IAS-Research talk by Jonathan Sholl “On nutritional reductionism and evaluating nutrition frameworks”

Thursday April 18 at 16:00 in the Sala de Juntas. The talk will be
hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: The nutrition sciences aim to identify factors that make a difference for health outcomes and thereby explain how foods impact our health. Some critics have condemned a supposedly excessive reliance on “reductive” explanations and interpretations, and have raised the issue of discordant evidence. This talk builds on two projects. First, distinguishing critiques of “reductionism” enables a constructive defense of those reductions to food components, e.g., macronutrient ratios, which generate integrative explanations. What we call ‘synthetic reductionism’ can help identify the limits of useful reductionism. Second, we consider a broader issue of how the framework researchers use plays an important, and often unacknowledged, role in identifying the causal factor(s) of interest. Focusing on debates around nutritional causes of obesity (e.g., nutrient-based vs. food-based frameworks), we analyze how competing frameworks use distinct principles to select causal factors based on their explanatory and operational relevance, and we show how these selection principles diverge, especially concerning the role of mechanistic evidence. To move forward, we propose a scheme to evaluate the explanatory and practical utility of nutrition frameworks.

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About tvanes

Thomas van Es is a philosopher of cognitive science at the IAS Research Centre for Life, Mind and Society at the University of the Basque Country in Donostia, Spain, and the Centre for Philosophical Psychology at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. His current work focuses on enaction and dialectics. He has also published on science, autism, and the connection between enaction and the free energy principle and predictive processing.