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Crude dredging of the scientific literature Ken Perrott Sep 15

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I am always amazed at how some people will crudely misrepresent the scientific literature in their efforts to pretend their particular political agenda is scientifically valid. The way they will dredge the scientific literature searching for studies they can quote and misrepresent seems an extreme form of cherry picking and confirmation bias. Surely those indulging in such crude literature dredging are fully aware of what they are doing.

Here is an example of literature dredging I picked up recently. The offender is Michael Connett, Special Projects Director for Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action network (yes – a bit of nepotism there. Son Michael and Wife Ellen are on the payroll). Michael has a legal qualification, but no scientific qualification. Nevertheless, one of his special projects is a litrerature database anti-fluoride activists can use in their propaganda.

Any and every scientific publication that can be quoted, misquoted or misrepresented in arguments against fluoridation.

Here are a couple of slides from Michael’s talk at recent anti-fluoride get-together organised by the Connetts. It’s about “Fluoride and  IQ Studies” and the section was meant to show that recent research confirms community water fluoridation is bad for our brain. So he found 4 studies from on rats from 2014.

I have extracted from each cited paper details from the conclusions and the fluoride concentrations of the drinking water given to the rats.

Keep in mind that in New Zealand the recommended optimum concentration for community fluoridated water is 0.7 – 1.0 mg/L.


1-connett-m.fan-conference

“We found that NaF treatment-impaired learning and memory in these rats.” The NaF treatments were 25, 50 and 100 mg/L!


4-connett-m.fan-conference

“these results indicated that long-term fluoride administration can enhance the excitement of male mice, impair recognition memory, . . ” The NaF treatments were 25, 50 and 100 mg/L!


3-connett-m.fan-conference

“exploration preference in the novel object recognition test was significantly altered in mice treated with 5 and 10 mg/L NaF compared with the water-treated control animals.”


2-connett-m.fan-conference

“These data indicate that fluoride and arsenic, either alone or combined, can decrease learning and memory ability in rats.” “The rats in the F, As, and F+As groups had access to drinking water with a 120 mg/L NaF solution, 70 mg/L NaAsO2 solution, and combined 120 mg/ L NaF and 70 mg/L NaAsO2 solution for 3 months, respectively.


It’s the old story. Find evidence for adverse effects at concentration much higher the optimum and pretend the results apply to the optimum.

Beware of political activists who claim their agenda has scientific support. There is a good chance they are manipulating the science.

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Anti-fluoride activists define kangaroo court as “independent” Ken Perrott Sep 12

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A kangaroo court is a mock or illegal court that is set up in violation of established legal procedure

The international anti-fluoride movement seems somewhat pre-occupied with thew situation in New Zealand.  In the last few months they have unleashed their “big guns” to attack two publications from local scientific researchers.  First was their attempt to discredit the paper Broadbent, J. M., Thomson, W. M., Ramrakha, S., Moffitt, T. E., Zeng, J., Foster Page, L. A., & Poulton, R. (2014). Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health. Now they have produced an International Peer Review of the  review Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence. This was commissioned by Sir Peter Gluckman, the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and Sir David Skegg, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand at the request of Auckland City on behalf of several local Councils.

Fluoride Free NZ pretends that the Royal Society Review “was sent out for review by five independent international experts” and a press release from their astroturf organisation the NZ Fluoridation Information Service repeats the independent claim (see NZ fluoridation report trashed by international reviewers).

Well let’s have a look. How independent are the authors of the critique?

An “independent” peer review?

I don’t think so. Here are the authors – chosen by the anti-fluoride movement, of course – together with affiliations and a little history


Kathleen Theissen, Environmental Risk Scientists. I don’t know what the affiliation “environment Risk Scientists,” is. Perhaps a consultancy. However, she is still listed as an affiliate on the Oak Ridge Center for Risk Analysis web site. Theissen was one of the minority* anti-fluoride members on the National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water which produced the NRC reviewFluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” She frequently writes articles and submissions opposing community water fluoridation

Chris Neurath, Research Director, American Environmental Health Studies Project. Neurath is also the “Research Director,” of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN). The American Environmental Health Studies Project is really just the Fluoride Action Network in drag with a couple of other similar organisations tied in.

Hardy Limeback, Head of Preventive Dentistry, University of Toronto. Limeback was also an anti-fluoride minority member of the  National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water which produced the NRC review Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” He is also an anti-fluoride activist who writes often on the issue and a member of the Advisory Board of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Alert Network.

