Maintenance Phase

Jordan Peterson Part 1: The Carnivore Diet

March 01, 2022
Maintenance Phase
Jordan Peterson Part 1: The Carnivore Diet
Show Notes Transcript

Oops all meat: How a '50s bodybuilder, a Grateful Dead roadie and an unreadable professor accidentally launched one of America's wildest fad diets.

Here's Mike's "Cancel Culture" video!

Note: In our discussion of Jordan Peterson’s political correctness lecture, I made a sarcastic comment about looking “slim in this dress.” After the episode came out, we started hearing from listeners that my comment reminded them of fatphobic jokes they’d heard in the past and didn’t feel consistent with the message of the show. They were right! It was a bad joke and we've removed it from the episode. We'll be discussing this and our approach to handling feedback and editing past episodes in more detail soon. Thanks to everyone who wrote in to let us know! — Mike

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Thanks to Doctor Dreamchip for our lovely theme song!

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Michael: Wanna tagline us in?

Aubrey: Sure.

Michael: This is how I'm gauging how fresh you're coming into this episode. What does she have for a tagline?

Aubrey: Oh, okay.

Michael: What's she working with?

Aubrey: Hi, everybody and welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that is searing off Lady Gaga's meat dress and serving that and only that.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Because we're talking about a carnivore. 

Michael: I am Michael Hobbes. 

Aubrey: I am Aubrey Gordon.

Michael: And if you want to support the show, you can find us on Patreon at This month's bonus episode is an Illness Influencers Spectacular.

Aubrey: Exciting. 

Michael: Exciting. Also, I should mention that I don't know if I'm allowed to mention stuff like this. I'm also a YouTuber now. I used to make video essays and I stopped doing that and I missed it. I just made a 20-minute-long video about "Cancel Culture" that you can find on my YouTube channel, whose name I forget. But if you Google Michael Hobbes YouTube, it probably comes up.

Aubrey: Smash that subscribe button.

Michael: Smashing the button. I was on the fence about doing this episode. I've been doing research on this for weeks and I was of like, "Ah, I don't know. Every other lefty podcast has a Jordan Peterson episode. Every lefty journalist has a Jordan Peterson article." Then you told me that you're coming in fresh that you barely know anything about Jordan Peterson and I was like, "Okay. Now. [crosstalk]." I just want to teach Aubrey Gordon about this. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Well, and I think everybody, everywhere has their Jordan Peterson episode, but I get the impression that few of those really dig in on the carnivore diet nonsense.

Michael: True. This podcast aims to be the fillet of the podcasts of Jordan Peterson.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: All beef metaphors.

Aubrey: Yeah, you're at a churrascaria.

Michael: Yeah. Tell me what you know? Who is this Jordan Peterson guy? Give me everything you know.

Aubrey: He's a professor in psychology or something, right? 

Michael: Yep. 

Aubrey: My impression is that he's done quite a bit of work to lend some legitimacy by virtue of his academic work to things like men's rights activists and "gender critical feminists," who just called turfs, and that he has had quite a bit to say about cancel culture and the corrosive nature of cancel culture, according to him. Most recently, the thing that I did see is that he wrote a whole append about how he quit his job, because he was being cancelled, and I was like, "Well, hang on, which one is it? What?"

Michael: [laughs] I think you saw that because I was furiously tweeting about it.

Aubrey: [laughs] Yeah, Mike. I've seen it from you. [crosstalk] I was like what on the earth. [laughs] 

Michael: I was like, "This is a rancid flank steak of an argument."

Aubrey: I've been so wrapped up in anti-fat garbage people.

Michael: Oh, yeah. 

Aubrey: I have really missed quite a few of the headlines about Jordan Peterson.

Michael: You've missed all the beef grifters and I'm going to introduce you to the beef grifting environment.

Aubrey: Beef grifters. Yeah, sounds great.

Michael: What I basically wanted to do was look into the phenomenon of Jordan Peterson and also the specific ways that Jordan Peterson I think partly inadvertently ended up launching a new fad diet. I mean, I looked into this. The carnivore diet as a thing essentially did not exist before Jordan Peterson talked about it on the Joe Rogan Podcast.

Aubrey: Yeah, it didn't exist before Jordan Peterson talked about it, because why would it? 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Why on earth would anyone be like, "I'm only eating--." I assume it's red meat, right? 

Michael: It's worse. We have a clip. 

Aubrey: Oh, my God, I can't wait.

Jordan: Okay, so, this is what happened. I stopped snoring the first week. I thought, "What the hell?" Then I lost seven pounds the first month. My legs were numb on the sides, that's gone and my psoriasis disappeared. The last thing that went away from me, I was still having a bitch of a time with mood regulation and that sucked because when I changed my diet, I didn't respond to antidepressants properly anymore. They weren't working. I was still really anxious in the morning up to three months ago horribly and then it would get better all day. 

People said, "Well, you're under a lot of stress." I thought, "Yeah, yeah, I'd been under a lot of stress for 10 years." It's a lot, but it wasn't any more stressful than helping my daughter deal with her illness. That's for sure that no, this is something different. She said to me, "Quit eating greens." I thought, "Oh, really? Jesus, Mikayla. I'm eating cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, and chicken, and beef. It's like I have to cut out the goddamn greens? She was like, "Try it for a month." Okay. Within a week, I was 25% less anxious in the morning. Within two weeks 75% and I've been better every single day. Here's the coolest thing. I've had gum disease since I was 25. It's gone. It's like, "What the hell?"

Interviewer: You've done no blood work? So, you don't know what your lipid profile is or--?

Jordan: Right. No, I'll get that done again when I go back to-- [crosstalk] 

Interviewer: You take any vitamins? 

Jordan: No, I eat beef, and salt, and water. That's it. I never cheat. Ever. Not even a little bit. Nothing. 

Interviewer: No soda, no wine? 

Jordan: I drink club soda. 

Interviewer: I'm curious about this. I'm very curious. 

Jordan: Yeah. Me, too.

Interviewer: I think I might try it.

Aubrey: This is the reverse version of the Super Size Me recap. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Do you know what I mean? 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: It's the good news version. This is the same numbness on the side of your legs.

Michael: The old joke is, "what do you get when you play a country song backwards, you get your house back, you get your wife back, you get your car back."

Aubrey: Yeah, [laughs] That's right.

Michael: This is the same thing. It's like, he's getting his gums back, he's getting his legs back, his sleep back.

Aubrey: It is truly wild to talk about someone only eating, did he say beef?

Michael: Literally just beef.

Aubrey: Only beef. 

Michael: He's very careful throughout this interview to say, "It's an N of 1. I'm not recommending this for anybody else. I'm not a medical doctor, don't listen to me, I'm in unique circumstances." To his credit, he's not necessarily boosting this.

Aubrey: Right. He's contextualizing.

Michael: Yes. But then there's an actual question of whether you can describe results like this without implicitly promoting something. 

Aubrey: Yeah, I think that's right and I also think like, "Look, man if you weren't there to promote it, you wouldn't really be talking about it."

