When DrRich was a little tyke, he always loved it when Uncle Harry came to visit. Uncle Harry was a large, rotund man with a ready smile and a jolly laugh, who was genuinely delighted to spend hours entertaining little DrRich and all the other children with his jokes, stories, magic tricks, and samples from the large stash of candies he always kept in his coat pockets. We all loved Uncle Harry.
But we were deceived.
Little did DrRich know, in his youthful innocence, that far from being the cheerful and beloved amateur prestidigitator delighting us with his his egg trick, Uncle Harry was actually a menace. For Uncle Harry was obese.
We now know, of course, that obese people, through their gluttony, sloth and lack of self-control, are causing untold harm to our society. They are unpleasant to sit next to on buses and airplanes. They use more than their rightful share of healthcare resources. They snore. They cause excessive tire wear (and if they sit in the same seat all the time, the tire wear will be asymmetrical, probably leading to an increase in automobile accidents).
And now, thanks to a recently published academic article, we know that the obese are largely responsible for global warming.
That global warming is taking place, and that it is being produced by mankind, of course, is a settled issue. DrRich is led to understand that a great council of hand-picked environmental scientists, taking a lesson from the Council of Nicaea, has met and has decreed it to be so. The entire body of scientific evidence has been formally considered, and like the Holy Scripture has been carefully locked down into its final form, and has been divided into orthodoxy (the study of which is holy) and heresy (the study of which leads to perdition). And having accomplished this task, the scientific community will hereafter countenance no dissension on the matter, and will admit no further debate or even any further data (unless it is corroborative data). For this is how science is supposed to work, at least for matters as critically important as global warming.
DrRich calls it Environmental Scholasticism, and believes it is about time we returned to a system of thought that was good enough for some pretty important Saints. The notion that scientific viewpoints should never be considered “closed,” and should always be open to challenge as new evidence and new ideas come to light, is a relatively recent invention initiated by the likes of Galileo and Newton, and has led to nothing but trouble (such as, for instance, global warming).
In any case, now that we know once and for all that global warming is man-made, it behooves us to figure out which men (and women) are causing it. And now, according to two eminent scholars at the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, we know that among the chief culprits are the fat. That is, fat people, through the office of their obesity itself, are responsible for a significant degree of the carbon emissions that are unarguably (and officially) destroying our planet.
This fact, heralded by radio and newspaper reports proclaiming, “Fatties Cause Global Warming,” was revealed in a “scientific” paper written by Professors Edwards and Roberts and published by the prestigious Oxford Press in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
The paper really ought to be perused directly to appreciate the elevated level of scholasticism employed by the authors, which would make even Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus themselves sit up and take notice. For this paper, which indicts a whole class of individuals with the supreme crime of global warming, a crime whose disastrous effect on our planet eventually will make the atrocities perpetrated by even Hitler and Stalin seem mere trifles in comparison, reaches its conclusions without ever offering even one tiny glimmer of actual data or evidence.
Rather, the authors rely (as true scholastics must) on the approved body of scientific work, choosing from that body an array of assumptions based on bits of sanctified data from physiology here (e.g., Basal Metabolic Rate = 11.5 X body weight in KG + 873kcal), and behavioral science there (e.g., that the average daily activities of humans consists of 7 hours sleeping, 7 hours of office work, 4 hours of light home activities, 4 hours sitting, 1 hour standing, 30 min of driving and 30 min of walking at 5 km/h), then applying these bits to an incredible chain of assumptions and estimations, to demonstrate that the negative impact of the obese on our society goes far beyond what we currently think. Indeed, through such machinations it can be concluded that the obese are melting the ice caps, killing polar bears, flooding the seacoasts, and turning our farmland, forests and fields into hot, dry, desert.
Anyone with a cheap telescope can conclude from all this that Martians, when they existed, must have been really fat.
This information, of course, will come in very handy when we are forced at last to reduce our healthcare costs, and we find we need somebody to blame. We can already discriminate against smokers with a clear conscience. And now discriminating against the obese can be accomplished not only with a clear conscience, but with a sense of duty. For, far from merely costing the healthcare system a lot of money, they are killing us all and ruining our planet.
Indeed, DrRich himself was sharpening his pitchfork, when a thought occurred to him.
The paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology comports to the classical scholastic practice of “lectio,” whereby a learned person expounds on a certain interpretation of the approved texts, and allows no dissension or questioning. But scholasticism also offers a process for “disputatio,” whereby alternative interpretations of the approved texts are permitted to be offered, and the two viewpoints are then subjected to logical analysis through which the truth is determined. (Though in classical scholasticism, the “truth” is ultimately determined by the scholar who delivered the original lectio, and the disputant is put in his/her place.*)
*This, of course is where Martin Luther went wrong. The 95 Theses he nailed to the church door at Wittenberg was essentially an offer to engage in a classical scholastic “disputatio.” He was merely inviting a debate, like any other scholastic debate, and nothing more. The clergy, however, proved a bit too easily offended, and Luther proved a bit too tetchy, and the intended academic exercise turned into 300-years of bloodshed. DrRich sincerely hopes to avoid such a result here.