 

James Beck, a co-author together with Paul Connett of the anti-fluoridation book The Case against Fluoride.

Spedding Micklem, also a co-author together with Paul Connett of the anti-fluoridation book The Case against Fluoride.


So, definitely not independent

This is a serious distortion of the truth by Fluoride Free NZ because they have continual described the authors of the Royal Society Review as not independent. They wrote, for example (see Fluoridation review ‘Dirty Science’ – Fluoride Free NZ):

“The NZ “expert panel” included only people who were already known to be ardently in favour of fluoridation and not one single person who is known to be opposed, or even someone neutral. It was therefore already a foregone conclusion.”

So, I can only conclude that these people define “independent” to mean that they agree with them – they have an anti-fluoride political stance. And they define anyone whose scientific work produces an objectively determine conclusion favourable to the consensus understanding of the effectiveness and safety of community water fluoridation as not independent!

I can only repeat, how do these hypocritical people sleep straight in their bed’s at night.

How valid are their criticisms

OK, so these people are not independent – but how valid are there criticisms. That is another issue. I am preparing a detailed analysis of the claims made in this critique and will post it in the next few days. So, watch this space.


*Three of the 12 members of the committee expressed disagreement with some fo the committee’s conclusions.

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MH17 – Preliminary report leaves most conspiracy theories intact Ken Perrott Sep 10

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Report-MH17

Click on image above, or link below, to download report

I downloaded the official Preliminary report of the MH17 crash in east Ukraine last night. I must say that although the report appears comprehensive as far as it goes – it doesn’t go far. Certainly nowhere near answering the questions everyone has about this tragedy.

It does rule out pilot error or technical malfunction. But we are almost as much in the dark  about causes as we were on July 17 when the plane crashed. Except, perhaps, the evidence does not fit with an on-board bomb or other explosion. Believers in any of the other causes or conspiracy theories will all claim support from this report.

High-energy objects

The report concludes:

Based on the preliminary findings to date, no indications of any technical or operational issues were found with the aircraft or crew prior to the ending of the CVR [Cockpit Voice Recorder] and FOR [Flight data Recorder] recording at 13.20:03 hrs.

The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.

This is consistent with either of the major hypotheses:

  1. The plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile launched by armed forces of the Kiev government, the Russian Federation or the opposition pro-autonomy militias.
  2. The plane was downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Ukrainian or Russian plane (or planes).
  3. The plane was downed by cannon and/or machine gun fire  from a Ukrainian or Russian plane (or planes).

The “high-energy objects” could be shrapnel from a missile (these are designed to explode at a distance from the target and spray it with shrapnel) or bullets. The report concludes the objects came from outside the aircraft but does not help identify their origin or nature.

The intriguing question of the damage being caused by bullets and not (or as well as) shrapnel will have to await more detailed analysis of the wreckage. So far fighting in the area has prevented a complete examination of the wreckage or its movement to a safe area for reconstruction. However, there are many high resolution photographs available on the internet which have been used to support all of the above hypotheses.

Let’s hope the current cease-fire will enable investigators to return to the crash site.

fig7

cockpit-floor

 

Radar evidence

I found discussion of the Air Traffic Control surveillance data unsatisfying. It says:

For this investigation ATC surveillance data was obtained from both Ukraine (UkSATSE) D and the Russian Federation. The data obtained was the following:

  • Primary surveillance radar recorded by the Russian surveillance aids

  • Secondary surveillance radar (SSR / Mode S)

  • Automatic Dependant Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) ground based reception.

Unfortunately the second two systems only check commercial aircraft. The primary surveillance data from the Russian Federation will be critical as when first released it indicated the presence of a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH17 at the time of the crash. The preliminary report only discusses the 3 commercial airliners nearby at the time.

However, the report says that analysis of the surveillance data “is ongoing.” Hopefully the investigation team will be able to get the equivalent primary surveillance radar data from the Kiev government for this. So far Kiev has refused to make this information public and the report does not mention getting it.

Conclusion

This is an important preliminary report which at least confirms the aircraft was down by accidental or intentional attack. It gives absolutely no help in identifying the source of the attack and is therefore miles behind various unofficial on-line reports advancing various scenarios. So the Dutch Safety Board Report is very unsatisfying to anyone who has followed the on-line discussions.

