Mount Isa City Council: showing how to value evidence

In Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes and Conway make a compelling point about a need for fair weight, as opposed to the historical equal weight approach of ideas within the media. The latter treats two ideas as though they have equal merit, to be debated on the same level. The former instead gives higher value to the idea which has been more thoroughly tested and demonstrated to be the most correct to the best of our knowledge.

In short, fair weight favours scientific confidence of ideas.

The reason why fair weight is more just is because it values data quality.

It is good news when one hears fair weighting being undertaken within policy discussions, as is occurring in Mount Isa on the topic of fluoridation.

Ms Haines, from the Queenslanders for Safe Water, Air and Food Inc has been disappointed to learn that her opinion is given no more time than any other member of the general public.

Professional health experts, such as Brisbane Dental Hospital director Doctor Michael Foley and Queensland Health water program director Doctor Greg Jackson, on the other hand, have been given more time, in other words fair hearing based upon their expertise in evaluating the quality of relevant data.

In the interest of sound policies to increase the health of the community, it always pays to give more attention to the experts, just as most of us would heed the advice of our GP over the wives tales of our grandmothers. Sure, we can be respectful of the voice of the latter, but who is more likely to understand the human body and spent their lives in dedication to the cause of medical health?

Mount Isa City Council has done the right thing here, which is a welcome change!


4 thoughts on “Mount Isa City Council: showing how to value evidence

  1. Hi Moth,

    Thanks for your post. Some good news today. Gladstone council has voted to keep fluoride. Merilyn is up in arms. If only she have ‘workshopped’ the council, they might have seen the light. She is an expert after all. Unlike that fluoride extremist Dr Foley.

    Sad news is that Rockhampton council turned off the fluoride yesterday. I only found out because I heard it on the ABC news when I was driving home from work. There was nothing in the local paper about it today that I could see.

    I also found out last week that fluoride supplementation is unavailable in pharmacies as it is too cost-prohibitive to manufacture. I have complained to the council about this but doubt that they will take any action.


    1. Have you got links to any material/transcripts with her claiming to be and expert over Foley? If so, that would be valuable.

      It’s typical of these fringe movements to write-off genuine experts simply because they support the actual evidence. In one swift movement, they wipe away both the evidence and expertise by strawmanning them as “exremist”.

      Extremist what? Extremely committed to facts as far as I xan tell.


      1. Hi Moth,

        I posted as ‘fluoride factoid’ in the comments section under the Western Star article you referenced. Barb thinks Merilyn is a scientist and an expert because she has studied this more than Dr Foley. In Merilyn’s reply, she claims that Dr Foley only has expertise in 1% of the body as he is not a chemist or biologist or toxicologist. What? Huh! She doesn’t claim outright to be an expert by I think it is clearly implied.

        I have also posted on a Facebook page run by a Gold Coast group called ‘I Voted No’ – accusing them of being conspiracy theorists. They actually think that fluoride, vaccinations etc are a conspiracy! I haven’t replied to their latest post yet as I am not sure whether it is worth the effort. These people are such loons.


      2. From my research, Ms. Haines has a fairly irrelevant background with a BSc in Applied Science in medical laboratory technology and a work history in pathology (to what capacity, I’m not to know, but it seems basic lab work) while Dr Foley has a Masters degree in public health and epidemiology – something that certainly has provided him expertise in both the social aspects of human health and ability to interpret relevant data. Beyond that, he has had a very successful career in dental health, including; Public Sector Dentistry in QLD, prominent in ADA (QLD) State Council and was President 2005, Oral Health Advisor to the Chief Health Officer and an Honorary Lecturer at University of Queensland, a Fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Academy and the International College Dentists.

        So, whom out of the two can talk with more expertise on human health and dental science? Someone working in a pathology lab or a prominent doctor, with an advanced degree relating to pulic health and a very successful work history in dentistry?


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