The Case Against Sugar is Good Calories, Bad Calories

the-case-against-sugar

[This is a follow-up to my previous post on the book]

Protracted Introduction

Back when I was an undergraduate, I spent a lot of time alone in a greenhouse working on various plant breeding projects. It was solitary work, but luckily I had podcasts to get me through the day. This was back when podcasts were kind of a new thing just coming into their own, so there was not a ton of variety, but one I really enjoyed at the time was Radio Lab.

A frequent guest on Radio Lab was a guy by the name of Jonah Lehrer. He was memorable to me because he was about my aged, except that he seemed to know everything and live a much more charmed life than I did. Following his Radio Lab segments, I noticed his career taking off. He wrote books and contributed to notable publications like The New Yorker. But what goes up must come down, and it wasn’t but a couple years later I began hearing his name along with the phrase “self-plagiarism.” As it turns out Lehrer apparently wrote a few good yarns when he was young, but instead of continuing to churn out good, original writing, he lazily recycled his same few stories for different publications. Eventually, Lehrer got so lazy (or desperate) that he started plagiarizing other people’s work, and eventually just making stuff up, much like Stephen Glass.(1)

120831_SCI_LehrerTable.jpg.CROP.original-original
From: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/08/jonah_lehrer_plagiarism_in_wired_com_an_investigation_into_plagiarism_quotes_and_factual_inaccuracies_.html

So what does this have to do with Gary Taubes and The Case Against Sugar? Well… It appears as if he just copy-pasted his 2007 book Good Calories, Bad Calories into Scrivener (2), added a few things about tobacco, moved some sentences around, and submitted it to his publisher with a new title. (3)

Is self-plagiarism even a thing?

That’s the sticky wicket. The ethics of self-plagiarism or recycling your own work are in a gray area. On the one hand, if I go to see, say, Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert, I don’t care if they play the exact same songs in Seattle as they did in Phoenix. As a matter of fact, I may not even want fresh material. Just play the hits like Freebird and Sweet Home Alabama for all I care, and let me beat the traffic back to my house. Same thing with a stand-up comic: I expect you to to say the same stuff everywhere you go, and I don’t want you to be work-shopping new bits if I pay to go see you.

The same thing might even be said of scientists or even science writers. If a science writer like Gary Taubes goes on a book tour, I imagine he’s going to talk about the same kind of stuff at every stop: the material in his new book.

But much like I would not buy a Pink Floyd studio album of Pink Floyd covering their own songs, I would not want to buy a book with the same arguments, anecdotes, and conclusions of a book I already have; I want it to be fresh and new. I want new insights and analysis. Otherwise, what the hell am I paying $24.95 for? The dust jacket?

So unless the cover makes it clear that this is a collection of essays or the greatest hits, I think readers have an expectation that the book they buy will be new and original material.

Many publishing organiztions even have ethical guidelines and internal policies about publishing previously published material. For example the American Chemical Society has the following guideline:

Authors should not engage in self-plagiarism (also known as duplicate publication) – unacceptably close replication of the author’s own previously published text or results without acknowledgement of the source. ACS applies a “reasonable person” standard when deciding whether a submission constitutes self-plagiarism/duplicate publication. If one or two identical sentences previously published by an author appear in a subsequent work by the same author, this is unlikely to be regarded as duplicate publication. Material quoted verbatim from the author’s previously published work must be placed in quotation marks. In contrast, it is unacceptable for an author to include significant verbatim or near-verbatim portions of his/her own work, or to depict his/her previously published results or methodology as new, without acknowledging the source.

Similarly, Science magazine says 

Science will not consider any original research paper or component of a research paper that has been published or is under consideration for publication elsewhere. Distribution on the Internet may be considered prior publication and may compromise the originality of the paper as a submission to Science, although we do allow posting of research papers on not-for-profit preprint servers such as arxiv.org and bioRxiv. Please contact the editors with questions regarding allowable postings to other servers.

