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is child obesity really an epidemic?

I don't think you need an explanation for this.

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    Nov 13 2013: Here are data in graph and table form from the Center for Disease Control, a reliable source of data for health information in the United States. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_07_08/obesity_child_07_08.htm#figure1
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      Nov 14 2013: statistics are kind of interesting, F. You may recall that I am enamored of the Masai tribe in Kenya. The Masai hate to have their census taken, if the government tries to do so, the Masai either chase them out of Masailand, or lie to them. Consequently, noone knows how many Masai there are. I have read three different books on Masai, and all of them asserted that there are different numbers of Masai in the world. One said there are a few thousand. One said 100,000. One said 14 million. And these were real books, published by real publishing houses, whose authors had obviously spent time and effort authoring them.

      A Masai man is not supposed to know how many cattle he has. If one goes missing, he should miss it as he would miss a friend.
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        Nov 14 2013: I did not look for the data collection strategy the CDC used, but I expect that it is far more reliable than a census of the Masai would be.

        Would you think a census taken by the CDC would be less reliable than people's casual observations or perhaps much more reliable?
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          Nov 14 2013: well, I'm glad you pinned me down here, F. I've always been enchanted by the Masai rejection of numbers. There is something that feels hard and cold about numbers. Yet I skimmed some of the background on your CDC link and the info looked reliable, and on first thought seems useful. So I'm stuck, completely stuck. It seems like a person should make a choice, either they believe in numbers or they don't, and I'm stuck where I'm seeing a good argument on both sides. I suppose one could take the position that there are times to use numbers, and times to reject them, and what one chooses might depend on one's purpose, I did ask the fellow who started this conversation what his purpose was in starting it.
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        Nov 14 2013: I don't see it this way- that one decides to believe in numbers or not. You know the saying about "throwing out the baby with the bath water." One needs to make judgments not about whether there is likely to be an imperfection but rather whether the magnitude of likely error makes the work worthless. Normally one looks for a variety of sources produced conscientiously to triangulate on a reasonable estimate rather than staking something major on a single measurement.

        So no one should just "believe in numbers." But their likelihood of being imperfect does create a great excuse for people in some settings to decide that if professionally done research could possibly have the slightest flaw, their guesses are just as likely to be right! There is the logical fallacy. Many things may be possible but it is worth considering likelihoods here.
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          Nov 15 2013: well, the question might be "Why do the Masai not want their numbers taken?" Perhaps they are afraid that, for whatever reason, the Kenyan government will declare war on them, and if the government knows how many of them there are, it would be easier for the government to attack.

          I suppose there is always some trust involved when you let somebody "get some numbers on you." For example, what if you participated in the government's study of obesity, and then the government suddenly declared that all fat people are to be executed. I suppose you would be first on the list since they already know about you.
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        Nov 15 2013: There can be so many reasons. Some cultural groups originally did not allow their photographs to be taken, because they believed it stole their souls. I do not remember which, but I remember reading this long ago.

        Your speculation in relation to the CDC's obesity study may mislead a reader willing to believe pretty much anything they hear that is negative about the United States.
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          Nov 15 2013: Well, it sounds like you think those cultural groups were wrong for their beliefs about photos. But perhaps there was some justification for their belief? There's something about the Masai distrust of numbers (or I'm calling it that, I don't know if they distrust numbers in all circumstances) that seems a little more thoughtful, and thought-provoking, at least for me, than the rejection of photos. I suppose it's because numbers have been around a lot longer than photos, someone who rejects photos might simply distrust change and modernity, but someone who rejects numbers has really thought about it.

          Well, not sure "speculation" is the right word. And the comment isn't confined to the CDC study, I only cite it as an example, using the words "For example." As I say, I'm still wrestling with this numbers question, I suppose it's more of a gut feeling than something I can articulate, which isn't too useful for a TED conversation. It sounds like you more or less like numbers, as long as they're reliably obtained. Can you see a downside to numbers, even ones that are reliably obtained?
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        Nov 15 2013: I made no judgment about the legitimacy of people's reasons for rejecting photography.

        I don't know that rejection of being counted is more or less thoughtful.

        Any thinking person probably realizes that numbers capture what numbers capture and that qualitative accounts of things capture something different. Indeed the Maya, the Inca, the civilizations in Mesopotamia, and Ancient China are examples of the long-standing practice of counting things. Counting provides one piece of information. Counting establishes, for example, how much corn there is but not necessarily how good it tastes. Counting ears of corn captures something different than measuring the weight of the corn.

