Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Clinton’s CGI shows UN how to do it

September 26th, 2007

Giving is good, and Clinton leads world in how to get it done

$1 billion pledged by Norway and Holland

Bigger targets get more but fantasy meme maintains hold

billclintonpresident.jpgAs noisy helicopters overhead herald the arrival of international leaders to the UN Assembly, former President Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative, his ambitious initiative leading prominent corporate chieftains and political leaders in many private projects to fight global poverty and ills, entered Round III today in Manhattan.

In a remarkably short time, Clinton has established himself as the world leader in coaxing and pressuring business and political leaders to contribute personal projects to raising up the lives of the underprivileged around the world.

In fact, if the business and political leaders who attend his jamboree don’t pony up and follow through, they are not invited back:

Attendees are required to make specific commitments to address one of the topics and report back to President Clinton on the progress made throughout the course of the year. Attendees who do not make or keep their commitment will not be invited to attend future meetings.

Here’s the gen this morning issued by CGI as we prepare to go down there and swim among the rich and influential whales, sharks, porpoises and small fry from the press.

Notice the improvement in balance that is being achieved by the Clinton effort, which is accelerating the spread of charitable rescue efforts in Africa and elsewhere well beyond AIDS to other ills. While the African First Ladies are banding together to make sure that as many pregnant black Africans as possible get the drugs they need to combat the HIV meme, the ten million children who die annually from pneumonia, sepsis, diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition and newborn complications globally are going to be the target of a special effort called Survive Until Five, which is going to spend nearly four times as much:

Clinton kicked off the third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) with over one thousand leaders of business, government and non-governmental organizations representing over 70 countries and including 52 current and former heads of state. During the opening session, Clinton announced five new commitments, including over $1 billion by the Norwegian and Dutch Governments to reduce maternal and child mortality.

“I’m gratified today because it’s clear to me that this model of philanthropy and giving, which began as an experiment in 2005, has proven itself in only two short years. Since our first meeting, more than 600 commitments have been made by CGI members, impacting 100 countries and millions of lives,” he said. “In its third year, CGI is evidence of something that I have always believed— that people are inherently generous, that giving makes you feel good, and that the only thing most of us are looking for is an opportunity to make a difference.”…

Save the Children US and UK
Save the Children and its partners will create a Survive to 5 campaign, driving awareness and action on behalf of the almost 10 million children who die annually from pneumonia, sepsis, diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition and newborn complications globally. Former US Senate Majority Leader, William Frist, will serve as the chair of the campaign as part of Save the Children’s commitment to global leadership will work closely with key governments to significantly reduce preventable child deaths. The five-year campaign will launch in fall 2007 and is estimated to cost $75 million.

Maureen Mwanawasa, First Lady of Zambia
The Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS, and their President, the First Lady of Zambia, Mrs. Maureen K. Mwanawasa, will champion the expansion of programs and funding for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS. Supported by $20 million over 2 years, their “Save the Unborn Child” campaign and will be implemented by 40 African First Ladies in their respective countries and will save millions of lives by preventing one of the most easily preventable forms of HIV/AIDS transmission.

Clinton kicked off the third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) with over one thousand leaders of business, government and non-governmental organizations representing over 70 countries and including 52 current and former heads of state. During the opening session, Clinton announced five new commitments, including over $1 billion by the Norwegian and Dutch Governments to reduce maternal and child mortality.

“I’m gratified today because it’s clear to me that this model of philanthropy and giving, which began as an experiment in 2005, has proven itself in only two short years. Since our first meeting, more than 600 commitments have been made by CGI members, impacting 100 countries and millions of lives,” he said. “In its third year, CGI is evidence of something that I have always believed— that people are inherently generous, that giving makes you feel good, and that the only thing most of us are looking for is an opportunity to make a difference.”

Joining President Clinton in the opening panel discussion, titled The Need for Global Action which explored the capacity of businesses, governments, and NGOs to collaboratively develop and implement global solutions, were the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; Vice President Al Gore; President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., H. Lee Scott Jr.; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and President of The World Bank Group, Robert B. Zoellick.

President Clinton announced the launch of MyCommitment.org, an interactive website challenging everyone to take action, make commitments and grow a grassroots movement around public service.

“This year, in an effort to inspire millions of people to engage in citizen service, we’ve developed a new online tool to help those who want to give back do so, either in their own communities or half a world away,” President Clinton said. “MyCommitment.org is intended to provide people across the globe with the opportunity to give to others as well as to tell others their stories of giving.”

The commitments made during the opening session included:

* The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health: The governments of Norway and the Netherlands are committing $1 billion and $175 million respectively to launch “Deliver Now for Women and Children,” a campaign aimed at a two-thirds reduction in the rate of child mortality and three-quarters reduction in maternal mortality by 2015.
* Florida Power & Light: FP&L is investing $2.4 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. As part of the project, FP&L will build new solar power plants that are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 2 million tons over 5 years, they will also provide smart meters to their customers along with an education program designed to help customers reduce their carbon footprint.
* The Darfur Project: PNC Foundation, Blue Mountain Capital, TONIC, the Bridge Foundation, Goldman Sachs Foundation and Merrill Lynch are partnering in a $2 million commitment funding eight airlifts to take much needed humanitarian relief to Darfur and Chad. The flights will be made available for partner organizations wanting to send essential supplies, with the first four flights completed by the end of the year.
* Scojo Reading Glass Microfranchises: In this $1.57 million commitment the Scojo Foundation is committing to more than triple the scale of its program for training entrepreneurs in developing countries to sell affordable reading glasses by expanding to ten additional countries. In total 3,000 entrepreneurs will develop new sources of income providing 300,000 people with new glasses and other eye care products.
* Interpeace: Partnering with President Ramos-Horta and the Peace and Democracy Foundation, Interpeace is investing $1.2 million to implement a nation-wide program designed to enable the Timorese to become the architects of their own future by empowering them to identify the underlying drivers of the violence and un-rest in their communities and to find ways of addressing them in a non-violent and sustainable manner.

Among the additional CGI commitments expected to be announced today:

GLOBAL HEALTH

Save the Children US and UK
Save the Children and its partners will create a Survive to 5 campaign, driving awareness and action on behalf of the almost 10 million children who die annually from pneumonia, sepsis, diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition and newborn complications globally. Former US Senate Majority Leader, William Frist, will serve as the chair of the campaign as part of Save the Children’s commitment to global leadership will work closely with key governments to significantly reduce preventable child deaths. The five-year campaign will launch in fall 2007 and is estimated to cost $75 million.

Maureen Mwanawasa, First Lady of Zambia
The Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS, and their President, the First Lady of Zambia, Mrs. Maureen K. Mwanawasa, will champion the expansion of programs and funding for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS. Supported by $20 million over 2 years, their “Save the Unborn Child” campaign and will be implemented by 40 African First Ladies in their respective countries and will save millions of lives by preventing one of the most easily preventable forms of HIV/AIDS transmission.

Merck & Co.
Merck will establish a $375.5 million program providing access to its HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in lowest-income countries. By donating a minimum of three million doses of the vaccine over a five-year period Merck will ensure that an estimated 1 million women receive the three-dose regimen and are protected from cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases. This initiative is an extension of a 2006 CGI commitment by Merck to donate rotavirus vaccine to the Nicaraguan Government in an effort to cover every newborn in the country for three years.

CARE USA
Acting as a convener and catalyst, CARE USA will mobilize a global coalition of public and private entities to make sustainable improvements in maternal health and the nutritional status of children under the age of two. These coalitions will, through CARE’s signature eight-year program, “Empowering Women for Good Health,” develop services for low-income women that will help them realize their rights to a safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as provide information and resources that will help new mothers give their babies a healthy start. The program will be globally focused and has the potential to reach 70+ countries where CARE works. It is anticipated that project implementations will occur in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central and South America.

EDUCATION

BRAC, Nike, NoVo and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
BRAC USA, as well as the Nike, NoVo and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are mobilizing $271 million to provide education opportunities ranging from primary schooling to graduate degrees and life skills training to 7.5 million children over the next five years in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Uganda and Southern Sudan. The project hopes to mirror the success of last year’s $250 million commitment to provide comprehensive health, education, microfinance and empowerment programs to individuals in five African countries.

Academy for Educational Development
The Academy for Educational Development (AED) will increase the access and quality of education for girls in Liberia, Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea and other African countries. Their Leadership for Education and African Development (LEAD) project will introduce the tools necessary to update the local curriculum and teaching methods to enhance community participation and improve education quality. The project’s goal is to significantly improve the educational opportunities of at least 3 million children by 2015.

Center for Development and Population Activities
CEDPA commits to improving the education and health situations of 20,000 South African girls by adapting its successful life skills curriculum and proven youth development framework to townships in Southern Africa. Utilizing the support of anonymous private funding, CEDPA will expand its programs from its five pilot sites by working closely with local partners to successfully integrate its programs into each location.

POVERTY ALLEVIATION

National Geographic Society
National Geographic, working with partners Ashoka and the U.N. World Tourism Organization, will launch the Global Geotourism Network in March, 2008 to encourage tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place. Over the next three years the Network will develop a series of initiatives including two geotourism summits, the Ashoka Changemakers Competition to identify innovators and social entrepreneurs, an annual Places Rated destination stewardship survey distributed through National Geographic readers, and a specially designated website offering local tourism services and products.

XL Results Foundation/The Hunger Project
XL Results Foundation will contribute $5 million to implement a five-year strategy, to build the capacity of 50,000 elected women leaders who are directly responsible for improving access to health, education, nutrition and higher incomes for 15 million people in rural India. The project will also mobilize local populations to increase the effectiveness of local government, build federations of elected women leaders for advocacy and action and mobilize the power of the media to create public support for strengthening local democracy. Each million dollars raised enables The Hunger Project to provide training and ongoing support to 20,000 elected women representatives, who in turn will mobilize the energies of more than 6 million rural people for poverty eradication.

Hashoo Foundation
In December 2007, the Hashoo Foundation will launch the Honeybee Production project in the Northern Areas and Chitral (NAC) regions of Pakistan, which are amongst the poorest and most isolated in the country. Women account for 55% of honeybee producers in the NAC, but receive only 35% of the total income generated by honeybee production. With a strong focus on developing the production of by-products and creating linkages with markets, the Honeybee Project will allow local women to increase their income and provide for themselves and their dependants while expanding their future prospects.

ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE

Pratt Industries
In a $1 billion commitment Pratt Industries will build at least three new paper mills, four waste-to-energy plants and 30 materials recovery facilities over the next decade. Working with municipalities and sanitation departments it aims to avoid millions of tons of CO2 emissions.

Equator Environmental, LLC
Equator Environmental commits $100 million to establish a private equity fund investing in projects that are environmentally friendly, sustainable and directly preserve ecological assets. By monetizing these “eco-products” the fund will enhance the viability of the natural environment and showcase the importance of ecosystem preservation.

Green for All
Through the ground-breaking “Green for All” initiative, The Ella Barker Center for Human Rights is committing to help lead 250,000 Americans out of poverty and into “green-collar” jobs. With the continued growth in the building, solar, urban forestry, and bio-fuels sectors, a highly-trained “green-collar” workforce is needed to meet rising demand. Green for All will advocate for a national commitment to greater job training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities – especially for people from disadvantaged communities. This transition could boost the U.S. economy, generating new opportunities for wealth and work.

American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
With funding from Rockefeller Brothers Fund, ACORE is committing to advance a more robust policy and economic case for renewable energy solutions and amplifying influential voices to strengthen public understanding of climate change. The commitment will create RECAP-the Renewable Energy Communications and Policy (RECAP) program-a three-year campaign that will put forward critical policy and economic analysis on energy supply, environment and climate, economic development and jobs, and national security. This unique work builds on ACORE’s 2006 commitment to host a world meeting on renewable energy, which has now been successfully funded, and is scheduled to be held as the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008) on March 4-6, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

The Clinton Global Initiative is a project of the William J. Clinton Foundation that brings together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI has approximately 1,000 members, diverse and influential leaders from all over the world, who make tangible commitments to create or support projects within CGI’s areas of focus. During the three-day Annual Meeting, attendees participate in workshops and meetings focused on four main topics: Global Heath, Education, Poverty Alleviation, and Energy & Climate Change. Attendees are required to make specific commitments to address one of the topics and report back to President Clinton on the progress made throughout the course of the year. Attendees who do not make or keep their commitment will not be invited to attend future meetings.More later, with details of any interaction with the topmost figures of key influence in the world encountered at this great event.

Political non-science: Frog (5)

September 21st, 2007

Iowa Tara’s trashing of critics betrays ignorance of science history

Science is reason and evidence, not democracy

Deplorable inaccuracies about a fine lady

froggie.jpgOK, back to the Poison Dart Frog, our image for the laborious trashing of the critics of the wingless HIV∫AIDS paradigm by Tara C. Smith of Iowa and Steve P. Novella of Yale at the Public Library of Science under the misleading title HIV Denial in the Internet Era.

The smokescreen of misconceived notions about the HIV critics and about science pumped out by this tract is nothing new.

Knocking the credentials of the HIV critics naturally occurs to defenders, perhaps, when their attitudes are drawn from uncritical acceptance of authority more than from their own investigations, as this paper suggests.

In general, HIV paradigm promoters choose to defend the science of HIV∫AIDS with political rather than scientific counter attacks, and this essay with its studious avoidance of the scientific debate is a fine example, since the authors make it explicit. The authors claim that the non peer reviewed Web pages they refer to at the NIH and CDC do the scientific debunking of the critics for them, but since those pages are not peer reviewed, they make it hard not to conclude that the real problem these defenders have is that they lack faith in the science and/or lack the answers to defend it directly.

We would say that their attempt to support the conventional wisdom with diversionary replies is a gift to the critics, since objective onlookers are provided with evidence of insecurity, historical misunderstanding and belligerent defensiveness that suggest that the critics are on the right track.

This is why we feel that a blow by blow deconstruction is worthwhile, since this unusually lengthy and “worked up” series of political potshots now on display at the NSF Public Library of Science offers a rare chance to make a thorough reply to the propaganda, for a change. This seems preferable to ignoring it as beneath serious consideration, and letting it sit like a slow release AZT pill into the bloodstream of the national discourse. Better to offer a complete antidote rather than allow this to happen, as it so often does because the expert and high level critics of HIV and AIDS, such as the distinguished Peter Duesberg, or the fiery Harvey Bialy, find it distasteful to deal with such ignorant trashing of their position as peer-reviewed elite commentators, and would rather occupy themselves with more constructive activities than responding to material which no intelligent student of science can take seriously.

This is why in a spirit of self sacrifice we offer our own deconstruction of the Frog, realizing that seasoned observers of this long drawn out battle such as the witty MacDonald will not find our series of posts on it very original; but we hope that it will be useful to newcomers to the arena, one obscure to so many people such as Hank Campbell for lack of of media coverage.

Saddling up the camels for this trek across this intellectual desert, we will now go through the claims of the text one by one. Here they are:

1. Implication that any paradigm debunking is by definition invalid

froganalyzed.jpgIt may seem remarkable that, 23 years after the identification of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), there is still denial that the virus is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This denial was highlighted on an international level in 2000, when South African president Thabo Mbeki convened a group of panelists to discuss the cause of AIDS, acknowledging that he remained unconvinced that HIV was the cause [1]. His ideas were derived at least partly from material he found on the Internet [2]. Though Mbeki agreed later that year to step back from the debate [3], he subsequently suggested a re-analysis of health spending with a decreased emphasis on HIV/AIDS [4].

Response: On the contrary, there is nothing at all surprising in the fact that few people outside the field of HIV∫AIDS, and not everyone in it, know that there is still a serious question that the virus HIV is the cause of AIDS after 23 years, because there has been effective official and institutional censorship, some explicit, including the leading media, of the news.

That any public criticism still exists despite the huge pressure against challenging HIV=AIDS should tell you, in fact, that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, especially when a seasoned politician leading the most advanced country in Africa looks into the question for himself, rather than depending solely on advisors, and is then sufficiently alarmed to call a special panel of science professionals from both sides to resolve the issue, because he has been directed via the Internet to relevant and authoritative material in the peer reviewed mainstream scientific literature which is not being reported in the media, and then resists tremendous political and media pressure to go along and conform to the paradigm, and instead frees up his health policy from total dependence on the suspect paradigm claim, after it is neither proven nor justified by its supporters at the special panel he called to review it. For that is the story of what has happened in South Africa.

2. Just quoting the skeptics is enough to show them up

greenandbblackpoisondart.jpegThe false premise of the entire text of this essay is established at the start by the clear suggestion that it is enough to quote the statements and behavior of the skeptics to show how laughable they are, and that quoting and replying to any of their scientific objections is not necessary.

Response: This assumption is by definition scientifically naive since any familiarity with the history of science and medicine, not to mention simple logic, will indicate that science advances paradigm by paradigm, with the old replaced by the new and improved as a result of fresh data and thinking, much to the surprise and chagrin of people who assume that the consensus of conventional scientists is a validation of their belief. By definition all replaced paradigms reign by overwhelming consensus until they are overthrown by revisionists, who as Schopenhauer and others have pointed out, are inevitably first ridiculed, then violently opposed, and finally joined by their opponents who will claim they knew their new paradigm was right all the time.

Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized: In the first it is ridiculed. In the second, it is opposed. In the third it is regarded as self-evident. – Arthur Schopenhauer.

(see the page of this and other salutary Quotations on Science, Politics and Beliefin the blog, indexed as a link in the list of Pages in the right margin).

3. Implication that any challengers are “dangerous” to the public interest, untutored in science and unqualified to discuss the issue

tiny-frog.jpgHIV denial has taken root in the general population and has shown its potential to frustrate public education efforts and adversely affect public funding for AIDS research and prevention programs. For example, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was for many years on the front lines of AIDS education and activism. But now a San Francisco chapter of the group has joined the denialist movement, stating on its Web site that “HIV does not cause AIDS… HIV antibody tests are flawed and dangerous…AIDS drugs are poison” (http://www.actupsf.com/aids/index.htm). In 2000 the chapter wrote letters to every member of Congress asking them to stop funding research into HIV [5]. ACT UP San Francisco’s position has been condemned by other ACT UP chapters, such as ACT UP Philadelphia and ACT UP East Bay (http://www.actupny.org/indexfolder/actupgg.html). Rock stars have weighed in on the topic. Members of the group “The Foo Fighters” provided music for a soundtrack of the recent documentary, “The Other Side of AIDS” (http://www.theothersideofaids.com/), which questions whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. The band has spread its message that HIV does not cause AIDS at concerts [6], and it lists the HIV denial group “Alive and Well” as a worthy cause on its Web site (http://www.foofighters.com/community_cause.html).

Response: Defending against paradigm challenges by labeling them a danger to public remedial measures begs the question who is right about the paradigm, rather than answering it. A political argument of this kind suggests that the scientific defense is not strong enough to stand by itself, an implication that this whole essay carries.

That respectable people who normally would be expected to follow mainstream institutional and professional authority especially in matters of science and medicine turn against it so decisively, especially after long trusting the paradigm and fighting for it as in the case of ACTUP San Franscisco, tells us that there must be persuasive arguments against the claim of authority which have led them to take a public stand against it in the face of social sanctions and penalties of all kinds, including this kind of scorn.

Since the lay dissenters quoted take an active part by publicly insisting on paradigm review, in the case of the Foo Fighters at the risk of losing some of their audience, their public stand indicates that they take the issue very seriously and are not merely superficially deluded fools who persist out of sheer iconoclasm, especially when they assert factually detailed views on their web pages, as in the case of ACT UP San Franscisco.

4. Misleading characterization of challengers and their arguments as below the level of peer-reviewed literature

largepoison-frog.jpgAs these challenges to mainstream theories have largely occurred outside of the scientific literature, many physicians and researchers have had the luxury of ignoring them as fringe beliefs and therefore inconsequential. Indeed, the Internet has served as a fertile and un-refereed medium to spread these denialist beliefs. The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis (“Reappraising AIDS”) noted, “Thanks to the ascendance of the internet, we are now able to reinvigorate our informational campaign” [7]. The Internet is an effective tool for targeting young people, and for spreading misinformation within a group at high risk for HIV infection.

Response: This attempt to stain the critics objections as unable to meet the standards of peer review, and thus able to find self-publication only on the Internet, is 100% inappropriate and misleading. The opposite is correct.

The challenge to the mainstream HIV∫AIDS theory was initiated and pursued at the highest level of the scientific literature by the senior expert in the relevant field, retrovirology, and repeatedly survived (and thus was doubly validated by) the fiercest and most hostile peer reviewers, who knew perfectly well their own backsides were on the line if they let any of the material through, but they were unable to prove it incorrect or even questionable. All their objections were met before publication.

The critique of the paradigm published by this expert retrovirologist, Peter Duesberg, from 1987 to 2003 has never been countered effectively in the top journals where it has appeared, where no peer-reviewed rebuttal has been attempted, despite a promise to do so by Gallo at the Proceedings of the National Academy, where the longest fundamental debunking took place in 1988.

Duesberg’s review and rejection of the paradigm thus stands as the best and most validated peer-reviewed science in the matter, even though, politically speaking, the paradigm bandwagon has steered around it, and while intensely resisting any media coverage of the reviews, delivered every scientist riding on it to the unusually large HIV∫AIDS trough at the NIH, where every now and then they raise their heads and cry, No review necessary! Any questioning dangerous! before resuming feeding again.

If anything the fringe pseudoscience is not the HIV∫AIDS paradigm refutation by its critics, but the initially politically established, never scientifically substantiated, soon professionally reviewed and rejected ruling paradigm of HIV=AIDS, purveyed by its leading scientists and officials such as John Moore, Mark Wainberg and Anthony Fauci who act as despots of the field banning media coverage of paradigm critics and are enthusiastically joined in this by outsiders such as Tara and Steve who naively imagine they are defending good science.

The critics occupy the fringes of publication on the Internet only because print and television editors know better than to assign articles on the topic, even if they have the resources and inclination to investigate science, for fear of misunderstanding, ridicule, and alienating the NIAID, where the policy announced in print in an AAAS newsletter by director Anthony Fauci early on was that no reporter who raised the topic of the reviews that rejected HIV in the literature would have his or her calls returned.

With editors uniformly playing the role of establishment gatekeepers the Internet is indeed the only public venue readily available for the distribution of this information, information which in its ability to explain the paradoxes and insults to common sense and good science inherent in the standard model of HIV=AIDS has such power to suggest that revision is necessary, and that the drugs are suspect and dangerous, that the paradigm promoters justifiably view it as “dangerous”, and rightly so, to the funding of the paradigm, and try to deflect it with political misdirection such as calling it ‘pseudoscience’. If the critics are right the danger is to their welfare, clearly, and not to the welfare of patients, who will benefit. It is hard to imagine that anyone who genuinely believes that the case for HIV=AIDS is rock solid scientifically would fear and smear those call for open debate.

5. Misrepresenting promotional fact sheets as peer reviewed science

cricket-frog.jpgTwo excellent online fact sheets have been prepared to counter many of the most commonly used arguments to deny HIV causation of AIDS [8,9]; as such, we will not discuss these in this article. Instead, we will review the current intellectual strategies used by the HIV denial movement. Although other forms of science denial will not be specifically discussed, the characteristics described below apply to many other forms of popular denial, including denial of evolution, mental illness, and the Holocaust.

Response: The official fact sheets referred to are not peer-reviewed, and are not a valid excuse for avoiding any mention of the specifics of the scientific debunking of the paradigm by critics.

Nor are the objections of the critics vitiated by whatever “intellectual strategies” the authors might like to discern in a supposed “HIV denial movement”, both of which phrases imply that the battle is a political one, when in fact it is only a political one because the defenders of the paradigm resist the free and open purely scientific review demanded by the critics.

There is very little coordination among the disparate and widely scattered sources of paradigm rebuttal, such as this blog, or the many individuals and groups around the world listed in the Accurate/Helpful section of our link index on the right. Rather, there appears to be much more coordination in the consistent, in fact universal refusal of the many individuals and institutions working with the globally entrenched paradigm to countenance any questioning at all, let alone respect any critics, who are countered with media censorship, funding and tenure refusals, and active smearing and disinformation at AIDSTruth, the New York Times and multiple media outlets.

To repeat, our pair of paradigm defenders in stating their purpose neatly evade the need to produce any kind of scientific rebuttal by quoting the NIAID Factsheet and the site AIDSTruth.org of John P. Moore as sources of rebuttal, when neither is peer-reviewed and the latter site very seriously misleading in its science, as this blog has often pointed out in earlier posts, most egregiosuly including statements where scientists contradict their own research, most notoriously Nancy Padian and her attempt to disown her landmark study demonstrating “HIV positivity” does not transmit between the sexes.

These scientifically corrupted sites cannot weigh in the balance against the peer-reviewed rejections of the paradigm in the highest journals in science by one of the most respected practitioners of retrovirology, Peter Duesberg, who is universally respected for his own work by his peers, even those who resist his HIV=AIDS critique, for the quality of all his research and publications, which have never been questioned, except for the extremely high quality critique he has made of HIV=AIDS theory, which has led those of his colleagues who are its promoters to shun him, rather than answer him, which in itself is a signal of how much they fear his view. But none of them has ever called him personally anything but a fine scientist.

