The Sad Deficiency of Professor Wolfram Schultz

Chris Snowdon on plans for plain packaging of food:

“We should not advertise, propagate or encourage the unnecessary ingestion of calories,” Schultz said at a press conference held on Monday to announce the winners of the 2017 Brain Prize. “There should be some way of regulating the desire to get more calories. We don’t need these calories.”

I wonder what the “Brain Prize” is? Perhaps the recipients are given a new brain? Or given their very first one? Professor Wolfram Schultz could do certainly do with a new one, by the sound of it.

How much energy do we need? According to one source, an average daily energy intake of 2,100 kcal (or 8,800 kJ) is about right. But this will be making many assumptions about the sort of life people lead. For example, assumptions about the temperature of the environment in which they live.

The core human body temperature is about 37°C, and is always maintained very near this value. If you live in a cold climate, your body will lose heat (calories) faster to the cold environment than it would in a hot climate, and you will need correspondingly more food to compensate – unless of course you wear more clothes to reduce the rate of heat loss. So just living in a cold climate will usually entail a higher food energy intake.

Equally, if you are regularly performing a great deal of physical work (calories, once again) – like digging ditches, or carrying stones – you will need a correspondingly greater food energy intake to compensate. And if you live on the top floor of a tower block, and must walk up many flights of stairs several times a day, you are going to have to do m.g.h (where m is your body mass plus all the clothes and bags you’re carrying, g is gravitational acceleration, and h is the height you have to climb) more work (calories) each time you climb the stairs than someone living on the ground floor, because you don’t win it all back each time you walk downstairs again. I used, when I was younger, to have to climb 64 steps from the front door to my top floor flat, so I know.

In fact, if you simply weigh more than most people do, you will be doing more work than them while simply walking around on flat ground. Because with every step that people take, they lift themselves slightly off the ground, and in lifting themselves they are doing the same m.g.h work they do climbing staircases or lifting stones, except that h is just an inch or so with each step.

So if you’re a fat man who lives on the top floor of a tower block on the top of a hill in some hilly city, you’ll be doing much more work than a thin man who lives in a ground floor flat at the bottom of a hill – particularly if your top floor apartment is also subjected to freezing high winds.

The amount of food energy that any one single person needs is never going to be exactly the same as another person’s, because everybody is slightly different from everybody else, and will necessarily inhabit a slightly different environment. And it’s not possible for Professor Wolfram Schultz, or any other professor in his university, to determine what those needs will be, or at what exact point extra calories become “unnecessary” – particularly when those extra “unnecessary” calories will be stored as handy body fat which can be mobilised in an emergency.

But, all that aside, even if it was possible for someone to know exactly what their daily food energy needs might be on any given day (for they will also vary from day to day), why should they put down their fork halfway through eating, say, a plateful of chocolate sponge pudding, and declare “That’s quite enough! With that last mouthful, I met my 8,427.237 kJ energy budget for the day, and have no need of a single spoonful more”? What’s wrong with having more than you need? Why shouldn’t you finish off the plate, and have an Irish coffee afterwards as well? Why should people only do things they need to do, and never do anything in the least bit unnecessary? Where does this moral imperative come from?

The same moral imperative is being employed to induce smokers to stop smoking, and drinkers to stop drinking. You don’t need cigarettes! You don’t need beer! And now we have a university professor who’s telling people they don’t need food, and it must be put in “plain packaging” to deter them from eating it. The same imperative can be used against anything. If you don’t need beer and cigarettes, you also don’t need music or books or TVs. And you don’t need cinemas or theatres or casinos. And you don’t need laughter or friendship or sex either. All you really need is a prison cell, and a diet of bread and water.

