Social media and science – the problems and the challenge

Social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc., – are a challenge for science.  Often considered frivolous or at least not serious, they are tempting to ignore. But it seems that many anti-scientific or pseudoscientific ideas a promoted by social media. What’s more, these new social media are very effective at promoting messages, especially in areas of social health, so we ignore the media at our peril. Social media are a fact of modern life and if we can’t beat them, perhaps we should use them ourselves. These are the messages I got from a recent study of the way public health misinformation is promoted via social media. The paper is:

Seymour, B., Getman, R., Saraf, A., Zhang, L. H., & Kalenderian, E. (2015). When Advocacy Obscures Accuracy Online: Digital Pandemics of Public Health Misinformation Through an Antifluoride Case Study. American Journal of Public Health, 105(3), 517–523.

Although limited to an anti-fluoride Facebook case study I believe that the findings are also applicable to other anti-scientific movements like anti-vaccination and climate change denial. Here are some of the findings in the paper.

Anti-fluoride Facebook groups are highly connected

The connectedness within and between anti-fluoride networks was measured to get an idea of their social influence. networks Facebook “friend” connections between members within groups and between groups was very common and overall the study sample showed a significantly higher degree of connection than in Facebook overall. This is probably the result of group members having similar ideology or other traits leading to a desire to form social connections. Social influences lead to group shaping of individual attitudes and behaviours related to health and not reliance on expert findings.

Social diffusion of scientific misinformation

Using an original source article the authors followed posts about the article to determine the degree of social diffusion. They found 60% of the time a reader would have to follow 2 to 3 links to arrive at the original source with such a search failing 12% of the time. This demonstrated that:

“on average, there was a high risk that antifluoride Facebook group members engaged in posts about the article would be forced to navigate through multiple pages to locate the original post or would never succeed in locating it at all, greatly increasing the likelihood for the spread of misinformation and misrepresentation of the scientific article’s content.”

Although not detailed in the paper I believe that key sources of primary information for such social networks is very often articles in the “natural” health or alternative health magazines and websites which have already misinterpreted and misreported the scientific literature.

Engagement and sentiment

The levels of engagement and sentiment of the most influential posts were analysed:

“to explore the user experience with social diffusion of information and to determine how these posts could potentially influence group member attitudes and behaviors. Considering the distance between reference posts and the original source, this is particularly important.”

The figure below illustrates their finding for  the 2 most influential posts in the social diffusion map. Interestingly:

“The most frequent type of comment about the posts and the type of comment that received the most engagement were the science-based comments . . . Science-based comments overall received a positive (profluoride) total sentiment score of 36 (additive over all comments), whereas all other types of comments received an overall negative (antifluoride) sentiment score of –47.”

Seymour-3

“These results demonstrate that the user experience, when engaging with these influential posts, is just as likely to be negative and irrelevant to the original source as it is to be positive and reference scientific information (accurate or not). Our results demonstrate a high probability (1 in 2 chance) of encountering negative and non-science-based information about fluoride that is unrelated to the original peer-reviewed scientific publication under discussion.”

Social media overriding traditional health communication?

The new social media have given a new power to social networks:

“Historically, naturally limiting factors such as geography and communication barriers inhibited opportunities for strengthening networks with outlying views. Risky behaviors as a result of shared moral evaluations, such as opting out of  recommended childhood vaccination schedules and rejecting fluoridation, reverberated in existing small networks without necessarily scaling to dangerous magnitudes.”

But:

“online social networking allows greater connectivity among networks through the increased visibility of group behavior; previously nonnormative behaviors can thus become normative through the use of social media.”

Now that minority ideas and behaviours have an online market they can spread through confirmation bias and the expanding social networks, and the strong ties in the networks reinforce the sentiments behind the spreading messages.
The group thinking and the “silo,” even protective,  nature of social networks means that:

“Expert opinion grounded in evidence that contradicts the sentiments embedded in a socially diffused message will be quickly rejected; acceptance of this contradictory information would be socially detrimental to the network, challenging its very identity. Thus marks the beginning of digital pandemics of misguided and incomplete health information in which evidence becomes entirely secondary to the sociology of the networks diffusing it.”

Are there lessons here for pro-science groups?

The findings of this research will strike a chord with sceptics and others who fight anti-evidence-based approaches to health online. They will easily recognise the social norms of such groups which leads to rejection of any attempt to inject a pro-science discussion. They will have experienced the put-downs and banning or blocking used to reinforce and protect those within-group social norms.
But should we be drawing lessons from this? The authors conclude:

“Traditional vertical health communication strategies, such as broadcast diffusion through peer review publication and media reporting, may no longer be effective because of the existence and viral potential of social diffusion”

Perhaps we have to accept that:

“the sociology of networks is perhaps just as influential as, if not more influential than, the information content and scientific validity of a particular health topic discussed within and between certain networks via social media.”

Rather than trying to beat this new technology perhaps we should try to use it ourselves more effectively. The authors suggest:

“Empirical social strategies for health communication should focus not only on high-quality digital information production and dissemination but also on socially targeted and custom-designed messaging that conforms to the norms and values of specific target networks rather than challenging them. Developing an appreciation for the sociology of target groups could assist public health experts in increasing influence in problem networks and could provide the tools to predict, prevent, or reverse digital pandemics.”

The internet has forced changes on the traditional methods of information dissemination in other areas so it is really not surprising to expect it to change scientific and public health communication. As the authors say in their final words:

“The public nature of social media is at once a barrier to accurate information flow online and a tremendous opportunity for public health research, innovation, and intervention. In an age when negative digital pandemics can go viral, public health communication management strategies must go social.”

