Thursday, August 30, 2007

Denialism Redux; Who Should Fight It and Why

SciBlogger Abel Pharmboy, of Terra Sig Illata, has written a very interesting post about the paper I posted about yesterday. Abel makes a very good point that I would very much like to expand upon.


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.

12 comments:

Beth said...

Problem is, those who are ignorant, or who just plain prefer to ignore the truth, are usually stubborn, or they fail to see themselves as being close-minded, or admit that they could be in the wrong.

DuWayne Brayton said...

The importance of responding to it, lies in the fact that while you might not change the mind of the person spouting, you may well prevent others, who just don't know, from buying into it.

BobApril said...

I have to agree with Beth on this one - which may be a first. There is a LOT of invincible ignorance out there. In addition, denialism frequently provides a more interesting, exciting, or just a simpler story, all of which are more attractive to even an open-minded person who is starting from a position of ignorance.

Of course, that doesn't invalidate DuWayne's call to arms - if the choices are to speak up and mostly be ignored, or keep silent and let the lies go unchallenged, there's really only one choice. Even if it fails.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Again, it's not necessarily for the benefit of the person you are addressing, but others who hear you, who may go any which way.

Jane Know said...

good posting. i work in the HIV/AIDS healthcare field and remember learning about this in nursing school (briefly) a couple years ago. i had forgotten all about this weird "movement."

DuWayne Brayton said...

Jane -

It really pisses me off. First, because one of the people I met, while volunteering as a honme helper for those with HIV/AIDS, managed to contract a nasty virus because she wasn't taking meds. The virus caused enough damage that she won't likely be alive next year. The reason she wasn't on the meds, was that she bought into this denialist bullshit. Ironically, she bought into it after a reading a denialism magazine (don't remember what it was called) that is now defunct because the editor died of an AIDS related illness.

The other reason is that they have managed to influence public policy in a couple of African nations.

Jane Know said...

Duwayne,
wow. i had no idea about the public policy changes in Africa. i guess we take it for granted where i work that increases in viral load usually lead to increases in opportunistic infections (among other things). how frustrating, and sad, if people don't believe it.
Jane

Hamadryas said...

My condolences for your friend.

I've been lurking over at aetiology for a while and am slowly coming to the conclusion that the denialists are correct, at least that the current HIV=AIDS paradigm makes no sense whatsoever.

I was drawn to your site when you expressed disgust and appalled shock at the Dr. Mark Wainberg video.

I can understand your position.I used to have it as well, but the evidence accumulating daily shows that the Big Picture on the issue is very clouded.I see the HIV/AIDS proponents mostly arguing over the details, akin to twenty blind men arguing over the elephant while the sighted man can clearly see it's a tapir.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hamadryas -

First, I should be very clear that I am a strong advocate of free speech, even that which I find immoral and entirely repugnant.

I am sorry to hear that you are buying into the denialist bullshit. There is simply no evidence, not a lick, to defend their position. They make a lot of claims based on dubious statistical analysis that, when responded to, causes them to move the goalposts.

Of course their biggest weapon is sheer volume and persistence. When they shoot a continuous stream of their bile, it overwhelms the truth. This does not mean they are right, it is more an expression of pathology.

Hamadryas said...

Hmmmm, what about
Rodriguez et al.
Padian et al.
Gisselquist et al.
The Concorde study
Another study out of Denmark IIRC
(Loshe et al.) shows very curious
"anomolies" to drug responses.
The recent study published in the
Lancet that showed that HAART therapy basically doesn't do anything.The recent studies done by the WHO that show low white blood cell counts do not qualify for a diagnosis of AIDS.

The Guinea Pig Kids.Please, Duwayne, you couldn't stomach the Mark Wainberg youtube show, don't tell me you'll readily accept the justifications for that travesty.

The HIV tests themselves all contain disclaimers.

The virus is supposed to mutate so rapidly we never have a real chance at a vaccine, just like colds.Yet the same base proteins are used for testing diagnosis over and over again, unlike colds, which switch out proteins so rapidly we need to update our databases every season.Yet HIV from 1950 blood samples is instantly recognizable with HIV from 2007 based on those same proteins within the same sequences.

Heck, the lack of any distinct proteins for the retrovirus.Even p24 which was crowed about for some time is found in people with neuropathic disorders(MS for example)

Duwayne, don't be a blind man arguing for the elephant.

Here, I'm linking you to Alive and Well

http://www.aliveandwell.org/

Why don't you scroll down the iframe and see the response mexican HIV/AIDS researchers had for the denialists regarding an open,live debate on TV-Azteca?

If the denialists are so full of bullshit, why, after so many years of Christine Maggiore offering free room and board as well as paying airfare, has not a single mainstream HIV/AIDS scientist agreed to an open,on the record public debate with an impartial moderator?They should be able to CREAM her!

I've seen debates between creationists and evolutionists.Let me tell you, every time I have seen the creationists look like they just had their first-born child torn to shreds in front of them.That is because the scientists could back up all their facts with references and observable, even testable phenomenon.Saying "its in the Buy-Bul" doesn't cut it, let alone ridiculous outdated claims that flagella are a special creation.

Denialists aren't "cherry-picking"
They have a vast, extensive literature of references that are all mainstream.Just check out David Crowe's website.

Duwayne, until you actually can refute point by point the denialists assertions(and they are Legion indeed) you haven't a leg to stand on.

Go back fondling your elephant like the rest of the blind men.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hamadryas -

Why should I refute anything point by point? There are plenty of folks with far more qualification than I, that do so regularly.

Nor does it make sense to debate denialists. That would merely imply that they have some credibility. I have argued the rounds with neurological disorder denialists. All that happens, is the same thing that happens when debating any denialists.

First, they engage in ad hominen attacks. Then they make a weak argument. Weak argument is refuted, they move to another weak argument, when that one is refuted, they either move to another, or recycle the initial argument. They never actually defend their arguments, they just wait a while and recycle them. They also usually throw in an appeal to authority, again never defending them, but recycling them as they move through the discussion.

Hamadryas said...

Again, complete avoidance of the issue Mr. Brayton.

Debate and peer review are the life-blood of science Mr. Brayton.
Again, I have see many a debate btw evolutionists and creationists.
Evolutionists win every time by dint of the peer-reviewed references and independantly testable observations they use.

HIV/AIDS denialists and for that matter, denialists of such conditions as ADD etc. can and should be debated in open forums with impartial moderators.

Here, another vaccine that failed.
This time it is blamed on the cold virus used as a delivery vessel.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071107/sc_nm/aids_vaccine_merck_dc;_ylt=Alke8MtKj9ATs6rySbW637ms0NUE

I see more and more articles and papers coming out every month that continously chip away at the mainstream paradigm.

Here, look at this link regarding the Gisselquist paper

http://www.africaaction.org/docs02/hiv0210t.htm

How about gay men get half the aids cases but have, on average, about the same relative number of sexual partners as heterosexuals?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070913132930.htm

Look at this NewAidsReview article on Dr. Anthony Fauci.

http://www.scienceguardian.com/blog/?p=710

Did you even bother to look at the above Alive and Well link's iframe?
Do you even bother to look at _any_ references before heeding the siren call of the blind fondling the elephant?

Here, take a look at the current crowing over intimidating the BBC into denying the Guinea Pig Kids Documentary was factually based.

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/10/bbc_apologizes_for_promotion_o.php#more

Here is a link to a free film download.

http://www.guineapigkids.com/