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Frog (4):Derek Price saw it all

Why human factors spoil science

PLoS authors get it wrong, wielding paradigm as religious belief

Top paradigm critic, elite, peer-reviewed, authoritative, responsible – and stampeded over

derekdesollaprice.jpgAs readers of the evolving blog heading may have noted, we are having trouble finding space to list all the human factors which nowadays interfere with science as a pure and principled search for truth (All contributions welcome:-)).

The fundamental reason for the human factor – politics, bias, and “data management”- being a worse problem than ever before in the history of science is that small science has become Big Science with a vengeance over the last half century.

As huge sums have flowed in and been spent, with attendant and burgeoning publicity and coverage in media and book publishing, science as a practice has morphed from an individual vocation to a group profession, and inevitably it has been adulterated with the attitudes and interests of people who like to inhabit a big institutional framework sustained by large amounts of funding from Washington and Wall Street. Annual direct and associated spending on the HIV∫AIDS paradigm is reckoned at $7 billion a year by one count, for example.

Derek saw it coming

All these problems of the changing nature of science and scientists were foreseen long ago by Yale’s Derek J. De Solla Price, the historian of science, in his powerful little book Little Science Big Science, based on four 1962 Pegram Lectures given at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Just to quote one paragraph (here broken up):

“I suggest that all those characteristics (first born, lost one parent, etc) apply to people who became eminent in the days of Little Science and that we do not yet have much inkling of whatever new characteristics have been elicited by the change to the new conditions of Big Science.

Many of the personality traits found formerly seem to be consistent with the hypothesis that many scientists turned to their profession for an emotional gratification that was otherwise lacking. If this is true, be it only a partial explanation, one can still see how cataclysmic must be the effect of changing the emotional rewards of the scientific life.

If scientists were, on the whole, relatively normal people, just perhaps more intelligent or even more intelligent in some special directions, it would not be so difficult. But since it appears that scientists are especially sensitive to their modes of gratification and to the very personality traits that have made them become scientists, one must look very carefully at anything which tampers with and changes these systems of reward.

Any such change will make Big Scientists people of very different temperament and personality from those we have become accustomed to as traditional among Little Scientists.”

This paragraph evokes a radical change in temperament and approach to science between old and new science and scientists. Some would say this is perfectly exemplified in HIV∫AIDS by Peter Duesberg and Robert Gallo, the former a vocational scientist unwilling to sacrifice any principles of scientific truthseeking for earthly rewards, the latter a career scientist occupying the opposite end of the spectrum in all his glory as a one time celebrity globetrotter. One indication of which type a scientist may be is the number of papers to which his name attached beyond the number that it is humanly possible for one individual to write. Gallo had 930 papers to his credit by 2002.

Consensus merely means current

We are concerned here, in this obscure but, we hope, eventually influential blog, with this vast social change in science from one very specific point of view: the abysmal lack of understanding among the new order of scientists of how science actually works in ruthlessly replacing its paradigms as it advances, paradigms which naturally sit atop wide consensus before they are so rudely interrupted by better analysis and data.

For what are paradigms after all but the umbrella assumptions under which all who toil in the rice paddies and fields at the bottom of the mountains of science do their work. Journeymen scientists typically never question these ruling beliefs, and why should they? If they did they would never accomplish any work. In a way therefore paradigms serve as the religions of science, and indeed they are often defended in the same irrational manner as religious beliefs.

The stampede of the sheep

sheep-flock.jpgBut these are the sentiments of followers, the congregation rather than the priests. Consensus in science merely means temporary wisdom, it turns out. As paradigms are modified or replaced – stomach ulcers are found to be produced by bacteria, not stress, for example – consensus shifts eventually from old to new. Unfortunately, this group shift is a lot slower and stickier than the shift of thinking individuals.

This is why Jonathan Swift remarked, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him. ” The fools imagine that current consensus is scriptural authority and always get in the way of anyone with a new and better idea, imagining that they are putting down error, when this may not be the case. If the credentials of the apparently crackpot original thinker are good enough, you first have to examine his case thoroughly and with an open mind.

