy, at least non-genetically modified soy used in unprocessed foods, to be good for the body.  I still do, particularly after reading this well written evenhanded article by John Robbins.  Much of the conclusions made about soy were drawn from genetically modified strains or the effects of soy on animals were presumed to be the same for humans.  My belief, however, doesn't make it true.  Something is true or false regardless of a personal belief on the matter.   And real knowledge is only acquired where our beliefs intersect with the real truth. 

Now here's the problem.  Our beliefs can be and are manipulated by broadcasts sent from the most powerful and loudest industries.  Meanwhile, the truth can be hidden or disguised, so that we have no idea what the real truth even is.  The picture produced is unfounded belief intersecting with a mistaken view of what is true, an intersection that can no longer be called genuine knowledge.    

Look at this common example.    To this day, most people, even those considered conventionally intelligent, believe that dairy is one of the finest sources of calcium.  Per 100 gram portion, cow's milk contains 120 mg of calcium, about four times the calcium found in human breast milk, though the human milk has over twice the bioavailability.  For now let's put aside the issue of how much of the calcium in the cow's milk is actually absorbed by the body and just focus on the content.  An identical portion of almonds, amaranth, black or pinto beans, chick peas, collard greens, dandelion greens, hazelnuts, kale, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and water cress, to name just a few items, contain the same as or more calcium than cow's milk. 

So why do most people associate dairy first with calcium?  Because they've been told to, endlessly, by their country's dairy lobbies.  As most of us are what New Age conspiracist David Icke calls 'repeaters,' we hear and register what we've been told and repeat the message, without question.

And what about global warming?   It's taken as a given that the globe is heating up due to anthropogenic impact.  Al Gore shouted that message in his Academy Award-winning movie An Inconvenient Truth and won a Nobel Peace Prize for it, so it must be true.  Yet it does seem strange that this imminent catastrophe, as Gore calls it, only came to the public's wide attention since Gore left the White House and went into the private sector.   Only thirty-five years ago, the talk in the mainstream was of global cooling, as printed in this 1975 Newsweek article.  Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and professor of meteorology  at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote about his skepticism of global warming way back in 1992 before Gore came publicly onto the warming scene.     Christopher Monckton, a former policy advisor to ex-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, points out 35 "inconvenient truths" in Gore's movie.  Monckton/Lindzen and Gore can't both be right.

You'll see this dichotomy all around you.  In a trial, one expert witness swears something is true while another expert witness swears the opposite.  The artificial sweetener aspartame is deemed to be safe for humans in more than ninety countries, and American FDA officials describe it as "one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the agency has ever approved," according to a 1999 article in FDA Consumer Magazine.    But elsewhere, you hear that aspartame is an excitotoxin, damaging nerve cells killed by excessive stimulation of neurotransmitters.   Both sides can't be right.

We're not talking about opinions here, such as which policy should we adopt for the environment.  Two camps may have different views on that subject and both could be beneficial.  Nor are we asking questions that are a matter of taste, like which chocolate bar is the best

Our questions are much simpler.  Either dairy is one of the best sources of bioavailable calcium or it's not.  Either the world is warming due to human-instigated factors or it's not.   Either aspartame is safe  -- with safe defined in an unambiguous fashion most of us would agree on -- or it's not.

Multiple parties are trying to sell us differing sets of beliefs.  From whom do we make our purchase?  Where do we look to get the real truth in order to broaden our real knowledge?

Let's look at how you suss out "the truth" in other situations.  If you were in the market to purchase a brand new car, how would you go about finding the best car for your needs?  First, you'd look up vehicles that fit your budget range.  Then, you'd look up the specs on the vehicles to see which provided the best bang for your bucks.   After that, you'd want to acquire as much information as you could about safety and reliability and whether the company manufacturing it was in good standing.   Last, you'd visit the car lot, armed with all your findings, and ask some pointed questions to the salesman to see if the car truly met your needs. 

I wrote in The Lack Of A Lack Of Quality that you usually can't believe a salesman's word.  If all of us were only willing to work for employers and in situations that suited our highest good, then all of us would be regularly operating from a point of high integrity.  In such a world, a salesman wouldn't be working at a particular place unless he truly believed in the quality of the product he was selling.  He could then honestly tell you about his experiences with the product, and if what he said vibrated with you, you'd make a purchase.  But unfortunately, that's not the case.  The salesman trying to hawk you that "best" Chevrolet today would turn around and sell you a Honda tomorrow if he were working at a Honda lot.  

After you'd done copious amounts of research on the vehicle you were thinking of buying, queried the salesman about it, and he gave you facts that you knew to be erroneous, you'd then have good reason not to believe a further word the salesman said, even if some of what he said was true.  His motives would be obvious.  He'd be putting his personal profit above your well being. 