See also: An emerging threat of “digital pandemics”- lessons learned from the anti-vaccine movement
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70 responses to “Social media and science – the problems and the challenge

  1. Ken your font size changes midway in your article. It looks odd🙂

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  2. Fixed (I think). Bloody HTML gremlins.🙂

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  3. T A Crosbie

    The problem Ken is the old spin doctoring around CWF has been opened to a wider audience by the internet and found to be less than truthful.
    An increasing number of ‘insiders’ are questioning the veracity of the science from the 1950s on which fluoridation was promoted as the answer to dental caries. Given the countries who still fluoridate are generally performing worse than countries who don’t, the drive to fluoridate should be dropped in favour of conducting high quality research into the issue. Blind adherence to studies of previous studies is not by any stretch of intelligence ‘sound science’ and the motives of those who promote it needs to be looked at.
    Why does the Taranaki DHB still cite the Fort Collins report and Dr Broadbent the York review in support of CWF when both studies explicitly decry the lack of high quality research on the fluoride issue.
    The danger for the pro fluoridation lobby in trying to use social media to re- spin the science is that the participants are more savvy than past generations who once believed what the Marlborough Man said on theatre screens around the world. The truth around the possible/actual adverse health effects of fluorine based additives in our food, water and environment is slowly being unveiled.
    All I say is bring it on!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Actually  Trevor,  we have brought  it on. And you guys have  reacted with bans  and  blocks.  So much  for  your  bravado. 

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

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  5. Oh dear, Trevor. Oh dear.

    You’re attacking people for not meeting the standards of “sound science,” and celebrating your own savvy in being cleverer than past generations who were duped by the tobacco industry… whilst seemingly being unaware that the term “sound science” is classic tobacco industry propaganda.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446868/

    Very disappointing.

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  6. The danger for the pro fluoridation lobby in trying to use social media to re- spin the science is that the participants are more savvy than past generations who once believed what the Marlborough Man said on theatre screens around the world.

    There you go again, Trevor, trying the same old cannard. You still don’t understand the difference between advertising by profit focused corporations and the scientific consensus.

    You have had this made clear to you on numerous earlier occasions.

    Trevor Crosbie, you are dishonest.

    Trevor Crosbie, you are stupid.

    No other explanation can explain or excuse your behaviour.

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  7. T A Crosbie

    Ken – please clarify your “bans and blocks” comment.
    Chris – thanks for the link which actually confirms the point I was making about the science being junked to sell hide the dangers of smoking. The same junking of science applies to the fluoridation issue and that is the primary issue.
    Am J Public Health. 2001 Nov;91(11):1745-8.
    Junking science to promote tobacco.
    Richard – your response is simply the usual personal denigration I have come to expect from you. Why is seeking the truth a behaviour you find so abhorrent?

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  8. T A Crosbie

    What happened to “Leave a Reply: please be polite to other commenters”?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Trev, my comment about bans and block refers to internet groups, FaceBook groups, etc. run by your organisation Fluoride Free NZ or associated with it.

    Anyone who makes a pro-science comment at those sites is usually attacked and then very quickly banned or blocked from the group.

    You know for quite a while now I have been blocked from making comments in these groups, even when they run extensive commentaries and personal attacks in me. Cowardly?

    >

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  10. I’m sorry, Trevor, but you have been using language and tactics pioneered by the tobacco industry to advance your personal beliefs. This really ought to set alarm bells ringing in your head, but instead, apparently, you are trying to displace your own behaviour onto the people who disagree with you (ie the scientific community at large).

    You have said that “the drive to fluoridate should be dropped in favour of conducting high quality research into the issue. Blind adherence to studies of previous studies is not by any stretch of intelligence ‘sound science’ and the motives of those who promote it needs to be looked at.”

    Now, I really do think a few switched words illustrates the parallel here: “the drive to restrict tobacco advertising should be dropped in favour of conducting high quality research into the issue. Blind adherence to studies of previous studies is not by any stretch of intelligence ‘sound science’ and the motives of those who promote it needs to be looked at.”

    The point is not which side of a particular discussion you are on. It might be “there is/isn’t evidence… smoking harms your health,” “…climate change is real and caused by humans,” “…vaccination is dangerous,” “fluoride is effective and/or safe.”

    The point is what tactics you use to promote your beliefs. You have engaged in blanket condemnation of any and all studies and reviews (which you derisorily dismiss as “studies of studies”) conducted on fluoridation, whether from the 1950s or recent, and accused those “blindly” promoting said studies (as opposed, presumably, to those supporting “higher quality” but non-existent research) of having secret (presumably financial?) motivations.

    The upshot being that we should do exactly what you want, because “sound science” (ie science which supports your ideological position) has not been conducted, and that existing science (which does not support your ideological position) should be dismissed as junk.

    Now, I shouldn’t need to point out the parallels with the tobacco industry and the climate change denialists, but if you do need this spelled out for you, do let me know.

    I will deal with your mischaracterisation of what other people are doing in a separate post; I think I’ve given you enough to digest for now.

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  11. Hm. I feel I should clarify a point.

    Every scientist you will ever meet will support conducting more research, preferably of a higher quality than existing research, on any given topic. They do not, however, assume the outcome of research which has yet to be done, and they will certainly not suggest overriding the status quo on the assumption that future research will contradict the results of existing research.

    Where no research has been conducted at all on a new product or practice, scientists may advocate a more precautionary approach, though obviously the world’s realities mean what scientists have to say isn’t always the deciding factor. See, for instance, the natural health industry and its various products.

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  12. Richard – your response is simply the usual personal denigration I have come to expect from you. Why is seeking the truth a behaviour you find so abhorrent?

    Identifying your serial idiocy and dishonesty is not personal denigration.

    Some people are stupid.
    Some people are dishonest.

