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I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures.
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Celia Farber profiled as articulate, ‘obsessive’ AIDS ‘anarchist’ by NY Observer

June 28th, 2006

Detailed front page story stays away from saying she is wrong


Deft sketch portrays her as basket case study of her theme of censorship

Whatever you make of it as science politics, Sheelah Kolhatkar’s take on Celia Farber today (Wed Jun 28) in the elitist pink gossip sheet of the chattering classes in Manhattan draws an accurate picture of a tough minded but supersentient being who has suffered the tortures of the damned for twenty years in pursuing the off limits topic of whether HIV is valid as the key to AIDS.

On the night of Saturday, June 10, the controversial journalist Celia Farber was holding court at a quiet cocktail party in a roped-off section of the Roosevelt Hotel bar in midtown Manhattan. “What does an animal do when they know they’re going to be killed?” she asked, her voice taut, as a handful of people looked on. “They play dead.”

Ms. Farber was in the midst of an anecdote about one of her preferred subjects, her persecution at the hands of a vast network of enemies, and its effect on her writing career. “I’ve been there,” she continued. “You lose interest in doing well; you stop caring about being successful.”

The author of this tragicomedy, the slim, brunette Kolhatkar, is a young beauty who while at the party mentioned in the piece admitted to this writer that she was so devoted to her work writing up various figures in circles of publishing power and influence in Manhattan that she finds herself dreaming about it, and she does a very sophisticated job, handling Farber with care and the perceptive ear of a good theater critic.

She is noticeably polite about Farber’s iconoclastic view on HIV?AIDS, and after the obligatory quote from Moore’s Op Ed piece, gives no extra space to Celia bashing by calling on the likes of a John Moore or Martin Delaney, the paradigm palace guard who can be counted on to make cheap cracks deploring Farber’s misguided resistance to the authority of the HIV?AIDS scientists who are in fact the chief suspects in this case.

The gossipy but telling piece feels to us like a wry Manhattan inner circle assessment of another member of the media power club, who however renegade in her work is not treated here as someone to be trashed as beyond the pale. Although she may be taken aback at being sketched as unremittingly doleful, we hope it will be a pleasant surprise for Farber to read this, when she does – at the moment she has fled to the country with her family and a robot is answering her email.

For while the elephant in the room is largely overlooked as usual, the “blonde, thin AIDS anarchist” is framed in a worldly manner that leaves plenty of room for the possibility that she may be right to champion the censored side of the issue – that is, it does until the very end of the article. Then in a rather abrupt windup it seems to us that Farber is finally patronized as an obsessive who according to her friend and one time editor Bob Guccione of SPIN and Gear has spent a little too much time on “her holy quest”. And in Sheelah’s own view, Celia is a born agitator who would be “lost without her battles”:

When asked how the endless contrarianism might have impacted Ms. Farber professionally, Mr. Guccione, another believer in the “fostering debate” approach to publishing, said: “I think she has paid a terrific price.” He continued: “You know, the flip side of that is, I think she spent too much time dwelling on the AIDS beat. It’s been a holy quest for her.”

In any case, Ms. Farber would be lost without her battles. She said that she’s always been fascinated by Stalinism, Communism, the Holocaust, witch hunts; she visits “as many dictatorships as I can.” “

Seems to us this is going overboard, like the headline – Celia is a paradigm revolutionary in our book, not exactly an anarchist. She is fighting spurious and abusive authority, not all authority, all the time. But perhaps the writer is handicapped by the almost universal inability to conceive that the whole world is wrong on HIV?AIDS. What’s nice is that she dosn’t push it. On the other hand, she doesn’t justify Celia’s quest either.

For most of the deft article as we read it she is respectful of Celia’s work and of her pain, though she doesn’t seem to be entirely clear that Celia was and is not always as she is painted here. Celia’s present preoccupation with the hostility aroused by her work quoted throughout the piece is to our ear the sound of nervous fatigue, coming after twenty years where huge demands were made of the talented author with very little recompense, by the standards of the market today.

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“And this may be the genius of the piece: by depicting so well the plight of a literary victim, it makes exactly the point that Celia wants to demonstrate in her work, which is that it is the censorship which is killing people.”

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Sheelah hints at the financial stress over the years mentioning Celia’s jobs as dishwasher etc but she doesn’t seem to realize that this sacrifice is far from over. Celia is suffering from nervous exhaustion after two years of superhuman effort with not enough emotional and professional support from colleagues or editors, let alone proper pay for her efforts and talent. This is the price demanded of those who flout the current media-science-industrial complex, at least in HIV?AIDS.

That is why the charmingly unpretentious picture of Celia by Melanie Flood accompanying the article (titled Celia Farber in her apartment on the Upper West Side) looks a little more bedraggled than a personal publicist would like (on the Web only — in the print version, where the inside full page is headlined “Celia’s Offensive”, nice pun, the photo looks absolutely beautiful, for some reason). Here is another one of Celia two years ago, looking a good deal fresher at a HEAL gathering in Manhattan, where her colleague in paradigm dismantling, scientist Harvey Bialy, gave a lectern-pounding reading from his “Oncogenes” book. It was the night she heard from Lapham that her piece was accepted.

Here at least she does get credit for her achievements. The “rag tag band” of dissenters would still look like 9/11 conspiracy theorists except for two things that have emboldened them recently, Kolhatkar reports. These are Farber’s twin literary successes – the big piece in Harper’s March issue and now her new book that is just out (July 1st publication date, but already available for three weeks on Amazon), a collection of her key pieces on HIV?AIDS.

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Commercial interruption: Let’s hope a lot of people buy “Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS”, as they should – it is a great read for any nonscientist (or scientist) who wants to catch up with this scene, unique in its vast social and political distortion of sense and science, which Celia describes with a true writer’s thoughtfulness and clarity in vivid story telling from the front lines.

The paperback, which has the cover design of a literary classic and deserves it, includes the first draft of what she wrote for Lapham, a lovely, telling piece which centers on Peter Duesberg’s travails as well as his science; the biographical part was eventually displaced in Harper’s by the newer topic of cooked and lethal AIDS drug trials. It’s worth the price of the book – but so is every well told, illuminating chapter, in which science derailed is described with the clarity of an on-the-scene report from a critical observer.

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As we say, the Observer piece falls apart at the end, we find, though others may read it differently. The last paragraphs shortchange Farber’s intellectual cause by reducing it to reflex anti-fascism and saying that she has taken refuge in appealing merely for free debate. Here given Celia’s deep moral sensibility and her outrage at the deaths of patients, and her twenty year championing of Duesberg’s consistent position that there is nothing in the HIV argument, we expect that she will feel insulted and cheapened.

By focusing her outrage on her opposition’s desire to silence dissent rather than on the actual scientific arguments, Ms. Farber finds protection under the idea that no subject or theory, regardless of its implications, should be taken off the table; continuing to ask the questions can be more important than answering them.

But even if it finally does go off the rails in this way, perhaps due to hasty editing, this is in many ways the first intelligent, worldly article about the leading HIV?AIDS lay critic and her cause, and it is certainly unfair to expect a young woman however smart who is unfamiliar with the field of unscience involved to catch up with the real situation in only three weeks.

All in all, for a gossip piece this is a brilliant encapsulation of a unique spirit and her predicament, even if the forces that have led to it – and the validity of her cause – are not fully depicted by the profiler. Truth to tell, it seems pretty clear that in her extended conversations and emailing with a very thorough reporter her subject neglected the issue herself.

And this may be the genius of the piece: by depicting so well the plight of a literary victim, it makes exactly the point that Celia wants to demonstrate in her work, which is that it is the censorship which is killing people.

AIDS Anarchist Farber

Hops Back in Whirlwind

By Sheelah Kolhatkar

On the night of Saturday, June 10, the controversial journalist Celia Farber was holding court at a quiet cocktail party in a roped-off section of the Roosevelt Hotel bar in midtown Manhattan. “What does an animal do when they know they’re going to be killed?” she asked, her voice taut, as a handful of people looked on. “They play dead.”

Ms. Farber was in the midst of an anecdote about one of her preferred subjects, her persecution at the hands of a vast network of enemies, and its effect on her writing career. “I’ve been there,” she continued. “You lose interest in doing well; you stop caring about being successful.”

Most of the 15 or so at the party were members of Rethinking AIDS, a group of scientists, writers and others who propagate the radical idea that H.I.V. does not cause AIDS. One of Ms. Farber’s beliefs, for example, is that the scientific explanations for the AIDS epidemic are corrupted by drug companies that seek to show that AIDS is amenable to drug therapies—profitable ones.

Their esoteric ideas have far-reaching implications, to say the least. If H.I.V. doesn’t cause AIDS, then “safe sex,” drug “cocktails”—in short, everything that the medical establishment says about prevention and treatment—is wrong.

Not unsurprisingly, the group is small, marginalized and the object of intense criticism in public-health circles. (They view themselves as AIDS “dissenters,” while their critics refer to them as “denialists.”)

Ms. Farber is a central figure among the AIDS “dissenters.” She isn’t a scientist herself; instead, she champions the scientific work of Peter Duesberg, a cancer researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. Ms. Farber sees herself as some sort of modern-day Clarence Darrow to Mr. Duesberg’s Scopes—an advocate whose lonely battle will be vindicated through the prisms of history and science.

Her two-decade career has been dominated by her efforts to keep debate about the dissenting AIDS theory alive, and nearly every piece she publishes on the subject triggers a seismic backlash. An Op-Ed piece in The New York Times on June 4 accused her camp of “Deadly Quackery”: “The truth is that H.I.V. does exist, that it causes AIDS and that antiretroviral drugs can prevent H.I.V. transmission and death from AIDS,” it read. “To deny these facts is not just wrong—it’s deadly.”

One could argue that Ms. Farber gave her life for her obsession with the cause. A few months ago, she and her ragtag band of colleagues might have been considered, by some, to be one step away from the conspiracy theorist’s asylum, next in line behind the 9/11-was-an-inside-job crowd. But they’ve been feeling emboldened by two recent successes: the publication of Ms. Farber’s first book, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS, by the independent press Melville House; and, perhaps more significantly, the appearance of a 15-page article by Ms. Farber in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Indeed, as one party attendee pointed out, not everyone in the media world regards Celia Farber as a petrified animal. “There are so many people who admire her,” said Thor Halvorssen, a personal friend of Ms. Farber, who was there solely to lend her moral support. He paused. “[Former Harper’s editor] Lewis Lapham, for one.”

UP CLOSE, MS. FARBER, 40, HAS A DAMAGED, fragile air. She is tall and exceedingly thin, with limbs that look as if they might snap to the touch. Her facial features are dramatically chiseled, with large brown eyes topped off with carefully tousled blond hair. “After all these years, the spotlight is on me,” Ms. Farber said, sipping a glass of white wine. “It’s come at the same moment when I’ve ceased to care any more. There comes a point where I don’t crave respectability, I don’t expect to get it from the outside.”

Ms. Farber sees AIDS through the lens of totalitarianism (American society in general, American science specifically and the National Institutes of Health all earned the label). To engage with her is to enter a surreal plane where her intensity threatens to overwhelm. Dozens of e-mails arrive in the night filled with angry rantings, impassioned pleas, links to articles and letters to the editor—all offering a glimpse into the emotional seesaw that is her existence. She seems riven by anxious energy, and her long fingers tend to flutter around her temples like butterflies as she speaks.

At the Roosevelt, she was seated on a couch next to her friend Mr. Halvorssen, a preppy libertarian with a cowlick, whose preoccupations that night included the evils of communism, political correctness, environmentalists and the charges against the Duke lacrosse team.

“I’m an unusual subject in that for years it’s been written that I’m in denial of reality, a mass murderer …,” Ms. Farber said.

At that moment, Barry Farber—Ms. Farber’s father, the anti-communist and conservative radio host who ran for Mayor of New York in 1977—ambled over with a big grin, his tie askew.

“We’re talking about your daughter!” Mr. Halvorssen said to him.

“Ah, my favorite subject!” Mr. Farber said in his Southern drawl. He collapsed on the couch and started punching at his cell phone.

“If you are deprived of respectability over time,” Ms. Farber continued, “what happens is, it’s wounding—but eventually you get freed of the addiction to respectability. I think a lot of media people crave respectability.”

Her friend wasn’t buying it; he thinks she is too timid and insecure. “How often in the past two years have you pitched a story?” said Mr. Halvorssen in a scolding tone.

“Um … ,” Ms. Farber said, “I have pitched stories, probably …. “

“She just does not do it!” Mr. Halvorssen said. “She could get $20,000 a story, she’s so good. But she just. Does. Not. Do. It. She’s still bleeding. If we could just cover these wounds …. “

“I said this to Lewis Lapham, actually,” Ms. Farber said: “‘You are interfering with my persecution complex!’”

“You see this?” Mr. Halvorssen said. “She has a Joan of Arc complex!”

“A persecution complex does not develop out of nothing,” Ms. Farber said.

AIDS “HAS HAD ME IN ITS JAWS FOR 20 YEARS, and I’ve occasionally tried to get away from it. And I have found that there’s not nearly as much free will as you’d think,” said Ms. Farber. “I am not obsessed with it. I probably seem to be obsessed with it—people probably think, Can’t she shut up about AIDS? But in actual fact, I’ve been trying to, for a long time. But some portion of the culture keeps coming to me and asking me to please address it again.” Ms. Farber, however, is unable to “shut up about” AIDS for very long.

Celia Farber is a New Yorker by birth (she now lives on the Upper West Side). Her mother was a Swedish Pan Am stewardess and a nurse; her father is of Russian Jewish ancestry and grew up in North Carolina. She lived from age 11 to 18 in Sweden, which she described as an oppressive, overly socialist, weird place. She joined the alternative-rock scene, and when she returned to New York she enrolled at N.Y.U. and drummed in bands.

She began writing her infamous AIDS column, called “Words from the Front,” at Spin in 1987.

It was in the midst of the so-called “AIDS war,” when public fear (Ms. Farber likes to call it “mass hysteria”) about the disease was at its peak and there was a scientific space race underway to understand it. But: “I didn’t come in and say, ‘I wanna write about AIDS!’” Ms. Farber said. “I wanted to find something out, ideally something that really needed to be found out and nobody else had found out. That was my thing.”

Her pieces, many of which are collected in her book, raised questions about whether H.I.V. was the sole cause of AIDS, about the side effects of the AIDS drug AZT and about the severity of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Her second installment was an interview with Mr. Duesberg, who is also known for his hypothesis that AIDS is caused by heavy recreational and anti-H.I.V. drug use rather than H.I.V. itself. Mr. Duesberg was shunned by the scientific community after publishing his theory that H.I.V. cannot cause AIDS; Ms. Farber has been aligned with him ever since.

Needless to say, many in the medical establishment, as well as gay and AIDS activists—and Ms. Farber’s own colleagues at Spin—found her columns destructive. Spin’s publisher, Bob Guccione Jr., personally shepherded her pieces into the magazine. “There was always a sense of violence and sabotage,” Ms. Farber said, adopting the cadences of a grizzled war reporter. “There were times when Bob and I had to actually walk the boards to the printer—there were people, copy editors and fact-checkers, who hated the column so much they would cut things out.”

There was also another matter: Ms. Farber was romantically involved with Mr. Guccione, which created resentment in the office. This culminated in 1994 when an employee named Staci Bonner filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against the magazine and Mr. Guccione.

Ms. Farber had by then gone freelance, gotten married to someone else and given birth to a son just that year. In a time line she provided in an e-mail, she wrote: “The years 1994-1997 were consumed with fighting the charges which culminated in Federal Court, 1997. Hospitalized briefly for suicidal urges. Lost 25 pounds. Lost will to live. Betrayed by best friend at Spin (plaintiff).” She said the trial “absolutely leveled me—it was the darkest, scariest, most traumatic, merciless, brutal thing I’ve ever seen or imagined; it took me 10 years to even begin to want to live again.”

Shortly after that, she went to Los Angeles and spent three months shadowing O.J. Simpson for Esquire, which resulted in a sensational cover story in 1998. She wrote for Mr. Guccione at his new magazine, Gear, and had an AIDS column on the Web site Ironminds. She separated from her husband. She organized a concert called “Rock the Boat,” which was intended to raise awareness about alternative AIDS theories; the concert fell apart, and Ms. Farber said that “financial decimation” followed. She worked at a series of odd jobs—in hotels, trade shows, making candles, catering, dishwashing.

Around 2001, Tina Brown commissioned her to write a story about gene therapy for Talk. The piece was killed. She said that she has been broke, and has given up on journalism, ever since.

