Tag Archives: Auckland

Non-fluoridated Christchurch does not have better teeth than fluoridated Auckland


It seems every time anti-fluoride propagandists present data it is either cherry-picked, distorted or misleading. Often all three. So it is hardly a surprise to find local anti-fluoride propagandists are telling porkies again.

They have been promoting the above graphic claiming it shows people in “non-fluoridated Christchurch have “better teeth.” But the graphic is based on naive cherry-picking of the data, it ignores the effect different ethnic groups have on the data and it uses a single cherry-picked year which fits their bias.

On top of that, axis values have been chosen to exaggerate differences and the labels are incorrect. The “non-fluoridated Christchurch” category uses data for Canterbury and the “fluoridated Hamilton” category uses data of the Waikato.

It seems that several of the commenters on the Fluoride Free NZ Facebook page where this graphic was first used saw the problems and raised them. All they got is insults for their time. These organisations do not seem capable of a rational discussion.

The Ministry of Health data they use is freely available on the MoH website. It provides oral health data for 5-year-old children and year 8 children. The data is presented annually and for different regions.

So let’s have a look at what the data really says – using more normal axis ranges and separating out ethnic groups.


The top graph here is still misleading because it does not take into account the effect of different ethnic groups. However, the correct categories are used and the more rational axis really cuts the exaggerated difference down to size.

In the second graphic the data for Māori and Pacifica have been removed – the MoH describes this group as “Other” – it is mainly Pakeha. We can see that the caries-free % is actually greater for fluoridated Auckland than it is for non-fluoridated Canterbury – exactly the opposite of what the anti-fluoride propagandists were claiming.

It is the same story for Māori – the caries-free % is actually higher in fluoridated Auckland than in non-fluoridated Canterbury.

The problem with the “Total” data is that Pacifica have a large effect – particularly in Auckland where Pacifica are concentrated. Pacifica generally have poorer oral health but are concentrated in fluoridated regions. This drives down the caries-free % figures for the fluoridated areas if the differences are not accommodated.

I referred to this effect of Pacifica on the data in my article A challenge to anti-fluoridationers to justify their misrepresentation of New Zealand research. There I was referring to a similar way anti-fluoride campaigners were misrepresenting data from recent New Zealand research. In this case, they were using data from a paper (Schluter & Lee 2016) and completely ignoring the distortions introduced by inclusion of Pacific – even though the authors had warned against the anomaly introduced by this.

There are other effects which should also be considered in a proper understanding of these data. It is easy to cherry-pick the data for a single year when differences are small – the anti-fluoride people do that a lot. OK if you want to confirm your biases but consideration of the data over multiple years helps indicate trends, identify anomalies and provide an idea of variations in the data. It is also important to consider the numbers in each region. For example, I have not included Pacific in the graphs above because they are concentrated in Auckland and the numbers in Canterbury and Waikato are very low (eg., 45 in Waikato in 2014).

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Fluoridation and conspiracy theories

I am not one to stereotype people and in my blog posts on the fluoridation controversy I have so far steered clear of the more whacky arguments that come up. After all, some of my friends oppose fluoridation and I would not want to attribute these whacky reasons to them. (Mind you – I have some suspicions).

But it seems that even in little old New Zealand some of the leaders and foremost spokespersons for the anti-fluoridation activists are presenting these whacky ideas. So we can’t really avoid them.

Hamilton oncologist Dr Anna Goodwin appeared for the anti-fluoridationists at the recent hearings held by the Hamilton City Council. She spoke for them at a recent Auckland meeting as one of the 3 “expert” dentists and doctors (although she claims only to have had her road to Damascus moment in the last few months). These people just love titles, don’t they.

This first quote from her is a blatant example of Godwin’s law (rather appropriately in this case Go(o)dwin’s law refers to the  inappropriate use of Nazi analogies in articles or speeches – common on the internet and usually claimed as a sign of desperation). In her submission to the Hamilton City Council hearings she claimed

“Perhaps most disturbing is that the first efforts to fluoridate drinking water were put forth by the Nazis in concentration camps. They observed a mental “numbing” effect on the prisoners that made them easier to control.”

