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More Bad Science from the Greens


5:44 pm - August 11th 2009

by Unity    


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Cast your mind back a couple of months and you may recall that Martin Robbins raised a number of pertinent questions about the Green Party’s views on science and on evidence-based policy making.

At the time, Martin was pretty forthright in identifying the main problem that the party faces. It’s open and democratic approach to policy-making in which any member can put forward a policy, call for vote and get the policy accepted into the party’s manifesto if it prove popular with members too readily militates against evidence.

A prime example of just this kind of problem is currently to be found in Southampton and South-West Hampshire where members of the local Green party are behind a campaign that is attempting to overturn a recent decision by the local Strategic Health Authority to use legal powers conferred on it by the Water Act 2003 to compel the local water company to fluoridate the local water supply.

Local anti-fluoridation campaigners, the most prominent of which are also Green party activists, are now seeking a judicial review of this decision on the grounds that they claim that the Strategic Health Authority were ‘hopelessly biased’ in their advice to local residents on the pros and cons of fluoridation during a public consultation which preceded its decision. They’re also rather miffed that the SHA chose to ignore public opinion and disregard negative responses to the consultation, which ran to 70% against fluoridation, in reaching the decision to fluoridate and are, as usual, demanding that this issue be put to a local referendum.

In short, all the usual nonsense you invariably get whenever public health decisions are taken on the basis of scientific evidence rather than the unscientific scaremongering of campaigners, some of whom hold some very unscientific views.

The Evidence for Water Fluoridation

Water fluoridation is a simple, safe, effective and cost-effective public health intervention.

Increasing, or in some cases, decreasing, the fluoride content of drinking water to the WHO recommended level of between 0.5 and 1 part per million will typically lead to a reduction in the incidence of tooth decay and dental cavities of anything from 18-40% over and above any reductions accrued from the use of toothpastes and other oral hygiene products containing fluoride compounds, and all at a cost, when raising the natural fluoride level, of around 40-50p per person per year. Water fluoridation is cheap, easy to deliver and it generates positive results, the efficacy of which has been verified over the years by any number of research papers and systematic reviews, an example of which being this recent (2007) review from Australia where tap water is routinely fluoridated in all but the state of Queensland – and if you don’t fancy hacking through the full review, there’s also a delightfully succinct lay summary which sets out the key findings of the review.

Water Fluoridation delivers major benefits not just in terms of improvements in public health but for the health economy, generally, where the high incidence of tooth decay, which typically affects 60-90% of school-age children and the vast majority of adults, and the need for repeated restorations when cavities occur (the median life of a typical amalgam tooth filling is only 9-14 years) means that, when measured in total direct costs, tooth decay is single most expensive disease to treat; more expensive than even cardiovascular disease.

So far as side-effects go, fluoridation of water supplies does increase the incidence of dental fluorosis, although the effects (white spots or sometime vertical lines on the teeth) are typically mild and of ‘aesthetic concern’* (i.e. clearly noticeable) in only 1 in 22 cases and occur only where excessive exposure to fluoride compounds occurs in early childhood, particular between the ages of 1 and 4 years, At eight years of age, the risk of dental fluorosis disappears completely. That said, the overall incidence of mild dental fluorosis is increasing in most industrialised countries irrespective of whether fluoride compounds are added to the water supply, or not. Most of this increase is, naturally enough, down to the increased use of oral hygiene products containing fluoride, but also stem from a variety of other reasons including:

– the addition of fluoride compounds to salt, milk and infant formula as a public health measure and an alternative to water supply-based delivery (fluoridated salt is used in both Germany and France);

– the increased consumption of bottled spring and well waters in which fluoride compounds are naturally present due to the geology of the area from the water originates – and the fluoride content of these natural products is currently unregulated and is not disclosed on packaging; and,

– the presence of fluoride in foodstuffs sourced from areas in which fluoride compounds are naturally present in the local water supply.

*Measurements of ‘aesthetic concern are, believe it or not, based on a standardised scale derived from a 1996 study of the views of British 14 year olds  and what they would find unacceptable.

