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“Against the evidence” – New Statesman piece

with 7 comments

The New Statesman has just published an article I’ve written, coinciding with the publication of “Don’t Get Fooled Again” (a version read by a strange robotic voice can be found here…)

Throughout the 1960s, the tobacco industry famously spent millions promoting a small group of vociferous “sceptics” who, in the face of overwhelming evidence, continued to deny the link between smoking and cancer. The strategy paid off. Long after a clear scientific consensus had emerged, much of the public still believed that the case remained unproven.

In a sceptical age, even those disseminating wholly bogus ideas – from corporate pseudo-science to 9/11 conspiracy theories – will often seek to appropriate the language of rational inquiry. But there is a meaningful difference between being a “sceptic” and being in denial. The genuine sceptic forms his beliefs through a balanced evaluation of the evidence. The sceptic of the bogus variety cherry-picks evidence on the basis of a pre-existing belief, seizing on data, however tenuous, that supports his position, and yet declaring himself “sceptical” of any evidence, however compelling, that undermines it.

While it is easy to guess the motivations of an industry-funded scientist denying the dangers posed by his commercial sponsor, or a far-right historian expressing “scepticism” about the Holocaust, other cases are more puzzling. It is difficult to explain why, for example, a respected academic would dismiss the mountain of proof that HIV causes Aids. But several have, notably the Berkeley virologist Peter Duesberg.

HIV is a type of “retrovirus”. Duesberg has argued for decades that retroviruses rarely, if ever, harm their hosts. Rather than modify this theory in the light of evidence that one such virus was killing millions, Duesberg in the late 1980s announced his “scepticism” about that evidence, and has stuck to his guns ever since.

Early on, these ideas found a receptive audience among HIV sufferers, desperate for an alternative prognosis. The cause was later taken up by conspiracy theorists convinced that Aids was a money-spinning fabrication of the global pharmaceutical industry.

In South Africa, at the beginning of this decade, Aids scepticism gained currency with a political class dismayed at the prices being charged for life-saving medicines. Under the influence of Duesberg and his fellow “dissidents”, Thabo Mbeki’s government chose to delay for several years public provision of anti-HIV drugs. The economist Nicoli Nattrass estimates that this decision – made amid one of the world’s worst Aids epidemics – may already have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Bogus scepticism does not centre on an impartial search for the truth, but on a no-holds-barred defence of a preconceived ideological position. The bogus sceptic is thus, in reality, a disguised dogmatist, made all the more dangerous for his success in appropriating the mantle of the unbiased and open-minded inquirer.

Richard Wilson’s “Don’t Get Fooled Again” is out now, published by Icon Books (£12.99)

7 Responses

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  1. Richard.

    Are you, oh wise one, REALLY going to teach us how NOT TO BE FOOLED???

    Some skeptic you are! You fell for it, didn’t you?! Hook line and sinker! Without the least bit of any open minded research, let alone fully investigating it for yourself, you fell for the HIV as the cause of AIDS nonsense.

    Just goes to show the old adage is true, and you and your new book are the proof of it: “We teach what we most need to learn”!

    Google “Gallo’s Egg” to find out what a trained investigator who did their homework quickly found: HIV can NOT be the cause of AIDS, and you and your book are verified to be bogus pseudoscience.

    Do yourself a favor, before you insert your foot in your mouth again. Richard, check out the blog of a professor who investigates pseudoscience, who recently FULLY researched hiv/aids and found himself fully in agreement with Dr. Duesberg, at hivskeptic.wordpress.com.

    Or read Professor Duesberg’s books.

    You will find upon your own research that the years of high death said to be due to hiv are the EXACT YEARS of high dosage AZT.

    You will find that NO test finds verified HIV.

    You will find that the HIV tests are proven to often go off with 70 different PROVEN factors.

    You will find that there is NO proof that HIV is the cause of AIDS.

    You will find that the leading cause of death in HIV positives in the west, is and always has been in those who take the HIV drugs.

