Fluoridation of drinking water to WHO recommended levels DOES NOT reduce IQ: New rebuttal

Too much of anything will do you harm, yet this does not automatically suggest that beneath a certain level, exposure cannot be beneficial. Any medicine, mineral or vitamin can go from beneficial to toxic if you have enough of it.

Fluoride is no different.

Anti-fluoridation advocates list favoured papers that find links between fluoride exposure and reduced IQ, such as FAN. However, in the case of 37 papers listed by FAN, only 2 look at populations with fluoridation concentrations within the range recommended by the WHO. The rest are more than 2 to 3 times this level!

The first of these 2 papers, Lin 1991, only finds a link with children with an iodine deficiency. The second, Ding 2011 is deceptive at face value. Yet from the paper;

“Many cross-sectional studies showed that fluoride concentration in drinking water in this area [Hulunbuir City, Inner Mongolia, China] had been higher than the upper limit of 1 mg/L prescribed in Chinese Standards for Drinking Water Quality for a long period. Meanwhile, studies related to fluoride exposure in drinking water have found large number of children accompanied by dental fluorosis in this region.”

So, while the fluoride levels were lower around the study period, this has not always been the case, which is also evident in the high rates of dental fluorosis which couples with high fluoride exposure to tooth development prior to eruption.

Li et al 2009 also notes the variety of water sources in the region, including brick tea, which accounts for a wide range of fluoride exposure.

FAN themselves acknowledge the weaknesses of the various studies that they reference… only to go onto emphasise that, because they have references, all of which find some relationship and others have also suggested a relationship, there must be one!

Yes; at much higher levels of fluoride exposure!

Note what is done here; they correctly illustrate a relationship at very high levels of fluoride exposure, include a couple lower levels, which in truth DO NOT find a relationship to low level fluoride and reduced IQ, then make a small accommodation to the weakness of the approach, followed by appeals of authority of reputable scientific bodies – which are not, in themselves making the claim that fluoridation at recommended levels is a risk to intelligence.

In short, the claim of fluoridation at WHO recommended levels adversely affecting IQ IS NOT being made, but merely alluded to through overreaching and doubt-mongering. “If in doubt, leave fluoride out” or so the anti-fluoridation advocate will say, but obviously it is NOT made on reasonable doubt.

Finally, it’s worth noting that all the studies come from developing nations, which will not have the same health controls and safety practices as is the case carried out in countries such as Australia, the US or the UK. Places like China, India, Iran and Mexico are very likely to have compounding factors.

If there is a risk to IQ from WHO recommended fluoridation levels, an analysis in places like Australia would show it. My simple look at publicly available data failed to find children struggling in fluoridated areas.

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The anti-fluoridation rebuttal page now has 14 replies to different debunked anti-fluoridation claims! Each of these has a hotlink to twitter and facebook so that you can quickly post a reply, with a link to further details, in defence of evidence and sound logic.

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Pointing to association with commercial dental hygiene products is a STRAWMAN argument: New rebuttal argument

Another favoured strawman argument is that genuine experts that support drinking water fluoridation can be ignored if they have associations with various brands of commercial dental hygiene products. However, how much relevance does this actually have to fluoridation of drinking water?

Clearly, none.

The anti-fluoridation advocate are only too happy to point out that the fluoridation chemicals used for fluoridation of drinking water are by-products from unrelated industries, such as the manufacture of fertilisers. They also criticise fluoridation chemicals for not be the same product as the pharmaceutical grade fluorides used in toothpastes. Both these arguments prove to be real, but irrelevant.

They cannot make such claims and at the same time assume that association with commercial dental hygiene producers is a conflict of interest because the arguments are in contraction to one another. Dental hygiene products are not tied to fluoride and certainly not sourced from the same supplies as that used for drinking water fluoridation.

Moreover, commercial dental hygiene producers, if seeking profits, would prefer that drinking water fluoridation did not occur. If this were the case, it would mean that their product is the prime source for good dental health.

The unrelated process for drinking water fluoridation is actually in competition with commercial dental hygiene products, strictly speaking.

That the leading dental health expert bodies support drinking water fluoridation and even individuals associated with competition dental health products should further ones confidence in its effectiveness, NOT reduce it!

