Another excellent resource debunking anti-fluoride myths

Ken from Open Parachute has also produced a number of debunking posts in relation to the anti-fluoridation moving that is on the move in New Zealand as well. His full work is summarised on a page he has created here.

One point he has raised a number of times that I have almost entirely ignored is the conspiracy that fluoride is added to water to keep the population in line; that it was a Nazi tool to make sheep of a community, thus too sedate to rebel against tyranny.

I didn’t mention this one because… well, should I have too? It’s beyond stupid. The mere fact that I’m actively challenging this group of anti-science as well as others is example that fluoride has had no effect on motivation. That I easily find persistent errors in the anti-fluoridation arguments equally suggests that fluoride has had no effect on my capacity to reason and evaluate information critically (that, or I would have been a super genius were it not for fluoride).

Anyway, some crackpots actually believe this nonsense, so there you go.

Ken also has a great graphic on the page. It’s the last one to the bottom, listing all the apparent impacts fluoride has on the individual. It’s an impressive list except for the fact that most of the points are simply the same one reworded. For instance;

  • On the brain: “Brain damage in unborn fetus”, “Lowers IQ”, “Memory loss”, “Kills brain cells”, and my favourite, “Makes you dumb”… aw dang it! (also “Autism”, and “Alzheimer’s Disease”)
  • And, closely related, mood: “lack of motivation”, “Apathy and permissive”, “Lowers sex drive”, “sedative”  and “Makes you docile and obedient”.

Two points padded out to twelve and the same can be said about bones or organs… Of course, no link or reference paper is cited at all when such damning evidence ought to be self-evident in places, such as Australia when one could compare Brisbane until the mid 2000’s against all other capital cities.

What gave me a chuckle was the fact that fluoride apparently “makes you dumb” and yet this graphic was one of the silliest I’ve seen on the subject.

Any way, great work Ken!

Open Parachute: Fluoridation


Mind Blowing Science! Part 1

I’ve spent so much time talking about anti-science that I’ve forgotten to mention why I do it. Of course, I can give the grandiose reply; that science is the route to every improvement to human life to date. However while this is true, in reality I find science absolutely amazing! Nothing in any work of fiction compares to the strangeness that is reality.

Science blows my mind!

So, to remind myself of this fact, I plan to create an ongoing series where I briefly mention the latest studies that I’ve come across that I thought were pretty amazing.

Moths vs bats: fighting fire with fire!

In the July 2013 Biological Letters, there is an article by Barber and Kawahara (doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0161) where they took three different species of hawkmoths and tested them with touch and playback of ultrasonic bat calls (used by for echolocation).

Each of these species responded to these actions by producing a completely ultrasonic call in return!

They found that the mechanism for this with the males were diamond-shaped scales that they would rub against their abdomen. As these scales were part of the reproductive structure, the mechanism would be different in the females of these species, as they too were able to produce ultrasonic sounds, although how females did this was not discovered.

While the function of this response is not yet know, the authors suggest that it might play a similar role to the ultrasonic sounds produced by the tiger moth; that is, to startle, warn or, coolest yet, jam the bat’s own sonar!

Who would have thought Galactic Sci-fi was actually being played out for real in our own back yards?

Social Learning in Fairy-wrens

This one is closer to my undergrad days, where I did a few studies on assemblage and more directly, animal behaviour; in my case it was a small allodapine bee species and their parasitic counterpart, both native to the Dandenong Ranges.

In Feeney and Langmore (2013), the researchers explored the ability of fairy-wrens to learn about a threat, in this case the a cuckoo species, via social learning.

The method they used was to expose naive members of a social group to a dummy cuckoo when they were by themselves, then again when with their group – with members aware of the potential threat cuckoos present – and then a final time when the previously naive member was alone and record the response.

They carried out the same test with a dummy honey eat, which poses no threat to the fairy-wrens, as a control.

The researchers found that naive members would learn about the threat through the behaviour of the group and would respond in kind with later appearances of the cuckoo!