    You, Trevor Crosbie, are one of them. The reasons for that observation have been supplied on more than one occasion.

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  13. To quote Dr. Phillip R.N. Sutton, Formerly Academic Associate and Senior Research Fellow, Department Oral Medicine and Surgery, Dental School, University of Melbourne, Author of The Greatest Fraud: Fluoridation (1996):

    “We are all affected by this potentially dangerous fraud: The convincing of Governments and people generally that it is ethical, safe and beneficial to medicate, compulsorily, many millions of people throughout their lives with small but uncontrollable doses of a cumulative and very toxic substance because of the notion that it reduces the prevalence of dental decay. All this, although neither its safety nor any scientifically-proved reduction in the number of decayed teeth has been demonstrated.”
    http://fluorideinformationaustralia.wordpress.com/fia-report-archives/

    ~~

    From 1982 says it all:-
    1982 – Former NIH (National Inst. of Health) scientist opposed to fluoride
    Statement by James B. Patrick, Ph.D. at the Joint Congressional Committee on Health & Appropriations Against the Inclusion of Fluoridation in the Preventive Health & Health Services Block Grant, Held August 4, 1982.

    Dr. Patrick earned his B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology & his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University majoring in chemistry. His experience as Antibiotics Research Scientist was with the National Institute of Health & Lederle Laboratories.
    Dr. Patrick is Senior Professor and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, Mary Baldwin College, Stauton, Virginia, 1967 to date. He is author of 28 technical papers & holder of 7 U.S. patents.

    I strongly advise against the legislature of this Commonwealth having anything to do with fluoridation.

    It is a scientific disgrace that a well organized lobby of the American Dental Association ever managed to stampede American legislators into ignoring the highly technical but very cogent objection to fluoridation.

    Source: http://www.nofluoride.com/eight.cfm

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  14. Diane, in what version of reality does thoughtless copypasta from anti-fluoride activist sites become a a rational contribution to discussion of my article?

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  15. Excuse me Ken, I happen to own Philip Sutton’s book, I also have Edward “Weary” Dunlop’s speech on the steps of Melbourne Town Hall wherein he states his feelings about fluoridation. I don’t believe Diane would need to cut and paste anything I think she probably has the same published papers I have. Have you seen “Fluoridation 1979, Scientific Criticisms and Fluoride Dangers” Philip R N Sutton D.D.Sc.(Melb.) L.D.S., F.R.A.C.D.S. Academic Associate, University of Melbourne, Formerly Senior Lecturer in Dental Science, Senior Research Fellow”. A personal submission to the Committee of Inquiry into the Fluoridation of Victorian Water Supplies. Dr. Alan Stolger of Melbourne has done considerable work on the etiology of mongolism. In 1963 he said that there are: ‘..two separate aetiological processes – one affecting younger mothers and independent of maternal age and the other, a more frequent phenomenon, affecting older mothers.’ There is more……….

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  16. Despite what books you have in your library, Cindy, Diane’s contribution was 100% copypasta. Just check her text and the text of her links. Mi cannot judge if Diane “needs” to indulge in copypasta. The simple fact is that she and, with nor original contribution of her own.

    If find such drive-by copypasta trolling offensive. Having put some effort into writing an article I really feel I deserve more than that in comments.

    Neither you or Diane refers to anything in my article. That is insulting.

    >

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  17. You are a disgrace Mr. Parrot.

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  18. I find pro-fluoridation extremists insulting and harmful to our long term health. From what I’ve seen you are a pro-fluoridation troll who posts a lot of information, I’m just not stupid enough to keep typing it out – I use the experts information – you cannot argue with Sutton or Patrick’s work – and those forcing/mandating/promoting water fluoridation are in fact doing so illegally in the view of many, as there are no safety studies in existence, all you have is the politically powerful fluoridation lobby parroting that ‘water fluoridation is safe and effective’ – that is a lie because no safety data exists, never has.

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  19. Stand up to Governments and their Corporate Interests and say ‘we will no longer stand by and allow you to force/mandate water fluoridation/pollution of Australia’s drinking water supplies’ – Australian Government must be told by you the people, ‘To cease and desist all water fluoridation now’ !

    There is so much conflicts of interests, corruption, collusion, that no one trusts any of the organisations pushing this hazardous waste on our population and environment.

    Anyone who thinks it’s safe and effective to force feed/mandate the population, our pets, all life and our environment water fluoridation chemicals which is the highly corrosive neurotoxic and carcinogenic hazardous waste pollutants and co-contaminants from the phosphate fertiliser industries and/or aluminium smelting operations, the ‘fluoride’ is hexafluorosilicic acid/silicofluorides and co-contaminants of lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, thallium, beryllium, etc., and added is also aluminium sulphate and/or Sodium Fluoride; is failing all ethics and duty of care and is recklessly negligent; for any authority and organisation to put their name in favour of ‘water fluoridation/pollution’ is a disgrace to them all, they are partners in the chronic poisoning of our nation – the financial interests of so many put $$$$ above any concern for human health, animal health or environmental health – it is insane.

    The only answer EVER was to provide access to affordable dental health care services for all the population, not the dumping/disposal of neurotoxic and carcinogenic, highly corrosive hazardous waste pollutants hexafluorosilicic acid/silicofluorides and co-contaminants of lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, thallium, beryllium, etc., (known as water fluoridation and also added to that hazardous waste soup is aluminium sulphate); into our drinking water supplies and hence also the contamination of our food chain and using the populations` kidneys as hazardous waste disposal/filtration units.

    These highly corrosive neurotoxic and carcinogenic hazardous waste pollutants and co-contaminants (from phosphate fertiliser industries) must not be dumped in the ground, air, rivers, oceans, creeks but dump it in the water supplies as a forced ‘medical /dental treatment’ (without informed consent ! ) and it magically becomes safe and effective.

