America’s Approach to Science
We are surrounded by controversy, even in areas of science that are seemingly built upon facts. But as Danielle Teller discusses in a recent blog on Quartz, America makes the mistake of treating science as a bunch of facts when it is really a process of critical thinking.
Community water fluoridation, like childhood vaccines, is a practice that generates one such controversy. But should it? Teller reminds us that the most reliable theories and practices are those that have been tested the most, by the largest number of independent researchers, and over the greatest number of years. Surely with over 3,000 studies and publications by researchers from around the world, and 70 years of experience in the United States alone, the science behind community water fluoridation is reliable.
As a result of ongoing scientific inquiry, facts can and do change. And that can be both frustrating and confusing, especially when what we expect of science is facts. Teller points out that we tend to use facts to support our beliefs rather than to inform them. And because interpreting data requires critical thinking, the less we use it, the more prone we are to making spurious correlations, especially in an age when the internet provides information to confirm any bias.
Fortunately, when it comes to community water fluoridation, everyone can rely on the same sound science that has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and all leading health and medical organizations to agree that “community water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”