Paradigms, it seems, are maintained by groups and changed by clever individuals, who often seem off the wall to the army of conventional scientists that naturally opposes them. Individuals are the mountain goats among the sheep, who find something new and better, and then find they have to suffer through all the resistance and scorn offered by believers whose built in assumptions are threatened, not to mention their investment in the old. When those who are successful finally reap their Nobel, they typically have bitter stories to tell of the vicissitudes of their younger days, where paradigm defenders who control peer reviewed publication block their papers and hurl the intellectual equivalent of fiery tar balls and dead cows over the ramparts of their castle at the invaders.

The influx of power and money has magnified the resistance to change beyond measure, because the investment in the old has built up bigger pyramids than ever before. In the case of HIV∫AIDS, moreover, the leaders of the field have implemented active discouragement of media coverage to an unprecedented degree, so many scientists and most heard of the challenge, let alone its merits.

This was demonstrated by Hank Campbell, a contributor at scienceblogging who runs a “thermal analysis” company, recently: “Did you know there was even a debate about whether or not HIV causes AIDS? I didn’t. You might as well have walked up and told me puppies and free money don’t cause happiness – I was that shocked – but a debate there is and I learned about it when I read an editorial in PLoS ( Public Library of Science) Medicine titled HIV Denial in the Internet Era….I had quite literally no idea this was even an issue before I saw the editorial.”

But paradigm protectors such as John P. Moore and Anthony Fauci benefit from the fundamental trend as well. For in modern times, defenders of paradigms are ever more entrenched in vast systems and elite institutions, running invisible colleges which make belief in their paradigm a requirement of club membership. Loss of that highly privileged and rewarding membership can be crippling financially and socially in a way which imposes and fosters unthinking loyalty to whatever paradigm is in place, whatever scientists may privately think.

Why Peter failed to move the pyramid

goatmountainbig.jpegAs the experience of Peter Duesberg demonstrates, even the best scientist in a field whose worth is officially and universally acknowledged can be defeated by the politics of the monsters that the influx of billions into science has created, if the leaders of a profitable paradigm and their vast sea of followers close ranks against him.

For any challenge to the paradigm is a challenge to the system, and those who live by it, for a modern paradigm is an institutionalized belief, as deeply rooted in its secular church as any religion, as rewarding and protective and as stoutly defended by its foot soldiers as Christian or Muslim beliefs.

When Duesberg’s critique first appeared in Cancer Research three years after the HIV∫AIDS paradigm was established, the pyramid was already immovable. The endorsement of the theory by the federal government was made clear at the 1984 press conference, so federal funding had been diverted exclusively to the new solution for almost three years.

Many papers since, culminating in 2003 – see Duesberg’s Papers on HIV∫AIDS – had less and less effect, as the HIV∫AIDS pyramid became one of the new wonders of the world, inflating to a size greater than the Cheops pyramid of Egypt, and as immovable.

That is why the very specific purpose of this blog is this:

To defend good science against the unscientific assumption that challenging institutionalized beliefs in science is by definition wrong.

On the contrary, it is how science evolves. While we all have to be very careful in examining major novelty, which can easily attract spurious enthusiasm in the media via premature press conferences, as in the classic examples of cold fusion and HIV in AIDS, we must remember also that science progresses by replacing paradigms, and that the ever larger built in resistance to change in big science must not be allowed to take over, as it has in HIV∫AIDS.

There the above assumption that critics must be wrong has taken over so completely that the attitude to paradigm critics is reflex scorn, insults and ostracism, all of it deaf to scientific points. It reminds one of church leaders condemning the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian, without having seen it. “You don’t have to go into a pig sty to know that it stinks!”