6. Misinformation peddled as fact

tomatofrog.jpegOne of the prominent HIV denial groups currently is Christine Maggiore’s “Alive and Well” (formerly “HEAL,” Health Education AIDS Liaison) (http://www.aliveandwell.org/). Maggiore’s life story is at the center of this group. Diagnosed with HIV in 1992, Maggiore claims she has since been symptom-free for the past 14 years without the use of antiretroviral drugs, including protease inhibitors [10]. She has risen to prominence, and been embroiled in controversy, in recent years after giving birth to and openly breast-feeding her two children, Charles and Eliza Jane. She had neither child tested for HIV, and did not take antiretroviral medication during her pregnancy or subsequent breast-feeding [11]. Eliza Jane died in September 2005 of HIV-related pneumonia [12], though Maggiore remains unconvinced that HIV had any role in her daughter’s death [13], and continues to preach her message to other HIV-positive mothers.

Response: This paragraph is misleading on the facts, which it misstates in prejudicial terms. Whether Christine Maggiore was ever HIV positive remains a question, with her critics now saying she was not. Her resistance to treatment with standard medication would be understandable, even if she hadn’t read deeply into the paradigm issue and written a very thorough book debunking it.

The hounding of Maggiore on the false assumption she betrayed her daughter by not having her tested for HIV is deplorable, since the tragedy of Maggiore’s child Eliza Jane was that she suffered a rapidly fatal allergic shock reaction to an antibiotic, and had no AIDS symptoms, contrary to claims by the coroner. She did not suffer from HIV∫AIDS nor did she die from it, since she did not test HIV positive after death, and her T cell count was quite remarkably high.

The lynch mob treatment of Christine Maggiore in the aftermath of this tragedy by misinformed people has been one of the worst episodes of this wretched affair, and it may reasonably be labeled a disgrace that reputable scientists such as Tara and Steven should blindly join in this perfidy, where naivete is no excuse.

7. Mistaken belief that science is a democracy, decided by the authority of consensus

greentreefrog.jpegThat HIV is the primary cause of AIDS is the strongly held consensus opinion of the scientific community, based upon over two decades of robust research. Deniers must therefore reject this consensus, either by denigrating the notion of scientific authority in general, or by arguing that the mainstream HIV community is intellectually compromised. It is therefore not surprising that much of the newer denial literature reflects a basic distrust of authority and of the institutions of science and medicine. In her book, Christine Maggiore thanks her father Robert, “who taught me to question authority and stand up for what’s right” [10]. Similarly, mathematical modeler Dr. Rebecca Culshaw, another HIV denier, states: “As someone who has been raised by parents who taught me from a young age never to believe anything just because ‘everyone else accepts it to be true,’ I can no longer just sit by and do nothing, thereby contributing to this craziness” [17].

Response: All established paradigms are naturally and inevitably based on wide consensus, but all advances of a major order in science and medicine involve overturning that consensus. Science is not a democracy, and its questions are not decided by vote. It is decided by gathering research data and by reasoning, in open debate, on the meaning of the data, and this free discussion is the life blood of good science. The worst sign of a paradigm which has gone past its due date is the fierce resistance which gathers to prevent its overthrow by rejecting criticism.

Any time anyone calls for repressing any view in science, as the HIV=AIDS promoters do, they betray their lack of understanding of how science develops. When scientists or institutions foreclose debate by refusing to review any data or interpretation called into question in the peer reviewed literature, they abandon science itself, which dies if questioning dies, and becomes religion.

Authority and consensus might reflect the best judgment of the current leaders of a field, but consensus is always subject to the myriad social and psychological influences listed at the top of this blog. These may influence the peer-reviewed literature too, but with all its flaws it’s the best measure of the validity of a paradigm that we have, and that is why this blog reviews the paradigm in the light of the literature, which lies unread by most defenders of the faith, including it seems clear, Tara and Steven.

To be continued.

Sloppy science everywhere

September 21st, 2007

Hotz at Journal initiates wave of media coverage of error in science

Hotter the field, the more bias

Most studies wrong

error-sign.jpegAttentive perusers of this modest blog may have noticed that we recently expanded its subhead to include the thought that while we base our critique of the public claims of Robert Gallo, Anthony Fauci, John P. Moore, Mark Wainberg, Nancy Padian and other highly decorated generals of the HIV∫AIDS salvation army on the peer-reviewed literature, a certain caveat is in order.

Not everything which finds its way into science and medical journals, even the top ones, is totally reliable, because even if the authors are not conscious of being emotionally flawed human beings subject to all the warping influences listed in the blogo above, their best efforts would still include bad design, inadvertent error and unconscious “data management”, perhaps because they make false assumptions at the start of the study, a habit which is universal in HIV∫AIDS.

As we have mentioned earlier one of the more distinguished scientists we have been privileged to interview, the renowned Harvard researcher and Nobel prize winner Walter Gilbert, once confided to us that whenever he embarked on a new investigation prompted by someone else’s paper he would always try to repeat the experiment himself, and was surprisingly often chagrined to find that he couldn’t.

And in our early efforts to report on the objections raised by the equally distinguished retrovirology researcher Peter Duesberg of Berkeley to the theoretical kite flown by Robert Gallo in 1984 in AIDS, the unlikely notion that the ugly and fatal new syndrome of immune collapse was cause by an infectious virus eventually labeled Human Immunodeficiency Virus, unfortunately immediately backed by the federal government and thus rendered sacrosanct, we were taken aback by the deep analysis of papers in HIV∫AIDS that the Berkeley professor frequently explained to us privately which showed they were badly done and poorly argued and as a result entirely misleading, even if one accepted the uncritical assumption that they were all based upon, that HIV was the right culprit for the new and appalling disease.

Politely ignoring a huge problem

We also noted, however, that in arguing against the HIV=AIDS paradigm, professor Duesberg did not at first rely on exposing the shoddiness of the papers that resulted from it. He would directly undermine the paradigm by accepting the data and conclusions of the literature, and then show how the paradigm did not stack up – in fact was contradicted by the very papers that were claimed to shore it up.

Only later was he forced to show how many major results were based on poorly designed studies which were misinterpreted, an obligation unfairly thrust upon him in answering the somewhat specious demand, Well if it isn’t HIV, what is it that causes AIDS, then? The demand is specious because so much of the literature is based on the assumption that it is HIV which is the villain in the drama, that most of it will have to be redone without that assumption to nail down the real and obviously multiple causes of immune failure in all five continents, with all their disparate symptoms and epidemiology.

A mudslide of articles about error

Anyhow we are pleased to notice that a rash of articles came out this week publicizing this little noticed fact, that it is not simply fraud which occasionally corrupts the peer-reviewed literature, it is the inadequacy of peer review, which often lets go by papers which should have been corrected or redone, whose conclusions are unreliable.

Needless to say, one of the marks of the horrendously incompetent science reporting carried out in the media – reporting that mostly doesn’t rise above the level of noting down and publishing what sources say without it passing through the critical faculties of the reporter, assuming that these even exist, let alone actually double checking it with critics in the traditional manner observed in every other field of public affairs – is that none of the top reporters whose specialty HIV=AIDS is, with the exception of HIV skeptic Celia Farber in Harpers, and of course HIV skeptic Liam Scheff elsewhere, has shown any interest whatsoever in the possibility that research in the field is questionable.

It is as if they either didn’t know, or have given the NIAID under the firm control of Lasker winner Dr Anthony Fauci a free pass, for some reason, possibly one associated with the undeniable hostility of that public servant to such notions.

How wrong it is to assume that published, peer reviewed science is scripture engraved in tablets of stone is well known to those familiar with the Baltimore scandal, where Nobelist David Baltimore blocked retraction of an incorrect paper with his name on it for years until three Congressional investigations finally prised his protective grip from it. Whether error or knowing fraud (by the lead author, not Baltimore) was involved was not quite made clear, but the subsequent book by Daniel Kevles exonerated Dr Baltimore sufficiently that having been ignominiously kicked out of the presidency of Rockefeller University, eventually the renowned researcher was able to be reinstated in the eyes of the public with the presidency of Caltech, from which he recently retired, where professor Kevles also moved from Yale.

Hotz’ hot column points to Ioannidis’s white hot essay

But fraud is not an interesting subject to contemplate, even if the cases of it which are occasionally exposed in the public prints are often spectacular, as in the case of the downfall of the Korean gentleman recently. The important point is that bad but not intentionally fraudulent science gets into print even in the top journals, as HIV/AIDS has shown in its own spectacular fashion, and science reporters seem universally unaware of this possibility. Now however, we have more than one article suddenly acknowledging this problem.

The first was last Friday, when the Wall Street Journal printed a column by Robert Lee Hotz, Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis, reporting on the work of John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

ioannidis.jpgIoannidis has documented how the conclusions of thousands of peer-reviewed research papers may be invalid because the research is inept. In fact, he is the star of the Public Library of Science, where his stunningly honest essay of 2005, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False is their most downloaded technical paper, which is clearly what prompted Hotz’ column.

The essay is a strong contrast with Tara C. Smith and Steven Novella’s froglike masterpiece which we are deconstructing here when more important matters do not obtrude, as in the case of this exemplary piece of research based, logically sound, statistically formulated and politically sophisticated scientific commentary:

Summary

There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias….

Published research findings are sometimes refuted by subsequent evidence, with ensuing confusion and disappointment. Refutation and controversy is seen across the range of research designs, from clinical trials and traditional epidemiological studies [1–3] to the most modern molecular research [4,5]. There is increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims [6–8]. However, this should not be surprising. It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false. …..

Bias

First, let us define bias as the combination of various design, data, analysis, and presentation factors that tend to produce research findings when they should not be produced…..

Corollary 4: The greater the flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Flexibility increases the potential for transforming what would be “negative” results into “positive” results, i.e., bias, u.…..


Corollary 5: The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Conflicts of interest and prejudice may increase bias, u. Conflicts of interest are very common in biomedical research [26], and typically they are inadequately and sparsely reported [26,27]. Prejudice may not necessarily have financial roots. Scientists in a given field may be prejudiced purely because of their belief in a scientific theory or commitment to their own findings. Many otherwise seemingly independent, university-based studies may be conducted for no other reason than to give physicians and researchers qualifications for promotion or tenure. Such nonfinancial conflicts may also lead to distorted reported results and interpretations. Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma. Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable [28].


Corollary 6: The hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true….

Most Research Findings Are False for Most Research Designs and for Most Fields

Claimed Research Findings May Often Be Simply Accurate Measures of the Prevailing Bias

Traditionally, investigators have viewed large and highly significant effects with excitement, as signs of important discoveries. Too large and too highly significant effects may actually be more likely to be signs of large bias in most fields of modern research. They should lead investigators to careful critical thinking about what might have gone wrong with their data, analyses, and results.

Of course, investigators working in any field are likely to resist accepting that the whole field in which they have spent their careers is a “null field.” However, other lines of evidence, or advances in technology and experimentation, may lead eventually to the dismantling of a scientific field….

How Can We Improve the Situation?

Is it unavoidable that most research findings are false, or can we improve the situation? A major problem is that it is impossible to know with 100% certainty what the truth is in any research question….

Large-scale evidence is also particularly indicated when it can test major concepts rather than narrow, specific questions. A negative finding can then refute not only a specific proposed claim, but a whole field or considerable portion thereof. Selecting the performance of large-scale studies based on narrow-minded criteria, such as the marketing promotion of a specific drug, is largely wasted research.

What matters is the totality of the evidence. Diminishing bias through enhanced research standards and curtailing of prejudices may also help. However, this may require a change in scientific mentality that might be difficult to achieve.

Finally, instead of chasing statistical significance, we should improve our understanding of the range of R values—the pre-study odds—where research efforts operate [10]. Before running an experiment, investigators should consider what they believe the chances are that they are testing a true rather than a non-true relationship. Speculated high R values may sometimes then be ascertained. As described above, whenever ethically acceptable, large studies with minimal bias should be performed on research findings that are considered relatively established, to see how often they are indeed confirmed. I suspect several established “classics” will fail the test [36].

Nevertheless, most new discoveries will continue to stem from hypothesis-generating research with low or very low pre-study odds. We should then acknowledge that statistical significance testing in the report of a single study gives only a partial picture, without knowing how much testing has been done outside the report and in the relevant field at large.

Human error in papers

Here is how Hotz in Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis told the many readers of the pragmatic Wall Street Journal about this problem, thus ensuring that many investors, lawyers, and other people who need realistic information about scientific claims of world pandemics are now aware that scientists’ pronouncements, and their published literature, may have to be double checked for accuracy, since the New York Times has a habit of not bothering to do so, not having the money or inclination to employ factcheckers since it trusts its reporters to get it right, since they have instant access after all to the top gurus of every field, and judging from their public appearances do not appear to be overworked:

Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis

We all make mistakes and, if you believe medical scholar John Ioannidis, scientists make more than their fair share. By his calculations, most published research findings are wrong.

Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.

These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis. “There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims,” Dr. Ioannidis said. “A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true.”

The hotter the field of research the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined.

…”There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims,” Dr. Ioannidis said. “A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true.”

Hotz dug around and found plenty of agreement with what Ioannidis is saying, and plenty of material to confirm what the Greek American researcher has found in his many reports:

Take the discovery that the risk of disease may vary between men and women, depending on their genes. Studies have prominently reported such sex differences for hypertension, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, as well as lung cancer and heart attacks. In research published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Ioannidis and his colleagues analyzed 432 published research claims concerning gender and genes (Drs. Nikolaos A. Patsopoulos, Athina Tatsioni and John Ioannidis analyzed claims of genetic risk and sex differences in “Claims of Sex Differences: An Empirical Assessment in Genetic Associations,”3 (abstract; login required for full text) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month).

Upon closer scrutiny, almost none of them held up. Only one was replicated.

What’s going wrong? The key problem is one most observers of science are well aware of, and that is that science advances hypothesis by hypothesis, which tends to translate into hope by hope, and the data tends to support a new hypothesis unless studies are carefully done to banish that effect:

Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. “People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual,” Dr. Ioannidis said.

In the U. S., research is a $55-billion-a-year enterprise that stakes its credibility on the reliability of evidence and the work of Dr. Ioannidis strikes a raw nerve. In fact, his 2005 essay “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” remains the most downloaded technical paper that the journal PLoS Medicine has ever published.

“He has done systematic looks at the published literature and empirically shown us what we know deep inside our hearts,” said Muin Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to pay more attention to the replication of published scientific results.”

Every new fact discovered through experiment represents a foothold in the unknown. In a wilderness of knowledge, it can be difficult to distinguish error from fraud, sloppiness from deception, eagerness from greed or, increasingly, scientific conviction from partisan passion. As scientific findings become fodder for political policy wars over matters from stem-cell research to global warming, even trivial errors and corrections can have larger consequences.

Still, other researchers warn not to fear all mistakes. Error is as much a part of science as discovery. It is the inevitable byproduct of a search for truth that must proceed by trial and error. “Where you have new areas of knowledge developing, then the science is going to be disputed, subject to errors arising from inadequate data or the failure to recognize new matters,” said Yale University science historian Daniel Kevles. Conflicting data and differences of interpretation are common.

Now in his well worded piece Hotz comes to the point where HIV/AIDS critics will sit up and applaud:(our boldface)

To root out mistakes, scientists rely on each other to be vigilant. Even so, findings too rarely are checked by others or independently replicated. Retractions, while more common, are still relatively infrequent. Findings that have been refuted can linger in the scientific literature for years to be cited unwittingly by other researchers, compounding the errors.

Stung by frauds in physics, biology and medicine, research journals recently adopted more stringent safeguards to protect at least against deliberate fabrication of data. But it is hard to admit even honest error. Last month, the Chinese government proposed a new law to allow its scientists to admit failures without penalty. Next week, the first world conference on research integrity convenes in Lisbon.

Overall, technical reviewers are hard-pressed to detect every anomaly. On average, researchers submit about 12,000 papers annually just to the weekly peer-reviewed journal Science. Last year, four papers in Science were retracted. A dozen others were corrected.

No one actually knows how many incorrect research reports remain unchallenged.

Earlier this year, informatics expert Murat Cokol and his colleagues at Columbia University sorted through 9.4 million research papers at the U.S. National Library of Medicine published from 1950 through 2004 in 4,000 journals. By raw count, just 596 had been formally retracted, Dr. Cokol reported.

“The correction isn’t the ultimate truth either,” Prof. Kevles said.

Well, how many were wrong? That is the unanswered question. If all the papers on HIV/AIDS were immediately retracted because HIV is clearly not involved in causing immune collapse, Science would be crippled as a reference source, and science would lose much of its credibility. An honest error on the part of the editors, perhaps, but inexcusable as long as they claim the role of the gatekeepers and the watchdogs of science.

All of this speaks for the credibility of the well qualified critics of the paradigm in HIV=AIDS and the unusual attention they have paid to the quality of the research papers which support it, where they have found a remarkable level of data mismanagement, poor design and misleading conclusions. Yet their case is typically dismissed by paradigm defenders such as Tara Smoth of Iowa, Steve Connall of Yale, John P. Moore of Weill Cornell with scorn and derision, rather than scientific arguments. The public likewise assumes that the literature is thoroughly validated by peer review.

Now the public has been informed by one prominent newspaper, perhaps the most trusted daily now, that something is rotten in the state of science, and that they should proceed with caution before dismissing all challenges to mainstream science as if they were all ignorant creationism. After all, it is clear now that the paradigm HIV causes AIDS would have been universally discredited long ago but for the papers universally based on the assumption they are used to support.

What’s to be done?

Most people, including almost all the scientists in a field, are unlikely to examine a paper closely enough to find its faults. One wonders just how many beliefs would be dashed if they did. Dr Ioannidis has already found that the new paradigm that the sexes differ in their risk of disease according to their gender is based on 432 studies of which only one was able to be replicated and proven valid.

It is difficult to know what to trust until all the papers on a topic are thoroughly reviewed for bias, and there is no field where bias is so blatant as HIV/AIDS, where scientists such as Moore and Wainberg are so proud of it that Wainberg has suggested imprisonment for the reviewers.

Apparently in one later paper in another PLoS Medicine article earlier this year, Ramal Moonesinghe and Muin Khoury at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated that the likelihood of a published research result being true increases when that finding has been repeatedly replicated in multiple studies. The article is: “Most Published Research Findings Are False — But a Little Replication Goes a Long Way.

But with bias and preconceptions playing a big part obviously repetition is not enough. Raising the level of awareness among scientists and the public of the fallibility of science is key. Lets hope that the Conference last week in the world capital of port, the world’s most delicious liqueur, started some greater awareness of the problem and improvement of the situation in science. The European Science Foundation and the Office of Research Integrity held a world conference on research integrity in Lisbon, Portugal, Sept. 16-19, 2007, which included papers on best practices, training researchers, and the role played by academic journals).

Gee, we wondered if anyone mentioned HIV/AIDS in this context? Not only is it a field where bias in favor of the unproven and unsubstantiated hypothesis is so rife that every paper is imbued with it, and researchers flaunt their bias as if it was a badge of honor, but as regards testing drugs, there haven’t been any controls in any study after the AZT study was called to a sudden halt twenty years ago because the benefit was so powerfully assumed by gay activists that they insisted that the scientists release the drug immediately without further testing because it would be unfair to withhold it from the placebo control group, who were already finding ways to take it.

This blatant lack of controls is one reason why the drugs in AIDS are not recognized as being as lethal as general studies of the welfare of patients show they are, with half of current AIDS deaths due to the drugs and not to AIDS proper, whatever the cause of that is.

Of course, to those unaware that the scientific literature is subject to human error, that last phrase will come as a surprise.

Here is Hotz’s piece for reference:
September 14, 2007

SCIENCE JOURNAL
By ROBERT LEE HOTZ

Most Science Studies
Appear to Be Tainted
By Sloppy Analysis
September 14, 2007; Page B1

We all make mistakes and, if you believe medical scholar John Ioannidis, scientists make more than their fair share. By his calculations, most published research findings are wrong.

Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.

These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis. “There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims,” Dr. Ioannidis said. “A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true.”

The hotter the field of research the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined.

Take the discovery that the risk of disease may vary between men and women, depending on their genes. Studies have prominently reported such sex differences for hypertension, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, as well as lung cancer and heart attacks. In research published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Ioannidis and his colleagues analyzed 432 published research claims concerning gender and genes.
——————————-
RECOMMENDED READING

–by Robert Lee Hotz
[Recommended Reading]
Drs. Nikolaos A. Patsopoulos, Athina Tatsioni and John Ioannidis analyzed claims of genetic risk and sex differences in “Claims of Sex Differences: An Empirical Assessment in Genetic Associations,”3 (abstract; login required for full text) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month.
* * *
Dr. John Ioannidis argued that false findings may be the majority of published research claims, in “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,”4 in the PLoS Medicine journal, in August 2005.
* * *
In another PLoS Medicine article earlier this year, Ramal Moonesinghe and Muin Khoury at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated that the likelihood of a published research result being true increases when that finding has been repeatedly replicated in multiple studies. The article is: “Most Published Research Findings Are False — But a Little Replication Goes a Long Way.”5
* * *
The Office of Research Integrity6 promotes integrity in biomedical and behavioral research supported by the U.S. Public Health Service at about 4,000 institutions world-wide.
* * *
The European Science Foundation and the Office of Research Integrity are holding a world conference on research integrity7 in Lisbon, Portugal, Sept. 16-19, 2007. The invited researchers will be presenting papers on best practices, training researchers, and the role played by academic journals.
———————————————————————

Upon closer scrutiny, almost none of them held up. Only one was replicated.

Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. “People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual,” Dr. Ioannidis said.

In the U. S., research is a $55-billion-a-year enterprise that stakes its credibility on the reliability of evidence and the work of Dr. Ioannidis strikes a raw nerve. In fact, his 2005 essay “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” remains the most downloaded technical paper that the journal PLoS Medicine has ever published.

“He has done systematic looks at the published literature and empirically shown us what we know deep inside our hearts,” said Muin Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to pay more attention to the replication of published scientific results.”

Every new fact discovered through experiment represents a foothold in the unknown. In a wilderness of knowledge, it can be difficult to distinguish error from fraud, sloppiness from deception, eagerness from greed or, increasingly, scientific conviction from partisan passion. As scientific findings become fodder for political policy wars over matters from stem-cell research to global warming, even trivial errors and corrections can have larger consequences.

Still, other researchers warn not to fear all mistakes. Error is as much a part of science as discovery. It is the inevitable byproduct of a search for truth that must proceed by trial and error. “Where you have new areas of knowledge developing, then the science is going to be disputed, subject to errors arising from inadequate data or the failure to recognize new matters,” said Yale University science historian Daniel Kevles. Conflicting data and differences of interpretation are common.

To root out mistakes, scientists rely on each other to be vigilant. Even so, findings too rarely are checked by others or independently replicated. Retractions, while more common, are still relatively infrequent. Findings that have been refuted can linger in the scientific literature for years to be cited unwittingly by other researchers, compounding the errors.

Stung by frauds in physics, biology and medicine, research journals recently adopted more stringent safeguards to protect at least against deliberate fabrication of data. But it is hard to admit even honest error. Last month, the Chinese government proposed a new law to allow its scientists to admit failures without penalty. Next week, the first world conference on research integrity convenes in Lisbon.

Overall, technical reviewers are hard-pressed to detect every anomaly. On average, researchers submit about 12,000 papers annually just to the weekly peer-reviewed journal Science. Last year, four papers in Science were retracted. A dozen others were corrected.

No one actually knows how many incorrect research reports remain unchallenged.

Earlier this year, informatics expert Murat Cokol and his colleagues at Columbia University sorted through 9.4 million research papers at the U.S. National Library of Medicine published from 1950 through 2004 in 4,000 journals. By raw count, just 596 had been formally retracted, Dr. Cokol reported.

“The correction isn’t the ultimate truth either,” Prof. Kevles said.

Email me at ScienceJournal@wsj.com9.
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Here for reference is the complete essay by Ionnadis, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. The boldface is added by NAR to highlight key passages:
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ESSAY

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

John P. A. Ioannidis

Summary

There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.

Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Ioannidis JPA (2005) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med 2(8): e124 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

Published: August 30, 2005

Copyright: © 2005 John P. A. Ioannidis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abbreviation: PPV, positive predictive value

John P. A. Ioannidis is in the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Ioannina School of Medicine, Ioannina, Greece, and Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Department of Medicine, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. E-mail: jioannid@cc.uoi.gr

Published research findings are sometimes refuted by subsequent evidence, with ensuing confusion and disappointment. Refutation and controversy is seen across the range of research designs, from clinical trials and traditional epidemiological studies [1–3] to the most modern molecular research [4,5]. There is increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims [6–8]. However, this should not be surprising. It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false. Here I will examine the key factors that influence this problem and some corollaries thereof.

Modeling the Framework for False Positive Findings

Several methodologists have pointed out [9–11] that the high rate of nonreplication (lack of confirmation) of research discoveries is a consequence of the convenient, yet ill-founded strategy of claiming conclusive research findings solely on the basis of a single study assessed by formal statistical significance, typically for a p-value less than 0.05. Research is not most appropriately represented and summarized by p-values, but, unfortunately, there is a widespread notion that medical research articles should be interpreted based only on p-values. Research findings are defined here as any relationship reaching formal statistical significance, e.g., effective interventions, informative predictors, risk factors, or associations. “Negative” research is also very useful. “Negative” is actually a misnomer, and the misinterpretation is widespread. However, here we will target relationships that investigators claim exist, rather than null findings.

It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false.

