HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Zoe Corbyn’

NATURE and science journalism

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2012/02/03

The NATURE website has published a couple of pieces about the article by Duesberg et al. in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology (see “Evidence-based medicine: No HIV/AIDS epidemic”): “Paper denying HIV–AIDS link secures publication — Work by infamous AIDS contrarian passes peer review” (by Zoë Corbyn, 5 January 2012)   and “Paper denying HIV–AIDS link sparks resignation — Member of editorial board quits as editor defends publication” (by Zoë Corbyn, 30 January 2012).

The first of these set off an avalanche of comments from Rethinkers and from HIV/AIDS vigilantes. Soon the Nature editors removed some of the Rethinkers’ comments. Brought to task via e-mail, they were unable to offer plausible excuses, and resorted to blaming software glitches. Then ALL the comments disappeared.
Now a few of them have been re-posted, so ineptly as to show a correction by Eugene Semon without the comment that he was correcting, for example. The whole original set of comments is available HERE — Christian Fiala had made a copy of them before they disappeared. Comparing the full original set with the small sample that Nature apparently judges harmless enough to re-post demonstrates how feckless these editors are. For instance, they allow Richard Jefferys to post a string of ad hominem insults, but censor the substantive remarks of Charles Geshekter.
Jefferys has one thing — and only one — in his favor: he writes under his own name. Most of the HIV/AIDS vigilantes hide their identities, no doubt aware that they lack any of the qualifications to take part in such discussions (not to say that Jefferys has any pertinent qualifications).  Some of these groupie-vigilantes seem to use their creative powers only to multiply their pseudonyms, like Snout = Köpek Burun (Turkish for “dog nose”) = Colin Esperson (SO clever, Esperson = S person, i.e. the Snout fellow), etc. etc.

In refusing to post comments from Geshekter and others, Nature said (from  <> signed “-Nature News editors”):
“The following post you wrote on the Nature News website has been hidden by the moderator in accordance with our terms and conditions”;  .
That might lead the unwary to imagine that there are guidelines about substance, civil language, relevance, and the like. Not at all. Nature gives itself the right to be entirely arbitrary and subjective:

“Your content – what we are allowed to do
We may publish, check, edit or remove all or part of the comments, posts, applications, any of your User generated content or other material, including your name, town and country, which you submit to us (‘Your Content’), at our sole discretion. We are not obliged to do any of these things and we may not.
. . . .
This clause 6 means, for example (without limitation), that we can:
. . . .
Remove Your Content, even if you have not breached these Terms or our Community Guidelines;
. . . .
Edit Your Content, which may result in a part of it being modified and displayed, including without your name.
Please note that we do not check, monitor, moderate or even see all the comments and other material submitted to us. While some comments and the applications may be pre-moderated (i.e. checked in advance by us before publication), some comments and other content is not.”

These few paragraphs illustrate accurately the pomposity Nature has long exuded, and which long-term editor John Maddox, for one, exemplified so capably, for instance in regard to special relativity and Herbert Dingle or with the work of Jacques Benveniste; in both cases he managed to change his position drastically without ever admitting to it or showing any signs of embarrassment, exuding arrogant pomposity even as he contradicted himself.
These Terms and Conditions make it possible for the (ir)responsible editors to hide their mis-steps, usually behind anonymity as well. The excuse about software glitches reminded me of the journalist with the BBC who had arranged to interview me by phone, but just before the designated time sent an e-mail that she had been summoned home because a pipe had burst and the house was being flooded; remarkably enough, she never followed through on the promise to be in touch to arrange a new time for the interview.

Perhaps the Nature editors learned something from their experience with the comments on the 5 January piece, because so far they have not censored comments by Geshekter, Terry Michael, and me on the 30 January article — though they did puzzle me with an e-mail saying my post was being hidden even as they posted it. Maybe assistant editor Brian Owens is right after all, and there are glitches in their software that they are unable to fix, technical incompetence matching their intellectual incompetence.