There is one final thing to note which is particularly pertinent to the decision taken by the Strategic Health Authority in Southampton and that’s the important role of oral health inequalities as a factor in the decision-making process when considering whether to go ahead with water fluoridation.

There are several countries in Europe in which water fluoridation was used during the 1950s and 60s only for it be discontinued during the 1970s due to political and ethical opposition – as with most universal public health measures, water fluoridation does give rise an ethical conflict between personal liberty and the public good – and what were, at the time, reasonable concerns about the safety of fluoridation given the lack of solid scientific evidence as to its possible long-term effects, if any, at the time. The countries that, at one time, permitted water fluoridation but have since discontinued its use include Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Finland,all of which have seen no significant increases in the incidence of tooth decay after discontinuing water fluoridation – in fact, in both Germany and Finland saw their incidence of tooth decay continue to decline after discontinuing water fluoridation.

As you might imagine, these countries are often held up by anti-fluoridation campaigners as provide ‘proof’ that water fluoridation is unnecessary and that the incidence of tooth decay can be successfully managed and even reduced by other means, all of which is true but fails, entirely, to take into account that there are a significant number of differences between the UK and these European nations when it comes to levels of social, economic and health inequalities, none of which operate in the UK’s favour. To pick out one pertinent example, both Finland and Germany have just about double the number of practising dentists per hundred thousand population than the UK and, generally speaking, the UK is bracketed with the US as having a level to health inequalties when compared to the Netherlands and Switzerland (medium), Germany and Finland (medium to low) and Sweden, which has pretty much the lowest level of health inequalities of any industrialised nation.

Addressing the significant impact of health inequalities on oral health is precisely what the decision to fluoridate the water supply in Southampton is all about.

As a recent (2007) analysis of local trends in health inequalities produced by Southampton City Primary Care Trust indicates, over half of all five year olds living in the City’s least well-off neighbourhoods have at least one decayed, missing or filled tooth (not including the natural loss of milk teeth) compared to less than a third of five year old with the same problem elsewhere in the city.

The average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (DMFT) found in five year olds is also significantly higher in poorer areas (2.2 as against 1.3 in the rest of the city) and trend data comparing the incidence of DMFT in schools located in the city’s most disadvantaged areas over the last ten years shows both a general increase in the incidence of DMFT across the city and a widening of the gap between schools in the poorest neighbourhoods and those in the rest of the city. Between 1997/8 and 2005/6, the incidence of any DMFT in five years old attending schools in the poorest areas of the city rose by around 10%, in absolute terms, compared to a 5% rise in the city’s other schools.

So, what we have is a well evidenced public health problem and a remedial intervention – water fluoridation – the efficacy and safety of which is widely supported by significant weight of solid scientific evidence…

… so what’s the problem?

The Anti-Fluoridation Argument

First of all, water fluoridation does raise significant ethical questions in regards to the nature of the balance between public benefit and personal liberty, and you’re more than welcome to thrash out those arguments in comments if you choose even though its not somewhere I’m intending go with this article, which focusses primarily on the scientific/public health arguments and their use and abuse in the public debate on water fluoridation.

Putting bioethics to one side, therefore, what we’re left consider starts with a very basic fact – the fluoride compounds used in water fluoridation are verifiably toxic if ingested at levels significantly higher that those recommended as being safe by the World Health Organisation.

In the United States there were three recorded incidents in which accidental overfluoridation of the water supply to a concentration of up to 220 times higher than the WHO recommended level caused outbreaks of acute fluoride poisoning, the symptoms of which include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. One such outbreak (Alaska, 1992) affected 262 people and resulted in one death.

It is also verifiably the case that long-term consumption of fluoride compounds at concentrations significant higher than WHO recommended safety level but below a level that gives rise to acute fluoride poisoning in known to cause both moderate to severe dental fluorosis, in which the teeth become pitted and develop a very noticeable brown stain and, more seriously, skeletal fluorosis. which can significantly weaken and damage the bones and joints and put individuals at a considerably increased risk of fractures.