The ruling assumption of the Tara essay is bad science

frog.jpegAnd nowhere do we have a better example of that thoughtless assumption in action than our favorite Frog, the Library of Science essay by Tara Smith of Iowa and Steven Connall of Yale on “HIV Denial in the Internet Era”, which scorns the heretics of HIV∫AIDS by pretending that their case is nothing but uninformed comment on the Web by ignoramuses.

All of it is written in the belief that the critics of HIV in AIDS are so wrong in tilting against consensus that there is no need to mention their objections in detail. In fact, simply recording their points and their behavior is enough to demonstrate they must be making some kind of error by challenging what ‘everyone knows’.

That is why we now hurry back to list the objections that any person familiar with the history of science and medicine will make to the essay, which in its many misstatements offers a chance to correct all the misconceptions that obscure the case of the critics in the censored debate on the validity of believing in the HIV∫AIDS paradigm, that HIV is an infectious virus which collapses the immune system and causes AIDS.

Cont. next Frog post (5)

7 Responses to “Frog (4):Derek Price saw it all”

  1. cervantes Says:

    Regards this Blog citing the Washington Post/Wall Street Journal references stating $7 billion per year supporting HIV paradigms: It is well documented by the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation factsheet and pie charts (going back many years) that U.S. Federal (Congressional Appropriations) amounted to 22.3 $Billion for Fiscal Year 2007.

    This was up from $21 Billion in 2006, and digresses back to (only) about $15 Billion per year from about 6 years ago.

    It is rather amazing that the Kaiser Foundation website laments that this gargantuan funding amounts to less than 1% of the entire Federal Budget. Actually, it comes in consistently at almost exactly 8/10 ths of one percent – of our U.S. Federal Budget the last many years, per year.

    Add to this the incalculable spending of individual States, and non-federal medical expenditures, and personal family and friends’ expenditures (unfunded by the Federal largesse) and it is reasonable to assert that over $30 Billion PER YEAR is spent in the U.S. to maintain the HIV Empire. Seig Heil(!) Herr Fauci.

    After all, it is NIAID’s Director Fauci that constructed, set up, and perpetuates it all. To the enrichment, and power, of all his NIAID programs.

    For those needing verification of this funding, just go to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation website, and see their clear documentation.

    As the iconic New York Yankee Manager Casey Stengel said so well, “you can check it out.”

  2. Truthseeker Says:

    Holy Virus, Cervantes, that much, huh? Bigger than many countries, then.

    Yes, it seemed low, so $21 billion and #30 billion seems reasonable… but aren’t we forgetting other nations? At least $40 billion worldwide, wouldn’t you say?

    Money talks. It says HIV causes AIDS, and don’t argue.

    Why are we still arguing? Oh no, we’re not arguing. Dr Fauci, we’re not arguing. This is purely a theoretical discussion. Now how about sending the tiniest fraction of that money in this direction, and we will turn this into a travel advice site faster than you can say HTLV-III. Dr Fauci? Tony?

    Where that’s telephone number that Larry gave me… maybe he can intercede. Tony loves him.

  3. cervantes Says:

    At this moment I cannot locate the references, but, for instance, Canada’s budget for hiv/aids is a miniscule fraction of the U.S., per capita.

    Not by coincidence, Canada’s AIDS’ fatalities have, in fact, sunk to under 100 per year their last 2 surveillance years, compared to the U.S. CDC citing for the last 5 surveillance years a flatline figure of close to 17,000 AIDS deaths per year. (For those curious: U.S. population is close to 290 million, Canada close to 32 million; I leave the comparative per capita rate up to the reader).

    To be fair, clear, and hopefully objective, David Crowe’s Alberta Reappraising Aids site (ARAS) and all the other HEAL groups throughout Canada have led the way as to warning of the lethality of antiviral/antiretroviral drugs, and it can be only guessed, but not proved, that Canada’s “at-risk” populations are flushing their antiviral/retroviral drugs down the closest toilet.

