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Well this sucks: RIP Seth Roberts

I had never heard of Seth Roberts before I heard of Art De Vany. Seth interviewed him way back. Google it yourself. It was a good interview.

A year or so later, all of a sudden, Seth posted on his blog about something here. I’m not going to put in a bunch of links, but it was in about 2009/10, and it was about saturated fat vs. CVD, I believe, and Seth was intrigued by the statistics. He really thought there was something important about them, and he defended it pretty staunchly in comments either here, there, or both—which surprised me.

At the Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011 at UCLA, Seth approached me at the hotel to introduce himself, but also to introduce me to his friend, Tucker Max. Turns out, Tucker had something to say, and Seth gave up half of his 40-minute presentation space so Tucker could say it.

…And I’m like, ‘Seth hangs out with Tucker Max? How fucking cool is that?!’

What was cool beyond that is I guess he’d turned Tucker onto my blog previously, and Tucker had some kinds of advice for me (later; we corresponded for a time and I have autographed copies of his books).

I followed none of Tucker’s advice, paid the price. Still digging myself out.

…I got word of Seth’s demise this morning via a damn tweet.

Fuck Twitter.

I dropped this comment on the post by his sister, on his blog.

Seth Roberts.

A man I often had a question for and was always honored and surprised that he had questions for me. A truly insatiably curious man, the very definition of a man in my eyes.

When I did my AHS11 presentation, he was the first person to the microphone for the Q&A. Every now and then, I’d get an email asking if and when I was going to blog about some thing or the other that I had said (and forgotten) I would blog about.

He probably had 3×5 cards or something to keep track. 🙂

It was immediately followed up by Andrew, a man confused about his loss.

It’s always about you, isn’t it, Richard?

And my reply:

We value people because they value us.

You can look at it any way you like. I lost. You lost.

I’m simply telling people how I lost.

Death is best viewed as selfish.

If you haven’t truly lost something, then aren’t you suspect if you say anything? Are you being a typical fraud? Are you expressing generic sympathies for common handshakes, nods and hugs, in the aim of it all being about you, nefariously?

I prefer to be honest about it. Seth’s death pisses me off because I lose something by it, and I’m a selfish fuck and I want him back, for my sake. That he lost his life is the given subject. When you lose literally everything, there’s nothing for you to write home about, anymore.

I’m pissed off about Seth because I know I’m not getting any more emails from him and if ever I find myself at another conference as speaker or attendee, I’m not going to have him coming up and striking up a conversation like he did for me at both AHS11 and 12.

…And, I’ll no longer see him as a Cc in the many email convos over the years with all so many, in subjects across the board.

You have a choice, now: Flap you lips or fingers like the 99%, expressing your condolences and all that other banal bullshit…

Or, tell us what Seth took from you, and what you lost by him going and dying on you.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

43 Comments

  1. Tucker Max on April 28, 2014 at 13:49

    Well said. Seth was an amazing man, to pretty much everyone he met.

  2. cliff styles on April 28, 2014 at 15:24

    Well said, Richard. Without a selfish interest in another person, what does it mean to value them?

    Seth Roberts was a model of courage, integrity, and dedication to skin-in-the game personal science (as you are.) First, I miss that model, encountering him through his blog every morning. Then, of course, what I learned from him.

    Finally, he wrote to me recently that I had made some comments to him that had caused him to write a new introduction to his forthcoming book on personal science. I did not have the wits or confidence to ask him what he meant (he did say ‘I’m not kidding’), and now I can only guess about what my effect was on his thinking.

    Many dimensions of personal loss for me, and evidently for many, many others, too. He was a man of value to many good people.

  3. Gina on April 28, 2014 at 15:33

    I don’t know what I’ve lost with Seth’s passing, because he had such a weird and wonderful way of seeing the world. If it’s anything like what I’ve gained by using his discoveries about sleep and mood, it’s profound. I know I’ll also miss his courageous, but never cynical, take on all kinds of things.

    I’m looking at the link in my browser to his blog. I guess it’s time to delete it, but I have decided to be childish and leave it there. I want to hear more from Seth.

  4. Aaron Ashmann (halotek) on April 28, 2014 at 15:53

    Seth Roberts was amazing in a lot of ways.

    Hopefully science will flush out if his super high butter/omega 6 intake might have contributed to some of his issues.

    His stress seemed high, but his high butter intake may have contributed to some issues.

    It’s highly likely that a substance like butter might actually improve brain functioning and at the same time cause heart issues.

    • Katherine on April 29, 2014 at 03:59

      I wonder about the high PUFA intake in general since PUFA is so easily oxidized and, specifically, the high n3 intake due to the increased risk of bleeding.

