Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pseudoscience Kills! HIV and Mr. Johnson.

Just ask the people fighting HIV in South Africa:

Consider this little tidbit from the article:

"Mbeki's government first denied that the HIV virus causes AIDS and then resisted offering HIV drugs to its people, calling them expensive and potentially dangerous.
The government bowed to public outcry in 2003 and launched a public antiretroviral (ARV) drug program which officials now call one of the biggest in the world.
But Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang still questions ARVs and instead promotes home-grown remedies such as olive oil, beetroot and garlic. She says they boost nutrition and immune response but activists say her prescription leads to thousands of unnecessary deaths every year."

Pseudoscience does kill: olive oil and garlic??? These may be good for you but empirical evidence suggests that the HIV virus doesn't care and will evolve within the host to defeat any such folk remedy. People get upset at science when it doesn't give easy answers or when the answers it gives suggests a strategy at odd with one's moral framework.

Is it any coincidence then that Phillip Johnson of Intelligent Design fame was a dissenter early on with regards to the cause of AIDS?

Notice Johnson's Logic here:

"Warning signs that Gallo's virus might not be the cause of AIDS were abundant. Why wasn't the virus itself found in quantity in all of the AIDS patients? How abundant and active was the virus? Mightn't the presence of antibodies imply that the patients had developed immunity to the virus, rather than that the virus was destroying their immune systems? Above all, by what observable mechanism was this retrovirus not only destroying the immune system, but also causing such disparate conditions as Kaposi's sarcoma (hereafter KS) and dementia? The mystery was all the deeper because the virus was supposed to perform its destructive work many years after infection and after being reduced to near non-existence by the very antibodies that provided the evidence of infection."

Raise some good questions and then use it to trash the scientific consensus on HIV:

"Serious questions are met with frivolous answers, because HIV science is practiced by people like those domineering jurors, who made up their minds before all the facts were in and then stopped listening. The HIV theory has become axiomatic, and so even patently question-begging answers will suffice to explain away disconfirming evidence. The HIV scientific establishment gets away with this unprofessional behavior because AIDS research is tightly controlled from the top, and because acquiescent science reporters and editors have allowed themselves to be bamboozled by self-serving propaganda. The HIV scientists claim that it is somehow "homophobic" to question the HIV theory, or that reporters who publicize the mounting reasons for doubt will be responsible for furthering the spread of the epidemic. Few voices in the biomedical research community, which depends on HIV money for its funding, are raised in protest. The example of Peter Duesberg, who lost virtually all his funding as a consequence of his dissent, stands as a warning to all the others. "

Of course time and research has proven Johnson wrong. Certainly he and Duesberg were free to dissent, but clearly Johnson is playing some sort of victimology game and the way he characterizes HIV scientists is eerily similar to the way evolutionary biologists are characterised as being dogmatic. Sure scientists are human and sometimes vested interests to come into play but I wonder how many people are being discouraged from going into science because of the mistrust of science foisted on our civilization by Mr. Johnson and other pseudoscientists disquising themselves as "critical thinkers".

How many deaths have been caused by this sort of pseudoscience thinking about HIV? How many deaths are going to indirectly be caused by pseudoscientific thinking in the realm of intelligent design?

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