As you might imagine, skeletal fluorosis is one of the three health issues that the group campaigning against fluoridation, Hampshire Against Fluoridation have chosen to highlight, in the health ‘section’ of their website, as demonstrating that fluoridation is a ‘bad idea, although the amount of information provided leave a hell of a lot to be desired:

Three reasons why water fluoridation is a bad idea:

* Fluoride has been shown to reduce the IQ of children
* Fluoride has been associated with an increase of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in young men
* Fluoride leads to brittle bones by altering the structure of all bones, not just the teeth

What they don’t choose to mention by far the vast majority of cases of advanced skeletal fluorosis, world wide, are to be found in areas in which local water supplies are drawn from wells that are naturally contaminated with fluoride compounds at concentrations which can exceed levels recommended by the WHO by up to 50 times and not in areas supplied with tap water in which concentrations are carefully controlled. UNICEF estimates that skeletal fluorosis is endemic in as many as 25 countries, globally, affecting tens of million people included an estimated 2.7 million people in China and as many as 6 million people in India.

In the United States, where an estimated 67% of the population receive fluoridated water, cases of advanced skeletal fluorosis are almost unknown to the extent that there are only a dozen or so known cases.

As for the other two issues raised on the HAF website, the two major systematic  reviews of the safety of water fluoridation in the last ten years, the UK’s York Review and Australia’s NHMRC review both concluded that there is no clear association between water fluoridation and either general incidence of cancer or the specific incidence of osteosarcoma. What the NHMRC review, which I linked earlier, did find was four research papers that were not included in the York Review, one of which did suggest that there was an increased incidence of osteosarcoma in young men, but not young women, in areas that received a fluoridated water supply. However, this evidence comes from a case control study which used a small subset of data taken from a much larger study which failed to find any such association and which explicitly cautions researchers not to place too much store in the results of s smaller study.

In short, HAF are blatantly cherry-picking the evidence.

As for the claim of link between fluoridation and a reduction in children’s IQ, well it turns out that most of the evidence comes from low quality studies conducted in areas with high, naturally occurring, concentrations of fluoride compounds which significantly exceed WHO recommendations and, therefore, the concentration levels found in fluoridated tap water. Most damning, a systematic review of this evidence, none which adequately controlled for a wide range of identifiable confounding factors, was found to have ‘combined the results of these confounded observational studies into summary measures by meta analysis in a way that is not statistically appropriate or valid’, leading the conclusion that ‘The authors’ interpretation of
the results is incorrect.’

So who’s actually biased here?

HAF, which is chaired by local Green Party activist, John Spottiswoode, claim that the consultation process undertaken by the Strategic Health Authority was ‘hopelessly biased’ in favour of fluoridation.

However, a public board paper submitted to the Strategic Health Authority’s board in February suggests that this may not be an entirely accurate reflection of its deliberations on the scientific evidence for and against fluoridation as it contains a fairly lengthy section covering the ‘significant scientific issues’ that were  raised directly with the SHA during the consultation, a section which indicates, for example, that the SHA commissioned a specialist appraisal of the evidence submitted by the anti-fluoridation campaign in regards to the alleged association with reported reductions in IQ.

This section, which makes up just under as third of the total content of the report, provides both a clear and succinct exposition of the claim under investigation, the most ridiculous, desperate and unevidenced of which was the suggestion that poor children don’t drink enough water to benefit from fluoridation, provide not only a clear exposition of the evidence base for each claim (or lack thereof) but, in each case, also gives clear reasons why the SHA chose to disregard certain evidence submitted by anti-fluoridation campaigners, none of which the main campaign appears to have seen fit to address by any means other than a bit of generic whinging about bias.

But what actually biased here is the evidence, in the sense that the case for fluoridation is backed by solid scientific evidence of moderate to good quality for both the efficacy and safety of water fluoridation at WHO recommended levels, while the anti-fluoridation campaign’s evidence is uniformly either of very low quality or irrelevant because much of it deals with the adverse health implications of water-borne levels of fluoride compounds at significantly greater levels of concentration that those supplied in tap water.