We’ve all heard about how clever various parrots, ravens and crow species can be – even the currawong is also known for using tools (although less people have heard of this genus) – but I think it’s pretty cool that such a little bird (in my humble opinion, comparable in shape and size to a golf ball with a tail, but of course, more striking with its flashes of vivid blue within black and white) can learn from its peers!

It just goes to show that the minds of other species are more complex than we tend to give them credit for.

Reading beauty

Beauty may indeed be in the eyes of the beholder, however the beholder is the result of evolutionary pressures. Facial beauty seems to be universal and beyond cultural preferences.

So why do we find one face more attractive than another?

Previous work has found a relationship between the attractiveness of a male face and the strength of his immune response to hepatitis B. Rantala et al (2013) explored whether the same would be found for females.

The researchers took photos of young Latvian females and collected data on their immune response to hep B, cortisol level (the hormone released due to stress) and percentage of body fat. They then had Latvian men rate the attractiveness of these faces for analysis.

Unlike when the test was was carried out on male faces, they found that a strong immune response did not predict how attractive a female face was. Instead, both cortisol levels and body fat better predicted female face attractiveness.

Stress, that is the amount of cortisol present, was negatively related to attractiveness; a finding that matches previous male tests. Faces that were were either ends of the body fat measure – either too thin or too fat – were also negatively associated with facial attractiveness.

Both stress and over/under weight can impact on fertility as well as susceptibility to disease and other health issues, which the author suggest provide the evolutionary motive.

Most importantly, the authors demonstrate something many people have been saying for years; the unrealistically thin woman that magazines splash before young woman – telling their readers what they ought to aspire to – is simply NOT attractive. Attractiveness is found in a healthy size, a happy smile and positive mindfulness.

Anti-Science Communication: It does not deserve to be placed with non-fiction

Regardless of the chosen subject, from climate to fluoride, the anti-science community pose themselves as a credible counter-weight in the public debate. In one regard, they are correct, but certainly not how they would like you to believe them to be.

There are obvious stepping stones between science and mainstream media, each having a valuable position in public discourse.

  • The first stepping stone is clearly the peer-reviewed scientific method itself. This happens among experts on a given subject well trained to critique and re-evaluate methods and data to test their merits and thus the confidence that can be drawn to a given conclusion.
  • The next stepping stone is a passive form of science communication. This form of communication demands some level of understanding of the science and the capacity to simply convert findings into a language that can be understood to a wider audience.
  • The final stepping stone converts that information into answers responding to the question, “What does it mean to us?”This stepping stone in science communication is the least expert on the topic of science, but is valuable because such individuals are likely to have good understanding on related subjects, such as policies and politics and can place this understanding, drawn from the science into a much broader context.

Where Does Anti-Science come into it?

The anti-science community sits on this third stepping stone, dressing itself up as the middle step which they want their readers to believe actually challenges the first one!

Take for instance Chris Monckton; he talks almost exclusively about what the subject means to us. In his world view, it means a resurgence of a hidden communist party out to take over the world and kill off six people out of seven. This message he dresses with graphs that are supposed to come from the peer-review process (suggesting that he represents the second stepping stone) and somehow challenge the standing confidence in basic principles within the climate science community.

Look at Merilyn Haines; she too speaks of values. She may refer to the odd science paper, which in itself would be an ill-fitting argument, but then wraps it up in anecdotal evidence, fear propagation and inaccuracies (such as the claim that fluoridated water is toxic or that the studies have not been done). It is entirely about what fluoridation means to us, but she pretends to accurately relay the science without bias and then suggests that it somehow challenges the standing conclusions in the body of science on public health.

Take any given anti-science communicator and you will find the same thing. Values – such as control / freedom, family health, prosperity etc – dressed up with unfounded assertions about the reality of scientific understanding. This begs the reader to be convinced of the validity of a counter-conclusion – one that avoids the scrutiny of expert peer-review completely!

Challenging the Denier

For those who choose to respond, it’s a doomed action. How can one prove that Monckton’s invisible enemies do not exist? How can one prove Merilyn’s sister did not get a skin condition from washing in the fluoridated water of Townsville?