Michael: He does the thing where he's like, "I'm not recommending it to anybody else, but I've had people talk to me about it and I've never heard of anybody having a bad experience." But he often follows that up immediately with this qualifier of, "I'm not telling you, you should do it. But the results for me have been really amazing."

Aubrey: Again, he's still promoting it. It's just-

Michael: Kind of promoting.

Aubrey: -promoting with caveats.

Michael: That's where this episode is going to end up.

Aubrey: Oh, are we going to do a record scratch, you're probably wondering how I got here?

Michael: We're doing a little freeze frame at the beginning. We're going to go buy luck now. [crosstalk]

Aubrey: I love this. I'm very excited about it. 

Michael: We're going to do a little background on Jordan Peterson himself. I want to establish who this guy is and why his pretty weird advice is considered credible. He's born in 1962 in Edmonton, Alberta. He grows up in Fairview, which is a small town. His mom is a librarian, his dad is a school teacher, he seems to have a fairly typical middle class Leave It to Beaver style upbringing, it seems. 

Aubrey: Right. In semiotics, he would call it a hegemonic upbringing.

Michael: He has a hegemonic upbringing, at least as described by him. He says that he starts struggling with depression and anxiety at age 13. At one point, he says that the depression is so severe. He says imagine that you wake up and you remember that all of your family was killed in a horrible accident yesterday.

Aubrey: Holy shit.

Michael: That's how he feels when he wakes up every day. 

Aubrey: That's awful. 

Michael: It's awful. It seems a lot of his adolescence and his younger adult years are characterized by him struggling to understand what's going on with his own mental and physical health. He says that he tries politics to deal with it. He joins some center left political/socialist political organizations as a kid, he tries religion, he tries getting into the church. Nothing really works. In college, he says, he has this crippling imposter syndrome. He has this idea that he's acting. He's sleepwalking through his life and he's playing this role of a person, but he's not really connected to his own actions. He's in this half-dissociated state. 

During this period, he seems to find comfort in biological certainty. He starts to formulate this theory of the world that there's ideology, there's people who see things through a lens of their own personal experiences and their own beliefs. This is what he hates about the socialists that he goes to college with. There're also people who react to the world as it is. He starts to take a lot of comfort in what he described as biological realities, like, there is truth in the universe. In his first book, he says, "I discovered that beliefs make the world in a very real way that beliefs are the world in a more than metaphysical sense. This discovery has not turned me into a moral relativist, however, quite the contrary. I become convinced that the world that is belief is orderly that there are universal moral absolutes. I believe that individuals and societies, who flout these absolutes in ignorance or in willful opposition are doomed to misery and eventual dissolution."

Aubrey: To borrow a phrase from a podcaster, whose work I enjoy, this is all just the sound of red flags flapping [crosstalk] 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Any time someone says to me like, "I believe in moral absolutes." I'm like, "Okay."

Michael: And also, that other people are driven by ideology, but not me. 

Aubrey: Totally. Also, what I hear them saying is, if there's nuance here, I'm uninterested in it.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: If there are solutions here, I don't want to know. All I want to know is, this person did a thing that I think is absolutely, categorically wrong and there's no more to discuss here.

Michael: You sound like one of the SJWs that you will later own in numerous YouTube videos, Aubrey.

Aubrey: Oh, I'm fully preparing to get owned real hard as just a humorless feminist. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Really, I'm about to get totally fucking owned by Jordan Peterson. [laughs] 

Michael: I think, to me, what he's describing is the process of becoming a conservative. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: We've talked a lot on the show about how formerly fat people are oftentimes the most fat phobic in this very interesting, I think, human process, where you think that if you have overcome something, it is therefore, overcomeable. Other people, who refuse to overcome it are weak. A lot of his work academically is about this dichotomy or what I consider to be a false dichotomy with the dichotomy that he keeps raising between chaos and order. He's someone who considers that his life and his mind was really chaotic and he was able to impose order on it. One of the ways that he feels he was able to tame his chaotic mind was through the order of a universe where absolutes exist. That was something that he found really comforting. What he tries to do throughout his careers, impose that on other people.

Aubrey: Which I think makes sense, right? 

Michael: Oh. Yeah.

Aubrey: If you're like, "I beat this thing back. I have a sense that I did this myself and it was hard, but it was worth it and everything's better. So, why are you complaining about things being bad when the solution is so clear." But what that doesn't take into account is, do you have resources that other people don't have? There is all of this stuff that gets shut out when we get into this meritocracy narrative about our own personal stories.

Michael: And also just like, "What if people are just different from you?'

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: Not even demographically, but just like, "What if just people tried that and doesn't work?" 

Aubrey: [crosstalk] Yeah, what if somebody has a depression and anxiety that responds to something other than yours does?

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] That's also a possibility. This is me projecting onto this, this is me creating my own interpretation obviously, I don't think that he's explicitly saying that like, "I am building my worldview from my own personal experience," but I think that that's something that all of us obviously do. But I think that, especially straight, white hegemonic dudes are not really trained to see that that is what they are doing. Like, "I am applying my personal experience to the world. I am making that the basis of my worldview." Men are not told that this is the process they are going through. They are told that the process they're going through is the process of seeking truth.

Aubrey: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. 

Michael: This was really boring. This is like the Wikipedia stuff. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: He goes to grad school, he does his PhD, he becomes a psychology professor at Harvard for five years, and then he gets a post in 1998 at the University of Toronto. Somehow, when he's doing all of this academic work, he's also seeing 20 patients a week. 

Aubrey: Whoa.

Michael: He's a very productive guy and seems quite prestigious. He has a lot of publications and I've read things by other people in his field that he's a well-respected guy in his field. This is not some crank that started doing crank shit elsewhere. It was people in psychology were like, "Yeah, he's a well-respected psychologist."

Aubrey: What is the nature of that work? Because all that I have heard about is the shit that seems real trolly to me.

Michael: I like it when you sit on my shoulder and you'd look at my notes. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: The next section [mumbling.] doesn't work. You are like, "Mike, what does this work say?"

Aubrey: Oh, you're welcome for that segue.

Michael: Oh, I'm glad you asked. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Okay. In 1999, he publishes his first book, which is called Maps of Meaning. I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that before he becomes famous, the book only sold roughly 500 copies. 

Aubrey: Oh, wow. 

Michael: It's very academic. It's 602 pages long, the version of it that I have. It is catastrophically unreadable. 

Aubrey: Oh, really? 

Michael: Man, I have read some books for various podcasts, Aubrey. I've never read something like this terminally unmeaningful. It's absolutely incredible. I'm going to send you a screen grab of-- You're not going to believe me, but I swear to God, I'm being generous and this paragraph isn't that bad.

Aubrey: Let me open it up. Oh, it's a brick of text.

Michael: Look at all of the stuff that's going on in this paragraph. There're five things in italics, there's a shitload of parentheses. There's basically something in parentheses every sentence. There're quotation marks.

Aubrey: There are two M dashes within a parenthetical-

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: -in a sentence that has multiple other parentheticals and a semicolon. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: [crosstalk] There are clauses on clauses on clauses happening here.

Michael: I should have sent you a trigger warning. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Look what it does to your body. [laughs] understand this fucking paragraph.