In effect, the anti-fluoridation campaign’s main complaint is that the Strategic  Health Authority paid due regard to the quality and relevance of the scientific evidence for and against fluoridation in formulating its advice to the public rather than provide what the anti-campaign would, no doubt, called (incorrectly) a ‘balanced view’ which incorporated and promoted their carefully cherry-picked but uniformly low-grade ‘evidence’.

In reality, a balanced scientific argument is one that accurately reflects the weight and quality of the scientific evidence for and against a particular hypothesis, even if that results in the exclusion of what some might believe to be viable ‘evidence’ due its lack of quality, validity or relevance.

Science, it cannot be said often enough, is not democratic. The popularity of a particular hypothesis, especially with the general public, a significant proportion of which lacks the necessary knowledge and understanding of science to even formulate an informed opinion on an issue such as this, is fundamentally irrelevant – what matters in the evidence and, in this case, the evidence comes so strongly down in favour of fluoridation that, at least in scientific terms, the anti-campaign has no substantive grounds for complaint.

Whether or not the scientific and public health evidence overrides considerations of local democracy and the ethics of universal public health interventions is a different matter and one where there is reasonable scope for public debate but, as is so often the case, the anti campaign, which is led primarily by local Green Party activists, cannot stick firmly to debating those principles, not when outright and wholly unscientific scaremongering is a much easier and more effective means of mobilising public opinion to its side.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


Thanks for that.

I site I regularly linked to in internal GP mailing lists on debates on policy was http://www.greenfacts.org/ . It’s a great resource if you want no-nonsense, lay-language summaries of environmental and health committee findings.

Science, it cannot be said often enough, is not democratic. The popularity of a particular hypothesis, especially with the general public, a significant proportion of which lacks the necessary knowledge and understanding of science to even formulate an informed opinion on an issue such as this, is fundamentally irrelevant – what matters in the evidence and, in this case, the evidence comes so strongly down in favour of fluoridation that, at least in scientific terms, the anti-campaign has no substantive grounds for complaint.

Actually I’m not sure the evidence comes down strongly in favour of fluoridation (not got references to hand will try and track them down later) but this is irrelevant to the wider issue. As well as fluoridation of the water supply there are many avenues that can be taken to ensure adequate fluoride uptake in a population from compulsory flouride mouthwashes for schoolchildren, to flouride pills to toothpaste. What route, if any, to be taken is a political decision. The science merely states that flouride intake is desirable and can be used to comment on the efficacy and safety of various routes. Now if the greens used proper scientific arguments they might choose to argue against mass flouridation on philosophical grounds while favouring other routes that allow choice to flouridate or not. That they don’t, preferring scaremongering and distortion is a shame.

As ever from Unity, an interesting and well reasoned article.

I think there may be a word missing from the following:

…per hundred thousand population than the UK and, generally speaking, the UK is bracketed with the US as having a level to health inequalties when compared to the Netherlands and Switzerland (medium), Germany and Finland (medium to low) and Sweden, which has pretty much the lowest level of health inequalities of any industrialised nation.

Do you mean, “the UK is bracketed with the US as having a high level of health inequalties when compared to the Netherlands”? That would make sense given the context.

I beg to differ that science and democracy need be opposed to one another. Whilst fantasies like creationism, or the anti-fluoridation bunch, might make it seem like any attempt to democratise science is forever doomed, there’s nothing to prevent actual scientists from getting together in democratic working groups attached to a political party.

So long as these groups were open to anyone with a scientific background (science-based degree, employed by a job requiring familiarity with scientific method etc), I imagine that they would provide ample weight (proposing and campaigning for policy resolutions, for example) to counteract the pseudo-science that tends to infect the Greens.

All that it requires, really, is a bit of activism on the part of scientists. Was the era of JD Bernal really so long ago?

So long as these groups were open to anyone with a scientific background (science-based degree, employed by a job requiring familiarity with scientific method etc)

Chiropractor (entirely fictional profession; counts as a highly skilled qualification for international migration purposes)?

Doctor of Homeopathy (entirely fictional degree; awarded by accredited-albeit-budget UK universities)?

