National Geographic has shown its hand as a globalist propaganda front this month, with its latest little gem by Mr. Joel Achenbach, titled “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science.” This piece follows the same line of attacks that we see from the mainstream-left, which I will call Science-as-affectation. In arguments like these, the word “science” is used, not as a method for representing what is empirically testable, observable and repeatable, but as an attack-modality, a form of propaganda-slang that is casually thrown around as means of dissing one’s enemies.
Achenbach starts the piece with an in-your-face attack against those of us that are concerned about drinking water fluoridation, in which he references the character Jack D. Ripper from Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?
Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes, yes.
Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?
Mandrake: No. No, I don’t know what it is. No.
Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?
The movie came out in 1964, by which time the health benefits of fluoridation had been thoroughly established, and antifluoridation conspiracy theories could be the stuff of comedy. So you might be surprised to learn that, half a century later, fluoridation continues to incite fear and paranoia. In 2013 citizens in Portland, Oregon, one of only a few major American cities that don’t fluoridate their water, blocked a plan by local officials to do so. Opponents didn’t like the idea of the government adding “chemicals” to their water. They claimed that fluoride could be harmful to human health.
Actually fluoride is a natural mineral that, in the weak concentrations used in public drinking water systems, hardens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay—a cheap and safe way to improve dental health for everyone, rich or poor, conscientious brusher or not. That’s the scientific and medical consensus.
Mr. Achenbach ignores the mountain of data that concerned medical professionals, healthcare experts and concerned citizens have about drinking water fluoridation.
I wonder if Achenbach bothered to do any research? He then goes on to compare anti-fluoridation proponents to flat-earthers:
Flat-Earthers held that the planet was centered on the North Pole and bounded by a wall of ice, with the sun, moon, and planets a few hundred miles above the surface. Science often demands that we discount our direct sensory experiences—such as seeing the sun cross the sky as if circling the Earth—in favor of theories that challenge our beliefs about our place in the universe.
Here’s the problem with Mr. Achenbach’s thesis: the “consensus” of the “experts” at the time of Galileo or Columbus didn’t agree with what these men believed either.
Oops! In one passage, Achenbach defends the status quo, relying on the rule-by-majority of the “scientific and medical consensus” as a fair barometer for what constitutes scientific fact. He then proceeds to lecture us on how the overruling consensus of the experts-of-the day were wrong to doubt Columbus or to imprison Galileo because the majority “didn’t believe in science.”
MOST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES DO NOT FLUORIDATE THEIR WATER
In the United States, health authorities call fluoridation “one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.” Few other countries share this view. In fact, more people drink artificially fluoridated water in the U.S. alone than in the rest of the world combined. Most advanced nations do not fluoridate their water. In western Europe, 97% of the population has water without a single drop of fluoride added to it. Fluoridation proponents will sometimes say this is because Europe adds fluoride to its salt. Only five nations in western Europe, however, have any fluoridated salt. The vast majority do not.
So, if it’s “consensus” that Mr. Achenbach is so desperate for, he doesn’t have that either.
…according to the well-known toxicologist, Dr. John Doull, who chaired the National Academy of Science’s review on fluoride, the safety of fluoridation remains “unsettled” and “we have much less information than we should, considering how long it has been going on.” In 2006, Doull’s committee at the NAS published an exhaustive 500-page review of fluoride’s toxicity. The report concludes that fluoride is an “endocrine disruptor” and can affect many things in the body, including the bones, the brain, the thyroid gland, the pineal gland, and even blood sugar levels.
The complete review can be found here, which documents fluoride’s effects on the muscular, reproductive, neurological, renal and endocrine systems. The data against fluoride in this case is a 400+ page tome, so they’re asking $58 for it.
