'Vox' Rips Off Science Fiction, Says Putting Lithium in Drinking Water is Grand Idea
Nothing in the verse can stop a bad idea from spreading. Like adding some chemicals in the water to affect human behavior. Shiny. These casual Firefly and Serenity references aren't casual. Spoiler alert: Vox has floated an idea to add lithium to water in hopes of curbing suicide. Vox got the idea from "some research" which showed areas of the country which had higher trace elements of lithium in tap water also had lower rates of suicide. Okay. But there's more to a person's life than their tap water.
Let me give you the conclusion of some of this research first. Nassir Ghaemi is a Tufts psychiatry professor and co-author of the review we're now discussing:
“In general, in the United States, lithium levels are much higher in the Northeast and East Coast and very low in the Mountain West,” he told me on a new episode of the Vox podcast Future Perfect. “And suicide rates track that exactly — much lower suicide rates in the Northeast, and the highest rates of suicide are in the Mountain West.”
Now I'm no scientist, but I do have maps. The Northeast and East Coast are, from my fifth grade geography studies, more densely populated than "in the Mountain West." Mountain West, I have to assume, doesn't include San Diego, San Francisco, Portland or Seattle. Those cities are part of the "West Coast." The "Mountain West" I'm assuming covers the often barren mountain range areas running through Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. The areas if you fly over at night, are completely black. If not dotted occasionally with small town bulbs.
No, residents of those great states, I'm not slamming those states. But perhaps people who live in more sparsely populated areas are more prone to loneliness than people who live in more populated areas. Due to less people with which to commune. I say this as a pretty hard-core introvert who loves her peace and silence. I'm just offering another theory besides "IT'S TOTALLY THE LITHIUM IN THE WATER, GUYS!"
When it comes to why people are depressed and suicidal, perhaps the issue is more nuanced than what's in the water. You feel me?
But back to Voxy Von Blue Hands:
These recent studies have made me less confident in the link between lithium and lower suicide rates than I was when I first encountered Ghaemi’s research. But it’s such a cheap intervention, and the odds of serious side effects sound low enough, that it seems worth a try.
There it is. "Why not put more chemicals in our water to affect human behavior! It's to help people!"
At the very least, I’d love for some governments to conduct real, bona fide experiments on lithium. Maybe a state could randomly add lithium to some of its reservoirs but not others, or, conversely, a high-lithium state could try removing it from the water. There are serious ethical questions about doing experiments like this that affect whole populations, but if lithium’s effect is real and we don’t pursue it because we lack compelling enough evidence, thereby endangering thousands of people — that’s an ethical problem too.
I know he's kind of a sexist pig, remove the kind of, but Joss Whedon's film Serenity, which continued from the canceled TV show Firefly, revealed the Alliance (big government) put chemicals in the air on the Planet Miranda. The idea was to "weed out aggression" to make the population calmer. To make people better. Of course it didn't work and had disastrous effects. The government trying to interfere with how people behave usually does. It was the moral of the story.
It was a moral of that story because trying to "improve people" for "their own good" via government intervention is something authoritative-loving people seek. I present Vox as evidence. The writer is suggesting government add and remove lithium to see what happens. Experimenting with people without their knowledge or consent, which even the author agrees has ethical dilemmas. But darn it, IT'S TO HELP PEOPLE!
So the same left who says people who believe in government-poisoning chem trails are cray-cray, are now floating the idea of putting mind-altering substances into drinking water. Sounds about right.
I take no issue with conducting more research into anything. But I do take issue with petitioning the government to do something based on questionable evidence, for the purpose of improving people. If this makes me a tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, then send me pallets of aluminum foil.