Some readers will be aware I have discussed with Paul Connett, author of the book The Case against Fluoride, the possibility of some sort of “debate” between us on the fluoridation issue. We have now agreed to run a series of articles on this blog in a rough sort of debate format.
I think most scientists are scathing about the gladiatorial style of debate – it is a sport and not a scientific exploration. It also encourages an adversarial approach, relying on personalities and oratorical skill and not evidence and reasoned consideration.
However, challenges to debate are common with controversial issues. The Christian apologists demanding their critics debate William Lane Craig (who, of course, is a skilled debater) is an obvious example. And, within the fluoridation controversy, anti-fluoridationists will sometimes demand that supporters of fluoridation debate Paul Connett – often seeing this is the final argument – “put up or shut up.”
Usually I call the bluff with such people – and they tend to disappear. But local conspiracy theorist Vinny Eastwood seems to have more influence in the anti-fluoride movement and when I accepted his challenge he did contact Paul Connett. So we ended up discussing possible places and formats for a “debate” during his visit to New Zealand next year.
During our discussions Paul suggested that an internet debate might be a practical way of carrying it out. I agreed.
So here we are.
The “debate”-discussion will be on this blog – Open Parachute. It will run as a series of pairs of articles – Paul Connett’s specific argument first with my response second. Posted the same day, or within a few days of each other.
Each of us will respond to the other’s claims and rebuttals and to extra information (as well as any relevant input from commenters) by adding updates to the original article.
Paul’s proposal is that the series include five pairs of articles – which seems like a convenient size for such an internet discussion. But let’s see how the cookie crumbles.
As always, I encourage comments. However, both Paul and I feel that that comments in this discussion should be strongly moderated. Internet discussions are well-known for flame wars, personal abuse, harassment and offensive input. In my opinion the fluoridation debate seems to be very bad for such behaviour.
So I have introduced comment moderation. Initially all commenters will find their first comment moderated. If this does not weed out trouble makers I will resort to moderation for all comments by specific offenders – or even moderation of all comments by everyone.
It is important to keep this discussion civil and informative.
Let’s be clear – this discussion is not about “winners” and “losers.” It is about discussion of the science. Hopefully this format will encourage good faith discussion and intelligent participation from commenters.
The series of discussion exchanges starts tomorrow. Anyone wanting to follow the debate and/or check back over previous articles in the denate can find the list of articles at Fluoride Debate.