(There was one bright spot: Ms. Farber said in an e-mail that after she wrote a piece for the New York Press about Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment case in 2004, the founder of American Apparel, Dov Charney, called her up “yelling about the whole fake feminism ordeal.” Mr. Charney had been dealing with his own harassment accusations, and he hired her as a “consultant and writer.” Ms. Farber referred to Mr. Charney as her “secret benefactor.”)

She speaks of her Harper’s article as if it was a divine accident, but in reality Mr. Lapham was the puppet master. After meeting him at a party several years ago, Ms. Farber said he urged her to pitch him stories. “He said, ‘I really need someone to write about science for me,’” Ms. Farber recalled. “He said, ‘I really have a sense that it’s kind of … ,’ and then he paused, and I said, ‘Diabolical?’”

She eventually proposed a piece about the same H.I.V.-does-not-cause-AIDS virologist she’s been championing since Spin. “I had no intention whatsoever of writing about AIDS in Harper’s,” Ms. Farber said, somewhat implausibly. “The original story was about Peter Duesberg’s cancer theory. And I remember saying to Lewis Lapham: ‘The AIDS question—we’ll just fly right over that, right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we’ll fly right over that.’” (Mr. Lapham declined to speak to The Observer.)

Ms. Farber turned in that piece, which appears as the first chapter in her book. Mr. Lapham handed the text over to an editor, Roger Hodge, to edit. While it was being worked on, news of a problematic AIDS drug trial appeared in the press. Ms. Farber brought it to her editor’s attention and said that she was urged to look into that story: “I felt like, ‘Oh, God, what a pain in the ass. I don’t wanna go into that extraordinarily difficult, impossible, explosive, life-destroying stuff!’” Ms. Farber said. “But you don’t say that to your editors.”

The piece that ultimately ran was an awkward marriage of the two stories. Predictably, it triggered a considerable level of anger directed at Harper’s. Letters were published both in support of the article and taking issue with some of Ms. Farber’s contentions. The AIDS researcher Robert Gallo and doctors from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, among others, wrote in protest.

Ms. Farber said that she’d tried to warn Messrs. Lapham and Hodge of her reputation and biases. “In this discredited little cadre of scientists, I’m their champion,” she said she told them. In an e-mail, Mr. Hodge, who is now Harper’s’ top editor, wrote: “Yes, we knew what we were getting into.” He also wrote: “Celia is an excellent reporter and I hope she brings us more good stories in the future.”

It’s not entirely surprising that a figure such as Ms. Farber would appeal to a particular brand of right-thinking liberalism, the type embodied by Mr. Lapham’s former magazine. By focusing her outrage on her opposition’s desire to silence dissent rather than on the actual scientific arguments, Ms. Farber finds protection under the idea that no subject or theory, regardless of its implications, should be taken off the table; continuing to ask the questions can be more important than answering them.

When asked how the endless contrarianism might have impacted Ms. Farber professionally, Mr. Guccione, another believer in the “fostering debate” approach to publishing, said: “I think she has paid a terrific price.” He continued: “You know, the flip side of that is, I think she spent too much time dwelling on the AIDS beat. It’s been a holy quest for her.”

In any case, Ms. Farber would be lost without her battles. She said that she’s always been fascinated by Stalinism, Communism, the Holocaust, witch hunts; she visits “as many dictatorships as I can.” She described herself alternately as a lapsed hard leftist, a proto-anarchist, a libertarian sympathizer and a “bit punk.” When asked if she somehow took pleasure in the turmoil triggered by her journalism, she said: “I would vastly prefer a quiet life, without roiling bands of furious AIDS activists—I mean treatment activists—smearing my name all over the world. I mean, I don’t like it. I don’t take it lightly.”

Then she thought for a moment. “I think I was built to take it,” Ms. Farber said. “I just had a very, very unsparing childhood. And I was never any ‘the world is my oyster’ kind of person. Things were always tough, and I developed kind of an identity, I guess, where maybe I relished something about the dynamic of being attacked. It’s a really good question …. It traumatizes me very much. Less now than it used to. I find it boring now. Very, very boring.”

Celia Farber profiled as articulate, ‘obsessive’ AIDS ‘anarchist’ by NY Observer

June 28th, 2006

Detailed front page story stays away from saying she is wrong

Deft sketch portrays her as basket case study of her theme of censorship

Whatever you make of it as science politics, Sheelah Kolhatkar’s take on Celia Farber today (Wed Jun 28) in the elitist pink gossip sheet of the chattering classes in Manhattan draws an accurate picture of a tough minded but supersentient being who has suffered the tortures of the damned for twenty years in pursuing the off limits topic of whether HIV is valid as the key to AIDS.

On the night of Saturday, June 10, the controversial journalist Celia Farber was holding court at a quiet cocktail party in a roped-off section of the Roosevelt Hotel bar in midtown Manhattan. ‘What does an animal do when they know they’re going to be killed?’ she asked, her voice taut, as a handful of people looked on. ‘They play dead.’Ms. Farber was in the midst of an anecdote about one of her preferred subjects, her persecution at the hands of a vast network of enemies, and its effect on her writing career. ‘I’ve been there,’ she continued. ‘You lose interest in doing well; you stop caring about being successful.’

The author of this tragicomedy, the slim, brunette Kolhatkar, is a young beauty who while at the party mentioned in the piece admitted to this writer that she was so devoted to her work writing up various figures in circles of publishing power and influence in Manhattan that she finds herself dreaming about it, and she does a very sophisticated job, handling Farber with care and the perceptive ear of a good theater critic.

She is noticeably polite about Farber’s iconoclastic view on HIV?AIDS, and after the obligatory quote from Moore’s Op Ed piece, gives no extra space to Celia bashing by calling on the likes of a John Moore or Martin Delaney, the paradigm palace guard who can be counted on to make cheap cracks deploring Farber’s misguided resistance to the authority of the HIV?AIDS scientists who are in fact the chief suspects in this case.

The gossipy but telling piece feels to us like a wry Manhattan inner circle assessment of another member of the media power club, who however renegade in her work is not treated here as someone to be trashed as beyond the pale. Although she may be taken aback at being sketched as unremittingly doleful, we hope it will be a pleasant surprise for Farber to read this, when she does – at the moment she has fled to the country with her family and a robot is answering her email.

For while the elephant in the room is largely overlooked as usual, the “blonde, thin AIDS anarchist” is framed in a worldly manner that leaves plenty of room for the possibility that she may be right to champion the censored side of the issue – that is, it does until the very end of the article. Then in a rather abrupt windup it seems to us that Farber is finally patronized as an obsessive who according to her friend and one time editor Bob Guccione of SPIN and Gear has spent a little too much time on “her holy quest”. And in Sheelah’s own view, Celia is a born agitator who would be “lost without her battles”:

When asked how the endless contrarianism might have impacted Ms. Farber professionally, Mr. Guccione, another believer in the ‘fostering debate’ approach to publishing, said: ‘I think she has paid a terrific price.’ He continued: ‘You know, the flip side of that is, I think she spent too much time dwelling on the AIDS beat. It’s been a holy quest for her.”In any case, Ms. Farber would be lost without her battles. She said that she’s always been fascinated by Stalinism, Communism, the Holocaust, witch hunts; she visits ‘as many dictatorships as I can.’ ‘

Seems to us this is going overboard, like the headline – Celia is a paradigm revolutionary in our book, not exactly an anarchist. She is fighting spurious and abusive authority, not all authority, all the time. But perhaps the writer is handicapped by the almost universal inability to conceive that the whole world is wrong on HIV?AIDS. What’s nice is that she dosn’t push it. On the other hand, she doesn’t justify Celia’s quest either.

For most of the deft article as we read it she is respectful of Celia’s work and of her pain, though she doesn’t seem to be entirely clear that Celia was and is not always as she is painted here. Celia’s present preoccupation with the hostility aroused by her work quoted throughout the piece is to our ear the sound of nervous fatigue, coming after twenty years where huge demands were made of the talented author with very little recompense, by the standards of the market today.

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“And this may be the genius of the piece: by depicting so well the plight of a literary victim, it makes exactly the point that Celia wants to demonstrate in her work, which is that it is the censorship which is killing people.”

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Sheelah hints at the financial stress over the years mentioning Celia’s jobs as dishwasher etc but she doesn’t seem to realize that this sacrifice is far from over. Celia is suffering from nervous exhaustion after two years of superhuman effort with not enough emotional and professional support from colleagues or editors, let alone proper pay for her efforts and talent. This is the price demanded of those who flout the current media-science-industrial complex, at least in HIV?AIDS.

That is why the charmingly unpretentious picture of Celia by Melanie Flood accompanying the article (titled Celia Farber in her apartment on the Upper West Side) looks a little more bedraggled than a personal publicist would like (on the Web only – in the print version, where the inside full page is headlined “Celia’s Offensive”, nice pun, the photo looks absolutely beautiful, for some reason). Here is another one of Celia two years ago, looking a good deal fresher at a HEAL gathering in Manhattan, where her colleague in paradigm dismantling, scientist Harvey Bialy, gave a lectern-pounding reading from his “Oncogenes” book. It was the night she heard from Lapham that her piece was accepted.

Here at least she does get credit for her achievements. The “rag tag band” of dissenters would still look like 9/11 conspiracy theorists except for two things that have emboldened them recently, Kolhatkar reports. These are Farber’s twin literary successes – the big piece in Harper’s March issue and now her new book that is just out (July 1st publication date, but already available for three weeks on Amazon), a collection of her key pieces on HIV?AIDS.

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Commercial interruption: Let’s hope a lot of people buy “Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS”, as they should – it is a great read for any nonscientist (or scientist) who wants to catch up with this scene, unique in its vast social and political distortion of sense and science, which Celia describes with a true writer’s thoughtfulness and clarity in vivid story telling from the front lines.

The paperback, which has the cover design of a literary classic and deserves it, includes the first draft of what she wrote for Lapham, a lovely, telling piece which centers on Peter Duesberg’s travails as well as his science; the biographical part was eventually displaced in Harper’s by the newer topic of cooked and lethal AIDS drug trials. It’s worth the price of the book – but so is every well told, illuminating chapter, in which science derailed is described with the clarity of an on-the-scene report from a critical observer.

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As we say, the Observer piece falls apart at the end, we find, though others may read it differently. The last paragraphs shortchange Farber’s intellectual cause by reducing it to reflex anti-fascism and saying that she has taken refuge in appealing merely for free debate. Here given Celia’s deep moral sensibility and her outrage at the deaths of patients, and her twenty year championing of Duesberg’s consistent position that there is nothing in the HIV argument, we expect that she will feel insulted and cheapened.

By focusing her outrage on her opposition’s desire to silence dissent rather than on the actual scientific arguments, Ms. Farber finds protection under the idea that no subject or theory, regardless of its implications, should be taken off the table; continuing to ask the questions can be more important than answering them.

But even if it finally does go off the rails in this way, perhaps due to hasty editing, this is in many ways the first intelligent, worldly article about the leading HIV?AIDS lay critic and her cause, and it is certainly unfair to expect a young woman however smart who is unfamiliar with the field of unscience involved to catch up with the real situation in only three weeks.

All in all, for a gossip piece this is a brilliant encapsulation of a unique spirit and her predicament, even if the forces that have led to it – and the validity of her cause – are not fully depicted by the profiler. Truth to tell, it seems pretty clear that in her extended conversations and emailing with a very thorough reporter her subject neglected the issue herself.

And this may be the genius of the piece: by depicting so well the plight of a literary victim, it makes exactly the point that Celia wants to demonstrate in her work, which is that it is the censorship which is killing people.

AIDS Anarchist Farber

Hops Back in Whirlwind

By Sheelah Kolhatkar

On the night of Saturday, June 10, the controversial journalist Celia Farber was holding court at a quiet cocktail party in a roped-off section of the Roosevelt Hotel bar in midtown Manhattan. ‘What does an animal do when they know they’re going to be killed?’ she asked, her voice taut, as a handful of people looked on. ‘They play dead.’

Ms. Farber was in the midst of an anecdote about one of her preferred subjects, her persecution at the hands of a vast network of enemies, and its effect on her writing career. ‘I’ve been there,’ she continued. ‘You lose interest in doing well; you stop caring about being successful.’

Most of the 15 or so at the party were members of Rethinking AIDS, a group of scientists, writers and others who propagate the radical idea that H.I.V. does not cause AIDS. One of Ms. Farber’s beliefs, for example, is that the scientific explanations for the AIDS epidemic are corrupted by drug companies that seek to show that AIDS is amenable to drug therapies – profitable ones.

Their esoteric ideas have far-reaching implications, to say the least. If H.I.V. doesn’t cause AIDS, then ‘safe sex,’ drug ‘cocktails’ – in short, everything that the medical establishment says about prevention and treatment – is wrong.

Not unsurprisingly, the group is small, marginalized and the object of intense criticism in public-health circles. (They view themselves as AIDS ‘dissenters,’ while their critics refer to them as ‘denialists.’)

Ms. Farber is a central figure among the AIDS ‘dissenters.’ She isn’t a scientist herself; instead, she champions the scientific work of Peter Duesberg, a cancer researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. Ms. Farber sees herself as some sort of modern-day Clarence Darrow to Mr. Duesberg’s Scopes – an advocate whose lonely battle will be vindicated through the prisms of history and science.

Her two-decade career has been dominated by her efforts to keep debate about the dissenting AIDS theory alive, and nearly every piece she publishes on the subject triggers a seismic backlash. An Op-Ed piece in The New York Times on June 4 accused her camp of ‘Deadly Quackery’: ‘The truth is that H.I.V. does exist, that it causes AIDS and that antiretroviral drugs can prevent H.I.V. transmission and death from AIDS,’ it read. ‘To deny these facts is not just wrong – it’s deadly.’

One could argue that Ms. Farber gave her life for her obsession with the cause. A few months ago, she and her ragtag band of colleagues might have been considered, by some, to be one step away from the conspiracy theorist’s asylum, next in line behind the 9/11-was-an-inside-job crowd. But they’ve been feeling emboldened by two recent successes: the publication of Ms. Farber’s first book, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS, by the independent press Melville House; and, perhaps more significantly, the appearance of a 15-page article by Ms. Farber in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Indeed, as one party attendee pointed out, not everyone in the media world regards Celia Farber as a petrified animal. ‘There are so many people who admire her,’ said Thor Halvorssen, a personal friend of Ms. Farber, who was there solely to lend her moral support. He paused. ‘[Former Harper’s editor] Lewis Lapham, for one.’

UP CLOSE, MS. FARBER, 40, HAS A DAMAGED, fragile air. She is tall and exceedingly thin, with limbs that look as if they might snap to the touch. Her facial features are dramatically chiseled, with large brown eyes topped off with carefully tousled blond hair. ‘After all these years, the spotlight is on me,’ Ms. Farber said, sipping a glass of white wine. ‘It’s come at the same moment when I’ve ceased to care any more. There comes a point where I don’t crave respectability, I don’t expect to get it from the outside.’

Ms. Farber sees AIDS through the lens of totalitarianism (American society in general, American science specifically and the National Institutes of Health all earned the label). To engage with her is to enter a surreal plane where her intensity threatens to overwhelm. Dozens of e-mails arrive in the night filled with angry rantings, impassioned pleas, links to articles and letters to the editor – all offering a glimpse into the emotional seesaw that is her existence. She seems riven by anxious energy, and her long fingers tend to flutter around her temples like butterflies as she speaks.

At the Roosevelt, she was seated on a couch next to her friend Mr. Halvorssen, a preppy libertarian with a cowlick, whose preoccupations that night included the evils of communism, political correctness, environmentalists and the charges against the Duke lacrosse team.

‘I’m an unusual subject in that for years it’s been written that I’m in denial of reality, a mass murderer …,’ Ms. Farber said.

At that moment, Barry Farber – Ms. Farber’s father, the anti-communist and conservative radio host who ran for Mayor of New York in 1977 – ambled over with a big grin, his tie askew.

‘We’re talking about your daughter!’ Mr. Halvorssen said to him.

‘Ah, my favorite subject!’ Mr. Farber said in his Southern drawl. He collapsed on the couch and started punching at his cell phone.

‘If you are deprived of respectability over time,’ Ms. Farber continued, ‘what happens is, it’s wounding – but eventually you get freed of the addiction to respectability. I think a lot of media people crave respectability.’

Her friend wasn’t buying it; he thinks she is too timid and insecure. ‘How often in the past two years have you pitched a story?’ said Mr. Halvorssen in a scolding tone.

‘Um … ,’ Ms. Farber said, ‘I have pitched stories, probably …. ‘

‘She just does not do it!’ Mr. Halvorssen said. ‘She could get $20,000 a story, she’s so good. But she just. Does. Not. Do. It. She’s still bleeding. If we could just cover these wounds …. ‘

‘I said this to Lewis Lapham, actually,’ Ms. Farber said: ”You are interfering with my persecution complex!”

