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… is a load of crap.

For those who don’t know, apparently people are actually taking this seriously and Queensland communities are starting to ban fluoridation in water. Here’s a picture I stole off a friend’s Facebook wall – one he took on a train:

Fluoride

I first heard of this on the Q&A episode where Lawrence Krauss appeared. He was awesome as usual but had a bit of difficulty trying not to offend people and trying to dumb down his scientific explanations (particularly in regards to nothingness, which I should make a separate post on). Anyway, one of the ministers of health was there too and she mentioned some politician in Queensland – a body builder – who claimed that he’d rather take banned substances for a year than drink fluoridated water. I find this hilarious because most body builders have some idea about nutrition and he obviously doesn’t.

For those of you even farther behind in the news, fluoride is added to tap water and was one of the biggest dental intervention movements in Australian history.

My first step in exposing the bullshit of all these fluoride conspirators should be the end game. Take a look at their credentials. I saw some anti-fluoride argument on a site called “Evolution-Kills” and smelled bullshit straight away. I also found some other dodgy sites with questionable sources. This reminds me of all the quack scientists that create their own publication labels to publish their “scientific” articles because no peer-reviewed article will accept them, and the ones who create their own universities to give themselves degrees. The more scientifically oblivious may have a difficult time sifting through all the bullshit so my first step is always to look at the source.

Here’s a few sources:

The National Academy of Science: http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/nas.htm

This report identified fluoride as a mineral that can positively influence human health, and although earlier NRC reports were not conclusive in their opinions, this report concluded that fluoride was considered to be an element essential for human life based on its role in cellular functions involving metabolic or biochemical processes. The report further stated that fluoride in drinking water has two beneficial effects: preventing tooth decay (dental caries) and contributing to bone mineralization and bone matrix integrity.

World Health Organisation Report: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/fluoride_drinking_water_full.pdf

Fluoride has beneficial effects on teeth at low concentrations in drinking-water, but excessive exposure to fluoride in drinking-water, or in combination with exposure to fluoride from other sources, can give rise to a number of adverse effects. These range from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis as the level and period of exposure increases. Crippling skeletal fluorosis is a significant cause of morbidity in a number of regions of the world.

… The beneficial and the detrimental effects of fluoride naturally present in water were well established by the early 1940s. High levels of fluoride present in concentrations up to 10 mg l were associated with dental fluorosis (yellowish or brownish striations or mottling of the enamel) while low levels of fluoride, less than 0.1 mg/l, were associated with high levels of dental decay (Edmunds and Smedley, 1996), although poor nutritional status is also an important contributory factor.

Now these are balanced views. No real science is going to declare an absolute benefit with no side effects – and that’s something important to note. However, skeletal fluorosis doesn’t occur in areas where fluoride levels are within safe levels (Kaminsky et al, 1990). See what I did there? Provided a proper source.

In regards to the accusation of fluoride being a carcinogenic – that’s just another example of non-scientific people trying to make scientific claims. Here’s a quote:

Some fluoridation opponents have suggested that fluoride is carcinogenic; claims which have been criticized as being based on statistical bias and deliberate exaggeration. (Cook-Mozaffari 1996, Spencer 1998, Pollick 2006) A frequently cited study by fluoridation opponents is the US National Cancer Institutes Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program which reported a higher in cadence of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) among young males in two fluoridated areas of the United States . (Hoover et al 1991a) Further analysis of the time trends by Hoover et al (1991b) however found that the increased prevalence of osteosarcoma was not related to the time of fluoridation. Moreover, a similar study by Mahoney et al (1991) found no difference in the prevalence of osteosarcoma among any age group between fluoridated and non fluoridated cities in New York State .

But most of all, fluoride is in toothpaste and mouthwash. If these people truly believe that it’s poison or whatever, why don’t they just stop brushing their teeth and see what happens? Problem solved.

“Well, you can’t prove that god doesn’t exist”.

Uh, yes I can.

I’m sure many of you have heard this “argument” before. Here’s a three-pronged destruction of this attempt to dodge the question that no theist can answer (“What proof do you have?”). The last nail in the coffin is saved for last – I’m sure many of you have heard the first two points but not many will have heard the last.

1. Why are you asking me to disprove your theory? That’s a burden of proof fallacy. You came up with the idea, you prove it. You don’t see me running around screaming at people “Prove I can’t fly!”. When a scientist comes up with a new theory, it’s backed by years of research, correlation with existing years of research, multiple experimentation and is then peer reviewed. When a theist has some theory his only proof is “well, you can’t prove it’s wrong”.

Well guess what? That’s literally irrational behaviour. For a refresher, see my post about Rationalism but the short of it is that rational behaviour is based on mathematical likelihood. It’s highly likely that jumping into lava will kill you, therefore it is irrational to believe otherwise. In terms of the burden of proof, the burden lies with whoever is making the extraordinary claim. As Carl Sagan once said:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

What does this mean? Imagine I claim there is a tree in my backyard. Would a rational person contest my claim (at his own expense)? No, because even if I’m lying it’s highly likely that there is a tree in my backyard and there is little reason why I would lie about it – therefore not much proof is needed for me to assert my claim. Now, what if I claimed that I had a cat riding a unicorn shooting rainbow lasers in my backyard? Would you require proof before believing that? Apparently theists wouldn’t.