Without first proving the invisible to simply not exist at all, how can you reply to the inaccuracies of the full package, which includes their “scientific” argument, in such a way that supporters of this anti-science would re-think their position?

This is why the creationism movement has persisted for so long; because the proof of a god will remain as elusive as the orbiting teapot – how can you prove it wrong? Clever anti-scientists have realised this and so market their message on their own imaginary threat or friend and in doing so render all counter-measures mute.

What we need to remember is that their fundamental argument is not on either of the stepping stones they pretend it to be. It does not challenge the science, because it avoids the scientific process like the plague. It is not the second passive form of science communication, because it is devout to desired values and clearly does not represent the science (it means to challenge the science and so obviously cannot).

It is the third step and based on, you guessed it, anti-science; a counter-argument to unfavourable conclusions drawn within the scientific method, devoid of the same level of scrutiny.

As a movement, it has no legs. It doesn’t draw upon reasonable sources of reliable information. It is untenable, beyond all doubt. Acknowledgement of these anti-science movements for what they are is the only method to respond. We must stop thinking it’s reasonable to see fairies at the bottom of the garden when human ingenuity has all but removed any possibility of such fantasy.

Check out: How does anti-science communication stand up to analysis?

Confusing ignorance for the burden of proof: the key to successful anti-science claptrap


If it is true, where then is the evidence?

It is noble and dignified to stand firm not to an idea but the pursuit of certainty. It is humble to acknowledge the less-than completeness of our knowledge base.

Yet such an enlightened cap is too easily placed on the scalp more fitting a dunce’s cone.

Anti-science is the core kingdom of all phyla of irrationality, be it climate change “scepticism”, 911, Obama birth or moon landing truthism, creation, anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation. A central trait of this kingdom is wilful ignorance.

Interestingly, the anti-climate-science movement has marketed itself cleverly in this regard through the tacking on of the word “scepticism” to their cause.

However, there are light years between wilful ignorance and this pretence of scepticism.

How Ignorance Differs

Whether it is the creationist demanding for the “missing link”, the climate change sceptic insisting they merely want the evidence, the anti-fluoridation advocate pleading that the science has not yet been done convincingly… whatever the anti-science angle may be; in each case the individual attempts to mask their wilful ignorance behind the burden of proof – a core scientific method.

It sounds reasonable; if the evidence is so compelling, give it to me and make me a believer.

Firstly, it is not a matter of belief, but entirely a rejection of bad belief / ideas. One accepts that all other known alternatives have been tested and found to be erroneous and thus is drawn to the pool of ideas that remain and cannot be refuted – to the best of our current knowledge.

What exposes such people for their position however is not merely that they ignore the body of scientific evidence when presented to them, not simply that they jump feverishly to the odd paper hot off the peer-reviewed press that their media outlets inform them is the “final nail in the coffin” of the given topic and not just that they continue this argument against the scientific literature completely outside of the peer-review / scientific method process; but because they do all these things simultaneously.

Choosing ignorance or to avoid scientific understanding is not scepticism of presented proof at all.

Where the Debate is Now

We have moved pass this burden in the public “debate” or better termed, conversation and are now really talking about the burden of understanding. The ball is in the court of the anti-science advocate – the burden of proof has been fulfilled – and it is not the fault of science if the enthusiast came without a racket.

Simple tests prove what greenhouse gases are and that we emit them. Only slightly more complex tests show that these greenhouse gases we emit are changing their concentration in the atmosphere. Simple tests show the world is warming. More complex tests have removed the solar or astrological radiation or other meteorological processes as the source of this change. Regardless of whether the result will be 1, 2 or 5 degrees Celsius, we are witnessing anthropogenic climate change.

Equally, the fossil record, genetics and geology all place evolution beyond a shadow of a doubt. Furthermore, Richard Lenski’s work and the body of ecological science have truly left the ball bouncing around the creationist’s court with their response little better than a Three Stooges slap-stick performance.

