Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Flossing Wager

As is clear from this official portrait, the Space Alien is blessed with remarkable dentition, a tremendous and justifiable source of pride.

The Space Alien is meticulous about dental hygiene, visiting a dentist for routine checkups, brushing twice daily, and, to preserve strong healthy gums, flossing twice daily as well.

The Space Alien therefore experienced moments of extreme confusion over recent reports suggesting that because  there were no scientifically adequate studies supporting the need for flossing, that perhaps this was unnecessary.  

The Space Alien's friend, Blaise Pascal
However, the Space Alien, an avid student of science and philosophy, recalled what the great French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal said years ago as they enjoyed a coffee together in a 17th Century cafe in Paris and were having trouble deciding whether or not to order some eclairs as well.

"How do you make such a choice?" asked the Space Alien.  Pascal thought about this deeply for several moments. At last he suggested to the Space Alien that faced with a choice based on incomplete information, it was best to choose the safer choice rather than bet on something that could have adverse consequences.  

Pascal went on to apply this conclusion to loftier decisions than whether to enjoy a pastry, and this work, inspired by the above question from the Space Alien, has come to be known as Pascal's Wager.  Readers  wishing to learn more about this could  click here.

How to Floss Properly

Faced with a similar dilemma today, the Space Alien has decided to apply Pascal's advice and to continue the regular practice of flossing at least twice a day.  The Space Alien is heartened to see that the professional gum experts agree.  To see what they say click here and click here.

To order or not to order?
As for the eclairs, the Space Alien cannot recall what was finally  decided in that French cafe.  It was all so long ago.

Editor's notes:  

1.  The Space Alien sometimes needs reminders about attribution.  While (unnamed) people say that Space Alien frequently hobnobbed with Blaise Pascal (who certainly might have gotten some ideas from the eclair dilemma described above), the relationship between the flossing dilemma and Pascal's Wager first came to the Space Alien's attention in a Washington Post Op-Ed written by an orthodontist and reprinted in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere. To read it,
and for more on flossing:

2.  The Space Alien has observed the application of Pascal's Wager concerning belief in the existence of Deity in what has come to be known in the field of Public Health and elsewhere as the Precautionary Principle.  In this regard the Space Alien would direct loyal readers to discussions of this relationship such as's_Wager or to name just a few.  

Based on these principles, and absent persuasive evidence to the contrary, the Space Alien fully intends to continue flossing, at least for the next several eons.