The dose makes the poison. This statement is not a logical truth. To cough up this notorious fur-ball of an apothegm in a serious broadscope discussion concerning toxicology risk, informs all concerned about your personal ignorance and desire to deceive – moreso than it speaks anything particular about me. The masters who let loose the dogs of skepticism have found such organic lying to be very effective in asset preservation.
One of the most notorious catch-phrases of pseudo-wisdom the ethical skeptic will encounter from a social skeptic poseur, is the apothegm ‘The dose makes the poison’. It is not that this statement is false. The basis of the quip resides in scientific validity and it is categorically true regarding lethality, yes. However the statement is not a logical truth.1 Logical truth is the state of syllogism which the utterer is deceitfully wishing for you to infer regarding this football of an apothegm. It is a means of lying through stating something which is only conditionally accurate – hoping that their victim will accept the statement as one which addresses the context of toxicity. Discussions of this ilk are rarely over lethality, and most often pertain to the impact of a toxin on the population, environment or family. If your conversant conflates these two concepts in order to enforce the entailed organic lie, or hands you cartoon LD50 charts comparing glyphosate with table salt, stop talking with them immediately. They are a non-player character. A social skeptic.
As an ethical skeptic, never ever ever conduct your communication under such misrepresentation by locution – as people spot this, but will not mention it to you. You will lose credibility, yet not know it, nor understand why in the end. The apothegm is not necessarily true (different from being ‘false’), and that is what disqualifies it from being a logical truth (ethical knowledge). This is of critical path importance to the ethical skeptic. For example, an injection acute dose, is dramatically different from an ingestion acute dose (see Science Direct article). Beware of those who conflate the two as if they were one thing. They are either lazy, dishonest or both. Let’s examine a couple more examples before we look at the entire domain of this logical-untruth apothegm’s limited applicability (Exhibits I and II below).
If I am asked to consume diazinon in my drinking water (we are never ‘asked’, but let’s pretend we live in such an ethical world) for example, because its use increases corn yields 14%, when we have a glut of corn production each year for decades now in the US as it is, the ppm tolerance for diazinon in my water in such a circumstance is ZERO ppm. A Mean Lethal Dose measure-LD50 does not apply because there is no economic benefit to be derived from the risk I undertake. This, though a simple exercise example, is actually how ethical toxicology is done in the big boy world. When I work establishing food and trade markets, this is the type of mechanism I petition to have inserted in the market constraint dynamics and enterprise API’s used by large trade aggregation desks. This is ethics. Everything else is academic – and possibly immoral. I do not care how much you know or that you use pedophrasty to promote your product, placing pictures of starving children into your ads – if you are lazy/greedy, and that laziness or greed serves to harm others – you are acting under malice and oppression by court definition.
The Puppet Show: Comparing Aggregate Benefit to Individual Risk (while Ignoring Aggregate Risk)
If however, I am forced to drink say some dosage of diazinon, because involved stockholders inside several companies know my representatives and key regulatory agency members, and they were able to get the pesticide pushed through for higher-risk use; and furthermore, these stockholders are now able to buy beachfront vacation homes on St. George Island rather than rent smaller back-lane beach cottages – well under that stark risk/benefit scenario, I will then drink the toxin I suppose. Their benefit outweighs my risk. Now the astute ethical skeptic will observe that, toxin risk is never measured in terms of population descriptives – only individual risk. Individual risk LD50 versus a diffuse set of poorly estimated and confirmed aggregate benefits – the risk is never expressed in terms of aggregate risk – and is never followed up on. In reality the state of ethics in toxicology – per below – is one sad state of affairs.
Social skeptics, as usual, provide no help at all in this matter – ironic, when this is their claimed identity and life goal.
Notice that all the measures regarding toxin risk, relate to the individual.2 There are no studies which attach a measured population affect in humans, to an introduced toxin. There are studies of the farming community, and there exists some study of environmental impact – but no studies following up with human populations as a group. Not even devisement of a suitable measure.3 I find that amusing (horrifying), given that the ethical assessment of toxin risk pertains to impacts and measures relating to populations, not individuals. All of the following entries below, two new observations and five previous ones, are cataloged into The Tree of Knowledge Obfuscation: Misrepresentation of Evidence or Data and apply in this circumstance:
/philosophy : pseudoscience : study design/ : a shortfall in scientific study wherein two factors are evaluated by non equivalent statistical means. For instance, risk which is evaluated by individual measures, compared to benefit which is evaluated as a function of the whole – at the ignorance of risk as a whole. Conversely, risk being measured as an effect on the whole, while benefit is only evaluated in terms of how it benefits the individual or a single person.
