We tend to persist in our paradigms because they give us security. But in order to make progress, we have to challenge them.

Illustration: Mary Delaney

A few weeks ago, an article titled “How a 'fatally, tragically flawed' paradigm has derailed the science of obesity” caused quite a stir in the community. 

The main message of the article is that all obesity research is based on the false dogma that obesity is the result of too many calories and too little calorie breakdown. According to the authors, this school of thought led research into a dead-end for years because no one contradicted the prevailing paradigm.

The paper argues that obesity is not an energy balance disorder, but dysregulation of fat storage and metabolism. We don't get fat because we eat too many calories, but because the carbohydrates in our diet create a hormonal environment that favors the accumulation of excess fat. 

Whether the authors are right or not, science will show in the next few years. The first critical voices criticizing the criticism can already be heard. But what I found much more exciting was the authors’ rather blunt observation that we tend to forget to question existing thought patterns behind our paradigms.

Yet this is a fundamental task of science and innovation: We all know that we cannot create anything new if we cannot think beyond fixed premises. And without the new, there is no progress. However, we tend to persist in our paradigms because they give us security and stability. It is only human to defend this stability. But in order to make progress, it is part of our duty to consistently challenge stable existing paradigms.

This includes accepting contradictions and discussing them, as well as actively seeking contrary evidence. 

Hadi Saleh

Hadi’s Reflections

Dr. Hadi Saleh is CEO of CeramTec, a leading provider of advanced ceramics for medical applications. He is driven by the idea of embracing technology for the benefit of human life.


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