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  20. Diane, simple facts.

    1: You don’t appear to have even read my article you are commenting on! 2: Your comments have absolutely nothing to do with the content of this article which are about a scientific study of social media using anti-fluoride groups and their treatment of a scientific source article as a case study. 3: You appear to think copypasta of irrelevant material is a legitimate comment. It isn’t – it is drive by trolling. 4: Your skill with expressing yourself in English is so poor you cannot even reproduce the name of a person – even when the text is staring you in the face, or 5: You purposely, and childishly, indulge in distorting the names of your discussion partners for some weird sort of satisfaction. If this is the case I point you to the polite request to commenters above the comment box.

    You are of course welcome to comment properly on my article and the paper it discusses. In fact I encourage you to.

    >

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  21. Dear Mr. Parrot,
    I’m not interested in the ravings of a pro-fluoridation fanatic forcing your will on we the people and I repeat anyone who thinks it’s safe and effective to force feed/mandate the population, our pets, all life and our environment water fluoridation chemicals which is the highly corrosive neurotoxic and carcinogenic hazardous waste pollutants and co-contaminants from the phosphate fertiliser industries and/or aluminium smelting operations, the ‘fluoride’ is hexafluorosilicic acid/silicofluorides and co-contaminants of lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, thallium, beryllium, etc., and added is also aluminium sulphate and/or Sodium Fluoride; is failing all ethics and duty of care and is recklessly negligent; for any authority and organisation to put their name in favour of ‘water fluoridation/pollution’ is a disgrace to them all, they are partners in the chronic poisoning of our nation – the financial interests of so many put $$$$ above any concern for human health, animal health or environmental health – it is insane.

    The only answer EVER was to provide access to affordable dental health care services for all the population, not the dumping/disposal of neurotoxic and carcinogenic, highly corrosive hazardous waste pollutants hexafluorosilicic acid/silicofluorides and co-contaminants of lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, thallium, beryllium, etc., (known as water fluoridation and also added to that hazardous waste soup is aluminium sulphate); into our drinking water supplies and hence also the contamination of our food chain and using the populations` kidneys as hazardous waste disposal/filtration units.

    These highly corrosive neurotoxic and carcinogenic hazardous waste pollutants and co-contaminants (from phosphate fertiliser industries) must not be dumped in the ground, air, rivers, oceans, creeks but dump it in the water supplies as a forced ‘medical /dental treatment’ (without informed consent ! ) and it magically becomes safe and effective.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Comparing Diane Bucklands comments with each other, one can have no doubt as to who is the parrot.

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  23. Ken people have a feeling that the whole story is not coming out in many health areas.

    “Critics of the peer-
    reviewing process claim that it increases bias because reviewers favor manuscripts from well-known
    authors or from institutions within their own country (geographical bias). (59, 60) Likewise, peer
    reviewers may discriminate against women (gender bias).(61) ”

    http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0895435615000165/1-s2.0-S0895435615000165-main.pdf?_tid=a2b95cba-c7cf-11e4-abad-00000aab0f6c&acdnat=1426065713_36bf46559b2221d1ad174d5ac1533cf5

    And Ken with the RS review a bit hangs on your hypothesis of whether fluorosis of teeth is leading to reduced IQ. Had the RS review even noted that an explanation is needed?

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  24. Brian, we actually have much more than a “feeling” that the “whole story is not coming out in many health areas.” This is easy to show where “natural” health propagandists with corporate interests continually misrepresent the science. Examples like “Dr Mercola” etc., which you favour.

    Northng in the NZ Fluoridation Review hangs in any hypothesis if mine

    >

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  25. Ken, then you claim that
    SINCE the occasional nutrient seller makes claims that a food heals without proving it is a medicine and doing double blind controlled tests
    THEN it is quite rational to expect the peer review system, and what gets to it to be dissemination biased?

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  26. No, Soundhill, I claim nothing of the sort. Don’t be silly and stop attempting to words in the mouths of others.

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  27. Ken I referenced a study looking a dissemination bias in peer reviewed health studies. I said that people feel the whole story is not coming out. You have not denied that, but pointed out it may happen in non-peer-reviewed areas.

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  28. Soundhill, it seems your skull is very resistant to any ideas that don’t conform to your bias. I was simply comparing your opportunist promotion of the honest analyses of an imperfect peer review system (imperfect because it is human) with your blindness to the corrupt promotion of a anti-scientific ideas by people intimately embedded in a corporate system and making big money from it.

    You are opportunistically making mountains out of a molehill regarding imperfections in procedures aimed at ensuring publication quality while condoning a crooked system with no regulations or controls. It’s like the Mafia who routinely murder people condemning a kindergarten for honestly looking at the mistakes it might have made in carrying out regulations aimed an equal treatment of the children.

    >

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  29. Having read Ken’s information aforementioned, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would have done a study of social media attributes to either pro or anti unless, of course, the anti-fluoridationists looked as if they were gaining ground. AS NHMRC in this country do no actual research yet have plenty to say on the subject of fluoride, one cannot help but wonder at the agenda. With the amount of fouled frozen vegetables & fruit being imported in from China, why is it not relevant to test our own produce for levels of chemicals known to cause systemic damage, along with the “hydrofluorosilicic acid” (aka “F”) which eminates from that same country,viz. China? TGA should also be held accountable as “the miniscule amount of poisons introduced with this “F” product does not warrant their approval” sic. Could it not be compared as the “asbestos of tomorrow?”

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  30. Ken my point was that the “human” peer review system needs upgrading so that humans may trust it.