/philosophy : sophistry : deception/ : employment of a theoretical virtue benefit projected inside a domain which is distant, slow moving, far into the future, diffuse or otherwise difficult to measure in terms of both potential and resulting impact, as exculpatory immunity for commission of an immoral act which is close by, obvious, defined and not as difficult to measure. Similar to but converse of an anachronistic fallacy, or judging distant events based on current norms.
And of course a smattering of fallacies and crooked thinking art which we have examined before.
idem existimatis – attempting to obscure the contributing error or risk effect of imprecise estimates or assumptions, through an overt focus on the precision or accuracy of other measures inputs inside a calculation, study or argument.
ignoro eventum – institutionalized pseudoscience wherein a group ignores or fails to conduct follow-up study after the execution of a risk bearing decision. The instance wherein a group declares the science behind a planned action which bears a risk relationship, dependency or precautionary principle, to be settled, in advance of this decision/action being taken. Further then failing to conduct any impact study or meta-analysis to confirm their presupposition as correct. This is not simply pseudoscience, rather it is a criminal action in many circumstances.
phantasiae vectis – the principle outlining that, when a human condition is monitored publicly through the use of one statistic/factor, that statistic/factor will trend more favorable over time, without any actual real underlying improvement in its relevant domain or condition. Such singular focus often to the detriment of all other related and appropriate factors. Unemployment not reflecting true numbers out of work, electricity rates or inflation measures before key democratic elections, efficiency focus instead of effectiveness, crime being summed up by burglaries or gun deaths only, etc.
Yule-Simpson Paradox – a trend appears in different groups of data can be manipulated to disappear or reverse (see Effect Inversion) when these groups are combined.
Elemental Pleading – breaking down the testing of data or a claim into testing of its constituents, in order to remove or filter an effect which can only be derived from the combination of elements being claimed. For instance, to address the claim that doxycycline and EDTA reduce arterial plaque, testing was developed to measure the impact of each item individually, and when no effect was found, the combination was dismissed as well without study, and further/combination testing was deemed to be ‘pseudoscience’.
However, given that somebody out there is benefiting, I will gladly accept a drink containing 2 ppm (parts per million) diazinon over one containing 10 ppm, based upon this necessity of individual risk compared to aggregate benefit. Now diazinon features no Efficacy Curve (EC) of benefit for me to ingest, however it does exhibit toxicity measures in 240-day rat studies. Certainly studies of value, and I am glad we completed such diligence. The NOAEL (No Observed Adverse Effect Level) of diazinon is set, as a result of such studies, at 0.02 mg/kg-bodyweight per day.4 This would equate to an 8 ounce glass of water per day containing 8.4 ppm or less of the chemical, for my body weight (the ‘lethal concentration mean-LCt50’ being much higher than this – so below this NOAEL level is considered safe). Thus, in theory, that same glass of water with 10 ppm would prompt observable adverse effects in my physiology. It won’t kill me though, right? That’s great news.
Nonetheless, yes, I will choose to drink the lower 2 ppm dose any day. The dose does make the poison, inside this highly constrained conflation of adverse effect and toxicity.
However, to cough up this statement fur-ball at me, in a serious debate about food and water contaminants, means that you are first, clueless enough to have highly underestimated your opponent and second, don’t really understand toxicology nor adverse effect all that well. It tells all concerned more about you, than it does about me. Yes, this includes the case wherein you hold a PhD. LD50, LCt50, NOAEL and other exculpatory idem existimatis contentions of that ilk are most often cited by lazy science poseurs. These measures do not even begin to bear salience or relevance around the list of 20 different ways in which toxicity can harm our citizens and our family members (Exhibit II below).
No, the dose will not kill me. Lethality, and even Adverse Effects are red herrings. We are discussing toxicity.
The discussion has never been about whether or not the contaminant in the glass of water will hurt me right this moment.
If these stats do not address the questions which our families have intelligently raised about toxins
– then why should our scientists and skeptics not have already raised the same questions?
But Table Salt Had a Higher ‘LD50’ What Happened?
But does the dose actually make the poison? Is that a logical truth? If your child accidentally ingests some rat poison – such measures are absolutely critical. But for you and millions of others, hold on just a second. Here it is 20 years later, two decades of confidently ingesting a NOAEL-safe .5 to 2 ppm diazinon glasses of water, most every day, and suddenly, you’ve gained 100 lbs across 3 years and have had to have both of your knees replaced because an aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis has kicked in. Your same-age colleagues at the plant fully understand and cover for you. Your orthopedic surgeon is hesitant to undergo the procedure because she wants you to lose 70 lbs first. She is not sure that you will be able to handle the difficulties involved in the surgery with the extra weight. Your spouse feels like he must have done something wrong. He changes his diet in an effort to help out, but to no avail. IBS and diabetes start to creep up periodically. All at a fairly young age. But but but… the LD50 of table salt was higher though!5 Must have been the table salt, and coffee too. It’s always the coffee.