…and how do you exclude them if the answer is no?

I’m really getting to enjoy mid-week extended evening post on Lib Con; Sunny, authors, please keep this up.

This is a cracking article.

Question: to what extent are the Greens in this case pushing weak science in the face of strong science they don’t like because either they simply don’t understand what constitutes good science, or more worryingly, they are consciously ignoring good science for political ends?

Shorter: do the Greens just need to read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science book…or is it more sinister than that?

I don’t want my drinking water mass-medicated with fluoride or anything else – I’d rather eat less sugary crap and clean my teeth properly thanks.

@13 similarly, I don’t want my drinking water mass-medicated with deadly WWI poison chlorine – I’d rather boil it in an honest kettle.

v droll John B, but unless it’s necessary to make the water safe (eg chlorine), isn’t it rather illiberal to force it on us? It’s a bit like the government forcing bakers to put calcium in white bread, or whatever it is they do, rather than encouraging people to buy bread that has a bit more nutritional content.

I don’t think science should dictate policy and I think especially for these sort of matters, democratic decision-making must trump scientific reason.

My reason for this is that once you attach policy outcomes to the result of scientific research, you change the nature of the scientific practice. The whole point of science is to be able to take an abstracted, cool, de-humanised view of the world. Once you say “and this particular evidence will decide what we will do” then you add alll the usual problems of handing powers over to experts. You change what they are doing from science into politics. And no scientific calculus is going to tell you whether it is worth forcing people to take something in their water even for proven health benefits.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the Greens being dicks. Appropriating science as offering political “truth” is one of their major strategies of legitimation.

Fluoride: it’s got a scary sciencey name so it must be bad for us. If you think fluoride’s bad, what about dihydrogen monoxide? Our drinking water’s full of the stuff.
http://www.dhmo.org

Quoting Bullshit! makes you 110% more cool, fact.

15: What is “illiberal” is a minority with a fake and unfounded concern ensuring that the potential health benefits of this action are delayed, ultimately at a cost that is either at taxpayer expense diverting funding away from less preventable problems or, worse yet, the expense of those that are less likely to have the financial ability to make a good economic and healthy decision over.

You argument is also utter rubbish, as John B was more than apt about, as chlorine isn’t necessary to make water safe whatsoever. It’s merely a better and more cost effective way of doing it. Quite comparable really.

Here’s another newsflash for you. The government also “forces” us to only be able to buy medicine that’s properly researched and tested…the bastards!

I don’t think science should dictate policy and I think especially for these sort of matters, democratic decision-making must trump scientific reason.

Must is too strong a word, Nick, because there have been and are situations in which the scientific evidence is of such overwhelming strength that it would be absurd not permit it to dictate policy.

For example, the single most important public health intervention in British history is still the municipal provision of clean drinking water and decent sanitation, in which the evidence for public benefit massively outweighs any and all other considerations, given that the alternative is dysentery, cholera, typhus and infant mortality rate on a par with sub-Saharan Africa. The same is also true of any occasion in which scientific evidence establishes that there is an unacceptable degree of risk and degree of harm associated with a particular chemical or drug, one sufficient to make it withdrawal and proscription a complete no-brainer.

When you get evidence like that then the policy-making process becomes a fait accompli – mind you, you’d also seriously question the sanity of an electorate that voted against such measures.

Where there are legitimate ethical and political questions to be resolved and/or where the scientific evidence is somewhat more equivocal then, quite rightly, the debate moves beyond the realms of science – but not reason. However, at the same time, the scientific evidence remains important and should clearly inform the debate on the basis of best evidence available at the time.

Sadly, what’s increasingly happening is that vested interests who find themselves in a position in which they’re unable to win the ethical and political arguments are routinely resorting to attempts to distort scientific evidence in an effort to win public support for their position and, in the process, foster a distrust of science, generally.

16.

Science has always been intricately linked with the machinations of the state with scientific “normalisation” of populations, healthcare, amenities being crucial elements of state formation (ala Foucault).