Aubrey: My eyes are bouncing around on this image file that you sent, because it is so disorienting.

Michael: I copy pasted this into Word and I cleaned it up.

Aubrey: Oh, did you? 

Michael: It's still gibberish. This is the thing.

Aubrey: Oh, my God. Myth is not primitive proto science. It is a qualitatively different phenomenon. Science might be considered "description of the world with regards to those aspects that are consensually apprehensible." Myth can be regarded as "the description of the world as it signifies." The mythic universe is a place to act, not a place to perceive. Myth describes things in terms of their unique or shared affective valence, their value, their motivational significance. The sky and the earth of the Sumerians are not the sky and earth of modern man, therefore. They are the great father and mother of all things. 

Michael: This is the cleaned-up version.

Aubrey: You know that I am on a big writing deadline currently so I am hammering out pages and pages and this is my nightmare. 

Michael: Oh, my God.

Aubrey: These are little my nightmares of like, I'll wake up in the morning, and read what I wrote the day before, and it's going to be just this.

Michael: I know. [laughs] 

Aubrey: The mythic universe is a place to act, not to perceive. 

Michael: Like, "Oh, God. Trust me. Trust me." It's not better in context. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I've read his entire chapter and this paragraph does not make any sense. It sounds smart. Like, "Myth is not proto science. It is different." Okay, was anyone saying that it was proto science? Not really. Sorry, I can't keep talking about this. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I keep talking about-- So, behind all of this stuff, he gives a million lectures. I've spent the last six weeks trying to understand what the fuck this dude is talking about to give him some credit. Behind all of this jargon and his just very not accurate description of various cultures' myths, There's actually a very interesting insight. What he says is that, human beings are responding much more to narratives than they are to science and information. 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: We all want to think of ourselves as walking through a universe of facts, like, it's going to rain today. Therefore, I'm going to wear a jacket. We all think that that's what we're doing. But what he's saying is that, narratives are much more important for how we form our understandings of the world, understandings of other people. We filter everything including ourselves through stories, which I think is a genuinely profound insight.

Aubrey: Absolutely. It's also something that I will say from previous organizing life. It's something that's borne out by quite a bit of political research. People don't generally change their minds on political issues because of the facts. 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: They change their minds, because of people's stories. Because they hear other people like them say, "I used to think this, but now I think this." That feels giving them permission to change their minds. I think this is just true. I think he's just right here.

Michael: I think he is, too. I also think, I've come across this before. He's not the only person to be saying this, of course.

Aubrey: Sure. 

Michael: I've seen people who've written about this that have said that, "Metaphors are also really powerful." If you think about a topic like immigration, one way to present immigration is as an invasion. There're people coming from the southern border, these like hordes coming into the country. Another way to think about immigration is as a life raft. There're people out there that need help, and we're inviting them in, and we're going to help them. Jordan Peterson is the worst imaginable messenger for this particular point, but underneath all of his prose, he is actually making some good points. If you do ninja assholed Google searches, you'll find- 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: -he's quoted in the New York Times in various random stories. There's an NPR article about him before any of the famous stuff happens. He shows up on panel shows in Toronto. He's just someone who he's actually building somewhat of a reputation as a public figure throughout the course of the 2000s. In September of 2016 is when he really gets famous. Over this fall, the Canadian government is debating something called C-16, which is an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code that I cannot stress this enough. It is going to add gender identity to an existing law. This is a relatively minor update to an existing anti-discrimination law that already prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, and gender, and sexual orientation. The Canadian government is like, "Well, we need to add gender identity to this. So, they add this to this existing law." It's ultimately is not that big of a deal.

Aubrey: Well, also, not that big of a deal in Canada, a thing we still haven't done in the United States.

Michael: [laughs] I know. I'm like, "This is table stakes and we haven't done it yet."


Michael: On September 27th, 2016, Canada has not passed this yet, but they're discussing it. Jordan Peterson posts, "God help me." A three-hour long lecture on YouTube about this amendment. It's called "Professor Against Political Correctness." 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: He says that, "The Canadian government is going to imprison you if you miss gender a trans-person."

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: It's one of these things that [crosstalk] really frustrates me, because you are like, "Oh, you don't understand the context. What about Jordan Peterson's--? What about the broader context of what Jordan Peterson is saying? I sat down and watch this fucking thing. The first five minutes, he talks about how universities are taken over by cultural Marxists. He says that the only reason this law is going to get passed-- I'm going to quote him. He says, "I can't help, but manifest the suspicion that it's partly because our current premier is a lesbian in her sexual preference." 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: I don't think it's relevant to the political discussion, except insofar as the LGBT community has become extraordinarily good at organizing themselves, and has a fairly pronounced, and very, very sophisticated radical fringe.

Aubrey: I'll tell you what. As someone who spent a lot of time organizing the LGBT community, I'm honestly pretty flattered. [laughs] 

Michael: I know. [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: I'm like, "We are well organized. Thank you."

Michael: It's just straightforward, anti-trans conservative garbage. He says that non-binary people don't exist. There's no evidence that non-binary people exist.

Aubrey: Right. Conveniently disregarding the evidence that people are telling you, they're non-binary.

Michael: Hearsay, it's all hearsay.

Aubrey: Nailed it. 

Michael: What's fascinating to me about this is, he's somewhat of a media figure, but still, he's just one random professor. This bill has not passed. This like nothing there. It's basically a random professor gives shitty lecture. But this becomes a huge national story and a month-long debate. The day after he publishes this lecture, it shows up in the student newspaper. The right-wing press in Canada picks up on it. Then two days after that the BBC comes out a weirdly sympathetic profile, where it's like, "Oh, the professor who questions the trans dogma or whatever." We've now whipped up. This basically fairly inconsequential like dude says asshole thing in a lecture. We've now created a debate out of thin air out of this, like, nothing has actually happened.

Aubrey: Well, listen. Myth is not primitive proto science.

Michael: [laughs] As the best book I've ever read, told me. 

Aubrey: It's a place to act, not to perceive. Come on.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: You know this. 


Aubrey: It's so ridiculous. 

Michael: He basically becomes this public figure overnight. I think it's six months, he's earning $80,000 a month on Patreon.

Aubrey: Holy shit. 

Michael: He ends up being interviewed for various articles, there's a million profiles of him as, "meet the man, who's the most important thinker on the new right." He goes on politically incorrect. 

Aubrey: Oh, okay.

Michael: Within a year, he does 160 city speaking tour. He's like fish. He's going around the entire country and talking to people. Some of these venues are selling out 3,000 seats.

Aubrey: Listen, don't drag fish into this.

Michael: [laughs] Leave the good people of fish.

Aubrey: They didn't do anything to Jordan Peterson.

Michael: This all culminates in 2018 when all of this fame produces his first pop book, which is called 12 Rules for Life, I did not know this until I read it, but it's based on a series of Quora posts. You know the Q&A website?

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: It's just a bunch of shit post advice that he gave people that he's whipped up into a book. 

Aubrey: Oh, my God.