We have an apothegm just for this type of circumstance as well: ‘Luck of the draw’.
OK, in an effort to be truthful when held to public account, social skeptics will admit that we have enough epidemiological data to know that the table salt and coffee did not cause your long term exposure physical ailments after all. They just brought up those red herrings years ago in order to look smarter than you – and because this was what they were told to say. Can you as an experienced skeptic now go back then and contact the study group which set the rat-240d-NOAEL for diazinon, and say “Hey, we might need to examine this with a bit more scientific rigor and follow-up.” The fact is, that I just observed adverse effects from something – and there are only a couple culpable ‘somethings’ which could be considered – a set which includes diazinon, the least likely candidate of which is ‘luck of the draw’ (pseudo-theory). The fact is, that what we really needed were human-30y-NOLTAEL, statistics to be derived from comprehensive community data to begin with. The sad fact however is, that they are rarely if ever done. Nobody wants to find out who had the bullet in a one-bullet firing squad.
And herein resides the rub – we don’t think we need to develop human-30y-NOLTAEL because we already have rat-derived LD50, LCt50 and NOAEL data.
To push for further science might endanger the St. George beachfront property. Better enlist the aid of some, compromised-ethics, fake experts who are smart-but-dumb, with dark teeth. If they don’t have any qualifications, have them call themselves ‘skeptics’. You can hire them cheap, all you have to do is pay their celebrity leaders a pittance, and they will do anything. Ignorance is asset preserving. The science is settled. (Another deadly apothegm of social skepticism)
In the Real World, Acute Lethal Dose is Rarely the Issue
These ethical dilemmas, along with the ‘our pesticide is less toxic than table salt’ baloney, elicits just one simple example problem with ‘the dose makes the poison’ apothegm applied as panacea to the entire issue domain inside toxicology. However, even more compounding in risk, is the specter that, there are at least 17 other toxicity expression vectors, which bear a similar incompatibility to the classic ‘LD50 – dose makes the poison’ paradigm. For most toxicity vectors, those we have understood much better than our 1920’s-minded skeptics – the dose does not make the poison. And you are particularly stupid-to-gullible to believe otherwise.
The safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Roundup weedkiller, has been compared to many things over the years, but the table salt comparison stands out as particularly ridiculous. In fact the state of New York took legal action against Monsanto for false advertising for making this very claim. Monsanto agreed to cease and desist from making this claim, but it is still commonly parroted by aggressive supporters of GMOs and chemical company apologists.
Suffice it to say that no one’s going to intentionally ingest enough salt or glyphosate to immediately die from their exposure, and comparing the LD50 values of chemicals that can have serious health harms other than immediate mortality is so misleading as to be irresponsible.
~ Dr. Nathan Donley, Center for Biological Diversity6
The following pages are available for your use, as you see fit – to partly educate the vulnerable public about what they need to know regarding food/water/medicines toxicology. This is not a case of ‘Dunning-Kruger’ – as toxicology’s application inside this context fails the limits test for application of that ‘fallacy’.7
Such matters are your responsibility as well as your right. If you and your family are getting sick for no reason – raise hell about it. They are just gonna have to put up with us.
However, if you are a professional toxicologist/epidemiologist and wish to make comment/input on the graphics below – I will certainly consider improving them with your help. That would be absolutely appreciated.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Apothegm Makes the Poison” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 29 Nov 2018; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-8UR
- Wikipedia: Logical truth; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_truth
- Wikipedia: Toxicity; web, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxicity
- Wikipedia: Environmental impact of pesticides; web, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_pesticides
- IPS-Inchem: Diazinon; E. Bosshard, Federal Office of Public Health, Schwerzenbach, Switzerlandhttp://inchem.org/documents/jmpr/jmpmono/v93pr04.htm
- 3000 mg/kg
- Is Roundup Safer Than Table Salt?; web, https://medium.com/center-for-biological-diversity/is-roundup-safer-than-table-salt-a302341aabcd
- Specific instances in which the Dunning-Kruger Effect does not apply include:
1. In matters of Public Policy.
3. In situations where professionals and non-professionals are involved. Dunning-Kruger is speaking about continuous scale comparatives between peers, not discrete breakouts between groups, as in the case of professionals and various tiers of non-professionals and
6. In matters where competency in reality only comprises simply a few memorized facts, procedure or trivia concerning the subject, and
9. In matters of personal health, disease prevention and health management.