Building on the success of the Ancestral Health Symposium — it will be in August, but it’s already a success — Aaron Blaisdell is planning to start a scientific journal on the subject.
It will be an historic thing. The notion that ancient lifestyles are especially healthy has been around, and taken seriously, for at least a few hundred years. Serious data began to be gathered in the early 1900s. Weston Price is an example. For a very long time this idea seemed to go nowhere, or at least the mainstream ignored it. In the 1970s there began a small irregular stream of publications (e.g., a book called Western Diseases edited by my friend Norman Temple) but again the mainstream ignored it.
But mainstream medicine doesn’t work very well.Â The notion that when you get sick you should take a dangerous expensive drug doesn’t make a lot of sense. You didn’t get sick because you lacked the drug. More plausible is that when you get sick you should reverse the environmental conditions that caused the sickness and find out if your body can heal itself. Even more, you should prevent disease from starting. Along with mainstream medicine’s implausible intellectual foundation has come pathetic results. Robin Hanson has emphasized the RAND experiment that found that a large fraction of medical spending produced little benefit. Tyler Cowen has pointed out that Americans spend far more than other countries on health care with no better results. A doctor at a county hospital once told me, “The truth is that we can’t help most people that come in.” They come in with diabetes, obesity, and so on. Why don’t you do something that does help? I asked. Because when you do prevention research, she said, you don’t get people thanking you. She was describing a protection racket: make people sick — if only by failing to tell them how to be healthy — so that they will come to you for help.
An academic journal with a steady stream of articles and supporting evidence is a big step toward getting the paleo alternative taken seriously. It will help researchers who take paleo ideas seriously publish their work, of course, but it will also help them get feedback. Because it will help them publish, it will help them get research support. Because the journal (like any new journal) will be open access, it will help those who want to learn about those ideas. When ideas about health are forced to compete on their merits (such as cost, safety, effectiveness, and quality of the supporting evidence) and becoming an M.D. confers less of a monopoly (on information and treatment), a great change will come. Richard Nikoley recently posted an example of what a difference this can make.