Michael: I really struggled with the section of the episode, because I'm like, "Okay, we have to talk about his actual message. What is he saying to people?" But then when you actually boil it down, you actually read his book-- I've listened to probably five or 10 lectures, I've listened to every single Joe Rogan podcast. Everything he's saying is just straightforward conservative shit. People keep talking about he's this iconoclastic challenging thinker, and he's this academic, and he has such-- There's a million articles scolding left-wing people and they're like, "Why can't lefties listen to what he's saying?" The left keeps twisting him out of context. Then you get the context, you try to actually engage and it's like, "Oh, okay. So, the gender wage gap is fake, because women, they leave the workforce to have babies. So, that's why they don't get paid enough." 

Aubrey: Oh, Lordy.

Michael: He says that climate change is fake, but he says it in this slightly more academic way, where it's like, "Oh, the way that you pull people out of poverty is through fossil fuels. We need the energy to pull." Chinese people and Indian people out of poverty. So, if lefties really cared about alleviating poverty, they would want us to burn as many fossil fuels as possible. It's a slightly different spin on it, but not really, if you actually understand what the right is saying about climate change. Also, like, "Okay, so, you're someone who doesn't believe in any mitigation for climate change, ultimately."

Aubrey: It's just straight up and down conservative punditry nonsense.

Michael: Yeah. It's just like, you could read this shit in the National Review any time since the 1990s. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: He wants to defund women's studies departments. At one point, he says like, "Oh, I'm not sure about same sex couples adopting, because children really need a mother and a father in the home." 

Aubrey: Thanks, James Dobson. Neat.

Michael: What I think really explains all this, it's 2016, this is after Trump had been elected after this really bitter and horrible 2016 election. I think a lot of conservatives were looking for someone, who would allow them to keep all of their beliefs, but also reject what had just happened. It was so obvious that Trump was awful. He's just racist, misogynist, corrupt. Everything we learned during the election and people felt icky about voting for this guy. The fact that he was the figurehead of conservatism. I think there was this huge unstated demand for like, "Allow me to remain a conservative and allow me to support Donald Trump." I want to keep on my beliefs and I want to keep on my anxieties, but I want them to be repackaged and sold to me in more academic language. In language, that is more palatable to me and makes me feel like I'm challenging dogmas rather than just the stuff that I already believe.

Aubrey: Right. Like, "I would like to support this candidate, but I don't want to be seen as one of his supporters lose."

Michael: Exactly. 

Aubrey: I would like to support this racist, but I don't want anyone to think that I am racist. How can I do that? Make it seem intellectual.

Michael: Exactly.

Aubrey: Make it seem it's rooted in some science, or some valid critique, or make it seem people who do think that supporting Donald Trump makes you racist are actually really regressive and they're resisting debate, which is part of a healthy democracy, all of that stuff that is legitimates what is functionally just discomfort with a decision that they have made.

Michael: Yes, exactly. Yeah, I have nothing to add. I'm just like, "Yeah, Aubrey."

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This is also I think a big part of his appeal to conservatives is this thing that he's an academic and he's a little bit inscrutable. I think this is also part of the marketing. The joke during 2017 was that, "Is Ben and Jerry's flavor was that's not what I meant?" 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: It's very good. This is an excerpt from a very good New York Times profile of Jordan Peterson. Actually, let me send this to you.

Aubrey: Yeah, send me a quote. "Mr. Peterson illustrates his arguments with copious references to ancient myths bringing up stories of witches, biblical allegories, and ancient traditions. I ask why these old stories should guide us today. "It makes sense that a witch lives in a swamp." Yeah, he says. Why? That's right. You don't know. It's because those things hang together at a very deep level, right? Yeah. It makes sense that an old king lives in a desiccated tower. But witches don't exist and they don't live in swamps. I say, "Yeah, they do. They exist. They just don't exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist." You may say, "Well, dragons don't exist." It's like, "Yes, they do." The category predator and the category dragon are the same category. It absolutely exists. It exists absolutely more than anything else. You say, "Well, there's no such thing as witches." Yeah, I know what you mean, but that isn't what you think when you go see a movie about them. You can't help, but fall into these categories. There's no escape from them.

Michael: Impossible to read this fucking man. Impossible.

Aubrey: He is taking this union idea about archetypes- 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: -and is trying to express it in a way that seems very literal.

Michael: He's doing the thing that he always fucking does, where he says something that is straightforwardly dumb, like, "Witches do exist." Then you're like, "Well, no, they don't obviously." Then, he's like, "Oh, but they do exist because they're in myths. They exist in our heads." It's like, "Oh, so, you meant exist in a fucking way that nobody uses that word." Great.

Aubrey: You mean texist in the way that means does not exist? Neat.

Michael: Right. Exactly. He does this all the time. I was listening to this insufferable section of one of his Joe Rogan podcasts, where he's talking about, he loves to defend "natural hierarchies." The existing order of society is good. This is another very, very core conservative belief. He's saying these hierarchies are real. That's why you can't lie your way into being successful. This is his conclusion. Then Joe Rogan, who like-- To his credit, Joe Rogan is actually a pretty good interviewer and Joe Rogan's, "Mm, what do you mean by that?" Didn't Donald Trump lie his way into success? Don't rich people pretty frequently lie their way into becoming richer? 

Aubrey: Yes.

Michael: Then this goes back and forth five minutes. Finally, he needles Jordan Peterson enough that Jordan Peterson is like, "Well, yes, they're monetarily successful, but they're not successful in the way of having a meaningful life. They're not successful in internally [crosstalk]?

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: It's like, "Right. So, you met success in a fucking fake definition that now it's taken me five minutes to get you to explain your ridiculous definition of this term that nobody uses."

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: By the time you get to that point, you've forgotten what he said originally what his point was.

Aubrey: Right. In a capitalist society, they define success primarily by wealth. You invoked that language and framework, and then we're like, "Man, if you took it that way, that's on you."

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: No, you need to be clear about what you're saying. 

Michael: Right. A company has never been successful selling hamburgers. Well, what about McDonald's? No, no, no. What I meant by success was, do they have a real estate portfolio? 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: So, that's what success means. 

Aubrey: Sure. 

Michael: Also, this stuff can sound deep and smart. It feels like, "Oh, he's saying that witches do exist." It's a provocative idea and then once you boil it down, all he's really saying, it's the most banal thing that like, "Yeah, witches exist because there're many myths about witches." Well, yeah, that's just a really obvious thing to say, right? 

Aubrey: Right.

Michael: Or, the fact that people can lie their way to monetary success, but it doesn't mean that they've achieved some self-actualization. Also, pretty banal.

Aubrey: Yeah. Like, "Sure?". 

Michael: Yeah. Okay.

Aubrey: Then what?

Michael: So much of his success is really bog-standard conservative views and then encoding them, like fucking enigma device in these weird roundabout phrases, and these totally just disjointed sentences. Then you decode them and by the time you figure out what they mean you feel smart, you're like, "Oh, we're like vibing. We've gotten on the same page." But he hasn't actually said anything.

Aubrey: Yeah. I'll say that doesn't mean you have a better argument.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: That doesn't mean that you're making good points. It just means that you're using words that attract people's attention.

Michael: I forget who I'm stealing this from, but somebody said that, "Everything he says is either false or obvious."

