One thing that I think is interesting. It’s when heretical views take on conventional wisdom and turn out to be right. There is a well established conventional view, something that everyone knows is true. You have a seeming crank crying in the wilderness making fantastic claims about a simple effective remedy that will address multiple problems. All of the smart credentialed people with the right degrees confidently assure us that the crank is wrong. Yet the rebel view gains new followers. The facts keep strengthening the argument of the rebel while gradually eroding the conventional view until eventually the peer reviewed community just can’t ignore the mountain of evidence. And the rebel turns out to be right.
Consider one example in the 19th century that seems exceedingly relevant in the 21st century, the case of Ignaz Semmelweis, the Viennese physician who figured out in the 1840’s that washing hands with an antiseptic solution could reduce maternal mortality in childbirth clinics. By 1847, his evidence coming out of his clinic was overwhelming. Washing hands worked. Death rates dropped. The solution was simple, cheap and easy to apply. Yet, in spite of that it took nearly 50 years for the evidence to be widely accepted. He eventually went insane and died tragically in 1865 before his views became widely accepted. The conventional consensus rejected his views for nearly 50 years until people like Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur persuaded others to adopt the view. In the US, the Mayo Brothers were also early adopters of this germ theory of illness.
This conventional wisdom’s reluctance to embrace new ideas is known as the “Semmelweis Reflex.”
It is easy to look at something like washing hands and reassure ourselves that that doesn’t happen much now in medical community. I think the Semmelweis Reflex is alive and well.
We need to look no further than Atkins/Keto/Fasting communities. Atkins started advocating this in the early 70’s. Fasting has been around for thousands of years, but as a sound medical hypothesis and intervention, it is still relatively new going back only 15-20 years. Keto has been gaining legions of medical doctors, but it is still widely considered fadish and has not breached the walls of medical orthodoxy yet.
In my view, the case has been made. There are more than enough medical doctors, peer review studies, and powerful anecdotes to make me comfortable embracing the Keto/Fasting critique as correct or at least more correct than carb soaked food pyramid. The intransigence by the medical community is just a Semmelweis Reflex.
It is easy to understand why. Doctors are busy! They are also extremely busy treating putting out small health brush fires, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. You cannot seriously expect a fire fighter to sit and contemplate what caused the fire while they are in the midst of putting out so many fires. I was watching CBS this morning and for crying out loud, nearly all of the commercials focused on Type 2 diabetes and other other chronic obesity associated conditions. There is a huge financial incentive to treat the symptoms rather than addressing the cause through natural interventions.
Unlike me, doctors also have to operate under “standard of care,” which means adhering to conventional wisdom until the rebels are proven correct. For lay people, we just need to decide what’s best for us by seeking out functional medicine doctors who believe that the natural path is the best choice as a starting point before seeking artificial interventions.
Note what I am not saying though. While we should avoid the Semmelweis Reflex, we should always be skeptical. The rebels often are wrong. We should presume conventional wisdom is right, but be very open to the possibility of the Semmelweis Reflex is clouding their judgment.
At 9 months of personal experience and wide review of the literature, I am convinced, as a lay juror of one, that fasting is the simplest, cheapest and most effective intervention at reversing Type 2 diabetes. The case has been made. I accept Dr. Fung’s arguments. That said, I am also aware that the Semmelweis Reflex can also occur in the rebels as well. I am going to constantly be reminding myself that conventional carb wisdom maybe, just maybe might be right… if the facts make it so.
Tomorrow is going to be a shorter post. I am going to focus on Aristotle’s best advice. You are what you do every day through your actions.