‘You see this?’ Mr. Halvorssen said. ‘She has a Joan of Arc complex!’

‘A persecution complex does not develop out of nothing,’ Ms. Farber said.

AIDS “HAS HAD ME IN ITS JAWS FOR 20 YEARS, and I’ve occasionally tried to get away from it. And I have found that there’s not nearly as much free will as you’d think,’ said Ms. Farber. ‘I am not obsessed with it. I probably seem to be obsessed with it – people probably think, Can’t she shut up about AIDS? But in actual fact, I’ve been trying to, for a long time. But some portion of the culture keeps coming to me and asking me to please address it again.’ Ms. Farber, however, is unable to ‘shut up about’ AIDS for very long.

Celia Farber is a New Yorker by birth (she now lives on the Upper West Side). Her mother was a Swedish Pan Am stewardess and a nurse; her father is of Russian Jewish ancestry and grew up in North Carolina. She lived from age 11 to 18 in Sweden, which she described as an oppressive, overly socialist, weird place. She joined the alternative-rock scene, and when she returned to New York she enrolled at N.Y.U. and drummed in bands.

She began writing her infamous AIDS column, called ‘Words from the Front,’ at Spin in 1987.

It was in the midst of the so-called ‘AIDS war,’ when public fear (Ms. Farber likes to call it ‘mass hysteria’) about the disease was at its peak and there was a scientific space race underway to understand it. But: ‘I didn’t come in and say, ‘I wanna write about AIDS!” Ms. Farber said. ‘I wanted to find something out, ideally something that really needed to be found out and nobody else had found out. That was my thing.’

Her pieces, many of which are collected in her book, raised questions about whether H.I.V. was the sole cause of AIDS, about the side effects of the AIDS drug AZT and about the severity of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Her second installment was an interview with Mr. Duesberg, who is also known for his hypothesis that AIDS is caused by heavy recreational and anti-H.I.V. drug use rather than H.I.V. itself. Mr. Duesberg was shunned by the scientific community after publishing his theory that H.I.V. cannot cause AIDS; Ms. Farber has been aligned with him ever since.

Needless to say, many in the medical establishment, as well as gay and AIDS activists – and Ms. Farber’s own colleagues at Spin – found her columns destructive. Spin’s publisher, Bob Guccione Jr., personally shepherded her pieces into the magazine. ‘There was always a sense of violence and sabotage,’ Ms. Farber said, adopting the cadences of a grizzled war reporter. ‘There were times when Bob and I had to actually walk the boards to the printer – there were people, copy editors and fact-checkers, who hated the column so much they would cut things out.’

There was also another matter: Ms. Farber was romantically involved with Mr. Guccione, which created resentment in the office. This culminated in 1994 when an employee named Staci Bonner filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against the magazine and Mr. Guccione.

Ms. Farber had by then gone freelance, gotten married to someone else and given birth to a son just that year. In a time line she provided in an e-mail, she wrote: ‘The years 1994-1997 were consumed with fighting the charges which culminated in Federal Court, 1997. Hospitalized briefly for suicidal urges. Lost 25 pounds. Lost will to live. Betrayed by best friend at Spin (plaintiff).’ She said the trial ‘absolutely leveled me – it was the darkest, scariest, most traumatic, merciless, brutal thing I’ve ever seen or imagined; it took me 10 years to even begin to want to live again.’

Shortly after that, she went to Los Angeles and spent three months shadowing O.J. Simpson for Esquire, which resulted in a sensational cover story in 1998. She wrote for Mr. Guccione at his new magazine, Gear, and had an AIDS column on the Web site Ironminds. She separated from her husband. She organized a concert called ‘Rock the Boat,’ which was intended to raise awareness about alternative AIDS theories; the concert fell apart, and Ms. Farber said that ‘financial decimation’ followed. She worked at a series of odd jobs – in hotels, trade shows, making candles, catering, dishwashing.

Around 2001, Tina Brown commissioned her to write a story about gene therapy for Talk. The piece was killed. She said that she has been broke, and has given up on journalism, ever since.

(There was one bright spot: Ms. Farber said in an e-mail that after she wrote a piece for the New York Press about Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment case in 2004, the founder of American Apparel, Dov Charney, called her up ‘yelling about the whole fake feminism ordeal.’ Mr. Charney had been dealing with his own harassment accusations, and he hired her as a ‘consultant and writer.’ Ms. Farber referred to Mr. Charney as her ‘secret benefactor.’)

She speaks of her Harper’s article as if it was a divine accident, but in reality Mr. Lapham was the puppet master. After meeting him at a party several years ago, Ms. Farber said he urged her to pitch him stories. ‘He said, ‘I really need someone to write about science for me,” Ms. Farber recalled. ‘He said, ‘I really have a sense that it’s kind of … ,’ and then he paused, and I said, ‘Diabolical?”

She eventually proposed a piece about the same H.I.V.-does-not-cause-AIDS virologist she’s been championing since Spin. ‘I had no intention whatsoever of writing about AIDS in Harper’s,’ Ms. Farber said, somewhat implausibly. ‘The original story was about Peter Duesberg’s cancer theory. And I remember saying to Lewis Lapham: ‘The AIDS question – we’ll just fly right over that, right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we’ll fly right over that.” (Mr. Lapham declined to speak to The Observer.)

Ms. Farber turned in that piece, which appears as the first chapter in her book. Mr. Lapham handed the text over to an editor, Roger Hodge, to edit. While it was being worked on, news of a problematic AIDS drug trial appeared in the press. Ms. Farber brought it to her editor’s attention and said that she was urged to look into that story: ‘I felt like, ‘Oh, God, what a pain in the ass. I don’t wanna go into that extraordinarily difficult, impossible, explosive, life-destroying stuff!” Ms. Farber said. ‘But you don’t say that to your editors.’

The piece that ultimately ran was an awkward marriage of the two stories. Predictably, it triggered a considerable level of anger directed at Harper’s. Letters were published both in support of the article and taking issue with some of Ms. Farber’s contentions. The AIDS researcher Robert Gallo and doctors from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, among others, wrote in protest.

Ms. Farber said that she’d tried to warn Messrs. Lapham and Hodge of her reputation and biases. ‘In this discredited little cadre of scientists, I’m their champion,’ she said she told them. In an e-mail, Mr. Hodge, who is now Harper’s’ top editor, wrote: ‘Yes, we knew what we were getting into.’ He also wrote: ‘Celia is an excellent reporter and I hope she brings us more good stories in the future.’

It’s not entirely surprising that a figure such as Ms. Farber would appeal to a particular brand of right-thinking liberalism, the type embodied by Mr. Lapham’s former magazine. By focusing her outrage on her opposition’s desire to silence dissent rather than on the actual scientific arguments, Ms. Farber finds protection under the idea that no subject or theory, regardless of its implications, should be taken off the table; continuing to ask the questions can be more important than answering them.

When asked how the endless contrarianism might have impacted Ms. Farber professionally, Mr. Guccione, another believer in the ‘fostering debate’ approach to publishing, said: ‘I think she has paid a terrific price.’ He continued: ‘You know, the flip side of that is, I think she spent too much time dwelling on the AIDS beat. It’s been a holy quest for her.’

In any case, Ms. Farber would be lost without her battles. She said that she’s always been fascinated by Stalinism, Communism, the Holocaust, witch hunts; she visits ‘as many dictatorships as I can.’ She described herself alternately as a lapsed hard leftist, a proto-anarchist, a libertarian sympathizer and a ‘bit punk.’ When asked if she somehow took pleasure in the turmoil triggered by her journalism, she said: ‘I would vastly prefer a quiet life, without roiling bands of furious AIDS activists – I mean treatment activists – smearing my name all over the world. I mean, I don’t like it. I don’t take it lightly.’

Then she thought for a moment. ‘I think I was built to take it,’ Ms. Farber said. ‘I just had a very, very unsparing childhood. And I was never any ‘the world is my oyster’ kind of person. Things were always tough, and I developed kind of an identity, I guess, where maybe I relished something about the dynamic of being attacked. It’s a really good question …. It traumatizes me very much. Less now than it used to. I find it boring now. Very, very boring.’

Newsflash: Mathias Rath exits South Africa

June 28th, 2006

According to what we hear, the vitamin advocate, and one time associate of Linus Pauling, Mathias Rath is pulling up stakes and leaving South Africa.

We are sorry to hear it. Rath may not be the world’s greatest scientific mind, academically speaking, but he seems to have very much the right idea in researching and promoting nutritional restoratives in African “AIDS”.

That is our judgement according to the best scientific literature, which is ignored and derided by the activists and medical authorities who have attacked Rath as strenuously as they can politically and in the courts, under the illusion that they are supported by the mainstream medical literature.

Apparently the power of Thabo Mbeki and his Health Minister are now not enough to protect him and the political struggle has been won by the denialists of South Africa, by whom we mean those who deny the mainstream scientific papers which show that the pandemic is impossible because the heterosexual infectiousness of the supposed cause is nil.

Does this mean the HIV?AIDS critics have lost the battle in South Africa and Thabo Mbeki’s rare capacity to raise the obvious questions is now spiked?

We hope not.

John Moore shoots self in foot with Amazon review of Harvey Bialy

June 26th, 2006


Spoiler panning of “Oncogenes” boosts sales and delights author

The remarkable John Moore has posted a review of Harvey Bialy’s book about Peter Duesberg on Amazon, and his evident motivation of doing the mad professor an injury seems to have backfired. Soon after the screed appeared the sales rating for the book shot up sevenfold.

As readers here may know, “Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg” is a unique scientific biography with a bombshell message. Bialy’s book is the story of the career of a brilliant scientific mind written by a peer, explaining rather convincingly why both of them believe that the highflying current paradigms of HIV?AIDS and cancer genes are both based on fantasy rather than fact.

The tongue twister of a title reflects the double edged appeal of the pages inside, paradigm politics mixed with science that is a hard read in parts for the layman. But the revelations are always reliable. This is shown by the fact that the book has not been attacked before, even though it is a sort of ticking time bomb which undermines the fond beliefs and mightily threatens the position of all those who live off the perks of the prevailing paradigms in two fields, HIV?AIDS and cancer.

For two years no one hostile to its message has dared launch a review trashing it or challenging its contents in any public space, following the one long and laudatory review by George Miklos in Nature Biotechnology when it first came out. Even armchair ranters on the Web have known better.

Until yesterday, that is.

The policy so far has been to quietly ignore it. So with all its unique qualities as a convincingly disturbing guide as to how billions are being misspent the book after two years was quietly sitting at a respectable Amazon rating of 200,000 or so when Moore wrote this appreciation this weekend.

A travesty of science, June 25, 2006

Reviewer: John P Moore, PhD (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

It is hard to imagine that this book was actually written by a professional scientist. The author displays only his ignorance and his prejudices when championing the extraordinary argument that HIV does not cause AIDS. This theory, of course, is utter nonsense, but it is a nonsense that was created by Peter Duesberg, the maverick scientist who is the focus of the book. Hence the author is writing a hagiography of one of his heroes, not a fair and accurate representation of the scientific facts and moral truths about HIV/AIDS. The book should therefore be read (or preferably not read) in that political context: it appeals to the small clique of AIDS denialists who think like the author does, and it should be ignored by anyone who respects science and the truth. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and when it comes to HIV and AIDS, the author and his hero are prime examples of the aphorism in practice. For factual information on HIV/AIDS, interested people should consult http://www.aidstruth.org or the NIAID’s web-site, amongst other bona fide resources.

John P. Moore, PhD

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology,

Weill Medical College of Cornell University,

New York

A literary stab in the heart, right? Not exactly. Soon enough Bialy, instead of being miffed, was chortling in email to us “Can you dig this? It already has produced enough sales to get me an only 2 left in stock! What a guy.” To Moore he wrote the following appreciative letter:

do you always do as I ask?

it was not in nature or the ny times (neither would publish you now) but free and easy amazon was just too tempting. i believe my sales rank was in 200,000 range before you posted. when i looked last and discovered your wonderful, wonderful review it was 29,000 and there were only 2 copies left in stock.

what can i say except please be very, very careful crossing the street, your value to the insurgency grows exponentially almost (you do know what that word means, don’t you? do you know what a sigmoid curve looks like and what it means? probably not, but you are beginning to experience the part where the slope gets very positive very fast.

Why is Bialy so chuffed? His reasoning goes as follows. When a book is so pristine that it has no real flaw, then an obviously over the top hostile review simply piques the interest of the intelligent reader, the only kind he wishes to collect. Apparently the Duesberg book won about 200 new sales from the cheaply hostile Nature review, according to the publisher, Regnery.

The current clash between Bialy and Moore is not the first, as it happens. Moore wrote an equally childishly damning review for Nature of Peter Duesberg’s book Inventing the AIDS Virus (Regnery) in 1996 (see below). Science editor at the time of Nature Biotechnology, Bialy called Moore up at Sloane Kettering and lambasted him as not worthy of shining Duesberg’s shoes. The hapless Moore, a politically innocent Brit twit fresh from Cambridge was taken aback, to say the least, to be exposed to the fiery Bialy’s scorching opinion.

Moore had been been put up to it by David Ho, according to Bialy’s sources. As noted in his Comment post here yesterday, Bialy suspects that the diatribe Moore penned as an Op Ed piece in the Times recently was also instigated by Ho, a short researcher whose breakthrough concept of cocktail therapy for HIV?AIDS won him a Time cover in the 90s, even though the scientific theory it was based upon is now laughed at even by the HIV?AIDS establishment.

Ho is now leading the effort to find a vaccine for HIV, which even mainstream commentators such as Abraham Karpas of Cambridge suggest may be irrational: “The immune response to HIV can be compared to that of a live viral vaccine. It explains why most HIV-infected individuals remain well for years.” (Human retroviruses in leukaemia and AIDS: reflections on their discovery, biology and epidemiology. – Biol. Rev. 2004, 79, pp 911-933)

Anyway now Bialy is bouncing around in email heaven sending copies of this interchange to selected friends and enemies (one unfortunate recipient was Martin Delaney, who responded desperately in large capital letters, STOP SENDING ME THIS DRIVEL, and when Bialy reminded him of filters, explained at some length why he couldn’t use one – on his network a filter would block Bialy communications from everyone else, and “While I doubt anyone here has any useful dialogue with you, it’s not appropriate for me to deprive others of the right to watch your little cat fights.”)

Bialy’s logic is devilish and apparently valid. His book is the opposite of Moore’s rant, as is obvious to any working mind. It is a precise and revealing professional biography about the discoveries and travails of a gifted and intellectually penetrating scientist, who when compared with his opponents, the most prominent being David Baltimore, Robert Gallo and Anthony Fauci, can reasonably be called a genius. Both author and his subject are distinguished as truthseekers rather than self-promoters, counter to the modern trend.

Half of the text consists of descriptions of the derailing of science in HIV?AIDS and cancer genes, showing how the academically impeccable Duesberg has debunked the hollow theories in both fields and suggested better alternatives, all to a conspicuous lack of enthusiasm on the part of the socio-economic systems built on both.

The other half interweaves the scientific story with telling accounts of the backstage dealings which the distinguished German-American’s scientific challenge to the mainstream have provoked – ostracism, unfunding, almost impossible hurdles to publication, secret offers of redemption if the honest professor acquiesced, and the like.

A correctly edited version of Moore’s review might go roughly as follows:

It is easy to imagine that this book was actually written by a professional scientist. The author displays only his knowledge and prejudice in favor of good science when championing the extraordinary argument that HIV does not cause AIDS. This theory, of course, solves at one stroke the many puzzling indications that the current paradigm is utter nonsense, and the puzzles evaporate as the evidence is reinterpreted by Peter Duesberg, the maverick scientist who is the focus of the book. Hence the author is very justifiably writing a hagiography of one of his heroes, a fair and accurate representation of the scientific facts and moral truths about the sometimes appalling behavior of the leaders of HIV/AIDS. The book should therefore be read (preferably not read once, but at least twice) in that political context: it appeals to the growing crowd of AIDS critics who think like the author does, and it should be cherished by anyone who respects science and the truth. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and when it comes to HIV and AIDS, the author and his hero expose prime examples of the aphorism in practice. The additional knowledge they provide is enough to enable readers to avoid the gross dangers to which they otherwise will be exposed. For factual information on HIV/AIDS, interested people should consult http://www.newaidsreview.org

You would think that Moore, from his long ago experience of having his ear scorched by Bialy at Sloane-Kettering, would know better than to get into a cat-fight with the impatient idealist, who has become notorious as an email and blog provocateur in the last two years, since discovering the true power of the Web after his book was published.

