Before I started reading science blogs, much less starting my own, I had no idea how widespread the misconception was on the web denying that HIV was the cause of AIDS. I have to assume that many working scientists like me would also be surprised at the prevalence of this faulty logic.
But another great contribution of the article is the call to arms it makes to all scientists that we be more engaged in public sentiments about science and medicine
I would add to this, that I hope this is a call to arms for scientists to function as a support mechanism for the non-scientists who give a damn and want to fight denialism. Not exclusively of HIV/AIDS, but denialism of many stripes. This is something that I really appreciate about Seed's SciBlogs collective. Many sciblogers there have been a great source of great information about a variety of subjects. Not just accessible through the posts they put up, many of them are also accessible through comment threads and via email.
The thing is, in the fight against denialism and it's real consequences, real evidence is absolutely essential. Scientists who help accumulate that evidence, interpret it, explain it, in laymen's terms, are essential. At the same time, people who are not scientists, are the critical link to reaching the general public. It is important for those of us who are not science professionals, to say "hey, wait a minute," when we here someone spouting off inane bullcrap. If it goes against what you know to be true, jump on it. If it goes against what you believe to be true, find out about it, research a little, see if it's true or not. If it's not, jump on it.
Why you or me? Why is it our responsibility, why should we even care? Because a lot of brands of denialism, carry real world consequences. For denialism such as neurological disorder denialism or evidence based medicine denial, the consequences can be profoundly damaging, even deadly. For HIV/AIDS denialism, the results are quite often deadly, especially when it affects public policy. Even for less dangerous denialism, such as holocaust denial or evolution denial, the consequences are anything but benign. Both promote ignorance and are often indicative of other, sometimes far more insidious forms of denialism.
Like I have said before, people rarely stop with one. Credulity is pervasive, often pathological. Ignorance can be and too often is, very nasty business indeed. Far too often, far too many people are happy to speak with assumed authority, from a position of ignorance. Unfortunately, many who speak such, manage to sound really good, to sound like they're right, when they do so. Thus we have a responsibility as members of our society to educate ourselves and at the least, not to speak from ignorance, if we're afraid to speak truth to ignorance.