Now as tasteless as ad-hominem arguments may be, Achenbach doesn’t seem to be shy about making them, so I don’t think I would be out of place to make one here myself. When I first saw his article I was willing to bet that Mr. Achenbach had no formal training in the sciences, so I decided to do a little research. So it turns out that he has a B.A. in Politics – I’m so freaking shocked! But that alone doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but since I do have a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and endured some pretty grueling coursework in the “hard sciences,” including courses in Biochemistry, Physics, Biology, Genetics, Evolution, Organic Chemistry, Developmental Biology, and Microbiology just to name a few, I’d like to take this opportunity to explain to Mr. Achenbach what “science” really is. Perhaps then he will be less apt to use and abuse the term as it suits him when he wishes to attack his political enemies.
So here’s the quick two-cent Wikipedia definition:
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
To investigate phenomena and determine what is empirical and measurable, science relies on a method for making said determinations, which is called the scientific method:
Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features are frequently shared in common between them. The overall process of the scientific method involves making conjectures (hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based on those predictions. An hypothesis is a conjecture, based on knowledge obtained while formulating the question. The hypothesis might be very specific or it might be broad. Scientists then test hypotheses by conducting experiments. Under modern interpretations, a scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable, implying that it is possible to identify a possible outcome of an experiment that conflicts with predictions deduced from the hypothesis; otherwise, the hypothesis cannot be meaningfully tested.
The purpose of an experiment is to determine whether observations agree with or conflict with the predictions derived from a hypothesis.
So notice there, Mr. Achenbach, that it doesn’t mention that the findings of science have to conform to what a said community believes, or does not believe in order to be true. All we need is reliable, regular and reproducible data. And that’s where the trouble lies.
Achenbach makes the claim that water fluoridation is safe, and gives us little date, other than (to paraphrase) “because the scientific consensus (i.e. the “mainstream”) says so.” Oops. That’s not science, that’s a belief – you won’t get many scientific papers published that way. Speaking of experts, could it be that there are credible experts that have proposed an alternative view of water fluoridation – not just stereotypical “conspiracy theorists” (his words)?
“I would advise against fluoridation.. Side-effects cannot be excluded .. In Sweden, the emphasis nowadays is to keep the environment as clean as possible with regard to pharmacologically active and, thus, potentially toxic substances.”
– Dr. Arvid Carlsson, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine (2000)
“The American Medical Association is NOT prepared to state that no harm will be done to any person by water fluoridation. The AMA has not carried out any research work, either long-term or short-term, regarding the possibility of any side effects.”
– Dr. Flanagan, Assistant Director of Environmental Health, American Medical Association.
“E.P.A. should act immediately to protect the public, not just on the cancer data, but on the evidence of bone fractures, arthritis, mutagenicity and other effects.”
– Dr. William Marcus, Senior Toxicologist at E.P.A.
“Water contains a number of substances that are undesirable, and fluorides are just one of them”
– Dr. F. A. Bull, State Dental Director of Wisconsin, speaking at the Fourth Annual Conference of State Dental Directors.
Even UNICEF, a United Nations organization, cautions that excess fluoride exposure negatively affects children’s health. In their official position statement, they state, “But more and more scientists are now seriously questioning the benefits of fluoride, even in small amounts.”
Uh-oh! So much for “scientific consensus,” eh Mr. Achenbach? This is a funny little twist of logic that so many bloggers, radio and TV personalities on the liberal left seem to love doing: they attack anyone who disagrees with them as skirting the rules of logic and common decency. Then they go on an diatribe in which they deposit themselves as the sole arbiters of what is true and scientific, to which their followers obey and agree with unquestioningly. How often do we hear this talking-point from the left when it comes to “religious types.”
NatGeo is still on a roll:
We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok—and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood.
Left-liberals brand themselves as “inclusive and tolerant.” They’re often smug and proud of their self-assured moral superiority to the point of arrogance. Their most prized heroes, like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Al Gore, are happy to tell you what the 100% hands-down truth is, and how much of an idiot you are for disagreeing with them. Yes, that’s right – the great God called “Science” has decreed that man-made global warming, or was it “global cooling,” or let’s just call it “climate change,” or now is it “global climate disruption” (even better) is a foregone fact. Scientific-types decided it, and that’s just what science is, if you don’t believe us, you’re a flat-earther, go back to your bible and your gun, you piss-ignorant redneck.
