When the question disavows the obvious answer, what is AskMe to do? August 6, 2007 6:31 PM   Subscribe


The obvious answer is, of couse, "Re-think your avoidance of flouride." I don't want to get into the flouride debate, but this is like saying "Doctor, it hurts when I do X, but my alternative lifestyle choice DEMANDS that I do X..." I would love to flag this and move on, but I doubt the moderators would find the question to be as self-defeating as I do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:31 PM on August 6, 2007


You're not obligated to answer or do anything else on behalf of AskMe. Just move on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:34 PM on August 6, 2007


Seconding Blazecock Pileon, but otherwise I suppose the correct response to "it hurts when I do X, but my alternative lifestyle choice DEMANDS that I do X", is "X will hurt you. You can figure it out"
posted by niles at 6:37 PM on August 6, 2007


Yeah, as nutty as I think is their avoidance of fluoride, they are asking the question "what is an alternative to fluoride". Answering "there is none"1, is a valid answer. Answering "use fluoride" is not.

1. Whether or not that's true. We don't have a truth test for valid answers here.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:39 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


The question was quite clearly "Is there a natural alternative to Flouride?" If the answer is "yes," we'll all learn something. If the answer is "no," we'll rinse, spit, and move on.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:40 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fluoride is natural. It's on the frickin' periodic table of elements. I love fluoride. I've never had a cavity, and hopefully never will.
posted by Eideteker at 6:46 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Skip it -- people have given decent answers including some sort of alternaflouride and also asking the OP why they eschew flouride. You don't like it, I guess you can come here and complain.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 PM on August 6, 2007


Ignore the question unless you have a) an alternative to the fluoride toothpaste treatment or b) a lifestyle changing arguement in favour of the proposed treatment's safety. Option b) seems very unlikely as the OP probably didn't reason themselves into the anti-fluoride position so they probably can't be reasoned out.

As far as fluoride being natural and therefor a-ok so is arsenic, plutonium, lead and uranium but you rarely see anyone volunteering to ingest large quantities. Occurs in nature != harmless.
posted by Mitheral at 6:49 PM on August 6, 2007


"I'm a Microsoft nut, so I can't use Office or Word ..."

Whether or not Word is the best wp choice, my question is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. Is the correct answer: "Try Open Office"?
posted by wilko at 6:50 PM on August 6, 2007


The correct thing to do in situations such as these is to drop all pretenses, squat down in the thread, and call 'em dumb like rocks.
posted by Gunner's Mate 1st Class Phillip Asshole at 6:54 PM on August 6, 2007


As far as fluoride being natural and therefor a-ok so is arsenic, plutonium, lead and uranium but you rarely see anyone volunteering to ingest large quantities. Occurs in nature != harmless.

Yes, but a lot of people who use the word "natural" in this sense and make lifestyle choices on its basis are using simplistic, and often false, reasoning. So it might be an effective argument against their belief that fluoride is "unnatural" and bad for them to use on their teeth.

Not that this would be an appropriate response in AskMe. The question is asking for alternatives to fluoride. It's not complicated.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:55 PM on August 6, 2007


Occurs in nature != harmless.

Well-known chemical name != harmful, either.

I've had a similar discussion with a self-labeled health nut about caffeine and guarana. He'd avoid caffeine like the plague, but he'd love him so guarana-containing beverages. To him, caffeine is an artificially produced chemical, but guaranine is a healthy natural plant extract.

Guaranine and caffeine are the same.
posted by CKmtl at 7:13 PM on August 6, 2007


If I had a nickel for every true AskMe answer I posted that was deleted anyway, I'd buy myself a pack of gum.

Fluoride is natural. It also happens to be the best solution, and the one recommended by their dentist. But heaven forfend someone point it out without eight paragraphs of mealymouthed apologizing in advance for daring to say "the solution that works is also harmless."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:34 PM on August 6, 2007


Heehee, that 'waterpik' that is being recommended in that thread? It means water-dick in Dutch.
posted by jouke at 7:41 PM on August 6, 2007


If I had a nickel for every true AskMe answer I posted that was deleted anyway, I'd buy myself a pack of gum.

