For those who haven't heard about this yet, I thought this would be a good way to show the potentially insidious effect of biased, one-sided analysis and presentation of evidence under ulterior motives, and the importance of seeking out counter-arguments before accepting a point, even when the evidence being presented to support that point is true.

"[DHMO] has been a part of nature longer than we have; what gives us the right to eliminate it?" - Pro-DHMO web site.

DHMO (hydroxilic acid), commonly found in excised tumors and lesions of terminal lung and throat cancer patients, is a compound known to occur in second hand tobacco smoke. Prolonged exposure in solid form causes severe tissue damage, and a proven link has been established between inhalation of DHMO (even in small quantities) and several deaths, including many young children whose parents were heavy smokers.

It's also used as a solvent during the synthesis of cocaine, in certain forms of particularly cruel and unnecessary animal research, and has been traced to the distribution process of several cases of pesticides causing genetic damage and birth defects. But there are huge political and financial incentives to continue using the compound.

There have been efforts across the world to ban DHMO - an Australian MP has announced a campaign to ban it internationally - but little progress. Several online petitions to the British prime minister on this subject have been rejected. The executive director of the public body that operates Louisville Waterfront Park was actually criticised for posting warning signs on a public fountain that was found to contain DHMO. Jacqui Dean, New Zealand National Party MP was simily told "I seriously doubt that the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs would want to spend any time evaluating that substance".

If you haven't guessed why, re-read my first sentence then click here.

HT the Coalition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide.

[Edit to clarify point:] I'm not saying truth is in any way bad. Truth rocks. I'm reminding you truth is *not sufficient*. When they're given treacherously or used recklessly, truth is as toxic as hydroxilic acid.

Follow-up to: Comment in The Forbidden Post.

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I once proposed to some folks that we go join a protest against experimental genetic modifications, with demands to outlaw unsupervised experiments in genetic recombination (eg., sex).

I assume that the implied question is "should we ban it?"

These points are all true, but they just mean "it is involved in bad things" and not "the costs of DHMO exceed its benefits".

If you make sure to think about things in terms of a cost benefit analysis instead of using the "it's scary -> ban it" heuristic, then you don't have to have an additional rule to "look for counterarguments anyway"- you're still looking for arguments.

The point was to communicate on a gut-level the first sentence of the post, but here it is in a different way:

When they're given treacherously or used recklessly, truth is as toxic as hydroxilic acid.

I got that.

My point was that if truth is toxic to you, then you have some underlying problems. Truth doesn't have to be toxic.

My point was that if truth is toxic to you, then you have some underlying problems.

I strongly disagree. You don't have to have underlying problems to be misled (or, for that matter, harmed by others being misled) by malevolently or carelessly cherry-picked evidence.

Truth doesn't have to be toxic.

No-one said it did.

Well, the example given was just one side of the story (the costs) but not the benefits. If you're thinking right in this case you shouldn't be misled, you should just ask "Then why is it so freakin' common?"

In a less convenient example, if someone tells you about a few studies that support conclusion x (cherry picked out of the larger body of studies that support !x) then that could be harmful if you trust the guy to be an unbiased selector, but in general you should be suspicious of how the studies were selected.

Sure, it's a bit too strong to say you can never be harmed at all if you are at least half sane, but if you're that worried about being misled by truth, you probably have some underlying problems to deal with.

No-one said it did.

And I didn't say anyone said it did.

[-][anonymous]12y 0

The point was to communicate on a gut-level the first sentence of the post, but here it is in a different way:

When offered with bad motives or used without care, truth can as be toxic as hydroxilic acid under the same circumstances.

[-][anonymous]12y 0

The point is in the first sentence of the post. Cherry-picked truth can be just as toxic as lies.

[-][anonymous]12y 0

The point is in the first sentence:

the importance of seeking out counter-arguments before accepting a point, even when the evidence being presented to support that point is true.