Many people, including politicians and journalists, do not find science particularly persuasive, especially when there is a perception of dissent among ‘scientists’ – and people may place undue faith in even the most out-gunned of dissenters (and there is also the appeal of the underdog). Some people put more faith in the recommendations of strangers than their own doctors. Many people are more likely to trust a conclusion that fits their own prejudices than one that doesn’t. The less competent people are, the less likely they are to realise it and act accordingly. And people tend to be rubbish at evaluating risk – this is really important to so many issues (well, every issue that involves a risk).

All this can lead to real harms that not only affect personal health but also the health of others, e.g. increases in measles and mumps following the decline in MMR vaccinations.

I beg to differ that science and democracy need be opposed to one another. … I imagine that [scientific groups attached to political parties] would provide ample weight (proposing and campaigning for policy resolutions, for example) to counteract the pseudo-science that tends to infect the Greens.

1. Hundreds of millions of vaccinations without ill-effect, tens if not hundreds of studies, vs. one recommendation by a so-called doctor, given undue publicity, that did not even follow the conclusion of his paper = more cases of measles in the UK than there are of swine flu.

2. Politicians hear evidence from scientists a lot but often go ahead with their plans regardless. That is because they place more weight on politics than science even if it would lead to adverse outcomes for the people they represent.

That is not to say that scientific attachments would be unhelpful.

Well argued, except that flouride needn’t be imbibed. There’s hardly a tootpaste on the market which doesn’t have flouride in it.

Flouride causes bone cancer. As usual, the decision to flouridate the water was based on junk science. I wonder who will benefit from it.

The same goes for the food security issue, flagged up by Hilarious Benn. No doubt he’s softening us up for the introduction of GM crops – which, the Greens oppose. (Not that I care for the Greens).

http://faustiesblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/food-security-excuse-to-introduce-gm.html

@19 friendly advice, if you can’t even spell a chemical’s name, don’t pretend to be an expert on it.

16 – that is precisely why I take a strong line on it. Foucault’s notion of “productive power” where the association of a discipline or competence with the state becomes self-legitimating is exactly what I am concerned about. I am not fussed about fluorine myself, more like what a “scientific” decison making process would look like and how it would rapidly become abused. In fact, I believe it was created and abused in the 19th century previously in the area of sanitation when a whole raft of powers were delegated to varous expert planners.

Perhaps Unity is right, and that this principle of democratic control is occasionally too much to bear and is worth overiding. But even then I would not want it to become standard practice, nor am I sure there has been example where democratic decisions of that kind have failed utterly to make a no-brainer decision.

Flouride causes bone cancer

Assuming that you’re referring to the Bassin et al (2006) which is the only study to find any statistically significant evidence for a link between fluoridation and osteosarcoma, or rather that you’re referring to the newspaper coverage that the paper received in 2005 (because its way to much to expect you have read the actual literature) then the NHMRC systematic review has this to say on the subject of its findings…

The current literature review identified four additional studies that investigated the relationship between water fluoridation and cancer incidence or mortality, including three Level IV ecological studies and one Level II-3 matched case-control study (Bassin et al, 2006). The latter study compares the fluoride exposure of histologically-confirmed osteosarcoma cases with that of matched controls – a sub-set of patients from a larger case-control study initiated by the Harvard School of Dental Medicine that is yet to report its findings. After adjusting for significant differences at baseline between the cases and controls, the results of Bassin et al (2006) suggest an increased risk of osteosarcoma amongst young males (but not females) with water fluoridation.

However, the attention of the reader is drawn to a Letter to the Editor by co-investigators of Bassin in which the letter authors point out that they have not been able to replicate these findings in the broader Harvard study, that included prospective cases from the same 11 hospitals. Furthermore, the bone samples that were taken in the broader study corroborate a lack of association between the fluoride content in drinking water and osteosarcoma in the new cases. The final publication of the full study is not yet available, and the authors of the Letter caution readers not to over-interpret the results of Bassin and colleagues in the interim.

