A reader writes:

As a former resident of Portland, I’ve followed the fluoridation debate lightly without much of an opinion, but have dug into it some more with the unfurling of this thread. I tip my cap to the reader who linked to the anti-fluoride site. I, for one, have been trying to figure out what’s wrong with my teeth for some time, with no leads (even from dentists) until I saw the pictures of dental fluorosis:


I grew up in Lawrence, KS which had fluoridated water, and my teeth look like those with mild dental fluorosis. (But I also had no cavities while growing up.)

Overall, I thought that some of the arguments made on the site were compelling, some less so. But the reflexive cries of “whack-job” by readers in the following post made me cringe. In addition to providing zero links to their claims of pseudo-science for others to evaluate, there’s a rich irony lost on the responders.

Oppenheimer’s article wasn’t about fluoridation or organic food; it was about the aggressive purification of the left betraying the fundamental values of classic liberalism and subverting its societal priorities. That those readers imagine that they’re proving Oppenheimer’s point by citing Western medicine is laughable. There is perhaps no better example of “liberal” ideological purity and certainty than mainstream Western medicine, which dismisses all forms of knowing that can’t been “proven” in a lab.

A reader with a long-term illness writes:

I couldn’t resist responding to this statement: “Ignorance of science and medicine is a luxury that is great so long as you’re basically healthy. When you’re really sick, however, you’d better toss all that alternative crap out the window.” What upsets me most is the either/or attitude the reader advocates. I think this mindset permeates our culture.  I think it’s completely unproductive and does nothing but produce self-righteous justification for one’s current beliefs.

I was raised holistically by both my parents.

On the rare occasions me or my brother did get sick my parents used homeopathy and other alternative methods and home remedies to treat us.  When we had colds, it was honey / lemon / cayenne pepper tea, and onion cough syrup.  If you look either of the home remedies up you will see that they are very old and have been used for many generations.  Neither of us ever had bronchitis, tonsillitis, strep throat or other common childhood illnesses.  We had our regular check ups and yes we got our required shots.  We were the healthiest kids in our class and of most of our friends.

However, that changed for me around 10-12 when I got bit by a tick.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had contracted Lyme disease.  My lyme would go undiagnosed for close to 20 years until I reached 30.  In my early 20s I developed very severe endometriosis.  After much searching and many visits to various doctors and specialists over a 3.5 year period, I was properly diagnosed and had two surgeries for it.  The first was diagnostic but didn’t fix the pain.  The second was done two years after my first by a surgical specialist and I was finally on the mend – or so I thought.  I was diagnosed with chronic and untreated lyme disease two years after my second surgery.  (Before any of your skeptics chime in on my lyme diagnosis, my diagnosis was confirmed based on the CDC guidelines for diagnosing Lyme, even though my bite occurred almost 20 years prior, and I never had any of the initial symptoms of a bull’s eye rash, fever or flu like symptoms.)

I write this brief history to note that I am exactly the type of kid the reader was referring to.  But you know what ultimately got me better?  BOTH alternative therapies and Western medicine.  During the two years between my first and second surgeries, I used prescribed drugs by my gynecologist but I used acupuncture and Chinese herbs to support my system.  This kept my nausea and fatigue at bay and was very helpful in lowering my pain.  I also used a long list of other therapies, including medical marijuana. My Lyme treatment started with herbs for the first 1.5 years followed by a solid year of long-term antibiotic therapy.  During this I worked closely with a kinesiologist that my Lyme doctor (yes, a regular MD) sent me to in order to tweak my supplements and antibiotics as needed.

Without using both holistic and allopathic medicine, I don’t think I would be as healthy and thriving as I am today.  My Lyme is in remission and my endometriosis is under control.  I still have mild symptoms that are controlled with herbs and supplements in addition to progesterone therapy, and a diet focused on whole foods, fruits and veggies. I think it’s incredibly narrow minded to dismiss the “alternative crap” as “ignorance of science”.  I needed the drugs and the surgery, and I was perfectly willing to admit that and to use them as needed.  But I wasn’t about to dismiss other treatments I’ve used preventatively my entire life that helped to sustain me and move me through my medical issues in a gentler way.

Update from a reader:

“There is perhaps no better example of ‘liberal’ ideological purity and certainty than mainstream Western medicine, which dismisses all forms of knowing that can’t been ‘proven’ in a lab.” I have my issues with liberal dogma (which most certainly does exist), but if one cannot prove something in the lab, then it isn’t “known” – it is rumor. Worse yet, such logic leads to homeopathy, healing crystals, and other bunk.

True, some herbs have medicinal properties, but unless one has run a double-blind test, then you truly don’t know if the herbs do anything beyond the placebo effect. The US government has spent over a billion dollars trying to prove non-Western medical claims, and guess what? The herbs and other items very rarely do anything positive, occasionally show mild effects, and often have undocumented side effects.

Wanting things that have been proven in the lab might be something many liberals want, but that want is based on what science has done for us, while the dismissal of the scientific method by your reader in nothing short of scientific denialism that is also the father of global warming denying, anti-vaccination movements, and other kinds of crazy.