    And the other point you wrote on
    “This may not be relevant to community water fluoridation but neither is it proof that somehow fluoride can directly affect IQ at higher concentrations. The authors did consider (to a limited extent) confounders such as child age, family income, parental education, urinary iodine and (in a later paper) blood lead and found no influence levels. But they seem to have just ignored a very obvious confounding factor – the influence of a physical defect (in this case bad teeth resulting from severe dental fluorosis) on learning.”

    That was on May 29, 2014.

    You were commenting on a study by Xiang. In making the fluorosis comment you accept the IQ deficit. (Note also Billy Budd’s comment about low fluoride and IQ). The Xiang study was in the Choi review which the RS review discounts. However you have accepted a likely IQ effect, just the mechanism is in question, you say.

    RS talk about irrelevant levels to water fluoridation, but also about other sources of fluoride such as coal smoke. Why not tooth paste?
    And they are biased in not talking about the tails of the distribution.

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  31. Silly Cindy.

    “hydrofluorosilicic acid” (aka “F”)

    No, hydrofluorosilicic acid is not also known as fluorine, nor is it also known as fluoride.

    Silly Cindy.

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  32. Cindy, perhaps you should read the paper more closely. You usually find the authors’ ‘ purposes at the end of the introduction. In this case they say:

    Public health is encountering an emerging threat of “digital pandemics,” the rapid farreaching spread of unrestricted and scientifically inaccurate health information across the Web through social networks.

    Improved communication between researchers and media reporters is indeed recommended but is only part of the solution. Public health challenges stemming from online misinformation are at the complex intersection of scientific research, mass media, and the emergence of social network activism through user-created content and consumer reception of information. We performed, to our knowledge, a first of its kind observational study designed to explore this challenge and the epidemiology of digital pandemics.”

    Simple concern about the influence of social media and how it is used to spread misinformation about health issues.

    I really don’t see the relevance of the rest if your comment – perhaps you could elaborate?

    >

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  33. @Richard Christie

    Next you will be laughing at someone talking about calcium in their diet, being a metal (which like the metal iron oxidises in air or water.) And they will be laughing back at you, because you do not know common usage of the words.

    Just think of babies needing iron in their diet for brain development.
    Or iodine for thyroid development. You will want their carers to buy “iodidated” rather than “iodised” salt.

    Interesting that that is all you could think of to criticise.

    http://chemistry.about.com/od/elementfacts/a/calcium.htm

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  34. Soundhill – some points:

    1: Hypocrisy – which you are guilty of for attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill of journal peer-review system details while condoning, even encouraging, the blatant lies and misinformation form people like Mercola, the anti-fluoride campaigners and the “natural”/alternative health industry where nothing like peer review exists or is even attempted.

    You should just stop throwing stones at others if you insist on living in a glass house.

    2: “Peer-review” – it is naïve to understand that as only some sort of detail of journal management. It isn’t.

    True peer review arises out of the social natural of scientific research. This means that scientists are continually presenting their ideas and findings, and having them critiqued by colleagues, at all stages of the process. From proposal of hypotheses to critical assessment of papers years after publication.

    It is silly for you to get wound up of details that one journal or another may use in a microscopic part of this process. Unless, of course, you are actively selecting a journal to publish in. The processes all differ in details and effectiveness form one journal to another. And, I repeat, journal publication is a tiny built of the whole scientific process.

    3: Elevating peer-review to some sort of description of the “truth” of findings is incredibly naïve – yet some people seem to do this opportunistically when attempting to justify cherry picked studies.

    I keep repeating that one should always assess the scientific literature critically and intelligently. You are copping out if you rely on “peer-review” to determine the quality of a paper – it doesn’t. But, of course, if you rely on cherry-picking and confirmation bias “peer-review” will just be another opportunist argument you will use.

    You will claim “peer-review” for a study that fits your bias and criticise “peer-review” for not being good enough when it doesn’t.

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  35. “Simple concern about the influence of social media and how it is used to spread misinformation about health issues”

    I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about a TV advertisement claiming NatureBee pollen contains more calcium than milk. About half an hour earlier in the infomercial it had had a very small graphic at the bottom of the screen, “weight by weight.”

    ASA allowed the advertisement, which to me was spreading misinformation about health issues. People need calcium in their diet. I believe a number of people would interpret the advertisement as meaning the pollen is a better dietary source for them. When I tried to pursue the matter I was told by teh ASA secretary to stop being naughty.

    That was John Banks’ former company and I believe intent of some complaints about internet info is to stop smaller people from spreading alternative info which can free them from the bonds of bigger profit makers, often pharmaceuticals, while the ones who can pay more expensive lawyers get away with it.

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  36. Ken: “blatant lies and misinformation form people like Mercola”

    That may be actionable, Ken.

    Mercola does his best and learns and changes his info, like science. He wanted to further a precept of his training, “Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine,” which is to help prevent people from getting to a state where he would have to prescribe a pharmaceutical drug for them, or do a surgical operation on them, which he is however trained and licensed to do.

    To spread knowledge he was one of the early people to use the internet as it released itself from a military communications system and later a system used by university people. He paid for his website from his work. He was sending out emails to many people and decided to see if he could support his account with selling some good products.

    I believe his good/harm ratio will be far greater for many illness/prevention measure than conventional allopathy, though he would still be using that in some cases.

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  37. Ken: “alternative health industry where nothing like peer review exists or is even attempted.”
    Mercola has courage. He recently delves into the faecal transplant matter which may avert surgical removal of the colon or continued drugs.
    There is a lot of peer reviewed stuff about it. Search scholar.google.co.nz Faecalibacterium prausnitzii transplant

    Not an appealing thought and perhaps not the sort of thing which will sell big in TV ads. But maybe a relief for some severely suffering people.