    In the U.S., by contrast, the Gay population seems to be similar to Canada as to awareness of the lethality of antiretroviral regimens, and mainly eschew the (lethal ARV) drugs. Unfortunately (or logically as the case may be), the majority of “AIDS” deaths are in the clinically-served, mainly black, poor/ignorant populations of numerous cities, notably Washington, DC, Chicago, New York, Newark, Oakland, etc. This segment of the “inner city” population around the U.S. unquestionably take their HAART-type drugs, and they soon die, for all the known toxicities of HAART drugs.

    All of this is derived from many sources but easily checked by those curious enough to make the effort. By the way, has everybody gone for their “HIV Test” lately? After all, it’s our civic duty.

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    So you think that the Canadians are more suspicious of this because of David Crowe’s and HEAL’s efforts there? That’s encouraging. Presumably journalist Colman Jones and a general suspicion of the big bad neighbor’s covetous tendencies played a part too.

    The degree to which American whites are not taking their meds would be interesting to pin down, if there’s a study. has to be the other factor which keeps people alive, the first being the continual effort to reduce the toxicity.

    The targeting of black Americans is particularly objectionable, though I believe that it will be somewhat ameliorated by the lively suspicion of the authorities that I find in Harlem, which is still economically underprivileged in NYC as far as hiring goes, though real estate is booming there now with high rises being built, one by Harlem Meer to spoil the pristine pseudo rural landscape with all its splendid geese and ducks. Meanwhile there are large bus stop ads along 125 th Street going past Clinton’s office, featuring a Magic Johnson with his big white grin urging all to go get their HIV test because “Blacks and Latinos make up 81% of all new HIV cases in New York City”.

  5. cervantes Says:

    The data from the feds (CDC et al.) for the last decade has clearly (and loudly) cited American black women to be at least 10 – 20 times, per capita, the HIV or Aids rate compared to white women. This is true for a host of reasons: 1) Virtually all pregnant women, white and black, are tested with the terribly inaccurate “HIV” tests, and per capita, black women are more likely to have endogenous cellular material that reacts ‘positive;’ 2) The poorer segments living in/around inner city conditions (obviously black neighborhoods) are also much more likely to have had poor health conditions and/or have been injection drug participants, and thus bring about ‘positivity’ (as dubious as it is with regard to specificity); 3) All the tests are also judged with discretion as to the woman being tested, with a typically affluent white judged differently than the ‘at-risk’ inner city populations.

    A ludicrous situation exists here in Washington, DC where clamoring and publicity has promoted ALL DC’ers, aged 14 to 84, be tested for HIV! And at no expense – just come on down to any of the many centers that will test one. Well, there are recent front page Washington Post stories that virtually the only citizens so far tested (the last 6 months) have been prisoners and at clinics and hospitals treating emergency room patients, and, of course, at the Whitman Walker Clinic mostly frequented by the Gay populace, with most of Whitman Walker funding by the Pharma companies promoting their wares, now morphed into one-a-day Atripla*. The good white citizens of Cleveland Park, Georgetown, and Chevy Chase have flouted their civic responsibility(!) and exercised civil disobedience ala Henry David Thoreau.

    Thus, the only definitive study of Washington DC (titled The HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Profile for the District of Columbia 2004) cites 43 white women since 1980 have acquired an “AIDS” diagnosis ascribed to heterosexual activity, a grand total of 2 per year. Of course, this includes “AIDS” cases that consist only of a positive test and low white blood cell counts as per the 1993 CDC definition that was also retro-figured backward from 1993. Interestingly this DC report fails to cite actual AIDS deaths, and it is highly likely that many, if not most of these women are healthy and fine today if they have resisted the toxic antivirals and protease inhibitors. At any rate, it all becomes quite clear that refusing HIV tests results in taking no treatment drugs, hence virtually no fatalities, hence the real life experience of lots of heterosexual activity yet with few disease consequences, and for sure, not AIDS, since almost none test HIV-positive (whatever that means).

