At first blush, it seems incredible that the international medical-scientific Establishment could be so wrong, for so long, so wastefully expensive in lives and effort and money, as it has been with the belief that there exists a human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, that caused and continues to cause AIDS.
Because it seems so incredible, hordes of commentators dismiss AIDS Rethinkers as denialists — in the company of other denialists, for example, those who refuse to accept that human-liberated carbon dioxide has contributed appreciably to global warming.
Since the late 19th century, “science” has been the touchstone of trustworthy knowledge. What “science” says is naturally taken by the general public, abetted by the media, as what pertinent professional organizations and acknowledged experts say. “Science” is equated with the prevailing mainstream consensus. If science is the touchstone of true knowledge, which it has seemed reasonable to believe since the end of the 19th century, HIV/AIDS theory being wrong would be an enormous, an incredibly enormous, an inexplicable aberration.
The same conundrum faces the large number of climatologists, meteorologists, atmosphere scientists, and the like who are quite sure that there is no credible evidence that the way the earth is warming has anything to do with carbon dioxide.
What: TWO incredibly enormous, inexplicable aberrations in the world of science?
Actually, there are more than two. But each one is known primarily — perhaps even only — to specialists in each given field *. The fact of the matter is that science has changed. What would have seemed an incredible aberration half a century ago has become the new normal.
That’s the message of my recent book, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, and earlier articles **. I found in an impressive range of specialties that minority views expressed by competent experts are not just ignored, not just argued against, they are actively suppressed by refusal of grants, refusal of resources for research, refusal of publication.
The evidence of suppression is conclusive. That does not, of course, entail that the suppressed claims are right and the mainstream wrong. It does demonstrate, however, that the traditional and conventional view of science as characterized by open argument over interpretations, and thereby reliable self-correction on the basis of evidence, does not describe accurately the contemporary scene.
But if science is now not evidence-based and self-correcting, then errors like HIV/AIDS theory are not aberrations, they are to be expected.
This is a bitter lesson for AIDS Rethinkers and other “denialists”. In order to make our case plausible to the media and the general public, we must at the same time make the case for the sea change that has overtaken “science” in the last half century or so: from generally evidence-based and thereby self-correcting to circumstances much like other social activities: heavily influenced by self-interest of the participating people and institutions.
* Suppression of science within science, LewRockwell.com, 17 December 2009
** Science in the 21st Century: Knowledge Monopolies and Research Cartels, Journal of Scientific Exploration 18 (2004) 643—660; The New World Order in Science, LewRockwell.com, 19 December 2009