April 2020 researchers discovered a whole new set of functions in the human eye: https://news.northwestern.edu/.../eyes-send-an.../. The eye. 2020. This upended thousands of years of study and revised all of the modern understanding of the eye. The eye. 2020. No pun intended.
Egyptians first studied the anatomical structure of the eye over 3,500 years ago. Aristotle dissected eyes 2,400 years ago. In the following two millennia, physicians refined their understanding. There are genius eye specialists TODAY who spent an entire career in the modern era without knowing of the eye’s inhibitory signals. Even the best-of-the-best, after 60 years of personal study, after 3,500 years of human inspection, didn’t know about a whole SET of functions in the human eye. The research is so recent, some still don’t.
This happens a lot. Every scientific subtopic has five to ten reputable journals which are publishing ten to thirty papers per month on average. Not all of them are ground-breaking or earth-shattering findings. But, do the math. Let’s say there are around forty health-implication subtopics, seven solid journals a piece, and fifteen papers per month in each: over a thousand findings pertinent to health PER WEEK. This isn’t including peripheral or speciality journals or university department internal publications, many of which also share incredible insights with a lot of academic rigor.
Every single day there is a significant challenge to prior dogma or “common sense”. Please, be very careful referencing your understanding of a “health fact” when you’re pulling it from more than a year ago. There is a substantial likelihood it was dramatically revised or totally refuted long ago. And never forget that is was never THE truth to begin with. It was A finding. This is how discovery works. Bertrand Russell famously said, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.” This is harshly unassailable. In a field of knowledge, confidence IS naivety. Doubt IS wisdom.
Take any subject. Study 5 more years, 10 more, 40 more. What we once thought we knew was closer to “nothing” than “most.” And today is the same. Perspective shift is difficult. I face it all the time. 16,000 consults and over 55,000 hours of professional experience later, I honestly say, “I know a FEW things,” when we discuss health and fitness or the fitness industry.
New discoveries don't ever necessarily become "common sense," by the way. MIT repeatedly proved that a specified light therapy removes even advanced Alzheimer's plaques years ago. This wasn't even new. They were actually incredibly behind-the-curve in this "discovery," since anyone familiar with brain wave oscillations had already concluded it MUST be the case many decades prior. Yet, here we are, three years after the published findings, and there isn't a memory care clinic in the United States which focuses on this, most clinicians don't even know about the science, and the average person has long forgotten the news headlines from 2015 to 2019. Given that the discovery is pertinent to curing Alzheimer's, how fitting that we let the news deteriorate, disappear, and be forgotten. Again, no pun intended.
There is something about the human brain which sinks its claws into an old and inaccurate summary and will not move. Even with new discovery, even promising discovery, even world-changing discovery, people tend to ignore, reject, or forget it. I see people actually seek to do this. Instead of scouring the textbooks or reputable journals in a library for answers, they tend to choose the loudest blowhard with the greatest lack of experience. I marvel at the self-assured coaches who’ve never worked a single week in their lives with as many appointments as I have on my calendar for a single day. There are online influencers who never actually worked full time in a real live facility, but have millions of followers. Why? Because they are continuously shouting that they own THE answer. We all know this has to be incorrect. But it's easy. So, it sells. What sells becomes "common sense" for a "health fact."
Shouldn’t we learn more? Shouldn’t we change? There are voters who are “lifelong” fill-in-political-party-here. I apologize. I am not wired that way. No matter how effective or good of an answer I find, I am still looking for better. Why is lack of wisdom and unchanging understandings of global systems a good thing? There are new discoveries every day; how is it a good thing to believe the same, old, untrue flavor of an idea after years, decades, a life?
Certainty is a function of incomplete understanding. Uncertainty is a function of wisdom. As we begin to peel away the layers of ignorance, we tend to notice more questions, not more answers.
In fitness, I am confronted with this daily. In my area of specialized expertise, there are a handful of items about which I’m relatively certain. But there is no grand sweeping health and fitness truth which I’m not willing to re-evaluate. If I see a strong enough counterexample today, tomorrow I will throw away a dearly-held piece of advice I've been using for years. I have been obsessed with this area of study for over 30 years. I have been professionally doing this for almost 20. I. DON’T. KNOW. IT. MOSTLY.
I have enough experience to know that not every “perfect” plan or program works for all sets of biochemistry out there. Pick a fitness ideology; and I have at least one case study which supports it and one which disproves it. I have worked with enough people to know that there is no “THE answer”. I have personally experimented with enough diet styles to know any one of them can work in the short term, and most fail the long term litmus test. On purpose, I have been up near 300lbs and down to trace body fat. And I can still say, “I don’t truly know it mostly.”
Time changes. People change, even when they swear they don’t. Physical laws remain. But how those laws interface with us is disparate.
Part of the reason why I’m a pragmatist is I don’t want to trap myself inside an incorrect ideology/position which isn’t allowed to alter as new facts and discoveries arise. If a tactic works, it works. Enjoy it while it lasts. Nothing works forever. I’ve coached enough competitive athletes and former competitive athletes to know that the absolute “best programming” is survivor bias, not a testament to the program. The program worked because of WHO followed it, not because of WHAT the program was.
Let’s keep looking. Let’s find something better.
Forget pretending to know it all. We don’t even know it mostly. Many things we thought we knew are not true. New discoveries happen daily. And when we’re talking health and fitness, ignoring the constant publishing, the constant forward march of science, the daily revisions and refutations, citing an old “common sense” understanding of “health facts” is neither sense nor facts. Probably, it isn’t simply a little wrong or outdated. Probably, it was completely false and ancient when you first learned it.