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I feel that's true.

Aubrey: I like that one. The thing that I was going to say is like, "When you step on to TV, or on mic, or on the radio, or a podcast, or whatever, you do have to communicate things in a way that people can understand. If you don't that's not actually on them."

Michael: Right. Exactly. 

Aubrey: That's pretty much just on you.

Michael: Okay. We're finally at the point of the episode where we're circling back to the carnivore diet.

Aubrey: Okay, let's roll.

Michael: He comes to the carnivore diet through his daughter, Mikayla. This is actually a pretty sad and pretty understandable story. Mikayla is diagnosed when she's seven years old with chronic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Aubrey: Oh, that's rough, man.

Michael: She has her hip and her ankle replaced when she's 16. 

Aubrey: Whoa.

Michael: She is on seven different medications by the time she's in college. She has severe depression. She's then taking medications for the depression. She goes to university, but she has to dropout for a combination of the physical issues and the mental issues. She says, "At that time, she can only really be awake for six hours a day, because she has chronic fatigue." It's just a really awful story. I think as many people do when they have these clusters of interacting and complex illnesses, she has this sense of desperation, and she starts experimenting with her diet. 

In 2015, she cuts out gluten and she sees like this dramatic improvement in both her physical things and her mental things, but it's not quite enough. She then switches to keto. It helps a little bit more, but it still feels it's not quite enough. Then she's surfing the internet, and she comes across a woman named Charlene Anderson. A woman who claims that she cured her Lyme disease from an all-beef diet. And she says that she's been eating nothing, but ribeye steaks for 20 years.

Aubrey: Makes me really nervous.

Michael: Mikayla sees all this and she honestly thinks that it sounds like bananas but she's like, "Whatever. I'll try it. I'll try anything for a couple days." And also, if you're suffering with this awful briar patch of various intersecting illnesses, you're fucking desperate. She goes on this all-beef diet. According to her, everything cleared up. This is from a post on her blog in 2016. She says, "Everything wrong with me was diet related. Arthritis, depression, anxiety, lower back pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, itchy skin, acne, tiny blisters on my knuckles, floaters, mouth ulcers, twitching at night, night sweats, tooth sensitivity, and the list goes on. Everything wrong with me was fixable. 

As you heard in the clip in April of 2018, this is two months before he goes on the Joe Rogan podcast. She tells her dad to go on this all-beef diet and maybe it will work for him, too. He goes on the diet and you heard him describing. He got universally 100% better. Now, we're going to dive into the carnivore diet itself and the winding path that it took to Mikayla Peterson's laptop. I did a Google Trends search because I didn’t know how to research this.

Aubrey: Uh-huh.

Michael: I cannot express to you, like, how niche this was. The earliest evidence of this existing that I could find was a bodybuilder in the 1950s, who recommended an all-meat diet. Bodybuilders have a bulking and cutting cycle, and it's 30 days of this and 90 days of that. It's very regimented. 

Aubrey: Sure. 

Michael: All-meat diet was one of those short-term regimens. It wasn't a lifestyle.

Aubrey: Yeah, I can't fathom that certainly anyone with a working knowledge of sports medicine or any of that stuff would be like, "Yeah, no, do this all the time."

Aubrey: The earliest mainstream mention of this that I found was, in 2006, there's something called the Active Low-Carber forums, which is a message board for people who are doing Atkins.

Aubrey: Uh-huh.

Michael: It's branched out now. I'm going to read this to you. This is the header at the top of its website. It says, "Support for Atkins diet, protein powder, and Neander-Thin diet, which is paleo.  

Aubrey: [laughs]

Michael: That's what they call paleo now. 


Aubrey: Neander-Thin

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: I love a garbage pun.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: This is next level.

Michael: In 2006, there was a guy on this forum, who was apparently a pretty prolific commenter, whose name was Owsley Stanley, who's a legendary guy, because he was a roadie for the Grateful Dead.

Aubrey: Whoa. 

Michael: He started posting in 2006 on these forums, the fact that he had been living an all-meat life for 47 years.

Aubrey: Wow.

Michael: People now like the carnivore community now has collated all of his posts and it's 251 pages long.

Aubrey: Oh, my God.

Michael: This guy wrote like a Bible. 

Aubrey: Yeah, he wrote a book on the internet.

Michael: This is an excerpt and this is so typical of the way that carnivore people talk about the diet. He says, "It requires a powerful will and determination to change, to succeed in adopting the "extreme diet" that this website is based on. Even those who are morbidly obese as powerful motivation as any I can imagine will have cravings for what I call nonfood, by which I mean all vegetation and carbs, which will eventually prove irresistible." [laughs] 

Aubrey: When you said eating non-foods, I was really prepared for some Michael Pollan business. 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: I didn't expect the next thing to be like vegetables.

Michael: All vegetation and carbs. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Jesus Christmas. 

Michael: This is fairly mainstream messaging among the carnivore diet people that-- It's not just this diet works for me. Everything that isn't animal products is poison.

Aubrey: Sorry, Hindus.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: [crosstalk] You have been eating mostly non-food, so good. 

Michael: This bounces around the internet, but it's super niche. The first mainstream news coverage I can find of this, this is absurd. There's a motherboard article in 2017 called Inside the World of the 'Bitcoin Carnivores' which is a living fucking nightmare.

Aubrey: Yeah. I'm just trying to think of like, what else do you put in there to make it worse? Fire Festival? 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: It's happening it we work? Great. [laughs] 

Michael: This article chronicles that this all-animal product diet has become popular among Silicon Valley and not just Silicon Valley, but a subset of Silicon Valley that is really into cryptocurrency. There's a guy, who's quoted in this article and every other article about "Bitcoin Carnivores," who says, "Bitcoin is a revolt against Fiat money and an all-meat diet is a revolt against Fiat food."

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: What the fuck? 

Aubrey: What's he even talking about? 

Michael: Fiat food doesn't make any fucking sense. Fiat money is government backed money. Currency is fake, currency is a social construction on some level, if you believe in a dollar and I believe in $1, then we can exchange.

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: But then applying that to food like Fiat food, it's doesn't make any sense. It's a nine-word sentence. 

Aubrey: Boy.

Michael: His metaphor is completely breaks down.

Aubrey: I hate it extremely much.

Michael: He says, "The people who tell you to eat your six to 10 portions of indigestible toxic grains a day are the same kinds of people, who tell you central banks have to determine interest rates."

Aubrey: Oh, my God.

Michael: These things have nothing in common. And also, again, you get this invocation of indigestible toxic greens.

Aubrey: This also just feels it's real. It's just edging closer and closer to complaints about globalists and anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

Michael: It gets real right-wing real fast. 

Aubrey: Yeah, I bet.