Buildup on the roads causes car accidents due to slipperiness. And let's not forget that it's highly addictive and incredibly difficult to stop using.

This reminds of a very old "war on drugs" parody that declared a "dangerous drug" that is"100% addictive after 1st dose", "withdrawal is 100% fatal", etc. The 'drug' turned out to be sleep.

I tried very hard to find it via google but had no luck. If anybody else knows the parody I'm talking about and has a link, please post it.

This is along the same lines. The people being interviewed were fairly well-known British celebrities, and David Amess is a real member of Parliament.

Very interesting. (The full hoax is described here.)

[-][anonymous]12y 0

This is along the same lines. The people being interviewed were fairly well-known British celebrities, and David Amess is a real member of Parliament.

Minor chemistry question though... acid?

While there are indeed many terrible dangers to DHMO, would it not have, in pure form, an absolutely neutral pH?

Good question. Apparently, it has acid and alkali (hydrogen hydroxide) names because it's amphoteric - it can react both as an acid or an alkali, depending on the strength of the acid or alkali it is reacted with.

Interesting, thanks.

[-][anonymous]12y 0

Apparently, it has acid and alkali (hydrogen hydroxide) names because it's amphoteric - it can react both as an acid or an alkali, depending on the strength of the acid or alkali it is reacted with.

This phrase tipped me off, since here no causal connection is implied (as opposed to what's suggested by other pieces of data); it's basically a "But Stalin believed that!" attack:

It's also used as a solvent during the synthesis of cocaine, in certain forms of particularly cruel and unnecessary animal research, and has been traced to the distribution process of several cases of pesticides causing genetic damage and birth defects.

I managed to fool a couple of my high school teachers with that one.

Maybe you should also look into doing something about a certain corrosive gas that's being released into the atmosphere by solar-powered chemical manufacturing facilities. ;)

Came within an inch of ending all life on earth , that did. Threw the planet into a near-snowball glaciation. Nasty, nasty stuff.

I think it's used in rocket fuel, as well.

Hmm... minus 2 karma. If my post's just cluttering the blog, I should kill it now to save reader time.

Did the post fail to illustrate the point in the first paragraph? Would you rather have your 2 minutes back? If so, out the window it goes, with my apologies!

Your post definitely illustrates your point, by misleading otherwise well-informed LW readers for at least a few paragraphs.*

Therefore, I believe it's a useful post. However, as you can see in the comments, the temptation to write lame follow-up jokes is just too big. Don't expect too much serious discussion here.

*unless they were previously familiar with the joke, of course.

You forgot to mention that DHMO is a major industrial solvent, a nuclear reactor coolant compound, a strong greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, and known to be corrosive to several metals. There's also a syndrome known as "DHMO Intoxication", caused by ingesting too much of the substance, symptoms of which include dizziness, vomitting, swelling of the brain, and eventual death.

Seriously, it's pretty dangerous stuff.

In the UK there was a national outcry when Leah Betts died of a DHMO overdose.

Yeah I was tempted to go nuts, but I wanted a short post. That and adding too much (especially stuff like "caused erosion of our natural landscape", "accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals") would have given it away too easily and killed the original point.

It's a major component of acid rain!

[-][anonymous]12y 0

Yeah I was tempted to go nuts, but I wanted a short post. That and adding too much (especially stuff like "caused erosion of our natural landscape", "accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals") would have given it away too easily and killed the point.

Not to mention the many people who die each year because of DHMO inhalation.

Those people died after ingesting impure DHMO, which is 'watered down' by relatively unharmful minerals, making it only fatal after ingesting large amounts. 100% pure, distilled DHMO is actually extremely dangerous even in small quantities, as it leeches essential nutrients from your body through a nefarious process called 'reverse osmosis'.

[EDIT: this is actually not true, according to the wisdom of the interwebs. Thank you, extremely expensive European public school system, for filling my young impressionable mind with this untrue factoid. Nevertheless, the dangers and risks of DHMO ingestion remain poorly understood.]