As has been shown previously, the probability that a research finding is indeed true depends on the prior probability of it being true (before doing the study), the statistical power of the study, and the level of statistical significance [10,11]. Consider a 2 × 2 table in which research findings are compared against the gold standard of true relationships in a scientific field. In a research field both true and false hypotheses can be made about the presence of relationships. Let R be the ratio of the number of “true relationships” to “no relationships” among those tested in the field. R is characteristic of the field and can vary a lot depending on whether the field targets highly likely relationships or searches for only one or a few true relationships among thousands and millions of hypotheses that may be postulated. Let us also consider, for computational simplicity, circumscribed fields where either there is only one true relationship (among many that can be hypothesized) or the power is similar to find any of the several existing true relationships. The pre-study probability of a relationship being true is R/(R + 1). The probability of a study finding a true relationship reflects the power 1 − β (one minus the Type II error rate). The probability of claiming a relationship when none truly exists reflects the Type I error rate, α. Assuming that c relationships are being probed in the field, the expected values of the 2 × 2 table are given in Table 1. After a research finding has been claimed based on achieving formal statistical significance, the post-study probability that it is true is the positive predictive value, PPV. The PPV is also the complementary probability of what Wacholder et al. have called the false positive report probability [10]. According to the 2 × 2 table, one gets PPV = (1 − β)R/(R − βR + α). A research finding is thus more likely true than false if (1 − β)R > α. Since usually the vast majority of investigators depend on α = 0.05, this means that a research finding is more likely true than false if (1 − β)R > 0.05.

Table 1. Research Findings and True Relationships

What is less well appreciated is that bias and the extent of repeated independent testing by different teams of investigators around the globe may further distort this picture and may lead to even smaller probabilities of the research findings being indeed true. We will try to model these two factors in the context of similar 2 × 2 tables.

Bias

First, let us define bias as the combination of various design, data, analysis, and presentation factors that tend to produce research findings when they should not be produced. Let u be the proportion of probed analyses that would not have been “research findings,” but nevertheless end up presented and reported as such, because of bias. Bias should not be confused with chance variability that causes some findings to be false by chance even though the study design, data, analysis, and presentation are perfect. Bias can entail manipulation in the analysis or reporting of findings. Selective or distorted reporting is a typical form of such bias. We may assume that u does not depend on whether a true relationship exists or not. This is not an unreasonable assumption, since typically it is impossible to know which relationships are indeed true. In the presence of bias (Table 2), one gets PPV = ([1 − β]R + uβR)/(R + α − βR + u − uα + uβR), and PPV decreases with increasing u, unless 1 − β ≤ α, i.e., 1 − β ≤ 0.05 for most situations. Thus, with increasing bias, the chances that a research finding is true diminish considerably. This is shown for different levels of power and for different pre-study odds in Figure 1.
Figure 1. PPV (Probability That a Research Finding Is True) as a Function of the Pre-Study Odds for Various Levels of Bias, u

Panels correspond to power of 0.20, 0.50, and 0.80.

Table 2. Research Findings and True Relationships in the Presence of Bias

Conversely, true research findings may occasionally be annulled because of reverse bias. For example, with large measurement errors relationships are lost in noise [12], or investigators use data inefficiently or fail to notice statistically significant relationships, or there may be conflicts of interest that tend to “bury” significant findings [13]. There is no good large-scale empirical evidence on how frequently such reverse bias may occur across diverse research fields. However, it is probably fair to say that reverse bias is not as common. Moreover measurement errors and inefficient use of data are probably becoming less frequent problems, since measurement error has decreased with technological advances in the molecular era and investigators are becoming increasingly sophisticated about their data. Regardless, reverse bias may be modeled in the same way as bias above. Also reverse bias should not be confused with chance variability that may lead to missing a true relationship because of chance.

Testing by Several Independent Teams

Several independent teams may be addressing the same sets of research questions. As research efforts are globalized, it is practically the rule that several research teams, often dozens of them, may probe the same or similar questions. Unfortunately, in some areas, the prevailing mentality until now has been to focus on isolated discoveries by single teams and interpret research experiments in isolation. An increasing number of questions have at least one study claiming a research finding, and this receives unilateral attention. The probability that at least one study, among several done on the same question, claims a statistically significant research finding is easy to estimate. For n independent studies of equal power, the 2 × 2 table is shown in Table 3: PPV = R(1 − βn)/(R + 1 − [1 − α]n − Rβn) (not considering bias). With increasing number of independent studies, PPV tends to decrease, unless 1 − β < α, i.e., typically 1 − β < 0.05. This is shown for different levels of power and for different pre-study odds in Figure 2. For n studies of different power, the term βn is replaced by the product of the terms βi for i = 1 to n, but inferences are similar. Figure 2. PPV (Probability That a Research Finding Is True) as a Function of the Pre-Study Odds for Various Numbers of Conducted Studies, n Panels correspond to power of 0.20, 0.50, and 0.80. Table 3. Research Findings and True Relationships in the Presence of Multiple Studies Corollaries A practical example is shown in Box 1. Based on the above considerations, one may deduce several interesting corollaries about the probability that a research finding is indeed true. Corollary 1: The smaller the studies conducted in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Small sample size means smaller power and, for all functions above, the PPV for a true research finding decreases as power decreases towards 1 − β = 0.05. Thus, other factors being equal, research findings are more likely true in scientific fields that undertake large studies, such as randomized controlled trials in cardiology (several thousand subjects randomized) [14] than in scientific fields with small studies, such as most research of molecular predictors (sample sizes 100-fold smaller) [15]. Corollary 2: The smaller the effect sizes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Power is also related to the effect size. Thus research findings are more likely true in scientific fields with large effects, such as the impact of smoking on cancer or cardiovascular disease (relative risks 3–20), than in scientific fields where postulated effects are small, such as genetic risk factors for multigenetic diseases (relative risks 1.1–1.5) [7]. Modern epidemiology is increasingly obliged to target smaller effect sizes [16]. Consequently, the proportion of true research findings is expected to decrease. In the same line of thinking, if the true effect sizes are very small in a scientific field, this field is likely to be plagued by almost ubiquitous false positive claims. For example, if the majority of true genetic or nutritional determinants of complex diseases confer relative risks less than 1.05, genetic or nutritional epidemiology would be largely utopian endeavors.

Corollary 3: The greater the number and the lesser the selection of tested relationships in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. As shown above, the post-study probability that a finding is true (PPV) depends a lot on the pre-study odds (R). Thus, research findings are more likely true in confirmatory designs, such as large phase III randomized controlled trials, or meta-analyses thereof, than in hypothesis-generating experiments. Fields considered highly informative and creative given the wealth of the assembled and tested information, such as microarrays and other high-throughput discovery-oriented research [4,8,17], should have extremely low PPV.

Corollary 4: The greater the flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Flexibility increases the potential for transforming what would be “negative” results into “positive” results, i.e., bias, u. For several research designs, e.g., randomized controlled trials [18–20] or meta-analyses [21,22], there have been efforts to standardize their conduct and reporting. Adherence to common standards is likely to increase the proportion of true findings. The same applies to outcomes. True findings may be more common when outcomes are unequivocal and universally agreed (e.g., death) rather than when multifarious outcomes are devised (e.g., scales for schizophrenia outcomes) [23]. Similarly, fields that use commonly agreed, stereotyped analytical methods (e.g., Kaplan-Meier plots and the log-rank test) [24] may yield a larger proportion of true findings than fields where analytical methods are still under experimentation (e.g., artificial intelligence methods) and only “best” results are reported. Regardless, even in the most stringent research designs, bias seems to be a major problem. For example, there is strong evidence that selective outcome reporting, with manipulation of the outcomes and analyses reported, is a common problem even for randomized trails [25]. Simply abolishing selective publication would not make this problem go away.

Corollary 5: The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Conflicts of interest and prejudice may increase bias, u. Conflicts of interest are very common in biomedical research [26], and typically they are inadequately and sparsely reported [26,27]. Prejudice may not necessarily have financial roots. Scientists in a given field may be prejudiced purely because of their belief in a scientific theory or commitment to their own findings. Many otherwise seemingly independent, university-based studies may be conducted for no other reason than to give physicians and researchers qualifications for promotion or tenure. Such nonfinancial conflicts may also lead to distorted reported results and interpretations. Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma. Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable [28].


Corollary 6: The hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true.
This seemingly paradoxical corollary follows because, as stated above, the PPV of isolated findings decreases when many teams of investigators are involved in the same field. This may explain why we occasionally see major excitement followed rapidly by severe disappointments in fields that draw wide attention. With many teams working on the same field and with massive experimental data being produced, timing is of the essence in beating competition. Thus, each team may prioritize on pursuing and disseminating its most impressive “positive” results. “Negative” results may become attractive for dissemination only if some other team has found a “positive” association on the same question. In that case, it may be attractive to refute a claim made in some prestigious journal. The term Proteus phenomenon has been coined to describe this phenomenon of rapidly alternating extreme research claims and extremely opposite refutations [29]. Empirical evidence suggests that this sequence of extreme opposites is very common in molecular genetics [29].

These corollaries consider each factor separately, but these factors often influence each other. For example, investigators working in fields where true effect sizes are perceived to be small may be more likely to perform large studies than investigators working in fields where true effect sizes are perceived to be large. Or prejudice may prevail in a hot scientific field, further undermining the predictive value of its research findings. Highly prejudiced stakeholders may even create a barrier that aborts efforts at obtaining and disseminating opposing results. Conversely, the fact that a field is hot or has strong invested interests may sometimes promote larger studies and improved standards of research, enhancing the predictive value of its research findings. Or massive discovery-oriented testing may result in such a large yield of significant relationships that investigators have enough to report and search further and thus refrain from data dredging and manipulation.

Most Research Findings Are False for Most Research Designs and for Most Fields

In the described framework, a PPV exceeding 50% is quite difficult to get. Table 4 provides the results of simulations using the formulas developed for the influence of power, ratio of true to non-true relationships, and bias, for various types of situations that may be characteristic of specific study designs and settings. A finding from a well-conducted, adequately powered randomized controlled trial starting with a 50% pre-study chance that the intervention is effective is eventually true about 85% of the time. A fairly similar performance is expected of a confirmatory meta-analysis of good-quality randomized trials: potential bias probably increases, but power and pre-test chances are higher compared to a single randomized trial. Conversely, a meta-analytic finding from inconclusive studies where pooling is used to “correct” the low power of single studies, is probably false if R ≤ 1:3. Research findings from underpowered, early-phase clinical trials would be true about one in four times, or even less frequently if bias is present. Epidemiological studies of an exploratory nature perform even worse, especially when underpowered, but even well-powered epidemiological studies may have only a one in five chance being true, if R = 1:10. Finally, in discovery-oriented research with massive testing, where tested relationships exceed true ones 1,000-fold (e.g., 30,000 genes tested, of which 30 may be the true culprits) [30,31], PPV for each claimed relationship is extremely low, even with considerable standardization of laboratory and statistical methods, outcomes, and reporting thereof to minimize bias.
Table 4. PPV of Research Findings for Various Combinations of Power (1 − β), Ratio of True to Not-True Relationships (R), and Bias (u)

Claimed Research Findings May Often Be Simply Accurate Measures of the Prevailing Bias

As shown, the majority of modern biomedical research is operating in areas with very low pre- and post-study probability for true findings. Let us suppose that in a research field there are no true findings at all to be discovered. History of science teaches us that scientific endeavor has often in the past wasted effort in fields with absolutely no yield of true scientific information, at least based on our current understanding. In such a “null field,” one would ideally expect all observed effect sizes to vary by chance around the null in the absence of bias. The extent that observed findings deviate from what is expected by chance alone would be simply a pure measure of the prevailing bias.

For example, let us suppose that no nutrients or dietary patterns are actually important determinants for the risk of developing a specific tumor. Let us also suppose that the scientific literature has examined 60 nutrients and claims all of them to be related to the risk of developing this tumor with relative risks in the range of 1.2 to 1.4 for the comparison of the upper to lower intake tertiles. Then the claimed effect sizes are simply measuring nothing else but the net bias that has been involved in the generation of this scientific literature. Claimed effect sizes are in fact the most accurate estimates of the net bias. It even follows that between “null fields,” the fields that claim stronger effects (often with accompanying claims of medical or public health importance) are simply those that have sustained the worst biases.

For fields with very low PPV, the few true relationships would not distort this overall picture much. Even if a few relationships are true, the shape of the distribution of the observed effects would still yield a clear measure of the biases involved in the field. This concept totally reverses the way we view scientific results. Traditionally, investigators have viewed large and highly significant effects with excitement, as signs of important discoveries. Too large and too highly significant effects may actually be more likely to be signs of large bias in most fields of modern research. They should lead investigators to careful critical thinking about what might have gone wrong with their data, analyses, and results.

Of course, investigators working in any field are likely to resist accepting that the whole field in which they have spent their careers is a “null field.” However, other lines of evidence, or advances in technology and experimentation, may lead eventually to the dismantling of a scientific field. Obtaining measures of the net bias in one field may also be useful for obtaining insight into what might be the range of bias operating in other fields where similar analytical methods, technologies, and conflicts may be operating.

How Can We Improve the Situation?

Is it unavoidable that most research findings are false, or can we improve the situation? A major problem is that it is impossible to know with 100% certainty what the truth is in any research question. In this regard, the pure “gold” standard is unattainable. However, there are several approaches to improve the post-study probability.

Better powered evidence, e.g., large studies or low-bias meta-analyses, may help, as it comes closer to the unknown “gold” standard. However, large studies may still have biases and these should be acknowledged and avoided. Moreover, large-scale evidence is impossible to obtain for all of the millions and trillions of research questions posed in current research. Large-scale evidence should be targeted for research questions where the pre-study probability is already considerably high, so that a significant research finding will lead to a post-test probability that would be considered quite definitive. Large-scale evidence is also particularly indicated when it can test major concepts rather than narrow, specific questions. A negative finding can then refute not only a specific proposed claim, but a whole field or considerable portion thereof. Selecting the performance of large-scale studies based on narrow-minded criteria, such as the marketing promotion of a specific drug, is largely wasted research. Moreover, one should be cautious that extremely large studies may be more likely to find a formally statistical significant difference for a trivial effect that is not really meaningfully different from the null [32–34].

Second, most research questions are addressed by many teams, and it is misleading to emphasize the statistically significant findings of any single team. What matters is the totality of the evidence. Diminishing bias through enhanced research standards and curtailing of prejudices may also help. However, this may require a change in scientific mentality that might be difficult to achieve. In some research designs, efforts may also be more successful with upfront registration of studies, e.g., randomized trials [35]. Registration would pose a challenge for hypothesis-generating research. Some kind of registration or networking of data collections or investigators within fields may be more feasible than registration of each and every hypothesis-generating experiment. Regardless, even if we do not see a great deal of progress with registration of studies in other fields, the principles of developing and adhering to a protocol could be more widely borrowed from randomized controlled trials.

Finally, instead of chasing statistical significance, we should improve our understanding of the range of R values—the pre-study odds—where research efforts operate [10]. Before running an experiment, investigators should consider what they believe the chances are that they are testing a true rather than a non-true relationship. Speculated high R values may sometimes then be ascertained. As described above, whenever ethically acceptable, large studies with minimal bias should be performed on research findings that are considered relatively established, to see how often they are indeed confirmed. I suspect several established “classics” will fail the test [36].

Nevertheless, most new discoveries will continue to stem from hypothesis-generating research with low or very low pre-study odds. We should then acknowledge that statistical significance testing in the report of a single study gives only a partial picture, without knowing how much testing has been done outside the report and in the relevant field at large. Despite a large statistical literature for multiple testing corrections [37], usually it is impossible to decipher how much data dredging by the reporting authors or other research teams has preceded a reported research finding. Even if determining this were feasible, this would not inform us about the pre-study odds. Thus, it is unavoidable that one should make approximate assumptions on how many relationships are expected to be true among those probed across the relevant research fields and research designs. The wider field may yield some guidance for estimating this probability for the isolated research project. Experiences from biases detected in other neighboring fields would also be useful to draw upon. Even though these assumptions would be considerably subjective, they would still be very useful in interpreting research claims and putting them in context.

Box 1. An Example: Science at Low Pre-Study Odds

Let us assume that a team of investigators performs a whole genome association study to test whether any of 100,000 gene polymorphisms are associated with susceptibility to schizophrenia. Based on what we know about the extent of heritability of the disease, it is reasonable to expect that probably around ten gene polymorphisms among those tested would be truly associated with schizophrenia, with relatively similar odds ratios around 1.3 for the ten or so polymorphisms and with a fairly similar power to identify any of them. Then R = 10/100,000 = 10−4, and the pre-study probability for any polymorphism to be associated with schizophrenia is also R/(R + 1) = 10−4. Let us also suppose that the study has 60% power to find an association with an odds ratio of 1.3 at α = 0.05. Then it can be estimated that if a statistically significant association is found with the p-value barely crossing the 0.05 threshold, the post-study probability that this is true increases about 12-fold compared with the pre-study probability, but it is still only 12 × 10−4.

Now let us suppose that the investigators manipulate their design, analyses, and reporting so as to make more relationships cross the p = 0.05 threshold even though this would not have been crossed with a perfectly adhered to design and analysis and with perfect comprehensive reporting of the results, strictly according to the original study plan. Such manipulation could be done, for example, with serendipitous inclusion or exclusion of certain patients or controls, post hoc subgroup analyses, investigation of genetic contrasts that were not originally specified, changes in the disease or control definitions, and various combinations of selective or distorted reporting of the results. Commercially available “data mining” packages actually are proud of their ability to yield statistically significant results through data dredging. In the presence of bias with u = 0.10, the post-study probability that a research finding is true is only 4.4 × 10−4. Furthermore, even in the absence of any bias, when ten independent research teams perform similar experiments around the world, if one of them finds a formally statistically significant association, the probability that the research finding is true is only 1.5 × 10−4, hardly any higher than the probability we had before any of this extensive research was undertaken!

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How Fauci solved AIDS

September 19th, 2007

At AIDS panel, future Nobelist Fauci revealed way forward

Add HIV to boost T-cells, eliminate drugs

Long run danger remedied by normal health measures

fauci-white-coat.pngAs we were saying, we welcome the Lasker prize which Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID has won, because we already recognized a year ago the extraordinary contribution that the well tailored director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases had earlier made quietly to the final solution of the world wide AIDS panic, at a New School panel in June last year.

For some reason, perhaps personal modesty, Dr Fauci had not informed the general public previously of his breakthrough in understanding, but merely communicated it to the Proceedings of the National Academy and included it in a chapter on the Immunology of AIDS he wrote for the textbook “Fundamental Immunology”, edited by William E. Paul MD and published by Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins in 2003 (p. 1295):

What Fauci confirmed to the few graduate students and working scientists who perused this book was that the result of HIV arriving in the human body was to touch off and maintain proliferation of T-cells, rather than killing them off.

What happens is that for a 56 fold (5600 per cent) gain in HIV early on CD4 T-cells drop maybe 6% but CD8 T-cells rise 20 per cent. The net increase is there until drugs are provided, in which case this beneficial effect is wiped out. If the drugs are stopped, then the benefit is once again felt.

The total outcome is hidden in the complexity of the immune system – there are other major factors involved in the standard and rather misleading T-cell count, such as rate of production, redistribution, longevity of cells, level of apoptosis and activation induced cell death – but these trends are clear, Fauci pointed out:

“Several investigators have demonstrated that there is an increase in CD4+ T-cell proliferation in both HIV and SIV infection. In certain studies, the enhanced T-cell proliferation that was observed during active disease was significantly decreased following the initiation of anti-retroviral therapy, and proliferation increased again in parallel with plasma viremia following the cessation of treatment in these individuals.

Read the Proceedings for genuine AIDS truths

Fauci’s reference is a paper by Lempicki R. A. et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (97:13778-83, 2000). The Proceedings is the place where all those seriously interested in what is really going on in science should go, perhaps. It is after all, the place where Peter Duesberg’s definitive review and rejection of HIV as the cause of AIDS took place nearly two decades ago, a beautifully written and argued exposition with 200 footnoted references from mainstream literature which oddly enough has never been answered in the same journal, though the HIV=AIDS paradigm author Bob Gallo promised the editors he would do so.

Apparently Gallo preferred to do so from the safe bunker of the last chapters of Virus Hunting, his 1991 book three years later which was happily not subject to peer review, nor did it have to provide references, unlike Duesberg’s masterpiece, which was afterwards cited in Nobel prize winning biologist Walter Gilbert’s graduate class at Harvard as an exemplary paradigm challenge. But we digress, as usual for the benefit of newcomers to this issue.

Fauci explains what kills T cells

faucihairflat.jpgReturning to Dr Fauci’s brave and perspicacious statement drawing the attention of insiders to the efficacy of HIV in stimulating the immune system, and the negative impact of drugs, this seemed at such odds with the general assumption in HIV∫AIDS that HIV kills T-cells rather than adds to them, and that drugs are needed to defeat the virus at whatever cost, that when Dr Fauci and Mathilde Krim mounted the stage at the New School with Larry Kramer to celebrate 25 years of HIV∫AIDS a year ago June 19th, Robert Houston took the opportunity to ask Dr Fauci about it.

The question came as a rowdy audience of middle aged gays calmed down after upsetting Larry Kramer so much with their objections to him telling the representative of the New York Times that the Times didn’t cover the issue of HIV∫AIDS enough that he stalked off the stage.

His departure was a pity, for his long time friend Dr Fauci gave an extremely informative reply which heralded the final solution of the AIDS puzzle, suggesting both its cause and its cure.

Fauci’s Final Solution in AIDS

facuimikehand-upo.jpgHere’s how it went. Houston asked his question as follows, both flattering the two exceptional scientists and armed with the reference to the Fauci written statement if for some reason the great man saw fit to deny it.

Houston: We have two of the most distinguished scientists in the world on AIDS on this panel and I would like to ask a basic scientific question. How does HIV cause AIDS? Does it do so by directly killing T-cells, as the New York Times science writers seem to tell us, or do you think it does it in the opposite way: by causing T-cells to multiply – and by overactivating the immune system?

And this is how Dr Fauci explained how HIV boosted the immune system, rather than crippled it, having identified drugs as the real cause of T-cell decline in his written review earlier:

Fauci: Well… It does it in both ways. I don’t want to waffle with you on that but it is very, very clear that HIV is related to a very aberrant turning on and activation of T-cells. When T-cells are sustained in their activation – because every time anybody in this room gets an immune response to a benign virus or bacteria your immune system activates (he draws line going up in air with his hand) and then it goes down again (draws line in the air going down again) to the base line.

We like the Freudian slip here in calling HIV a ‘benign” virus, but we may have misheard Fauci – readers can check for themselves when we put the video up on YouTube shortly for the admiration of all.

Here Fauci has confirmed that when HIV is responded to by the immune system, the T-cells are activated to drive it out, and indeed, reference to the Lempicki paper will, as Robert Houston has shown here in the last comment attached to our earlier post nominating Fauci for the Nobel, for a 56-fold rise in HIV viral load between early and intermediate levels of infection, CD4 T-cells decline not very much (around 6% in the chart), while CD8 T-cells rise 20 per cent, for a combined rise of 11%. Now Fauci continued:

When you have a high level of viremia with a lot of activation you just drive the immune system to an aberrant form of activation that leads to the death of a cell, even cells which don’t directly get infected with HIV. They die by a process called apoptosis, meaning essentially they die a suicidal type death.

Here the director of NIAID for 23 years is bringing in cell suicide as a means of explaining how T-cells do die in the face of HIV. Apoptosis is indeed the last refuge of HIV∫AIDS paradigm promoters in their anxiety to explain how it is that HIV might be causing immune collapse by killing T-cells, when there is no discernible biological activity along these lines detected by any researcher in the 23 years of exceptionally well funded HIV∫AIDS research.

The problem is that until Dr Fauci in this reply confirmed that this was the case, doubters had wondered what the evidence was that there was any more cell suicide than normal when the body is aiming for homeostasis, ie returning to the normal balance in the proportions of the constituents of the blood. Cell suicide is a normal process here, and with the levels being maintained, as Dr Fauci confirms, it is hard to see how it is killing off so many T-cells that the immune system collapses.

claudius-ptolemy.jpgThe difficulty that conjuring up cell suicide is intended to solve is that there is no evidence of any mechanism by which HIV directly kills T-cells, which was the original premise of Robert Gallo’s theory that HIV was the cause of the immune collapse of AIDS. The evidence is that HIV does not kill T-Cells, so enthusiasts for the well funded paradigm had to come up with indirect ways it might get rid of T-cells.

Apoptosis is the best they could come up with, which didn’t present any great difficulty to the army of officials, politicians, activists, health workers, journeyman scientists and dying AIDS patients who were told of this solution perhaps because none of them had heard of Ptolemy the Egyptian, who managed to work out elliptical orbits that could predict the movements of the planets even though he assumed that the Sun went around the Earth, rather than vice versa. The indirect mechanisms by which HIV is said to work its fatal effects on T-cells are the elliptical trajectories of the HIV∫AIDS explanation of AIDS.

Now, however, the director of NIAID sums it all up in one beautiful breakthrough concept which accounts, finally, for the ultimate decline and fall of the human immune system after years of responding to HIV by making T-cells which effectively drive out the virus in a matter of weeks, reducing it to minimal levels of as little as one to five active virions per milliliter, impossible to detect without PCR.

