Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Limits

Amongst us paleo(tards), there is suspicion of any news from the medical world heralding 'gene X', vitamin 'Y' and health-marker 'Z' - 'magic numbers' are inappropriate use of reductionist thinking.  Focusing on abstract details and treating numbers does necessarily lead to a positive outcome in a complex system.  You can control a few inputs but much of the outcome is downstream/internal of our immediate control.  This is stated in DeVany's Third law:
  • Homeostasis of one variable does not assure homeostasis along other dimensions. You can read "normal" for many variables and still be exhausting the compensatory mechanisms over time.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find those broader 'drivers' that trigger healthful expression.  As DeVany's Fifth Law states:
  • We should recognize the limits of knowledge and just get on the path that favours better outcomes.
Today's Observer carried an interesting article on the limits of human running speed that encapsulated both of these themes, as articulated by Frans Bosch, professor of biomechanics and motor learning at Fontys University in the Netherlands and a specialist in athletic performance:
  • "As long as nobody knows the limiting factor in sprinting, then a prediction in that area makes no sense," says Bosch. "If you look at all the predictions that have been made so far, they're all based on one small aspect of sprinting. When you only look at that you lose perspective."
Indeed.  Don't lose sight of the 'bigger picture' is the message here.  What caught my attention in a paleo perspective, is that Bosch's thinking reaches deep in to DeVany territory,
  • "If you look at a very important development in science over the last 15 years called dynamic systems theory and complex theory, we have learned that the answers to our questions are actually further away than ever before. We're probably not getting closer to the answer, we're just getting closer to asking the right questions."
There are some great thinkers, tinkerers and 'thinkerers' in the paleosphere.  I won't be ditching 'paleo' anytime soon to follow the mainstream!

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