A valued observer of this blog was horrified to see me repeat the inaccurate claim that the Perth group had tried to prove that HIV doesn’t exist (COMMUNICATING VIA PERSONAL E-MAIL, 17 December).
Had I gone first and straight to the primary source–the Perth Group’s website–I would have seen among the FAQs:
“DOES THE PERTH GROUP REALLY BELIEVE HIV DOES NOT EXIST?
The Perth Group does not broker beliefs and has never claimed HIV does not exist. (Neither have we claimed AIDS does not exist although we and our colleagues are often referred to as ‘AIDS Denialists’). What we have argued on numerous occasions in our publications and presentations is there is no proof that a retrovirus HIV does exist. Not in test-tubes, not in AIDS patients and not in anyone who is ‘HIV’ positive. We freely concede that our assertion may be wrong but to date no HIV expert has responded with any argument that has convinced us otherwise. There is a tradition in science that those who propose theories provide the proof. According to this tradition it is up to the HIV protagonists to come up with proof that HIV does exist. A scientist cannot employ the ‘Martian’ argument. That Martians exist because there is no proof they do not exist. It is our long held view that the laboratory phenomena documented by Montagnier and Gallo in Science in 1983/84 (which are still the best papers on this particular topic) are not specific for retroviruses and do not constitute proof of isolation of a retrovirus. In regard to Montagnier’s ‘discovery of HIV’ please read our recent paper mhmont.pdf
I offer a sincere apology in all directions.
In case to understand is to excuse: several newspaper accounts asserted explicitly that Parenzee’s defense insisted that HIV doesn’t exist, for example “Shadow of doubters” (originally published by Ruth Pollard in the Sydney Morning Herald).
I was reminded by another friendly correspondent that perhaps one ought not to believe everything one reads in the newspapers.
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On the plus side:
1. PEER REVIEW
It’s extremely reassuring to me that alert and knowledgeable observers of this blog tell me about mistakes and other deficiencies.
I’ve been interested for many years in the role that heresies and heterodoxies play in the progress of science. A crucial point is that the orthodoxy is highly structured and organized whereas those who dissent from the orthodox view tend to be unorganized (not to say DISorganized). Tangible benefits accrue from belonging to mainstream organizations, whereas being a dissenter brings anything but benefits.
To the extent that science has been self-correcting and increasingly reliable, those virtues stem from mutual critiquing among researchers, in other words, “peer review”. Dissenters don’t usually have the benefit of peer review. The orthodoxy is dismissive and doesn’t offer constructive, substantive criticism. Individual dissenters may be reluctant to criticize details of other dissenters’ views because they are all “in the same boat”; and they may also be more interested in pursuing their own pet ideas than becoming familiar with and constructively discussing the ideas that other dissenters have. Whatever the reasons, it is rare that dissenters are able to organize for effective, unified action.
So I’m truly grateful to those who provide me the benefit of peer review by telling me of deficiencies and outright errors.
2. SETTING AN EXAMPLE
I would like to think that by striving for all possible accuracy, and by acknowledging and correcting errors, HIV skeptics can stand in stark contrast to the dogmatic defenders-of -HIV dogma-at-all-costs who stick by mutually contradictory assertions and refuse to acknowledge even the facts published in their own articles, say, the plain fact that Padian failed to observe even one instance of HIV transmission during the course of her study; “Over time, the authors observed increased condom use (p <0.001) and no new infections [emphasis added]” (Abstract); “We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study” (p. 354)—Padian et al., American Journal of Epidemiology, 146  350-7.
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I remain with the central point in my discussion draft, canwelearnfromparenzee.doc : “the need to identify exactly what is necessary to establish sufficient doubt about HIV = AIDS dogma”, and to find some way of bringing those points effectively to the attention of the general public.
Another way of putting it: Keep it as simple as possible. Reporters find it difficult to recognize, or to write accurately about, such distinctions as between “has not been proven to exist” and “does not exist”.
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FURTHER READING AND ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF:
That peer review constitutes the actual scientific method is discussed in Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method. Scientific knowledge begins as hunches, which generate frontier research from which relatively reliable understanding eventuates after running the gauntlet of the knowledge filter, whose efficacy depends on how disinterested and conscientious peer review is.
The differences between orthodox scientific activity and the strivings of dissenters and heretics, and the corollaries and consequences of those differences, are discussed in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies; The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery (especially chapter 6, The Quest, and chapter 10, Nessie, Science, and truth); Beyond Velikovsky (especially chapter 8, Pseudo-Scientists, Cranks, Crackpots, and chapter 15, Some realities about science).
Characteristics of science and of unorthodoxies are discussed in Fatal Attractions: The Troubles with Science.