Such questions as these are entirely familiar to me. I was chewing them over 20 years ago in Idle Theory. I was thinking a lot about wants and needs back then. And in Idle Theory there was a sharp distinction between the two. What you needed was whatever served to maintain or increase idleness. What you wanted was whatever you might wish to do in your idle time – like sit in a pub drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. And I could well see that wants and needs were in profound senses contradictory. In meeting your needs, you stored up idle time for yourself. In indulging your wants, you spent that time – maybe even killed that time.

The moral imperative of consuming the exact amount of food that you need, and not a spoonful more, grows out of a circumstance where food is scarce, and those last few spoonfuls of chocolate sponge pudding could have meant the difference between life and death for a hungry child on the other side of the table. The moral imperative is of sharing out equally what is in short supply. But it ceases to be a moral imperative when food is abundant, and there are chocolate sponge puddings hanging from every tree, and the fat kid on the other side of the table has just eaten three of them.

The same is true of anything else. Water, for example. In some places – the middle of the Sahara desert – water is very scarce, and it is imperative to conserve it, and not waste it unnecessarily. But in other places, water is very abundant. In fact, too abundant:

Of all the countries in the continent of Europe, we must have the least need to conserve water.  Our problem is that we have too much of the fucking stuff and have a major problem getting rid of it.  Ask anyone in the Shannon Basin about a lack of water and you are likely to get shot.

Why should Grandad in Ireland “conserve” water, as if it was something as extremely scarce as in the middle of the Sahara desert, when gallons of it are raining down on him more or less every single day?

Or flat ground. In lots of places in the world, there’s lots and lots of flat ground. But other places are very mountainous, and if you don’t walk around very carefully you’re quite likely to fall off a cliff, and so it’s imperative to watch your step very carefully. But that doesn’t mean that someone walking around on a flat sandy beach must also watch their step equally carefully, because there are no cliffs to fall off. There might be other perils. But cliffs isn’t one of them.

I could go on. Anyway, I hope that Prof Schultz eventually wins one of those Brain Prizes. He could do with one. For it certainly looks like there’s a severe shortage of brains in Cambridge University.

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About Frank Davis

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23 Responses to The Sad Deficiency of Professor Wolfram Schultz

  1. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Oh dear another highly paid nutter. Depressing isn’t it !

  2. Rose says:

    You aren’t going to like it, Frank.

    I’ve read about this somewhere else but can’t find the article.

    Three scientists won a prize because they say everything you ever think, say or do is purely down to the pursuit of dopamine. You know, those “pleasure centres” that Chantix is meant to knock out.

    Prize for cracking brain’s ‘feel good’ system

    “Three UK-based scientists have won a prestigious prize worth 1m euros for studying the brain’s reward centre.
    Their work helps understand our drive to shop, eat or even land on the moon.
    Reward is necessary for keeping us alive, but it can also spiral out of control leading to gambling and drug addiction.

    Wolfram Schultz, Peter Dayan and Ray Dolan said winning The Brain Prize – the biggest in the field of neuroscience – was a “great honour”.

    “The trio’s work over three decades has unravelled the critical role of the brain chemical dopamine.
    It triggers a set of brain cells to respond whenever there is a reward. And eventually the brain responds even in anticipation of the reward.
    “This makes us go for more reward and individuals that have more reward have a higher chance of survival,” said Prof Wolfram Schulz, at the University of Cambridge.”

    “But as well as keeping us alive, the dopamine system can go horribly wrong.
    It is very obvious in people with Parkinson’s diseases who are treated with drugs to boost dopamine.
    Prof Ray Dolan, from UCL, told the BBC: “It can often have very negative effects leading to excess gambling.
    “I’ve had patients when treated with these drugs have resorted to gambling, often secretive, and this has resulted in the tragedy of them losing their entire life savings.”
    Other patients have suddenly developed compulsive shopping habits.
    Obesity is another example of a reward system that is now damaging health.

    Prof Sir Colin Blakemore, from the Brain Prize selection committee, said: “The implications of these discoveries are extremely wide-ranging, in fields as diverse as economics, social science, drug addiction and psychiatry”.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39183178

    And you thought it was bad when only smokers protests were dismissed as “it’s just the drug speaking” Now everyone else can be dismissed similarly.