      His high butter intake seems less problematic, but who knows…maybe it was.



  5. Mo Ibrahim on April 28, 2014 at 16:25

    He’ll be missed!

  6. Stu on April 28, 2014 at 18:07

    Seth was a brilliant man with an amazing sense of curiosity. He was also very generous. When I mentioned that a spoonful of honey helped me sleep he offered to mentor me and spent many months emailing me and coaching me on how to run a self experiment. I’ll miss his regular emails and our conversations. Rip Seth

  7. GeoffD on April 28, 2014 at 19:09

    Huge, epic loss. Seth’s blog was the first thing I read every day. FTA now moves up to #1. Seth seemed to be open to any new idea, with no bias, ego, or preconceived notions. He opened my eyes to so much. I can’t think of a non family member whose death has affected me this much. God speed Seth. Hopefully there is room for skepticism in the afterlife.

  8. Louise on April 28, 2014 at 19:20

    Richard, not everyone has your sense of humour.

    Most people were expressing sympathy for Amy and the rest of Seths family in their post. You didn’t mention Seths family at all in your post and that is why it came across as insensitive and self serving. If I were you I would post another comment on the Seth Roberts website apologising for seeming so flippant and sending your condolences to the family.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 28, 2014 at 20:56

      Louise. I’m glad I’m not you.



    • Charles on April 28, 2014 at 21:07

      +100



    • Charles on April 28, 2014 at 21:07

      That was + to RN’s comments.



  9. Charles on April 28, 2014 at 19:21

    I want to beat the crap out of the next person who can’t wait 24 fucking hours to speculate on whether Seth ate too much butter and therefore: dead. It’s a time to remember someone special and mourn him. Not take the opportunity to spew your personal nutritional theories over the grave of someone who was admired, and yes, loved, by many.

    • Steve on April 28, 2014 at 20:44

      The dead are dead and will never live again. We, the living, are all who matter now. Sentiment won’t make him any less dead, but discovering the truth about how and for what reasons people die WILL absolutely help people living RIGHT NOW. Fuck sentimentalism. You’re ignoring the whole point of researching health optimization, TO LIVE LONGER LIFE. When someone dies who was very interested in health and particular supplements, that person is particularly valuable, not just an arbitrary dead person. Let the dead mourn the dead. We, the living, will march without missing a beat, learning one more set of facts to decrease the chance of others dying.



    • Charlie on April 28, 2014 at 20:08

      Thank you…



    • Charles on April 28, 2014 at 21:10

      Steve, wait a bit. Chill out. There’s no rush.



    • Anand Srivastava on April 29, 2014 at 00:21

      Charles:

      I suspect that Seth would himself have wanted to research his own death.

      And yes the trail gets cold as you wait.

      He was a very prolific blogger. There would be a post by him everyday. I looked for his articles on education, health, research, etc. I will miss him, I felt the shock, and yes I will wait for that one last info that I will get from him.



    • Adrienne on April 30, 2014 at 10:03

      I have to agree with Steve here. If a person writes books, creates public blogs and gives presentations etc to the public on alleged health benefits of a particular diet, food, supplement etc, then the cause of that person’s untimely and sudden death should be made public so others can learn from it. Perhaps his diet was a contributory factor, perhaps not. But it is certainly appropriate to inquire given that several elements of his recommendations — fermented foods; butter, flaxseeds/flaxseed oil; intermittent fasting; calorie restriction — are things many of us have or are experimenting with.



    • Charles on April 30, 2014 at 10:53

      Yes, I understand that we want to know these things, and that Seth would definitely want us to know these things. But this isn’t CSI. The trail does not get colder like it would in a murder case. And I just think out of respect to him and his family that it’s okay to wait a few days, and reflect on who he was and what he meant to people, before we start dissecting whether he ate too much butter and that killed him. I also don’t think we will ever know that. I guess there could be an autopsy, and we will get a cause of death eventually, but that probably won’t tell us much.

      And I think Ashley’s comments below are wonderful.



    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on April 30, 2014 at 13:15

      i also agree with Steve.

      since someone criticized the lack of longevity (early death) of Dr. Barry Groves & some others as the evidence against LC. (i thought it was rather mean)

      so it is fair to ask! (maybe he “hacked” too much?)

      (i’ve only read few of his articles; he had a very creative mind! RN’s comment does not read “insensitive” to me)
      RIP



    • victor on April 30, 2014 at 15:11

      Sorry Charley, I have never heard of Seth until I read on one of these health blogs that a man near my age who supposedly ate a similar diet to mine suddenly dies. Should I send my condolences to someone contributing to my own demise while eating my daily half cube of butter and a side of flax seeds or perhaps find out what the hell happened? His was and is advice we follow and often without question. I’m guessing we need to start questioning more.