Again and again, the various phyla of anti-science prove that they have yet to critically review and illustrate fundamental lapses in the science, but rather attempt to pass off ignorance as valid scepticism of the body of evidence provided as proof.

This is what I spend my time writing about on NewAnthro. The anti-science advocate will not challenge the science, but offer another position instead as a competing idea and suggest that the science isn’t settled. In other words, it’s doubt mongering, it’s a sleight of hand designed to distract and confuse. Yet, I take their hypothesis, test it and show why it fails to provide a convincing argument and avoids the science completely.

Science is not about absolutes, but about drawing reasonable conclusions from the highest level of certainty available… with the error bars noted. The kingdom of anti-science instead doesn’t like the conclusion and would like something else to be concluded instead. And so all anti-science phyla ignore inconvenient evidence to pretend they stroll along the high road; sceptics surefooted on the burden of proof. Of course, the only proof they can accept acknowledges their conclusions and so they are walking backwards, down the road of dark age myth.

Why I will no longer approve anti-fluoride dishonesty

An excellent example of the anti-fluoride culture: Fringe, batty and quick to irrationality when given the time
An excellent example of the anti-fluoride culture: Fringe, batty and quick to irrationality when given the time

Some time ago, I had a problem with a persistent troll and a fan of his waxing lyrical on their climate change denial nonsense on my space. It proved to be irritating.

As I’m a fan of free speech, I had to do something about this parasite that, like Seymour’s plant, seemed to grow more troubling the more effort I put in; so I quarantined them. I’ve since retired that effort too as it was needless energy expenditure on my behalf.

And then the anti-fluoride trolls moved in.

Last week, I had a couple comments by such individuals awaiting approval and I just couldn’t do so. It was the same dishonest nonsense that I’ve seen time and time again.

I’ve built the anti-fluoride arguments above to make it simple not only for honest websurfers to reply to the flimsy arguments provided by the anti-fluoride movement, but also to provide a platform on which the anti-fluoride advocates can stand upon to “raise their game” should they be able to.

I did not waste this effort simply to have the same dishonest arguments graffiti subsequent posts in complete ignorance to the rebuttals I have already created.

Every single anti-fluoride advocate that has written on NewAnthro has bombastically pronounced me some variant of a “moron” and then cherry-picked their favourite “proof”. If I take the bait and play word warfare, they are only too happy to dance that dance, however if I go to the effort of providing compelling counter-arguments, rather than critiquing this reply, amazingly they go silent.

I am in contact with other communicators and I know for a fact that many of these individuals later resurface elsewhere to comment with what is pretty much a copy-and-paste equivalent to their comments here. They practice avoidance of evidence against their position with amazing tenacity.

Even Merilyn Haines dropped a stink bomb – which led to my greater efforts on the subject – only to fall mute when I’ve illustrated each of her arguments to be misleading, incorrect and cherry picked (for instance).


Rather than attempt to fault my efforts, they have simply ignored them. The anti-fluoride advocates are stuck on the insistent belief that they are right and hold no capacity to move the conversation forward and admit to fault that is so easily evident when one takes their claims seriously.

My second video on the subject made the point that they ought to be thanking me for quality controlling their arguments; if fluoridation is a problem, then I could do nothing to deny the fact – the evidence would be compelling. All I have done is remove the bad arguments that in turn weaken their position… Of course, nothing of their argument remains, hence the bile, dishonesty and ignorance I find waiting for approval.

Enough has to be enough.

The anti-fluoride advocates have shown nothing by contempt for my efforts and thus are not welcome to my comment treads.

This is not an attack on free speech as NewAnthro is all about progressing human activity based on the best quality data available; something in contradiction to their goals. Wordpress allows them to build their own soap box elsewhere to pursue that goal.

They are a fringe movement given too much weight in public discourse – amazingly expecting equal weighing for degrees in lab technology and no study history against health advocacy supported by health professionals with expertise in the field of dental and public health.

I can only afford them fair weighting.