The same could be said for the many other "salesman" out there trying to get you to believe in their agendas.  I have a simple method I follow to stay alert.  Just follow the money trail and your own information trail to gauge the likelihood of a salesman trying to meet his own interests over yours.

Is dairy really the best way to get calcium?  No, it's not, and if I wanted to argue further, I could say dairy products aren't very healthy for you at all (but I'll leave that discussion for another time).  Dairy makes up a huge segment of country's economies.  Australia has a A$9bn dairy industry; the state of Oregon, $1bn.  In 2008, California's dairy business generated $63bn in economic activity and almost a half a million fulltime jobs.   There's a clear monetary incentive, right to the top of governments, to convince the public that milk does a body good.  That's a red flag to be alert about anything glowingly reported about dairy.   It's hard to see as clear and as lucrative a profit trail with the anti-dairy coalition.  Their main mission appears to be to educate the public about the myriad health myths ascribed to dairy. 

The money trail is even easier to follow with global warming.  The conventional belief today, propounded by Gore in particular, is that man's actions are the cause of global warming.  "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb" warns the website for his film.  Gore is well known for advocating that we all live carbon-neutral lifestyles, yet at the time of the release of his film, there was no evidence that Gore was practicing much of what he preached.  He and his then wife lived in a 10,000-square foot mansion in Nashville and a 4,000 square foot home in Arlington, Virginia, neither of which were using green energy.  According to the Tennessee Center For Policy Research, Al Gore's Nashville manse used more than twice the electricity in one month than the average American household consumes in an entire year.  Gore's entreaties to go green ring as hollow as a car salesman urging you to "Buy American" as he sits behind the wheel of his Mercedes or Lexus. 

Follow the trail, and you'll see that Al Gore's agenda is cool hard cash, and he's minted at least $100m of it since he left public office.   He backs a cap and trade scheme for carbon emissions that creates an artificial scarcity in the right to produce energy.  He is chairman and one of the founders of Generation Investment Management (GIM).   Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former Goldman Sachs CEO is another founder.  With Gore's ample ties to finance and government, he and his company are well poised to cash in on carbon trading if/when emissions legislation is enacted by his government buddies -- what would amount to a stealth tax on consumers.  

Aspartame is a different name, but the same situation of the well connected flitting in between the public and private sectors and crafting the situation to enrich their own and their backers' pockets.   Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, was CEO of Searle, the conglomerate which manufactured aspartame.  The sweetener had first been discovered, by accident, in 1965.  For 16 years, the FDA wouldn't approve it.    The first application for FDA approval was made in 1973 and turned down.  In 1981, with Rumsfeld on President Reagan's transition team,  Reagan approved a new FDA commissioner, Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr, and in 1983 aspartame was given the greenlight, to be used in carbonated beverages.   In 1985, genetically modified food giant Monsanto purchased Searle for $2.7bn, earning Rumsfeld an estimated $12m.  The rest is drinking history.  

How do the anti-aspartamers profit to this extent?  They don't.  There is not one clearly defined rival that could swoop in to take aspartame's throne if aspartame were banned tomorrow. Three years ago, there was talk that Natur Research Ingredients was seeking to gets its all-natural sweetener, Cweet, generally recognized as safe status from the U.S. FDA.  The all-natural sweetener stevia has been around for awhile, and you can now find sodas manufactured with it, but stevia is made from a plant.  It's not a drug, and as such, there's no patent on it and no one company that would rake in the lion's share of sweet profits if aspartame vanished. 

As a kid, I thought I could read the encyclopedia to acquire knowledge.  My family had a dated 1960 Encyclopedia Britannica edition in the house, a relic from my parents' newlywed days, so at least I knew the 'knowledge' I was receiving wasn't completely accurate.  Today, we all have virtual encyclopedias in our homes, via the internet, updated perpetually, not once a year.  We have access to news feeds 24/7.  At the touch of our fingertips, we can always find someone willing to tell us what to believe, and if we hear it enough times from what appear to be different (but may actually be the same) sources, we take those beliefs to be facts and build ourselves a foundation of knowledge as shaky as American subprime mortgages pre-2008. Few take the time to probe further to analyze if what they've been told adds up.

Just like buying anything, buying a belief is best done from someone who has no desperate interest in selling to you.     The first thing a person who's found real truth does is not aggressively sell space in a workshop promising to help you find the truth.  Buddha did not run enlightenment seminars -- or even start Buddhism.

If you want the real truth, you must actively take a role in going out there to find it.  The truth, you'll see, obeys an unusual price structure.  The real cost comes from never finding it.  For those who make the effort, it's given away free.      

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