And in a Waikato Times opinion piece welcoming the Council decision to stop fluoridation (see Council’s bold water decision welcomed) she followed this with:

“America’s obsession with fluoridation (and their fluoridation induced brain damage) might explain the US’s dubious political choices over the past 25 years and reckless spending.”

She is promoting the conspiracy theory that fluoride is purposely added to public water supplies to ensure a docile population! (And perhaps giving us a wee peak at her political or ideological stance).

Her conspiracy theories stretches to collusion of the NZ government with fertiliser companies to dispose of a dangerous waste by putting it in our water supplies. (See Cheese is chalk if fluoride is fluoride, press release by  fluoride Free Hamilton):

“I was shocked to learn that, in the absence of any human studies to prove its safety or efficacy, the fertilizer industry held hands with government agencies (in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand) and fluorosilicic acid was deemed an “acceptable and equivalent” fluoride source, decades ago, completely without any real evidence for this assertion.”

I don’t know how widespread these ideas are among the anti-fluoridation activists in New Zealand, but clearly they are not far from the surface with some of the leaders. Conspiracy theories seem to be alive and well in the anti-fluoridation campaign

But here’s an example of an extreme form of these anti-fluoridation conspiracy theories in the US – an interview by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He discusses addition of  lithium and fluoride to water supplies. The dangers of immunizations are also discussed along with how these poisons are used by design to chemically lobotomize people.

via Neurosurgeon Uncovers Fluoride & Lithium Conspiracies Part 2 of 4 – YouTube.

And there is more rubbish where that came from.

See also:

Fluoridation – the violation of rights argument.
Poisoning the well with a caricature of science
Fluoridation petition – for Hamilton citizens

Getting a grip on the science behind claims about fluoridation
Is fluoride an essential dietary mineral?
Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?
Tactics and common arguments of the anti-fluoridationists
Hamilton City Council reverses referendum fluoridation decision
Scientists, political activism and the scientific ethos

None so blind

This sort of thing annoys me – not just because it excludes a large proportion of the population from social discussion. But also because it demonstrates a cultural blindness. Some people are so blinkered they won’t even acknowledge that elephant in the room.

Yesterday Lincoln Tan had a Herald Opinion piece – Christian faiths losing out to other religions. It’s basically talking about religious diversity in Auckland and lamenting that “Western religions, such as Anglicanism, ‘fail to connect’ with diversifying cultures.”

He quotes a Massey University study by Peter Lineham – Changing Patterns of Auckland Religion:

“The Anglican Church, which has traditionally been New Zealand’s dominant religion, has dropped from 47 per cent in Auckland identifying with the church in the 1926 census to slightly over 10 per cent in 2006, lower than the 10.8 per cent nationally. It was a different story for Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, which have experienced surges in membership.”

And the rest of the article talks about these “world religions.” Those Eastern religions whose adherents are actually increasing in numbers – even though those numbers a relatively small (1.8 – 3.5%).*

Notice the elephant in the room – those horrible non-religious people? They can’t possibly be part of our country’s religious diversity can they? They must be ignored. Well nationally they comprised 33% of the national population in the last census – I would be interested to know if the Massey study recorded these people and what their numbers are in Auckland. (I can’t find a link to the report at the moment (could anyone who has a link let me know it?)

Then their was this Herald piece today by George Armstrong (an Anglican priest and teacher) –  It’s time for the religions of the world to unite

The gives his message – Different faiths can work together to promote noble values. Religion’s have to stop competing and start working together. He’s effectively calling for unity of action to solve the world’s problems:

“all the peoples of the planet . . . have to forge new tolerances and appreciation and interfaith and intercultural partnerships. Any decent religion will have love, humility, awe, justice and peace at its centre. There’s plenty of that at the heart of the major world religious traditions. And there’s plenty of it at the heart of the great political and diplomatic traditions of our diverse peoples.”