Why does it all change? Steam is key

pcousyn-steam_engine.jpgThe puzzle has always been, why does the immune system collapse in five ten or even twenty years, if it has got rid of virtually all virus within six weeks. Fauci now ‘explains’:

You can wind up depleting your T-cells by direct infection and those cells dying or just a burst of aberrant activation and also some elimination by the immune system of infected cells. So it’s not a unified concept; there’s multifactorial ways in which you drain your T-cells and then after a few years you just run out of steam.

sink.jpegIn other words, Dr Fauci is prepared to throw everything including the kitchen sink into the mix. Those who say that HIV doesn’t kill T-cells are wrong, it does kill them by “direct infection” somehow. Then you have more killed by cell suicide after a “burst of aberrant activation”. Finally – here is the key at last – the immune system just “runs out of steam”.

Dr Fauci’s Solution to AIDS

Robert Houston confesses that he failed to follow up his question because he was prepared only for Fauci to deny that T-cells proliferated when faced with HIV. What we wish he had done is congratulate Fauci for a conceptual framework which tells us how to defeat AIDS.
Unless we misunderstand him, here is his solution to HIV∫AIDS:

1. With even a dramatic leap in viral load, the T-cells divide faster in response. The end result is that CD 8 T-cell count goes up substantially, with no significant decline in CD 4 T-cell count.

2. So if there is any concern that the immune system is weak, simply add more HIV.

3. Remove ARV drugs, and T-cells will multiply and return to excess levels again.

4. After defeating HIV is a matter of weeks and then maintaining this success for up to twenty years, somehow the immune system might run of steam.

5. But as Dr Fauci’s choice of phrase implies this loss of steam can surely be prevented with proper exercise, nutrition, fresh air, travel and all other general health stimulants, including the renewed optimism that comes from knowing there is a solution – the Fauci Solution to AIDS.

But since the Lasker winner didn’t actually mention this last point explicitly perhaps we can check with him at the lunch where he will accept his prize, surrounded by the members of the medical and economic establishment, of which he has long been a fully paid up member.

faucihandsinair.jpgSo after years of the whole world left confused and supporting antiretroviral drugs as the only defense against the deadly effect of HIV, we have Dr Fauci to thank for telling us that on the contrary, it is HIV rather than drugs which benefit the immune system.

Of course, it must be acknowledged that both Robert Gallo, and two years later Peter Duesberg, were the first to point out that HIV was harmlessly involved in AIDS. But neither of them detected the fact that it was actually beneficial to AIDS patients.

Gallo, of course, proved that HIV was not the cause of AIDS with his 1984 papers showing it was occurring in only one third of sick AIDS patients, with pre-AIDS patients having it more often, suggesting it was a possible antidote. Now Anthony Fauci has found why – HIV stimulates the immune system – and he has also noticed that drugs have a negative impact.

Considering that the drug companies involved in HIV∫AIDS have a considerable interest in this revision of the paradigm, we feel that Anthony Fauci is showing considerable moral fortitude in revealing these insights in public in front of gay activists, who were already a noisy crowd and most of them funded by the drug companies.

Luckily, however, none of them noticed.

Fauci wins Lasker

September 17th, 2007

Deserves it for his power to explain biological threats, says award

One step towards Nobel for revealing HIV is harmless after all, we say

fauci190.jpgFans of Dr Anthony Fauci, the smoothly tailored director of NIAIDS since 1984, will be pleased to hear he has won the Lasker award.

This is one step nearer the Nobel we heralded earlier here at New AIDS Review, a prize we thought the good doctor deserved for his contributions to our understanding of the solution to AIDS.

After all, his meta review of the grand puzzle in AIDS, how HIV can possibly cause the syndrome without showing any sign whatsoever of relevant biological activity, contained the thrilling revelation that the best antidote to HIV may be HIV itself!

For Fauci noted in that masterwork that the main effect of HIV when it arrives in the bloodstream was to excite the production of greater levels of T cells than normal, ie prompted them to proliferate rather than kill them.

This honest admission that HIV might act as its own cure was modestly communicated only to the National Academy and not to the general public, but since it indicated that an endlessly expensive effort to find a vaccine might not be needed after all, and that the lethal AIDS drugs could be thrown in the trash, we felt it was quite important.

Now the Times backs our contention that Fauci deserves nomination for a trip to Stockholm by reporting with apparent approval that the Lasker will be awarded to the great bureaucrat this year, for his services in facilitating counter measures to AIDS all these years.

September 16, 2007
4 Winners of Lasker Medical Prize
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN

Two surgeons who developed prosthetic heart valves that have prolonged the lives of millions of people are among the winners of this year’s Lasker awards, widely considered the nation’s most prestigious medical prizes.

Drs. Alain Carpentier, 74, of the Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris, and Albert Starr, 81, of the Providence Health System in Portland, Ore., are among three American and one French scientists to win the awards, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced yesterday.

The third, Dr. Ralph M. Steinman, 64, of Rockefeller University in Manhattan, discovered a cell that starts a cascade of immune responses that defend the body against microbes. The cell is now the basis of experimental therapies for cancer and many other diseases.

The fourth winner, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, 66, is an internationally known immunologist who is being honored as the principal architect of two major Bush administration programs: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, and Project Bioshield, which seeks to improve countermeasures against potential bioterror agents.

Dr. Fauci, who has directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, marshaled scientific evidence to construct the United States’ responses to these two global crises. The Lasker Foundation also cited Dr. Fauci for his role “in explaining issues of great concern like the science behind emerging biological hazards” to the public.

The prestigious Lasker is the harbinger of the Nobel – 72 of the winners have gone on to the Nobel as well – for such great men as Fauci, but for the moment he will have to be happy with the limited renown of the US prize, and will at least be able to pocket a nice piece of change in addition to his royal stipend at NIAID.

Dr. Steinman and Dr. Fauci will each receive $150,000 and Dr. Starr and Dr. Carpentier will each receive $75,000.

Here at NAR we feel vindicated since we suggested to Dr Anthony Fauci when we met him last year, (in the Washington HIVNET meeting where all those he funds to pursue trials of AIDS drugs in Africa gathered to hear him assure them that he would make sure their money came through) that we cover him as a “hero of AIDS’, and were surprised when after several moment’s thought he declined the flattering invitation.

Since Fauci is cited for his helpfulness in “explaining issues of great concern” maybe we will now put up his remarkable answer to Robert Houston at the panel at the New School later in 2006 when he and Mathilde Krim celebrated 25 years of HIV∫AIDS with Larry Kramer, until the gay playwright activist walked off the stage in a huff, when Houston rescued the two by hailing their importance as scientists and asking Fauci how he thought HIV killed T cells.

Dr Fauci’s answer was most informative and we will give the text here shortly after putting the video up on YouTube, in recognition of the signal honor to be extended to Dr Fauci in New York when he next visits.

We can honestly say it is one of the most helpful explanations we have heard any of the paradigm protectors give in public, since Dr Robert Gallo (a double Lasker winner) gave his renowned prize lectures at Columbia University.

When you read and/or hear it you will see what we mean.

Frog (4):Derek Price saw it all

September 14th, 2007

Why human factors spoil science

PLoS authors get it wrong, wielding paradigm as religious belief

Top paradigm critic, elite, peer-reviewed, authoritative, responsible – and stampeded over

derekdesollaprice.jpgAs readers of the evolving blog heading may have noted, we are having trouble finding space to list all the human factors which nowadays interfere with science as a pure and principled search for truth (All contributions welcome:-)).

The fundamental reason for the human factor – politics, bias, and “data management”- being a worse problem than ever before in the history of science is that small science has become Big Science with a vengeance over the last half century.

As huge sums have flowed in and been spent, with attendant and burgeoning publicity and coverage in media and book publishing, science as a practice has morphed from an individual vocation to a group profession, and inevitably it has been adulterated with the attitudes and interests of people who like to inhabit a big institutional framework sustained by large amounts of funding from Washington and Wall Street. Annual direct and associated spending on the HIV∫AIDS paradigm is reckoned at $7 billion a year by one count, for example.

Derek saw it coming

All these problems of the changing nature of science and scientists were foreseen long ago by Yale’s Derek J. De Solla Price, the historian of science, in his powerful little book Little Science Big Science, based on four 1962 Pegram Lectures given at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Just to quote one paragraph (here broken up):

“I suggest that all those characteristics (first born, lost one parent, etc) apply to people who became eminent in the days of Little Science and that we do not yet have much inkling of whatever new characteristics have been elicited by the change to the new conditions of Big Science.

Many of the personality traits found formerly seem to be consistent with the hypothesis that many scientists turned to their profession for an emotional gratification that was otherwise lacking. If this is true, be it only a partial explanation, one can still see how cataclysmic must be the effect of changing the emotional rewards of the scientific life.

If scientists were, on the whole, relatively normal people, just perhaps more intelligent or even more intelligent in some special directions, it would not be so difficult. But since it appears that scientists are especially sensitive to their modes of gratification and to the very personality traits that have made them become scientists, one must look very carefully at anything which tampers with and changes these systems of reward.

Any such change will make Big Scientists people of very different temperament and personality from those we have become accustomed to as traditional among Little Scientists.”

This paragraph evokes a radical change in temperament and approach to science between old and new science and scientists. Some would say this is perfectly exemplified in HIV∫AIDS by Peter Duesberg and Robert Gallo, the former a vocational scientist unwilling to sacrifice any principles of scientific truthseeking for earthly rewards, the latter a career scientist occupying the opposite end of the spectrum in all his glory as a one time celebrity globetrotter. One indication of which type a scientist may be is the number of papers to which his name attached beyond the number that it is humanly possible for one individual to write. Gallo had 930 papers to his credit by 2002.

Consensus merely means current

We are concerned here, in this obscure but, we hope, eventually influential blog, with this vast social change in science from one very specific point of view: the abysmal lack of understanding among the new order of scientists of how science actually works in ruthlessly replacing its paradigms as it advances, paradigms which naturally sit atop wide consensus before they are so rudely interrupted by better analysis and data.

For what are paradigms after all but the umbrella assumptions under which all who toil in the rice paddies and fields at the bottom of the mountains of science do their work. Journeymen scientists typically never question these ruling beliefs, and why should they? If they did they would never accomplish any work. In a way therefore paradigms serve as the religions of science, and indeed they are often defended in the same irrational manner as religious beliefs.

The stampede of the sheep

sheep-flock.jpgBut these are the sentiments of followers, the congregation rather than the priests. Consensus in science merely means temporary wisdom, it turns out. As paradigms are modified or replaced – stomach ulcers are found to be produced by bacteria, not stress, for example – consensus shifts eventually from old to new. Unfortunately, this group shift is a lot slower and stickier than the shift of thinking individuals.

This is why Jonathan Swift remarked, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him. ” The fools imagine that current consensus is scriptural authority and always get in the way of anyone with a new and better idea, imagining that they are putting down error, when this may not be the case. If the credentials of the apparently crackpot original thinker are good enough, you first have to examine his case thoroughly and with an open mind.

Paradigms, it seems, are maintained by groups and changed by clever individuals, who often seem off the wall to the army of conventional scientists that naturally opposes them. Individuals are the mountain goats among the sheep, who find something new and better, and then find they have to suffer through all the resistance and scorn offered by believers whose built in assumptions are threatened, not to mention their investment in the old. When those who are successful finally reap their Nobel, they typically have bitter stories to tell of the vicissitudes of their younger days, where paradigm defenders who control peer reviewed publication block their papers and hurl the intellectual equivalent of fiery tar balls and dead cows over the ramparts of their castle at the invaders.

The influx of power and money has magnified the resistance to change beyond measure, because the investment in the old has built up bigger pyramids than ever before. In the case of HIV∫AIDS, moreover, the leaders of the field have implemented active discouragement of media coverage to an unprecedented degree, so many scientists and most heard of the challenge, let alone its merits.

This was demonstrated by Hank Campbell, a contributor at scienceblogging who runs a “thermal analysis” company, recently: “Did you know there was even a debate about whether or not HIV causes AIDS? I didn’t. You might as well have walked up and told me puppies and free money don’t cause happiness – I was that shocked – but a debate there is and I learned about it when I read an editorial in PLoS ( Public Library of Science) Medicine titled HIV Denial in the Internet Era….I had quite literally no idea this was even an issue before I saw the editorial.”

But paradigm protectors such as John P. Moore and Anthony Fauci benefit from the fundamental trend as well. For in modern times, defenders of paradigms are ever more entrenched in vast systems and elite institutions, running invisible colleges which make belief in their paradigm a requirement of club membership. Loss of that highly privileged and rewarding membership can be crippling financially and socially in a way which imposes and fosters unthinking loyalty to whatever paradigm is in place, whatever scientists may privately think.

Why Peter failed to move the pyramid

goatmountainbig.jpegAs the experience of Peter Duesberg demonstrates, even the best scientist in a field whose worth is officially and universally acknowledged can be defeated by the politics of the monsters that the influx of billions into science has created, if the leaders of a profitable paradigm and their vast sea of followers close ranks against him.

For any challenge to the paradigm is a challenge to the system, and those who live by it, for a modern paradigm is an institutionalized belief, as deeply rooted in its secular church as any religion, as rewarding and protective and as stoutly defended by its foot soldiers as Christian or Muslim beliefs.

When Duesberg’s critique first appeared in Cancer Research three years after the HIV∫AIDS paradigm was established, the pyramid was already immovable. The endorsement of the theory by the federal government was made clear at the 1984 press conference, so federal funding had been diverted exclusively to the new solution for almost three years.

Many papers since, culminating in 2003 – see Duesberg’s Papers on HIV∫AIDS – had less and less effect, as the HIV∫AIDS pyramid became one of the new wonders of the world, inflating to a size greater than the Cheops pyramid of Egypt, and as immovable.

That is why the very specific purpose of this blog is this:

To defend good science against the unscientific assumption that challenging institutionalized beliefs in science is by definition wrong.

On the contrary, it is how science evolves. While we all have to be very careful in examining major novelty, which can easily attract spurious enthusiasm in the media via premature press conferences, as in the classic examples of cold fusion and HIV in AIDS, we must remember also that science progresses by replacing paradigms, and that the ever larger built in resistance to change in big science must not be allowed to take over, as it has in HIV∫AIDS.

There the above assumption that critics must be wrong has taken over so completely that the attitude to paradigm critics is reflex scorn, insults and ostracism, all of it deaf to scientific points. It reminds one of church leaders condemning the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian, without having seen it. “You don’t have to go into a pig sty to know that it stinks!”

The ruling assumption of the Tara essay is bad science

frog.jpegAnd nowhere do we have a better example of that thoughtless assumption in action than our favorite Frog, the Library of Science essay by Tara Smith of Iowa and Steven Connall of Yale on “HIV Denial in the Internet Era”, which scorns the heretics of HIV∫AIDS by pretending that their case is nothing but uninformed comment on the Web by ignoramuses.

All of it is written in the belief that the critics of HIV in AIDS are so wrong in tilting against consensus that there is no need to mention their objections in detail. In fact, simply recording their points and their behavior is enough to demonstrate they must be making some kind of error by challenging what ‘everyone knows’.

That is why we now hurry back to list the objections that any person familiar with the history of science and medicine will make to the essay, which in its many misstatements offers a chance to correct all the misconceptions that obscure the case of the critics in the censored debate on the validity of believing in the HIV∫AIDS paradigm, that HIV is an infectious virus which collapses the immune system and causes AIDS.

Cont. next Frog post (5)

Paradigm buster dies

September 11th, 2007

Says “I Love You” as last words, then conks

Alex counted, reported colors, shapes, materials for Irene, even ordered breakfast

But no recursive logic, humanity’s defenders rush to point out

Sad news today. After a brilliant, 31 year academic and show biz career as a student of language and television star on PBS and BBC, Irene Pepperberg’s research subject Alex passed away in the night, last Thursday.

alexparrot.jpgHe knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in TV shows, scientific reports, and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.

But last week Alex, an African Grey parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of its life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31.

Scientists have long debated whether any other species can develop the ability to learn human language. Alex’s language facility was, in some ways, more surprising than the feats of primates that have been taught American Sign Language, like Koko the gorilla, trained by Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org in Woodside, Calif., or Washoe the chimpanzee, studied by R. Allen and Beatrice Gardner at the University of Nevada in the 1960s and 1970s….

Even up through last week, Alex was working with Dr. Pepperberg on compound words and hard-to-pronounce words. As she put him into his cage for the night last Thursday, Dr. Pepperberg said, Alex looked at her and said: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”

He was found dead in his cage the next morning, and was determined to have died late Thursday night.

We have known about and admired Alex for a long time, but we were never surprised by his facility with words, since we have long owned an African Grey, who is both affectionate and knows exactly what is going on.

However, we haven’t taught her to order breakfast yet, which was the most human-like feat Alex managed, in our book. Reportedly Irene would ask Alex what he wanted for breakfast, and Alex might say “Apple!’ If he was then brought a banana, he would say “No banana! Apple!”

No, no, humans are still superior!

As Benedict Carey reports Alex was a paradigm buster who pushed the envelope of what bird brains were thought capable of (by scientists), and seemed to surpass both Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimp in some ways.

But note the resistance that some people put up to any idea that a parrot might compete with a human child. They rush to point out that Alex lacked “recursive logic”, and “grammatical structure”, as if they were defending a fence between humans and the rest of the animal world.

Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn about 150 words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers, as well as colors and shapes. “The work revolutionized the way we think of bird brains,” said Diana Reiss, a psychologist at Hunter College who works with dolphins and elephants. “That used to be a pejorative, but now we look at those brains — at least Alex’s — with some awe.”

Other scientists, while praising the research, cautioned against characterizing Alex’s abilities as human. The parrot learned to communicate in basic expressions — but it did not show the sort of logic and ability to generalize that children acquire at an early age, they said. “There’s no evidence of recursive logic, and without that you can’t work with digital numbers or more complex human grammar,” said David Premack, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

We prefer to think of the differences as a spectrum in which different abilities merge into one another like the colors in a rainbow, so that we are simply farther along in a continuum where animals and it seems birds and other creatures do have much more in common with us that we have allowed in the past.

bootsieupsodedown.jpgWe used to sit with guests and while they were all still sitting down and we hadn’t yet noticed any signs of incipient departure, our African Grey would suddenly pipe up “Goodbye! Goodbye!” and it would become clear that indeed they were just about ready to take their leave. The parrot could read body language very well. Bootsie (left) was reading cues, she didn’t give them the cue to leave, we assure you.

Does anyone except Irene and other African Grey owners care about Alex’s departure? Seems so. It is currently the top story on the “e-mailed” list at the Times.

We are just sorry to recall how much trouble Irene and Alex had gaining funding for one of the most interesting research projects around. But that’s the fate of paradigm busters.

Here is the story in the Times, Alex, a Parrot Who Had a Way With Words, DiesThe New York Times
September 10, 2007
Alex, a Parrot Who Had a Way With Words, Dies
By BENEDICT CAREY

He knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in TV shows, scientific reports, and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.

But last week Alex, an African Grey parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of its life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31.

Scientists have long debated whether any other species can develop the ability to learn human language. Alex’s language facility was, in some ways, more surprising than the feats of primates that have been taught American Sign Language, like Koko the gorilla, trained by Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org in Woodside, Calif., or Washoe the chimpanzee, studied by R. Allen and Beatrice Gardner at the University of Nevada in the 1960s and 1970s.

When, in 1977, Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans. Most of the research had been done in pigeons, and was not promising.

But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn about 150 words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers, as well as colors and shapes. “The work revolutionized the way we think of bird brains,” said Diana Reiss, a psychologist at Hunter College who works with dolphins and elephants. “That used to be a pejorative, but now we look at those brains — at least Alex’s — with some awe.”

Other scientists, while praising the research, cautioned against characterizing Alex’s abilities as human. The parrot learned to communicate in basic expressions — but it did not show the sort of logic and ability to generalize that children acquire at an early age, they said. “There’s no evidence of recursive logic, and without that you can’t work with digital numbers or more complex human grammar,” said David Premack, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Pepperberg used an innovative approach to teach Alex. African Greys are social birds, and pick up some group dynamics very quickly. In experiments, Dr. Pepperberg would employ one trainer to, in effect, compete with Alex for a small reward, like a grape. Alex learned to ask for the grape by observing what the trainer was doing to get it; the researchers then worked with the bird to help shape the pronunciation of the words.

Alex showed surprising facility. For example, when shown a blue paper triangle, he could tell an experimenter what color the paper was, what shape it was, and — after touching it — what it was made of. He demonstrated off some of his skills on nature shows, including programs on the BBC and PBS. He famously shared scenes with the actor Alan Alda on the PBS series, “Look Who’s Talking.”

Like parrots can, he also picked up one-liners from hanging around the lab, like “calm down,” and “good morning.” He could express frustration, or apparent boredom, and his cognitive and language skills appeared to be about as competent as those in trained primates. His accomplishments have also inspired further work with African Grey parrots; two others, named Griffin and Arthur, are a part of Dr. Pepperberg’s continuing research program.

Even up through last week, Alex was working with Dr. Pepperberg on compound words and hard-to-pronounce words. As she put him into his cage for the night last Thursday, Dr. Pepperberg said, Alex looked at her and said: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”

He was found dead in his cage the next morning, and was determined to have died late Thursday night.

Henry corrects Tara

September 10th, 2007

Professor drives nice point through Frog’s heart

Consensus is not the measure of a paradigm

Lists signs it is ripe for replacement, points to censorship

Buy his book!

henrybauer.jpgHenry Bauer, author of the comprehensive and well phrased book on the failings of HIV∫AIDS mentioned below, The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory by Henry H. Bauer (McFarland Publishers, 2007, $35) alerted us today that the Public Library of Medicine “has warmed the cockles of my heart by posting the following” as email:

Consensus in science

Henry Bauer

Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Science Studies

Virginia Tech

E-mail

Competing Interests: As revealed in the letter, I am author of a dissident HIV/AIDS book

Submitted Date: September 06, 2007

Published: September 10, 2007

Smith and Novella fail to define ‘rigorous scientific standards’, and apply implicitly this single criterion: accordance with the prevailing mainstream consensus. Evidently they accept as unproblematic a ‘strongly held consensus opinion of the scientific community’ that has persisted for ’23 years’. This begs questions grappled with in a century’s worth of scholarship in science studies (history, philosophy, sociology, etc., of science), thereby ignoring fundamental insights about scientific activity. Amateur pundits – including scientists, journalists, and others – continue to rely on such discredited notions as ‘the scientific method’ and ‘falsifiability’ even as scholarship in science studies long ago demonstrated their inadequacy and abandoned the quest for a definable distinction between science and pseudoscience (1). Pseudoscience is like pornography: it cannot be defined, only ‘recognized when we see it’ – albeit different people judge any given case differently.

A mainstream consensus in science is useful in the short run, as a summary of empirical data and a guide to further research, but it is no absolute truth. Indeed, the mainstream consensus almost always proves inadequate in the longer run: science progresses precisely by modifying a ‘well-established’ consensus in fundamental ways or by overturning it entirely in scientific revolutions (2). Most important to note and not widely appreciated is the fact that before such a paradigm shift, the mainstream typically resists strenuously what eventually becomes the new consensus (3). The contemporary attacks on ‘HIV/AIDS denialists’ (including the frequently ad hominem features of those attacks) illustrate well that typical circumstance.

Among indications that HIV/AIDS theory, like so many consensual scientific beliefs before it, is destined for replacement are these: Gisselquist et al. (4) have shown that sexual transmission of HIV cannot explain the purported epidemics in Africa; an insider has revealed that the estimates promulgated by UNAIDS are unrealistic (5); the totality of official data on HIV tests in the USA are incompatible with the demographics of an infectious and sexually transmissible agent (6). The latter analysis by the present writer has been described in non-partisan sources as ‘credible’ (7) and ‘important . . closely reasoned . . . systematically demolishes the theory – more correctly the hypothesis or conjecture – that . . . (HIV) causes . . . (AIDS)’ (8). The first review to appear in a mainstream AIDS journal (9) is not uncritical yet acknowledges the book’s demonstration of ‘major failings of HIV epidemiology’ and that ‘competent and qualified people who questioned the orthodoxy have been largely excluded from the leading journals’ – illustrating the resistance to change noted above.

Smith and Novella are simply wrong in taking a prevailing mainstream consensus as a sound or sufficient basis for criticizing the views of well qualified individuals who dissent from that consensus.

References

1. Laudan, L. 1983. The demise of the demarcation problem. Pp. 111-27 in Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, ed. R. S. Cohen and L. Laudan, D. Reidel.
2. Kuhn, T. S. 1962/70. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
3. Hook, E. B. (ed). 2002. Prematurity in Scientific Discovery. University of California Press.
4. Gisselquist, D., R. Rothenberg, J. Potterat, and E. Drucker. 2002. HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa not explained by sexual or vertical transmission. International Journal of STD and AIDS 13: 657-66.
5. Chin, J. 2007. The AIDS Pandemic. Radcliffe.
6. Bauer, H H. 2007. The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory. McFarland.
7. Eberhart, G. 2007. C and RL News (College and Research Libraries News) 68, 6 (June).
8. W. F. Shughart II, Public Choice, in press.
9. Potterat , J. J. 2007. International Journal of STD and AIDS 18: 645-6.

Henry H. Bauer lives in Blacksburg, Virginia (tel is (540) 951-2107) and is editor-in-chief, Journal of Scientific Exploration and dean emeritus of arts & sciences, and professor emeritus of chemistry & science studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

We will do a review of his book as soon as we have time, but already we can say it is well worth paying even $35 for (it is a textbook) though it is only a small paperback (282 pages). Written in scholarly and polished prose, it is notable for the graceful accuracy of its phrasing, which accomplishes what NAR tries and often fails to do, which is to describe what is happening in an accurate way that tells all, without any loaded phrases of the journalistic kind.