So in the spirit of Environmental Scholasticism (but for the ultimate purpose of discovering whether the healthcare system ought to cure, ignore or euthanize the obese), DrRich would like to propose an alternative interpretation of the argument that the obese are causing global warming. That is, he will offer a disputation.
The logic of the two eminent scholars Edwards and Roberts, once you wade through the incredible morass of scientific-sounding language they have produced, essentially rests on two arguments. First, that the obese require more food energy for their basal metabolic requirements, and second, that because they are so fat they travel in cars (and very big cars at that) much more than normal people do. For these two reasons the obese produce way more carbon emissions than they are supposed to. The authors go on to calculate the excess carbon emissions produced by the obese via the aforesaid impressive chain of assumptions and estimations, and the magnitude of that excess shows us plainly that the fat are largely to blame for global warming.
This is when it occurred to DrRich that both of the basic arguments of Professors Edwards and Roberts can be easily countered, well within the bounds of the scholastic arts, using only the approved texts and without introducing any new (which is to say, heretical) data.
So, to their lectio, DrRich advances this disputation:
First, DrRich asserts that while the basal metabolic rates of the fat are indeed higher than those of the thin, one reason the thin are thin is that their non-basal metabolism is high. That is, often they habitually engage in exercise, even running marathons and triathalons, which burns many calories and produces much CO2. Scientific studies have shown that the obese tend to be still, serene, relatively inanimate. On the other hand thin people are fidgety, they pace about, wave their hands, bounce their legs, and excrete much CO2 through largely habitual and non-useful activity. Perhaps we should punish the calorie-burning thin rather than the fat. At least when the obese burn calories they are generally doing something useful.
Second, while thin people do ambulate more than the obese (indeed, this is DrRich’s first point), the assumption that the obese must make up that mileage by driving cars is entirely ridiculous. The thin actually drive far more than the obese, because they have places to go and things to do, and they’re in a hurry to get there and do it. In contrast the obese are efficient in their movements, they preserve their energy. Thus, they do not drive to the grocery for a pint of milk on a whim. They plan their trips carefully, and shop for the entire week with one trip. There is no evidence that the obese require more support from internal combustion engines than do the thin, and simple observation in fact suggests the opposite.
DrRich could, with some effort, produce a paper just as scientific-sounding as that of the Professors to “prove” his points, but will not do so here. Instead, he will just state his points as bald assertions – which (despite all the fancy math they attached to it) is just what his opponents have done.
DrRich maintains that his two assertions – which entirely counterbalance those of his opponents – make his argument equally compelling to theirs. So thus far we have a draw. But DrRich’s third assertion, which follows, wins the day.
To wit: The obese are unarguably sequestering carbon.
Storing fat, in fact, is simply a relatively efficient way to store carbon. The obese consume massive amounts of carbon in the form of food, and then they fail to burn it off (unlike thin people, who convert their food to CO2 immediately through their habitually wasteful activities). Instead, the obese store their carbon intake in massive reservoirs of fatty tissue, taking it out of circulation forever, and removing it from the carbon cycle which (we find) is so fatally damaging to the earth. Indeed (at least according to the zero-sum crowd for whom redistribution is invariably the answer to all problems), the more food consumed by the obese, the less food remains available for the thin people who would just go ahead and metabolize it, with all their jogging and whatnot, excreting lots of excess CO2 in the process.
When we finally institute our cap-and-trade economy, the obese should get a tax break based on their weight.
Carbon sequestration, of course, is one of the holy grails for environmentalists. Lots of methods for sequestration have been proposed, but none seem particularly practical. One method that has been considered is called “Biomass Burial,” in which we would take some form of biomass (plants have been the main source proposed) and bury it under the earth. The carbon from the buried biomass will stay in the ground, and will not contribute to global warming, at least not for a long time. (This is how fossil fuels are said to form in the first place.)
As long as we insist that fat people are buried (preferably after they die), and make cremation of the obese illegal, then putting the obese into the ground will constitute the much-sought biomass burial. When we bury deceased fat people, it is plain to see that we are removing tons and tons of carbon from the carbon cycle and thus from the atmosphere, and instead sequestering it in the ground. It brings a tear to DrRich’s eye to imagine that his king-sized Uncle Harry, gone now for the better part of three decades, by virtue of all that carbon he took with him under the earth continues to make the world a better place for all us former kids he used to delight with his card tricks and his stupid jokes.
And finally, this happy conclusion at which we have arrived – that the obese actually reduce global warming – at last informs those of us who are interested in healthcare how we ought to behave toward the obese. As long as fat people are maintaining (or better yet adding to) their weight – that is, as long as they continue to remove large amounts of carbon from circulation – we should encourage their continued good health. If, however, they start exercising or in some other fashion begin to burn off their large carbon deposits, then of course we might logically withhold medical care from them, or even encourage euthanasia.
But please, for the love of our precious planet and for the sake of our polar bear citizens, let us not discriminate against the obese, or discourage them from their important work.
DrRich explains it all in, Fixing American Healthcare – Wonkonians, Gekkonians and the Grand Unification Theory of Healthcare.