I’m currently reading Enting’s Twisted. His style is certainly a little different from other writers on the subject and interesting. Highlighting anthropogenic climate change deniers as he does got me thinking about the content I’ve come across from such people, creationists, anti-fluoride crusaders and anti-vax truthers.
Of the many things these groups have in common, one is worth noting. They are all lousy at properly referencing the evidence that they want you to believe is overwhelmingly against the standing scientific position.
Take Chris Monckton for example. To say he is liberal on the truth would be an understatement. Fact checking erodes his comments with great efficiency (when you can actually tie him down to a reference), yet he continues his well-rehearsed nonsense in such a way that it would put any automatic weapon to shame…
Mike Williamson provided me a link to a recent post by an anti-fluoride crusader that follows this trend. Titled, New Study on Fluoride Shows No Benefits and Major Safety Issues, Dr. Mercola doesn’t even link to the study the article relates to!
But in its place he links to a study from 2008 which apparently backs up the position of this recent study (something you will need to take his word for). The 2008 study is a review study where the authors had their own filters as to which studies they would review… No surprises that their selective process found a selective result.
The only other study Dr. Marcola links to is a 1995 animal study where rats were given solutions containing 0, 75, 100 and 125 ppm of fluoride (noting that fluoridated drinking water in Australia contains about 1 ppm fluoride and our bodies and kidneys are also far larger than that of a rat).
Apples and oranges… not to mention completely irrelevant to the topic provided by the title.
Apart from this, Dr. Mercola links to himself, repeatedly, for supporting evidence and to a website with an obvious biased position – the Fluoride Action Network. This link is a dead link incidentally, however, as Dr. Marcola’s comments with the link refer to IQ, much as Merilyn Haines did in her one, cut-and-paste job on NewAnthro, I suspect these are the same 100 papers.
These papers, from the quick look I had when previously provided the link, contained many studies with small sample groups, people exposed to fluoride through multiple environmental sources and/or large error margins when compared to the actual differences between the groups (I didn’t look into it any further seeing Merilyn could not show me as much respect as I showed her in actually reading her comments and responding thoughtfully).
And yet, none of this is the new study showing no benefits and major safety issues.
Clearly, this relies upon on an appeal to authority. The man’s a doctor after all and even appeared on the Dr. Oz show, so clearly he is the real deal… If he says there is a new study, there must be one and it must be damning.
Personally, I don’t care if he’s the Pharaoh of the Moon or Thor or even the Galactic overlord himself, Xenu, let me read the study for myself!
Looking into Dr. Mercola’s credentials, listed on his website (seeing that the appeal to authority card has been dealt) I stumbled upon his publications. On the face of it, he looks to be a prolific scientist with an extensive publication record.
The first one I followed, I did so because it seemed out of place; More on Terrorism, JAOA, January 2002.
The paper doesn’t exist, but links to Dworkin (2002) Advanced concepts in interventional spine care. I did a search within that issue of the journal, just to make sure an honest mistake had not been made and no such article could be found.
What is going on here?
Looking at a number of the others (he doesn’t link to them all directly, leading me to do the leg work) I found that many were not peer reviewed studies, but letter to the editors, comments to articles and similar, all grouped as publications (no wonder they are not all linked to).
In the comments to his short piece, Managing hypertriglyceridemia (2003), a fan of Dr. Mercola still felt, “his methods of presentation do not meet reputable scientific standards. For example, he freely uses anecdotal evidence when it supports his opinion, and deplores it when it does not. In particular, I object to his promotion and sale of commercial products he endorses as a healthcare provider, which I consider a serious conflict of interest.”
Is there any doubt why the public are so often confused about many scientific subjects when such individuals are promoted within the public media?
For more on fluoridation of water and the anti-fluoride crusaders, please see this post.