    No fool like an old fool, Richard. Surely you are not too old to learn something new! And being an obviously closed minded dogmatist yourself, perhaps it is time to come out of your little eggshell and wake up and smell the coffee, and at least admit that you are far from being any kind of a knowledgeable purveyor of truth yourself.

    Michael

    September 19, 2008 at 6:04 am

  2. Professor HENRY BAUER’S HIV/AIDS SKEPTIC SITE

    Official reports and peer-reviewed publications afford many reasons for skepticism about the prevailing dogma that HIV causes AIDS: Why have many HIV-positive people remained healthy, without treatment, for upwards of 2 decades? Why have more than 20 years of effort seen no progress toward a vaccine against HIV? Why, so often, do drug treatments that seem to destroy virus (decrease “viral load”) and to strengthen the immune system (increase CD4-cell counts) fail to improve the patients’ health? Why do mothers transmit HIV to their babies through breastfeeding less efficiently when breastfeeding is exclusive than when it is supplemented by formula? How can Africa’s population have been increasing so much for twenty years–about 3% per year–when it is supposedly in the grip of a deadly epidemic of AIDS during which few people have been receiving treatment?

    The purpose of Dr. Bauer’s blog is to examine such issues and to show that what is puzzling for people who believe that HIV causes AIDS is readily explainable under alternative views soundly based on published research studies.

    Data from HIV testing show that what those tests detect is not an infectious agent: see his book “The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory (McFarland 2007)”. The book further shows that numbers of positive HIV-tests do not correlate with numbers of reported cases of AIDS, so that “HIV” (whatever HIV tests detect) cannot be the cause of AIDS.
    Part II of the book explains how medical science can go wrong about such matters; and Part III describes how things did in fact go wrong about HIV and AIDS.
    Reviews of the book are posted at http://www.failingsofhivaidstheory.homestead.com/Reviews.html.

    Michael

    September 19, 2008 at 6:08 am

  3. PS Richard,

    The most laughable thing you wrote, is where you fully described your own self!

    “Bogus scepticism does not centre on an impartial search for the truth, but on a no-holds-barred defence of a preconceived ideological position. The bogus sceptic is thus, in reality, a disguised dogmatist, made all the more dangerous for his success in appropriating the mantle of the unbiased and open-minded inquirer”.

    Michael

    September 19, 2008 at 6:12 am

  4. “Bogus scepticism does not centre on an impartial search for the truth, but on a no-holds-barred defence of a preconceived ideological position. The bogus sceptic is thus, in reality, a disguised dogmatist, made all the more dangerous for his success in appropriating the mantle of the unbiased and open-minded inquirer.”

    Which is why you are not the least bit afraid of an open-minded debate right here, right now, right Mr. Richards? What have you got to lose? It’s a real softball for a knowledgeable man like yourself, trained in the Scientific Method and all – AND it’ll get your readership into double digits.

    I’ll represent the dogmatists, the fakes, the denialists, you the voice of Reason, Sanity and Scientific Curiosity.

    Since I am the dogmatist, I’ll begin:

    Retroviruses rarely if ever harm their host. On what evidence, scientific or or otherwise, do you base your extraordinary claim that “HIV” (almost) always kills its host?

    Macdonald

    September 19, 2008 at 6:50 am

  5. Thanks for those comments, Michael and MacDonald – I’ll have a think about the points you raise and get back to you in a bit if that’s OK?

    Richard

    rcameronw

    September 19, 2008 at 8:01 am

  6. Thanks again guys – I’ve done my best to respond to your points on the article itself on the New Statesman site: http://www.newstatesman.com/ideas/2008/09/evidence-sceptic-hiv-bogus#reader-comments

    rcameronw

    September 20, 2008 at 7:16 am

  7. […] has more background on this tragic case.  See also: “Against the evidence” Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Harvard study blames Mbeki’s AIDS denial […]


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