HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

THE “GALILEO GAMBIT STRAWMAN”

Posted by Darin Brown on 2008/05/23

Perhaps the most common reaction to dissident arguments is the argumentum ad populum, more commonly known as the “argument from consensus”. You know, “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong”. This is perfectly exemplified by a quote Robert Gallo gave to Anthony Liversidge in 1989:

“There is no organized body of science that thinks it is anything but comedy with Peter right now. That’s the fact. Why does the Institute of Medicine, WHO (World health Organization), CDC (Centers for Disease Control), National Academy of Sciences, NIH, Pasteur Institute and the whole body of science 100 percent agree that HIV is the cause of AIDS? If there was anything to what Peter is saying, wouldn’t it occur to you that there would be some other scientists that would agree with Peter? Can you tell me anyone?”

Twenty years later, little has changed:

“Debating denialists dignifies their position in a way that is unjustified by the facts about HIV/AIDS. The appropriate way for dissenting scientists to try to persuade other scientists of their views on any scientific subject is by publishing research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. For many years now, AIDS denialists have been unsuccessful in persuading credible peer-reviewed journals to accept their views on HIV/AIDS, because of their scientific implausibility and factual inaccuracies. That failure does not entitle those who disagree with the scientific consensus on a life-and-death public health issue to then attempt to confuse the general public by creating the impression that scientific controversy exists when it does not.” — “Answering AIDS Denialists”, AIDSTruth.org

The argument from consensus is a logical fallacy. The truth of a claim is not dependent on how many people hold the claim to be true. There are many counterexmaples from history, but a favorite is Galileo’s advocacy of Copernicanism. The response runs as follows: “Almost everyone thought Galileo was wrong, but he turned out to be right. Therefore, just because almost everyone thinks something is true, doesn’t make it so.”

The fallaciousness of the argument from consensus is a banal fact which is hardly in dispute. Therefore, people arguing from consensus are forced to either defend their claims with other valid arguments or to defend the argument from consensus with further logical fallacies. The clever try their hand at the former; the dim-witted almost invariably try their hand at the latter by using a logical fallacy I like to call the “Galileo Gambit Strawman”.

The idea behind the fallacy is to replace the above response to the argument from consensus with a strawman called the “Galileo Gambit”. The fallacy runs like this: “Yes, Galileo was right when almost everyone thought he was wrong. However, for every Galilieo, there are a thousand Bozo the Clowns who are wrong. Just because you compare yourself to Galileo, doesn’t mean you are right. You are far more likely to be wrong. Stop using the ‘Galileo Gambit’.”

The “Galileo Gambit” has become a favorite tactic of pseudo-skeptics, as it was recently popularized by one of our favorite surgeons-turned-blogger “Orac” (“Respectful Insolence”), certainly familiar to many readers of this blog. Unfortunately for dear Orac and his readers, it is a strawman argument.

When someone invokes Galileo as a counterexample against the argument from consensus, they are not asserting that because almost everyone disagrees with them, they are necessarily correct in their claims. Such an argument is patently absurd, and I have rarely, if ever, seen it advanced. When someone invokes Galileo, they are not claiming that such a comparison is sufficient to establish their claim, they are simply asserting that the example of Galileo provides evidence that consensus itself is insufficient reason to reject a claim.

The Galileo Gambit Strawman is committed in response to a perceived use of the Galileo Gambit, not the Galileo Gambit itself. It is ironic that such an elementary and obvious logical fallacy as this is perpetrated almost invariably by those who most claim to be “rational”, “skeptical”, and “scientific”.

APPENDIX

=======

For those wishing a more precise mathematical explication of the “Galileo Gambit Strawman” fallacy:

Let

D = “Everyone disagrees with me.”, and

R = “I am right.”

The skeptic is saying

“~(D ==> ~R),”

where “~” indicates logical negation, in words,

“It is not the case that because everyone disagrees with me, I am necessarily wrong.”

The defender counters

“~(D ==> R)”

in words,

“It is not the case that because everyone disagrees with you, you are necessarily right.”

The statement

“(D ==> R)”

in words,

“Everyone disagrees with me, therefore I am right.”

is called the “Galileo Gambit”, and it is correctly described as a fallacy.

But the skeptic did not say “(D ==> R)”, they said “~(D ==> ~R)”. So I call the strawman counter above from the defender the “Galileo Gambit Strawman”.

The Galileo Gambit Strawman then takes the precise form:

“~(D ==> ~R) <==> (D ==> R)”

The first statement is the correct argument against the argument from consensus. The second statement is the fallacious Galileo Gambit. Taking the two statements to be logically equivalent is the fallacious Galileo Gambit Strawman.