I have thrice emailed Taubes’s publisher at Knopf/Random House inquiring if they have similar guidelines. No response as of this writing.

At any rate, what follows are some examples of passages either taken verbatim from Good Calories, Bad Calories or very nearly identical. I left out passages like this that are basically the same, but where it’s clear that Taubes at least made an attempt to change around some of the wording. Much of the book is like this, but much of the book is also essentially just copy-pasted with very little energy spent to avoid the appearance of copy-pasting, as I hope to show.

Another thing to note is that I made all of these in Microsoft Paint (RIP), so they are very crude. But if anyone out there wants to buy me a Microsoft Surface for Christmas so I can make them look more elegant, I won’t complain.

 

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GCBC pg 195

CAS pg 45

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GCBC pg 365

CAS pg 117

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GCBC pg 114

CAS pg 158

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GCBC pg 114-115

CAS pg 159

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GCBC pg 114

CAS pg 159

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GCBC pg 20

CAS pg 150

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GCBC pg 122

CAS pg 169

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GCBC pg 122

CAS pg 152

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GCBC pg 237

CAS pg 212

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GCBC pg 394

CAS pg  120

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GCBC pg 238

CAS pg 215

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GCBC pg 236

CAS pg 214

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GCBC pg 21

CAS pg 120

It should be noted that this quote is not even accurate. According to the reference section, the “quote” is taken from this paper in Circulation, and the real quote is “This recommendation is based on the best scientific information available at the present time.” The meaning is essentially the same, so I’m not faulting Taubes for changing the meaning of the quote. Instead, what I want to highlight is the clear evidence that Taubes simply copy-pasted himself in The Case Against Sugar. I doubt there was any attempt to even go back to the originally cited material.

* * *

GCBC pg 122-123

CAS pg 169

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GCBC pg 200

CAS pg 193

* * *

GCBC pg 423

CAS pg 173

* * *

GCBC pg 24-25

CAS pg 185

* * *

GCBC pg 423

CAS pg 173

* * *

GCBC pg 362

CAS pg 113-114

* * *

GCBC pg 107

CAS pg 106

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GCBC pg 363

CAS pg 116

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GCBC pg 363-364

CAS pg 116

* * *

GCBC pg 362

CAS pg 115-116

* * *

GCBC pg 281

CAS pg 117

* * *

GCBC pg 276

CAS pg 111

* * *

GCBC pg 360

CAS pg 113

* * *

GCBC pg 281

CAS pg 113

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GCBC pg 280

CAS pg 111-112

* * *

GCBC pg 103-104

CAS pg 13

* * *

GCBC pg 97

CAS pg 98

* * *

GCBC pg 104

CAS pg 102-103

* * *

GCBC pg 169

CAS pg 19

* * *

GCBC pg 102-103

 

CAS pg 98

* * *

GCBC pg 101

CAS pg 98

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GCBC pg 102

CAS pg 99-100

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GCBC pg 104

CAS pg 101

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GCBC pg 106

CAS pg 104

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GCBC pg 89

gcbc natives 89.png

CAS pg 257

cas natives 257

 * * *

GCBC pg 94

hoffman gcbc pg 94.png

CAS pg 256

hoffman cas pg 256

 * * *

GCBC pg 92

touchou gcbc 92

CAS pg 253

touchou cas 253

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GCBC pg 138

tims gcbc 138

CAS pg 235

tims cas 235.png

 

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(1) By the way, if you haven’t seen the film Shattered Glass, do yourself a favor and watch that movie. It kind of flew under the radar when it came out and so never really got the recognition it deserved, but it’s one of my favorite movies.

(2) (or Microsoft Word or whatever writing software he uses)

(3) To be clear, Taubes actually did the same thing with his 2010 book Why We Get Fat, except with that he admits in his lectures that he wrote Why We Get Fat because people complained that Good Calories, Bad Calories was too boring and dense.