I call something conventional wisdom if many or the majority of people believe that it is true.
Throughout history many things have been conventional wisdom: the earth is flat, an atom is the smallest amount of matter, animals don't have emotions, people who have epilepsy are demon-possessed, just to give a few examples.
There is conventional wisdom in our world, too, and it is often much more convenient to hold on to this conventional wisdom than to examine whether it is actually true. Examples I see on Spark quite often are these:
- everything is good to eat in moderation (even HFCS and trans fats?)
- we should never eliminate whole food groups (who defines what a food group is, are we making a distinction between essential and non-essential foods?)
- even 10 minutes of walking a day will improve our health (well, maybe if we assume that the alternative is to sit or lie down all day, but who really does that?)
- eating saturated fat causes heart disease (tell that to all the people on the low-carb team and low-carb forums who have evidence to the contrary)
- if you want to lose weight you have to eat less (how come more than 95% of the people who cut their calories dramatically lose weight only temporarily, long-term weight loss has more to do with hormones, esp. insulin)
- if you want to protect your joints as a runner you need shoes with good support and cushioning (these shoes often cause joint problems because they encourage heel striking, many people who go to barefoot/minimalist running will improve their joint problems)
- If you lose a lot of weight you will be healthier (not necessarily, only if what you lose is largely fat, not muscle)
- If we had better schools/teachers/programs kids would learn more (maybe it is the parents who are failing our kids, they delegate their job to teachers who are overwhelmed with discipline problems and don't have time to teach)
- We should be getting all our nutrients from real food (it's good to try, but depending on where our food comes from and what we can afford much of the food in grocery stores does not have normal nutrient levels, in particular vitamins and minerals).
As you read this you may find yourself agreeing with some of my statements and disagreeing with others. But that is not the important point to me.
All these opinions can be discussed and reasoned with many good arguments for and against, but we need to make an effort to find out if they are true. Don't take my word for it, but don't believe the majority, either. If we stop trying to find the truth because it is inconvenient or unpopular we make a contract with the devil. But that is also just my opinion.