From the safety of Cuernavaca, Mexico, Bialy, who became financially independent following a lucky investment, has become the most unrestrained tormenter of both the HIV?AIDS establishment and its critics, sending capitalized excoriation and challenges to both sides in email which quickly reaches heights of red hot chile expression that even Bialy describes as “bizarre, crazy and off putting to some – you have my permission to say so”.

His email madness has method to it, however. Bialy dismisses the promoters of the HIV?AIDS paradigm and other questionable science as “insecure poseurs, all of them without a single bit of self worth, because all their achivements are grounded on lies. So unlike truthtellers they don’t have real responses when poked but react like robots. I am an expert at poking them, I delight in it and it takes me no time at all. Anybody who is into this thing has to know they are frauds, just as Baltimore and Gallo know it.”

Bialy compares his performance on the Web, where he orchestrates provocative web discussions on blogs such as DeanEsmay or Aetiology in much the same way as his email exchanges, with his 35 years of studies in Tai Chi. “People like that are puppets. You can make them do anything. Twist them and turn them. If I was 5 per cent as good at Tai Chi as I am in email I would have my own school!”

On blogs, he engages with the HIV activists who enter discussions to impede progress – “these morons” – to build tutorial discussions, such as the one from Dean Esmay’s blog last year that reached a record 159 pages, which has been downloaded ten thousand times, Bialy estimates. These are made available as Internet ‘books’ that can be found on the AIDS Wiki at Insurgency Blogging Documents.

He doesn’t expect ever to change the minds of Moore or any of the HIV?AIDS faithful, he says. “Not after twenty years of vested interest. Maybe they really believe it. The New York Times is the equivalent to a public figure who, after speaking forcefully on one side of a grave and controversial issue for quite a long time, cannot afford to advocate the opposite. I recall Malcolm X coming back from Mecca and announcing that ‘the white man is not the devil. Capitalism is the devil.’ Not long after that he was shot.”

“I function from the premise that the major media is closed to the corrective view of AIDS, so I fight on the Internet and in email as an insurgent. I know that I will never change the mind of anyone in the media power structure but I have every expectation of taking it down.”

—————–

Here is a copy (from the new anti-HIV critic site AIDS Truth, which is the current reference collection of misleading defenses of the HIV?AIDS paradigm) of John Moore’s extraordinary self-condemnation in Nature, his 1996 review bashing Duesberg and his “Inventing the AIDS Virus”. This earlier effort, starting with its slightly silly pun of a title “A Duesberg, Adieu!”, trumps his recent New York Times Op-Ed editorial, “Deadly Quackery”, on every parameter of shame. For sheer greenhorn effrontery, coupled with its factual inaccuracy and scientific misapprehension, this masterwork has to be read to be believed. Some of the insufficient logic is apparent to any layman, but it is the unselfconscious crudity of the schoolboy insults which is most grievous. Apparently Moore is the original adolescent Web flamer, writing before his time.

À DUESBERG, ADIEU!

John Moore

Nature Volume 380 March 28, 1996

Inventing the AIDS Virus. By Peter H. Duesberg. Regnery: 1996, Pp. 722. $24.95

According to Bryan Ellison, who co-wrote with Peter Duesberg an earlier version of Inventing the AIDS Virus, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tried to suppress the publication of this book. I can’t think why they would want to bother. But conspiracy theories so pervade the book and that I shouldn’t be in the least surprised if Oliver Stone does the movie.

Duesberg’s central thesis is that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a harmless virus, and that life-style (especially recreational drug use) is the principal reason why people die of AIDS. The use of AZT as an AIDS therapy is blamed for exacerbating the problem. In the first section of his book, Duesberg tells the story of an obscure syndrome (SMON) that was present in Japan from the 1950s to the 1970s. Despite persistent theories of a viral cause, SMON was found to be a toxicological problem caused by anti-diarrhoea drugs sometimes used to treat SMON symptoms. Duesberg draws an analogy from these events to AIDS, with AZT analogous to the anti-diarrhoea drugs. An interesting tale, but documenting this and a few other old medical mistakes scarcely proves that AZT causes AIDS and that HIV is a mere passenger virus. But according to Duesberg, “No fatal viral disease is known to cause death in nearly all infected people — except the paradoxical ‘AIDS virus’.” Try telling that to those who came across Ebola-Zäire; their mortality rate was about 80 per cent, for this virus is literally more lethal than a bullet in the head.

The book contains no new revelations on the ‘non-link’ between HIV and AIDS since September 1995, when the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released its 61-page document on The Relationship Between the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This contains all the facts, and I strongly recommend people to read it. Of course, seeing that it was written by government scientists, it will no doubt be dismissed by Duesberg’s sympathizers as part of a continuing cover-up. For according to Duesberg, the AIDS epidemic became the “salvation” of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) of the CDC is described as the “medical CIA” and ex-members are said to “have obtained prominent positions in the media”. One even edits a scientific journal. How sinister! Whatever next? Essentially, Duesberg’s case is that the fundamental purpose of the CDC is to invent medical emergencies for the National Institutes of Health to resolve – anything is justified so long as the tax dollars just keep on rollin’. Implicit, and often explicit, is that tens of thousands of health-care professionals and research scientists are either too stupid to realize that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, or too venal to do anything about it for fear of losing income from the government or drug companies.

Duesberg mounts an assault on the virology “establishment”, with special emphasis on the tumour virologists of the 1960s and 1970s. Researchers mistakes, real and opined, are gleefully documented – a veritable virological Who’s Who is castigated. And the trend continues when the HIV section is finally reached. There, all the ‘big name’ retrovirologists of the 1980s are targeted, and the early scandals of AIDS research are picked over yet again. So many scientists and so many of the “mistakes” are listed that I was eventually reminded of the old joke about the brigade of guards on parade, with one little guardsman horribly out of step. When the drill sergeant bawls at him, an old lady attacks him with an umbrella saying: “Leave him alone, my boy Peter is in step, it’s all them other so-and-so’s what are the problem!” All this ancient history is very entertaining, but it hardly seems central to the purpose of the book. Or is it?

Although some vengeance might be expected from a virologist whose eminent career was ended by the AIDS epidemic, one might have wished for a better understanding of modern virology from Duesberg. One of his main complaints about HIV and other ‘slow’ viruses is that they “violate the laws of virology”. But what are these laws? Was it carved in stone that the Lord God spake unto the retroviridiae and commanded: “Thou shalt not kill”? The great beauty of biology – indeed, of science in general – is that as knowledge advances, so paradigms shift; if HIV acts differently from the viruses Duesberg grew up with, what of it? And herein, I suspect, lies the basic problem: Duesberg clearly has an outstanding knowledge of the relatively simple avian leukaemia viruses with which he made his professional reputation. But he draws his views on how HIV ‘should’ behave from his early research experience; he has never published any papers based on his own work with HIV at the laboratory bench. Reading the AIDS literature can take one only so far: experimenting gives active researchers a whole new dimension to their knowledge.

I can list here only a few of the more egregious examples of Duesberg’s misunderstanding of HIV virology. He states that “retroviruses do not kill cells”. This assertion is not even correct for all avian leukaemia viruses, and anyone who has cultured HIV can attest to its prominent cytopathic effects. HIV is not a leukaemia (onco)virus; it is a lentivirus, and behaves distinctly differently from the oncoviruses both in vivo and in vitro. To extrapolate from avian leukaemia virus to HIV is like asserting that because one can stroke a pussy-cat with impunity, it is perfectly safe to put one’s head in a lion’s mouth. Duesberg sees a fatal paradox in the fact that HIV can be grown in permanently infected, immortal T-cell lines in vitro, yet is supposed to cause AIDS by killing T cells in vivo. There is no such paradox. When a chronically infected cell culture is started, clones of cells relatively resistant to the cytopathic effects of HIV are gradually selected for and eventually take over the culture. There can also be some adaptation of the cells (and virus) to the culture conditions. The principal phenotypic change in the cells is a partial reduction in the surface expression of the HIV receptor, which reduces the extent of cell-killing in the culture. But the HIV produced in these cultures is still highly cytopathic when plated back onto unadapted primary T cells. And sadly, HIV produced from permanent cell lines is pathogenic in vivo – it is today causing disease in at least one accidentally infected laboratory worker.

Duesberg writes: “Only rare luck … can extract HIV from an antibody-positive person”. Perhaps I should get the technicians in our laboratory to buy my lottery tickets; they succeed in isolating HIV almost every time they try. Many of Duesberg’s problems with the pathogenic effects of HIV seem to lie in his belief that HIV is dormant in vivo, that HIV-infected people “never have more than one in every 10,000 T-cells actively producing copies of the virus”. This old canard, derived from research in the mid-1980s, has long since been proved incorrect. In the early days of HIV research, analytical techniques were obviously more primitive than they are now, so why still rely on them? The true figure for the frequency of infected cells is more like 1 in 100, although there is a wide range, depending on the state of disease progression. The documented loss of more than a hundred million T cells a day as a result of the generation of more than a billion virus particles a day attests to the virulence of HIV.

Duesberg points out that the opportunistic infections suffered by AIDS patients are unrelated to each other, and finds this hard to reconcile with any common cause, let alone HIV. The common cause is that opportunistic infections generally happen because of a dysfunctional immune system, and the cause of this dysfunction is usually HIV infection. Of course, there can be other causes – genetic or environmental – but rarely is the dysfunction as devastating as that found in the later stages of HIV infection, and never is it as common.

Duesberg believes that HIV is essentially not a sexually transmitted virus; indeed, the very cover of his book states that “AIDS is not sexually transmitted”. Instead, he argues that “HIV has been passed along from mother to child for many centuries”. The first statement ignores the entire body of data on the epidemiology of HIV spread in the United States and Europe, whereas the second ignores the death rate among children infected by HIV from their mothers; only a tragically small proportion of these children survive long enough to have the chance of having children of their own. How could transmission from mother to child permit sustained HIV spread under these conditions?

Much space is devoted to the thesis that AZT causes AIDS. AZT is decried as a toxic chemical, which of course it is to an extent. So are most chemotherapeutic agents used against cancer. So is paracetamol, rock salt and water if consumed in the wrong quantities. Like all drugs, AZT has a therapeutic window – a dosage that has maximum effect on its target (HIV) and minimal effect on the working of the human body. This fundamental pharmacological principle is critical for understanding AZT’s (admittedly limited) effect on HIV replication in vivo. Adding human interest to an otherwise dry section are the numerous quotations from people who believe that AZT has harmed them or their infants. But what of Elizabeth Glaser, who later founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation? She was infected by HIV through a blood transfusion, and then passed the virus to her children. None of the family used recreational drugs. Sadly, Elizabeth and her daughter Ariel eventually died of AIDS. But at a critical stage of Ariel’s disease, Elizabeth managed to obtain AZT for her unconscious child. I quote below from In the Absence of Angels, Elizabeth’s book: “Three weeks to the day after we started intravenous AZT I walked into Ariel’s room in the morning and she looked up and said “Good morning, Mom. I love you’… She hadn’t talked in three months!… It was the miracle we had been waiting for.” No AIDS researcher pretends that AZT is the answer to AIDS. But neither is it the cause of it. Most people die of AIDS have never taken AZT or any other Western drugs. Neither have the monkeys who die from AIDS induced by molecular clones of SIV, lethal close cousin of HIV.

Duesberg wraps together his twisted facts and illogical lines of argument to create a tangled web to trap the unwary, desperate or gullible. But however much he attempts to gild his writings with philosophies of scientific truth, the reality is that his premises are based not on facts but on faith: faith that he is right, and that everyone else is wrong. This was h is position long before AIDS appeared, as tumour virologists know well.

Duesberg ends by detailing his ostracism by the virology community, his inability to get research funding, the personal snubs he has suffered. The advent of HIV has clearly been a personal tragedy for a once highly respected retrovirologist, but one’s sympathy must of course be tempered by thoughts of those for whom AIDS has been a rather greater personal tragedy. Three years ago, I likened Duesberg to the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. This character had his limbs hacked off one by one, but the game little torso tried to bite the knee-caps from his assailant. The events of the past few years have extracted the Black Knight’s teeth, leaving him with the sole recourse of spitting at those whose views of virology have differed from his over the past two decades. But where the spittle lands is on the graves of those millions of people killed by HIV, and on those it has yet to slaughter. How sad, and how ultimately pathetic.

John Moore is at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, 445 1st Avenue, New York, New York 10016 USA.

Blistering letter to John Moore from Harvey Bialy

June 24th, 2006

Tone a welcome relief from usual submissive politesse of HIV critics

One of the ways that the HIV?AIDS paradigm is successfully maintained while flying in the face of all scientific logic is the fact that the tone of the objections coming from laymen amd laywomen is entirely too respectful of the high status and position and credentials of the paradigm leaders, which is understandable because those who object publicly are usually people who are inexpertly outside the politico-socio-medical career system which feeds off the paradigm.

Luckily science professor Harvey Bialy is neither a compromiser nor compromised. Here is his letter to John Moore, the HIV?AIDS researcher and paradigm lackey who published the recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times to mislead the readership and conveniently fend off any question about the behavior of Times editors and reporters in this regard over the last twenty years, a chicken which has yet to come home to roost.

Professor Moore:

You have written hither and yon on the Internet, and most recently in the pages of that once excellent and independent newspaper, The New York Times, how critics of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis are not to be taken seriously. The points you raise (if such they can be called) fall within the categories of “scientific-sounding” but unverifiable “facts”, slanderous assaults, and outright fabrications.

And you have the nerve to take a salary from a reputable university.

Since you purport to know so much, I propose a simple debate at the AIDS WIKI on the etiology of AIDS. I further propose it take the following form:

I will present one fully referenced (with PDF files that the moderator can hyperlink) challenge to your favorite and livelihood-sustaining hypothesis, and you can demolish my feeble arguments in the same fashion. We will continue this for one additional round, and then move on to the next challenge. I have maybe seven such challenges.

At the end, we will have produced the first fully documented, real scientific debate on the cause of AIDS. Interesting that after 25 years none has ever been held before, Bob Gallo’s promise in the PNAS in 1989 not withstanding.

Surely this is not too much for someone possessing even a fraction of the neurons and cojones that you pretend to have. Or is it that you are only capable of boldly proclaiming your unsubstantiated “beliefs” when protected by editorial armaments as mighty as The NY Times that you know would never publish any factual contradiction of your filthy and girlish prose masquerading as an academic Op. Ed.

Yours most sincerely,

Harvey Bialy

Resident Scholar

Institute of Biotechnology

National Autonomous University of Mexico

Cuernavaca

9 June 2006

P.S. You might try reading my biography of Professor Duesberg. If you can understand the technical parts, you will actually learn something.

Shockingly rude, or no more that the obtusely servile Moore deserves for promulgating a profitable paradigm which for those who are intelligent enough to know what they are doing (possibly even Moore) might be counted as murder when the accounting for this Enron of science is finally done?

(See An Open Letter and Challenge to Prof. John Moore – from Dr. Harvey “Tryptophan” Bialy)

Brown and Bialy outmaneuver John Moore on Lew Rockwell

June 21st, 2006


Op-Ed author of “Deadly Quackery” told who are the real “denialists” by AIDS Wiki founder, and professor

A remarkable article, Who Are the Real AIDS Denialists? – Testing the Moore Assertion by the philosopher-mathematician Darin Brown, the founder of the AIDS Wiki, appears on the libertarian site this morning (Wed Jun 21).

Brown presents a zinger of a proposal, after tracking the email exchange which erupted when the intellectually brilliant biographer of Duesberg and his science, Harvey Bialy, challenged the understandably reluctant John Moore to a seven point exchange on the etiology of AIDS.

Despite his initial contemptuous dismissal Moore got lured into an exchange which ended with him comparing their doubts over HIV and AIDS with someone who “thought the moon was made of green cheese” (the cliche betrays than John Moore is another embarrassment to the reputation of Brit expatriates, joining Andrew Sullivan and Nick Bennett).

Any scientist who claims that HIV does not cause AIDS (or that HIV does not exist) is simply not credible, essentially as a point of definition. The evidence is so overwhelming that a credible scientist could not fail to understand and accept it… Would astrophysicists and geologists debate with people who believed the moon was made of green cheese?”

Darin Brown corrects this assertion by pointing out that Science thought the debate worth holding in 1988, and that the discussion was arbitrarily halted by editor Dan Koshland before resolution.

Brown relaunches Bialy’s challenge to editors of Nature and Science

Brown – in what may be a watershed move in the age of the Web – then revives Bialy’s idea of harassing the editors of Science and Nature today with a request that they take a straw poll of their readers to see how many of them would support a rematch, this time a series of debates between David Baltimore and Peter Duesberg on the cause of AIDS.