Michael: I have spent a lot of time unfortunately in the last month looking at the social media of various carnivore influencer dudes. There're really only two main ones. One is this guy named Shawn Baker, who used to be a licensed medical professional like an actual doctor. But he became such an evangelist for the Carnivore Diet. It seems that his hospital fired him. His hospital was like, "You can't just tell all your patients to switch to an all- meat diet, dude." 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: He can no longer practice medicine, but he's become this big influencer guy and he has a cookbook and everything. Then the other one is a guy named Paul Saladino. Both of these dudes are super right-wing guys. Flirting with anti-vax stuff. I wasn't even aware of this. Paul Saladino is a sunscreen truther.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I've read a lot of this man's tweets. They're little Bible verses. One of them says, "The best way to protect your skin from the sun is by not eating seed oils. Sunscreen is the worst way." 

Aubrey: Good. 

Michael: Don't wear sunscreen. He also says, "Toothpaste is a scam. Liver, heart, meat = The best tooth care ever created. 

Aubrey: Yeah, good. That's good. 

Michael: [laughs] There's also another guy that I found on YouTube. He just put out a video saying that the Canadian is Canadian trucker protest thing is a false flag and it's all actors.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I don’t know why they do that?

Aubrey: Anytime, we start talking about like public political action or public tragedies as being actors, I get real nervous. 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: It's just very strange. And also, as we're talking about this, it is nearing lunchtime and I'm like, "Man, I could really go for a steak." [laughs] 

Michael: I know. I made some ground beef for us this week. I was like, "Oh, now, I'm in the mood for ground beef. Yeah."


Aubrey: That sounds good. 

Michael: Okay. I want to spend most of the rest of the episode talking about some of the main myths of the carnivore diet. If you read the carnivore books and you look at the carnivore influencer accounts, you find the same three factual claims repeated a million times. I want to actually take these seriously. The first myth is that plants are bad for you. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This is a quote from one of the Bitcoin Carnivores in a USA Today article. "Plants are varying levels of toxic to humans. Hence why, so many of them are poisonous. Even some of the ones we can eat such as beans must first be carefully prepared and cooked to remove toxic proteins."

Aubrey: Hey, man, some plants are hemlock. So, all of them are probably hemlock.

Michael: There's also this thing. We debunk this on one of the bonus episodes. I'm not going to go too deeply into it, but they keep bringing up this thing of anti-nutrients.

Aubrey: Oh, I remember this. 

Michael: Do you remember this? 

Aubrey: My recollection and you correct me if I'm wrong is that, anti-nutrients really are part of many fruits and vegetables, and that they prevent absorption of some vitamins or minerals, but at just an incredibly low level. Yeah? 

Michael: Yes. There are some little elements in beans, and broccoli, and some other vegetables that reduce the absorption of iron. They don't completely prevent you from absorbing any iron. They just reduce the amount of iron that you can get from food. And 99% of them boil off like they come off when the food is cooked. All of these anti-nutrients are basically just a non-entity. But the carnivore people have seized on these as like, "Look, plants are actually sucking the nutrients out of you." It's like, "Well, they don't negate all the nutrients that fruits and vegetables have." 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: There's also a subcategory of this is that they love to highlight "all of the indigenous societies" that have lived on an all-meat diet. This is from an abysmal website called Diagnosis Diet. It says, "To the best of my knowledge, the world has yet to produce a civilization, which has eaten a vegan diet from childhood through death, whereas there are numerous examples throughout recorded history of people from a variety of cultural, ethnic, and geographical backgrounds, who have lived on mainly meat diets for decades, lifetimes, generations." 

This for some reason is very important to the carnivore people that there are societies that have lived on all-meat diets and have been fine. The obvious one, the one that they bring up the most is the Inuits in the far north. I looked into this expecting to debunk it, but it's actually true that the vast majority of their calories came from animal-based sources. But this is an excerpt from a Discover Magazine profile of Patricia Cochran, who's Alaska native, who writes about her childhood growing up there. She says, "Our meat was seal and walrus, marine mammals that live in cold water and have lots of fat. We use seal oil for cooking as a dipping sauce for food. We hunted ducks, geese, and little land birds like quail. We caught crabs and lots of fish, salmon, white fish, tomcod, pike, and char. The elders liked stink fish, fish buried in seal bags or cans in the tundra and left to ferment. In the short sub-arctic winters, the family search for roots and greens, and best of all from a child's point of view, wild blueberries, crowberries, or salmonberries, which my aunts would mix with whipped fat to make a special treat akin to ice cream."

Aubrey: Oh, my God, I bet that's beyond.

Michael: This is a society that yes did get somewhere like 90% to 95% of the calories came from various animal products, but it's also extremely diverse.

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: They're having fermented foods, they're having oils, the skin of whales is apparently very high in vitamin C, which is why [crosstalk] didn't have rates of scurvy. It's like, "Yes, they're eating an all-meat diet essentially, but they're doing it in a context where they've evolved and adapted cultural practices around this, and they're doing it in a specific way." They're not just having the same thing over and over again, three meals a day. 

Aubrey: Well, it's not all-meat.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: It might be mostly meat. You could frankly make a similar argument about vegetarianism and veganism that there are plenty of societies where vegetarianism is the norm. That doesn't mean that because it wasn't completely vegan by today's standards all the way all the time. It's searching through history to prove your weird point about your extremely contemporary diet.

Michael: It's also so fucking weird to me, because you can find these debates online of like, "Well, how many berries were they eating or how long was the summer growing season when you could find roots, blah, blah, blah."

Aubrey: Oh, God.

Michael: It's like, "What are we proving here?" The fact that there's a society at some time and there's other examples. They always pick the same six or seven examples of other hunter-gatherer societies that lived on an all-meat diet. It's fine, but there're thousands of societies throughout human history, most of them were omnivorous. It's not really an argument to say that this one society lived on this diet. Therefore, it's the best diet. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: The fact that the Inuits did this, the only thing that proves is that it's possible for humans and humans don't instantly die living on this diet, which like, "Yeah, that's useful information." But it says nothing about an optimal diet. 

Aubrey: Yeah. So, then what? 

Michael: Right. The second myth is that meat is a more pure way to eat or a cleaner way to eat. There's a lot of weird purity stuff wrapped up in this. But one of the things that's very interesting to me is that when Mikayla Peterson talks about doing her version of a carnivore diet, she tells the Atlantic that when she's doing this, she allows herself to drink bourbon and vodka. 

Aubrey: What?

Michael: The author of the piece is like, "Well, wait a minute. If this whole thing is about clean eating. The reason it works is gets toxins out of your system, you then allow yourself alcohol?"

Aubrey: No, it's a disinfectant, Mike.

Michael: Right, exactly. 

Aubrey: It's very healthy.

Michael: And also, a lot of the Silicon Valley bros talk about, "Plants are poisonous and it's toxic, whatever." But then they also talk about how they allow themselves to drink coffee on the diet and like, "Well, coffee is a plant. Why are there these carve outs?" There's one of the carnivore-influencer guys, they only beef and salt, but he says the salt has to be Himalayan salt. 

Aubrey: What the fuck is this? 

Michael: The fucking $7 salt at the store. 

Aubrey: It feels like the bulletproof coffee stuff, which is like put butter in your coffee, but it doesn't work unless it's grass fed, Where you're like, "What? Why?"

Michael: Yes. Dude, the beef people have a weird fetish for grass fed, man. Everybody says that you have to do it with grass-fed beef or else it doesn't work. I fucking looked into this. The reason why this diet "works," especially for weight loss is because fat and protein make you feel full.

