Often, when an individual is aware of no valid arguments to support a position they would prefer to be true, they instead demonise the position, attempting to render it immoral, removing the need for evidence. This demonization isn’t based on valid criticism and is referred to a strawman argument.
Climate “sceptics” will call the UN evil – attempting to kill the majority of people via Agenda 21 – thereby demonising the IPCC… which they then use to jump clear of all climate science. The same comes from the so-called “Climategate” whereby the private conversations of a few scientists are misconstrued to the ridiculous conclusion that all climate science is junk (regardless of the genuine context of the emails – which tends to get in the way of a good story).
With fluoride, the strawman argument assumes fluoridation related science is equivalent to what they call “tobacco science”.
The term “tobacco science” refers to industry endeavours that aimed to counter growing scientific consensus proving that tobacco is the cause of otherwise avoidable illness and death. There are three elements to “tobacco science”:
- Massive industrial profits at risk, due to the mounting evidence against a product
- “Tobacco science” does not even try to provide evidence against the growing scientific evidence. Instead they develop a countermovement. They prop up “experts” who may publish the odd paper published in some lesser journals or, more often, by-pass the peer review process entirely to write op-ed pieces for general reading. All of this, they then use to suggest that scientists do not agree; “there is no consensus” or “the science must not be conclusive” etc. They trumpet such claims on sympathetic media. Rather than providing evidence to support the use of the product, the aim of “tobacco science” is to create unreasonable doubt in the growing scientific evidence
- Rather than being supported by experts within relevant fields of research, “tobacco science” is supported by individuals without relevant scientific expertise.
NONE of these are shared with fluoridation of drinking water:
- One of primary reasons for suggesting drinking fluoridation, alongside its proven safety and effectiveness, by the World Health Organisation is its cheapness.The tobacco industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and thus it is profitable to invest in countermeasures against scientific evidence to maintain high returns. Fluoridation on the other hand does not have anywhere near the same profit returns – it is but a by-product of other processes.There isn’t the industry pressure to preserve profits.
- Rather than doubt, supportive evidence for drinking water fluoridation comes from scientific methodology, building up a clear image of its effectiveness and safe use, which is illustrated by;
- the supporting bodies are experts in the field of dental health, this includes; The World Heath Organisation, Aust Dental Association, American Dental Association, The National Institute of Health…etc
“Tobacco science” is a fringe movement outside the relevant fields of research designed to promote unreasonable doubt in the science through undermining scientific methodology and informative science communication. The science supporting fluoridation of drinking water comes from the very centre of dental health research and is supported by the expert bodies.
On the other hand, the anti-fluoride movement is:
- Fringe; anti-fluoridation advocates tend to be restricted to areas yet to be fluoridated (the same hysteria isn’t present to the same level in other states of Australia as it is in Queensland, as the other states have a long history of fluoridation)
- Rather than providing strong scientific evidence to support their claims, they largely reject the standing body of scientific evidence and substitute it with many easily debunked arguments – in other words, unreasonable doubt – which they follow with, “if in doubt, leave fluoride out!”
- Based almost entirely on interest groups and, headed by non-experts, most of which retirees without work history in dental health.
While I would not call the anti-fluoridation movement the true “tobacco science” here – for it is largely devoid of scientific evidence and entirely removed from the scientific method – I would call it junk all the same.