Reading the comments on a recent Stuff article,I was reminded of the aphorism attributed to Mark Twain: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
The original opinion piece was quite strongly worded; understandably, as this is an issue that’s stirred up strong feelings on both sides. However, there was a tendency for the vituperation in the comments section to be delivered by those who came across as ‘anti’. There was also a tendency from those in that camp to misrepresent facts to suit their point of view. Here’s an example: a commenter claimed that:
salmon are unaffected by natural 1ppm fluoride in ocean water where calcium is extremely high but are narcotized by industrial fluoride in soft water at only 0.3ppm (Damkaer and Dey .
That they included a citation number (the ) indicates that this was in fact a cut-&-paste from an article somewhere else. But then a colleague of mine pointed out that this was completely incorrect and Damkaer & Dey (1989) had said nothing of the sort (you’ll find the original paper here):
Damkaer and Dey say no such thing. They showed that some salmonid species are able to make a choice to avoid water at concentrations of fluoride at 0.5 ppm when swimming up a river with ambient fluoride concentrations of 0.1-0.2 ppm. There was no evidence, or even mention, of them being "narcotized". Salmonids show avoidance (or selection) for all sorts of chemicals, even at very low concentrations. Salmonids are particularly good at detecting chemicals at low concentrations in water – they use it as a mechanism to find their home streams, where they were spawned, as adults.
This comment promptly received 16 "dislikes". Interesting to see that response, rather than engagement with the actual information. Which leads me to wonder, if the case against fluoridation is so strong, why some of its proponents feel the need to resort to distortion & downright misrepresentation of facts in order to bolster it. As this excellent blog post on The Ruminator says, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. (Go on, go & read the whole thing. And the comments.)
I was reminded of a discussion I had recently with a friend who had been on a team-building exercise: apparently the facilitator commented that people who think factually see the world in black-&-white, while those who rely more on intuition are "shades of grey" thinkers. But given the comments of those who just "know" that fluoridation’s bad for you, I’d have to disagree.
(I also wonder whether Hamilton’s councillors found the time to read the various papers cited – sometimes in quite a misleading way – in support of moves to drop fluoridation…)