Your answer was, in total: Fluoride.

Even if you think the OP is a total idiot, you could make an effort to show that you'd read the question and were trying to keep within the guidelines of the site. I don't know why you bothered to answer that question at all. You could buy more than a pack of gum with those nickels, trust me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:43 PM on August 6, 2007


General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No.
General Jack D. Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.
posted by chlorus at 7:49 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Obviously he needs to consult an astrologer, or a dowser.
posted by interrobang at 7:52 PM on August 6, 2007


Help me choose between purchasing either a knife or a fork with which to eat.

Now, it's not ok to say "both" or even a mealy mouthed "allow me to share the interesting observation that many people whom I've met, at least, find both useful - especially when used in conjunction, with fork holding the food while the knife cuts and then doing double duty being used to raise the food-chunk to the mouth".

Acceptable responses are no answer, or "knife" or "fork", with supporting argument or personal andecdote. Needless to mention, no "spoons" nor "sporks" may be mentioned.
posted by scheptech at 8:01 PM on August 6, 2007


- There's nothing wrong with the question. That the asker isn't likely to get the answer they're hoping for is not a flaw, it's just a characteristic, and it shows up in a lot of questions all across the spectrum of the site.

- Thinking a question is fundamentally unanswerable isn't a free pass to behave badly in the green; it's an indication that you should avoid the question entirely. See above. Please don't shit in threads as a show of contempt; pretty-please don't bitch obliquely about it afterward as if you made a good faith effort and were cruelly surpressed.

- In some of the heat of the last couple weeks, folks have been suggesting closing Metatalk threads that are either still-born or pretty much resolved. This seems like a good candidate, yeah?
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:02 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


""I'm a Microsoft nut, so I can't use Office or Word ..."

Whether or not Word is the best wp choice, my question is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. Is the correct answer: "Try Open Office"?"

Yes. Do I need to link to Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration?

Plus, fluoride makes you susceptible to mind-control rays.
posted by klangklangston at 8:03 PM on August 6, 2007


I'm really more interested in what the moderators think about self-defeating questions that are ultimately lifestyle decisions.

It's one thing to say, "I want to charge a car battery; answer cannot involve electricity."

It's another to say, "I really hate this common bacterial infection. My doctor recommends an equally common antibiotic, but I won't take it because Eli Lilly and Pfizer are evil corporations."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:18 PM on August 6, 2007


folks have been suggesting closing Metatalk threads that are either still-born or pretty much resolved.

I dunno. I still see a lot of semantics via analogy that need going over.
posted by carsonb at 8:19 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, I think what we think about them, all else being equal, is that they probably won't produce an answer that'll completely satisfy the asker. Who cares if it's "ultimately lifestyle decisions"? Half the questions we see on AskMe are driven to some degree or another by lifestyle decisions. It's not an administrative issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:21 PM on August 6, 2007


Relax, CPB, it's not worth it...although people who have serious decay and haven't been following any regimen should be aware of potentially fatal consequences.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:23 PM on August 6, 2007


Quick: 2 +2 = ?

4 is not an acceptable answer.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:36 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


You're not obligated to answer or do anything else on behalf of AskMe. Just move on. -- Blazecock Pileon

I enjoy sex, but I can't use condoms because I think their gross. How can I avoid The AIDS?

...

I'm HIV positive, but I don't believe in anti-aids medication. What are some herbal remidies I can take to avoid passing the disease to the daughter I'm pregnant with?

--

Anyway, I think the answers in the thread are fine.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


(That said, this is shit-stirring MeTa, whose result was foreseeable. Did we need to have this conversation again?)
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:38 PM on August 6, 2007


I don't know why you bothered to answer that question at all.

Because there are no equally-effective preventative measures. Anyone with evidence that there exists another element or compound more effective and safer than fluoride for use in the prevention of dental caries is more than welcome to present it to me here or by email. Would you be happier if I had answered "there are none"?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:49 PM on August 6, 2007


Yeah, here you go
posted by delmoi at 8:51 PM on August 6, 2007


GM1CPA up there has made a fine, fine debut.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:59 PM on August 6, 2007


Would it be a problem if they phrased it like this?

