Doubting Science and Reaching False Conclusions: Two Phenomena with Consequences for Community Water Fluoridation

Posted & filed under Fluoride, Oral Health, and Access to Care.

Advocates of community water fluoridation (CWF) stand on a bedrock of science that has been decades in the making and is thousands of studies deep. So the growing disbelief in science and medicine is a troubling and dangerous trend.

Two recent blog posts shed light on why people doubt and how beliefs are not easy to change, not even in the face of more or better evidence.

Joel Achenbach’s March 2015 essay Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? in National Geographic explains why and how people “use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.” When we take a stand for or against an issue like CWF, we are aligning ourselves with an entire community of likeminded individuals and that, it seems, is a very strong motivating factor.

In Your Brain is Primed to Reach False Conclusions, FiveThirtyEight’s lead science writer Christie Aschwanden examines a recent study that digs deeply into the mechanism known as the illusion of causality and other cognitive biases. While these phenomena aren’t new, new approaches are needed to recognize and avoid them. Throwing more science at those who have already reached unfounded conclusions or who have adopted a different community of thought will not solve the problem.