Now consider as an example a woman like Parker Pope, who says in her article that she is 60 pounds overweight. Let’s assume that our subject is of average height, 5’4”, and so an ideal weight might be 140 pounds (a BMI of 24). If she’s 60 pounds overweight, she would weigh 200 pounds and have a BMI of 34, well into the obese range. Dave’s implication would then be that if our hypothetical case dropped from 200 pounds to 190 (BMI 32.6, still obese) and maintained that indefinitely, she should consider this a reason to celebrate and a refutation of the central point of Parker Pope’s article. I would argue otherwise and I suspect Parker Pope would as well.

In interpreting science and medicine for the public and investigating issues so critical to the public health, we’re all biased, just as scientists are, by our perspectives, our experiences and our preconceptions. If we don’t start off biased, we will soon find ourselves consciously or unconsciously taking sides, and that will bias our perceptions from then on. In a world in which virtually any argument can be made from the evidence at hand, our ultimate task, just as it with science itself, is to communicate reliable knowledge. Here, the legendary physicist Richard Feynman made two requirements for good science that I would argue are the requisites for good journalistic investigations as well: One is “honesty in reporting results — the results must be reported without somebody saying what they would like the results to have been.” The other is “you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

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Gary Taubes is co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative, and the author of Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It (Knopf 2010) and Good Calories, Bad Calories (Knopf 2007). He’s a contributing correspondent for the journal Science, and the only print journalist to win the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times.