Its content deserves to be much bigger in format than 9x6in, since it is unusually comprehensive and covers the topic against a background of the history and philosophy of science, since Henry Bauer has made a specialty of writing about, assessing and publishing paradigm challenges. In this case it appears that in a remarkably short time he was able to penetrate to several new understandings of why the paradigm won’t fly.

His book is listed at McFarland in North Carolina whose order line is 1-800-253-2187. They have sold 300 of the first two printings, with only 44 left this morning. That’s about 300 people with sufficient interest to pay $35 and be well informed by a seasoned observer of paradigm disputes, surely worthwhile if you are involved in this issue in any way.

We wonder how much of Bauer’s willingness to deal with this topic fearlessly has to do with the fact he is emeritus and thus somewhat beyond the vengeful strictures attempted on other critics in this paradigm arena, which have included attacks on the jobs as well as character of paradigm critics.

Judging from his accomplished work in this area, we imagine that his institution has always been enlightened in this realm, and any underhand tactics by the likes of John P. Moore, Nancy Padian and Mark Wainberg, whose belief in HIV impels them to write letters of complaint to the administration officials of universities and others that harbor critics would get short shrift from Virgina Polytechnic.

Dissecting the Frog (3):who knows best?

September 10th, 2007

We like generals with medals too, but will they say the Emperor is naked?

Henry and Gordon teach Tara science history

When the credentials issue is a red herring

bigfanfaretrumpet.jpgGetting back to our curmudgeonly dissection of the recent loud, off key trumpet blast in defense of the HIV/AIDS paradigm, HIV Denial in the Internet Era, at the NSF Public Library of Science by the trusting Tara C. Smith of Iowa and her helpful older colleague Steven P. Novella of Yale, we now examine the largely spurious issue of credentials, since after the title, the next thing mentioned are Tara and Steven’s credentials to pontificate on the web pages of the NSF Library of Science on how the eternal verities of paradigm challenges in the history of science can be applied to the critics of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm. That’s the one that states that HIV is the indisputable single cause of the most variable global disease of all time.

For the paper comes with the following author attribution:

Tara C. Smith, to whom correspondence should be addressed (email: tara-smith@uiowa.edu) is with the Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, Iowa, United States of America. Steven P. Novella is with the Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.

Why is the issue of credentials spurious? Let’s see. Credentials imply a reason to be believed, on some level. But is this relevant to paradigm disputes? We would say not, since those with the “best” ie biggest pile of conventional credentials – positions with leading institutions, prizes awarded by committee, funding awarded by peers, textbooks contributed to, and so on, very often are the same people who subscribe to a paradigm by reflex, knowing which side their bread is buttered.

Foot soldiers of conventional belief

smith-and-novella-groupvvv.jpgBoth Tara and Steve are fully paid up junior members of the established order willing to prove their loyalty at any juncture, judging from their appearance. In fact, we imagine that you can gather a good impression of Tara and Steven’s mental styles simply from their publicity photos, which establish both scientists as very presentable – in Tara’s case, undeniably pretty, scrumptious as a sponge cake with icing in a wholesome and trustworthy way, in Steven’s case, strikingly personable and strong featured, and well situated in a Yale office in a white coat, ready to win funding, do neurological research on neuromuscular disorders and teach the young ‘uns what has been achieved so far.

We are suitably impressed, for sure. These are the kind of conformists you can trust, who know their conformist stuff. They are the faithful torch bearers of science, who study their material well, and know how to behave at meetings and conferences. Not just impressed, we lik’em! No trouble will come from Tara or Steve for the current paradigm in any field, we imagine. They can be counted on to defend it strenuously, even if a conference is called specifically to examine whether it as true or not.

For what else do they know? Their skepticism is exclusively reserved for the unconventional. These are journeymen scientists, constitutionally incapable of questioning what we all “know”, in the Einstein, Feynman or Duesberg mode. They are the scientific equivalent of government officials and corporate executives, whose testimony in favor of their boss or their product is uncrackable.

Hold on, you might well object, we can’t have this. We have no right to speculate so cynically without more data. You can’t tell much from a photo, or even several. You need much more data. Agreed, we apologize. But look what further research reveals.

Novella is a skeptic!

Turns out that assistant Yale professor Steven Novella is known as a skeptical investigator of paranormal research, and any other fringe shenanigans he can get his hands on. He is the co-founder and president of the New England Skeptical Society, associate editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, and the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, and host of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, a weekly podcast discussing paranormal topics, pseudoscience, and skepticism. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Quackwatch and the American Council on Science and Health.

A true skeptic, you might say, well qualified to evaluate HIV=AIDS skepticism without prejudice. Well, the problem is that he is the other kind of skeptic, very willing to practice his skepticism but only on the favorite targets of the entrenched establishment. Such men win the accolade of “skeptic” in the safest possible way, “inside the tent pissing out”, as Lyndon Johnson might have put it.

But he is not, evidently, willing to turn the eagle eye of his skepticism on an established belief, certainly not in this case, that’s for sure. We find such people not very helpful, because they wear blinkers which prevent them from fully understanding the crucial point about scientific skepticism. It is not merely for protecting conventional wisdom.

Yes, in the name of good science we want to defend sense from the nonsense, and protect hard won knowledge from the crackpots and the charlatans and the honestly mistaken who challenge it, who are simply, provably wrong. These are the easy targets.

But there is a more fundamental task for skeptics in science in the opposite direction. We want to maintain a certain skepticism about what most of us already believe. This is because fundamental scientific progress is only won through originality that improves and replaces conventional wisdom. The ruling paradigm in science is by definition what gives way when a real leap forward in understanding occurs.

Flouting the lessons of history

emperornoclothes.jpgThe ruling belief is what needs to be protected from artificial preservation from insiders in science, those who are so fond of the status quo that they are psychologically blinded to the merit of new ideas, or the defects of old ones. They cannot evaluate new knowledge objectively if it threatens their stock in trade, and what they often do as in Tara and Steven’s case is take the easy way out, automatically assuming that anything outside common wisdom and consensus must be suspect.

They don’t open the door to review wide enough, if at all. They may even slam it shut.

Judging from their demeanor and their arguments, Tara and Steven are this conservative type – upholders of scientific tradition, and suspicious of change. Nothing wrong with that on the face of it, but good science demands something more complex if it is to flourish, and if bad paradigms are not going to be kept long past their due date. stinking like rotten fish but with the Taras and Stevens of the world impervious to the smell because it is what they are used to.

This kind of reflex conservatism can be a real problem. It particularly burdens alternative medicine, whose contributions are often overly resisted and repressed in favor of the outmoded treatments they might replace. The briefly successful effort to expand the attention of the NIH to alternative medicine, for example, seems to have degenerated into little more than a takeover of its funding by established institutions pursuing relatively unoriginal avenues which don’t threaten established regimens and treatments.

Thus at Sloane-Kettering, we hear, public funds are said to be used to treat the stress of cancer with music therapy and aroma therapy in a department that spends more than a million dollars of public money annually, and then charges patients on top of that (a CD of Tibetan music and a can of scent spray would do just as well, our disgruntled critic claims, instead of spending “big money on something that won’t help the cancer”) while nutritional approaches are relatively ignored, since they tend to be advocated as alternatives to chemotherapy and surgery, rather than supplements, and therefore threaten the status quo.

Defending Daddy to the utmost

freud.jpgSpeculating again without enough data, we fancy this defensiveness translates psychologically into love for the establishment as a father substitute, in line with the religious impulse which commentators such as Tara and Steven seem to be taken over by in defending the status quo in HIV/AIDS without troubling to go deeply into the subject.

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Truth be told, it is a sign of the stark bankruptcy of the HIV=AIDS paradigm that so many lay people outside science whose professional qualifications are so far from the specialty of retrovirology see and understand the problems so well after teaching themselves what is going on.
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We suspect that this is the reason that both these highly presentable and reliable scientists have only thought in shallow terms about the big issues they are trying to deal with in HIV∫AIDS in this notably unsuccessful essay, which exactly proves our point. The tract is exhibit #1 if you want to demonstrate a reflex and presumptive response to paradigm dissent, in this case the glaringly flawed premise of HIV/AIDS, that a virus is the culprit.

That consideration defeats any attempt to go by credentials in weighing what scientists say when they dispute a big paradigm, since position and respectability flow a lot more freely to supporters of conventional wisdom than they do to critics and original minds like Richard Feynman and Peter Duesberg, not to mention Galileo Gallelei, who try to replace it.

villagestocks.jpgThey are liable to end up in the village stocks having turnips thrown at them by the peasants, if they manage to escape the Inquisition. That is, until they win out and are awarded the Nobel for their new view, and the old one is consigend tio the dustbin of history. Then the world reverses its spin and rotates around them and their ideas for a change, without anyone bothering to apologize for the roadblocks put in their way.

Unfortunately this doesn’t happen when paradigm publicists such as Anthony Fauci of NIAID lead the attack on paradigm critics by successfully stifling coverage of their ideas, and promoting the ideas of defenders, resulting in this kind of essay, more or less a collection of turnips, ending up at the National Science Foundation’s Library of Science, instead of one by Peter Duesberg, which would be a lot more educational, since it would be by one of the most distinguished, original and courageous minds in science, who has never been shown to cultivate one turnip in his garden of publications, which to some connoisseurs of literate science might be seen to include intellectual roses.

varmusbush.jpgBut then, who is the man behind the Library of Science other than Harold Varmus, whose Nobel for modest accomplishments was won at the expense of Duesberg’s, some critics say. Possibly to Varmus the credibility of Duesberg is a giant turnip, we wouldn’t know. All we do know is that when you mention to Varmus the view that oncogenes may not be all that they are cracked up to be, he is liable to answer, “Oh, so you are a Duesbergite!”

Why no credentials may be the best credentials

Anyhow, this is why credentials are not something which occupies intelligent people very long when paradigm replacement is being discussed. So when we read further along in the essay that

Indeed, many of the signatories to this statement (in support of paradigm review) lack any qualifications in virology, epidemiology, or even basic biology.

we don’t pay much attention. Truth be told, it is a sign of the stark bankruptcy of the HIV=AIDS paradigm that so many lay people outside science whose professional qualifications are so far from the specialty of retrovirology see and understand the problems so well after teaching themselves what is going on.

Credentials have their place, of course. Like Tara, we like to include the credentials of the speaker or writer is gauging what weight to give their data and opinions, if they are new to us. When seeking sources on any topic we like to deal with experts, and respected generals of a field, because they are more reliable – on the conventional wisdom – seem ideal.

However, when the wisdom is disputed, it is much likely to be improved by the maverick and the outsider than the trusted curators of the standard belief. All those investigating a disputed paradigm in science have to remember that.

Henry Bauer nailed it in new book

bauerbook.jpgIn fact, as Henry Bauer suggests in his fine new book, the Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory (McFarland, 2006, unfortunately $35 because it is a “textbook”), this factor plays a big role in holding back the big advances of science. His Chapter 15 is titled Maintaining the Monopoly and has many sections which apply to the Tara Tantrum, as the publication under discussion might be named – Controlling the Data, Censoring, and Evading, Misrepresenting and Ad Hominem Attacks included.

In Ignorance of How Science Works, Bauer notes this:

Researchers are typically unaware that unorthodox views should be attended to precisely because they might hint at an important advance.

Maybe Tara and Steven should read that chapter, which also notes that

Public controversies might generate more light and less heat if there were a wider undertsanding of how science progress.

See also Henry Bauer’s Preface to his book.

All this is not so surprising, after all. Naturally newcomers to a field can view beliefs with a fresh, objective eye which reveals flaws and promising new avenues hidden from insiders who conform socially and emotionally to a shared ideology as their given stock in trade, one in which they are heavily invested, which tends to lend their proclamations of its inviolable truth a heartfelt sincerity the naive can easily mistake for genuine belief in its indisputable validity.

Beliefs which are needed for membership of your institution and for the emotional and financial support of your family cannot safely be objectively assessed by any member without inheriting money, saving up for twenty years or winning the lottery or a stock market gamble first, or some other way of gaining financial independence. Apparently this cynical consideration hasn’t yet penetrated the innocent minds of Tara and Steven, possibly because they are already wrapped by the many silken strands of this influence, which we have included in the logo of this blog. So their essay arises from it, being prompted consciously or not by the urge to polish apples for the teacher.

That presumably is what prevents such fine and well tutored minds, including a trained epidemiologist, after all, from perceiving the outrageous inconsistencies with science and common sense flaunted by the HIV∫AIDS wisdom they love so well. How else can you account for the fact that a highly vocal, shoot from the hip young epidemiologist has not been able to detect that there are gaping chasms in the epidemiology of HIV∫AIDS, even if she cannot see the impossibilities of the virology. Does she really not see that New York City and subtropical Africa are enduring quite different phenomena? Does she honestly believe that a gay disease in two continents can be heterosexual in the other three?

Meanwhile Gordon Stewart, a consultant to the World Health Organization and a first rate epidemiologist, concluded long ago that HIV is not a credible cause of AIDS, and in 1989 made accurate projections showing no spread of AIDS in the UK outside the risk groups, but the WHO, or the Royal Society or the Royal Statistical Society when they requested them. Stewart is quoted by Bauer as saying that

The censorship maintained by the international consensus of experts in the main research councils, learned societies, official committees, and WHO is unyielding; so also are the main channels in radio, television and the press….In my 57 years as a professional, I have never encountered anyhing like it nor did I ever think that I would in the world of medical science where, as in all other science, difference of opinion is the sine qua non of all advance.

Of course, what Stewart and other idealists overlook in judging others by their own gentlemanly ideals is the long litany of human foibles emblazoned on the banner logo of this humble blog (see top of the page), which account for modern misbehavior, such as hatred of whistleblowers, vindictive pleasure in squashing those out of step, and so on, in modern systems of organization, of which science is now one.

In fact, it is now appropriate to perceive this field of science as a global corporation, and its leaders as equivalent to the tobacco executives swearing to a Congressional committee that they believed smoking is good for you, and no harm had ever been shown. That is what HIV∫AIDS leaders now say about drugs, with equal justification ie none at all (see previous post).

Credentials may not be relevant

So to summarize: what are the real conclusions here?
(Please forgive the writer for repeating things, this is for the benefit of newcomers to this arena, who like a member of the press on the phone today, may arrive with this level of understanding of the issue: “But is there a debate? Surely it is a virus, they have seen it in the microscope!”:

1. Credentials are not necessarily relevant as long as outsiders can understand what is said and written. This is not a credentials battle, but a battle of reason and data. Credentials weigh on both sides of the balance of a paradigm dispute. As science advances, by its very nature it topples the current paradigm and all the bemedaled science generals who invented it, adopted it, researched it, preach it, teach it and live by and on it. High credentials in a field are as much grounds for suspicion as for credibility, when leaders are heavily invested in the ruling belief.

2. Lay commentators have in this issue have contributed a great deal to the understanding of the suspicious origin of the paradigm and its enduring flaws. Not surprisingly, since there is plenty of other professional expertise (market research, statistics, investigative journalism, political savvy) that can be brought to bear with advantage, not to mention sheer intelligence, and the advantages of outsider objectivity, many outsiders have come to see that HIV∫AIDS is suspect. Lawyers, for example, and insurance experts we have always found have no trouble at all in rapidly appreciating the outlines of this folly when we mention it.

3. Peter Duesberg’s qualifications remain supreme, as the one scientist in the world with a fine mind who has had the courage to research the entire range of possibilities and maintain against the heaviest possible opposition and sanctions his original conclusion and arguments against all attempts to undermine him and put him out of action in science. In other words, there is no other person on the planet who has devoted so much careful analysis to the paradigm and its supposed justifications, and the quality of his thinking is readily apparent to anyone who reads his fine papers (see for yourself at Duesberg.com).
In its precision, coverage and literacy, his work speaks for itself, in its superiority to the replies of his oppnents, and would be sufficient credential in itself even if this excellent scientist wasn’t a California Scientist of the Year, an NIH Outstanding Investigator, a member of the National Academy at 50, and the originator of two fields in modern scientific research, one of which he renounced as inaccurate (oncogenes), the other a new path now being adopted in cancer by his elite peers, and public spirited in the extreme ie even at the cost of loss of all public funding and a Nobel prize to boot.

Not to mention having to suffer the indignity of numberless local yokels throw turnips at him.

Sorry to say it, but judged on the basis of credentials alone (which we would never advise) the likelihood of the two authors of HIV Denial in the Internet Era being right in their assumption that he is wrong is about the same we calculate as the sun failing to rise in the East tomorrow.

turnips.jpegSpecial note to subscribers: We will continue with our analysis of the turnips in the next post on the topic of Tara and Steven’s Frog, which will finally deal with the content, having now got past the authors’ names.

Dying is “doing well”

September 8th, 2007

Crowe reads Journal of AIDS with meme-free vision

“The drugs work”, don’t they? Well, they kill babies

Collateral damage small price to pay for HIV protection – circumcision doesn’t protect!

bigdark.gifDavid Crowe of the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society has been reading the August 20 2007 issue of the Journal named “AIDS”. He is not wearing the meme prescription glasses supplied free by the editors and researchers of that leading journal, so they may not like what he finds.

His comments are bold in [] brackets:

[This issue of “AIDS” also has two articles on how to properly stop taking AIDS drugs. I guess they are worried about people both stopping drugs AND stopping visiting their doctors…]

[Severe side effects in a little girl due to exposure to AIDS drugs in the womb]
“A 7-month-old girl was admitted to intensive care following resuscitation for a severe metabolic acidosis. Her mother had started highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) at 6-weeks gestation before she knew she was pregnant…The mother…was asymptomatic prior to starting HAART with combivir and nevirapine for a CD4 of 200 million/L and viral load of 280,000 copies/mL.”
Silf K et al. Methylmalonic acidaemia in a 7-month-old following maternal highy active antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1835-1836.

darkmirrored.jpegDear reader, let us expound on this for a moment. If you believe that HIV causes AIDS, you write and publish such a report without a single pang of self-questioning, because these deadly side effects are merely the collateral damage of the top priority aim of keeping the virus at bay, even when the mother has no symptoms. Such is the power of the HIV∫AIDS meme. To those uninhabited by the AIDS meme, however, like David Crowe, the concern is the effect of antiretroviral drugs on the foetus, here exemplified as something which can kill at seven months after birth.

Ants in the anthill – almost none

ants.jpgPerhaps in this context it might be worth reflecting that 280,000 copies per milliliter may sound like an infestation of virus comparable to ants in an anthill, but what it actually signifies, even to meme ridden researchers, is less than five intact infectious copies per milliter. To be precise, 4.7 copies per ml, since there is only one fully intact infectious virus per ml if the viral load is 60,000 (see Piatak M. et al, Science 259:1749=1754, 1993)(“The PCR method they use overestimates by at least 60,000 times the real titre of infectious HIV: 100,000/60,000 is 1.7 infectious HIVs per ml, hardly the “virological mayhem” alluded to by Wain-Hobson… infectious units, after all, are the only clinically relevant criteria for a viral pathogen.” – Peter Duesberg and H. Bialy. HIV An Illusion. Nature, 375:197, May 18, 1995)

Positive and healthy for 36 years

[36 year long-term-non-progressor who, despite not knowing his status, did not transmit to his wife]
“In June 2006, a 77-year-old Japanese man with an acute asthma attack was admitted to our hospital in Yokohama, Japan. A pre-admission HIV screening test by enzyme immunoassay unexpectedly detected his HIV seropositivity…strong seroreactivity to HIV-2, but not to HIV-1 [and further tests confirmed this]…He had no history of engaging in high risk sexual contact and substance abuse in the past. Both his spouse (72 years old) and their son (34 years old) were HIV-negative. He, however, had a near-fetal[sic] motor accident in Senegal in June 1971…he received a large unit of blood from a number of volunteer Senegalian donors. He has never been transfused with blood products except on that occasion…After 8 days, he was discharged from hospital…His CD4 cell count was 827 cells/µL…He continues to be [a] long-term nonprogressor”
Utsumi T et al. An HIV-2-infected Japanese man who was a long-term nonprogressor for 36 years. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1834-5.

Another example of how the meme addles the brain of otherwise smart researchers. 36 years! Maybe the latent period of HIV-2 should be raised to average 20 years. Did they suggest he take ARVs after leaving hospital?

Babies do well as they die

[Dying is apparently the new “doing well”… ]
“A total of 439 [Malawian] children started on ART [anti-retroviral therapy]…By September 2006, 49 children (11%) had died, of whom 35 (71%) died by 3 months and 44 (89%) by 6 months. The cumulative incidence of death at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after ART was 8, 12, 13 and 15%, respectively…CONCLUSION:: Although children do well on ART, there is high early mortality [!]”
Bong CN et al. Risk factors for early mortality in children on adult fixed-dose combination antiretroviral treatment in a central hospital in Malawi. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1805-1810.

In the meme warped view, death is not too high a price to pay for avoiding the depredations of the Virus. You only lose one in six children in two years, after all. The rest may be sick from the not yet fatal effects of the drugs, but they are triumphant over HIV.

[More evidence of the infant deaths that formula feeding is causing, although the authors of this study don’t actually supply the raw death rate]
“The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend that HIV-positive women should avoid all breastfeeding only if replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe…[This study was a] Prospective cohort study of 635 HIV-positive mother-infant pairs across three sites in South Africa to assess mother to child transmission of HIV…Three criteria were found to be associated with improved infant HIV-free survival amongst women choosing to formula feed: piped water; electricity, gas or paraffin for fuel; and disclosing HIV status…Infants of women who chose to formula feed without fulfilling these three criteria had the highest risk of HIV transmission/death [the risk of death alone is not given]”
Doherty T et al. Effectiveness of the WHO/UNICEF guidelines on infant feeding for HIV-positive women: results from a prospective cohort study in South Africa. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1791-1797.

Even in South Africa, one of the very few places where the global meme has not yet turned the entire population into paradigm pod people, they are pushing bottle feeding in a food and hygiene challenged society where breast feeding is one of the best protections against nutritional deficits and infection for helpless babies and their hapless mothers.

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Perhaps in this context it might be worth reflecting that 280,000 copies per milliliter may sound like an infestation of virus comparable to ants in an anthill, but what it actually signifies, even to meme ridden researchers, is less than five intact infectious copies per milliter. To be precise, 4.7 copies per ml, since there is only one fully intact infectious virus per ml if the viral load is 60,000…
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By the way, what does a meme free observer suspect, if piped water, electricity, and fuel correlate with lower HIV transmission/death? Could it be that other diseases are being kept at bay here, so death or HIV positivity (through cross reactions with other agents such as TB) shows up less often? Enquiring minds not yet paralyzed by the AIDS meme might ask this question.

Contraceptive hormones test positive, but circumcision doesn’t help after all!

[Hormonal contraception makes women more likely to be HIV+ but …]
“Data were from a prospective cohort study of 1206 HIV-1 seronegative sex workers from Mombasa, Kenya who were followed monthly…233 women acquired HIV-1 (8.7/100 person-years)…In multivariate analysis, including adjustment for HSV-2, HIV-1 acquisition was associated with use of oral contraceptive pills [adjusted hazard ratio (HR), 1.46] and depot medroxyprogesterone acetate [aka DMPA or Depo-Provera, a contraceptive providing 3 months protection with each injection] (adjusted HR, 1.73).”
Baeten JM et al. Hormonal contraceptive use, herpes simplex virus infection, and risk of HIV-1 acquisition among Kenyan women. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1771-1777.

So the hormones or their effect cross react with the HIV antibody test, and render hundreds of sex workers ripe for antiretrovirals, even though their ability to infect truck drivers from Nairobi and spread AIDS through Kenya is nil, if we believe Nancy Padian’s study which showed no transmission at all in San Francisco among heterosexual couples except for that deduced by her imagination, which even then amounted to only one transmission in 9000 or so couplings.

So have these sex workers been put on ARVs, or what? Shall we guess?

Circumcision doesn’t protect!

[…but circumcision does not]
“Data were analyzed from 4417 Ugandan and Zimbabwean women participating in a prospective study of hormonal contraception and HIV acquisition…At baseline [start of the study], 74% reported uncircumcised primary partners, 22% had circumcised partners and 4% had partners of unknown circumcision status. Median follow-up was 23 months, during which 210 women acquired HIV (167, 34, and 9 women whose primary partners were uncircumcised, circumcised, or of unknown circumcision status, respectively). Although unadjusted analyses indicated that women with circumcised partners had lower HIV risk than those with uncircumcised partners, the protective effect disappeared after adjustment for other risk factors”
Turner AN et al. Men’s circumcision status and women’s risk of HIV acquisition in Zimbabwe and Uganda. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1779-1789.

So circumcision has no protective effect after all? But this is the latest thing! We can’t have contradiction of the latest hot fashion in HIV∫AIDS talk, not when we have whole conferences scheduled on it!

High CD4 count? Giv’em drugs!