As it stands, that means I can give them nothing. In reply to my efforts, they are vacuous and academically, they are just inert  in response to the actual question; the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation at 0.7 ppm in public water.

Breast milk is no argument against fluoridation: New Rebuttal

It is sometimes claimed that, as fluoride does not pass readily from the mother to the baby via breast milk, that this is evidence that fluoride is bad and the mother’s body is attempting to protect the baby from it. The argument is a case of comparing apples to oranges.

Today, the mortality rates of infants is dramatically lower in affluent countries than it was historically, because of many medical health improvements over the past century or so. These include, but are not limited to improvements in our understanding of hygiene, disease, physiology and medicine. Vaccination, effective soap and medicine are true modern wonders that we unfortunately take for granted being so detached from the sad history of high infant mortality.

Yet, mother’s milk was as available then as it is today. Sure, breast may be best, but it is not everything. Medical science has improved on this again.

More importantly, the anti-fluoridation advocate making this argument illustrates a lack of understanding of evolution.

Not all people were exposed to environmental fluoride all the time throughout our deep history. Equally, the teeth of our deep ancestors were likely to serve for the better part of their short lives. So there is no evolutionary pressure on the body to expose or protect the baby in relation to fluoride through breast milk. What occurs within breast milk is only the result of what the mother can create, which in turn occurs firstly due to her genetics and then nutrient availability from her diet. The most successful offspring were more likely to live and pass on those favourable genes.

If all people were exposed to high levels of fluoride all the time, but breast milk wasn’t, there would be physiological mechanisms for this, which we could describe. We have such a physiological “love-hate” relationship with sodium chloride (table salt), which the amazing loop of Henle within the kidney manages to keep balanced.

There is no such mechanisms actively regulating fluoride because there is no evolutionary pressure to do so. Milk ducts make milk. Fluoride is not milk. Furthermore, babies do not have teeth and so cannot provide a situation that could allow for evolutionary pressure anyway.

Thus the argument tries to use the mammalian method of feeding young to mean something entirely different, which has nothing to do with the safety or effectiveness of fluoride to improve dental health. It’s like claiming that we cannot swim because we breathe air!

The science is clear that when drinking water is fluoridated to WHO recommended levels, dental health is improved without health risks.

Health experts DO understand fluoride dose: New anti-fluoride rebuttal

Another fictitious claim made by anti-fluoride advocates attempts to confuse the audience about dose. Merilyn Haines, in a recent interview even went as far as to wrongly claim that health experts do not understand dosage at all!

The easiest way to understand the truth in this situation is to use a familiar substitute; paracetamol. If you had a sprained ankle and were using paracetamol for pain relief, would it be more dangerous to take 10 standard tablets right now or two every four hours over a day?

Clearly having them all at once is a higher dose and more likely to cause you harm than small amounts over a longer period. Yet this is were the anti-fluoride advocate attempts to confuse the listener; they completely ignoring the time factor.

If I were to have one milligram of fluoride over the course of an hour or two (drinking a litre of water) and do so two more times over the course of a day, this is not the same as have three milligrams of fluoride on a teaspoon right now, or to do so and again two more times over a day.

No health expert rejects that at high doses fluoride will have negative impact. Chlorine in high doses is dangerous, but in small amounts in our water it radically reduces the potential spread of disease from drinking water – something that led many generations over history to have their children go straight from the breast to beer!

In fact, everything at high enough doses can have negative health impacts. The literature – generally the only literature anti-fluoride advocates will list – has studied the potential impacts at higher levels of fluoride exposure. As the information within the NewAnthro anti-fluoride debunking list illustrates, these higher levels are not what occurs in fluoridated areas, as supported by the various health organisations, but typically the result of industrial and environmental sources in developing countries.

In the US, the recommended drinking water concentration has been lowered from a range of 0.7 – 1.2 to 0.7ppm in the acknowledgement of other sources of intake, such as toothpaste and in some foods and drinks, which has increased over time.

This is entirely an example of expert understanding of dosage.

