We Believe Different Things Entirely

Martin VanPopta says on the Pro-Fluoride Lethbridge facebook page:

Oh Maggie, surely you must understand we believe different things entirely. I believe you are wrong, and that I am right. I am not patronizing you.

I think Martin is on to something here. My estimation in looking through FB pages and the pages of the Lethbridge Herald, is that the differences are fundamentally not about whether water fluoridation represents mass poisoning and forced mass medication, but about how our beliefs are formed and modified by new information.

When I encountered the recent claim that a new Harvard study (Choi et al., 2012) found that water fluoridation reduces IQ, I first made sure I understood the claim correctly (for example: Harvard study: Fluoridated water lowers children’s IQ). I did NOT then automatically look to see what my “go to” fluoride authorities said about this. I hunted around for the scientific article reporting the link to see what the authors themselves actually said. (I know that journalistic accounts often accidentally or purposefully misrepresent the content of scientific reports.) I discovered that the content of the article did not match the claims in secondary sources.

First, all of the data on fluoride content in water and IQ were collected years before, mostly in China. All of the primary data had already been published in peer-review journals. They have had little impact for several reasons, the most important being that the normal IQ groups were drinking water with our level of fluoride – the effects showed up only at much higher levels – levels that we already knew produced health problems. China does not carry out any water fluoridation, in many areas they have a problem with the natural fluoride levels being too high or where industry is pumping many things, including fluoride, into the environment. Those of us who care about vulnerable developing brains and monitor this kind of work were relieved that no harm was being done by keeping our water fluoridation at the level of the normal IQ groups in those papers.

I suggest that there is another fundamentally different approach to responding to the news of a link between fluoride and IQ, one that does not in any way include going to the original sources of this information and evaluating them. It involves using this Harvard study as a way of justifying a prior belief that the government and corporations are harming us by doing things to our water and food. It is used to confirm a prior belief – regardless of whether the details of the reports actually support the conclusion of brain toxicity of our level of fluoridation. The confirmation continues as the news report spreads and is “enhanced” at anti-fluoridation websites, until it is even used to explain why some people are so “stupid” as to not agree that water fluoridation is poisoning us. The confirmation is amplified through a network of anti-fluoridation advocacy that came into existence as a serious effort in the early 1960s and looks for support for its advocacy wherever it can be found. If the message could get out effectively that in fact the IQ link is with much higher fluoride concentrations and the risk at our level may not be apparent at all, the effect is to reveal the messenger as a poisoner an evil person and the statement that even if IQ is not at risk we have the real risk of atherosclerosis.

Is it even possible to dispel the prior beliefs of this sort? Is this an encapsulated belief with two parts: there is a group effort by govt/industry that involves poisoning us, and anyone who says something other than that is part of that group and cannot be trusted? What would be the route into such a self-sustaining capsule? Can Maggie only harm herself in critically discussing the information and not agreeing?

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