Fluoridation is NOTHING like “tobacco science”: New rebuttal entry

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 OrganisationAust 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.

Fluoridation of drinking water IS effective: New Rebuttal Entry

Below is the newest rebuttal added to my growing Anti-fluoridation Arguments page:

Many anti-fluoridation advocates will wrongly attempt to demonstrate that fluoridation of drinking water is ineffective, by comparing a cherry picked group of affluent first world communities to show that tooth decay is on the decrease regardless of the measure, as FAN do in the following graph.

who_data01

However this is as sensible as stating that a decrease in road mortality is solely due to seat belts or education or roadside safety infrastructure (ie. stop signs, round-abouts, traffic lights etc) or non-tolerance to substance abuse and not because of all these factors collectively. Yet, clearly, it is a range of factors that are mutually supportive to maximise road safety.

The same is true of dental health and water fluoridation.

As anti-fluoridation advocates rely upon the NSW 2007 dental health survey, we can safely assume they support its findings and even within this report, on page 27, we find that an additional 13% of children in fluoridated areas were free from dental caries compared to children from non-fluoridated areas.

Looking at data from Ireland (collected from CAPP), the same downward trend in prevalence of dental caries can been seen in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas, however, in fluoridated areas, this rate is persistently lower than in non-fluoridated areas (something FAN’s graph above happily overlooks):

DMFT for 12-year-olds in Ireland both where fluoridated drinking water is used or excluded
DMFT for 12-year-olds in Ireland both where fluoridated drinking water is used or excluded

Seat beats, education, safety infrastructure, non-tolerance to substance abuse and other factors work hand-in-hand, all assisting to reduce road mortality. Likewise, accessibility to dental health services, education / personal dental hygiene, food and drink choice and fluoridated drinking water together collectively reduce the prevalence of dental caries. It is not one, but all measures, including fluoridation of drinking water, that are effective and mutually supportive.

The war on water fluoridation in Queensland is relentless

It has spilled into two competing petitions that can be found on change.org on water fluoridation in the Rockhampton Regional council area.

One, created by Lissetta Grant, simply asks for consulting the community prior to removing water fluoridation and the other, created by none other than Merilyn Haines, President of QAWF, continues the same thoroughly debunked anti-fluoridation arguments.

Personally, I hope many of my readers will sign Ms Grant’s petition and, if successful, the actual science can be regarded with correct weight within the public discourse, including, one would hope, information, such as that compiled here in response to the typical anti-fluoridation claims that simply do not stand up to cross examination.

Communities have the right to choose whatever healthcare practices they wish, by all means. But such choices must be informed by the highest quality data available which of course, comes from the body of scientific research. It should also be the choice of the community and not some fringe interest group based some 640 km away.

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Please look over my replies to common anti-fluoridation arguments that simple do not stand up to examination and also my articles in relation to water fluoridation.

There’s consensus and then there’s consensus: Climate “Sceptics” Just Don’t Get It

Every single time researchers go to the otherwise wasted effort of reviewing the standing position of climate research in relation to anthropogenic climate change (for, in what other field of science do scientists undertake such analyses?), we hear the same backlash from the committed sceptics.

In fact, looking at the dismissal charges of conservative columnists in relation to climate change, Elsasser and Dunlap (2013) found that attacking the scientific consensus was by far the favoured approach. This illustrates just how much such anti-scientific groups understand the scientific consensus hurts their position, if it is against them.

And it is against them.

Time and time again, I comment that these committed sceptics just don’t get what scientific consensus is. Without blinkers, when one reads such consensus research papers as the recent Cook et al (2013) they find that such an analysis is NOT the result of questionnaires sent to scientists. It is in fact asking, “what is the position drawn from the conclusions of the paper and are these conclusions pro-anthropogenic climate change or not?”

Scientific consensus here is weighed by the evidence presented within peer-reviewed literature and not merely the expert opinion of a few. This is why it hurts the committed sceptic so much and needs such venomous denigration. Donna Laframboise sounds silly when she says, “science isn’t done by consensus” when one looks at what real scientific consensus is.

