Routing Around Skeptics

If you’re a change agent and working to get a new idea moving through the population, engaging with many skeptics can be a huge waste of time. Megan and I were just discussing this as it applies to Sacred Economics. Skeptics (and I say this as someone who’s had a career as a software tester) are really looking for flaws and holes in any argument. Good ones may actually provide valuable feedback. But for every good one, there’s a hundred that have their identity pinned on the idea that you can’t prove them wrong. If you provide an answer to their criticisms, they’ll just find more. It’s what they do. The real test of an idea is whether or not it ends up succeeding and causing benefit for a large number of people in the long run. If it’s good enough, it will spread around skeptics by way of the more receptive population, and in an era of Yelp and Google, others will eventually be convinced by how many of their friends it’s working for. As usual, Seth Godin beat me to the punch.

The recent criticisms of the Paleo diet are a good example. It’s factually correct that there’s a great deal of uncertainly about what Paleolithic people ate. It’s true that in some cases, evolution happens really quickly instead of taking millions of years. Finally, it’s true that most of the foods today, even the organic ones at the Farmer’s Market, are very, very different from the ones that existed thousands of years ago. None of those facts, however, really disproves the general idea that the vast majority of human evolution happens slowly, and happened before the creation of modern agriculture. None of it is sufficient evidence that the general idea that it’s healthier to try to eat closer to what our genome evolved for is a better idea than eating modern processed foods. Is it possible that the overlap between the Paleo outlook and it’s huge and increasingly well-document health benefits is coincidence? Maybe, but Occam’s Razor, among other things, would suggest otherwise. I can’t say for sure exactly what Paleo Man ate, but I guarantee that pastured meat, organic and local produce, and only occasional exposure to high concentrations of most grains and sugars is a *lot* closer than the way most of us eat today. And the increasing number of friends I have who are losing weight, reversing Type-2 diabetes, have a more stable mood, more energy, and felt better than they have in years is all the proof I need that it’s a big step in the right direction. I’m as alarmed as a lot of the skeptics that Paleo is being pimped out to sell things that might be gluten and dairy-free, but are still shit food. And I’m glad they’re around to sound the alarm and point out what’s wrong with that picture. But in my efforts to help people be more healthy, they’re definitely not my target audience. And that’s true of most of my change agent efforts in general.

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2 Responses to Routing Around Skeptics

  1. Ebolanore says:

    I find it interesting that you bring up the Paleo diet, and I thank you. While I don’t speak of it often, I am very much into nutrition and wellness, and in fact am about to embark upon my first semester studying the same, after having changed my major. I have a degree in Biology, and have studied much of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of all sorts. What I have seen in this Paleo/Primal movement actually makes a great deal of sense from a biological viewpoint. When I filter my research into various diets through my biology background, I find most to be woefully inadequate as far as providing key nutrients. The biggest stumbling block I find is the tendency to adhere to the Food Pyramid ™. They push grains and limit fats. I know many people of high intelligence that are still convinced that this is how to be healthy. You speak of fat and cholesterol and they practically clutch their crucifixes and shriek of the evil. I then have to remind them that EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY NEEDS CHOLESTEROL to function. And FAT IS VITAL FOR SO VERY MANY THINGS! Then come the vacant, blinky eyes. Let us not even mention that all this Fiber we are told we must consume for health is destroying the digestive tracts. Sorry to jump on a soapbox here, but truly, the health of every single person is a direct result of their habits, dietary and otherwise. Oddly enough, Conan just started, and he mentioned that Twinkies are back. The crowd roared. State of the nation?

    • Scott Mauer says:

      I’m really happy to see more people with a science background seeing these connections! Thanks for speaking up, and all the hard work you’ve put into your coursework. As the truth about healthier eating becomes more obvious because of people seeing friends’ improvements, we will move to a larger critical mass. You’re right about personal responsibility, too. For real progress, people have to *choose* to give up the Twinkies instead of having them taken away.

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