We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts.
The author really wants to ram this point home – if you do your own research you’re wrong – climate change is a ”reality” and vaccines are “safe” as is fluoride.
So GMO’s – if you think GMO’s are bad for you, you’re one of those anti-rationalists. No cocktail parties at PBS for you! Here’s what the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has to say about the matter:
The Academy reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.
Here are a few more pieces to look at:
The presence of real research and true scientific debate doesn’t seem to pursued Achenbach, who goes on to compare man-made climate change doubters to flat-earthers and creationists:
In the early 17th century, when Galileo claimed that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, he wasn’t just rejecting church doctrine. He was asking people to believe something that defied common sense—because it sure looks like the sun’s going around the Earth, and you can’t feel the Earth spinning. Galileo was put on trial and forced to recant. Two centuries later Charles Darwin escaped that fate. But his idea that all life on Earth evolved from a primordial ancestor and that we humans are distant cousins of apes, whales, and even deep-sea mollusks is still a big ask for a lot of people. So is another 19th-century notion: that carbon dioxide, an invisible gas that we all exhale all the time and that makes up less than a tenth of one percent of the atmosphere, could be affecting Earth’s climate.
So, where does this “irrefutable scientific proof of man-made climate change” come from? Almost always – predictive computer models that have been shown to be faulty at best, or skewed for political purposes. Here’s an interview I did with Marc Morano of ClimateDepot.com. In it, Marc does a great job outlining how the real science has been either ignored or warped to suit the political-left’s agenda:
Dr. Richard Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT, expressed his concern over the political attacks of climate-change skeptics:
Research in recent years has encouraged those of us who question the popular alarm over allegedly man-made global warming. Actually, the move from “global warming” to “climate change” indicated the silliness of this issue. The climate has been changing since the Earth was formed. This normal course is now taken to be evidence of doom.
Individuals and organizations highly vested in disaster scenarios have relentlessly attacked scientists and others who do not share their beliefs. The attacks have taken a threatening turn.
As to the science itself, it’s worth noting that all predictions of warming since the onset of the last warming episode of 1978-98—which is the only period that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempts to attribute to carbon-dioxide emissions—have greatly exceeded what has been observed. These observations support a much reduced and essentially harmless climate response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Joel Achenbach’s (ab)use of the word “science” is certainly strange and politically convenient, but unfortunately it isn’t rare. Vice President Joe Biden compared anthropogenic climate change skeptics to unthinking morons who just as well shouldn’t believe in gravity, a sentiment mirrored by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. Even in such divergent topics as the economy, the left uses the science-as-ad-hominem-attack-point to assert it’s dominance over rational discourse.
Here’s a piece from Paul Krugman, notable Keynesian bubblehead who has never seen an Obama-era economic policy that he didn’t like:
There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.
But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?
I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.
That pretty much sums it up: intellectualism, rationality and what makes for “ideology” belong squarely within the judgement of the liberal left. And, according to them, they have no “ideology,” just good ol’ fashioned 100% tested and provable “science,” which apparently nobody else seems to understand but them. Perhaps this time, take it from somebody who has actually spent quite a bit of time in the sciences, what these people are doing is political propaganda and radical finger-pointing melodrama. Pieces like this NatGeo article are anything but a defense of science and the scientific method.
“These kinds of people don’t believe in the moon landing or global warming,” is an ad-hominem strike, not a rational argument. There is ample evidence to cause doubt about man-made climate change, and little evidence for the falsification of the moon landing.
Before Google starts playing the part of truth police, take the time to investigate the facts behind GMO’s, global warming, water fluoridation and the problems with Keynesian economics for yourself.