    Like

  38. Soundhill – you are simply illustrating the points I made.

    Like

  39. Ken, please explain.

    You said there was nothing in the alternative heath industry about peer review. I have just given an example from what Mercola has recently talked about which is peer reviewed.

    Like

  40. Soundhill, the rubbish Mercola and similar “natural”/alternative health sites produce is not peer reviewed in any way at all – any more than my blog posts. They are continually misrepresenting scientific papers and neither you or any of their other supporters ever take them to task.

    Yet you are trying to make a maintain out of a molehill of discussion around science journal peer review processes.

    Can you not see the iron in that – or are you too far gone?

    It is outright hypocrisy.

    Like

  41. Ken, your articles refer to some peer reviewed stuff, as does Mercola’s.

    I have just shown you a way to refer to peer reviewed stuff on which Mercola’s recent health education advice is based.

    How about 3 examples of Mercola “continually misrepresenting scientific papers”?

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Don’t be so evasive, Soundhill.

    You are happy to quote Mercola as gospel despite his misrepresentation of so many things yet you try to cast aspersions on peer-reviewed articles because the peer review process is human.

    You are happy with outright deception but want to criticise an honest peer-review process.

    Like

  43. Ken, the “Human” nature of the CDC reviewers allowed them to exclude Afroamerican boys from the autism MMR study, because their birth certificates were not so easily forthcoming. Black skinned boys are likely to have lesser vitamin D. Boys in general have more autism. Here is their “admittance”: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Autism/cdc2004pediatrics.html

    I think they left out those boys after their bigger picture showed a connection from MMR at a certain age to autism.

    Like

  44. Ken, what are Mercola’s misrepresentations you speak of? Could you be more explanatory please?

    Like

  45. Soundhill @ March 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Now Soundhill, or Brian Whoeveryouare.

    What are you on about now? Dietary iron, calcium? wtf?

    Regular readers know that you, Brian, have no qualifications, background or expertise in the scientific arena. Yet you bore readers in here to death with your endless suppositions and inane theories. It is somehow fitting that you spring to the defence of another internet crank who believes hydrofluorosilicic acid is the same thing as fluorine.

    Is it another theory of yours? That all chemicals can be called whatever you choose, and have the same properties? A theory that belongs to you and is yours?

    Like

  46. @Richard: ” “hydrofluorosilicic acid” (aka “F”)

    No, hydrofluorosilicic acid is not also known as fluorine, nor is it also known as fluoride.”

    F there is a general term for the fluorine element, which is often ionised to fluoride.

    I suppose you are trying to make the point that the water does not have fluorine gas dissolved in it, which would have gone in as F2, since fluorine atoms in gaseous form bond together in pairs.

    Actually fluorine gas is rather nasty. It reacts with the water in our lungs to produce HF, a destructive acid. That acid is the reason why glass windows of buildings in the vicinity of the Ravensdown superphosphate factory get frosty- hard to see through. HF attacks glass.

    It is interesting that HF can also be called hydrogen fluoride.

    Rather than being confrontational you might have referred Cindy to something like this:

    http://nzic.org.nz/ChemProcesses/production/1C.pdf

    Like

  47. Cindy is as scientifically challenged crank, much as you are.

    Cindy, in her barely intelligible rant calling for the testing of “produce” for hydrofluorosilicic acid stated that it is is also known as Fluorine. I gave her the extra benefit of the doubt by acknowledging that it is also not the same as Fluoride.

    I do I not need your explanations as to the differences between each, so don’t be so arrogant as to think that I do.

    Like

  48. Soundhill, at some point I have to start attributing your statements to active malicious intent.

    I mean, seriously. “I think they left out those boys after their bigger picture showed a connection from MMR at a certain age to autism.”

    You do realise that amounts to an allegation of fraud, right? Based solely on your personal belief that there’s sinister stuff going on. Because, you know, the only possible way that so many people could find no connection whatsoever between autism and vaccination is if there’s a vast, overarching conspiracy to suppress the evidence.

    It almost goes without saying that you have a seriously mangled interpretation of the CDC statement. Not only have you mangled what the statement says, you seem to be actively making stuff up on top of that. Again, this seems to amount to malicious intent.

    Which leaves your motives. I freely admit that this assessment may be off the mark, but I think what’s happening is that you’re trying to respond to people saying mean things about Mercola.

    Which, 1) misses the point, and 2) is much less effective if what you’re saying isn’t actually true.

    I will be dealing with the claims you’ve made versus what the statement and the paper actually says momentarily. I felt that was best dealt with in a separate post.

    Like

  49. @Chris
    from the CDC ref: “Access to the information on the birth certificates allowed researchers to assess more complete information on race as well as other important characteristics, including possible risk factors for autism such as the child’s birth weight, mother’s age, and education. This information was not available for the children without birth certificates; hence CDC study did not present data by race on black, white, or other race children from the whole study sample. It presented the results on black and white/other race children from the group with birth certificates.”

    They took data but just didn’t present it if they did not have the fuller info from the birth cert.

    Do you challenge this?:

    Like

  50. And there you have it folks.

    Soundhill1 is challenging readers to dispute what Andrew Wakefield asserts.

    Like

  51. @Richard

    Chris disputed my assertion, so I asked if he still disuptes it after seeing Wakefield’s story.

    Here is some more:
    http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/obama-grants-immunity-to-cdc-whistleblower-on-measles-vaccine-link-to-autism/

    Like

  52. … I’m sorry, Soundhill, what in the name of all that is holy makes you think I give a damn what Andrew Wakefield has to say?

    What goes through your head that you think, “oh, hey, people are saying I’ve gotten stuff wrong. I’ll cite Wakefield; that’ll show them.”

    No, I will not be bothering to check Wakefield’s opinion on the matter.