[Large study of HIV-positive people not taking drugs. Shows a strikingly low death rate among groups with high CD4 counts … and then recommends they should all be put on AIDS drugs…]
“17 609 [HIV-positive people] contributed a total of 30 313 person-years to the analysis of rates of AIDS or death in ART[anti-retroviral-therapy]-naive patients…The first AIDS events occurring at CD4 cell count >350 cells/mL were…examined: 63 (20%) were Kaposi’s sarcoma (compared with 16% overall), 62 (20%) oesophageal candidiasis (17% overall), 42 (14%) tuberculosis (13% overall), 35 (11%) herpes simplex (6% overall), 37 (12%) recurrent bacterial infections (6% overall), 20 (6%) Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (19% overall), 17 (5%) cryptosporidiosis (3% overall) and 13 (4%) lymphoma (3% overall)…[Table 1 shows that the risk of death in 100 person years is 0.32 for CD4 counts 350-499, 0.20 for 500-649 and 0.17 for over 650]…[despite this, the authors conclude]…Our findings suggest that risk of AIDS and death might be reduced by using ART to raise CD4 cell counts even among patients with high CD4 cell counts”
Rate of AIDS diseases or death in HIV-infected antiretroviral therapy-naive individuals with high CD4 cell count. AIDS. 2007 Aug 20; 21(13): 1717-1721.

“Our findings suggest that risk of AIDS and death might be reduced by using ART to raise CD4 cell counts even among patients with high CD4 cell counts”. So the fact that HIV doesn’t seem to result in death very often even for people under the death sentence of HIV antibody positivity if they don’t take drugs, and that many have high CD4 counts, this is a good reason to start giving the latter group death dealing drugs?

alberta.jpegPerhaps our brain is not working very well, but this seems wrong to us too. What do you think, gentle reader?

As far as we are concerned, living in Alberta, Canada seems to give you a very clear perspective. Go to Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society for much good data on the HIV∫AIDS challenge and the latest news items on the battle front.

Moore takes the lid off

September 5th, 2007

Cornell defender publishes evidence of his paradigm bankruptcy

Scurrilous piece attacks Duesberg personally, but is sometimes hilariously wrong

Self condemning move shows scientific confidence is absent

peter_duesberg.jpgRecently Peter Duesberg, the Berkeley professor whom many agree would have the Nobel for his work in cancer if he hadn’t exposed the bankruptcy of the HIV=AIDS paradigm, was asked to comment on AIDSTruth.org by a journalist. He dismissed the site out of hand as nothing but a set of ad hominem attacks in the cause of paradigm defense, without valid intellectual substance.

With the publication of a piece yesterday that has attained a new low in this vein, John P. Moore, the macaque microbicide researcher at Weill Cornell who runs the site, has proved Duesberg’s point so effectively that paradigm critics are celebrating.

There is probably nothing in the history of the twenty three year old debate which so effectively shows that paradigm protectors such as Moore have no valid defense of the notion that HIV causes AIDS than this pitiable document, which ironically is a pot-kettle attack on Duesberg as a “malignant narcissist”, who is so disappointed by his career failures that he rejects the paradigm to compensate.

A heroic public and scientific spirit

This is utter nonsense, of course. Duesberg wrote his original dismissal of the AIDS paradigm for Cancer Research at 50, as a newly minted member of the National Academy and Fogarty Fellow and visiting scientist working in a retrovirus lab at the NIH where he was viewed as a golden haired boy in science, upon whom the NIH had lavished a $350,000 per year, five year Outstanding Investigator Grant to do with what he wished.

Unfortunately for his peers, lesser scientists whose pockets were larger than their minds, he reviewed and rejected HIV=AIDS, and unlike many others who had expressed doubts, he never caved in.

This heroic record of scientific integrity in the service of the public interest has now lasted twenty three years, during which Duesberg has suffered the massive penalty of not being able to obtain one red cent more in NIH funding, despite innumerable grant applications supported by senior members of the scientific community, together with a serious drought in conference speaking invitations and assigned graduate students, who are not allowed near him in case he teaches them better. And now for his pains he has to suffer the display on the Web of ignorant, misleading and insulting papers by anonymous nonentities.

Duesberg’s joke – represented as Gallo envy!

However, there are some amusements in this diatribe. One is that so anxious is the writer to tar and feather Duesberg with ill founded character assassination – let’s say it again, there is probably no prominent scientist who is so squeaky clean in his work and publicly responsible motivation as Duesberg, who unlike his most prominent opponents David Baltimore and Robert Gallo has never been accused, let alone officially condemned for scientific malpractice and skulduggery – that he tries to use an incident which above all speaks for Duesberg’s endlessly resilient sense of humor, which has survived so much exposure to the worst side of human nature, as exemplified by this shamefully crude attack.

We refer to the famous incident where Duesberg arrived at a conference in Europe where Gallo would be a fellow speaker and mischievously told the attractive woman at the sign in table “I am Dr. Gallo!” His joke didn’t last long – “Are you sure?” she asked doubtfully, “You don’t look like him!” – but it earned him a date which turned into Duesberg’s second marriage, soon blessed with a lovely child, a son.

Here is the compleat assassin’s humorless take on this tale, in a footnote to his (surely not her?) masterwork:

Reportedly, Duesberg’s envy of Gallo even prompted him to impersonate his perceived rival. According to Harvey Bialy, Duesberg first met his current wife while pretending to be Robert Gallo at a conference sign-in table. (Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS. A Scientific (sic) Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg, Harvey Bialy, The Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico Press, 2004, pp. 1801.)

We have to say here that we believe that a lack of a sense of humor is one failing that seems to go with the kind of scientific gangsterism perpetrated on Duesberg over the last twenty three years, and we believe that it is a completely reliable indicator of a wit which is either dim by nature or rendered slow by the necessity of keeping pretenses alive.

A welcome character assassination

The full title of this self-defeating document is Malignant Narcissism in the Cancer Lab: Duesberg’s AIDS Denialism Is Driven by Ego Inflamed by Professional Failures”. Unfortunately, it is posted only as a PDF, and therefore may be viewed by fewer passers by than it deserves.

However, it is at the top of AIDSTruth‘s offerings of “Scientific Evidence that HIV Causes AIDS” at the moment, on its front page, so critics of the paradigm are busily publicizing it as far and wide as they can, for rarely in the history of scientific discussion has there appeared such a self incriminating document.

Here are a few random examples of its occupation of moral and social high ground when lambasting the dastardly Duesberg:

What drives Peter Duesberg to act with such professional recklessness and social irresponsibility? His fellow denialists regard Duesberg as a hero who has used his scientific training bravely to combat an oppressive “scientific establishment.” With little or no knowledge of Duesberg’s personality, character and history,2 they liken him to Galileo Galilei; they compare Duesberg’s struggles with “the scientific establishment” to Galileo’s early 17th century challenge to Rome’s dominance in astronomy and philosophy. But, as Bob Park has noted,3 “to wear the mantel ((sic – NAR Ed.)) of Galileo, you must first be right.”4 And Duesberg is woefully wrong on the science of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, Galileo’s motivations were honorable, a defense of scientific thought against the reactionary forces of religion. In marked contrast, Duesberg’s motives, as many senior scientists of his generation can attest, are questionable at best: his is driven not by science but by an insatiable ego.

One of the most evocative descriptions we have heard of Duesberg is that he is a “malignant narcissist,” a man who cannot tolerate the greater career success of his peers. It should be recalled that Duesberg had seriously damaged—and arguably destroyed—his own potentially world-class scientific career some years before AIDS first came to the attention of the public. He did this by attacking, with no justification, the work of scientists of the caliber of Harold Varmus, Michael Bishop,5 and others whose work on viral oncogenes and cancer was later recognized with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1989. Dissatisfied with his own progress and the resulting relatively meager recognition of his work, Duesberg resented these increasingly renowned scientists and criticized them privately and, later, publicly….

When it became clear that Robert Gallo had made major scientific breakthroughs in the early years of AIDS research, Duesberg’s ego was inflamed again. He was unable to tolerate the success and public recognition of another member of his scientific generation of virologists.14 So he attacked, again aiming to belittle and criticize a former colleague whose research was receiving vastly more public and professional attention than his own. Duesberg’s aggressive actions were not really about the science of HIV and AIDS; they were merely packaged as such. In reality, they were personal attacks on Bob Gallo’s leading role in this new field, attacks born of a jealous rage,15 just as his criticism of Varmus, Bishop and others had been only a few years earlier.

And so on and so on, with a few specific allegations that Duesberg made scientific errors in his critiques that are quite wrong, and which we will deal with later once Tara’s frog is out of the way.

The inner wound of paradigm protectors

But any reader can pick up on the attitude with which this grubby document is imbued. The author clearly intends to savage Duesberg with every weapon at hand including the kitchen sink. Whence this animosity, one wonders? The only plausible motivation we can imagine is that Duesberg’s spoiler effect is touching on the universal inner flaw of defenders of the HIV=AIDS faith, who are often – as in the case of Martin Delaney, whom we originally suspected was the author of this thesis – surviving financially only courtesy of the drug companies involved in this field.

ragemask.jpegThis inner wound, which when touched upon continually by the endlessly penetrating Duesberg results in cries of hurt rage, is the inner conflict felt consciously or unconciously by those who know very well, whether they admit it or not to themselves, that they have sold out, intellectually speaking, and that they hear an inner voice that tells them, “Hello, Mr Hyde!” Given the price of admitting that they are wrong and have sold out their own honor and intelligence, and the health and lives of those that listen to them, it is not surprising that desperate, vindictive and wholesale efforts to silence Duesberg result.

Here we should mention once again the behind the scenes activity conducted by John Moore, Nancy Padian, Mark Wainberg and presumably others to try to pry loose from their jobs and positions in the academic world anyone who seriously opposes them, efforts which have been proudly claimed by two of these miscreants in a recent article posted on the web site of a Canadian newspaper, and covered here in a previous post.

Thank you Dr Moore

moore.jpgThe seven page paper is unsigned, so for the moment John Moore himself must take all the credit for it (presumably it is not by one of Dr. Moore’s macaques, despite its bad manners). We guess it is by him, since the language matches phrases like “jealous rage” in Moore’s review on AIDSTruth of Duesberg’s book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, and Moore’s review of Bialy’s book on Amazon. Also, we have already detected in Moore the tortured psyche referred to above, which leads him to castigate “denialists” in public while supporting their conclusions quietly in papers read only by insiders (see earlier posts).

If not Moore, then Martin Delaney, with editing by Moore. Delaney is a gay activist who runs Project Inform whose drug company financed defense of the paradigm and of Dr Bob Gallo knows no bounds, and who is known for his similar smear attack on Celia Farber in a letter to the Observer, and several earlier attacks on Duesberg.delaney.jpeg However, since Delaney harps on homophobia as his favorite theme in his political onslaughts, it seems clear that this is by Moore, apparently too sensible, in the end, to take direct credit for such slander. But we have no data yet other than language and style pointers.

We at NAR congratulate Dr Moore for his signal contribution to the crumbling of his favorite paradigm, on behalf of which the AIDSTruth site and its exclusively non peer reviewed documents in support of HIV=AIDS form the most obvious reason for doubting the belief.

For it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ask, if the HIV=AIDS paradigm is unquestionably the best way of accounting for the variety of illnesses in the world that are now gathered under the AIDS umbrella, and the critics so abysmally wrong in rejecting it, and their leader and scientific guiding light motivated only by love of himself and envious hatred of John Moore and others who cling to the paradigm as if it was a lifebelt, why the need for ad hominem attacks?

Surely the “Scientific Evidence that HIV Causes AIDS” would be enough to speak for itself, and thoroughly crush any opposition? Any convincing accumulation of evidence would allow defenders of the paradigm such as John Moore and his scientific and gay activist colleagues on AIDSTruth to behave with complete assurance. The evidence would be genuinely “overwhelming”, and allow them to confidently face and overcome copious objections even from Peter Duesberg.

Clever though he may be, Duesberg would be defeated intellectually, regardless of the renowned quality of his treatises on the topic, carried in peer reviewed journals from 1987 to as recently as 2003. Not to mention his enduring lab science, which even though conducted under humiliating financial handicaps, stemming from the unwillingness of his peers to shoot themselves in the feet by allowing him NIH funding, has resulted lately in a promising new path in cancer research already adopted by some of his peers.

This line must be as promising as we believe it is, since it has been taken up by other elite researchers, who are so keen on it that they appear to be trying to take it over, and credit themselves for the breakthrough.

Moore’s big giveaway

moore.jpegBut one thing is certain. If the paradigm claimants had a solid case, there would be no need for scurrilous ad hominem attacks, so intellectually crude and emotionally primitive that they will be an embarrassment to Weill Cornell and a giveaway sign of the bankruptcy of the paradigm for years to come.

But this self-confidence, it is clear from AIDSTruth, is completely lacking. There is no other site we know of now or in the recent past which so dwells on ad hominem counter attacks on intellectual critics of a paradigm. And now we have the “Malignant Narcissist” paper.

Long may it be up on AIDSTruth, so that the world can take note. Actually, given that Google has eternal cache memory, the Internet never forgets. So even if Moore comes to his senses and takes this self incriminating document down, it is likely to be around forever.

We congratulate him on his achievement. Perhaps it will find a place on his Cornell Honors and Awards page, which is so far empty.

Here is the complete text for reference, just in case Moore takes it off his site (he has already removed some material, we have been told). Mistatements and errors including ones of spelling and grammar are highlighted by us in bold, and misrepresented and misunderstood facts in italics. We have no good information on Duesberg’s dealings with the companies mentioned in the long tilt against his business integrity, which seems to be sourced entirely from the Internet, but we know Duesberg well enough to be quite sure he has never misled anyone in this realm, as he has not in science:

Malignant Narcissism in the Cancer Lab:
Duesberg’s AIDS Denialism Is Driven by Ego Inflamed by Professional Failures

Peter Duesberg, a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, is widely regarded as the founder and core proponent of HIV denialism. When other scientists and clinicians who were initially cautious about accepting early reports that HIV exists and is the primary and necessary cause of AIDS were persuaded by the mounting evidence, Duesberg dug in, insisting without data that HIV is a harmless passenger virus. He attributed the explosive epidemic of compromised immune systems and AIDS-related illnesses and deaths in widely disparate populations with nothing in common but the virus—gay men, hemophiliacs, injection drug uses, surgical patients who received transfused blood, infants born to women with HIV, health care workers stuck by needles, heterosexually active South Africans—to a variety of other discrete causes. Duesberg was the first to make many erroneous assertions that have been repeatedly debunked and yet are persistently reiterated, without evidence or reason, by other denialists.1

Because Duesberg is associated with a great university and has worked with viruses, the disinformation he has spread has carried greater weight than that of other HIV denialists, many of whom are associated with other pseudoscientific beliefs (creationism, alien abduction, vaccination as the cause of autism, etc.). Duesberg’s institutional authority and persistence have resulted in countless deaths of HIV-positive people from AIDS—those who believed his claim that their health would not be impaired by their HIV infection, and those who were denied access to treatment when their government (as in South Africa) or their parents (as in California) were influenced by him. Yet denialists portray Duesberg himself as a victim whose professional career has suffered because he maintains his position against the “AIDS establishment”— he refuses to admit that he is dead wrong.

What drives Peter Duesberg to act with such professional recklessness and social irresponsibility? His fellow denialists regard Duesberg as a hero who has used his scientific training bravely to combat an oppressive “scientific establishment.” With little or no knowledge of Duesberg’s personality, character and history,2 they liken him to Galileo Galilei; they compare Duesberg’s struggles with “the scientific establishment” to Galileo’s early 17th century challenge to Rome’s dominance in astronomy and philosophy. But, as Bob Park has noted,3 “to wear the mantel of Galileo, you must first be right.”4 And Duesberg is woefully wrong on the science of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, Galileo’s motivations were honorable, a defense of scientific thought against the reactionary forces of religion. In marked contrast, Duesberg’s motives, as many senior scientists of his generation can attest, are questionable at best: his is driven not by science but by an insatiable ego.

One of the most evocative descriptions we have heard of Duesberg is that he is a “malignant narcissist,” a man who cannot tolerate the greater career success of his peers. It should be recalled that Duesberg had seriously damaged—and arguably destroyed—his own potentially world-class scientific career some years before AIDS first came to the attention of the public. He did this by attacking, with no justification, the work of scientists of the caliber of Harold Varmus, Michael Bishop,5 and others whose work on viral oncogenes and cancer was later recognized with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1989. Dissatisfied with his own progress and the resulting relatively meager recognition of his work, Duesberg resented these increasingly renowned scientists and criticized them privately and, later, publicly.

Duesberg’s Cancer Research Is Ignored

The trajectory of this ego-driven criticism may be traced in the scientific literature and peripheral documents. Once exemplified by tedious, behind-the-scenes quibbling about the nomenclature of oncogenes (see, for example, this self-indulgent letter in the Harold Varmus collections: PDF 6), Duesberg’s private arguments and frustration soon spilled over into the public arena. During the mid-1980s, Duesberg’s published reviews on oncogenes and their role in cancer became increasingly shrill. At first, his criticisms were posed as simple questions. “Retroviral transforming genes in normal cells?”7 was the title of a 1983 review. Quickly, the questions became loaded and increasingly insistent: “Are activated protoonc genes cancer genes?”8 and “Activated proto-onc genes: sufficient or necessary for cancer?”9 By 1987, we observe in his titles the Duesbergian denouement: absolute certainty, the pronouncement ex cathedra, the statement of belief as (untested) “fact”: “Cancer genes generated by rare chromosomal rearrangements rather than activation of oncogenes;”10 “Latent cellular oncogenes: the paradox dissolves;”11 and “Cancer genes: rare recombinants instead of activated oncogenes (a review).”12

Even assuming, generously, that Duesberg had any valid scientific points at the outset of his descent into dissent for dissent’s sake, he tossed them aside to make way for empty rhetoric and overblown claims. Dismissing the progress of decades as worthless, Duesberg decided on his own, against the published evidence, that oncogenes and mutations had no role in cancer whatsoever.13 Because he was both transparently wrong and immoderate in making his claims, Duesberg burnt many bridges to the scientific community at that time. He was, accordingly, already regarded as a controversial figure, and worse, when people began dying from AIDS and research into the cause of the destruction of the immune system began.

Duesberg’s HIV Denialism: Egotism without Expertise

When it became clear that Robert Gallo had made major scientific breakthroughs in the early years of AIDS research, Duesberg’s ego was inflamed again. He was unable to tolerate the success and public recognition of another member of his scientific generation of virologists.14 So he attacked, again aiming to belittle and criticize a former colleague whose research was receiving vastly more public and professional attention than his own. Duesberg’s aggressive actions were not really about the science of HIV and AIDS; they were merely packaged as such. In reality, they were personal attacks on Bob Gallo’s leading role in this new field, attacks born of a jealous rage,15 just as his criticism of Varmus, Bishop and others had been only a few years earlier. In 1993, “Duesberg charged that the authors of a study in Nature showing that only HIV positive drug users developed AIDS had fabricated data; the charge was found to be groundless by an independent panel at the University of California, Berkeley.”16 One of the authors of the Nature paper, Warren Winkelstein, describes the bizarre behavior of Peter Duesberg in a published interview in the Online Archive of California: Supreme).17 Rather, Duesberg exploited his membership in the National Academy of Sciences by publishing several rambling reviews on HIV. His arguments were based on misunderstandings and misreadings—perhaps intentional—of the existing literature. The scientific community roundly rejected his half-baked ideas, and, as years passed, Duesberg was forced to stoop to second-tier, then third-tier journals and worse to find an audience. Sadly, some of his readers were not trained in science, and many of those fooled by Duesberg’s sophistry were the very individuals who stood to lose the most from believing him. For a few examples, see Consequencesand Bialy Quotes and Bialy), had joined Insight Medical Group’s medical advisory board for the cancer test, now renamed “Anucyte.” Bialy is the author of a hagiographic biography of Duesberg and was “retired” earlier this year from his last academic affiliation at UNAM in Mexico.

Another recent addition to Modern Technology Corp’s cadre of experts is an eye doctor named Marc Rose, who expanded his interests from sight preservation to male menopause, anti-aging and “life extension.” He is active with the Cancer Control Society, which among other things organizes bus tours of Tijuana cancer clinics that sell laetrile and other unproven nostrums to desperate people. Rose will bring this expertise to the further development and marketing of the Anucyte test.

The CEO of Modern Technology Corp, Anthony Welch, says he studied Electrical Engineering for 2 years (1986-88: he does not claim that a degree was awarded) at the University of Mississippi, and now claims to be a law student at Concord School of Law. (Concord School of Law is an on-line school that does not accept students without degrees.) Despite extraordinary financial losses, deep corporate debt, consistent failures to earn promised revenue, and many complaints to the SEC from angry investors, Welch has been paying himself a very hefty salary—almost $300,000 for the 2006 fiscal year. His CFO, Robert Church, resigned from the company June 2006, reportedly because financial statements required by the SEC were always late. Welch reportedly took over these duties himself.

Insight Medical Group promised “to provide ongoing financial support to Peter Duesberg’s lab … [which] …agrees to work closely with Insight Medical Group to improve products and technology”21 That is to say, Duesberg is a principal of a subsidiary that has as its sole asset an offshore lab (which may or may not exist) for a cancer diagnosis technology that has not been clinically tested or approved by the FDA or any other objective institution. The CEO is regarded by investors as unreliable; the company is, at best, poorly managed. Perhaps Duesberg, Bialy, Rasnick and Welch thought that Duesberg’s article about his aneuploidy theory in Scientific American in May, 2007, would at least temporarily inflate the value of the stock of the company, which they could then dump (see this critique: Critique of Duesberg’s article). But the SciAm article has not helped Modern Technology Corp’s stock price at all: it’s down to $.004—that’s less than half a cent—a share from about $1.50 a share two years ago. (In fact, the loss is much greater when a “reverse split” is calculated in.)

In early August, 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) revoked the corporate charter for Modern Technology Corp, and the company’s right to transact business has been forfeited. It seems the intellectual property of the super-duper cancer detector had already been returned to Duesberg and Rasnick in the wake of the stock’s death spiral—the half million in stock they got is now barely worth pennies on the dollar and they must have felt humiliated, cheated, and angry. Modern Technology Corp, however, retains the marketing and distribution rights, leading to new alliances with the immortality gurus at the “Life Extension Foundation.” (“The Foundation’s objective is to develop methods to enable people to live in health, youth and vigor for unlimited periods of time.”22) The company has also scheduled a presentation of the AnuCyte cancer test at the quackery conference of the “Cancer Control Society” in September 2007.23

Given Duesberg’s malignant narcissism and his history of lashing out when he is professionally humiliated, the pathetic failure of his foray into entrepreneurship with AnuCyte and the product’s current association with most abased forms of pseudoscience—eternal life, magical cancer cures—may well provoke another wave of scientist bashing from HIV denialism’s most prominent proponent. We’ll be watching for it.

For example, Duesberg stated that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS because it does not fulfill Koch’s postulates, a 19th century 4-part test for establishing causality. HIV does fulfill Koch’s postulates (see Tim Teeter’s “HIV Causes AIDS: Proof Derived from Koch’s Postulates” at The Body). Nevertheless, denialists have robotically claimed that it does not since Duesberg’s 1988 article “HIV is not the cause of AIDS” (Science 241:514-516).

2 Duesberg’s biographer, Harvey Bialy, constitutes a possible rare exception. Most of Duesberg’s “allies” do not know him at all, much less so than the reputable scientists with whom he worked for many years and who are now some of his most authoritative critics.

3 See here

4 This tactic is known as the “Galileo Gambit”
(Orac) so often employed by pseudoscientists of all stripes; see also this satire at AIDS Truth – How to Be A Crank.)

5 The contempt in which Duesberg and his allies hold these highly-respected individuals is evidenced in Harvey Bialy’s biography of Duesberg, where Michael Bishop is faulted, among other things, for having an “Anglican priest” as a father. (Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS. A Scientific (sic) Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg, Harvey Bialy, The Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico Press, 2004, p. 10.)

6 Here, Duesberg argues testily and at length about nomenclature, declaring that he does
not, and will never, use the terms proposed by Varmus and colleagues. Later, Duesberg
himself both accepted and employed the apparently objectionable formulations.

7 Nature. 1983 Jul 21-27;304(5923):219-26

8 Haematol Blood Transfus. 1985;29:9-27

9 Science. 1985 May 10;228(4700):669-77

10 This title appeared both in: Haematol Blood Transfus. 1987;31:496-510’ and in: Med
Oncol Tumor Pharmacother. 1987;4(3-4):163-75

11 J Cell Sci Suppl. 1987;7:169-87

12 Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1987 Apr;84(8):2117-24

13 The association of cancer with aneuploidy has been recognized since the dawn of modern cancer research a century ago. Duesberg is not the first, nor remotely the most important, contributor to knowledge on this front. Duesberg has distinguished himself, instead, by his curiously unswerving—and, many would argue, unscientific—insistence that aneuploidy is the be-all and end-all of cancer, to the exclusion of all other factors. See an Internet critique of Duesberg’s views on cancer, including a reference to a related biotechnology company in which Duesberg and his close friends now have a financial interest
(Insolence blog).

14 Reportedly, Duesberg’s envy of Gallo even prompted him to impersonate his perceived rival. According to Harvey Bialy, Duesberg first met his current wife while pretending to be Robert Gallo at a conference sign-in table. (Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS. A Scientific (sic) Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg, Harvey Bialy, The Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico Press, 2004, pp. 1801.)

15 Duesberg admits as much in a statement recorded by his close friend and biographer Harvey Bialy: “It was largely a personal matter. I could not refrain from looking hard at any hypothesis Bob [Gallo] was behind” (ibid, p. 61).

