On Friday (10 April 2015) I submitted five comments in reply to Paul T Morrison’s article titled “Is Fluoride an Evil Conspiracy?”, on the GoodMorningGloucester blog, under the name Dan Germouse. Apparently Dr Paul T Morrison is Principal Associate in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. And even though his article is laughable, apparently it is not an April Fools’ joke, because it is dated April 8. Four of my comments were blocked. According to the times which appear on the blog, comments were closed less than five hours after I submitted the one comment which was not blocked. Morrison’s complaint that “Dan Germouse has flooded this thread with many more posts” is one of his lies. There are 54 comments on the article, so five comments of moderate length or less is hardly a flood. He also uses the excuse that my comments would “muddy the water”, but maybe by “water” he really means “pants”, or more specifically, his pants. His final pathetic excuse that “someone reading this thread from start to finish might get turned off and not read the whole thing because the train has left the tracks” also makes no sense, because none of the comments I submitted were in reply to other comments, so they all would have appeared at the bottom of the thread.
Below, in single quotation marks, are three of the comments which were blocked. The first of them is the only one out of the five comments which mentioned Paul T Morrison or his article. The other four were generic comments which I have posted elsewhere previously. Of those, the most overtly insulting was the one which was not blocked.
‘As a typical forced-fluoridation fanatic, Paul T Morrison could hardly be more hypocritical if he tried. He writes “The worst thing to do is to google for the information you want that supports your preconceived notion. This is called conformational (sic) bias. This is something even the best scientists have to watch out for because it is an easy trap to fall into. That is why scientists double blind their experiments so that their own bias does not invalidate the results.” Morrison, are you trying to be funny? You have hung yourself with rope you have provided, all in the space of one paragraph, the first sentence of which is “The one thing I will not do is google for the answer.”. Paul goes on to tell the reader how the websites he has never seen “are anti-science full of scientific mumbo jumbo that cherry picks when it cites papers (sic)”. Is he trying to tell us that real scientists possess extrasensory perception, so they don’t need to see any evidence, or does he not understand the difference between evidence and hearsay? In reality, the worst thing you can do is exactly what the author says he has done, which is to simply refuse to consider any information which conflicts with your own preconceived notions. Paul doesn’t even show any sign of having read anything from the National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or American Dental Association, which he says are his sources of “consensus science (sic)”, let alone actually looking at any data, or, heaven forbid, reading both sides of the argument. His approach is an extreme example of exactly the confirmation bias he decries, unless by “conformational” bias he is referring to something completely different, known only to elite Harvard “scientists” such as himself. Morison’s whole paragraph on “conformational bias” is hilarious, but he saves the best for last. Where are the double blind experiments on the effects on fluoride exposure, Paul? The only ones I’ve seen show that forced-fluoridation is in fact not safe. And yes, unlike you, I have researched this issue in depth, and am scientifically literate.
As it happens, I don’t hold all of the anti-fluoridation sources mentioned in high regard, but the Fluoride Action Network is certainly a credible source of information. Maybe if Paul T Morrison bothered to have a look at it, and his brain hasn’t been completely lost to dementia, he might discover that for himself. In the meantime, he should do the honourable thing and resign.’
‘I have asked many forced-fluoridation fanatics to tell me how much accumulated fluoride in the body they think is safe. So far not a single one of them has been able to answer the question.
‘The perpetrators of the forced-fluoridation experiment may want to take a look at Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, which is on the UNESCO website.
“Article 6 – Consent
1. Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.”
Clearly the forced-fluoridation experiment (i.e. the dumping of toxic industrial fluoride waste into public water supplies) violates human rights.
Here are screenshots of the comment which was not blocked, and Paul’s reply.
I have looked through the rest of Dr Morrison’s comments on his article, and I’m still waiting for a citation of any double blind experiment which backs him up. Double blind randomised controlled trials are considered the gold standard in the assessment of medical interventions, and are standard procedure for pharmaceutical drugs. As was pointed out in the British Medical Journal in 2007, “There have been no randomised trials of water fluoridation.” (Cheng et al, 2007) Over the past couple of years I have asked many forced-fluoridation fanatics to cite a single good quality original research study which indicates that the forced-fluoridation experiment is anything but harmful and useless, and not one of them has been able to come up with anything which comes anywhere near a high standard. As I said, they are just blowing hot air.
When our clueless Principal Associate writes “It [there is not good science behind fluoridation] simply is not true any way you look at it. The very same organizations that back global warming also back fluoridation with consensus science. The National Academy of Sciences, AAAS, The World Health Organisation, the Royal Academy, all the heavy hitters.”, he merely demonstrates that he just doesn’t get it. It’s amusing, in a gallows humour kind of way, that someone who is supposedly a scientist at one of the world’s top universities is so obviously scientifically illiterate. Science has nothing to do with consensus. Real science is concerned solely with the use of evidence and reasoning to discover some kind of truth about the world. Consensus, in contrast, is an inherently political concept. Sometimes there is a consensus which happens to coincide with the weight of the scientific evidence, and sometimes there isn’t, but it is never the case that it is a consensus which makes scientific evidence scientific. Morrison is a one trick pony, and the appeal to authority he loves so much is a tired, old, completely bogus argument.