Aubrey: Sure. 

Michael: This is why the Atkins diet "works." This is why keto works. You just feel really full if you eat just a steak and nothing else and the main reasons that that works is because most steaks are high in fat, right? 

Aubrey: Sure. 

Michael: But grass-fed beef is much lower in fat. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: This was the marketing of grass-fed beef. Originally, it was diet beef. The logic of the all-beef diet completely breaks down, because you're going for the beef that doesn't fit the parameters like the biological parameters that you're actually going for, you should be looking for highest fat available. It's the same with vitamin stuff. If you look at the rhetoric of the people recommending grass-fed beef, they always point out that grass-fed beef has two to three times more omega-3s.

This is actually true. I look this up. If you look at a hamburger patty, a normal beef patty has 30 milligrams of omega-3s, and then a grass-fed hamburger patty has 90 milligrams of omega-3s. You look at that as a lay person and you're like, "Well, 30 versus 90. That's a lot higher, obviously." But then what they don't give you is the broader context. If you go look up the daily recommended allowance of omega-3s, it's 1,600 milligrams. To get up to your daily allowance, you'd have to eat 20 hamburger patties. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Even a grass-fed hamburger patty has less omega-3s than a single walnut. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: It's like they defend the carnivore diet on the basis of the nutrients that it has. But you're like, "Well, if you're interested in nutrients, then you would be eating a varied diet."

Aubrey: Yeah. I don't know. You mentioned this in a previous episode. It's been on my mind ever since that there is this weird ritualization-

Michael: Oh, yeah.

Aubrey: -that is like, "No, it can't just be butter. It has to be this particular kind of butter." It can't just be this it has to be the specific like, "It can't just be salt. You can't use Morton's. You got to have Himalayan pink salt," which all contributes to this thing that we've definitely talked about before on the show, which is basically like, "If it doesn't work, then that's on you."

Michael: Right. Oh, totally. Yeah.

Aubrey: The butter was grass fed but not hormone free or it was hormone free, but not grass fed. It's so nitpicky in its application currently, but when it looks for historical examples to legitimate itself, it is extremely not nitpicky.

Michael: Right. Very, very good article in The Atlantic about this diet and all these social constructions that go along with it and he says, "The beneficial effects of a compelling personal narrative that helps explain and give order to the world can be absolutely physiologically real. It's well documented that the immune system is modulated by our lifestyles from how much we sleep and move to how well we eat and how much we drink. Most importantly, the immune system is also modulated by stress, which tends to be a byproduct of a perceived lack of control or order. When it comes to dieting the inherent properties of the substances ingested can be less important than the eater's conceptualization of them as either tolerable or intolerable, good or bad. What's actually therapeutic may be the act of elimination itself." 

Various other debunky websites have pointed out that there are people, who claim to have cured juvenile chronic arthritis with a vegan diet. You can see the same results, the same anecdotes of I cured this and I cured that with all kinds of different diets across time, across cultures. It's people believing in this that is producing the health benefits, which are real, which can be very significant. 

Aubrey: Yeah, as the placebo effect has been proven to be very effective when people genuinely believe that they're getting some remedy. 

Michael: Right. It's actually very similar to Jordan Peterson's whole thing of finding order amid your own personal chaos. It makes sense that this is a way for people to process their own experience, especially if you're suffering from a chronic illness. You've been looking your whole life for something that works. This is so regimented. It feels almost medical. There's this pain that goes along with it, there's this monotony taking a pill. It's like you're turning food into this more medical paradigm.

Aubrey: Yeah, but it can't be that, Mike. It's got to be-- 

Michael: No, it's the beef [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: It's got to be that it's all just beef, salt, and water. 

Michael: It's grass beef.

Aubrey: It's definitely not socially influenced, it's definitely not shaped by your expectations, none of that. It's just beef, salt, water.

Michael: The final myth we're going to debunk, this one a little bit longer. Carnivore people say quite frequently that meat is what made us human. This is an excerpt from the Grateful Dead guys, somewhere in the 251 pages.

Aubrey: Oh, my god, delightful.

Michael: He says, "Humans were totally hunting people until the end of the Paleolithic age. No Paleolithic archeological dig has ever produced any food residues from vegetables. The so-called Neander thin and paleo diet thus are both nonsense. True paleolithic people were total carnivores and ate no veggies whatsoever. In the relatively short evolutionary period, since the consumption of vegetables as food, there has never been any real adaptation to such low-grade, low-energy, difficult-to-digest foods. Because we have no adaptation to digesting or processing vegetables, they are basically all very bad for us."

Aubrey: Two things. One, citation fucking needed, my guy.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Also, this plays into this absolutely bizarre trope. That is like, we just need to return to our roots. We just need to eat and behave cavemen is the idea. But if you're looking for like, when have we as humanity been at our healthiest and had our longest life expectancies, it is within the last hundred years everybody. It is historically, very recent.

Michael: Also, we're not even talking about the right fucking species. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This drives me nuts. This thing of meat made us human or whatever. It's actually true that two million years ago, it appears Homo erectus, which is the precursor species that has now died out to humans. One of the theories is that the consumption of meat allowed Homo erectus to thrive as a species, because meat has more calories, because this was before cooking. There was no way to get this calories out of food. You're just chewing roots and stuff. We were basically like chimpanzees. Our precursor species, we think only ate 2% to 3% of its diet was meat. But then, once you go to much higher levels of meat, you then have the excess calories that then you can pour into a larger brain. What happened over the course of evolution was, what eventually became humans, our brains expanded in size by 300%. We got way bigger brains. It takes a lot more calories to have bigger brains, because brains use up so much energy. You need to have more calories coming into your species. 

The explanation is that, maybe we did switch to meat eating and that allowed us to have larger brains and also smaller guts, because it's easier to digest. You don't need as many layers of your gut to break down root fibers and shit. That is actually a fairly credible theory on this, but it's much more disputed, it's not clear that that happened. 

Aubrey: Right. It's a theory. 

Michael: Yeah. There're other versions of it or it might have actually been cooking that did that, because when you start to cook vegetables, think of a raw potato versus a cooked potato, you have way more calories that are getting out of it. Once it's soft, you don't have to digest it as much. You can absorb more. Then the biggest thing is like, what does it mean to say that meat made us human? You could also say that fire made us human, you could say that social organization cooperation made us human. You could say basically anything made us human. It's a totally meaningless thing to say.

Aubrey: Well, it's also just a fundamentally weird and flawed premise to say, because there's this evolutionary theory about the role of meat, it does not then follow that only eating meat would facilitate your individual health in the space of one lifetime. Evolution is something that takes place over the course of centuries, millennia. The idea that you could do something that somebody thinks contributed to evolution and that would then either facilitate your individual health or I don't know, make you personally evolve, which is not how evolution works. The logic just falls apart on any level of examination.

Michael: It's so funny reading actual scientists that work on like, early man and precursors to man, and they're like, "What the fuck are you talking about?