16 pdf here at Science

17 From Judge Sulan’s verdict. What the Judge says about Turner and Papadopoulos-Eliopoulos would apply equally accurately to Duesberg, as he too has performed no experimental research on HIV/AIDS. Another significant feature of the evidence presented by the appellant’s witnesses was their failure to provide an alternative theory to explain the observations that led to the discovery of HIV/AIDS. Rather, their evidence sought to demonstrate that the HIV had not been proven to exist by critiquing the work of others. As such, the appellant’s witnesses did not criticize the conduct of HIV research on the basis that it conflicted with their own research, experiences or observations. Instead, their evidence was in the form of a critique, in which they identified perceived flaws in the scientific process and research findings that had led the mainstream scientific community to accept the existence of HIV.

18 >a href=”http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/12/070312fa_fact_specter “>Specter

19 For background to MODC by technology writer Julie Jacobson, see Cepro.

20 Insight Medical group

21 Prime Newswire

22 Modern technology

23 here; see also Cancer Conrol Society

Times can’t add

September 4th, 2007

Reporter and editors of Times cannot calculate one man’s budget accurately

Captain Sloan needs to check John Leland’s arithmetic

Helpful indication for readers that double checking necessary even at simplest level

nicksloan.jpgNot wishing to cause the delightful if somewhat naive Tara and her right hand man Steve any cause for complaint that we are picking on them needlessly, since the Times is a far greater purveyor of paradigm pusillanimity than the Tara duo ever could be, we offer an example of how Times reporters and editors are thoughtlessly incapable of checking their own stories even on the most interesting topics, as they issue from their keyboards, at least on a holiday weekend.

According to A Way Out of Debt by Way of Iraq, which we read yesterday over an espresso after lunch, a quick assignment to Iraq might be a fast way of paying off credit card debt.

It took only a moment’s perusal to find that the entire story was vitiated by John Leland’s reportorial handicap, apparently shared with the editors, of being unable to add.

Look at this stuff, and weep for the intellectual standards of what used to be the world’s greatest newspaper, one which didn’t earlier need a note attached to every article saying “Beta Draft: Written subject to checking by readers”.

Nick Sloan was $68,021.35 in debt earlier this year when he decided he needed a change. Mr. Sloan, 26, is a captain in the Air Force, and was stationed in Colorado Springs. Looking at his financial life, he saw only a series of bad decisions.

So he made what he calls a “radical” break: he volunteered to go to Iraq. In May he arrived for duty in Baghdad.

“I came to the realization that I was so far over my head, I had to do something drastic to increase my cash flow,” Captain Sloan said by telephone from the Green Zone, where he now receives extra pay and has minimal living expenses. “Iraq did that.”

OK, so what do we absorb from this paragraph, as far as Nick’s budgetary challenge is concerned. Surely it is that

Mr Sloan arrived in Iraq in May with $68,021.35 in debt.

Then we have this, according to the paper of record:

Since arriving in Baghdad, he has gotten his debt below $4,000. He monitors his finances on the Internet, and started a blog (Sloan Investments) to help his peers avoid his mistakes.

from which we learn that the Captain has discharged all but less than $4,000 of the above $68,021.35 in debt.

Since arriving in Baghdad, he has gotten his debt below $4,000.

Finally, much further on, we read this:

His full monthly pay from the military, including hazardous duty bonuses, is $6,031.74. He pays Social Security and Medicare, leaving a take home amount of $5,695.76 a month.

In other words, if Captain Sloan never spent a penny of his pay, he would only have $5,695.76 to pay down his debt every month:

His take home amount is $5,695.76 a month.

However, the full report, which went straight through from the hands of John Leland, 37, and his editor to the page of the newspaper published yesterday, apparently without passing through the minds of either, also informs us of a few expenses:

“I think the defining moment for me was when he called and said: ‘I want you to know I’ve taken out life insurance. You have $100,000 if something should happen to me,’ ” she said. “It left such a sour feeling in me.”

– that is, his mother reports he took out $100,000 life insurance for her. So we have

The Captain bought $100,000 life insurance for his mom.

Also we have

Apart from an occasional haircut, or dried fruit, he said, “every paycheck I get goes straight toward my debt.”

ie he has some other minimal expenditures involving necessary haircuts and a taste for dried fruit:

Otherwise he only bought haircuts and dried fruit.

A mere $100,000 life insurance for his mom sounds pretty cheap to us, but perhaps it is inordinately expensive. All in all, however, it seems safe to say that he is spending no more than $600 a month on these items, leaving $5000 a month net to square away his credit card debt.

Captain Sloan is putting $5000 a month to paying off debt.

Given that he arrived in Iraq in May, according to Leland’s telephone interview research, that implies a maximum of four months at $5000 a month, or $20,000 in total. Say $25,000 if we count September.

But according to John Leland, he has paid off $64,000.

This leaves a gap of $39,000 he has paid off in some other way.

According to John, Captain Sloan

makes $100 a month from renting his house in Colorado Springs, after paying for the mortgage. He also sold things and simplified his life. He eats at the chow hall rather than Pizza Hut and uses a Sony Reader to scan free books on the Internet.

In other words,

He makes $100 a month renting his house, and he has sold things.

To recap: Here is the information on which you or any handy 12 year old can check the Times’ arithmetic:

Mr Sloan arrived in Iraq in May with $68,021.35 in debt
Since arriving in Baghdad, he has gotten his debt below $4,000 ie paid off $64,000.
His take home amount is $5,695.76 a month.
He makes $100 a month renting his house, and he has sold things.
The Captain bought $100,000 life insurance for his mom.
Otherwise he only bought haircuts and dried fruit.

What’s the bottom line here? It is that the misreporting of John Leland and the headline writer has the reader excited about Iraq as a quick source of wealth, one that can pay off $64,000 in credit card debt in four months.

In fact, Captain Sloan “sold things” for double the sum he saved up.

All of this leads to a rather unexciting non Iraq headline:

Way out of Debt by Selling Car and Other Stuff.

The truth is that Sloan paid off $20,000 in four months by risking his neck in Iraq, and the remainder of $45,000 left at the beginning of September he was able to pay off only because he “sold things” – presumably his $35,000 2005 Nissan 350Z:

Captain Sloan borrowed another $35,000 last year to buy a 2005 Nissan 350Z, bringing his debt above $68,000. He was using one credit card to pay off another and considering a payday loan to meet his regular expenses.

So he must have sold this machine, presumably for less than what he paid, say $30,000.

Correct us if we are missing something, but this means that it was not so much a matter of A Way Out of Debt by Way of Iraq, as a Way out of Debt by Selling his $35,000 Car and $15,000 of Other Stuff.

Iraq contributed – at the risk of his life, and his mother’s misery if he is killed – less than one third of his escape from debt.

Oh well, at least he is somewhat on track for his $50,000 saved by the time he exits:

In his case, he said, he plans to leave the military in May 2008 with $50,000 to start a real estate business. “I’ll do whatever my country asks of me, but if there’s a way to benefit my life, I should definitely take it,” he said.

Wait! At $5,000 a month, he will fall short, saving from September to April, which is eight months, by $10,000.

Shouldn’t someone tell him that he will start his real estate business with less money that he expects by simply relying on his own poor arithmetic, allied to Leland’s equally poor arithmetic checking?

Why does this matter?

john-leland.jpgWe leave it to readers and John Leland (click left, the nice young wide eyed fellow on left) to decide if this is misleading, or a suitable contribution to the paper of record. Perhaps Tara’s tall tales have left us curmudgeonly, but we think that the Grey Lady will be getting a few more grey hairs, or we will, if this kind of thing keeps up.

Dammit, we thought that the Times was reliable a few years ago. Then we had its execrable performance in HIV∫AIDS non reporting. Then Jayson Blair. And now we have this kind of thing, just when we were about to join up for Iraq.

At least we now have a reason not to let the Times pile up in the cellar for future reference.

Meanwhile we think there is a very helpful lesson here for all readers currently swallowing the Times and Tara’s long nosed briefings about the HIV=AIDS paradigm:

Mentally review any story in the Times before treating it as gospel.

We’ve been saying this for years about their AIDS stories, of course, but few listen. So most go on year after year, believing that antibodies cause disease, and that you can catch antibodies from someone else in sex, and that disease can rise and fall dramatically in a population while the antibodies to its supposed agent maintain a steady presence, that a disease can change its infectiousness and symptoms radically over time and place, that drugs can save you from disease by killing you, and so on.

But heck, who are Times readers to know better, if their editors don’t?

The whole story:

The New York Times
September 3, 2007
A Way Out of Debt by Way of Iraq
By JOHN LELAND

Nick Sloan was $68,021.35 in debt earlier this year when he decided he needed a change. Mr. Sloan, 26, is a captain in the Air Force, and was stationed in Colorado Springs. Looking at his financial life, he saw only a series of bad decisions.

So he made what he calls a “radical” break: he volunteered to go to Iraq. In May he arrived for duty in Baghdad.

“I came to the realization that I was so far over my head, I had to do something drastic to increase my cash flow,” Captain Sloan said by telephone from the Green Zone, where he now receives extra pay and has minimal living expenses. “Iraq did that.”

In a nation swimming in debt — prime, subprime, adjustable, student, payday — debt reduction is coming to resemble dieting, a province of gimmicks, good sense, talk radio and endlessly resourceful scheming. Though there is as yet no South Beach Debt-Loss Plan, for Captain Sloan, there is Iraq.

“I hate to make it seem like I’m here just for money, because it’s not true,” he said. “There’s many worthy things about being here. But if I can use this to my advantage, I definitely should.”

Since arriving in Baghdad, he has gotten his debt below $4,000. He monitors his finances on the Internet, and started a blog (Sloan Investments) to help his peers avoid his mistakes.

“I’ve met people who’ve gone on to one or more tours just to get out of debt, with jobs much more dangerous than mine,” Captain Sloan said. “One soldier in Afghanistan said, ‘That’s why I’m here, to get out of debt.’ ”

Financial counselors who work with military families say that this solution — volunteering for deployment to get out of debt — is rare, but that debt is a problem in the armed services, as it is in the country at large. In 2005, military charities for all branches of service provided $87,332,758 in emergency no-interest loans or grants to 100,808 service members in financial distress.

“The military reflects the society from which the people come, so right now that means carrying a lot of debt,” said Adm. Steve Abbot, who is retired from the Navy, the president of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, a military charity organization.

More commonly, Admiral Abbot said, deployment to war adds to families’ financial pressures.

A Defense Department survey of active-duty service members found that in 2006, 11 percent reported failing to make a minimum payment on a credit card or military credit account in the preceding year; 11 percent said they had been put under pressure to pay bills by a store, creditor or bill collector; and 7 percent had bounced two or more checks. (The percentages were all down from previous years.) In response, payday lenders concentrate around military bases, the researchers found.

Last year Congress passed legislation prohibiting payday lenders from charging service members more than 36 percent — effectively ending payday loans to military personnel — but the measure is not scheduled to take effect until October.

Captain Sloan’s debts began at the Air Force Academy, with a low-interest loan of $25,000.

“It was this awesome loan at 1 percent interest, and I just squandered it,” he said.

Captain Sloan borrowed another $35,000 last year to buy a 2005 Nissan 350Z, bringing his debt above $68,000. He was using one credit card to pay off another and considering a payday loan to meet his regular expenses.

“When I look back, I feel somewhat ashamed that I got myself in this position,” he said. “But at the same time it was necessary for me to learn to manage my finances. When you can’t pay your monthly bills, you need to make some changes.”

Like many of his peers, Captain Sloan entered the service with little financial knowledge. His father, who died when he was young, supported the family on a disability pension from the Army. His mother, Linda, said she had done little to teach her two sons about money.

“My training in finances was very poor,” she said. “I didn’t expect my sons to make better decisions, without finding out on their own. My training was, you don’t buy things you can’t pay for. But we’re trained by the media that you have to have things and you’re owed those things.”

Captain Sloan said he kept his debts hidden from most of his friends and relatives. His mother, who opposes the war, said she did not try to dissuade him.

“I think the defining moment for me was when he called and said: ‘I want you to know I’ve taken out life insurance. You have $100,000 if something should happen to me,’ ” she said. “It left such a sour feeling in me.”

Captain Sloan said the toughest sell was his fiancée.

“She took decision the hardest of anyone,” he said. “Initially she was against it. I think I won her over eventually. It was a matter of looking at the numbers. We could start our marriage in debt, or I could do this. The numbers were very telling. Drastic measures are required.”

In the Green Zone, where he works in intelligence, he has few opportunities to spend money.

All his income is tax-free under the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion and he gets an extra $225 a month imminent danger pay and $100 “safe” pay to improve his living conditions. “The real benefit is that it’s tax-free money,” he said. “I really don’t feel in imminent danger on a day-to-day basis, but there have been times my heart did skip a beat or two.”

Apart from an occasional haircut, or dried fruit, he said, “every paycheck I get goes straight toward my debt.” His full monthly pay from the military, including hazardous duty bonuses, is $6,031.74. He pays Social Security and Medicare, leaving a take home amount of $5,695.76 a month. He makes $100 a month from renting his house in Colorado Springs, after paying for the mortgage. He also sold things and simplified his life. He eats at the chow hall rather than Pizza Hut and uses a Sony Reader to scan free books on the Internet.

But even in the relative safety of the Green Zone, Captain Sloan said, he sees his fellow service members taking unnecessary risks — by not saving their combat pay.

“I see that a lot from guys here, especially the younger guys,” he said. “They’re not afraid to spend their money. I do my best to tell them: ‘You’re risking life for this money. It should go to something better than a new computer or junk.’ Some listen, some don’t. They don’t want to change. They’re used to buying what they want.”

One young airman told him: “My wife is already letting me buy a new Nissan Titan and a 60-inch TV when I get home. Now, I just have to decide between a hot tub or Jet Skis.”

Captain Sloan’s first question was, “Have you thought about maybe putting it into a retirement account?”

In his case, he said, he plans to leave the military in May 2008 with $50,000 to start a real estate business. “I’ll do whatever my country asks of me, but if there’s a way to benefit my life, I should definitely take it,” he said.

Dissecting the frog (2): The real Denialists

September 4th, 2007

Almost every line is misconception or misstatement, but none detected by outsiders

Tara and Steven could claim HIV was panspermia from the moon, and blind bloggers would chortle “Right on!” Why?

Smearing as giveaway

After the world record preamble of the previous post, we are ready to consider, how much of HIV Denial in the Internet Era, the essay at the Public Library of Science by the energetic Tara C. Smith of Iowa and her silver haired, white coated colleague Steven P. Novella of Yale, is valid?

Blind leading the blind: bloggers applaud essay

bblind.jpgAccording to bloggers who have picked up on a reference to it at Daily Kos, which has since removed any critical comment from “deniers”, we learned from Comments here, it all goes without saying, and without reading it with any critical faculty whatsoever, in the Hank Campbell mode. (Click the pic to enlarge a painterly vision of what is happening here)

Thus at Educated Guesswork, a site whose expertise lies in tech toys and networks:

This Public Library of Science article by Tara C. Smith and Steven P. Novella, paints a pretty grim picture of the HIV Denialist movement. Now, you may have thought that this was pretty much limited to Thabo Mbeki and Peter Duesberg, but no, it turns out that the world is full of whackjobs. Smith and Novella aren’t interested in arguing that HIV causes AIDS—a proposition which is fairly clearly true—as discussing how movements like this survive.

A “proposition which is fairly clearly true”… Hmm..We like the “fairly clearly true”. Since Tara Smith and Steven Novella imply it is true, and that denialists are wasting their time, it must be fairly clearly true? Why the pseudo-judicious “fairly”? We take it that this is the author’s impression, and he is sure, having no data on the issue whatsoever, that since it matches everything he has heard before, it must be true.

The blogger continues, with a statement that we agree with wholeheartedly, though possibly not in the way he means it:

This bit about “fair play” is really important. One of the underlying norms that makes science work is that people to some extent adjust their beliefs in response to contrary evidence. Obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but when you’re dealing with someone who’s not interested in the evidence at all but merely
using it as a sort of prop to attempt to defend their position then that isn’t an argument, it’s just contradiction. At some point the proper response becomes to just ignore the offender, but then they claim that the orthodox community won’t listen to them. It’s obviously very hard for a layman to disentangle who’s right.

The one sided assumption that it is the “whackjobs” who need to adjust their beliefs is breathtaking. As it happens the paragraph is perfectly true, just not in the way that the author imagines. It applies very well to the paradigm.

As can be seen, this kind of facile blogger comment is vitiated by its unwarranted assumption that “denialists” must be wrong by definition, since they are opposed to the wisdom we know and love, as part of our identity, and bulwark against the chaos of an uncertain world. It is opinion based on emotion, not data, which according to some cynics and critics of the education system in this powerful country is typical for most political views here. In fact, some might say that virtually the entire population is artistic rather than scholarly in their approach to knowledge as a result of modern schooling, and that this training permeates even science. We have no opinion on this since since we have no data, but we have to say, if it is true, then this essay is a prime example.

The CIPIS “intellectual strategy” – to quote is enough to condemn

A similar behavior is seen at CapitalistImperialistPig, where there is no analysis at all in the mention of “Tara C. Smith and Steven P. Novella have an article on the subject in PLOS Medicine: HIV Denial in the Internet Era. (via DarkSyde at Daily Kos)”. After the quotes from the masterwork the single comment is

“The ocean of stupidity is wide and deep, and my spoon is so small.”

This confident insult follows three paragraphs quoted from tyro Tara’s treatise, and exhibits not only the presumption that all critics must be wrong if they question established science, but a more interesting and subtle implication that is also a chief feature of the Tara approach:

To indicate that a statement must be foolish and untrue, it is enough to quote it.

This principle provides the secure smugness of CapitalistImperialistPig’s dismissive line, since merely quoting ‘proves’ the rejection of the ‘denialists’ is right, since their statements must by definition be deluded, since they conflict with the conventional wisdom.

tarasmith.jpgAs it happens, this is precisely the logic followed by Tara (pic, left, the original blog self-portrait at Aetiology, which we love, but will consider any objections emailed to us) at many points throughout her treatise on “the current intellectual strategies used by the HIV denial movement”, as we shall see. We shall refer to it from now on as the CapitalistImperialistPig Intellectual Strategy, or CIPIS.

Unfortunately, though we always like to take short cuts we feel we cannot just quote the Library of Science Tara-Steven treatise and apply CIPIS to it, ie just assume that all readers will immediately see how specious and data poor it may be, although we know that all habitual NAR readers will instantly assess the true value of this historic contribution to an understanding of the paradigm critique of HIV∫AIDS.

The CIPIS approach is simply too complex for newcomers to understand, we believe. We are not sure, in fact, that we understand it ourselves. Does simple quoting a statement prove it incorrect? It is hard to see why.

So we are forced to explain precisely where things have gone wrong in the material worked up by the dynamic doctrinal duo defending against the devilish devious denialists attempted demolition of desirable dogma, and will now proceed.

The NAR-LOS Duck Shoot begins here

richard_feynman-big.jpgThe debating stance of the authors is marked by the following compromising flaws in perception and style:

1. Prejudicial language (“deniers”) betrays unscientific ethos:

Library of Science POLICY FORUM Open Access

The Policy Forum allows health policy makers around the world to discuss challenges and opportunities for improving health care in their societies.

HIV Denial in the Internet Era

Tara C. Smith*, Steven P. Novella

Here we have the conclusion in the title, “HIV Denial in the Internet Era”. Criticism of the paradigm is tarred as “denial”, ie reality, proven and immediate visible to all sensible people, is being psychologically “denied”, in the manner of Holocaust deniers, possibly with similar unsavory motives.

The word is mind numbingly disrespectful and any reader with an open mind in scientific discussion will object to having his prejudices made up for him before he reads more than the title. But of course, this is not an open discussion of the science, this is an essay by the converted preaching to the converted. This is propaganda, not objective analysis.

But this is typical behavior of the paradigm defenders in HIV∫AIDS. The supporters of the most questioned paradigm in modern science, HIV=AIDS, rush to defend it by smearing critical reviewers as “denialists” and “deniers” who perpetrate “denial” of truth supported by “overwhelming evidence”. They are represented as no better than those who rewrite Dachau as a holiday camp.

In fact, of course, the ‘denialists’ are nothing less than attentive critics who draw on the best peer reviewed literature to show that the paradigm is not supported by the record – exactly the opposite of Holocaust deniers, in fact.

HIV paradigm critics are simply arguing that the paradigm should be replaced by a belief system which is supported by the studies and data in scientific journals, not one based on the claims of a few scientists who have led the world like a Pied Piper over the cliff of unreason.

What smearing shows

What does this misapplied smearing suggest in a scientific dispute? Is it behavior that would arise from informed opinion based on a firm foundation of data which proponents feel is unassailable? Or does it announce a signal lack of confidence, a shortage of reason and evidence, and an urgent need to find emotional and political defenses against threatening reasoning and data?

Anyone who has difficulty in deciding the answer is not equipped to participate in any scientific discussion, we would suggest, or write about it.

That would be anyone who does not see that the title announces the essay is founded on the prejudice and politics that good scientists banish from sincere discussion about what is likely to be true. Question everything including yourself may be the central ruling principle of good science, as Richard Feynman said in so many ways.

All good scientists know that the prejudicial defense of the ruling paradigm with politics is often the biggest brake on scientific progress. Unfortunately the news doesn’t always reach the journeyman level occupied by the hard working average scientist in these days when vocation has largely changed to profession.

socrates_athens_square_park.jpgWhat they fail to realize is that among journeymen scientists, just like the lay public, automatic defense of any entrenched belief is swift and prejudicial, since entrenched beliefs are emotional pillars of the psyche, not to mention the career, bank account, club membership and status of the believer. Once well established around the world, every paradigm has a defense army ready and willing to fight intruders at a moment’s notice.

It is only genuine scientists and philosophers, with perhaps a few good lawyers and comedians, who don’t have the reflex built in, like some primitive instinct.

But scientists who smear and disrespect their critics with words are by definition shamefully unprofessional, for the first principle professed by true scientists is the one engraved on the Socratic touchstone, “Question everything, including oneself.”

2. Denying their own denialism

Moreover, who is denying what? If anybody is a denialist it is surely the proponents of the status quo, who deny there are any serious questions that need be dealt with, when the science of HIV∫AIDS has more critics high and low who have written more debunking articles and books on this than any other paradigm extant in science.

They deny science, they deny sense, they deny data, and they deny respect – to their very much more scientific critics.

That is the denialism we recognize, and deplore. Not that anyone asked us, of course. But, it seems, someone has to say it. Apparently it is not obvious to the widely respected and hard working Tara and Steven or the bloggers such as Hank, Pig or Educated Guesser who cheer them on.

Sorry, in our intended rapid despatch of this flawed masterpiece we seem to have stalled at the title. We will press on in the next post, humbly apologizing to all intelligent readers for trite corrections of trite error.

Dissecting Tara’s Frog (1): Intro

September 3rd, 2007

Chastised as deniers by Orac, we analyze the state of mind of HIV-babes

Listing the political baseball bats used to knee cap critics of AIDS lore

Is the rush of the ignorant to support the paradigm Freudian?

orac.jpgThanks to an alert anonymous commenter here (surely not the blogger himself?) we have found out that the young surgeon Orac, who writes the blog Respectful Insolence at SEED magazine’s blog hosting site Scienceblogs.com, and is therefore known as a fellow ‘Scibling’of Tara Smith, has penned the following post today talking up the attempt by Tara and Steven to put the dangerous denialists of HIV∫AIDS and their pseudoscience in their proper place as “essential reading on HIV AIDS denialism.”:

Respectful Insolence

“A statement of fact cannot be insolent.” The miscellaneous ramblings of a surgeon/scientist on medicine, quackery, science, pseudoscience, history, and pseudohistory (and anything else that interests him)

Who (or what) is Orac? Orac is the nom de blog of a humble pseudonymous surgeon/scientist with an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent’s posterior about his miscellaneous verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few will.

Essential reading on HIV/AIDS denialism

Category: Alternative medicine • Medicine • Pseudoscience • Quackery • Skepticism/critical thinking
Posted on: August 22, 2007 2:01 PM, by Orac

Fellow SB’er Tara Smith, and academic neurologist Steve Novella have written an essential primer on the dangerous pseudoscience and quackery that is HIV/AIDS denialism. It’s published in PLoS and is entitled HIV Denial in the Internet Era.

It makes a number of excellent points about the deadly quackery that is HIV/AIDS denialism, including how its advocates portray science as “faith,” shift the goalposts when asking for evidence for the HIV/AIDS hypothesis, and in general engage in all the same sorts of logical and scientific fallacies beloved by pseudoscientists and cranks like creationists, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and many aficionados of alternative medicine. I was also disappointed to learn that the Foo Fighters promote HIV/AIDS denialism at their concerts.

Perhaps the most telling part of the article, which should be emphasized over and over and over again is this:

After so much criticism levied upon the prevailing theories by deniers, one might think they would have something to offer to replace HIV as the cause of AIDS. However, the alternatives they offer are much more speculative than the mainstream theories they decry as lacking evidence. Further, their arguments amount to little more than another logical fallacy, the false dichotomy: they assume that overturning the prevailing theory will prove their theory correct, by default.

Always remember that. The “theories” that HIV/AIDS denialists make for the cause of AIDS are nothing more than speculation with little basis in fact. They’re ephemeral, lightweight, with no evidence to support them. Like many cranks, HIV/AIDS denialists seem to think that if they can tear down their hated theory it will prove that theirs is the correct one.