Fecklessness is revealed not only by these editors but also by various people whose credentials lead to them being described as scientists (“Resignations over AIDS denial”, Jef Akst, 31 January 2012):
“Cell biologist Klaudia Brix of Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, has resigned from the board of the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology . . . following the publication of a paper by the infamous Peter Duesberg . . . . Another member of the 13-member board, Hanne Mikkelsen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, is also considering resigning . . . . ‘Only one [external] reviewer in my mind is not enough for manuscripts of a sensitive nature,’ [said] board member Laurentiu Popescu of the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania, who is not resigning”.
The timing of Brix’s resignation demonstrates that she had not taken the time to consider the substance of the controversy, in other words to look at the article itself and its sources and the piece by Chigwedere et al. which had accused Duesberg and President Mbeki of South Africa of partial responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
This sort of thing is far too common nowadays in the scientific community: political considerations, safeguarding one’s position and grants and good standing in the professional guild, outweighing considerations of proper scientific protocols.
Beyond that, too many scientists don’t understand elementary aspects of scientific activity, for example, what and why “peer review” is. Somehow, peer review has become a shibboleth that is taken as a synonym for reliable, trustworthy, properly accredited science. But peer review is nothing but opinion, moreover opinion usually from people who have no second thought about accepting on faith as absolutely true whatever the current belief happens to be that dominates mainstream discourse. But as Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, has pointed out *:

Peer review . . . is simply a way to collect opinions from experts in the field.
 Peer review tells us about the acceptability,
 not the credibility,
 of a new finding

A nicely appropriate commentary came from Hank Campbell at Science 2.0 about Popescu’s remark that a sensitive manuscript called for more than one external reviewer:
“If a paper is shoddy yet isn’t ‘sensitive’, it should be allowed to just sail on through? . . .   Duesberg and co-authors contend HIV is not a new(ish) killer virus and AIDS deaths and their drug treatments are hyped.  The knock on that, say critics, is the use of estimates of AIDS deaths in South Africa based on cause-of-death data, which are notoriously unreliable. But that is the exact same unreliable data AIDS advocates use”  (“Should you resign over a paper you disagree with?”).

The only thing that really counts in science is whether claimed knowledge reflects actual external reality. Evidence and theory need to match one another. Theories have always changed and there is no reason to presume that we will ever evolve an understanding that will require no modification over time, so it’s foolish to insist that any theory is “right”.
Scientists are human, and fallible, no matter how eminent they are. Mainstream beliefs always have to be modified as time goes by. Spokespeople for science have no monopoly over facts or understanding.
Science journalism, unfortunately, draws almost entirely on statements from sources presumed to be authoritative. By contrast, journalists who cover politics or economics or the art world are familiar with the fact that equally qualified experts will deliver opposing views and focus on different facts, but journalists who cover science rarely understand that their authoritative sources are biased and that they should seek out the existing range of views among competent people. Duesberg is no less competent than Gallo, Montagnier, or Fauci; indeed, many insiders will in private rate Duesberg’s scientific competence far above those of the other three; yet so far as science journalism is concerned, Duesberg is “infamous” with respect to HIV/AIDS, and the facts he presents and arguments directly based on them are ignored as  beyond the pale.
Sorely needed is science journalism by individuals capable of grappling with the substance of claims and of asking authoritative spokespeople the right questions. A persistent request for the precise proof that HIV causes AIDS would soon reveal the naked fatuity of the official stance.

*    Richard Horton, Health Wars: On the Global Front Lines of Modern Medicine,
New York Review Books, 2003, p. 306

Posted in experts, HIV skepticism, uncritical media | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Times Higher Education removes comments

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2010/01/15

The Times Higher Education website posted an article about Elsevier’s withdrawal of already accepted articles in Medical Hypotheses:

“Unclear outlook for radical journal as HIV/Aids deniers evoke outrage — Publisher considers Medical Hypotheses’ future in light of articles’ ‘implications'” (by Zoë Corbyn, 14 January 2010) which brought many comments, with a gratifying number of individuals speaking up for the importance of Medical Hypotheses, the limitations of peer review, and the impropriety of attitudes like those expressed by Moore and Kalichman that seek to suppress any critiques of mainstream theories.

