Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

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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.

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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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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

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Dissecting Tara’s Frog (1): Intro

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.

3 Responses to “Dissecting Tara’s Frog (1): Intro”

  1. MacDonald Says:

    That’s got to be the longest preamble ever. But in fairness I think you’ve covered the by far most important issue, Orac’s looks. However, I must say once again that I am disappointed in your taste. Orac is the typical slightly nerdy eternal college boy who, realizing his own limitations, never attempted to make it onto any sports team – not even lacrosse. The cheap jacket and shirt plus jeans combination, is reminiscent of a school teacher with intellectual pretensions. But being still very much aware of his own limitations, he is too timid to sell himself sexually as anything other than ordinary, harmless bloke. A Therapy Buddy in other words. He may very well have been taken, just as the original Therapy Buddy, Hank, was, with Tara’s career oriented, aggressively (com)passionate presence. But I don’t think Tara would waste whatever passes for flirty smiles in those circles on Orac. Her type is obviously the much older, silver-greying, never (and I mean never) out of the dapper robes that signal the authority invested in him, Steve Novella.

  2. yello Says:

    Truthseeker Sir.

    This is most certainly a sorry state of affairs that the political leaders complicit in allowing the paradigm largesse through _my_ taxpayer dollars have no better answer than a driveling, “but the drugs work don’t they?”

    Macdonald Sir.

    “But I don’t think Tara would waste whatever passes for flirty smiles in those circles on Orac. Her type is obviously the much older, silver-greying, never (and I mean never) out of the dapper robes that signal the authority invested in him, Steve Novella.”

    You owe me a new keyboard or at the very least the towel to wipe off the tomato juice.
    Joking aside, I really wish Dr. Smith would get her head out of the sand and her ass out of the arena.There are too few women in the sciences as it is.I really do not understand why she would pursue this course, since it is overwhelmingly OBVIOUS that the paradigm is failing.Sure it may take another decade or two, but do you really want to be remembered for consciously defending a
    horrific farce, ESPECIALLY when you’ve had access to; and known, all the peer-reviewed literature that conclusively exposes it for such?

    The economic forecast for the First World is looking apocalyptic over the next decade.This will be a time of chickens coming home to roost and it is very probable that financial resources will be quite scarce.This likely means very hard questions will be asked about new projects then and old ones retroactively. Would you want to be associated with _any_ project that is exposed as the waste it is?Science(TM) _will_ undergo a massive reckoning, just like all other institutions that require so much from it’s consituent population.Unlike within scientific institutions, where it is mainly higher ups who bear the brunt of blame for scandals, the public at large will be willing to devour alive _anyone_ who is linked to favourable reviews of science scandals.

    As much as I deplore such craven goosestepping by the underlings, I feel some measure of pity(not sympathy, that’s for their kith and kin) for these people.I guess that is part of why I write, to warn them.There was an Aetiology commenter by the name of Kevin who has futilely tried to warn another commentor that getting a house now or for the next couple of years under the current mortgaging schemes is a fuckin’ idiotic thing to do.

    The Day of Judgement is coming (secularly speaking) and unfortunately, most of the initial purveyors of this paradigm are either comfortably dead or becoming obscure.The main wrath will be on these kids.

  3. Truthseeker Says:

    Honestly, MacD, your Comments should contain a humor index warning (1-5 carrots?) to preserve keyboards from spilt coffee, tomato juice etc as Y’ello also complains – that the second one you have put out of commission here in little more than a week.

    As much as I deplore such craven goosestepping by the underlings, I feel some measure of pity(not sympathy, that’s for their kith and kin) for these people.I guess that is part of why I write, to warn them.

    Extremely kind of you, Y’ello, and a very fine point. With Baltimore retired, and Gallo losing steam (didn’t have the energy to push his way into giving the Toronto keynote, according to rumor which he denied, though still willing to try to make a fool out of the model scientist Andrew Maniotis) and looking to us a little weary of living a lie, the Max Planck effect of progress “funeral by funeral” or at least retirement by retirement is going to arrive sooner or later. But when? 2 years, 5, 10, 20?

    But will Africa really help much if Mbeki gets replaced? With Bush promising $30 billion as a lame duck, we don’t know what meaning there is in that promise, but if it comes through maybe HIV/AIDS will be preserved from reexamination for some time to come, especially if Iraq winds down, as far as funds go, wouldn’t you agree? If the media does nothing in the States it may be ten years before these people have to worry about looking silly, maybe twenty. By that time they will have back peddled far enough not to worry. Anyhow, how embarrassed do they have to be when everyone thought the same thing and no one heard the arguments against it, or even that they existed. “The Least Known War in Science”, Hank’s title said it all.

    But with Federer being thrashed by Lopez in the US Open tonight 6-3 in the opening set as we write, predicting the timing of HIV/AIDS paradigm collapse seems especially impossible. All we know is that Harpers wasn’t enough. That brought home that it is a poltical power game so far won by Anthony Fauci, and there will probably be no movement till the election is behind us. But no one knows what is going on behind the scene among staffers and others who read and understood Harpers.

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