9 Responses to “THE “GALILEO GAMBIT STRAWMAN””

  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptWhy does the Institute of Medicine, WHO (World health Organization), CDC (Centers for Disease Control), National Academy of Sciences, NIH, Pasteur Institute and the whole body of science 100 percent agree that HIV is the cause of AIDS? … […]

  2. Henry Bauer said

    Darin:

    Thanks! Indeed, the fallacious argument from consensus is the standard ploy by defenders of HIV/AIDS dogma. A succession of witnesses for the prosecution revealed their depending on other “experts” for their own belief.

  3. Lucas said

    “Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had . . . Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away.” — Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming” [link]

    Strange how memory plays tricks. I had been sure Crichton was talking about “overwhelming evidence”, until I checked it up a moment ago.

    I would also consider substituting “Everybody knows…”

  4. Martin said

    Your (well presented logic) argument would go right over the heads of most of the sheep following the AIDS Establishment leaders like Gallo(w) or Fauci. The sad part is the leaders know that their arguments by consensus are wrong — but the average person is convinced by their credibility. The best salesmen don’t sell a product, they sell themselves, i.e. their credibility. Once they’ve sold the customer on that, they can sell the customer anything.

  5. Dave said

    Wow, such lucid logic!

    Also, don’t forget the “No True Scotsman Fallacy,” or its lovely cousin in AIDS.world, the “No True Scientist Fallacy”

    Argument: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
    Reply: “But my uncle Angus, who is a Scotsman, likes sugar with his porridge.”
    Rebuttal: “Aye, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

    Argument: “No, scientist disputes the viral cause of AIDS”
    Reply: “But, Dr. Peter Duesberg and Dr. Kary Mullis, are scientists who dispute this.
    Rebuttal: “Aye, but no true scientist disputes the viral cause of AIDS.

  6. Zetetic_chick said

    The “Galileo gambit strawman” used by pseudo-skeptics, it’s one form of “Technically Correct Pseudo-Refutation”

    As explained in this article: “Pseudoskeptics are fond of arguing that hundreds of respectable scientists believe that a certain idea is bunk, and therefore, it must be. When one points out to them that many scientific breakthroughs were ridiculed and dismissed by the scientific establishment of the time, they retort that not every idea that has been ridiculed or dismissed turned out to be correct. Correct, but completely irrelevant, because it responds to an argument that was not made. The argument was not that ridicule or dismissal by scientific experts is sufficient grounds for accepting an unorthodox claim, simply that it is insufficient grounds for rejecting it.”

    http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/New/Examskeptics/skepticism_suppressedscience.html

    It’s surprising how supposedly self-proclaimed “rationalists” are so fallacious. Some “skeptics” seem to have some type of intellectual impairment to make them unable to recognize their own fallacies and invalid arguments.

  7. coolman said

    Do they even have a consensus? Doubt it, in order to prove they have one they would have to assemble about 1000 of the world’s top scientists, expose them to both sides of the debate and then have them give a verdict. This has never been done, all that’s been done is having the “Durban Declaration” which is the equivalent of having a jury only hearing one side of an argument and then reaching a verdict; i.e. manufactured consent, not informed consent.

    Judging by how many prestigious scientists have spoken against the hypothesis, members of the NAS like Margulis, Duesberg, Rubin, Nobel prize winners like Gilbert and Mullis, and The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology’s most capable scientists like Shyh Lo and Wear etc., they never had a consensus in the first place. This is quite a lot of people to speak out considering the risks to one’s career. One can only imagine how many more rethinkers are out there but don’t speak out because of fear. Seems like another lie by AIDS Inc.; this massive consensus they gloat about probably doesn’t exist.

  8. Frank said

    London’s First Post has headlined an article on the workings of scientific consensus:

    The trouble is that alleged scientific consensus has never been in more disarray. Not that we in Britain would know much about the increasing dissent in the international science community on climate change, because the British mainstream news media declines to report it…As the trickle of ‘dissident’ scientists becomes a stream, however, leading anti-alarmists…are describing 2008 as the ‘tipping point’, the year when the real science argument swings their way. If they are right, the UN and much of the Western news media will, alarmingly, be shown to have colluded in closing down an important debate, often by marginalising world-renowned scientists as ‘cranks’ and ‘mavericks’.

  9. Nick Naylor said

    It should also be clear at this point that a self-governing people can ignore absurd proclamations like the Durban Declaration and decide that an entire field — virology — has outlived its usefulness. Indeed, given our current economic crisis, lobbying to reject funding for those “experts” who don’t have the common sense to see that Africa needs food not anti-retrovirals seems to be an imperative. (Medical drugs still have a priority, of course.)

    This requires IMO an informed citizenry not betrayed by its corporate media. However, more and more individuals ARE seeing through the various scams that profit off human misery without solving the underlying causes of it.

    Science journalism for the wider public should include reporting on those investigators who look at validation standards of economic, climate and viral-transmission models. Perhaps at the very least, UNAIDS projections of putative HI viral transmissions in Africa based on mathematical models will not be confused with statistics based on data.

    For some “healthy” rethinking on economics and global warming, I recommend the writings of William F Engdahl at http://www.globalresearch.ca.

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