All that is required is to take an anonymous, electronic straw poll of the readership of Nature and Science, the world’s two most prominent science journals, asking whether they would support a series of debates, organized and held under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, between Peter Duesberg and David Baltimore (the two most prominent and best-credentialed spokespersons for the two sides) on the cause of AIDS.

The idea was previously rejected as a petition from the Committee for the Reappraisal of HIV/AIDS to those editors, since that group (known for short as Rethinking AIDS) thought that there was no more chance of the editors taking such a suggestion seriously than devoting a special issue to the topic, which has been anathema ever since 1988, due to the active and public hostility of Anthony Fauci and every other paradigm promoter in HIV?AIDS science, which may or may not have to do with the bountiful rewards that it brings to them in their work. Such promoters include the editors of both Science and Nature, of course, then and since.

But Bialy is no fool and his purpose was not to convince the editors of Science and Nature to mend their ways, but to expose the situation for what it is – political censorship of first class science, by the very gatekeepers themselves. As the Romans said, Who shall guard the guardians?

Now Brown writes:

If you would like to see this experiment performed, you may meaningfully contribute by sending a joint email to Don Kennedy and Philip Campbell, (the editors of Science and Nature respectively) expressing your agreement with the letter above (and carbon-copying me) so we can, in the words of Prof. Moore, “keep at the maths…someone has to do it, after all.” (Please address them by name in your email.) In contradistinction to the “Moore Assertion,” we present the “Brown/Bialy Conjecture”:

“No matter how many emails are received by the editors of Science and Nature in support of the above experiment to test the ‘Moore Assertion,’ they will never allow such an experiment to take place.”

We speculate that the reason is because they know full well what the uncomfortable result would be.

The ploy has all the earmarks of Bialy’s convoluted logic, and there seems to us some possibility that, like the members of Rethinking AIDS, readers may not get the point. And we are not quite sure they will not be right. Will the inevitable scorn of the proposal by the editors of Science and Nature prove that they wish actively to censor the debate, or merely that they consider the proposal silly?

Silly – or subtle?

The proposal, after all, is to poll their readers’ opinions on the matter. They might validly feel that to hold such a poll is to imply that they think that the debate should be renewed. They might balk at that because they genuinely feel that the issue is decided, and therefore such a debate is a waste of time and not called for.

This has always been the subtle catch-22 of the HIV?AIDS debate on the cause of AIDS. If people genuinely judge that an issue is settled to their own satisfaction, then they are not actively censoring the debate when they refuse to endorse it, since their reason is that the argument of the HIV critics is not so strong and threatening that it must be censored, but too weak, and therefore should not be supported because it will waste everyone’s time.

Of course, anyone with a working intelligence who has studied the issue for more than a few hours can see very well that the HIV critics have overwhelming arguments to review the cause of AIDS, since as Peter Duesberg has repeatedly demonstrated without rebuttal, the scientific evidence for HIV turns out not to be “overwhelming” at all, as is so often claimed, by Anthony Fauci and his many Moore’s, but distinctly underwhelming.

In fact, underwhelming to the vanishing point, for there is no good scientific reason yet offered under the sun or moon as to why one should believe such a claim, as the unanswered papers by Peter Duesberg have clearly shown for twenty years, except the single reason that everyone else believes in it as the “consensus” belief, a tautology which satisfies everyone who wishes to believe it but no one who needs to justify it. In other words, the belief is a matter of faith and collegiality which serves emotional and financial interests but offers no defenses at all against scientific examination.

But this fact doesn’t prove that the editors of Science and Nature don’t firmly believe in HIV, or believe the case against it is so very strong that it must be repressed. In fact, we are very sure they do believe it, since doubting HIV in their circles is a one way express ticket to obscurity and ostracism. Hard to be an HIV skeptic and edit either journal very effectively.

This genuine belief in HIV is what their inevitable scornful response to any such proposal as a straw poll of their readers will come from, unless they are secretly independent minds who have troubled to examine the case for themselves and are going to discreetly become allies of the critics by going along with the proposal.

Not very likely. So what will Bialy’s caper prove? We wait to see if anyone else thinks it makes sense: Will his proposal, if taken up by large numbers of people emailing Don Kennedy and Philip Campbell, expose

a) their recognition that the challenge to HIV and all the fruits it brings (delicious to some, poisonous to others) is so dangerous it must be actively repressed

or

b) their belief that the paradigm is an incontrovertible fact and that it is political suicide and useless time wasting to give it to their readers to respond to, especially since the readers are bound to reject it?

We are afraid that it is b) and even if it is a) there will be no way of telling, so the whole exercise is pointless.

Much better for Darin Brown and Harvey Bialy to run the poll themselves.

Or will a Perfect Storm sink HIV?AIDS?

But then – and this is an example of Bialy’s fiendish acuity, which is so often displayed in his book, “Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: The Life and Scientific Times of Peter H. Duesberg”, a sine qua non of informed understanding of this vexed debate – that is precisely what they will do and are doing.

The numbers of people emailing will be their poll, a poll of the public at large, including presumably no small number of Nature and Science readers, on their wish to reopen the can or coffin of worms which, scientifically speaking, have been wriggling for twenty years eating the stillborn theory of HIV causing immune deficiency, stillborn according to the most tested scientific literature on the topic.

Stillborn, in fact, as we recently showed, according to the very first papers on the topic by Robert “I discovered HIV in the mail” Gallo, which showed clearly that HIV was totally insufficient even to qualify as a candidate for causing AIDS, let alone win the prize.

Whatever John Moore says, then, it seems he is outmaneuvered. If this email attack builds, it may prove to be the Perfect Storm that sinks the merry cruise liner of HIV?AIDS.

Perhaps the effort will fizzle at a few dozen or hundred, but Lew Rockwell being a popular libertarian site, and libertarians being by nature for freedom of debate and against censorship, the chance of this building into thousands or even tens of thousands of emails over time are not nil.

Who Are the Real AIDS Denialists? – Testing the ‘Moore Assertion’

by Darin Brown

A very interesting and instructive exchange between myself, Harvey Bialy and the New York Times-celebrated Op. Ed. author Prof. John P. Moore, self-appointed “Major General in the War on AIDS” and spokesperson for “The Scientific Community,” recently appeared on the AIDS Wiki. The exchange was prompted by an offer to Prof. Moore to participate in a moderated debate with Dr. Bialy, who wrote in part:

“I propose a simple debate at the AIDS Wiki on the etiology of AIDS. I further propose it take the following form:

I will present one fully referenced (with PDF files that the moderator can hyperlink) challenge to your favorite and livelihood-sustaining hypothesis, and you can demolish my feeble arguments in the same fashion. We will continue this for one additional round, and then move on to the next challenge. I have maybe seven such challenges.

At the end, we will have produced the first fully documented, real scientific debate on the cause of AIDS. Interesting that after 25 years none has ever been held before, Bob Gallo’s promise in the PNAS in 1989 not withstanding.”

Within the hour, Prof. Moore had replied to me by email:

“Participating in any public forum with the likes of Bialy would give him a credibility that he does not merit. The science community does not ‘debate’ with the AIDS denialists, it treats them with the utter contempt that they deserve and exposes them for the charlatans that they are. Kindly do not send me any further communications on this or any related matter.”

Despite Prof. Moore’s expressed wish to discontinue communication, he in fact continued conversation with Dr. Bialy and myself for several days thereafter. By the end of this exchange, Moore had produced (and “more” than thrice) what we now call “The Moore Assertion.” In the professor’s inimitable style,

“… I’ll expand a very little…about why it’s not appropriate to ‘debate’ with HIV denialists who also happen to be scientists, by profession or self-proclaimed… The principal reason is that there’s nothing to debate… A secondary one is that there’s nobody worth debating with. One should only debate science with credible scientists, and no credible scientist could ever dispute the causative role of HIV infection in AIDS. I repeat, in case you have missed the point: Any scientist who claims that HIV does not cause AIDS (or that HIV does not exist) is simply not credible, essentially as a point of definition. The evidence is so overwhelming that a credible scientist could not fail to understand and accept it… Would astrophysicists and geologists debate with people who believed the moon was made of green cheese?”

More succinctly, “The Assertion” denies that there is any scientific reason to doubt HIV as the cause of AIDS because a vaguely defined “scientific community” has already pronounced on the matter ad nauseum. This is vigorously defended by the ultra-orthodox AIDS cadres that Moore represents, even though the only semblance of a “real” debate in the literature occurred in the journal Science in 1988.

It ran under the logo of a “Policy Forum,” with Peter Duesberg arguing against, and William Blattner, Robert Gallo, and Howard Temin arguing for, the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. In his book Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS, Bialy gives an entertaining and accurate description of this “heavyweight science fight.” Here is the last paragraph of the linked excerpt

“After the ‘Policy Forum’ appeared, Peter all but begged Dan to sanction another round, to no avail. And so just when it was getting good, the bout was declared a technical draw on an inexplicable and non-appealable decision of commissioner Koshland. There was never to be a rematch. The failure to extend the discussion in the pages of Science was significant. Most scientists have neither time nor inclination to follow specialist literature in fields outside their own. They depend, consequently, on journals like Science and Nature to tell them what is considered important. Having read, as best they could at the time, the arguments of the Policy Forum, and then seeing nothing more than vulgar anti-Duesberg editorials in the scientific press and worse in the popular media, even a partially persuaded non-specialist could and would eventually concur with the ‘overwhelming evidence’ of Team Virus, although it has become even less overwhelming now than it was in 1988.”

The truth of the “Moore Assertion” is a key point of dispute between the two camps. Indeed, in the absence of a satisfactory resolution of its validity, it remains the principal impediment to ever discovering the real scientific merits of the virus-AIDS hypothesis that have nothing to do with the consensual basis of the claim. Until now, assertions of this type were like the Riemann hypothesis in number theory – important but impossible to resolve due to a lack of technical tools. With the ascendance of the internet, however, the “Moore Assertion” is readily testable as a scientific hypothesis. All that is required is to take an anonymous, electronic straw poll of the readership of Nature and Science, the world’s two most prominent science journals, asking whether they would support a series of debates, organized and held under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, between Peter Duesberg and David Baltimore (the two most prominent and best-credentialed spokespersons for the two sides) on the cause of AIDS.

The goal of such an electronic straw poll would not be to generate an actual debate between Duesberg and Baltimore, but to test the “Moore Assertion” that “there is nothing to debate and no-one worth debating with, and the issue has already been decided by ‘overwhelming evidence’ by the ‘scientific community.’”

To take this experiment out of the gedenken, we propose the following letter to the editors of Nature and Science:

“In the interests of once and forever ending the disquieting and possibly harmful pseudo-debate over the cause of AIDS that has been simmering at the margins of the journals and popular media for almost two decades, we urge you to use your good offices to take an electronic straw poll of your readers in which you simply ask them to respond to the following question. Would you support a series of debates between David Baltimore and Peter Duesberg, to be organized by, and held under the auspices of, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, on the etiology of AIDS?”

If you would like to see this experiment performed, you may meaningfully contribute by sending a joint email to Don Kennedy and Philip Campbell, (the editors of Science and Nature respectively) expressing your agreement with the letter above (and carbon-copying me) so we can, in the words of Prof. Moore, “keep at the maths…someone has to do it, after all.” (Please address them by name in your email.) In contradistinction to the “Moore Assertion,” we present the “Brown/Bialy Conjecture”:

“No matter how many emails are received by the editors of Science and Nature in support of the above experiment to test the ‘Moore Assertion,’ they will never allow such an experiment to take place.”

We speculate that the reason is because they know full well what the uncomfortable result would be.

June 21, 2006

Darin Brown [send him mail] received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004. He maintains the AIDS Wiki with Frank Lusardi, a New York computer programmer.

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com

NAR nominates Dr Anthony Fauci for Nobel – he has found the solution to AIDS

June 19th, 2006

Fauci leads Gallo in suggesting that HIV may be the antidote to itself

We hope to find an opportunity to shake Dr Anthony Fauci’s hand when he appears tonight at the New School, for he is truly a hero of AIDS. (Apologies for the horizontal photo, which is an artefact of inadequate Apple software, which we will correct later).

Not only has he fought for expanding federal spending on this vexed socio-political-medical conundrum for two decades, and achieved the splendid result of funding it more lavishly than cancer or heart disease, but recently, we have discovered, has actually provided the long sought solution to AIDS, which looks to save many billions in future spending, not to mention all kinds of suffering in deaths and twisted lives.

Why Dr Fauci has seen fit to confine his breakthrough finding to the pages of a textbook read almost exclusively by medical students late at night and by our eagle-eyed consultant Bob Houston, it is hard to imagine. Possibly it is his innate modesty, which we have always admired.

Should HIV be used to combat AIDS?

Or possibly it is the shocking originality of his conception, which is likely to strike the orthodoxy much as the conception of Copernicus struck the Papal community a number of centuries ago: a novel and possibly valid idea best kept for the Cardinals to consider and not for immediate dissemination to the congregation

For Dr Fauci has remarkably suggested that the best antidote to AIDS may be HIV itself.

But this great man deserves to speak in his own words, as found in his review paper in 2003 in the definitive textbook “Fundamental Immunology” which was edited by William E. Paul MD and published by Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins (p. 1295):

“Several investigators have demonstrated that there is an increase in CD4+ T cell proliferation in both HIV and SIV infection. In certain studies, the enhanced T cell proliferation that was observed during active disease was significantly decreased following the initiation of anti-retroviral therapy, and proliferation increased again in parallel with plasma viremia following the cessation of treatment in these individuals.”

In other words, adding HIV to the bloodstream increases T cell count, ARV drug therapy decreases it, and the withdrawal of ARVs increases it again.

At one stroke, this kind of intervention – Fauci’s brilliant implied suggestion here to replace antiretroviral drugs with a dose of HIV – will restore 61% of AIDS patients in this country to health overnight.

For ever since the 1993 emendation of the list of AIDS symptoms to cover more people, a low T-cell count has been one of the AIDS defining conditions in itself. Now 61% of AIDS patients are in that category, and have no other symptom at all, other than copious HIV antibodies, when diagnosed.

So Fauci’s unique proposal to shoot them up with HIV will instantly restore their count to normal.

Will Robert Gallo try to claim credit too?

Of course, now that Fauci has made his suggestion, many others will be claiming it as an idea they already thought of.

One of them is bound to be the noted Dr. Robert Gallo, who will remind the world that after all he included HTLV-III (as he then labeled the virus subsequently known as HIV) in the category of human leukemia viruses, like its forebear HTLV-I, for which the heroic Gallo has retained the ropyalties for a blood test since.

Leukemia viruses are supposed to cause cell proliferation, of course, that being a characteristic of cancer, so it will be no surprise to Dr Gallo to find that Dr. Fauci has located studies which show that HIV works in the same manner – boosts the number of CD4+ T-cells in the blood of AIDS patients.

Gallo will also point to his original 1984 papers, of course, since these as we have already noted indicated that not only did HIV not cause AIDS immune deficiency, but actually served as a prophylactic against the development of AIDS.

That is to say, Gallo originally showed that the category of patients he called “pre-AIDS” (people with a cold or similar) twice as often had the virus present as AIDS patients. The proportion was four out of five, compared to one third of the AIDS patients proper.

Not only was Gallo, as we have pointed out, well ahead of Peter Duesberg in demonstrating that HIV almost certainly did not cause AIDS (it occurred only in one third of his AIDS patients’ blood samples) but also he anticipated Dr Fauci in suggesting that HIV was probably a defense against AIDS, since it occurred in more (4/5) of pre-AIDS patients than in (1/3) AIDS patients proper. Apparently only when HIV was overcome did AIDS symptoms appear in many people.

That is why we predict that Dr. Fauci will be joined post-haste in his race for credit, and perhaps even the Nobel, by Robert Gallo, much in the same manner of David Baltimore racing to join Howard Temin in his candidacy for the Nobel prize for reverse transcriptase those many years ago.

That is why NAR intercedes in honor of Dr Anthony Fauci today to emphasize his priority in making this astounding conceptual breakthrough.

Well done, Dr. Fauci, may the call from Stockholm come through soon.

AIDS elite at 25 – top trio meets in public at the New School tonight

June 19th, 2006

But will audience dare to question progress?

Celebrating “AIDS at 25”, three of the AIDS elite will meet at the New School tonight in a New York Times panel to discuss progress to date.

New York Times Talks

AIDS at 25: What’s Next?

Mon., June 19, 6:30 p.m. Admission: $25 at nytimes.com/timestalks or call 888.NYT.1870. A limited number of complimentary New School student, faculty, staff and alumni tickets are available by calling 212.229.5488 or emailing boxoffice@newschool.edu.