    • Richard Nikoley on May 1, 2014 at 07:01

      The truth is, even with an exact cause of death, say MI or cerebral hemorrhage, you still can’t be sure whether his dietary practices shortened or extended his life.



    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on May 1, 2014 at 12:28

      exactly.

      Seth may have some undiagnosed condition.

      this why i brought up, using the “lack of longevity” of some famous LC-ers is poor statistics & super unkind.

      so one could also argue the same way that Seth’s untimely death negates all his good advices?

      regards,



  10. Resurgent on April 28, 2014 at 20:46

    Seth was special.! Although I had just a few email exchanges with him – he impressed me firmly as being completely out of the ordinary.

    While we all mourn his physical death, I would like to remind each one of us to remember what he left with us that will never die.

    Let me say it in this way: Whatsoever our life is, death reveals only that. If we have been miserable in life, death reveals misery. Death is a great revealer. If we have been happy in our life, death reveals happiness. Death is inevitable but need not be ugly. Seth lived his life unhindered, uninhibited, unsuppressed. He leaves behind a message to live life beautifully, without fear, in love, in dance, in celebration.

    Life is eternal, death is just an episode in it. Seth’s death reveals to us the transcendental in the universe – He had a date with existence – His spirit will live here forever.

  11. John N on April 28, 2014 at 22:16

    I wrote a comment on his blog yesterday that hasn’t been approved for whatever reason (still “awaiting moderation”). Maybe this blog’ll take it:

    Very sad news. I didn’t know Seth and I wasn’t a poster here, but I’m a longtime reader and a big admirer, his blog has been educational and inspirational. He was a force for good. I hate death.

    (Maybe saying “I hate death” was deemed inappropriate, but I honestly think more people should feel that way and start thinking harder about curing aging — the basic cause of many deaths. I’m sick of it, time for death to die.)

    • Richard Nikoley on April 29, 2014 at 02:20

      John, more likely it’s not being monitored and Seth must have had first comment moderation set (as I do) and so the only comments going through are from those who’ve commented previously. Mine did not go through moderation.

      I’ll not post any other comments on that thread, but it is interesting to note how perspectives are different. Someone has suggested that I’m using Seth’s death to “promote my blog.” Seth was a fellow blogger and a prolific one at that, as am I. When I heard the news it was natural to immediately consider what I would write and post about it. It’s what I do, so, my different perspective is that I’m using my blog to promote Seth and his life and contribution, as well as alert those who may not have known of him so that they can go and do so now.



    • John N on April 29, 2014 at 10:43

      That sounds very likely yes, thx.

      I don’t see anything wrong with your comment. The annoying comments are those that use this opportunity to bash his experiments and even the whole quantified self, the “do what conventional medicine tells you and shut up” crowd. Luckily those are absent from the thread at his blog, but I’ve seen them elsewhere.



    • snakes on a plane on April 29, 2014 at 11:04

      I am glad that you are posting about Seth. I would not know of him or his passing if you did not. I can see it is my loss that I did not know of him while he was alive.



    • Richard Nikoley on April 29, 2014 at 13:30

      John N

      Here is why all that is dishonest and biased. Since nobody knows and EVEN if there is a particular cause of death, unless there is data from way back demonstrating a progression, then there’s no way to say for sure if Seth’s practices didn’t extend his life beyond what it might have been.

      I do kinda think that’s doubtful.

      But, here’s what I’m absolutely sure of: Seth would not want us to confound variables and he’d prefer that we have a strong association rather than settling on a guess.

      Seth was ok with “I don’t know.”



  12. PaleoJew on April 29, 2014 at 06:21

    My sympathies to the family of Seth Roberts. As an avid reader of his blog posts I felt connected to him as I do with all the bloggers I follow on a regular basis. Yes, even you Richard.
    I think everyone in this community of ours believes we are at least partially protecting ourselves from an untimely demise. So when a person such as Seth leaves us all too soon it reminds us of our own mortality and the fact that there is no guarantee that our next breath won’t be our last. That shouldn’t stop us from seeking the truth and but let us never believe we have all the answers.

  13. Woodchuck Pirate on April 29, 2014 at 09:38

    There are no selfless acts. In varying instances I have experienced emotions arising from thought processes about what the deceased was deprived of when a violent or unfair death occurred. Such underlying premise is speculation and requires a leap of faith, which is always selfish indulgence.