    • petesquiz says:

      Looks perfect as the first step towards controlling everyone’s Dopamine levels, thus turning the human race into automata with our ‘pleasures’ carefully regulated by the State.

      • Manfred says:

        Exactly.
        Designate anything even theoretically pleasurable as an ‘addiction’. Fits nicely with Cultural Marxism and the necessity to acquire a victim identity. Dispense with the notion of independent choice. Bring in the regulating Borg and big Parma. Resistance is futile. We all require urgent ongoing treatment.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s all rather Orwellian. The worst of it is that types like Schultz aren’t just interested in learning how people work, but they also want to control people.

  3. Lisboa says:

    Whatever next? Plain packaging for clothes? (Take our word for it, it’s the exact shade of blue you’re looking for.) Plain packaging for shoes? (Take our word for it, sizes are standardised: a 5 is a 5.) Or how about plain packaging for scholarly books? (Pick a book, any book.)

    • waltc says:

      Actually yesterday someone posted an item on fb about a bookstore in Australia that does just that: covers all the books in plain brown paper (so you won’t judge them by or be distracted by their covers) and simply scrawls their genre –crime, economics–in Magic Marker on the paper, meanwhile sealing the paper with twine so you can’t open it or browse. Perhaps the next step will be to plaster them with pictures of weeping women or vomiting men to illustrate the health consequences of reading them

  4. Rose says:

    “Sell high calorie foods in plain packaging to beat obesity, says Brain Prize winner”

    Well at least we know now why Professor Wolfram Schultz said it, he was doing it for the buzz.

  5. slugbop007 says:

    slugbop007 says: March 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    In Quebec we now have the Nine Meter Rule. The entrance to The Goethe Institute in Montreal is on a street corner. They have put up several anti-smoking plaques demanding that this nine meter rule/regulation/decree be obeyed. Nine meters away on all four sides of the street would put the legal zone to smoke somewhere in the middle of the intersection, thereby obstructing vehicular traffic and putting the smoker’s life at risk. The nine meter rule has also been recently posted once more in the building that I live in, nailed to the wall and protected by a plastic frame. The paper versions from several months ago were all torn down by some of my fellow residents. I would like to squirt this plaque with a water pistol filled with ink, or put a swastika sticker on it but am aware that there is a surveillance camera lurking somewhere in the lobby watching our every move. Recently I purchased some stick ons and am now composing antii anti slogans and posting them in bus shelters and lamp posts around the city. They get scraped off, I replace them. Pharmaceutical companies in Quebec are soliciting guinea pigs to assist them in testing new drugs. The key word used is ‘Fier’, which means proud. My stick on continues with the words d’être un Nico Nazi. In English, Proud to be a Nico Nazi.

    I read somewhere that Sir Isaac Newton smoked a pipe, as did J.S. Bach, Immanuel Kant, Einstein, Hubble, Mozart, Beethoven and who knows who else. My idea is to search for the names and images of all the great composers, thinkers, scientists, astronomers, artists, writers, statesmen, women (George Sand?) etc who were smokers and make up our own posters. On these posters one half would be statements about their accomplishments, etc. The other part would have hateful, derogatory statements from the anti-tobacco crowd: filthy, dirty, smelly, self-loathing, child murderers etc.  We should demand that all of these eminent people be banned from existence. Go ahead, ban them all. Go the whole hog. Dare these people, incite them, on radio and TV, in the newspapers to go all the way with their deranged, fascistic, totalitarian program.