Fluoridation of drinking water to WHO standards is proven to be safe and effective and clearly the result of health experts research and evaluation of public health and dose exposure which is adjusted over time based on quality data.

Fluoride protects all teeth regardless of age: A new rebuttal

As I commented on it earlier today, I felt it merited its own rebuttal page.

Some anti-fluoridation, and thus anti-science, advocates claim that fluoridation of water is unmerited because it is only of value to children, hence it should not be applied to a common resource utilised by all ages.

While much of the literature indeed focuses on the immense good fluoridation has on children (the acknowledgement of which in this argument, the anti-fluoridation advocate in fact must admit it is of value – undermining their own position), in truth fluoridation of drinking water is of benefit to all teeth, regardless of the age of the owner.

Oral bacteria, in the process of eating left over food particles in the mouth – a process of fermentation of carbohydrates – produce acids. These acids work to erode teeth, leading to dental caries – a process called demineralisation. Fluoridated drinking water inhibits this process.

So having a glass of fluoridated water following a meal helps to protect teeth.

However, this isn’t the only benefit. Fluoridated water goes a step further and assists with the remineralisation of teeth – fluoride can repair damage! (Featherstone, 1994, Rugg-Gunnand Do 2012Slade et al 2013)

This occurs in the mouth and so is a process completely devoid of age discrimination. Fluoridated water protects the teeth of all people, from the first budding teeth to those from a smiling grandparent.

Coffs Harbour City Councillors: tilling the soil for northern anti-science propaganda

Cr Nan Cowling

Reviewing the recent fluoride media in Australia, I’ve found that Coffs Harbour city councillors, noted in the article, Nan Cowling, have decided to raise the question of whether to continue water fluoridation to be discussed at the 2013 Local Government Association annual conference in October.

The three noted justifications for this were; cost; “Well, Queensland are doing it”; and a large population of elderly people.


It’s $65,000 a year, or $1.43 per person per year (with a population of 45,580 according to the 2011 Census for Coffes Harbour, Code UCL112004). Councillor Nan Cowling believes that tooth decay had more to do with access to dentistry, but can we access dentistry for less than $2 a year?

Even if you looked at Code SSC10553 (SSC) instead, the population is only 24,581 and yet the cost is still only $2.64 per person a year.

As I don’t know how much of the Coffs Harbour community is provided the water in question, we have a cost somewhere between $1.43 and and $2.64… Hardly bank busting.

Good in Queensland

In the words of mothers everywhere; “now, if Queensland were to jump of a cliff, would you jump as well?”

Firstly, Queensland has a problem of a very invasive memebase, more commonly known as “The Queenslanders for Safe Water, Air and Food” (QAWF), which has enjoyed success largely because Queenslanders have not had much exposure to fluoride – something new in their waters is scary… especially for their hydrangeas.

Most people in capital cities outside of Queensland don’t give fluoride much thought. They’ve lived with it for decades – including Sydney and Coffs Harbour – without concern.

QAWF is an anti-science movement that repeats debunked claims with complete disregard for counter-arguments and strong scientific evidence to the contrary. You really don’t want to encourage such thinking to propagate or else, before you know it, the Earth is 6000 years old and flat.

How Old is the Coffs Harbour Community?

The point that Coffs Harbour community is mainly elderly is utterly untrue. Again turning to the same 2011 Census data we find the following (very similar regardless of which of the two codes used);

coffs harbour pop

You get a fairly even distribution across the ages, admittedly, but would you expect a far higher group for what is only the first quarter of an expected life span? Nan Cowling herself is on the aging end of the spectrum, which may do better to explain why she disregards more than 25% of the Coffs Harbour community (0-19 yo).

Moreover, fluoride assists with the remineralisation of teeth – a process which is not age discriminant. The entire Coffs Harbour community benefit from drinking water fluoridation – a process that costs them less than $3 each a year!

In essence, the Coffs Harbour city councillors have fallen prey to fear mongering propaganda, with no cost benefits and complete disregard not only for their younger community, but everyone within their region.