Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Seth

I was very sad to hear yesterday of the passing of Seth Roberts. He was, quite honestly, one "out of the box".

Noun. out-of-the-box thinking - thinking that moves away in diverging directions so as to involve a variety of aspects and which sometimes lead to novel ideas and solutions; associated with creativity.

There were so many things to love about Seth.  By any stretch he was successful: a professor of Psychology and best-selling author.  His book 'The Shangri-La Diet' was, despite hinging on the radical idea that flavourless calories reduce the 'set point', extremely popular.

However, success did not make him a snob nor dampen his endless curiosity. He seemed to hold little interest in defending his position or elevating himself above humanity. He loved to expose inconsistencies, controversy and hypocrisy in modern science, and encouraged 'outside the classroom' learning, even for tertiary students. He endorsed the Quantified Self and the validity of scientifically rigorous 'n=1' self-experimentation as a means to discover and investigate new ideas, no matter how wacky.  Believe me, this 'poke it yourself and see' attitude is depressingly rare in university faculty members. 

Blogging almost daily, Seth would engage with commenters, often asking for further information or references if something caught his interest. Last year, I emailed him to ask for help in locating other ITP self-experimenters.  I expected to be ignored, but he replied almost immediately, telling me that he had put my (unedited!) plea on his blog. He also requested  progress updates, and, whenever I issued one, replied with encouragement and ideas.

Since he passed away, it's become obvious that this unassuming openness and inclusiveness was a feature of his personality. A quick glance through the comments on this blog entry (written by his sister), reveals numerous instances of regular interaction with Seth: people met him, emailed, spoke on the phone. There are many people blogging about his death, and all of them (say, here and here and especially here) have a unique and personal story to report, far beyond that of someone that inspired only from a distance. How he made time for so many, I have no idea.

Seth's passing at the relatively young age of (approximately) 63, is a great loss for the scientific and ancestral health communities. I am not sure if the cause of Seth's death will be made public. All that is currently known is that he collapsed while hiking last Saturday (the 26th). It could be that he accidentally did himself harm in some form of self-experimentation. It was well-known that he took extremely high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin D and ate a lot of butter.  I hope that his cause of death will be released, simply because that's what he would have wanted.  In the meantime, this is a very sad moment for his family and the many other people (including myself) that were touched by Seth's life, brilliance and ceaseless work.

While writing this post, I got an email from a friend who summed it up quite nicely:

"Since Saturday, the world is a more stupid place"

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