    Like

  53. @Richard, the Wakefield Wiki refers to why he was debarred.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20130512115524/http://www.gmc-uk.org/Wakefield_SPM_and_SANCTION.pdf_32595267.pdf

    Which doesn’t look good. It says:

    “The results of the research project were
    written up as an early report in the
    Lancet in February 1998. Dr Wakefield as a senior author undertook the
    drafting of the Lancet paper and wrote its
    final version. The reporting in that
    paper of a temporal link between gastrointestinal disease, developmental
    regression and the MMR vaccination had ma
    jor public health implications and
    Dr Wakefield admitted that he knew it
    would attract intense public and media
    interest. The potential implications were therefore clear to him, as
    demonstrated in his correspondence with t
    he Chief Medical Officer of Health
    and reports which had already appeared
    in the medical press. In the
    circumstances, Dr Wakefield had a clear
    and compelling duty to ensure that
    the factual information contained in
    the paper was true and accurate and he
    failed in this duty.”

    You haven’t realised that in the video I referenced Wakefield said that Thompson’s admission shows he was half right. So the Wiki is out of date.

    It looks to me Wakefield was convinced he had to go against the rules to prove the link, like Nelson putting the telescope to his blind eye.

    If the CDC had been honest then this unenviable scenario may not have had to come about.

    I feel doubt about the total confidence of the CDC as they write:

    “However, our 2014 measles count is the highest number since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. We do not want to lose any opportunity to protect all of our children when we have the means to do so.”

    in that it looks like they may have a similar driven affliction to Wakefield.

    And now you want to be like Nelson, turning your blind eye, however, to a warning from someone who has been forced into theoretical medicine by his earlier mistaken practical fervour.

    Don’t jump out from in front of the bus unless you trust the warning.

    Like

  54. The hell with it. My connection’s spotty and I can’t be bothered. Here’s the Snopes article:

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/cdcwhistleblower.asp

    Like

  55. Soundhill continues to add to his track record of preferring the assertions and opinions of proven fraudsters and liars over the consensus of the scientific consensus.

    Like

  56. I don’t understand this from the Snopes:
    ‘There’s no biologically plausible reason why there would be an effect observed in African-Americans but no other race and, more specifically than that, in African-American males. In the discussion, Hooker does a bunch of handwaving about lower vitamin D levels and the like in African American boys, but there really isn’t a biologically plausible mechanism to account for his observation, suggesting that it’s probably spurious.”

    Which observation, they should be clearer, the lower vitamin D levels or the Blacks’ autism? An “observation,” can mean an actual measurement or something you think.

    “The CDC issued a statement regarding the data in question, with instructions for accessing the study at the center of the controversy.”

    Study and data are two different things. To get the data you have to make special application, with secrecy requirements.

    “As the CDC noted, the authors of that study suggested that the most likely explanation for the moderate correlation between autism and vaccination in young children was the existence of immunization requirements for autistic children enrolled in special education preschool programs:”

    They should have noted that in the original article. Could’ve saved a lot of trouble.

    It implies that more autistic Black boys get enrolled in special preschool before age 3, and that there are no immunization requirements for normal preschool. However the autism may not show up till near age 5 so why would they be in the special school?

    I hope someone gets the data and publishes on it.

    Like

  57. Snopes “The findings revealed that vaccination between 24 and 36 months was slightly more common among children with autism, and that association was strongest among children 3-5 years of age.”

    The autism is showing mostly between 3 and 5. So that is when they would be enrolled at special school.

    Note 3 years = 36 months. But the autism is not most significant till after then, and so the entry to special preschool and the immunization requirement would not fit the criterion of before 36 months.

    Like

  58. Hookers article “was removed from public domain due to issues of conflict of interest and…”

    The conflict of interest was his autistic child. Snopes should have said. They should have said in which way the conflict of interest would affect the article. Conflict of interest does not stop the publication of an article. It only has to be noted. In this case the use of that appears to be an excuse to hide the article.

    Like

  59. Soundhill, I really don’t think you understand the study, the CDC’s statement about the study or indeed the snopes article.

    This is perhaps unsurprising, given that you have apparently been reading the Gospel According to Andrew Wakefield.

    I am not inclined to wade through everything you’ve said. As I’ve noted before, your ability to generate large amounts of rubbish is considerably greater than my time and inclination to take it apart.

    As an example, however, you have fixated on the words “conflict of interest,” whilst completely ignoring the “and” which comes immediately afterwards. In context, according to the publishers themselves,

    “The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.”

    A rather far cry from “the conflict was Hooker has an autistic child,” isn’t it? Ordinarily, whether or not one has an autistic child has nothing whatsoever to do with the peer-review process. It doesn’t look as if the details of the actual competing interests were ever disclosed, so quite how you claim to know what they were I haven’t the faintest idea. Making it up with malicious intent, perhaps.

    Do not expect further discussion of this, or of any other examples of your mangled interpretations.

    Like

  60. “The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process”

    If the peer reviewers were comprised they are at fault, not the author. They are the ones in judgement.

    Or how can “undeclared competing interests by an author” compromise a review process? It seems they are saying the penalty for not declaring he has an autistic child is that his study gets hidden.

    “Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.”

    But it is normal to leave a retracted article visible but marked clearly across it “retracted,” in the online version.

    I have gone back to this and see that now has happened, which I had forgotten. Readers may gain something:

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/MMR_Controversy_Reignites.php

    Like

  61. Ken you wrote: “1: Hypocrisy – which you are guilty of for attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill of journal peer-review system details while condoning, even encouraging, the blatant lies and misinformation form people like Mercola, the anti-fluoride campaigners and the “natural”/alternative health industry where nothing like peer review exists or is even attempted.”