Moreover, local gold hoarding conspiracy theorist, Jo Nova, presents just how little she gets science in her reply to Cook et al (2013) by referring to her beloved, Oregon Petition Project;

“You want authority? Skeptics can name 31,500 scientists who agree, including 9,000 PhDs, 45 NASA experts (including two astronauts who walked on the moon) and two Nobel Prize winners in physics.”

Righto – is that what’s supposed to challenge empirical evidence? A bunch of names of people – the vast majority of which, regardless of their other achievements, are without any relevant training or contributed any relevant analysis to the related fields of science – signing on the dotted line…?

The Oregon Petition Project is a one-sided vote. It is irrelevant.

Science isn’t done by consensus and the scientific consensus isn’t done by people. It is done through evidence. Hence the print in Cook’s infogram; 97% of climate papers stating a position on human-caused global warming AGREE global warming is happening – and we are the cause.

Nowhere do the positions of people come into it. It’s an argument made on evidence, not opinion.

Yet the climate sceptics attempt to denigrate it as opinion, whilst providing evidence that IS based purely on opinion!!

There’s consensus and then there’s consensus. The body of scientific evidence simply does not support  the committed climate scepticism and the sceptics know this fact and do whatever they can to present a sideshow and misrepresent the body of scientific evidence because of this.

There is no debate over consensus because the definition of it is different for those who accept scientific evidence and those determined to remain “sceptical”.

Portland Votes for Dark Age Myth: An illustration of the potency of anti-science in the modern “enlightened” world

I’ve had a couple comments to update me on the results of the Portland debate over water fluoridation. The vote stood at no 69,303 (61%); yes 44,946 (39%) with the fluoridation proponents conceding.

In reality, I don’t care too much. A society can decide what measures of healthcare they want or don’t want, provided the quality of life of the community – especially the most vulnerable – is maintained if not improved upon via other methods.

What I find disappointing however is that this wasn’t a victory for the community or common-sense, but nothing more than a celebration of ignorance and anti-science. My initial article on the question of fluoridation in Portland came about from stumbling upon an article by the local chapter of the Sierra Club which opposed water fluoridation. For evidence to support this position, they relied on many of the bunkum claims sprouted by the anti-fluoridation camp (click here to read though my growing list of replies to these claims).

The Sierra Club is one of the oldest environmental groups and with a large membership, they have potential to do real good for increasing the sustainability of communities, while simultaneously buttressing up surrounding environments. Yet this can only come about if they base their position on strong evidence. The best evidence comes from scientific rigour. This thus allows us to provide strong justification and potential methodologies in which we can have the greatest confidence will achieve such goals for long term prosperity.

In this case however, the Sierra Club chose to reject the science and substitute unsubstantiated conspiracy ideation it its place. The credibility of the organisation is thus brought into question, now that they have sided with paranoia dating back to the Cold War.

How much of the actual vote resulted from the Sierra Club? I’m not certain. Clearly they are just one influence which resulted in this outcome.

It simply illustrates the argument I have long made that we are not “enlightened” in the modern age of technological advancement and incredible medical achievements. Most people cannot even explain how a simple light and switch circuit works, let alone explain why soap is more effective than just water. Most are simply passengers – something academia is not immune from either.

“Super foods” and “anti-oxidants” printed on a label boost sales, but nothing more so than Oprah’s endorsement. And don’t get me started on our devotion to growth within a finite resource base and lust for increasingly inefficient and outdated technology or simply larger versions, serving as little more than peacock feathers.

Those whom celebrate the “win” in Portland against fluoridation do so based on junk science and ideology. All that has changed from the world prior to the enlightenment is that our ideologies have become secular.

No different to New Age or Natural “medicine” this is a celebration of myth akin to Dark Age thinking (or nonthinking, if the truth be told). That such positions defy debunking, not because they are good arguments, but only because their proponents are immune to criticism, only pushes us further from where we ought to be and presents a worrying trend for the future of our children.

