94 American Dental Association press releases and letters to the editor are often posted as documentation of the “science” behind antifluoridationists’ claims. All too often, the public accepts this type of information as true simply because it is in print. Opposition videos are available from national antifluoridation organizations and are shared at no cost via vehicles such as YouTube making it possible for every campaign to bring an antifluoridationist to the community. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are used to spread antifluoridation messaging to the public and to assist in organizing local efforts. These venues have allowed the small faction of antifluoridationists to be linked across the country and around the world and promote their message quickly, repeatedly and economically. Spreading misinformation impacts public policy and costs society in immeasurable ways. The opponents’ claims and opinions can escalate to emotional arguments that, in the end, can delay, or prevent the introduction of a water fluoridation program or stop an existing program.70 More people, especially those involved in policy decisions, need to be better informed about these tactics. In making decisions that affect the health of the community, it is important to distinguish between someone’s personal opinion disguised as science and information based on the best available scientific evidence. It is perfectly acceptable to have your own opinion but it is unacceptable to have your own “facts” derived from something less than reputable science. In making decisions that affect the health of the community, it is important to distinguish between someone’s personal opinion disguised as science and information based on the best available scientific evidence. In 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that many view as likely to restrict the use of information inferred as science in the federal courts and in those state courts which adopt this reasoning. The Court determined that while “general acceptance” is not needed for scientific evidence to be admissible, federal trial judges have the task of ensuring that an expert’s testimony rests on a reasonable foundation and is relevant to the issue in question.73 According to the Supreme Court, many considerations will bear on whether the expert’s underlying reasoning or methodology is scientifically valid and applicable in a given case. The Court set out four criteria that judges could use when evaluating scientific testimony: 1. whether the expert’s theory or technique can be (and has been) tested, using the scientific method, 2. whether it has been subject to peer review and publication (although failing this criteria alone is not necessarily grounds for disallowing the testimony), 3. its known or potential error rate and the existence and maintenance of standards in controlling its operation and 4. whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community, since a known technique that has been able to attract only minimal support may properly be viewed with skepticism.73 The scientific validity and relevance of claims made by opponents of fluoridation might be best viewed when measured against these criteria.73 The techniques used by antifluoridationists are well known and have been discussed at length in a number of published articles that review the tactics used by antifluoridationists.58,65,68-70,74-77 Examples of a few of the techniques can be viewed in Figure 5.
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