"I'm allergic to fluoride, is there anything else that I can use to keep my teeth healthy? Oh, and I prefer natural products."
posted by blue_beetle at 9:00 PM on August 6, 2007


I'm allergic to fluoride

An allergy isn't a choice, so that's an apples-and-oranges comparison.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:03 PM on August 6, 2007


What's wrong with flouride?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:18 PM on August 6, 2007


You know who else questioned obvious answers to questions posted on AskEugenicsFilter?
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:19 PM on August 6, 2007


Dan?
posted by Gunner's Mate 1st Class Phillip Asshole at 9:27 PM on August 6, 2007


I'm allergic to fluoride

An allergy isn't a choice, so that's an apples-and-oranges comparison.


Yes, obviously with a different best answer entirely.

This is what I don't understand, why can't an answerer simply be allowed to provide whatever they feel is truly their best answer untrammeled by the askers ancillary instruction or apparent world-view. Why should the askers frame of reference trump the answerers' especially given the asker is asking the answerer for illumination, not the other way around?
posted by scheptech at 9:29 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


The obvious answer is, of couse, "Re-think your avoidance of flouride."

But the question is:

Any natural aids for this problem?

Your response cannot be correct because it doesn't answer this question.

The answer to the above question would have to be either "Yes. It's called XYZ." or "No, there aren't any. Sorry." To either response, it would probably be helpful to add "I know this because _____."

Of course, "I don't know" could also be a rhetorically valid, honest answer, but it'd be pretty useless to post that. However, if no one, anywhere knows, then letting the asker know their question is unanswerable would be well within the boundaries.

Problem solved.
posted by Clay201 at 9:34 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why should the askers frame of reference trump the answerers' especially given the asker is asking the answerer for illumination, not the other way around?

Personally, I'm not in favor of deleting or editing comments, so if you're arguing that we shouldn't be forbidden to tell an asker they have their head up their ass, I agree (though on different grounds).

However, for the purposes of "illumination," as you put it, carefully phrasing questions so as to isolate the precise information you're seeking has been an important tool for thousands of years. Ask any scientist or philosopher. It's up to the question asker to determine the course most likely to produce a useful answer. If I ask "How do I spin straw into gold?" and the answer comes back, "It's not possible. Here's the science that explains why," that could be extremely useful to me. It could teach me something about physics that I didn't understand before. However, if five people post to tell me that it's much easier to simply buy gold on ebay, though you might argue that they're presenting me with the best, most logical, solution to my problem (and hell, maybe they are), the question still goes unanswered and I haven't actually learned anything (I knew all about ebay before, you see). And that kinda defeats the purpose.
posted by Clay201 at 9:45 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


*shovels another pile of shit onto the shitpile of stupid MeTa callouts*
posted by mediareport at 9:47 PM on August 6, 2007


The best thing about that question is that the asker and her husband are "health nuts" and avoid fluoride, so now their teeth are rotting out. Now that's comedy.
posted by puke & cry at 9:47 PM on August 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


*shrugs, moves on*
posted by Cranberry at 9:48 PM on August 6, 2007


carefully phrasing questions so as to isolate the precise information you're seeking

Do you have the time?

*looks at watch* ... yes.
posted by scheptech at 10:04 PM on August 6, 2007


"How do I spin straw into gold?"

Three days to guess my name — if you don't get it, I'm taking the kid.
posted by Wolof at 10:21 PM on August 6, 2007


I'm really more interested in what the moderators think about self-defeating questions that are ultimately lifestyle decisions.

Why not email them directly?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 PM on August 6, 2007


Three days to guess my name — if you don't get it, I'm taking the kid.

Dude.... it's Wolof. It says so right below your comment.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:22 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


The obvious answer is, of couse, "Re-think your avoidance of flouride." I don't want to get into the flouride debate, but this is like saying "Doctor, it hurts when I do X, but my alternative lifestyle choice DEMANDS that I do X..." I would love to flag this and move on, but I doubt the moderators would find the question to be as self-defeating as I do.