Dead-Head Denialism: Challenging “Sceptics” of Climate Change to Fluoridation is Zombie Warfare

It has been a while since I’ve commented on much in the way of climate science and the denial movement. Although aware of the recent noise regarding the supposed “proof” of the unfounded “scare” regarding anthropogenic climate change, citing Otto et al (2013) or foaming bile in reply to the Cook et al (2013) study illustrating that experts within relevant fields of science simply do not share the popular “scepticism” and, in fact, have moved beyond proving it – simply taking it for granted – I’ve chosen to say nothing. (see reflections on each, here and here respectively)

Why?

Because it’s the same damned nonsense that proliferated the internet when I started blogging.

The “Sceptics”

The self-titled “sceptics” illustrate their denialism in this continual rejection of the standing body of evidence. The loathed consensus is nothing more than the body of relevant human knowledge which illustrates that our emissions include gases that have a greenhouse effect and those gases are in concentrations great enough to increase the energy load within our atmospheric reservoir, changing our global climate.

The “sceptics” pretend to be reasonable – stating that all they want is sufficient proof for the position – but then reject the available body of scientific evidence and consensus (not simply two sides to the same coin, but effectively, the same thing). Yet, they up and down jump hysterically whenever they catch a whiff of a paper that sounds like it supports their position. That is not scepticism; that’s denial of the potential that one’s position could be wrong.

They don’t wait for sufficient evidence of any position, but instead for their favoured position to be proven right. And just like the creationists, they’ll have to wait for the second coming which will never happen.

The Dead-Heads

On zombies and denial, I came upon a great article by Readfearn, in which he links to a recent publication of the American Behavioral Scientist devoted entirely to the climate change denialism phenomena, which I’ve since been reading.

It all comes back to the same point; denialism, regardless of the subject matter, from climate change or evolution to what I’ve recently challenged – water fluoridation – such positions, that is, a rejection of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are simply symptomatic of deeper ideological biases.

Creationists understand that they need creation to validate their faith (the most honest of the Abrahamic followers). The anti-vax, anti-fluoridation and even the anti-wind farmers all share a fear in the unknown; “they are exposing us to something – it must be a trap!”

And climate change feeds on many, be it, free market ideologies, fear of imposing governmental input, generational differences that rub people up the wrong way etc.

As such, correcting the wrongs, as we tend to attempt within media, is like wiping the puss without fixing the infection. Or burying the zombie still intact.

This is why the zombies exist; we fail to realise that you must lob off the dead brain within (no Mad Monckton, I’m not suggesting you should be killed – it is a metaphor).

All humans are susceptible to such leanings. We all want to think we have a good handle on the workings of the world and often don’t take too kindly when core principles of this are shattered. It’s easier to go on believing in our core values / beliefs and instead to shoot the messenger, than take the time to reflect on ourselves, admit to personal fault and adapt.

Deniers keep on denying not because they are deniers, but because they are human; individuals with certain principles that make sense to them.

Sceptics will change and can remove themselves from personal attachment to ideas where they need to, but there are far fewer of them than anyone of us is likely to admit.

So, what is the answer?

Change is a slower moving creature than we wish it were.  I have no doubt the deniers of climate change, evolution, anti-vaccination etc will exist beyond my life span. The same will be for individuals and groups opposed to same-sex rights, as do exist pockets of racists and sexists today, even within generally progressive states.

However, to challenge them with any potency, it isn’t enough to expose their denial. In fact, it’ll have little to no effect on the very people one aims the effort at.

Rather, the best approach must be to work instead on the core values leading the charge. If you promote the scientific accuracy of evolution, your primary focus must be the Book of Genesis. Without that, there is no justification for creation.

If it is one of the “they are exposing us to…” mobs, you need to refer to epidemiology as well as get to the root of “they” and the motivations of this entity. For instance, the anti-fluoridation crowd suggest fluoridation is marketing. However, one of the primary benefits pointed out by WHO, alongside the obvious health benefits, is its cheapness. Where are the fat fluoride barons?? These are very much a secret enemy conspiracy ideations.

With climate change, in reality, the question is clearly pointed at how well the free-market ideology can sustain human activity. One doesn’t need to look at climate change, but can look at the accelerated need for primary resources, increasing waste production, the rate of population growth and environmental degradation (from where many goods and services are derived); each one of them is essential to the free-market currently promoted. The nine planetary boundaries highlighted by Rockström et al (2009) are all negatively impacted by our current economic objectives.