        One has to get used to what information a number captures and what it does not capture. Like any piece of information, it needs to be interpreted correctly to be useful.
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          Nov 15 2013: well, let's just say the Masai do generally reject numbers, Fritzie. Would you find anything charming about this, or "romantic" about this? There are certain situations where we just don't want to hear about numbers, aren't there, for example, if a man brings a woman a bouquet, she'd recoil somewhat if he immediately told her how much they cost?
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        Nov 15 2013: I would not characterize rejecting numbers as charming or romantic. Is that how you see it yourself?

        There are charming and not charming people who love math and the same for those who hate math. There are charming people who like to weigh themselves and charming people who don't.

        I see these characteristics as entirely unrelated.

        I think it is obvious that most of what we talk about in a day is not about taking or sharing numerical measurements.
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          Nov 16 2013: thanks, Fritzie. Well, it's a wobbler for me. Part of me wants to say yes, numbers are not charming or romantic. Well, think of the stereotype of an accountant, dull, pedantic, etc. On the other hand, I could certainly imagine meeting an accountant who was very interesting, demonstrative, etc. I'm afraid I don't have a definitive answer, although I think in my gut I steer a little away from numbers, but is there any usefulness on TED conversations in saying you just feel something in your gut, but can't articulate reasons?
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        Nov 16 2013: Yes. This is a discussion site rather than a think tank and your thoughts give others something to consider. Whether people are convinced by other people's gut feelings is another thing. People typically have very good intuition in some areas and not in others. A craftsman working in wood likely has good intuition as to how his wood will respond to certain things he would do to it but would have poor intuition in areas outside his special experience and expertise. People are often overconfident, I have noticed, in their intuition in areas outside their fields of actual expertise
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          Nov 17 2013: I apologize that I keep replying without saying too much of substance, Fritzie. We call these conversations, and I try to be true to that word, in other words, if you and I were in a conversation, we wouldn't say let me go away and think about it a while, we'd keep talking to just.......have a conversation?

          Well, I still say numbers are a mixed bag, anyway. Here's an example: you've probably noticed me talking about how I mostly live on milk, and it's really excellent. For instance, on this diet I maintain at 165 pounds, a very healthy weight for my six feet, two inches. Now, if I quote those numbers to you, 165, 6 foot two, they may be quite useful, they are an objective standard that tells you something about the value of this diet. You may say those are very healthy numbers, I'm going to try that diet and see if it will help me. On the other hand, the numbers might make you feel oppressed and belittled, you may say I don't want to follow that diet, I don't think I can stick to it, I can never achieve those numbers, damn him for telling me those numbers, it just points up my shortcomings. So what is the answer, perhaps I should just try to guess in any situation whether a set of numbers will benefit a person or only make them feel bad?
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        Nov 17 2013: Precisely. While people make mistakes, we typically have a pretty good idea of the information, both numerical and qualitative, that is best not to share or to ask others to provide in social interaction.

        For example, you probably don't ask older people their age and probably seldom ask other people their weight, how much they earn, or which personal care products they use (notice this is not numerical).

        Your judgment might be different for people very close to you than for more casual acquaintances.

        While you probably know not to inquire about people's weight or blood pressure, the doctor knows to measure those things and discuss them with the patient.
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          Nov 17 2013: thanks, Fritzie. well, I think in an earlier reply you had said we don't speak of numbers very often during our day. Any thoughts on why that is, because we certainly could find a reason to speak of them often if we wanted to.
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        Nov 17 2013: Why do you think? Why do we not talk about colors more often or textures? We certainly could find a reason to speak of any of these attributes of things more often.
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          Nov 17 2013: well, actually, it's conceivable to me that you're incorrect, maybe there are people who talk about numbers quite a bit during their day. So a better statement might be that you and the people you know don't talk about them much during the day, and I and the people I know don't either. It might be that I and the people I know are more interested in emotions, or little combinations of emotions & thought, and there's something about numbers that's a little damping to emotion, but the question is why, why do numbers damp emotion, maybe when you use numbers it's a less personal expression than words? For me there's a contradiction here, however, in my mind if you don't like to talk about something it means that that's a bad thing, but can I say definitively numbers are a bad thing? probably not, in some cases they seem quite useful. So I'm pretty much as stuck as I was towards the beginning of this "sidebar." Can it be that we don't like talking about numbers too much, but we like having them there if we need them? But how does that work psychologically, it almost seems like we like numbers but we don't like them, but can you entertain both feelings simultaneously?
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        Nov 17 2013: I think this sidebar has run its course, but if you are interested in pursuing your question further, you should start a new thread.

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