Location: Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the first New York Times story about a rare, often rapidly fatal form of cancer afflicting gay men. What we now know as AIDS has gone on to become a worldwide pandemic with no known cure. Some of the leading voices in the quarter-century-long struggle to identify and combat this disease talk about the victories they have helped attain and the challenges that remain. Panelists: Allan Clear, executive director, Harm Reduction Coalition; Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Larry Kramer, Founder, Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP; and Mathilde Krim, PhD, founding chairman, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. Panel discussion moderated by Brent Staples, New York Times editorial board.

Their names are the most celebrated in the socio-politics of AIDS: Anthony Fauci, Mathilde Krim and Larry Kramer.

Anthony Fauci is the short, well dressed director of NIAID, which is responsible for guiding the research and development of medications in AIDS, as well as possible vaccines. Result so far: no vaccine, no cure, no explanation, and no genuinely good medications but merely ones which act rather like a flame thrower used inside a house to chase mice. Initially the weapon may kill the mice (infections), but it soon enough burns down the house (ie kills the patient: half of AIDS patient deaths now are due to drug symptoms – such as liver damage – which are not AIDS diseases).

Mathilde Krim is the short, blonde-bunned founder of AmFAR, the prominent charity devoted to a similar goal. Best known for winning the support of Elizabeth Taylor and for saying to this reporter, on the topic of whether HIV caused AIDS, “Well we can’t prove it does, but Peter (Duesberg) can’t prove it doesn’t!”

Larry Kramer is the short, regal playwright and orator who is fond of accusing officials, and gays themselves, of behaving in ways that put the health of the gay community at risk, but has never bitten the bullet and examined whether scientists have the same range of human motivations, some of which may betray the gay community in just as lethal a manner. Kramer, in fact, has despite his artistic grasp of the emotions at play has never been able to move beyond fearing the virus to fearing the men and women behind its status.

Since this is an unprecedented opportunity to ask questions from the audience of these movers and shakers of HIV?AIDS science and politics, perhaps someone will formulate an enquiry which politely asks them to explain how a virus that does not kill T-cells after all, that is not significantly present in AIDS patients, and that is not transmitted through man-woman sex (all now established in mainstream scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals) can possibly be responsible for so many deaths over the years, and how it can be spreading throughout the world in a pandemic which threatens the very survival of some African nations?

Prize for best query

Maybe you can formulate a cleverer question today, in time for it to be asked by this correspondent or his deputy tonight. Prize to be awarded for best suggestion: free copy of Harvey Bialy’s inimitable book, “Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: The Life and Scientific Times of Peter H. Duesberg”, which explains how the issue of the true cause of HIV?AIDS was settled in 1988, if not earlier.

Some suggestions:

1. Dr. Fauci, how come the Virus appears to be contagious in poorer countries overseas and not in the US and Europe? Are rich people immune as long as they are not gay?

2. Dr. Fauci, how is it that at least five listed AIDS diseases have little to do with immune deficiency – wasting, cervical cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, dementia, lymphoma?

3. Dr. Fauci, how come that after the Virus has been replaced (controlled, neutralized) by antibodies to it, people develop AIDS diseases after ten years or even twenty years, when antibody immunity is still effective and the Virus is not present more often than a needle in a haystack?

4. Dr. Fauci, do you support Dr. Gallo in still saying that the Virus kills T cells and that this is the cause of AIDS immune deficiency? If so, how does the Virus kill cells it is not inside, in a body in which it is almost totally absent? Does this “conundrum” after twenty years (as it is now called in mainstream literature eg by Zvi Grossman of NIAID and Tel Aviv in Nature Medicine in March) suggest we have the wrong cause of AIDS after all?

5. Dr. Fauci, if HIV positive people are already full of antibodies which have replaced their Virus, what kind of viral antibodies will the vaccine that we are still asked to spend more billions hunting, provide?

6. Dr. Fauci, if the occurrence (prevalence) of HIV in the US has remained flat at around a million HIV+ people for twenty years, how did the Virus cause the rise and decline in AIDS in the US?

7. Dr. Fauci, if it is the Virus that is killing AIDS patients, how come more than half are now dying of liver damage, which is a drug symptom and not an AIDS symptom?

8. Dr. Fauci, what exactly is the rationale for spending more on AIDS than on the much, much bigger killers cancer and heart disease?

9. Dr. Fauci, do you support funding for the widely admired research Dr. Duesberg is undertaking down a new path in cancer research? If so, will you lend your weight to advising NCI to support his grant applications?

10. Dr Fauci, what co-factors could explain whether people get sick soon or much later?

11. Dr Fauci, if the initial effect of HIV is to increase T cell count as you wrote in your review in 2003 in the textbook Fundamental Immunology, why not use HIV to combat AIDS? Would this not be better than using antiretroviral drugs, which you wrote decreased T cell count, and when stopped, saw T cell count improve?

12. Dr. Fauci, is there a single prediction based on the current paradigm that has come true?

LSE pow wow on evidence and dissent in science

June 18th, 2006


But no sign of awareness of current worst example

Interesting workshop tomorrow at LSE, Monday-Tuesday, 19-20 June- Contingency and Dissent in Science Workshop – T206, Lakatos Building, London School of Economics.

But will this workshop on Dissent in Science grasp the nettle and deal with the greatest case study of all in science today? With HIV?AIDS following a politically maintained, doctrinaire paradigm and actively repressing first rank scientific dissent which is long established in the peer-reviewed literature as overwhelming in logic and evidence, one would hope so.

After all, if these academics won’t address it, who will, inside the established institutional system? With a topic blatantly censored in the popular and scientific media, and in the field itself, the academic world seems to be the last recourse for any free debate.

Our letter a week ago to Nancy Cartwright, who organized the workshop, enquiring as to this possibility has gone unanswered to date. But since this evidently very Establishment lady is a MacArthur fellow whose first book was titled How the Laws of Physics Lie, there seems a glimmer of hope that alerted to the true state of affairs in HIV?AIDS, namely the stifling of debate to an exceptional degree, she might decide to explore the topic.

Here are the details:

Contingency and Dissent in Science: Description of Aims

Jun 13, 2006, at 12:06 AM

Contingency and Dissent in Science

Today society is scrambling to figure out how to manage the uses and abuses of science to minimize harm and maximize public benefit. But we face dramatically opposed attitudes to science. On one hand, it is presumed that the correctness of what science teaches does not come into question. On the other, there is widespread dissent even within the scientific community about results, methods and consequences. This project on contingency and dissent in science aims to develop tools for the scrutiny of the correctness of methods and results in the natural and human sciences based on detailed case studies.

We shall ask

* How contingent are the results of modern science?

* When is contingency harmful?

* When harmful, how can it be minimised?

Dissent is essential for scientific advance and can help reduce contingency: there are no scientific revolutions without scientific revolutionaries. It can also stall crucial decisions, waste money and misdirect effort.

* How has dissent helped to reduce contingency?

* How has it contributed to safeguards in cases where results are insecure?

* When has dissent merely wasted time and effort?

* Can we differentiate political exploitation of dissent from legitimate exploration of scientific uncertainties?

We shall look at

* Epistemological dimensions of dissent. When is dissent intellectually justified and when not? We shall try to develop criteria for distinguishing between a ‘crank’ and a ‘mainstream’ dissenter.

* Political/social/economic dimensions. If a topic is politically charged, there can be political gains from fostering and exploiting dissent. We aim to develop criteria to distinguish between ‘legitimate’ development of scientific uncertainty versus political or economic exploitation.

A reasonable assumption is that contingency is reduced when results are judged via agreed-upon methods. But –

* What happens when there is dissent over methods? Consider weak neutral currents where (according to Peter Galison) different experimental groups championed different methods and would not trust results from the alternatives. Physicists came to agree only when different methods produced the same results. The same is true for continental drift and plate tectonics.

Failing convergence of results, what factors do and should resolve disputes? Philosophers are keen on ’empirical evidence’ and ‘extra-empirical values’ (like ‘simplicity’). What do these abstract concepts amount to in real cases, how do they generate consensus and why assume the consensus is likely to be correct? We shall investigate three cases here:

o High-temperature superconductors. These were created in laboratories in 1986 but theorists still do not agree on how to explain them. The conservative school appeals to an ‘extra-empirical virtue’, demanding a theory as close as possible to that for conventional superconductors. More revolutionary schools urge a radical break: high-temperature superconductors are something new and should not be explained by minimal modifications of existing theory. We will study how controversy is conducted, what role empirical evidence and extra-empirical values play and what else matters in the dispute.

o Climate change. Controversy over global warming might be unexpected, since the case has all the elements conventionally necessary for a scientific demonstration. But the situation is complicated. First, predictions of the severity of the impact of the greenhouse effect rely on complex general-circulation models that are subject to considerable uncertainties. Second, there is deliberate stoking of scientific dissent for political purposes. The self-interests of powerful nations, corporations, and individuals are at stake and opposition has taken the form of attacking the science behind the environmental concern. And an individual who does dissent will find many opportunities to air that dissent in public.

o Randomised-controlled-trials (RCTs). These are generally the only admissible method for judging new medical treatments. For years Bayesians and others dissented, criticising both the logic and morality of RCTs and arguing that they cannot deliver on their promise in many real trials. These arguments had little effect. But cost factors may at last do so. We shall follow this case to compare the effects of dissenting argument with those of economic incentives. We shall also look for positive ways contingencies can be reduced without RCTs.

* What happens when established methods give out? Within specific sciences we usually have agreed-upon methods. But these seldom carry us all the way to the conclusion we need. For instance, economics, and increasingly other social sciences, are dominated by game-theory models that use rigorous techniques, often justified by neat theorems. But how do the results rigorously derived in the model relate to the world? There is no extant methodology. Midway through our attempt to arrive at real-life results, we resort to guesswork and judgement.

A second place where contingency sets in is when evidence must be combined. Consider Michael Marmot’s hypothesis that stress in low-status people produces ill-health. He defends this with a number of different kinds of studies, each adhering to methods appropriate to it. But each study has a local conclusion – Russian mortality or ape health or health/status correlations among Whitehall civil servants. The general conclusions to be drawn are clearly contingent on how these results are combined – and we have few methods for doing this. Our project will study how evidence can/has been/should be combined with health/status evidence as a test case.

* How sure can we be when dissent is missing? Points of possible contingency are easy to detect where there is active dissent but it is much harder when one theory dominates and dissent is practically non-existent.

Consider gauge theory, which has led to important breakthroughs in particle physics. Scientists accept the methodology based on past successes and the similarity of the problems at hand. Dissent is not entirely missing however. Critics note that strange moves had to be made in adopting the methodology to specific problems. How can genuine troublespots be identified? A clue for gauge theories may lie in their relation to theories from which they borrow (like condensed matter physics) and to more fundamental theories (like superstring theory). What can we learn from cases like this about locating points of contingency? For instance, are intertheoretic links a tool for reducing contingency?

We shall concentrate on cases where methods of adjudication are (or should be) in dispute. But it would be a mistake to undertake a study of contingency without consulting the philosophical work done in response to scepticism about scientific results engendered by the dramatic revolutions that many sciences have experienced. We will look in particular at two recent schools that hold out a big promise: they claim to isolate what is likely to prove necessary as our world picture changes from what is merely contingent. But they offer exactly opposite answers. One says that it is the abstract structure of fundamental equations. The other eschews high theory and argues that it is concrete claims about entities and their behaviours that are likely to last. Both claims are too sweeping. We want to reassess the grounds for both, and other emerging alternatives, and try to formulate the conditions under which any plausible alternative is likely to be reliable. (We are in a special position for this since founders of both schools [Cartwright and Worrall] are associated with the project.)

Project Leader is Nancy Cartright

Bio of Nancy Cartwright

Nancy Cartwright is the Chair of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and Professor of Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. She is also Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. Her principal interests are philosophy and history of science (especially physics and economics), causal inference and objectivity in science. Her publications include How the Laws of Physics Lie (1983), Nature’s Capacities and their Measurement (1989), Otto Neurath: Philosophy between Science and Politics [co-author] (1995), and The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science (1999).

Nancy Cartwright is a Fellow of the British Academy and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

She was married to Sir Stuart Hampshire who died in June 2004. Sir Stuart was a philosopher and reviewer who towards the end of his life worked as Warden of Wadham College Oxford and as Professor at Stanford University. They have two daughters, Emily and Sophie, and a granddaughter, Lucy.

Email: n.l.cartwright ‘at’ lse.ac.uk

Some publications

Nancy Cartwright’s books include:

Hunting Causes and Using Them, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

Measuring Causes: Invariance, Modularity and the Causal Markov Condition, Measurement in Physics and Economics Discussion Paper Series

Monograph DP MEAS 10/00, London: Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, 2000 Measuring Causes: Invariance, Modularity and the Causal Markov Condition

The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science,

Cambridge University Press, 1999; Represented as a Fathom Internet Story, Cambridge University Press, 1999 The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science

Otto Neurath: Philosophy between Science and Politics, with Jordi Cat, Lola Fleck, Thomas E Uebel,

Cambridge University Press, Ideas in Context Series, 1995 Otto Neurath: Philosophy between Science and Politics

Nature�s Capacities and their Measurement,

Oxford University Press, 1989; reproduced in Oxford Scholarship on Line, 2003 Nature�s Capacities and their Measurement

How the Laws of Physics Lie,

Oxford University Press, 1983; reproduced in Oxford Scholarship on Line, 2003.

Also translated into Chinese, to appear in Shanghai Scientific & Technological Education Publishing House.

Program of Worlshop:

Program of Conference

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Subject: ‘Evidence and Dissent in Science Workshop’ June 19th and 20th, LSE.

Date: June 13, 2006 12:06:05 AM EDT

Reminder:’Evidence and Dissent in Science Workshop’ June 19th and 20th

(part of the AHRC-funded Contingency and Dissent in Science Project)

Location:

T206, Lakatos Building

London School of Economics

Houghton Street,

London WC2A 2AE

Please register in advance by emailing: ContingencyDissent@lse.ac.uk

Programme:

Monday June 19th

9.00 – 9.30 Registration, Coffee

9.30 – 10.45 Dissent and Evidentiary Procedures

in Regulatory Science

Dr Justus Lentsch

Institute for Science and Technology Studies

University of Bielefeld, Germany

10.50 ˆ 12.05 Defining a role for evidence Œfrom

above‚

Mr Jeremy Howick

Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

London School of Economics.

12.15 ˆ 13.30 Does dissent in science differ from dissent in religion?

Prof Steve Fuller

Department of Sociology

University of Warwick

13.30 ˆ 14.30 Break for lunch

14.30 ˆ 15.45 Testimony, Dissent and the Growth of Knowledge

Prof Peter Lipton

History and Philosophy of Science Department

University of Cambridge

15.45 ˆ 16.15 Coffee

16.15 ˆ 17.30 On the Grammar of Pure Scientific

Dissent

Prof Aristides Baltas

National Technical University of Athens, Greece

Tuesday June 20th

9.15 ˆ 9.30 Coffee

9.30 ˆ 10.45 Values, Uncertainty, and Dissent: A Rational Basis for

Scientific Disagreement

Dr Heather Douglas

Philosophy Department

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, U.S.A.

10.50 ˆ 12.05 Evidence and Dissent in Structural Econometrics

Dr Damien Fennell

Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science

London School of Economics

12.05 Closing Remarks.

Steve Fuller, a sociologist at the University of Warwick, will talk at 12.15 on “Does dissent in science differ from dissent in religion?” He is the author of a rather interesting article on the Science Wars he wrote in 1998, The Science Wars: Who Exactly is the Enemy?

C’mon Steve, let’s hear your conclusions on the current topic of the HIV paradigm in AIDS:

This article is scheduled to appear in Japanese in the periodical, ‘Sekai’, at the end of 1998.

THE SCIENCE WARS: WHO EXACTLY IS THE ENEMY?

Steve Fuller

For at least the past five years, an undeclared war has been raging in many university departments in the USA, the UK, and Europe. I write as a veteran of these “Science Wars” that have now reached the shores of Japan. Are the Science Wars the equivalent of an intellectual World War or are they little more than a series of local guerilla incursions? What role, if any, should Japanese scholars take in them? I am here to argue that, to a large extent, the Science Wars are an outgrowth of specifically Western developments in the relationship between science, technology, and society — and that the Japanese situation offers a useful distance from which to critique the assumptions that inform the Science Wars.