Zombies die when you remove the dead head driving the drooling creature aimed solely at bringing everyone down. The dead head in this case is the thoughtless ideological principles driving denial against overwhelming contrary evidence. These outdated memes are the undead that really need to be challenged.

The National Institutes of Health funded study found no relation between tooth decay and the amount of fluoride ingested by children

The following is a new argument under my Anti-Fluoridation Arguments page above.

Firstly, key points from the NIH website page on fluoridation facts;

    • Fluoride in water helps to prevent and can even reverse tooth decay.
    • More than 60 percent of the U.S. population has access to fluoridated water through public water supply systems.
    • The optimal level of fluoride to prevent tooth decay is 0.7 milligrams per liter of water.
    • Many studies, in both humans and animals, have shown no association between fluoridated water and cancer risk.

It seems strange that, if the NIH funded a study which stated otherwise, the NIH would continue to conclude a contrary position. How can the anti-fluoridation advocate hold the NIH up as authority and yet ignore the actual conclusions drawn by the NIH?

Taking further effort to look through the various anti-fluoridation websites, to find the actual study this claim refers to (as most of the time, it is stated without citation) I found that it comes from an ongoing study commonly known as the “Iowa Fluoride Study“.

FAN put it this way;

“In 2009, the Iowa researchers published the long-awaited data on the effect of total fluoride exposure on tooth health after 9 years of the children’s life. Much to the disappointment of fluoridation advocates, fluoride intake was found to be significantly associated with dental fluorosis, but not tooth decay.”

The study they refer to is, Warren et al (2009) Considerations on Optimal Fluoride Intake Using Dental Fluorosis and Dental Caries Outcomes – A Longitudinal Study, and, as is usually the case, on actual inspection, the article itself reads a little differently to the cherry picked and re-quoted article provided by FAN.

In essence, the study attempts, as the title suggests, to find the “optimal” fluoride intake value. The results of their study basically conclude that this is a difficult thing to achieve, to say the least, if not entirely impossible.

However, they do not conclude there is no significant association with fluoride intake and caries prevention. Rather, they find an overlap; with lower fluoride exposure, there is lower rates of fluorosis and with higher fluoride exposure, less caries.

Yet, as with Bassin et al (2006), here too the researchers stress limitations with the study and caution in interpreting the results – something the average anti-fluoridation advocate often fails to mention. Limitations include; actual control of fluoride intake – some sources were not accounted for; the study sample was not representative of any defined population; and, the vast majority of fluorosis was mild or very mild (only 3% were considered severe) and not of aesthetic concern – results that mirror those of the 2007 NSW Dental Health Survey discussed above.

From the closing paragraph of Warren et al (2009);

“Despite the limitations, the study provides the only recent, outcome-based assessment of the “optimal” fluoride intake, and as such, it appears that while the generally accepted range of 0.05 to 0.07 mg F/kg bw may still be associated with caries prevention, it may not be optimal in preventing fluorosis.”

and;

“By the same token, while limiting fluoride intake to less than 0.05 mg F/kg bw may be appropriate to prevent fluorosis, given that most fluorosis were mild even at higher intake levels, recommendations to limit fluoride intake to less than 0.05 mg F/kg bw may not be justified.”

Rather than being the “final word” on the matter of fluoridation, Warren et al (2009) concludes that fluoride intake is not, as the anti-fluoridation advocate would like their readers to otherwise believe, a black and white scenario. There is certainly benefit in the use of fluoride for caries prevention as well as evidence of increased fluorosis with higher rates of exposure, even if in most cases very mild to mild.

FAN also refer to two more recent papers from the same research group; Chankanka et al (2011) Longitudinal associations between children’s dental caries and risk factors and Chankanka et al (2011) Mixed Dentition Cavitated Caries Incidence and Dietary Intake Frequencies.

The former admits to a study sample of mostly white individuals with a generally middle to higher socio-economic status, which typically results in greater oral health management (more than 99% used fluoridated tooth paste, which anti-fluoridation groups insist is swallowed).