Case control studies are rated as low quality, grade 3 on the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine scale, being particular prone to both confounding and expectation bias in the researcher. As such, they typically serve useful, low cost, pointers to areas in which additional research may be merited/necessary but require confirmation from more robust research evidence in order to be considered conclusive.

21. Shatterface

‘I don’t think science should dictate policy and I think especially for these sort of matters, democratic decision-making must trump scientific reason.’

In a scientifically literate society, evidence based decision making and democracy would be the same thing.

22. Shatterface

By the way, excellent article again: together with Cath Elliott, Unity is the best reason for reading LibCon.

“In a scientifically literate society, evidence based decision making and democracy would be the same thing.”

Sure, but we might go further and say that only a scientifically literate society is able to be evidence based, since delegating responsibility to a panel of experts will not (in the end) deliver evidence based policy. It will deliver elite interest policy.

And by scientifically literate, we need to mean a lot more than just giving the population a lecture or two from the great and the good of today’s science. Everyone would need to be taught exactly what makes science what it is, in other words its unique methodologies.

“I am not fussed about fluorine”

Bloody well ought to be. It’s the most reactive element we know of, will strip the flesh off your bones (whether it’s because you’re burning or because the reaction with moisture to create hydrofluoric acid is eating away at you) and leave said bones crumbling into the dust.

Fluoride however is another matter.

Free sciency bit for a Wednesday.

“I don’t think science should dictate policy and I think especially for these sort of matters, democratic decision-making must trump scientific reason.”

I desperately wish that science would trump. For example, when we’ve greenie idiots stating that renewable power is lovely “because it will provide more jobs” and then those sciency type economists wade in and point out that jobs are a cost, not a benefit. That taking one million people to heat the country is worse than using 100,000 people to do so.

I really enjoy your posts but have you ever considered doing an abstract? They can be a bit long to take in at one sitting…

“I don’t think science should dictate policy and I think especially for these sort of matters, democratic decision-making must trump scientific reason.”

Teaching kids creationism in Kansas it is, then!

noughtpointzero: There is a difference between setting public policy and setting the school curriculum

Whilst I don’t have any strong feelings on this particular subject, I am glad to note that the last time the issue came up in Scotland, the SGP, whilst opposed, at least restricted themselves to the ethical objections.

28. Shatterface

There is, I think, a reasonable ethical objection particularly when this could set a precident but on ballance the health and cost benefits outway these concerns.

It’s right that the ethics are argued over though.

29. John Spottiswoode

It is a shame that the article is built around decrying ‘bad science’ and then does precisely that. Only using one side of the scientific argument is not acceptable. There is a lot of excellent science showing the dangers to health of fluoride when ingested in the body at levels very similar to those proposed in water. And yes there is evidence from those area that are fluoridated that harm is taking place to the people there.

I am afraid that it is just scientifically ignorant to take the pro-fluoride line in this article. If you can’t be bothered to get the science right, don’t pretend that you have science on your side. And don’t use the argument that because the government is in favour of it then it must be OK. It isn’t. Top scientists around the world, including a Nobel Prize winner have called for water fluoridation to be stopped.

Please stop using science as the basis for your argument when the scienitifc argument is hugely flawed.

It is a shame that the article is built around decrying ‘bad science’ and then does precisely that. Only using one side of the scientific argument is not acceptable. There is a lot of excellent science showing the dangers to health of fluoride when ingested in the body at levels very similar to those proposed in water. And yes there is evidence from those area that are fluoridated that harm is taking place to the people there.

I am afraid that it is just scientifically ignorant to take the pro-fluoride line in this article. If you can’t be bothered to get the science right, don’t pretend that you have science on your side.

And your evidence for all of these assertions is?

Unity provided many links for, and quotations of, scientific studies into water fluoridation. You have provided no evidence.

Put up, or shut up.

And don’t use the argument that because the government is in favour of it then it must be OK.

Since no-one has made that argument, then we don’t need you to tell us not to use it. We’re doing quite alright arguing with just the scientific evidence, thank you very much.

Top scientists around the world, including a Nobel Prize winner have called for water fluoridation to be stopped.