    * I totally agree that less toxicity as drugs have evolved away from AZT, even though HAART contained 600 mgs AZT per day in the Combivir doses, shilled by Magic Johnson, as you point out. The new one-a-day Atripla now has ZERO mgs of AZT, and ZERO mgs of protease inhibitors, touted and pushed for 10 years since 1996 and resulting in the 17,000 deaths per year. So, the treatments are now 1/3 the milligram/day strength of HAART, and the acclaimed AZT and PI’s assigned to the rubbish bin, with absolutely no acknowledgment they brought misery and death. Clearly, in a few years, the newest HIV treatment drugs will be apricot-coated isotopic aspirin, and at $20 a day (price protected by patents, of course), the Pharma Industry and Fauci will tap dance off the stage after announcing they have conquered HIV with their miraculous new treatment – still funded at $25+ Billion a year by our tax dollars, and with EVERYBODY marched at bayonet point to be tested (though bayonet funding has not yet been funded) to protect the Public Health.

  6. hhbauer Says:

    You are spot-on re Derek Price and his insights. A more recent very insightful writer about science was John Ziman (solid-state physicist FRS turned later to science studies). In “Prometheus Bound” (1994) he described detailed consequences of the change from little science to Big Science, most tellingly the morphing of traditional Mertonian norms of disinterested inquiry and loyalty to science-as-truth into norms consistent with loyalty to the sources of funding.
    As you say, this has made paradigms more entrenched and paradigm change even more difficult. I’ve described the contemporary situation as the existence of knowledge monopolies and research cartels, see http://www.henryhbauer.homestead.com/21stCenturyScience.pdf

  7. yello Says:

    Y’ello Truthseeker Sir.

    What has happened to the Anthony Fauci Lasker award article?

    I just saw another blurb about it here.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/15/AR2007091501456.html

    ((Nice item, y’ello. Here is the text in full for reference – Ed.))

    washingtonpost.com

    NIH Official Wins Prestigious Prize

    By Miranda S. Spivack
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, September 16, 2007; C03

    Anthony S. Fauci, a pioneering AIDS researcher, bioterrorism expert and high-ranking official at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, was one of four scientists named yesterday to receive the prestigious Lasker Foundation awards for medical research.

    Fauci, 66, who received the Mary Woodard Lasker public service award, has headed the $4.4 billion National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH for nearly 23 years.

    He will receive the $150,000 award at a ceremony in New York this month. He said yesterday that he was “humbled and gratified” to be cited for public service.

    Two surgeons who developed prosthetic heart valves, Alain Carpentier of Paris and Albert Starr of Portland, Ore., were selected as Albert Lasker award winners in clinical research.

    More than 300,000 people a year worldwide get heart valves replaced in what is the second most common heart surgery in the United States, the foundation said.

    Ralph M. Steinman of Rockefeller University in New York was awarded the Albert Lasker prize for basic medical research for discovering dendritic cells, which initiate the body’s response to foreign antigens.

    Albert Lasker, an advertising executive, and his wife, Mary, a noted art collector, founded the awards more than 60 years ago to raise public awareness of the value of biomedical research. The Lasker prizes are considered the nation’s most prestigious for medicine.

    Fauci, a District resident, who received a National Medal of Science from President Bush this year, has served as a key White House adviser in the fight against bioterrorism, helping lead efforts to develop vaccines and drugs to counter potential bioterrorist microbes such as anthrax, smallpox and Ebola.

    Fauci also helps direct the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, focused in sub-Saharan African and other parts of the Third World. Fauci said much of his recent work has focused on trying to stem AIDS transmission from mother to child.

    The Lasker Foundation cited Fauci as “a world-class investigator” who “has spoken eloquently on behalf of medical science to the public, Congress and successive administrations.”

    At NIH, Fauci oversees a research program aimed at preventing, diagnosing and treating infectious diseases. He also has his own lab to conduct research.

    Fauci graduated from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., received his medical degree from Cornell University and joined NIH in 1968.

    Fauci said he and his wife, Christine, would probably use the award to help pay for college tuition for their three daughters. “It’s called ‘sending your children to school,’ ” he said with a chuckle.

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