The latter is only listed in the references and is not actually cited in the article itself. Again, this is the same sample group and both studies are primarily focused upon oral hygiene and what food and drink the individuals consume. Both suffer the same limitations when analysing the effectiveness of water fluoridation due to other social factors and the cohort itself (primarily “well off” Caucasians).

The U.S. NIH continues to support the use of fluoride because they have sufficient technical scientific training to actually read and interpret the relevant research. The Iowa Fluoride Study has not concluded that water fluoridation is ineffective. It has simply shown, through many studies over the years, that the relationship is indeed complex and that strategies for caries prevention must include a wide range of actions, which still includes fluoride.

Being Wrong: How we deal with it makes all the difference.

I’ve talked a lot about similarities between the so-called “climate sceptics”, anti-vaccination activists and creationists in the past, and much of those similarities could also be shared with the anti-fluoridation camp as well, but there is one aspect of similarity between each of these four groups that I have yet to discuss.

From my experience, each one is happy to name-call and partake in science paper fight – both pointless, ego-centric activities – but yet typically fall silent when one takes their evidence seriously and finds it lacking.

A very public example which many of us witnessed is that between Peter Hadfield and Christopher Monckton. The latter was pompous, bombastic and feverish in his initial replies to Peter’s work, but when Peter offered to debate with him, the only conclusion an observer can make is that Ol’ Chris scampered.

With my own work, I have increasingly come to the realisation that pointing out where the best science stands does little to convince the true believers – it only solidifies their bogus positions through a supposed arrogance / ignorance within established scientific methodology.

This is the fertile grounds for propagating “ivory tower” conclusions or secret agendas.

Rather, I try to critique the counter evidence provided to me and explore this myself within the real world.

I’ve looked at the arguments provided by The Queenslanders for Safe Water, Food and Air inc. president, Merilyn Haines, after I became aware of her through her comment on NewAnthro. All of my work has been, thus far, devoid of any Merilyn “approved” rebuttals.

Equally, the day and half I wasted exploring data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics relating to bladder and lung cancer on the behalf of Dan Germouse, after his comments on NewAnthro, went by without comment.

In the early years of my blogging, I was foolish enough to play into the hands of such trolls and become frustrated by their personal attacks. I did waste countless hours researching papers to provide the scientific reasoning for a given position, or in reply to their proposed argument, only to be hurled back favoured scientific material (regardless of the quality or the actual standing of the paper); what merely descended into a paper war.

These activities, I felt at first to be worthwhile – I was at least engaging them. However, they are emotionally draining and circular; deliberate attempts to wear one down rather than advance understanding.

Developing my work into my current approach, I’ve noticed that such pet theorists are inclined to avoid arguments they cannot refute. Regardless of my efforts to correct and engage Merilyn, from her recent interview on ABC radio, it is clear that she still parrots off the same nonsensical claims. I suppose Dan moved on to greener pastures following my effort, to continue to moan on supposed “pain and suffering” due to water fluoridation.

The hardened and indeed committed “sceptic” to such matters as anthropogenic climate change, vaccination, evolution, fluoridation and whatever other conspiracy ideation you wish to mention will simply side-step an argument they cannot refute rather than acknowledge personal error.

In reality, the biggest insult they produce is entirely upon themselves. Such avoidance of counter-evidence is as debilitating as that we all seem to shake our heads over, such as parents whom deny their child medical assistance on the basis of religion or “natural medicine”. It’s incapacity to accept fault and improve.

I’m not stating that my work on NewAnthro is faultless and know that some of my analyses must include certain caution, acknowledgement of error bars, due to confounders. For instance, with my look into rates of bladder and lung cancer, I assumed that other factors that may confound my results, such as the average age of the population, immigration and emigration, are more or less homogenous between the study groups at a state level.

My analysis largely hinged on exploring Hirzy et al (2013) whom state that there is additional “pain and suffering of citizens” due to “the use of technical grade fluoridation agents”. I expected that, if there is indeed evidence of this, it should be evident within the Australian dataset with Queensland the obvious control group.

Within my analysis of the Australian Coalition’s Direct Action Plan, I even make a note of criticisms I would expect and attempt to provide my argument in reply.

Being wrong is as valuable as being right, provided you can admit fault and move on. The true believe remains true, entirely at the cost of any credibility they may have held.