2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something hasn’t been proven to not exist, doesn’t therefore mean that it does. That’s a logical fallacy called false dichotomy. It’s also stupid – because you can think up myriad things that can’t be proven not to exist. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a crowd favourite. Russel’s Teapot is another – you can’t prove that there isn’t a teapot orbiting Jupiter but there’s no rational cause for you to believe that in the first place.

Sometimes this is used to defend religion – just because there is no evidence of god doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist. Well, science doesn’t work in absolutes but there is literally no rational reason for you to believe in god. However, I can indeed prove that god (or at least the definition of god as is understood by the major religions today) does not exist, which makes it doubly irrational to believe.

3. There can never be any proof of god. Why? Let’s take a look at the foundation of proof. As with the Rationalism movement, mathematics is a fundamental concept for proof. 1+1=2 regardless of what you apply it to, what you believe in and what you experience with your senses. Therefore, it follows that maths is the absolute proof – if it can exist, it can be described mathematically in some way or form. Mind you, not everything that is mathematically reconcilable exists (or at least not all of them have been proven). Maths is just the large boundary separating the possible from the impossible – just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s real; but if it’s impossible then it’s definitely not real.

The problem? You cannot mathematically describe god because that would be akin to removing his omnipotence. If the singularity is a point of infinite mass and infinite gravity, how do you describe a god that created this infinity? 2 x infinity? Infinity squared? It’s still infinity. Are you thus claiming that god is equal in power to a singularity? God, by definition, breaks all universal laws and defies all mathematics. It is therefore impossible to provide any proof of god – and by extension god cannot rationally exist. It is an empty concept that has lingered since ancient times for small minds to placate themselves in the absence of knowledge.

Many theists acknowledge this problem and have said that it is impossible to find any evidence of god in the universe because the act of finding such evidence would mean that god is bound by some sort of parameters allowing us to find his hand in things – hence removing his omnipotence. Fair enough, at least these people acknowledge that there can never be any evidence. The question then remains, if you’ve accepted that there is absolutely no evidence in existence to support your faith, why do you still blindly follow?

While I’m at it, let me introduce Tall Poppy Syndrome. I was reminded of this one by something I read in the paper about how Anne Hathaway has supposedly gathered quite a few haters that were dubbed by the media as “Hatha-haters”. The part that got me was that (direct quote):

“The intrigue is that people can’t put their finger on what it is about Anne Hathaway that has sparked this hatred. Somehow this woman that puts herself out there as sweet, good, humble and grateful is coming across as exactly the opposite, and Hathaway hatred has gone viral”.

Can’t put their finger on it? Let me give them a hand.

Introducing Tall Poppy Syndrome. This isn’t so much a field of study on its own as something that is genuinely integrated into human behaviour. The term describes the phenomenon where somebody who is successful in what they do is attacked and put down for no justifiable reason. Those of you who have not heard of this time might be thinking up myriad examples of where you’ve seen this happen.

I’m not exactly a Hathaway fan or anything but I don’t see the merit in anybody putting down another person when there is no specific, justifiable reason to do so. Even less so when you have absolutely no relation to the “Tall Poppy”. I mean, what’s the use in a bunch of obese keyboard warriors talking shit about an athlete. Are they going to get up and back up what they’re saying? No. They can’t. The fact is that most people aren’t qualified to judge Tall Poppies.

This doesn’t preclude objective analysis, of course. One can always objectively compare two Tall Poppies and conclude that one has better attributes than the other, but – well, you’ve all probably seen how serious it gets. Death threats, physical violence, outright abuse and filthy language are often thrown at people who are put in the spotlight.

Why does this happen? Like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s a part of human nature. If nothing else, it’s a personification of envy – and damn, humans are envious creatures. Sociologists like Max Weber have suggested it is due to a zero-sum game scenario, which is a game theory (economics) concept that basically means the sum of a certain thing in a system equals zero. In this case, that thing would be success. If some people are successful, that means there are people who are not successful. People who are not successful feel the need to “cut down” Tall Poppies, so to speak. By attacking the successful, subconsciously people think the effect will lower that person’s success and thereby increase their own chances of success.

A more psychological approach to it would be to consider that by focusing on the bad things about a successful person, and even propagating the spread of such, one can elevate their own sense of self-worth by comparison. “Hey, XYZ failed high school so at least I’m smarter than him”. Those with low self-esteem (most notable in those who are not successful) will thus feel even greater need to put down others – lowering successful people to their own level so that they can feel less disappointed in themselves. A relatively more successful person, however, will be confident in him/herself and feel far less need to engage in such activity.

Humankind has the need to assert its own superiority over everything. That includes all life on our planet, even ourselves. Tall Poppy Syndrome is pretty much just the ugly green face of human kind showing itself. For those of you who have noticed this phenomenon but didn’t have a term to describe it, here you go.

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