Aren't you calling someone out for disavowing the obvious answer to a question and then doing the exact same thing yourself by disavowing "flag it and move on"?

Wait, you were being double-ironic, right?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:23 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I enjoy sex, but I can't use condoms because I think their gross. How can I avoid The AIDS?

Senator Delmoi, I'll table that question: Hand jobs. Lots and lots of hand jobs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:23 PM on August 6, 2007


But that's your answer for everything.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:32 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm writing a book. My main character suddenly finds himself naked in a room full of angry toddler drama queens who've managed to cut off both of their own hands in protest. His hands are tied behind his back. Right there is where I'm stuck. What's next?
posted by carsonb at 12:46 AM on August 7, 2007


Dude.... it's Wolof. It says so right below your comment.

You totally, like, rumpled me! Mefi detectives rock on!

Oh, and here's your firstborn back.
posted by Wolof at 1:09 AM on August 7, 2007


What's next?
The gnawing of tender parts. A similar experience to reading Meta some days.
posted by Abiezer at 1:13 AM on August 7, 2007


What's wrong with flouride?

Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:44 AM on August 7, 2007


Quick: 2 +2 = ?
4 is not an acceptable answer.


Exactly. I don't really see why this kind of question (the original one) doesn't get deleted. The OP has bad teeth because of a wrong idea about fluoride, and is essentially asking for reality to bend in the direction of her wrong belief. Not gonna happen.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:02 AM on August 7, 2007


This thread was actually quite helpful to me. I always wondered why I hear so many stories of people who believe in quackery and are healthier than ever. I figure there MUST be stories from people who, say, don't believe in immunization and have their children die from measles, or don't believe in fluoride and get bad teeth. Now at least here is one example (and the HIV example in this metatalk thread, thanks for that), and I now see that they don't even connect the dots themselves: that it is quite likely that they have bad teeth BECAUSE they avoid fluoride.
posted by davar at 4:04 AM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


oh, well, that's a fair point too I guess, davar!
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:05 AM on August 7, 2007


I don't care what strictures people want to put on their own AskMe questions so I'm not going to talk about how I'm pro-fluoride and pretty upset that Portland's water isn't fluoridated because of hackneyed beliefs like these. (Congratulations, alternadipshits, for ensuring that a lot of poor kids in this town get to walk around with aching teeth.)

No, what I'm wondering about is all these new user names that are 70 miles long and sound like obscure McSweeney's jokes: Mr. Philbot's Famous Dog Who Knew the Digits of Pi to The Hundredth Place or The Paddington Railway Station Incident of 1909 or The Heartbreaking but Slightly Lascivious Dream Journal of Helen Keller. Who are you people? Are you all sock puppets? Are you someone's art project? Are you the same people I keep seeing around wearing bowlers or even -- lord have mercy -- those enormous muttonchops?

Christ, it must take you hours to think of them and then 5 minutes a crack just to log in. I'm oddly concerned about the whole thing.
posted by melissa may at 6:49 AM on August 7, 2007 [14 favorites]


Quick: 2 +2 = ?
4 is not an acceptable answer.


11.

Base 10 is the easiest base in which to work, but by no means the only one. Flouride is the best way to prevent cavities, but by no means the only way.

(handjobs, lots and lots of handjobs)
posted by 23skidoo at 7:00 AM on August 7, 2007


Melissa May: I think Matt instituted a rule that every new username needs to be longer than the last one.
posted by adamrice at 7:08 AM on August 7, 2007


Christ, it must take you hours to think of them and then 5 minutes a crack just to log in.

It's only health nuts like you who refuse to use cookies.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:29 AM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


(handjobs, lots and lots of handjobs)

(does it come with flouride?)
posted by jmd82 at 7:54 AM on August 7, 2007


cortex writes "- In some of the heat of the last couple weeks, folks have been suggesting closing Metatalk threads that are either still-born or pretty much resolved. This seems like a good candidate, yeah?"

THEN CLOSE THE THREAD!!!!!!!!
posted by PugAchev at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2007


I thought you'd never ask.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:23 AM on August 7, 2007


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