Checking for new comments this morning, I found the following:

# Editor’s comment
We have removed a number of comments for breaching our policies. Please note that posters could be vulnerable to legal action with regards to what they say on this forum.”

By the sort of glitch that can happen under these circumstances, one of the removed comments was by me. Those who scan the comments at the moment will therefore find a comment on my comment, by a certain Todd DeShong, and will be puzzled over (1) what he is referring to and (2) why the editor did not remove DeShong’s assertions about me that may well be libelous.

Here’s the comment of mine that had appeared briefly yesterday:

“There’s also an unclear outlook as to whether Elsevier is fit to publish scientific journals.

Glen Campbell, Executive V-P for Global Medical Research Journals, Elsevier Health Sciences, received an e-mail on 3 August 2009 apparently alleging that an article in press and posted on-line constituted a threat to global public health.

What would an administrator of scientific publishing do in this situation? Obviously, the first step is to inform himself properly about the matter by seeking information from the journal’s editor, and possibly also the journal’s Editorial Board, and plausibly from the article’s authors, who would naturally be in the best position to comment on the technical allegations — if any — in the protest e-mail.

Instead, Campbell had the articles taken down without the benefit of advice from editor, editorial board, or authors. It might be noted, too, that the wording of the withdrawal makes serious allegations, arguably libelous, about the article’s authors (see PubMed 19619953).

The authors found out about it when a protester’s blog, on the day following Campbell’s e-mail to the protesters, announced triumphantly their success in having the articles withdrawn.

Several days later, the authors received belated notification of Elsevier’s action, from a different Elsevier vice-president, Chris Lloyd (V-P for Health Sciences Journals). There would be an internal investigation into the matter, he said.

At no time have the authors, the editor, or the editorial board been informed of the content of the protesting e-mail; or about the nature of the internal investigation — who conducted it, what it was supposed to investigate. Most recently, a result of that investigation was communicated to the authors: A panel of editors of medical journals should be asked to advise whether the withdrawn articles were broadly within the bounds of acceptable science.

The salient substantive points, too, have been persistently avoided. The journal JAIDS published an article alleging that hundreds of thousands of South African lives had been needlessly lost because the South African government did not make antiretroviral treatment available, owing in part to Peter Duesberg’s influence, holding him therefore at least partly responsible for those deaths. The calculations used ESTIMATES of South African deaths from AIDS that EXCEED BY A FACTOR OF 25 those published by Statistics South Africa (estimating 350,000 instead of the count from death certificates of about 14,000). JAIDS refused, however, to publish Duesberg’s letter correcting the numbers. Later a modified version (of which I am one of the co-authors) was submitted to and accepted by Medical Hypotheses.

Since it is an article and not a letter, Duesberg’s piece in Medical Hypotheses contains additional material, but the fact remains that JAIDS refused to publish a correction based on official South African statistics, and fanatical defenders of HIV/AIDS dogma are apparently terrified that the media and the wider public might come to know that estimates about AIDS deaths are exaggerated by factors like 25 by such agencies as UNAIDS. That such exaggeration has been routine is attested, for example, by the former epidemiologist for the World Health Organization, James Chin, who points out (“The AIDS Pandemic”, Radcliffe Publishing) that, to explain the alleged spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, one would have to postulate that 20-40% of the adult population is continually engaged in sexual promiscuity with several partners who change frequently.

On the wider issue of whether HIV causes AIDS, it’s pertinent that my own expertise is in history, philosophy and sociology of science, with a special interest in the role of unorthodox views in the progress of science. After monitoring the HIV/AIDS controversy for a decade or so, I was led to collate the data on HIV tests in the United States and realized that the tests are not detecting a infectious agent (see “The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory”, McFarland 2007). My background in science studies enabled me to believe that the mainstream consensus could be wrong because I knew that has happened so often about interpretations and theories: indeed, were it not so, then our understanding would not have progressed.”

Posted in HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, Legal aspects, prejudice, uncritical media | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

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