1. So? You never get 100% support for any scientific idea, even amongst scientists. Especially when there are two issues here: the science, and the ethics, of water flurodiation. Maybe some scientists are opposed to water fluoridation because of the ethical implications, rather than the science. But so what if such scientists are opposed to it for that reason? They’re scientists, their ethical arguments mean as much as anyone else’s do.

2. Argument from authority.

3. Even assuming that the Nobel prize winner got it in Medicine, it’s very possible for them to be very wrong about their subject. Consider Milton Friedman on fiscal policy. He’s good if you want to understand monetary policy amongst other things, but not fiscal policy.

Please stop using science as the basis for your argument when the scienitifc argument is hugely flawed.

In other words, we shouldn’t use science because you think science is flawed. Wow, you’re now amongst the wooists that comprise Creationists, homeopaths, naturopaths etc.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. majsaleh

    Stupid party RT @libcon: More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/DrBlu

  2. Alan Thomas

    RT @libcon: : Nice article outlining the science behind water fluoridation vs poorly substantiated fears of same -http://bit.ly/lL8Yg

  3. Nick Barlow

    More bad science from the Greens http://bit.ly/YNDPC (on @libcon)

  4. Natural Health News!

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/cZGSA

  5. Kim Rinaldi-Robey

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/qbo59

  6. Lee Griffin

    RT @libcon Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/fi6FK

  7. majsaleh

    Stupid party RT @libcon: More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/DrBlu

  8. ICTInternetPresence

    #ICTIP Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens: As for the other two issues raised on the HA.. http://tinyurl.com/lqrcgn

  9. Internet Marketing

    #ICTIP Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens: As for the other two issues raised on the HA.. http://tinyurl.com/lqrcgn

  10. Quaequam Blog! » Real Women and Policy

    […] at Liberal Conspiracy, Unity has just written this: [The main problem the Green Party faces is] it’s open and democratic approach to policy-making […]

  11. Twitted by gimpyblog

    […] This post was Twitted by gimpyblog […]

  12. Alan Thomas

    RT @libcon: : Nice article outlining the science behind water fluoridation vs poorly substantiated fears of same -http://bit.ly/lL8Yg

  13. Nick Barlow

    More bad science from the Greens http://bit.ly/YNDPC (on @libcon)

  14. Natural Health News!

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/cZGSA

  15. Kim Rinaldi-Robey

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/qbo59

  16. gillian amstrong

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens: Science, it cannot be said often enough, is not democrati.. http://bit.ly/V18zn

  17. Science Topsy

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/DrBlu #science (via @libcon)

  18. Lee Griffin

    RT @libcon Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/fi6FK

  19. gimpy

    comments @Unity’s fluoridation article use french philosophy not science in healthcare debates – weirdos foucault off http://bit.ly/13qogP

  20. Michel Foucault

    RT @gimpyblog comments @Unity’s fluoridation article use philosophy not science in #hcr debates – weirdos foucault off http://bit.ly/13qogP

  21. ICTInternetPresence

    #ICTIP Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens: As for the other two issues raised on the HA.. http://tinyurl.com/lqrcgn

  22. John Baxendale

    RT @tweetmeme Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/fi6FK

  23. gillian amstrong

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens: Science, it cannot be said often enough, is not democrati.. http://bit.ly/V18zn

  24. Science Topsy

    Liberal Conspiracy » More Bad Science from the Greens http://bit.ly/DrBlu #science (via @libcon)

  25. gimpy

    comments @Unity’s fluoridation article use french philosophy not science in healthcare debates – weirdos foucault off http://bit.ly/13qogP

  26. Smokewriting - Another Fine Edition of Me

    […] discussion is going on over at Liberal Conspiracy on the role of science in deciding public controversies. Unity, its originator, ends his post with […]

  27. Venezuela, democracy and indoctrination « Though Cowards Flinch

    […] democracy and indoctrination As Unity outlined in a blistering attack on Green-related pseudo-science, and I’ve supported elsewhere, facts are not socially […]

  28. tamiflu side effects

    tamiflu and effectiveness and safety…

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