    The new Trudeau Government of Canada is considering plain packaging. KPMG has written a study that shows that it didn’t work in Australia.

    slugbop007

    Reply slugbop007 says: March 6, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I forgot George Orwell and Churchill, among others. John Wayne. Hitler quit smoking, took up vegetarianism and became a mass murderer. So, not all smokers are bad, evil and not every non-smoker is good, virtuous. Debra Arnott is a loathsome cunt. Tie her up and put her in the middle of the street. 

    slugbop007

  6. slugbop007 says:

    I found this website about two weeks ago. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t. There are dozens of articles and links to other articles. A gold mine.

    http://www.tctactics.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

    slugbop007

  7. Rose says:

    “He added: ‘Colourful wrapping of high energy foods of course makes you buy more of that stuff and once you have it in your fridge, it’s in front of you every time you open the fridge and ultimately you’re going to eat it and eat too much.’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4288348/Wrap-junk-food-plain-paper-stop-people-overeating.html

    Previously

    How the Food Makers Captured Our Brains
    2009
    “As head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David A. Kessler served two presidents and battled Congress and Big Tobacco. But the Harvard-educated pediatrician discovered he was helpless against the forces of a chocolate chip cookie.”

    “But Dr. Kessler is perhaps best known for his efforts to investigate and regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive.”

    “Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire.”
    http: //www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/health/23well.html

    No silly, it’s the colourful packaging.

  8. Frank Davis says:

    A few years old, but still true.

    Everything to be labelled with terrifying images of death
    19-02-13

    ALL products will soon feature graphic imagery illustrating how they might kill you.

    Vivid stickers showing stick figures dying horribly will be plastered over goods ranging from apples to socks.

    A government spokesman said: “In the past, consumers have simply looked at things and decided whether to buy them based on what they are.

    “But what about the hidden dangers? We all know it’s possible to choke on an apple, but also pieces of sliced apple can have razor-sharp edges.

  9. junican says:

    Should we be cheering? The more hideous pictures appear on everyday items, the sooner people will start protesting in large numbers. Remember the poll tax?

  10. Oi you says:

    Cambridge? Blimey, there’s no hope for any of us anymore. Even Diane Abbott got her degree there. Complete waste of a degree….

    :o)

  11. Clicky says:

  12. Rose says:

    If you’ve ever had the misfortune to land on John Banzhaf’s Obesity links website in the course of your researches you’ll know where all this started and why it’s assumed that you can no longer think for yourself.

    John Banzhaf: In His Own Litigious Words

    “Say what you will about John Banzhaf, George Washington University law professor and leader of the litigious anti-food crusade, at least he makes no attempt to conceal his scurrilous designs. On the contrary, this litigating busy body has clearly articulated his utopian vision: an America in which everyone’s stomach is empty and every lawyer’s wallet is full.

    The notorious professor has apparently reached the conclusion that any profitable industry — excluding the litigation business, of course — must be bled dry. Fast food is his current target. And he has vowed to slay this monster in the name of “public health.”

    In his relentless quest to turn America into a nation of Kate Moss doppelgangers, Banzhaf has fallen head over heels in love with any and every lawsuit that demonizes those who dare to feed us. Fortunately, you don’t have to take our word for it; he’s said so himself:”

    Various quotes about his success with tobacco and his intent to do the same to big food.

    “So there it is. Through frivolous lawsuits, Banzhaf has found the perfect means of simultaneously satisfying his greed and his messianic complexes. He has acknowledged that money for lawyers is a driving force behind the anti-food litigation, and that he is willing to sue anyone. And if anyone honestly believes that litigation is the solution to America’s obesity “crisis,” we leave you with one more Banzhaf quote:

    “Everybody knows that, if you want to lose weight, you eat less, less calorie input, and more exercise. You don’t have to learn that.”

    — MSNBC, “The Abrams Report” 1/15/03.

    Apparently, Mr. Banzhaf, “everybody” no longer knows that. “Everybody” mysteriously became ignorant victims because it is profitable for you to claim a clown in big red shoes seduced America into weight gain.”
    https://www.cfif.org/htdocs/legislative_issues/federal_issues/hot_issues_in_congress/legal_reform/john_banzha.html

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