We will now have to with another year for the final report. Although, given the political sensitivities which are likely to be involved and the requirement of feedback from various governments on reported findings, I would not be at all surprised if that takes even longer. I suspect such sensitivities may have been the reason for the delay in this preliminary report.

Meanwhile, I urge interested readers to download the preliminary report and read it for themselves. Its less than 34 pages can be read very quickly.

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Accidental Renaissance – or intuition? Ken Perrott Aug 11

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Rada-fight

Saw this photo on the Guardian – see Accidental Renaissance: the photos that look like Italian paintings. The author says:

“Currently doing the rounds on Twitter is the image below, taken from Facebook by artist James Harvey, whose tweet has been shared thousands of times. It depicts one of the fairly frequent brawls in Ukrainian parliament which, while undoubtedly ugly to fans of democracy and national stability, is beautiful on a purely aesthetic level.”

I can appreciate the good composition in the photo even without the description of it’s adherence to the Fibonacci spiral. But I am happy with the description if this sort of photo as a happy accident:

“A court photographer obviously didn’t have the kind of time Michelangelo did to compose his image, but its serendipity makes it even more magical. The hands that swarm in at the edges of the photograph give it a weirdly Renaissance quality too: in those paintings, hands do so much of the emotional heavy lifting – they supplicate, pray, and constantly reach for the divine.”

I think that composition comes naturally to an experienced and good photographer. They might not be consciously thinking about Fionacci spirals or the golden ratio but years of practice helps them recognise good composition and the “right moment” to push the shutter.

Let’s give the photographer some credit and attribute the results to intuition based on years of experience rather than a happy accident or serendipity.

I am still waiting for my cheque Ken Perrott Jul 27

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LiarI have often said I wonder how some of the anti-science propagandists sleep straight in their beds at night. Lately this refers to various members of the local anti-fluoridation movement and their claims.

Pity I am not the litigious sort – there could be a bit of money in a recent claim because it slanders me, and a fellow SciBlogger, personally

Lynn Jordan, the Wellington representative of Fluoride Free NZ recently declared (under her on-line pseudonym “Penelope Paisley”) on Fluoride Free Hamilton NZ:

Penelope Paisley Peter- you asked what Debz and Ken get out of it. Ken and Alison are getting paid to blog about fluoridation. “

As I said, I am still waiting for my cheque.

Apparently Lynn’s “evidence” for this is the fact that this blog, and Alison’s Bioblog, are both syndicated on the NZ SciBlog platform as Open Parachute and  BioBlog.

I certainly appreciate my association with NZ SciBlogs, and I am sure Alison does to. But neither of us expect payment – nor is SciBlogs in a position to pay its syndicated bloggers or its full bloggers (of which there are now quite a few  –  check them out).

Lyn may not like the fact that Alison and I have blogged about the scientific aspects of fluoridation, and in the process revealed the misinformation and distortion promoted by Lynn and her fellow activists, but that does not provide a basis for her claim. She is simply telling porkies in an attempt to shoot the messengers and avoid the message.

Why is “Penelope” telling porkies?

At this stage I have no interest in making an income, either through blogging or anything else. It feels good as a retiree not to feel obliged to support, or suffer the control of, an employer. Of course, it may well be different for Lynn. In my post The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints I wrote this about her:

“Penelope” is the on-line name used by Lynn Jordan – the  Fluoride Free NZ Committee member for Wellington. She also practices as a  cranio-sacral therapist in Wellington. Cranial-sacral therapy is an alternative or “natural” therapy which Edzard Ernst  described as more or less bogus (see Up the garden path: craniosacral therapy).

Obviously she has ideological and financial committment to the “natural” health business. She relies on it for her income. If you were spiteful you might even think  she is paid to advance propaganda and to attack those who support an evidence based approach to health. But I wouldn’t possibly make that claim.

By the way, in the best tradition of astroturfing, Lynn  often sends submissions to councils opposing fluoridation under the name of an organisation NZ Health Professionals Opposing Fluoridation. What the hell is a “cranial-sacral therapist doing representing health professionals? I leave that to your imagination but it hardly adds credibility, does it?

Mind you, many councillors seem to be gullible. They certainly were in Hamilton last year.

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Some answers to the confusion about the #MH17 crash site Ken Perrott Jul 21

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Given my comments yesterday (see Making political capital out of the deaths of innocents) I thought it worth sharing this video. It is of a press conference in Donetsk given by  Alexander Borodai, one of the leaders of the anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine. Its about 30 minutes long, including the extensive Q&A. Video quality is not the best but there are English captions.