But really he is contemplating unity of action of only religious people. Again he has ignored that large elephant in the room. Interfaith action is not going to include the non-believers.

But there is plenty of “humility, awe, justice and peace” at the centre of many non-religious traditions too. Especially today. Why exclude them?

All of us are capable of noble values – irrespective of religious belief. Although I sometimes wonder at the capability of some religious leaders and commentators who seem to have a very blind spot reserved for the non-religious.

*This plot shows the change in religious diversity according the New Zealand census results since 1991. Last census Christians amount to 49.5% of the population (after taking “double dipping into account). The Hindu religion has the next largest numbers for a religion – but amounted to less than 2%. Why concentrate on unity with the very small religions while refusing to include the non-religious (33%)?

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Monckton messes own nest

Ever get the impression the Christopher Monckton may have reached his use-by date? Maybe even well past it?

Looks like this might be the case as the climate change denier/sceptic/contrarian groups trying to organise a programme for him in New Zealand are having problems. Their hero has become so repugnant that dreams of huge publicity for their cause seems to facing the harsh truth of reality.

Apparently, TV programmes Q&A and Close-up are no longer interested. And the host for their Auckland event, Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ), has pulled out and left the mess to The Climate Realists – a rather nasty little conspiracy group.

Avoiding reality

Of course this groups is unwilling to face up to the fact that Monckton has been caught out so many times telling outright lies, misrepresenting climate science, attacking scientists and their science, that he no longer has any appeal; except to the committed climate change denier or contrarian. After all, Monckton often compares his debate partners to Nazis, he argues that climate scientists should be prosecuted and imprisoned. And even that perhaps “. . . no one should be allowed to practice in any of the sciences, particularly in those sciences that have become the mere political footballs of the leading pressure-groups, unless he can certify that he adheres to one of those major religions – Christianity outstanding among them – that preach the necessity of morality . . .”. (see Monckton requires religious certification for scientists?)

Consequently, most serious legitimate scientists now refuse to debate with this guy. After all, such debates do far more for Mockton’s CV than they  for the climate scientist. The media is coming to see that he is so far out that without the appearance of a real controversy he is not worth interviewing.

But, true to form, these Climate realists must explain the problem as a conspiracy. As “things that have been going on behind the scene”. They explain the negative reaction of PRINZ members to their organisation being used in this way as conspiring to prevent “someone whose opinions are perceived as being ‘outside the politically correct mantra’ from speaking in public.”  (Of course no one has taken away that right from Monckton. he is still going ahead with a meeting but has lost endorsement of the PRINZ).

They see their inability to find someone reputable to debate with Monckton as another conspiracy. But again, what they have really lost is the opportunity to use such a scientist to provide credibility to the concept of a scientific controversy where none really exists. The same old tactic that creationists always attempt to use.

There is no conspiracy. This is just the result of Monckton’s own behaviour. He has made a mess in his own nest and is now facing the consequences.

Climate change lectures in Auckland

Two well-known personalities in the world of climate change science are in Auckland this month. Naomi Oreskes, Co-author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

And James Hansen Author of Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.

Oreskes will give the Michael King Memorial Lecture at the 2011 Auckland Readers and Writers Festival on May 14.


Naomi Oreskes

“Doubt is our product,” ran the infamous memo written by one tobacco industry executive in 1969, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” There’s no denying “doubt” is crucial to science and drives it forward, but it also makes science, and scientists, vulnerable to misrepresentation. Naomi Oreskes co-wrote Merchants of Doubt with Erik Conway: an important and absorbing history of a group of high-level US scientists and advisers with deep connections in politics and industry. The same individuals surface repeatedly: claiming that the science of global warming is “not settled”, denying the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. We are honoured to have Naomi Oreskes give the Michael King Memorial Lecture, with an introduction by the Science Editor of the New York Times Barbara Strauch.