Finally, if you want to see how pathetic the response to this article by HIV/AIDS denialists has been thus far, you have to look no further than Science Guardian, where the best the author can come up with is to make condescending and sexist comments about Tara:

((Click Show Button to continue this quote)) As a bonus attraction, visits to the site were long enhanced by the sight of Tara’s svelte portrait in form fitting costume, and the latest one is just as pretty as the first one she posted for a long time, though perhaps less like a bathing suit (we hope our appreciation of this first portrait here was not responsible for the replacement). We have reproduced it above, at the start of the mention of this attractive scientist.

However, the meeting this last weekend of science bloggers corralled at Seed Magazine’s ScienceBlogs site yielded some more realistic pictures of Tara from the beer drinking gatherings involved, and here is the best one we could find (left). Others are at A Blog Around the Clock, Neurophilosophy and Pharyngula. Readers with an interest in such research will see if intelligence correlates with beauty in the science blogging world.

The rest is no better, an evidence-free rant against the “dogma” about HIV/AIDS:

Intelligent readers will read this through for themselves and immediately see that it is nothing more than a John P. Moore type piece of prejudicial propaganda, a rote recitation of all the reasons why established wisdom endorsed by long established and trusted institutions relied upon by the media and the public, not to mention almost all scientists, physicians, health workers, policymakers and government officials around the globe, should not be questioned by independent critics, especially those without professional expertise in the science concerned, retrovirology and its two human diseases alleged so far, even if the scientific literature at the top level contains an ever growing pile of rejecting reviews and studies which contradict the basic tenets of the paradigm and its medical approach.

Of course, the funniest thing about this Science Guardian piece is this:

In the long run, Tara Smith and Steven Novella will learn the biggest danger of the Internet, which will eventually emerge as its dominant long run characteristic: its permanence.

Every single half baked, under researched opinion everybody writes on the world’s bulletin board will be there twenty years from now, when time itself will have ensured that any nonsense one ventures too precipitately for the wrong reasons will be exposed for all to see, as clear as the day it was scribbled, hanging like dirty laundry in the sun.

Let’s hope for their sake that all the signs in the scientific literature that Tara and her friend Steven are ignoring are somehow proven to be wrong, as they like to assume, apparently without examining them carefully enough. Since they all point in the same direction, to the eventual defeat of a paradigm which never genuinely flew, scientifically speaking, even at the beginning, this seems unlikely. More likely is their embarrassment, as grownups, at what they wrote as babes in the woods.

Tara and Steve will have little to worry about on that score. I’ll even make a not-so-bold prediction: Twenty years from now, HIV/AIDS denialists, if they still exist (and I fear that they will, given that irrational pseudoscience like homeopathy still exists 200 years after its founding and over 150 years after science could show that it was pseudoscience), will still be considered cranks.

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Comments

Thank you Orac, for posting this link. Cue the quacks, 3, 2, 1. . .
Posted by: DuWayne | August 22, 2007 03:54 PM

I was also disappointed to learn that the Foo Fighters promote HIV/AIDS denialism at their concerts.

What the crap? I didn’t know this. Their music’s pretty good, too. Crap, now I can’t like them anymore.

Posted by: Cain | August 22, 2007 04:00 PM

Orac, did you see that they over-wrote most of your comment at the Science Guardian? Remarkable and childish character slaughter on the part of the denialists.

Posted by: viggen | August 22, 2007 05:21 PM

This respectfully insolent piece is by Orac, a pleasantly ectomorphic young man who judging from his photo (above) last weekend at SEED’s NYC beer party is just as presentable as Tara, even quite possibly now her admirer for all we know, on a non-scientific basis as well as scientific, since they were both at this meet. That of course is none of our business, we are merely establishing our non-sexism, pace Orac and his accusation that our annotations on Tara are “sexist”, when of course we merely reported her habit of decorating the front page of Aetiology with pictures which speak for her personal charm, a sensible move which makes her blog a lot more bearable than it otherwise would be.

Anyhow Orac, as you see, is a self-proclaimed surgeon/scientist, whatever that is (“a humble pseudonymous surgeon/scientist with an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent’s posterior about his miscellaneous verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few will”), and he excoriates our last post as lacking substance in its repudiation of the Tara text which Orac, possibly following last weekend, unreservedly admires, so we feel bound to try and provide it, especially since Orac missed the part where we promised to do so.

Why is it worth deconstructing low level political paradigm defense?

What we have here, in the Library of Science essay on HIV Denial in the Internet Era by Tara C. Smith with the Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, Iowa, United States of America. and Steven P. Novella with the Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America is what can only be labeled a parade of misunderstanding, misstatement, misapprehension and misconcieved misapplied mistaken myth dependent muddle that in total amounts to a mammoth mental misdemeanour.

We have in one place almost the complete armory of paradigm defenders operating outside the realm of the actual debated science, self appointed paradigm promoters who pick up and use the ad hominem and political weaponry which serves scientists such as John Moore of Weill Cornell so well in their defense of HIV∫AIDS, a defense which has so little science in it (see Deadly Quackery (also permanently available as paradigm politics exhibit #1 in right margin here) and earlier posts here on John P. Moore) that it gives the game away to every intelligent reader, who knows without being told that a viable and valid paradigm that good scientists subscribe to has no need for politics in answering objections. Good reason and common sense will be brought forward, not politics and disrespect.

So we thought it worthwhile to take this opportunity to deal once and for all with the collection of political clubs which are used to beat off critics on this rather low level of public debate, to avoid dealing with the’ otherwise decisive list of unacceptable conflicts, inconsistencies and impossibilities they detect in the standard science, especially with the ever lengthening list of mainstream studies which now contradict it, the latest being the Lhose paper from Denmark, which shows that drugs double the death rate in the first year.

Apologies in advance

However, we admit that by the time we finished it we regretted giving too much attention to what proved to be even less than met the eye.

steven-novella.jpegWe admit we usually avoid the level of discussion on blogs such as Tara’s for the reason that so much of the comment is uninformed and politically and personally charged, and sadly enough this attempt by indisputably pretty paradigm tyro Tara and her handsome colleague (mentor? political advisor?) Steven is not the profound scientific-politico-philosophical treatise on a tremendously important and complex paradigm dispute that we had hoped for from her fluent pen.

In fact, too many of the answers we are forced to give to her points are ones which any critic of the paradigm could provide without hesitation. However, there are always some people, such as Hank Campbell of scienceblogging.com, our new Therapy Buddy, who have not heard of this debate before, and may come to New AIDS Review in search of a quick fix.

So instead of placing it in our circular file we therefore provide this far too long but thorough response to inform newcomers to the debate, such as Happy Hank, of why Tara may not be the authority on the paradigm dispute he seems to imagine:

“I appreciate that Dr. Smith was gracious enough to take some time and answer questions about the science aspects of this….
I can’t think of a single instance where science truth did not win in the end. Data is data and nothing drives scientists crazier than being deceived. If data comes out that proves HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, or even that the cures are worse than the virus, I am pretty sure a compassionate person like Smith will be first in line taking up the new position.”

If too many of our points are political and not “science” as Scienceblogger Hank seems liable to complain, we can only plead that the fault lies with what we have to examine.

The pot and kettle problem

One thing we notice is that Tara and Steven have based much of their text on the simple strategy of bouncing back the accusations of critics without answering them. And indeed it is true that superficially many points in the endless wrangling of the HIV=AIDS dispute in blogs and other venues outside journals are adaptable to both sides. Both can accuse the other of the same sin. Deciding to whom the winning point in these tennis games really belongs to can be difficult for the outsider, which is why it is a good defense move to those who need to cloud the issue.

Both sides say, for example, the other is compromised by self interest, bad science, and poor logic.

One side is said to ignore the peer reviewed literature, the other side says the literature is flawed by bad design and interpretation (in fact, the attack on the paradigm HIV=AIDS is peer-reviewed review of peer-reviewed literature).

One side says critics lack credentials, the other side says credentials go with loyalty to the system and not science (in fact, the rejection of the paradigm is led by the scientist with the best credentials of all).

One side says top scientists cling to the benefits of the paradigm, the other that critics likewise sell their alternative expertise and potions (in fact, the big money, and all the prestige and fame, is under the wing of the paradigm).

One side says established science is proven, the other that it resists change (in fact, paradigms are at first by definition the best answer science has, until they become entrenched, when their replacement by a better answer is difficult, as politics intensifies).

One side says the media and journals repress the critics, the other says they have had copious coverage (in this case, the critics were and are stifled by NIAID censorship of reporters and journal and media obedience led by the New York Times, Science and Nature).

The one exception to all this mirroring is that the critics of the HIV∫AIDS are generally more respectful to established scientists than the defenders are to them. As the essay shows, ad hominem insults (“denialists” “bizarre”, “pseudoscience” “quackery”) are a main weapon in the armory of pardigm defense.

That is why we don’t visit blogs much, since when behavior and intent are subjectively disputed, the argument is usually not worth weighing. We try to make the peer reviewed data and and its specific interpretation the focus here. But this is exactly what mostly is going on in the Library of Science essay – subjective politics drive both motivation of the essay and its analysis. This subjectivity is a diversionary tactic, adding up to mere disdain for the opponent and ignoring the data and the scientific issues completely.

None of the central difficulties of the supposed pathology of the Virus are dealt with by Smith and Novella, pace Hank Campbell, our new scientificblogging Therapy Buddy, now famous for ignoring the contributions of the blog host, and the more distinguished Henry Bauer, on the grounds that “My article is primarily dealing with the science aspects. Do critics of the ‘HIV causes AIDS’ mode of thinking have science to explain what happens?”, and then interviewing Tara without mentioning any of that at all (The Least Known War In Science: Does HIV Cause AIDS?), instead providing a platform for Tara’s misconceptions on top of his journalistically prone body.

But at least there is some order in the Library of Science material, which Tara and Steven “worked up” for publication, in her phrase, compared with the nonsense that usually serves as blog debate at Scienceblogs (see for example today’s post at Pharyngula:(Click Show to reveal)

PZ Myers PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris

To succeed in chaining the multitude, you must seem to wear the same fetters.

[Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 1764]
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A href=”http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/08/denialists_exposed.php”>Denialists exposed

Category: Skepticism
Posted on: August 22, 2007 9:55 AM, by PZ Myers

Scienceblog’s own Tara Smith, with Steve Novella, has an article in PLoS on HIV Denial in the Internet Era. It describes some of the major players among the HIV deniers, and most importantly talks about their tactics. It’s useful even if you aren’t at all involved in that branch of biology or invested in that particular argument: one section is titled “Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma” and that certainly struck a chord with me — that is one of the most common creationist arguments, as well.

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Comments
#1

bah, where was this article when i actually needed it?

Posted by: Brian W. | August 22, 2007 10:06 AM
#2

I was rather disappointed to see the Foo-Fighters were involved in supporting one of the denial groups.

Posted by: MartinC | August 22, 2007 10:36 AM
#3

I just gave that article a quick read – or tried to – until I got to the point about the mother who managed to kill her kid by, well, “stupiding it to death” seems the best description. WTF is going on here? It’s got to be religion aiding and abetting such stupidity, because anyone else who was engaging in medical child abuse with a breast-feeding infant would be in serious doo-doo (that’s the technical term) right?

This is a great case in point for Randi’s position that “woo woo kills” and, unfortunately, it kills the wrong people. Have you ever noticed it’s the kids that die, not the ‘breatharians’?

The “alive and well” site is offering a $50,000 prize for Alive & Well will present a cash award of $25,000 to the first person to locate a study that provides us with missing evidence about the accuracy of HIV tests(there’s more) — this might be a good way for some energetic young biology student to pay his or her way through a semester of college, no? I wonder if we publicize this in the right place if someone can take their damned money from them.

mjr.

Posted by: Marcus Ranum | August 22, 2007 10:40 AM
#4

Sheesh! Everyone knows that AIDS is caused by atheism…

Posted by: Thomas Allen | August 22, 2007 10:43 AM
#5

Thomas, I thought it was caused by homosexuality. Or Liberalism. Or both. Atheism too, you say? *ulp*

I woulda figured the Foo Fighters to be woo fighters. What a shame. I guess I won’t be buying their next CD…

Actually, it looks like the bass player started it all, but has managed to get at least some of the other band members on board. At a glance, it looks like they’ve been fooled by an argument that confuses corrolation with cause. (For example, “anal sex causes AIDS” … whoa.)

Posted by: Kseniya | August 22, 2007 10:52 AM
#6

The “alive and well” site is offering a $50,000 prize for Alive & Well will present a cash award of $25,000 to the first person to locate a study that provides us with missing evidence about the accuracy of HIV tests(there’s more) — this might be a good way for some energetic young biology student to pay his or her way through a semester of college, no? I wonder if we publicize this in the right place if someone can take their damned money from them.

That’s a scam just like Hovind’s “challenge.” No one will be able to provide a paper that lives up to their standards.

Posted by: Tara Smith | August 22, 2007 11:00 AM
#7

“Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma” and that certainly struck a chord with me — that is one of the most common creationist arguments, as well.

Ditto AGW deniers, second hand smoke deniers, etc. These folks are getting their plays from the same book. (Not too surprising really since there’s a lot of overlap between the various groups.) The real problem is that these tactics work.

Posted by: Alexandra | August 22, 2007 11:00 AM
#8

That’s a scam just like Hovind’s “challenge.” No one will be able to provide a paper that lives up to their standards.

Yep. They say the same thing about Randi’s challenge. How do we break the cycle of “so-and-so is a liar and a cheat?” without stepping up to the plate?

Posted by: Marcus Ranum | August 22, 2007 11:06 AM
#9

The difference is that people who say that are lying. The contestants in Randi’s challenge have to meet their own standards. The contestants in Hovind’s have to prove to him and his cronies that god cannot exist.

Posted by: G. Shelley | August 22, 2007 11:18 AM
#10

AAAARRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!! I’ve dealt with the HIV/AIDS denialists before. They are a mixed bag and really just a few kooks in the grand scheme of things. Rather disturbing and disreputable folks.

1. Some are just mentally ill trolls who have latched onto HIV denial to center their mind derangement illness around.

2. Some are right wing Xians who want all gays to get AIDS and die because this is god’s plan.

3. Some are just malevolent miserable people who think making fun of and fooling around with people who have a horrible, incurable, and ultimately fatal disease is great entertainment.

4. A few are HIV+ and in denial. I doubt this group is a very large sector of the whole HIV denialist movement.

This is a reality denial belief that can and will kill those who are infected and buy into it. These days, with treatment, the average HIV+ patient will live 13 more years than untreated. In favorable cases it is more like 20 years. In the future it is likely to be even higher. It isn’t uncommon now for HIV+ patients to live long enough to die of something else, heart disease, cancer etc..

Posted by: raven | August 22, 2007 11:22 AM
#11

How do we break the cycle of “so-and-so is a liar and a cheat?” without stepping up to the plate?

The problem is that they’re ruling out the ways that we know to isolate HIV, and inserting a false standard as the “gold”: “direct isolation of HIV from fresh, uncultured fluids or tissues.” First, we know that it’s not always that easy to isolate HIV from these samples, hence co-culture methods are often used, which this “challenge” explicitly disallows. If it were an honest challenge, any routine method of virus isolation and characterization would be accepted, but they’re rigging the game against this from the start.

Posted by: Tara Smith | August 22, 2007 11:33 AM
#12

Sheesh people. You know there is a whole blog here at Sb on this phenomenon.

Posted by: MarkH | August 22, 2007 11:39 AM
#13

Sheesh! Everyone knows that AIDS is caused by atheism…

That’s right folks. It stands for Atheism Induced Death Sentence or Atheism Induced Sexual Deviance.

Posted by: llewelly | August 22, 2007 11:41 AM
#14

It is curious that when kooks argue against science by portraying science as ‘faith’, the science-illiterate often perceive this as a devastating argument against science. Yet when atheists argue against religion on the grounds that it is faith, the science-illiterate often see this as a point in religion’s favor.

hnPosted by: llewelly | August 22, 2007 11:47 AM
#15

True llewelly, although many people make the theory=religion link without being religious. I see many people saying global warming is just religion.

Even so I think it boils down to attempt to create false parity between belief systems. If science is just another religion (and since either all religions are valid/should be tolerated/are based on who has the coolest messiah) then creationism should be on par with evolution, altie medicine should be on par with evidence-based medicine etc.

Posted by: MarkH | August 22, 2007 11:51 AM
#16

The difference is that people who say that are lying. The contestants in Randi’s challenge have to meet their own standards.

I understand that. The problem is that the situation, by its very nature, is one where “whoever lies best, wins” – that’s not a recipe for the victory of rationality, is it?

I wish I had a few million bucks to endow a couple of grants at universities for real scientists to tackle woo woo head on. Wouldn’t it be great to see papers on the efficacy of homeopathy actually showing up in refereed journals? Or perhaps a couple of top-notch physicists trying to isolate The Hand Of God (after all, if prayer works there must be some linkage between the spiritual plane and the physical, right?) etc. Wouldn’t it be fine to be able to offer to pay for the PhD programs of some promising graduate students if they’d study some of this stuff? Part of the beauty of science is that failure to find something is sometimes just as important a result as an actual discovery…

I’m just fantasizing, I know. But it’s really sad to see that the best the science community can do to respond to their lie is to say “they are lying and Randi’s not.” I wish I had a couple hundred thousand bucks to hold a contest for the best submission against their “prize” and just google-stomp all over them.

mjr.

Posted by: Marcus Ranum | August 22, 2007 12:50 PM
#17

This is a reality denial belief that can and will kill those who are infected and buy into it.

So I guess it really is a case of “think of it as evolution in action.”

Tough luck for the kids but, well, I guess they were carrying dumbass genes from their denialist parents and it’s best for the species to weed them out early.

Posted by: Marcus Ranum | August 22, 2007 01:00 PM
#18

>>>It is curious that when kooks argue against science by portraying science as ‘faith’, the science-illiterate often perceive this as a devastating argument against science. Yet when atheists argue against religion on the grounds that it is faith, the science-illiterate often see this as a point in religion’s favor.>>>>

I my own personal experience (anecdotal) those people who suffer from denialism suffer in more than one area.
It seems to be personal and psychological in nature and very little reason is involved. They seem to be unable to accept that there personal perception of reality could be mistaken and will resist with all there energy any effort to show them anything that challenges their perceptions.
Which seems to me to be the opposite to reason and the scientific approach. For me it is seeing the “world” change when some new reasoning or evidence bring new clarity to the true nature of the world that we know. It is always humbling and uplifting.
The problem remains though how to deal with those who suffer from Denialism? How do we proceed when the results are so serious, war, disease, global warming, death and no new taxes.

Posted by: uncle frogy | August 22, 2007 01:12 PM
#19

I don’t believe in the link between heart contractions and cell oxygenation. It’s a big lie told by the CPR industry and Big Cardio. What they don’t want you to know is that, using only a pair of really strong prescription glasses (the kind that darken in the sun, those are really cool) and a jar of nutella, nobody has ever observed a single oxygen atom travel from blood in the chambers of the heart to the inside of a cell membrane elsewhere in the body. I also believe that haemoglobin is an atheist conspiracy and bagels are the final electron acceptor in our ETS.

Posted by: rayzilla | August 22, 2007 01:21 PM
#20

Part of the beauty of science is that failure to find something is sometimes just as important a result as an actual discovery…

Quite so. Google for “Journal of Negative Results”.

Posted by: David Marjanović | August 22, 2007 01:25 PM
#21

mjr (#16): The thing that bogus “prizes” like the one from “alive and well” are missing, are concrete examples of what sort of thing they would accept as actual proof. If you can force them to admit that *they cannot conceive of any observable evidence that they would accept*, then you have the crack that you can use to knock their whole charade apart. That’s also where you can differentiate them from Randi’s prize, where Randi has clearly stated any number of times exactly what sorts of things would win it if they could be done.

Posted by: tceisele | August 22, 2007 01:31 PM
#22

Just passed the article along to my family. I doubt my rabid global warming denying uncle and grandfather will truly appreciate the parallels between their beliefs and this paper.

I couldn’t keep myself from wriggling with glee as each ridiculous parallel was revealed between the different forms of denialism. It helps to highlight the absurdity of the arguments of the other types of denialism that are more common over here.

Posted by: Gimpy | August 22, 2007 02:29 PM
#23

Gimpy : I would be very careful about that, because seeing parallels betweeen his and other denjialisms can backfire and turn your uncle in a double, triple or even an universal denialist 😉

Posted by: T_U_T | August 22, 2007 04:05 PM
#24

I couldn’t keep myself from wriggling with glee as each ridiculous parallel was revealed between the different forms of denialism. It helps to highlight the absurdity of the arguments of the other types of denialism that are more common over here.

Well, the manuscript actually started discussing parallels between HIV and evolution denial…we still hope to publish that somewhere, but we need to rework it now that this part has been published.

Posted by: Tara C. Smith | August 22, 2007 04:26 PM
#25

The “alive and well” site is offering a $50,000 prize for Alive & Well will present a cash award of $25,000 to the first person to locate a study that provides us with missing evidence about the accuracy of HIV tests(there’s more) — this might be a good way for some energetic young biology student to pay his or her way through a semester of college, no? I wonder if we publicize this in the right place if someone can take their damned money from them.

Like most of these types of challenges Maggiore has set herself up as the judge. You don’t just have to provide enough evidence to convince the scientific community. You have to convince her. In order to do this you will also have to demonstrate that she unwittingly allowed her own daughter to die from HIV infection.

Posted by: Chris Noble | August 22, 2007 07:13 PM
#26

What human condition do Denialists exploit if not credulity? I don’t “believe” that HIV >> AIDS at all. But the best research, labs, and qualified people agree on the state of knowledge. Guess what, it prob’ly isn’t perfect. Big Pharma is taking a slice in their usual predatory style. Gimme a demonstration that a peach pits and soap remedy is effective and I’ll use it should I be diagnosed.

Posted by: Skeptic8 | August 22, 2007 07:35 PM
#27

The “alive and well” site is offering a $50,000 prize for Alive & Well will present a cash award of $25,000 to the first person to locate a study that provides us with missing evidence about the accuracy of HIV tests(there’s more) — this might be a good way for some energetic young biology student to pay his or her way through a semester of college, no? I wonder if we publicize this in the right place if someone can take their damned money from them.

This is a sweepstakes contract. If it’s stated clearly, and if it could be done hypothetically, someone who presents the evidence has performed the contract and can collect the reward. If it’s a bona fide offer, Maggiore doesn’t get to deny real evidence — a court would decide that.

A good way to test it would be to assemble the evidence about the accuracy of HIV tests, present it and ask for the money. If the group refuses to pay, sue.

Before you go off muttering that I’m crazy, look up the case of Mel Mermelstein, who accepted Willis Carto’s challenge to prove that the Holocaust really occurred. When Carto rejected Mermelstein’s family records (most of his family died in the camps), a wealth of solid historical data, and the tattoo on Mermelstein’s arm, Mermelstein sued, and won. He’d performed the contract as specified in the offer, and the mere fact that Carto’s group insanely refused to recognize that performance did not change the fact that it was a bona fide offer, Mermelstein performed, and Carto’s group owed him the money.

You can read Mermelstein’s story here:
http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2006/08/28/mermelstein-holocaust-remembrance-hero/

The proceeds of winning this prize on HIV could go to a group studying the virus, or to a group treating the thing. What state is the offer made in? Get a lawyer to take a look at it there; if it’s a bona fide offer and not impossible on its own terms, it’s a prize waiting to be taken.

Hovind’s offer, by the way, calls for several chunks of “evidence” that would be absolutely impossible to provide. It’s not bona fide IMHO, but I’m not licensed in Florida.

Posted by: Ed Darrell | August 23, 2007 12:03 AM
#28

Foo Fighters are so off my Christmas* card and iTunes playlists.

(*Assuming the Evil Atheist Conspiracy hasn’t won the WoC by then, natch).

Posted by: NC Paul | August 23, 2007 05:16 AM
Post a Comment
.Not too bad a level of debate, we have to say, and we also believe that the suspicion that the “Alive and Well” challenge can never be satisfied is justified. But that awaits another post.

Debate successfully displaced to sub radar low level

The problem is that it is on this low level that almost all the public debate about this question now occurs. with the science, if any, reduced to sound bites. Even President Clinton told us he satisfied himself that all the doubt could be dismissed because the “drugs work, don’t they?” – the same answer as was given us by James Watson, celebrated Nobel prize winner. The only people who give the issue the careful consideration it deserves, fully referencing the literature, are the critics. This is the reason, above all, why they should be respected.

So let’s now deconstruct the writing of HIV babes Tara and Steven, as exhibited in their supposedly (inefficiently, for sure) peer-reviewed assault on truthseekers in HIV∫AIDS. In dissecting this literary frog, we can forgive them, perhaps, for their sins. For they are the sins of youth, where Daddy is still trusted implicitly as the guarantor of survival, and these two, like the youthful Orac and all the other Scibling bloggers at SEED, a magazine without critical faculties run by editors still in their very early twenties, are merely babes in the wood, unaware of what the grown ups are really up to (guess who copyrights all that Orac writes in his blog?).

For as we have cynically remarked in Comments, grownups who are such idealists they are prepared to write truthful blogs on this topic instead of make real money are few and far between.

Actually, let’s deconstruct the frog in a series of posts, since any close look and refutation of misapplied misconception typically takes 10x the space of the original, which is one reason why the paradigm glides on impervious to the endless objections of a myriad after twenty years.

But first, on this Labor Day weekend, lunch intervenes.


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