Personally I think it helps address some of the avalanche of  misinformation we are getting at the moment. And it is far more respectful to the innocent victims.

Alexander Borodai 19 Jul press conference about Malaysian #MH17 crash – YouTube.

Important Note: To activate subtitles, click on the (cc) button in the dashboard at the bottom of the video, then, in the Captions menu, select English or French.

Thanks to Sonya Roussina

Making political capital out of the deaths of innocents Ken Perrott Jul 20

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Abby Martin’s Statement on Downed Malaysian Plane & State Sponsored Militias 

I have been absolutely disgusted with the contradictory information coming out about the crash of the Malaysian airline in Eastern Ukraine. And with the way politicians have used it to advance their specific agendas.

Seems to me that making political capital out of such a tragic event is an offense to the almost 300 innocent victims.

Abby Martin is one of the few spokespersons in the media who also seems to feel this way.

Anti-science US Congressman on House science Committee! Ken Perrott Jul 10

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This guy is spouting a  bunch of simple-minded anti-scientific rubbish. Not surprising in itself – he is actually opening a climate change denial conference in th US – one of the semi-annual get-togethers of climate change denialists organised by the Heartland Institute.

No – the surprise is that this guy, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is a member of the House Science Committee, which oversees US federal policy on science and innovation.  The House Science Committee!

Bloody hell! How does that happen. Here is someone whose standard of scientific understanding is no higher than some of the anti-science blog commenters we get here – and they are on the US House Science Committee.

Thanks to: US Congressman Opens Climate Change Denial Conference with Rant Against Water Fluoridation.

Approaching scientific literature sensibly Ken Perrott Jun 25

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thinking-conf-bias

We all suffer more or less from confirmation bias – it is just human.  So it’s natural for people to be selective, and to indulge in some cherry-picking and biased interpretation, when quoting scientific literature to support an idea they promote.

pseudoscience-cherry-picking

In the scientific community peer review and continual submission of ideas to scrutiny by colleagues helps keep this under control. But it can really get out of hand when used political activists use the literature to support their claims.

I have got used to anti-fluoride commenters on social media simply citing a paper or even providing a bare link, without comment, as if this somehow makes their claims irrefutable. Perhaps, in truth, they have not even read the paper they cite, or understood it, so do not feel confident discussing it.

But this tactic is particularly lazy – and stupid. To simply give a Google Scholar search as proof. Lately I have been presented with links to such searches to argue that fluoridation is toxic. Just a search for “fluoride toxicity.”

This is what that search produces – 234,000 hits:

Fluoride toxicity – 234,000 results

fluoride-toxicity

Sounds good to the uninitiated, I guess. It does seem to produce a large number. But does that mean anything?

What about searching for water toxicity. This produces over 2 million hits. Are we to assume from this that water is toxic, seemingly 10 times more toxic than fluoride?

Water toxicity – 2,190,000 results

water-toxicity

Yes, I know some social media do not offer much space for commenting but that should not be an excuse for such silly citations.

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Approaching scientific literature sensibly Ken Perrott Jun 25

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thinking-conf-bias

We all suffer more or less from confirmation bias – it is just human.  So it’s natural for people to be selective, and to indulge in some cherry-picking and biased interpretation, when quoting scientific literature to support an idea they promote.

pseudoscience-cherry-picking

In the scientific community peer review and continual submission of ideas to scrutiny by colleagues helps keep this under control. But it can really get out of hand when used political activists use the literature to support their claims.

I have got used to anti-fluoride commenters on social media simply citing a paper or even providing a bare link, without comment, as if this somehow makes their claims irrefutable. Perhaps, in truth, they have not even read the paper they cite, or understood it, so do not feel confident discussing it.

But this tactic is particularly lazy – and stupid. To simply give a Google Scholar search as proof. Lately I have been presented with links to such searches to argue that fluoridation is toxic. Just a search for “fluoride toxicity.”

This is what that search produces – 234,000 hits:

Fluoride toxicity – 234,000 results

fluoride-toxicity

Sounds good to the uninitiated, I guess. It does seem to produce a large number. But does that mean anything?

What about searching for water toxicity. This produces over 2 million hits. Are we to assume from this that water is toxic, seemingly 10 times more toxic than fluoride?

Water toxicity – 2,190,000 results

water-toxicity

Yes, I know some social media do not offer much space for commenting but that should not be an excuse for such silly citations.

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