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This isn't even Homo erectus, this isn't even the same species. There's nothing that implies about that theory. A, that they were eating only meat, which makes no sense that a species would go from roughly 3% meat consumption to 100%, when there were all kinds of vegetation available that we had been eating for the entire origin of our species. I found an interview with the woman, who actually proposed this meat-eating hypothesis originally and they're like, "What do you think about the paleo diet?" She's like, "Oh, it's bullshit." 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Like, "It doesn't make any sense." You can't even get her on board, right?

Aubrey: Yeah, I will say, we have not gotten a ton of requests to cover the paleo diet, but the ones that we have gotten are from people who study the science of early man.

Michael: Oh, I need to e-mail [crosstalk] those people.

Aubrey: They're like, "Will you please cover this?" 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: People are constantly talking about like, "We need to behave like cavemen. We need to do all this shit," and there's zero evidence. 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: It's this weird Western class privileged fetishization of a less developed society.

Michael: It's James Cameron making the Avatar.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: What I think is fascinating about this is like, okay, we should eat like our human precursors, ancestors. This is what made us human. Fine. But then when? Between two million years ago and now, which society should we be aiming for? There're actually really interesting articles about the adaptations that humans have had to agriculture. There're some societies that have been drinking a lot more milk. Northern Europeans have way more lactase and they can process lactose whereas most people in East Asia cannot process lactose. "Okay, well, should I be drinking milk? Is it right to be drinking milk?" Well, where are your parents from, and their parents, and their parents? 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: It's not clear to me why we should be looking two million years ago to a species that no longer exists. When much more recent history is available, if that's even what the logic that we should be looking at. Because there're tons of research on early humans and the enzymes they had in their saliva that could break down starchy tubers and stuff. I went like down a deep rabbit hole on this stuff. It's super interesting. But it's not a credible view. A, that early ancestors should be dictating how we're eating today in general and B, that early ancestors were eating all meat.

Aubrey: Right. It is way the fuck easier to go pick some berries, to go find some mushrooms, to forage than it is to track down, kill, cook, and eat an animal.

Michael: Okay. This is my attempt to bring us full circle. Here we go. Brace yourself. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: What is interesting to me about the intersection between all of these bullshit carnivore myths that are bouncing around the internet and Jordan Peterson, everything we've just talked about is demonstrating Jordan Peterson's one insight that people respond to narratives and not facts. All of the reasons why people do the carnivore diet, it's fucking narratives. This is what makes us human. This is all weird masculinity shit, this is what makes us men. It's all bullshit. But it's all a story. It's a very convincing story that you tell yourself, not only about why this diet works for you, but why it is superior to all the other diets.

Aubrey: Yeah. You just want to connect with your sense of power, and ruggedness, and whatever as a dude and you feel disconnected from that currently. The idea of being like, "Just only beef, man food" really resonates with that in a way that Weight Watchers points, for example, might not.

Michael: It's also funny to me that Jordan Peterson totally rejects this thing that gender is socially constructed or race is socially constructed. He hates this shit.

Aubrey: And he's actively, socially constructing it.

Michael: His entire career is this perfect demonstration of how you can fall into exactly the traps that you yourself have identified.

Aubrey: That's the thing that happens when you go, "Oh, nothing socially constructed. Everything is real," regardless of what you say and what you want to believe about the nature of gender, or race, or whatever other thing. It just is real, so deal with it. What that allows for is, it allows for people with a great deal of privilege to construct their own affirming narratives, while also shutting down anyone else's affirming narratives, right? 

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: It is such a weird, blatant moment of like, "You're making shit up. Anyway, here's the shit that I made up." 

Michael: And also presenting it as fact and presenting it as settled science too. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: I'm like, "Well, look the meats what made us human. So, look, you're saying a vegan diet works for you, I'm sorry. That's just not a human way to eat." 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: That's an ideological argument. But you don't realize it, it's an ideological argument yourself. You think that you're just stating a fact.

Aubrey: Well, and even if you do, you're not going to say that. 

Michael: Exactly. 

Aubrey: You've wrapped up too much of your political and cultural capital in insisting that your viewpoint. It's a very convenient thing to do to say, "Oh, everyone else has biased viewpoints, but mine is based in science and you cannot question it." It is this self-preserving logic that is utterly bizarre, but there is this head in the sand response to any criticism of it. It's like, "Nope, mine is real. Mine is real and rational. Yours is made up and fake."

Michael: I thought that I should do a whole thing like debunking the carnivore diet and talking about studies and stuff. But it's like, "Do we have to debunk it?" 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: It's one food. I've seen these debunking that are like, "Red meat is linked to higher cholesterol and heart attacks." I'm like, "Ew, da, da, da, da." It's one food. Broccoli is very good for you. You shouldn't go on an all-broccoli diet. The idea that we even have to do, have to make any work to say like, "Don't eat nothing but ribeyes." Can humans live if they eat nothing be ribeyes, probably, apparently. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: Part of me feels you actually have to give fewer warnings to people not to try this in an episode like this, because the diet is so fucking deranged. There're so many articles where like, "I'm a writer, and I'm going to go on the all-meat diet, and no one lasts longer than five days." 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: One poor guy from The Guardian makes it three days, some dude from Men's Health just totally fucking breaks down and quits the assignment. People cannot do this. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: The final thing I want to say about this is, there's a number of side effects from this diet that are, I don’t know backyard downstairs stuff that I don't really want to talk about on the podcast. 

Aubrey: I'm going to go ahead and assume you're just talking about constipation as a zero-fiber diet.

Michael: There's a period of fountainous not constipatedness. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: There's a period of like, "Yeah, because there's no fiber, then it becomes the opposite.

Aubrey: The opposite.

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: I do like quietly pressing you to talk about poop. 


Michael: Why have you done this to me? What are you doing? 

Aubrey: It is a particular favorite of mine.

Michael: Why

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: But then, there's all kinds of weird side effects of this. 

Aubrey: Sure. 

Michael: Medical professionals are unanimous in like, "Don't do this diet. It's really bad news." But one of the bad newsnesses about it is that eating this for too long like one food, it seems change your gut bacteria and change what your body is able to absorb. 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: After you've been on this diet for a while, you can't eat anything else and you'll have really bad attacks and allergic reactions. If you eat anything other than just ribeye steaks and salt, so, this is ultimately what happens to Jordan Peterson. 

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: Next episode, we are going to talk about how this-- [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: No, is it cliffhanger? 

Michael: It's a cliffhanger. 

Aubrey: God damn it, Mike.

Michael: Next episode, we are going to talk about how Jordan Peterson's deviation from this diet starts a chain of events that ends up with him in a medically induced coma in Moscow. 

Aubrey: What? 

Aubrey: Don't google between now and then, Aubrey. Don’t go on the internet,

Aubrey: Michael, this is so mean. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: I could spend an entire episode being like look at the rise of all this bullshit. 

Michael: I know.

Aubrey: Like, this dude is making these wild ass fucking claims about how people need to only eat beef, salt, and water. 

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Aubrey: Oh yeah. By the way, he's going to get us come up and so you're going to hear about it in two weeks. See ya.

Michael: Aubrey, reality is a place of myth and podcasts are place of me fucking with you. That's what I learned.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I learned from the book I love.