    Consciousness reveals mourning is always for self, there is no separateness.

    Woodchuck Pirate
    aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA
    http://www.woodchuckpirate.com

  14. Scott Pierce on April 29, 2014 at 10:30

    I spoke to Seth a couple of times on the phone and exchanged emails on rare occassion. I’m somewhat lighthearted and would try and joke with Seth. I’m not sure he ever got it or maybe I’m just not as funny as I think I am 😉

    I think what I will miss most is Seth’s posts with collected links. There was always at least one that interested me. I feel like I did when Breitbart died that the world is a little more gray and there is no way to bring it back to the way it was.

  15. Ashley on April 29, 2014 at 18:43

    Seth was one of my professors at Tsinghua University in China, and I took all 3 of his classes in 3 years. It was from him that I first heard of R. One of the classes that Seth was teaching was a seminar-like class where we discussed the most current psychological topics. In order to know the new students better, Seth used to invite every week 3-4 students to dinner. None of us had ever met a professor who would do something like this; I remember that we thought Seth was peculiar but adorable as well.

    Seth was the person whom I turned to 3 days before the deadline of applying for graduate school, when the professor who had agreed to write me a recommendation letter for no reason just stopped replying to my email. Seth finished the recommendation letter in 2 hours. I still remember us sitting in his study in his apartment on the 6th floor, trying to recall as many details as we could of his class, hoping that some of them could be included in the letter. I am now a PhD student in Psych at UIUC, and if it hadn’t been for Seth, I would’ve for sure missed the deadline and nothing would’ve been the same.

    Before graduating from Tsinghua and leaving for the U.S. last summer, I gave Seth a box of stones that can only be found in my hometown, Nanjing, as a thank you for his help, and I offered to show him around one day. He was very happy, but was afraid that it was not an easy thing to do because I wouldn’t be home a lot. I didn’t think it was a big deal; I thought to myself “well, there’s plenty of time”.

    I was wrong.

    RIP Seth, or 罗博思 (this is his Chinese name, the pronunciation of which is similar to Roberts and it means “being knowledgeable and thinking a lot).

    • Charles on April 30, 2014 at 10:55

      Beautiful, Ashley. Thanks for that. It’s hard to imagine a better tribute.



  16. Terri on April 30, 2014 at 10:58

    I loved the way he pulled from so many fields on his blog. He recently reached out to me by email about a comment I left on one of his posts regarding teaching/education. I was shocked and honored! Now I am saddened by the loss of someone who seemed to really care and be searching to get new ideas out there for people. Thanks for posting this and you take care.

  17. MJB on May 4, 2014 at 08:52

    RE: “it’s all about you”” from Andrew:
    Exactly!! You almost got it. It was all about the individual “me, me, me.” He had an effect on many different persons from many
    perspectives. From the comments, his family
    will recognize the respect he earned and this memory will linger with them long after their sorrow mellows. A life well lived, indeed! (From a weekly reader of his blog,)

  18. JohnG on May 5, 2014 at 11:36

    I saw Seth as a hero. How many in a position like he held did what he did. He put science first despite how it may have made him look.

    He was really cool to me. I miss him terribly.

    Thanks for the blog entry Richard.

  19. Christophe on May 8, 2014 at 00:11

    He took my ignorance.
    Too bad it was not all of it…

  20. Charles on May 8, 2014 at 23:02

    Okay, so I have to offer a too-late apology to Seth. I got into a amicable back-and-forth with him about his honey prescription for better sleep. He argued that honey and resistant starch might be similar in how they both cause of improved sleep. I, of course, in my new-found RS wisdom, would have none of that. And finally he kind of backed off on his point and admitted I might be right. Yay for me.

    Well, not so much. Now I find this:

    Aussie honey good for gut health: study.
    A world-first study released this week has discovered that Australian eucalypt honey has prebiotic qualities, meaning that regular consumption could improve gut health.
    http://www.echo.net.au/2014/05/aussie-honey-good-gut-health-study/

    Okay, Seth. your innate ability to connect seemingly disparate things wins again. Honey (carbs!), potato starch (no carbs!) could not be the same! Well, except if they are.

    You will be missed, Seth.

  21. RIP, Seth Roberts | on May 9, 2014 at 06:17

    […] Richard Nikoley […]

  22. Adrienne on May 11, 2014 at 16:29
  23. Ward on June 6, 2014 at 10:53

    PUFAs (among other things) are probably what killed him.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 6, 2014 at 13:23

      Thanks, Pathologist Ward.

      I’m sure you’ll believe that no mater what the pathologist who actually performed the autopsy reports.



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