    Ken here is a mechanism for fluoride’s affect on the nervous system, so in your hypothesis you need to find a mechanism of how this follows on from affected teeth:

    “Rats with fluorosis also tend to have significant decreases in neural nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nACHRs) and inhibited cholinesterase expression [30-33], both of which could interfere with attentional processes [34]. Moreover, they have significant decreases in protein expression of α4 and α7 nAChR subunit genes [28,31,35], and abnormalities at the α4 nAChR subunit in particular have been implicated in all ADHD subtypes [36,37].
    Furthermore, nicotinic receptor agonists that ameliorate ADHD symptoms do so in rats by acting on the α4 β2
    and, in some cases, α7 subunits [38-41”

    http://www.ehjournal.net/content/pdf/s12940-015-0003-1.pdf

    I suggest the affect of fluoride is at a more fundamental than what you hope to represent.

    Like

  62. Soundhill, WTF has you quote from Malin and Till got to do with your quote from me??

    Have you suddenly become a convert to the “peer-review” process and using that to advocate a mechanism you neither understand or support with relevant information.

    I think I also suggested this was a characteristic of the anti-science people who could on the one hand attempt to to slander the journal “peer-review” process when the information disagreed with them but opportunistically appeal to it when they thought the information agreed with them.

    Anything to avoid approaching the literature critically and intelligently.

    >

    Like

  63. Ken: “Have you suddenly become a convert to the “peer-review” process and using that to advocate a mechanism you neither understand or support with relevant information.”

    Ken as I have said a number of times it does not have to be full on full off anything. In this case you are trying to create a perception that I am a in two-valued peer review scenario.

    Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, or nAChRs can be loosely thought of as the locks on the doors of muscle or nerve activity which require a key (acetylcholine) to get them going.

    Then to relax again it is needed to deactivate the acetylcholine “key”, which is done by the cholinesterase.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotinic_acetylcholine_receptor
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholinesterase

    The rest of my quote expands on that and the damage of the mechansims.

    Like

  64. “it does not have to be full on full off anything.” It’s called having your cake and eating it too.

    On the one hand you cast a general condemnation of scientific papers by a vague reference to a paper about peer review. On the other hand you use a second-hand citation from a paper which is poorly peer-reviewed to support you desire to find something, anything no matter how vague, wrong with fluoride.

    There is no real substitute for a critical and intelligent analysis of the scientific literature. You are not doing that Soundhill.

    Like

  65. Ken I have written to them to check up on any effects of water hardness.

    The peer review process is a bit like a dentist. You may come away with very good teeth but not enough of them for an effective bite.

    Like

  66. Ken: “On the one hand you cast a general condemnation of scientific papers by a vague reference to a paper about peer review.”

    No Ken, just a warning which is reinforced by your point: “There is no real substitute for a critical and intelligent analysis of the scientific literature.”

    To further the dentist analogy, after they get all the bad teeth out of the mouth they then have to do something about large gaps. The gaps is what the “peer review review” is about. Sometimes teeth have been unnecessarily pulled. Maybe they had good but large amalgam fillings. The analogy does not work too well but the dentist earns money by getting them out of sight. Perhaps advocates titanium implants.

    Like

  67. Soundhill, you have sunk back into senseless prattle again.

    >

    Like

  68. I’ve an idea.
    Since this one is totally insensitive to hints that he desist or go elsewhere with his nonsense, how about we not feed the troll.

    Like

  69. @Richard, are you sure Ken was feeding trolling by suggesting more explanation of my reference about effect of fluoride on the nervous system? Maybe he is genuinely interested that people understand.

    Ken has said “On the other hand you use a second-hand citation from a paper which is poorly peer-reviewed to support you desire to find something, anything no matter how vague, wrong with fluoride.

    There is no real substitute for a critical and intelligent analysis of the scientific literature. You are not doing that ”

    That paper gave a convenient list of neural effects of fluoride as part of its thesis. Part of “critical and intelligent analysis,” is to find out where bits of the jigsaw puzzle fit.

    A thesis I referred to before Jan 19: “Here is a paper addressing saliva and the stimulative effect of fluoride on that. What is interesting is how little difference extra dietary fluoride makes on the salivary concentration of fluoride.”

    http://www.fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/westendorf.pdf

    “According to a theory of Knappwost’s, fluoride’s protection against tooth decay relies on
    a vagotonic influence on saliva quantity and quality. Therefore, we looked for signs of a
    vagotonic mechanism for the effect of fluoride. On the basis of the inhibition of
    acetylcholinesterase by fluoride we could show that this inhibition increases when the pH is
    shifted towards a more acidic level (up to pH 6-6.5). Elucidating this state of affairs showed that
    the HF molecule is the actual inhibitory agent. From this it could be deduced that in those areas
    of the organism where such pH shifts occur, an inhibition of AChE is possible at physiological
    F concentrations.”

    Link that to Ken’s January 16:
    “Research indicates that while fluoridated toothpaste is effective it actually does not substitute for F in water. In fact fluoride intake via food and water is complementary to use of F toothpaste. This is because the surface mechanism inhibiting decay in existing teeth relies on F in saliva and surface biofilms on the teeth. The concentration of F in saliva increase on brushing, or ingestion of food and water. However, the concentrationd drops to ineffective levels rather quickly – within an hour. So toothbrushing cannot maintian effective concentrations during the whole day and fluoridated water comes into its own.”

    It has to be conjectured that the effect of fluoridated water as opposed to dietary fluoride or toothpaste might mean more frequent suppression of acetylcholinesterase than you would get with those. Acetlycholinesterase undoes the acetylcholine which keys nerve/muscle action.

    Salivary fluoride is normally low. Saliva protects teeth. Fluoridated water causes more saliva production which seems useful but what else in the body is it switching on more with this anti-cholinesterase effect?

    Like

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