Event Details

Date: 14 May

Time: 01:00 p.m. – 02:00 p.m.



via 28 NAOMI ORESKES AND THE MERCHANTS OF DOUBT – Auckland Writers & Readers Festival.

See Also: An anatomy of denial

James Hansen tours New Zealand

James Hansen (Credit: Guardian)

James Hansen is touring New Zealand this month, giving a public lecture entitled “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue” in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Dunedin, Gore and Christchurch.

Coal and lignite will be a major focus of his visit, and he’ll be participating in a symposium on “the future of coal” in Wellington on May 17th.

Hansen’s tour is being sponsored by a number of groups, including 350.org, Greenpeace, Organic Systems NZ, Oxfam, The Pure Advantage, the Institute of Policy Studies, and a number of interested academics and individuals.

Auckland Public Talk: “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue”

When: Thu 12 May, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where:  University of Auckland School of Business, 12 Grafton Rd, Grafton Show map

Tickets: Free Admission

Website: www.facebook.com/#! … our?sk=info

The Challenge of the Human Brain

This looks like a fascinating lecture. Professor Richard Faull FRSNZ, Director of the Centre for Brain Research at The University of Auckland, is presenting the Royal Society of NZ  Distinguished Speaker lecture series this month.

He is a leading expert on neurodegenerative diseases of the human brain.  His research provided the first evidence the diseased human brain can repair itself by the generation of new brain cells and led to new insights into the treatment of brain disease.

I am a bit late on this. The first lecture is tonight in Dunedin and already booked out. However, here are the details of the series. They are all free and open to the public. Good news for those who can’t make any of the lectures – the Auckland lecture will be recorded by RNZ and broadcast in November:


6pm Thursday 2 September
Soundings Theatre (previously listed as Te Marae) Te Papa Museum, Cable Street, Wellington
Refreshments and questions in Expresso Cafe after the lecture



6pm Thursday 9 September
Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, Great King Street, Dunedin

Register for 2010 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker  The Challenge of the Human Brain - DUNEDIN in Dunedin, New Zealand  on Eventbrite


6pm Friday 10 September
Christchurch Art Gallery Auditorium, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch



7.30pm Thursday 30 September
Gallagher Concert Chamber, Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato Campus (entry via Gate 2b on Knighton Road), Hamilton

Register for 2010 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker  The Challenge of the Human Brain - HAMILTON in Hamilton, New Zealand  on Eventbrite


6.30pm Wednesday 13 October
Auditorium, Auckland Museum, The Domain, Parnell, Auckland (entry via the Southern Entrance, car parking available in the Domain and also in the Museum underground car park $8)
This lecture will be recorded by Radio New Zealand for broadcast as part of the ‘Talking Heads’ lecture series in November.  Entry to the Auditorium will not be permitted after the start of the lecture. (Auckland lecture only, not all lectures)

Register for 2010 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker  The Challenge of the Human Brain - AUCKLAND in Auckland, New Zealand  on Eventbrite

For more details go to the RSNZ web page 2010 Distinguished Speaker: The Challenge of the Human Brain

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The heart of PZ Myers

Sounds like PZ Myers’ health problems are more serious than he first thought. He is currently in hospital for more tests – and from the sounds of it – an operation (see That’s not a heart! It’s a flailing Engine of Destruction!)

Hopefully things will go well. He will get the necessary repairs, a well-deserved rest and return renewed to his blogging. I try to read his blog, Pharyngula, daily and I know others do as well. I enjoy his daily dose of humour and common sense.

PZ Myers answers questions at the Melbourne Convention. Photo: Geoff Cowan

PZ is an excellent communicator and we need more people like PZ to defend science and reason. I am personally amazed at the time and effort he puts into this communication. During the last year he has been on sabbatical leave. While he has been writing a book I know this is disrupted by the traveling and large number of meetings he has been speaking at. In the USA and internationally.