The first salvo of the Science Wars was fired in 1992 with the publication of two popular works, one by an American physicist (Dreams of a Final Theory by Steven Weinberg) and the other by a British biologist (The Unnatural Nature of Science by Lewis Wolpert). These books included extended critical discussions of a group of historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science who over the past quarter-century have been challenging many taken-for-granted views about the nature of science. Ironically, Weinberg and Wolpert provided the first exposure of these scholars of “science studies” (or “STS,” for “Science, Technology and Society”) to the general public. Soon thereafter, science studies was connected with other broadly academic leftist movements, such as feminism, postmodernism, and multiculturalism. Arguments traceable to science studies started to appear in science policy forums, especially as grounds for cutting the budgets of expensive research projects and even the enrollments in science courses. In 1994, a biologist and a mathematician, Paul Gross and Norman Levitt, published the first full-length work devoted to these developments (Higher Superstition). They claimed to be part of the “Old Left” (Marxists who protested the “military-industrial complex” in the 1960s) who had become disillusioned with the seemingly pointless radicalism of today’s academic left. Science studies was portrayed as part of this “New Left,” and a major source of cynicism about science’s abilty to solve the world’s problems.

Are these charges well-founded? To be sure, science studies scholars have shown, often in considerable detail, that when science is regarded as a concrete human practice, it displays all the features one would expect of other similarly endowed social, economic, and political institutions. Put most pointedly, they claim that it is difficult to specify empirically the distinctly “rational,” “objective,” or “truth-oriented” character of the scientific mind. It is not that scientists are less rational than the rest of humanity; rather, they are not more rational. Whatever rationality science has displayed is the product of either specific features of its social organization (which enables concentrated periods of both teamwork and criticism) or the control that scientists exert over recounting their own history, which leaves the impression of an overall “progress” that is lacking in other human activities. I do not deny that these are controversial claims that often aim to “demystify” science. However, many science studies scholars have made these points in the spirit of encouraging scientists to be more modest in their own claims so that the public is not led to believe in things that are unlikely to happen. The failure of science to live up to its own expectations has probably done more damage to science’s social standing than any explicit criticism from non-scientists.

In 1994, I organized the first conference that brought together major representatives of both sides of the Science Wars into dialogue. The conference received enormous national publicity in the UK, but nearly three years passed before it was repeated, this time by physicists at the University of Kansas in the USA. In the interim had occcurred an event which made negotiations very difficult. An obscure theoretical physicist, Alan Sokal, had managed to publish an article in a special issue of a leading American cultural studies journal (Social Text) which parodied the style of writing of several notable science studies scholars. In particular, the article inferred wider cultural significance from highly technical scientific concepts and even equations: Einstein’s relativity theory was said to imply philosophical relativism; Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle implied interpretive indeterminacy; chaoplexity implied the fragmented world of the postmodern condition; etc. Moreover, although Sokal’s article was the most highly documented in the special issue, it included some fabricated sources from mathematics and physics, which could have been easily spotted by someone trained in these fields. But the editors neglected to submit Sokal’s article to scientific “peer review” because they found his line of argument so congenial. At least, this was the “spin” that Sokal gave the situation when he revealed the article to be a hoax on the front page of The New York Times in May 1996.

Soon many began to see the controversial character of science studies claims as marks of arrogance and incompetence. But equally, Sokal’s hoax raised more general issues about the level of trust needed for any organized form of inquiry to occur. Given the expense involved in reproducing most scientific experiments today, even the hardest of “hard” scientists are forced to take most of what their colleagues say in print at face value. In other words, Sokal unwittingly found himself teaching science studies by example! This became very evident when conservative political groups in the US began supporting conferences on the Science Wars. Sokal quickly distanced himself from these groups because they used the “socially constructed” character of science as grounds for influencing what academics teach and research. In particular, they aimed to banish all research that could not meet the test of the marketplace and all teaching that did not foster the nation’s cultural values. By those criteria, both theoretical physics and science studies appear to be dubious social constructions. By the time I debated Sokal in Kansas, there was enough common cause between us against the conservatives that the significance of his hoax faded by comparison.

This last point is rather important because it underscores the extent to which “science” is presumed to be a cultural value by both sides of the Science Wars. Admittedly, just based on journalistic coverage, one could easily conclude that the battle is between forces “pro” and “anti” science. However, none of the major academic participants in the Science Wars has ever claimed to be “anti-science.” After all, even the scholars parodied by Sokal stood accused of seeing too much, not too little, cultural significance in recent scientific developments. Rather, the dispute has been over what it means for an activity to be “scientific” and which activities should be counted as scientific. Generally speaking, professional scientists use the term “scientific” to capture certain ideals of inquiry, whereas science studies scholars aim to capture how science is actually practiced, “warts and all,” as it were. Of course, there is a more personal way of posing the question: Who speaks for science: only natural scientists and maybe engineers and medical doctors? or perhaps also historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science? While this should not be an exclusive choice, the polemical character of the Science Wars has generally made it seem that way.

Before Japanese readers decide to take sides in the Science Wars, you need to understand their unique historical significance. Western academics who are not themselves scientists have generally regarded the natural sciences in one of two ways, one corresponding to the humanities and the other to the social sciences.

On the one hand, humanists have usually condescended to the natural sciences in the form of “benign neglect” because they could not see the larger cultural significance of a form of knowledge so intimately tied to technology, manual labor, and the craft tradition more generally. Difficult as it may be to believe now, as recently as 100 years ago Western humanists objected to the placement of laboratories on university grounds because of the unseemly sights, sounds, and smells emanating from them. Indeed, these prejudices were substantially challenged for the first time with Japan’s defeat of Russia in 1905, since Westerners generally knew that the university system established under the Meiji Restoration had placed the natural sciences and engineering at the center of academic life. Shortly thereafter laboratories started to be welcomed in Western universities, alongside calls for the spread of scientific and technical training. Nevertheless, the old humanistic prejudices remained, especially in political circles, as evidenced in C.P. Snow’s famous 1959 lecture on the “two cultures” that is often cited as a precedent for the Science Wars.

On the other hand, social scientists have generally regarded the natural sciences as disciplinary role models, not to mention providers of principles for the rational governance of society. Here it is worth recalling that Auguste Comte, who coined both “positivism” and “sociology,” argued that the natural sciences ought to replace the Roman Catholic Church as the source of world order. Although Comte wrote in the early 19th century, this “sacred” view of science has lasted well into the 20th century. Robert Merton, who is often credited with having the founded the sociology of science, never actually observed “science in action,” in the sense of studying the places where science is done. Rather, he generalized from the accounts of scientific practice given by distinguished scientists and philosophers from the past. This is akin to relying exclusively on the testimony of theologians and saints as evidence when studying the sociology of religion. Social scientists have been traditionally reluctant to study the natural sciences as they would other social practices because of the implications that their findings might have for the status of their own work as “scientists.”

Under these circumstances, perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that the first generation of science studies scholars were actually trained scientists who had become disillusioned with the science’s failure to live up to its public image as an exemplary truth-seeking enterprise. This generation, which came of age in World War II, consisted of such luminaries as Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Stephen Toulmin. Each had participated in routine scientific work for the war effort in their respective countries — the US, Germany, and the UK — after having completed a first degree in physics. The founders of science studies had originally become scientists in order to pursue natural philosophy by experimental means and thereby acquire a comprehensive understanding of reality. Such a motivation was shared by Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein, but it was out of place in a scaled-up, fragmented scientific enterprise that had come to be driven by military-industrial concerns. The level of disillusionment only increased among scientists who came of age in the following generation, which coincided with the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Thus, the new, post-Merton sociology of science that has been the focus of the Science Wars was conceived by scientists such as Barry Barnes and David Bloor, who defined science studies as the application of the scientific method to science itself. Just as sociology had contributed to the secularization of religion, science studies would contribute to the secularization of science.

So far I have said little about the role of technology in the development of either science or science studies. This is because technology has not figured as an issue in the Science Wars and, until relatively recently, has not even figured as a prominent research topic in science studies. Here Japanese readers should keep in mind the strong cultural distinction between science and technology that is still drawn in the West. Of course, no one denies that over the past 150 years science has been instrumental in the development of new technologies, and that technology has always been an inspiration for scientific inquiry. But the histories of science and technology are still told as very different stories, in which the motivation for undertaking research is crucial in determining whether someone’s achievements belong in the history of science or the history of technology. A good case in point arose at the recent International Conference on Science, Technology and Society that was held in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto (16-22 March 1998) under the sponsorship of various Japanese agencies representing science, government, and industry. Here Western scholars such as myself had a valuable opportunity to learn how the large Japanese science studies community framed its research agenda.

There were several indications that Japanese scholars understand the relationship between science, technology, and society in subtly different ways from the “received view” of Western scholars. One clear example is the tendency of Japanese scholars to describe both Michael Faraday and Thomas Edison as “scientists” in roughly the same sense and of roughly the same significance. To be sure, the two men had much in common. Both came from poor backgrounds, had little formal education, but went on to do experimental research that substantially illuminated the electromagnetic realm. And of course, both came to represent “the scientist” in the popular imagination of their time. However, over the years, Western historians of science have shown much greater interest in Faraday than Edison — so much so that Edison’s name is usually omitted from general histories of 19th and 20th century science. There turns out to be two relevant differences between Faraday and Edison. First, Faraday was motivated by a desire to fathom the fundamental forces of nature. This desire had a religious origin that makes his story somewhat more edifying than the largely instrumental and utilitarian concerns that informed Edison’s research. Second, while both Faraday and Edison kept meticulous notebooks of their research, Faraday was much more methodologically self-conscious than Edison, who seemed to resort to a trial-and-error approach on almost all matters. (Here it is worth recalling that Edison is the one who said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”) If one regards the natural sciences as the secular successor of Christianity, a la Comte, then Faraday’s spirituality and discipline would clearly make him a more important figure than Edison.

My point here is that the definition of “science” in both science studies and the Science Wars is strongly colored by the way in which science has developed in the West, namely, as a competitor to organized religion. In that sense, science studies is like the Protestant Reformation, only applied to the scientific establishment. The controversies surrounding Copernicus and Darwin come to mind as precedents in challenging the orthodoxies of their day. Nevertheless, both heliocentric astronomy and evolutionary biology were introduced with relatively little resistance in Japan. Consequently, the history of Japanese science has not needed figures like Galileo or Huxley who achieved heroic status by arguing that a choice had to be made between a scientific and religious way of relating to the world. In this respect, the history of Japan’s selective incorporation of Western science during the Meiji Restoration offers an interesting critical perspective on the nature of science that transcends the cultural limits of the Science Wars.

It is generally known that the Westerners who advised the Japanese government on education and research policy in the last quarter of the 19th century had different goals from those of their Japanese hosts. Whereas the Japanese were interested in Western technical know-how for purposes of what has been called “defensive modernization,” the European and American advisors also wished to impart the cultural values, philosophical systems, and political ideologies that had attended the development of science in the West. Indeed, the latter assumed that the unique history of Western Europe provided the blueprint for all human progress. (Marxism is probably the 20th century philosophy that has most closely adhered to this 19th century assumption.) Thus, argued the advisors, if the establishment of scientific institutions in Japan was not accompanied by liberal capitalist democracy cloaked in a secularized Christian ethic and a materialist metaphysics, those institutions would never reach their full potential. For their part, the Japanese responded with a tactful skepticism that exploited what the economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron has called “the relative advantage of backwardness.” This is the idea that latecomers to economic development have the advantage of learning from the mistakes and idiosyncracies of the innovators, especially by finding more efficient substitutes that draw on native resources.

I believe that Gerschenkron’s idea can be applied quite generally in the Japanese case to cover both intellectual and material resources. For example, Japanese translations reduced Western scientific concepts to operational definitions stripped of metaphysical baggage that for centuries had been the source of many profound but inconclusive debates that often only held up the course of experimental inquiry in Europe. A case in point is Newton’s appeal to “gravity” as a real force in nature, which some read as his attempt to introduce “The Hand of God” into physics. That Japan succeeded in avoiding such debates can be seen in that it entered the top five of world powers in science-based technology in one-tenth the time it took Western Europe to complete its own “Scientific Revolution.” Although the Scientific Revolution is normally said to have occurred in the 17th century, as late as 1898 the same number of university students in Germany — the scientifically most advanced nation of the time — studied theology as all the natural sciences put together. In contrast, the religious and class taboos that delayed the assimilation of the natural sciences in European education did not affect Japan. Indeed, in several other respects, the selective appropriation of the history of Western science by Japan contradicts many of the overblown cultural claims for science made by both sides of the Science Wars.

As soon as “science” began to stand for not only a highly disciplined pursuit of knowledge of nature but also the standard by which all knowledge in society is judged, a tension emerged as to whether science is primarily a critical or a cumulative enterprise. I have called the two poles of this tension the Enlightenment and the Positivist images of science, respectively. The former captures science’s ability to criticize taken-for-granted assumptions (including its own) by subjecting them to empirical and logical test, whereas latter stresses the reliable body of knowledge that is supposed to result from such relentless criticism. The historical tendency in the West has been to connect the Enlightenment image to what Karl Popper called “the open society,” in which everyone is called upon to use their critical reasoning abilities, and the Positivist image to a more “closed society” in which public decision-making is increasingly delegated to experts whose judgement is supposedly less error-prone and more efficient than the ordinary citizen’s.

One area where this clash of images has led to much confusion in the Science Wars concerns the expression, “public understanding of science.” This expression first gained prominence in a 1985 report of the Royal Society, which alleged, in the case of Britain, a connection between low levels of research funding and science literacy and a decline in industrial innovation and wealth creation, when measured against international rivals. The big assumption made in the report and most of the subsequent debate has been that an increased public understanding of both the findings and methods of science will reverse any perceived economic decline, presumably because citizens will become at least more receptive to the idea of increasing research funding levels and may even enroll in courses to become scientists themselves. However, this assumption is little more than a superstition. In fact, most studies show that as people learn more about science, they become more critical of its development and uses, especially in the context of technological applications. In true Enlightenment fashion, the public acquires a form of wisdom that consists in recognizing how little one really knows. Indeed, they come to realize that even the experts know much less about the likely consequences of technological innovations than their policy pronouncements might first suggest. All of this is quite healthy from a democratic standpoint, as it encourages both the public and the experts to assume a greater sense of responsibility for the uncertainties and risks implied in what they say and do. However, it is not clear how the cultivation of these attitudes relate to more growth-oriented goals associated with technological innovation. At the very least, the spread of the Enlightenment function of science means that public debates over increased investment in science-based technologies will need to be conducted at a more sophisticated level. I believe that this is the issue on which all parties to the Science Wars should focus their energies.

To their credit, the science studies community in Japan has begun to tackle this problem seriously. The recent International STS Conference showcased the results of the first Japanese consensus conference on the appropriateness of gene therapy for the treatment of various diseases whose genetic composition is already known. A “consensus conference” consists of a quasi-experimental situation in which a sample of the public are exposed to the details of a technical policy issue and then asked to formulate the basic framework within which policymakers should take their decisions. In the West, consensus conferences have been promoted by two groups: environmental activists and political scientists interested in exploring “deliberative democracy” as a practical alternative to the colonization of the public sphere by experts. The conferences have been generally successful on their own terms, in that ordinary citizens can acquire the technical knowledge needed to debate the relevant policy issues in relatively short time and arrive at frameworks that appear reasonable, even in the eyes of experts. In this respect, consensus conferences are much like trials by jury — except that consensus conferences rarely feed into any actual ongoing policy process. In fact, the only country where consensus conferences are currently used to inform real policy decisions is Denmark, and that is usually attributed to the country’s small and relatively homogeneous population. In short, a sample of the public is readily seen there as a representative sample.

The Japanese initiative, organized by Professors Yukio Wakamatsu (Tokyo Denzi University) and Tadashi Kobayashi (Nanzan University), is distinctive in several respects. Most notably, it comes from the science studies community, which has so far failed to participate in any Western initiatives of this kind. This is somewhat surprising, since consensus conferences are designed to test empirically a claim frequently made in the Science Wars, namely, that scientific experts do not have a monopoly on the knowledge needed to resolve complex science-based policy issues. In any case, the results of the conference were very encouraging, especially given the highly experimental and potentially controversial character of gene therapy. Professors Wakamatsu and Kobayashi succeeded in facilitating dialogue between a wide range of experts and members of the public. This was due, in no small measure, to their own intervention in the process. Themselves no experts in biology, medicine, or economics, but informed by work in science studies, Professors Wakamatsu and Kobayashi asked questions that raised points of uncertainty in the experts’ testimony which helped give members of the public the confidence they needed to air their concerns and ask still more probing questions. The quality of the resulting policy framework was very high by the standard of consensus conferences. This has led the organizers to propose a future conference that will explore Japanese resistance to the Internet and information technology more generally. This seems to me an ideal way for science studies to cultivate a critically informed public for science and technology, while ensuring that it issues in a constructive result. Given the importance of computer-based networking to the emergent “post-industrial” economy, this forthcoming Japanese initiative may offer guidance to the West in “squaring the circle” of the Enlightenment and Positivist images of science. We shall watch in eager anticipation.