The nature of science can be articulated in various ways, but at the most fundamental level, the difference between science and pseudoscience is in the variables which are measured, the ways in which they are measured, the methods which are used in an attempt to establish relationships between the variables, and the interpretation of the results. Considering that both scientists and pseudoscientists are human, traits such as curiosity, honesty, and independence are factors, but only insofar as they affect the aforementioned considerations. The marketers who push forced-fluoridation and try to pass themselves off as scientists, and their marketing material thinly disguised as research studies, fail miserably on every count. They ignore nearly all of the variables which could plausibly significantly affect dental health, including nutrients which are known to be essential for healthy teeth, unlike fluoride, which is not a nutrient. They rely on unblinded, subjective judgements by practising dentists as to whether or not they will fill or pull a tooth as a proxy for properly measuring dental decay, which are highly imprecise and highly prone to systematic error. They don’t bother to measure actual fluoride exposure. They routinely demonstrate an ignorance of the difference between correlation and causation, and a failure to properly understand the concept of statistical significance. They frequently apply double standards in their interpretation of results, and promote irrational conclusions which are not supported by the data. The writers of the marketing material which appears in dental journals are demonstrably lacking in curiosity, unless you count curiosity regarding how much money they can make, often clearly dishonest, and have often been funded by corporations such as Alcoa and Colgate-Palmolive. I could go on, but you get the picture. As for the desperate attempts to construe forced-fluoridation as safe, that is another black hole of spin and more spin.
Not only is the appeal to authority a bogus argument, but Paul can’t even get his list of authorities straight. The first on his list, in both the article and his reply to my comment, is the National Academy of Sciences. He provides no evidence that the NAS does actually endorse forced-fluoridation, unless you count hearsay involving one or two of his colleagues down the hallway as evidence. Though certainly not perfect, the most comprehensive review of fluoride toxicity conducted so far is the 2006 US National Research Council report Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, which I have read in full. I’d be very surprised if the same is true of Morrison. The NRC is part of the NAS. The 12 member committee which produced the report unanimously agreed that the maximum contaminant level goal for fluoride in drinking water of 4 mg/L (which is essentially equivalent to 4 ppm) should be lowered because it does not protect against serious adverse health effects. If the Principal Associate’s principal concern were public safety, and he had any understanding of the concept of margin of safety in toxicology, he would admit that if 4 ppm is known to result in serious adverse health effects, 1 ppm is far too high. The forced-fluoridation fanatics are playing the same game that Robert Kehoe played in his long, drawn-out, unethical defence of leaded gasoline. If the margin of safety in toxicology is too hard to understand, there is the exposure analysis in the NRC report at a 1 ppm fluoride concentration, which shows that some groups, including bottle-fed infants, are liable to exceed the tolerable upper intake levels for fluoride, which are themselves far too high. Organisations do sometimes ignore the content of their own reports, and the NAS does appear to be potato-like in its indifference, but I have not seen an official endorsement of forced-fluoridation from it. Robert Kehoe was also a key promoter of forced-fluoridation, by the way (Waldbott et al, 1978, pp. 304-5).
The second on the article’s list of august, authoritative organisations is the World Health Organization, which is part of the United Nations. The WHO has been forced to endorse forced-fluoridation by a dodgy US-influenced vote of member nations in the World Health Organization Assembly in 1969 (Waldbott et al, 1978, 283-5). Its official position has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics. Morrison got the name wrong, but the third on his list is the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been an ardent supporter of forced-fluoridation since the era of leaded gasoline and lobotomies. Even the CDC only claims a 25% benefit, which is meaningless considering the poor quality of the studies upon which that estimate is based, and its latest official figures show that 41% of American 12 to 15-year-olds had dental fluorosis, which is a toxic effect. The last of the list of inestimable organisations is the American Dental Association. The ADA is a lobby group which exists to promote the interests of its members, not the public interest. Dentists make money from cosmetically treating dental fluorosis (Ko & Theissen, 2015).
If everyone had the blind faith in authority to which Paul T Morrison proudly confesses, many unsafe practices which have been banned may well still be injuring and killing people. The geochemist Clair Patterson would never have investigated human lead exposure, for example. In a biographical memoir which can be found on the National Academy of Sciences website, he is quoted from a 1965 letter as writing “My efforts [to research human lead exposure] have been greeted with derisive and scornful insults from toxicologists, sanitary engineers and public health officials because their traditional views are challenged.” Does that sound familiar? The threat of injured pride is not a legitimate excuse for an academic to publicly defend human rights abuse with a battery of irrationality. Paul T Morrison should resign, and if he refuses to do that, he should be relieved of his employment.
Incidentally, there is such a thing as “conformational bias”, but it has nothing to do with what Morrison was on about.
Cheng, K.K. et al (2007), ‘Adding Fluoride to Water Supplies’, British Medical Journal, Vol 335, pp. 699-702.
Ko, L. & Thiessen K.M. (2015), ‘A Critique of Recent Economic Evaluations of Community Water Fluoridation’, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, Vol 21, No. 2, pp. 91-120.
NRC (National Research Council), Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2006.
Waldbott, G.L. et al (1978), Fluoridation: The Great Dilemma, Coronado Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.