I met him last March at the World Atheist Convention in Melbourne and was impressed at how eager he was to meet everyone. This willingness to make himself so available has resulted in a hectic round of speaking engagements and public appearances in this last year. While this has been great for the communication of science and reason it must have had a toll on his health.

So, hopefully, PZ will take this health alarm as a warning. Recognise that he needs to consider his own needs more and turn down some of the requests for public appearances. Hopefully Myers will return to blogging soon. And I hope to see his book published. I will be satisfied with that and I am sure most of his regular readers will be too.

PZ has appealed to his readers not to “waste your time with prayers.” After all he is getting some real help from medical experts. I wish him well and look forward to his successful recovery. Many of his readers are doing the same. One of these well wishers was Richard Dawkins, who commented: “How noble, how typical of the man and of everything he stands for, to use humour in making such an announcement.”

Which brings me to another of my concerns. Dawkins is also someone who gives his time extremely readily. His life must also be very hectic. I was aware that at the time of the World Atheist convention he was traveling around New Zealand and Australia and speaking to sell out audiences. It amazed me that he spoke in Auckland on the Saturday night and in Melbourne on the Sunday afternoon. Those who went along to hear him certainly appreciate his willingness to make himself so available. But perhaps he should also be taking a lesson from PZs current health problems.

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NZ Atheists Swap Buses For Billboards

This from the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign:

The NZ Atheist Bus Campaign will unveil billboards with friendly atheist slogans in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch this week.

The campaign has chosen the three winning phrases from more than 900 public submissions of billboard slogans. “We’re excited about this opportunity to promote these thoughtful slogans and hope they’ll get people to stop and think.” said Simon Fisher, spokesperson for the Campaign.

While the precise wording of the three new slogans is intended to be a surprise, Mr Fisher says that all three designs will include the text “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”
borrowed from the successful UK bus campaign.

With the launch of the billboard campaign, the organisation is also reopening its call for donations from people who want to see the billboards moved to other cities. “While the bus campaign would have been limited to main centres, the great thing about these canvases is that once printed they can be toured to other centres” said Mr Fisher.
“If a community wants to put one of our billboards up in their area they can contact us, arrange a location, and we’ll be delighted to lend them the canvas”.

Despite similar campaigns being run internationally, the organisation’s plans to place ads on buses in New Zealand hit a brick wall earlier this year when NZ Bus accepted and then rejected the billboards, leading to the Campaign’s decision to take the issue to a tribunal. “The Campaign is still committed to the discrimination case against NZ Bus through the Office of Human Rights Proceedings. “We have kept funds in reserve for a bus advertising campaign if this is successful.” said Mr Fisher.

Interested Kiwis can see the billboards in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from Friday this week.

For more information and to donate, see NZ Atheist Campaign

Thanks to Toby Ricketts for the photos of two billboards just installed in Christchurch.

Here’s one billboard I missed:

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Richard Dawkins in Auckland – update

I reported recently that Richard Dawkins will speak in Auckland next March.

Looks like there has been an overwhelming demand for tickets. To accommodate everyone the organisers have  now arranged a live screening of Richard Dawkins’ only Auckland appearance in 2010. Tickets for the screening are now on sale.
Details of his appearance are:

7.00pm to 8.30pm
Saturday 13 March 2010
Theatre 098, level 0
The University of Auckland Business School

The screening will take place in Theatre 098, which is below the Fisher & Paykel Appliances Auditorium where Richard Dawkins will be speaking. People attending the screening will have the opportunity to get their books signed by the author in the Fisher & Paykel Appliances Foyer following the lecture.


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Richard Dawkins in Wellington next March

dawkins lectureAuckland got Richard Dawkins by video this year when he announced the winner of the inaugural Royal Society NZ science Book of the Year award.

Next March Wellington will get him in person. Dawkins will be speaking during the Writers and Readers Week at the NZ International Arts Festival.

Details (evening of Wednesday March 10 at the Wellington Town Hall) are at the Arts Festival website. Tickets can also be booked from there.

Something to look forward to?


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