Accurate AIDS Wiki solves overlooked problem of Mega Wiki

June 17th, 2006


HIV critics establish corrective to consensus driven bias of standard Wiki

The Times seems fascinated by how the Wikipedia is going to ensure accuracy despite teen spoilers and other threats to its scholarly reliability. Does this have to do with the Times notorious lack of fact checking for its articles on important topics, such AIDS and its science? Whatever the reason, this piece, Growing Wikipedia Revises Its ‘Anyone Can Edit’ Policy By Katie Hafner

The New York Times

June 17, 2006

Growing Wikipedia Revises Its ‘Anyone Can Edit’ Policy

By KATIE HAFNER

Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit.” Unless you want to edit the entries on Albert Einstein, human rights in China or Christina Aguilera.

Wikipedia’s come-one, come-all invitation to write and edit articles, and the surprisingly successful results, have captured the public imagination. But it is not the experiment in freewheeling collective creativity it might seem to be, because maintaining so much openness inevitably involves some tradeoffs.

At its core, Wikipedia is not just a reference work but also an online community that has built itself a bureaucracy of sorts — one that, in response to well-publicized problems with some entries, has recently grown more elaborate. It has a clear power structure that gives volunteer administrators the authority to exercise editorial control, delete unsuitable articles and protect those that are vulnerable to vandalism.

Those measures can put some entries outside of the “anyone can edit” realm. The list changes rapidly, but as of yesterday, the entries for Einstein and Ms. Aguilera were among 82 that administrators had “protected” from all editing, mostly because of repeated vandalism or disputes over what should be said. Another 179 entries — including those for George W. Bush, Islam and Adolf Hitler — were “semi-protected,” open to editing only by people who had been registered at the site for at least four days. (See a List of Protected Entries)

While these measures may appear to undermine the site’s democratic principles, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, notes that protection is usually temporary and affects a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million entries on the English-language site.

“Protection is a tool for quality control, but it hardly defines Wikipedia,” Mr. Wales said. “What does define Wikipedia is the volunteer community and the open participation.”

From the start, Mr. Wales gave the site a clear mission: to offer free knowledge to everybody on the planet. At the same time, he put in place a set of rules and policies that he continues to promote, like the need to present information with a neutral point of view.

The system seems to be working. Wikipedia is now the Web’s third-most-popular news and information source, beating the sites of CNN and Yahoo News, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

The bulk of the writing and editing on Wikipedia is done by a geographically diffuse group of 1,000 or so regulars, many of whom are administrators on the site.

“A lot of people think of Wikipedia as being 10 million people, each adding one sentence,” Mr. Wales said. “But really the vast majority of work is done by this small core community.”

The administrators are all volunteers, most of them in their 20’s. They are in constant communication — in real-time online chats, on “talk” pages connected to each entry and via Internet mailing lists. The volunteers share the job of watching for vandalism, or what Mr. Wales called “drive-by nonsense.” Customized software — written by volunteers — also monitors changes to articles.

Mr. Wales calls vandalism to the encyclopedia “a minimal problem, a dull roar in the background.” Yet early this year, amid heightened publicity about false information on the site, the community decided to introduce semi-protection of some articles. The four-day waiting period is meant to function something like the one imposed on gun buyers.

Once the assaults have died down, the semi-protected page is often reset to “anyone can edit” mode. An entry on Bill Gates was semi-protected for just a few days in January, but some entries, like the article on President Bush, stay that way indefinitely. Other semi-protected subjects as of yesterday were Opus Dei, Tony Blair and sex.

To some critics, protection policies make a mockery of the “anyone can edit” notion.

“As Wikipedia has tried to improve its quality, it’s beginning to look more and more like an editorial structure,” said Nicholas Carr, a technology writer who recently criticized Wikipedia on his blog. “To say that great work can be created by an army of amateurs with very little control is a distortion of what Wikipedia really is.”

But Mr. Wales dismissed such criticism, saying there had always been protections and filters on the site.

Wikipedia’s defenders say it usually takes just a few days for all but the most determined vandals to retreat.

“A cooling-off period is a wonderful mediative technique,” said Ross Mayfield, chief executive of a company called Socialtext that is based on the same editing technology that Wikipedia uses.

Full protection often results from a “revert war,” in which users madly change the wording back and forth. In such cases, an administrator usually steps in and freezes the page until the warring parties can settle their differences in another venue, usually the talk page for the entry. The Christina Aguilera entry was frozen this week after after fans of the singer fought back against one user’s efforts to streamline it.

Much discussion of Wikipedia has focused on its accuracy. Last year, an article in the journal Nature concluded that the incidence of errors in Wikipedia was only slightly higher than in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Officials at Britannica angrily disputed the findings.

“To be able to do an encyclopedia without having the ability to differentiate between experts and the general public is very, very difficult,” said Jorge Cauz, the president of Britannica, whose subscription-based online version receives a small fraction of the traffic that Wikipedia gets.

Intentional mischief can go undetected for long periods. In the article about John Seigenthaler Sr., who served in the Kennedy administration, a suggestion that he was involved in the assassinations of both John F. and Robert Kennedy was on the site for more than four months before Mr. Seigenthaler discovered it. He wrote an op-ed article in USA Today about the incident, calling Wikipedia “a flawed and irresponsible research tool.”

Yet Wikipedians say that in general the accuracy of an article grows organically. At first, said Wayne Saewyc, a Wikipedia volunteer in Vancouver, British Columbia, “everything is edited mercilessly by idiots who do stupid and weird things to it.” But as the article grows, and citations slowly accumulate, Mr. Saewyc said, the article becomes increasingly accurate.

Wikipedians often speak of how powerfully liberating their first contribution felt. Kathleen Walsh, 23, a recent college graduate who majored in music, recalled the first time she added to an article on the contrabassoon.

“I wrote a paragraph of text and there it was,” recalled Ms. Walsh. “You write all these pages for college and no one ever sees it, and you write for Wikipedia and the whole world sees it, instantly.”

Ms. Walsh is an administrator, a post that others nominated her for in recognition of her contributions to the site. She monitors a list of newly created pages, half of which, she said, end up being good candidates for deletion. Many are “nonsense pages created by kids, like ‘Michael is a big dork,’ ” she said.

Ms. Walsh also serves on the 14-member arbitration committee, which she describes as “the last resort” for disputes on Wikipedia.

Like so many Web-based successes, Wikipedia started more or less by accident.

Six years ago, Mr. Wales, who built up a comfortable nest egg in a brief career as an options trader, started an online encyclopedia called Nupedia.com, with content to be written by experts. But after attracting only a few dozen articles, Mr. Wales started Wikipedia on the side. It grew exponentially.

For the first year or so, Mr. Wales paid the expenses out of his own pocket. Now the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports Wikipedia, is financed primarily through donations, most in the $50 to $100 range.

As the donations have risen, so have the costs. The foundation’s annual budget doubled in the last year, to $1.5 million, and traffic has grown sharply. Search engines like Google, which often turn up Wikipedia entries at the top of their results, are a big contributor to the site’s traffic, but it is increasingly a first stop for knowledge seekers.

Mr. Wales shares the work of running Wikipedia with the administrators and four paid employees of the foundation. Although many decisions are made by consensus within the community, Mr. Wales steps in when an issue is especially contentious. “It’s not always obvious when something becomes policy,” he said. “One way is when I say it is.”

Mr. Wales is a true believer in the power of wiki page-editing technology, which predates Wikipedia. In late 2004, Mr. Wales started Wikia, a commercial start-up financed by venture capital that lets people build Web sites based around a community of interest. Wiki 24, for instance, is an unofficial encyclopedia for the television show “24.” Unlike Wikipedia, the site carries advertising.

Mr. Wales, 39, lives with his wife and daughter in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the foundation is based. But Mr. Wales’s main habitat these days, he said, is the inside of airplanes. He travels constantly, giving speeches to reverential audiences and visiting Wikipedians around the world.

Wikipedia has inspired its share of imitators. A group of scientists has started the peer-reviewed Encyclopedia of Earth, and Congresspedia is a new encyclopedia with an article about each member of Congress.

But beyond the world of reference works, Wikipedia has become a symbol of the potential of the Web.

“It can tell us a lot about the future of knowledge creation, which will depend much less on individual heroism and more on collaboration,” said Mitchell Kapor, a computer industry pioneer who is president of the Open Source Applications Foundation.

Zephyr Teachout, a lawyer in Burlington, Vt., who is involved with Congresspedia, said Wikipedia was reminiscent of old-fashioned civic groups like the Grange, whose members took individual responsibility for the organization’s livelihood.

“It blows open what’s possible,” said Ms. Teachout. “What I hope is that these kinds of things lead to thousands of other experiments like this encyclopedia, which we never imagined could be produced in this way.”

was granted top left positioning above the fold today (Sat Jun 17), which is rather remarkable.

Much discussion of Wikipedia has focused on its accuracy. Last year, an article in the journal Nature concluded that the incidence of errors in Wikipedia was only slightly higher than in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Officials at Britannica angrily disputed the findings.

“To be able to do an encyclopedia without having the ability to differentiate between experts and the general public is very, very difficult,” said Jorge Cauz, the president of Britannica, whose subscription-based online version receives a small fraction of the traffic that Wikipedia gets.

Intentional mischief can go undetected for long periods. In the article about John Seigenthaler Sr., who served in the Kennedy administration, a suggestion that he was involved in the assassinations of both John F. and Robert Kennedy was on the site for more than four months before Mr. Seigenthaler discovered it. He wrote an op-ed article in USA Today about the incident, calling Wikipedia “a flawed and irresponsible research tool.”

Yet Wikipedians say that in general the accuracy of an article grows organically. At first, said Wayne Saewyc, a Wikipedia volunteer in Vancouver, British Columbia, “everything is edited mercilessly by idiots who do stupid and weird things to it.” But as the article grows, and citations slowly accumulate, Mr. Saewyc said, the article becomes increasingly accurate.

What the Times piece doesn’t really get to is the more subtle core problem of the Wiki, which is not the obvious one of factual accuracy so much as the distortion of judgment likely when the mainstream view is strongly questioned. The view likely to be endorsed by the Wiki crowd editing approach is the consensus view, and alternatives are likely to be disparaged.

The Wiki founder (Jimmy Wales, photo above) explains how entries are encouraged to be “objective” and if they are the problem won’t be seen, but people being what they are “objectivity” is a virtue notoriously hard to inculcate even in media reporters, in whom it is supposedly a professional qualification. This is notoriously seen in HIV?AIDS coverage but really in almost any area reporters will tend to convey whatever bias their more valued sources share.

So it is not surprising that the problem presents itself with the entries on AIDS and HIV, a topic in which the supporters of the current paradigm are often more doctrinaire than religious zealots, and believe themselves to be morally virtuous to condemn the review suggested by critics to whom it makes no more sense than any other superstition or religious belief.

To escape this misleading bias the critics of HIV?AIDS science have initiated a Wiki of their own, under the helmsmanship of the founder of this ingenious initiative, the mathematician Darin Brown. Those incapable of independent thought on the topic are kept out of the writing and editing process, since Brown and Frank Lusardi, the notoriously tough minded and professional Web site creator and administrator who is hosting the AIDS Wiki, are vetting who gets to gain entry to its hallowed grounds.

The software is generally available, and others have taken similar initiatives for similar reasons:

Wikipedia has inspired its share of imitators. A group of scientists has started the peer-reviewed Encyclopedia of Earth, and Congresspedia is a new encyclopedia with an article about each member of Congress….

“It can tell us a lot about the future of knowledge creation, which will depend much less on individual heroism and more on collaboration,” said Mitchell Kapor, a computer industry pioneer who is president of the Open Source Applications Foundation.

Zephyr Teachout, a lawyer in Burlington, Vt., who is involved with Congresspedia, said Wikipedia was reminiscent of old-fashioned civic groups like the Grange, whose members took individual responsibility for the organization’s livelihood.

“It blows open what’s possible,” said Ms. Teachout. “What I hope is that these kinds of things lead to thousands of other experiments like this encyclopedia, which we never imagined could be produced in this way.”

Those who wish to read this burgeoning construction and gain the happily uncensored (by the establishment) and rightfully censored (by the HIV?AIDS science critics) guide to who’s who and what’s what on the other side of the science on this vexed topic will find it at the Rethinking AIDS website, specifically at AIDS Wiki.

Revolutionary committee celebrates plans with exclusive party

June 11th, 2006


Historic session of HIV?AIDS revisionists capped with evening hospitality

A day marked with rapid progress in arranging their future strategy in combating censorship in HIV?AIDS ended for the Committee for the Reappraisal of HIV?AIDS in a cordoned off section of the Roosevelt bar this evening, where they were joined in drinks, delicacies and the heavy private club armchairs by guests including three writers from sophisticated New York based media, one of them tall, slim and brunette and armed with a notebook and pencil preparing a profile of Celia Farber.

Other guests included tall, slim Mark Setteducati, the globe trotting magician, who remarked that he had seen through the HIV theory of AIDS from the beginning, since his own business was “fooling people”. His business card is entirely black on both sides, a puzzle for the recipient until with a snap of his fingers Mark makes it open to reveal his name and address, written in backwards font on one side legible only in the mirrored side opposite.

“Pretty tricky”, we allowed. “That’s what I mean”, said Mark. We introduced him to Peter Duesberg, who when he learned Mark was a magician said that he could be very useful to the HIV?AIDS establishment. “You could make the virus cause AIDS,” he said. “That’s what they need!”

Manhattan quietly infiltrated by radical science group

June 10th, 2006


Revolutionaries plan further gains in HIV?AIDS row

As an answer to the UN “AIDS at 25” celebration last weekend (which was described to this author today at the UN by an official there in the following terms: “Did you ever see such a job creation machine?”), the members of the Committee for the Reappraisal of HIV/AIDS flew into New York City from Europe and the West Coast this evening to meet at the Roosevelt Hotel, a midtown holdover from the past and therefore suitable for modern samurai fighting for old fashioned standards in science to rest their heads.

Currently the best choice in hotels in New York for anybody who understands that long etablished is good, the Pakistani owned hotel is still splendid in an old fashioned way, with its personable staff and marble floors and polished brass and wood and fleur de lis carpets and one of the city’s best kept secrets, its bar, which is grand and cosy at the same time. Apparently when asked for an Internet connection to a meeting room it charges through the nose for a T1 line, the staff not yet having heard of wireless.

After a sojourn at said bar to gather their wits and energy, twelve of the core members and a couple of guests moved to the Jewel of India, a spacious curry restaurant along from the Harvard Club, where they bonded in preparation for two days of concentrated discussion on future strategy in the information war in this field, which has resisted free debate on the cause and cure of HIV?AIDS for two decades.

Among the highlights of the sessions at a nearby location will be a Sunday morning presentation by the renowned scientist, amiable, joking and very sharp Peter Duesberg, which invited guests will also attend, including four filmmakers at last count, with cameramen.

Other members of the board at the meeting will include Neville Hodgkinson, the London Sunday Times correspondent who wrote a huge series exposing the problems of the field and its science in the mid nineties, the diminutive bombshell Joan Shenton, who has made several award winning documentaries on the topic for independent TV in London, the slim progressive Christine Maggiore, whose book has long been the best rundown for the layman who wishes to know what is going on, tall, mustachioed David Crowe, who runs the Alberta group of independent thinkers on AIDS, hardbitten renegade Frank Lusardi the distinguished designer of million dollar dot com boom websites, long dark haired Bryan Owen, Alabama webmaster of the Committee for the Reappraising AIDS website, the Panlike Claus Koehlein a medical authority from Germany who has just published a book on “Virus Mania”, unfortunately so far still in German, and the very tall San Fransciscan angel Robert Leppo, the investor who has backed Duesberg’s research on the same principle as the start ups he finances, which is that he believes in him personally.

A number of journalists and authors in the field and out of it will be attending the open session also, including Celia Farber of Harpers’s who just published the LA CityBeat clarification of the Maggiore tragedy, Anthony Liversidge a science freelancer who is writing a book on the abuse of trust in modern science, Marcus Cohen, who has devoted seven columns in the past year in the Townsend Letter to the topic of HIV?AIDS and its errors, and Robert Houston, the independent medical authority in cancer who has heavily researched HIV?AIDS, and others.

Special note: If anyone here wishes to attend, they should email us, since we have been given several invitations to pass on.


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