The “Now I Know Better” Fallacy

I want to start by saying that I greatly respect those in nutrition that come out and admit they were wrong instead of clinging to an old idea that may no longer be correct or was never correct. However, these same people greatly destroy their credibility when they use their own change of opinion as proof of wisdom that they are right today.

I don’t know know if there is a word to describe what I’m talking about, so I’m going to call this the “now I know better” fallacy.

Enlightenment and Condescension

Being able to admit your fault is honorable. But this honor is destroyed when the newly enlightened turn around and attack the very group they left under the guise that they now know better. Yet you see this all the time.

By believing they are suddenly right tells me they failed to understand an important lesson. If they are willing to accept they were once wrong, then the possibility exists that they might still be wrong. Coming to the conclusion that you were wrong about one thing doesn’t make you automatically right about your newfound belief. You might not even be right in declaring you were wrong in the first place.

What bothers me most about the “Now I Know Better” crowd is their condescending attitude towards the group they were once part of. It isn’t enough to leave politely, they feel the need to burn the house down, because they know better. They become the self appointed parents ready to save their children from their own stupidity.

We saw this years ago when when the first wave of Paleo “knew better” than those on a Standard American Diet or a vegetarian diet. Now we are seeing the arrogance of the Paleo attackers. Their criticism might be 100% valid, but that has zero relevance to their current beliefs.

I view each stage of my nutritional journey as a learning opportunity. I do not regret my experiences with low-fat, vegetarianism, Paleo, low-carb, WAPF or more recently ideas from Ray Peat. My only regrets have been sticking with a diet that stopped working, because I felt I knew better.

I can see that it is likely that my nutritional journey will continue as I change and what we know about food changes. Each stage has kept me interested in my relationship with food in a new way. I view that as a good thing.


Add yours

  1. Great post. Even when we are aware of this fallacy, its easy to fall into the “now I know better” line of thinking.

  2. This seems prevalent not just in terms of nutrition. I never understood why calling someone a “flip flopper” was a bad thing (except of course that we don’t want critical thinkers in our midst). The more I learn about a lot of things, the more I am willing to challenge my own beliefs.

    Regarding your nutrition journey… new information about food, and also about your own body and how it changes over time will surely mean changes for you… the other fallacy I see is if it’s good for the goose it’s good for the gander (or one-size-fits-all approach). What I love about your approach is that you focus NOT on preaching, but on what works for you. (YOU should write a book 🙂 )

  3. Condescension is found in certain psychological profiles. It is not the result of experience.

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