Archive for January 9th, 2009
The Telegraph’s “war on science” has opened up a new front, prompted, it seems, by the current spell of cold weather. For years, Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has ploughed a lonely furrow, rigorously applying the pseudo-scientific method to asbestos, speed cameras, passive smoking, and global warming. Now the Daily Telegraph’s science correspondent Richard Alleyne has waded in to support the cause, penning an article on climate change science of which Booker himself would surely be proud.
True to the paper’s in-house standards, Ben Goldacre reports that the Telegraph a) misrepresented the work of a genuine scientist, Birmingham University’s Professor Ian Fairchild, b) attributed a quote to Fairchild copy-pasted from an entirely different context, c) refused to publish a letter from Prof Fairchild pointing out the error, and d) refused even to publish the comment that Prof Fairchild made on the online version of the article, while allowing 23 other comments from people who’d had no involvement in the actual research.
These included such urgent and insightful messages as “I think Global Warming is an experiment to see just how much absurdity Leftist Environmarxists will blindly believe in if the rest of society can be forced to impoverish themselves with draconian energy non-usage”…
Comedian Bill Maher on Maggiore’s book “What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?”
One of the most striking features of the tragic life of AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore was her success in gaining high-profile support, perhaps most famously from Dave Grohl’s iconic band the Foo Fighters. Less well-publicised, if equally surprising, was the resounding endorsement given to Maggiore’s book, What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?, by the outspoken libertarian comedian Bill Maher.
“This is a book everyone should read, and not a moment too soon! One of the most corrosive flaws in America is our tendency toward conformity; in the quest to understand AIDS, it has been stifling. Christine Maggiore prompts the kind of questioning that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry.”
The book has been described elsewhere as “unscholarly, misleading in its presentation of existing evidence and data”, and “based on speculation with no solid evidence to back up claims”.
It’s good to question conventional wisdom, except when it isn’t. Conventional wisdom holds that a bridge designed by engineers and built by reputable builders is safer to drive across than one designed by shamans and built by hairdressers. Questioning that conventional wisdom is not really all that productive, and if anyone listens to the questioning, it’s downright lethal.
So with Christine Maggiore.
Until the end, Christine Maggiore remained defiant.On national television and in a blistering book, she denounced research showing that HIV causes AIDS. She refused to take medications to treat her own virus. She gave birth to two children and breast fed them, denying any risk to their health. And when her 3-year-old child, Eliza Jane, died of what the coroner determined to be AIDS-related pneumonia, she protested the findings and sued the county.
That’s the risky kind of questioning conventional wisdom – and it risks other people as well as oneself. That’s why Prince Charles makes me angry when he indulges his passion for denouncing non-alternative medicine, and it’s why Juliet Stevenson made me angry when she used her celebrity to denounce the conventional wisdom about the MMR vaccine and autism, and it’s why Christine Maggiore makes me angry even though she’s now dead. It makes me angry that she breast-fed her children and it makes me angry that she went on television to denounce research showing that HIV causes AIDS. People shouldn’t do that. People shouldn’t take on life and death medical issues when they have no training or expertise in the subject. People shouldn’t trust their own judgment that completely.
For years, the South African government joined with Maggiore in denying that HIV is responsible for AIDS and resisting antiretroviral treatment. According to a new analysis by a group of Harvard public health researchers, 330,000 people died as a consequence of the government’s denial and 35,000 babies were born with the disease.
It’s not a subject for hobbyists or cranks or princes or actors. Children must never play with matches.
From the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society
Every time an AIDS reappraiser dies, people are anxious to know whether it was AIDS. Those who support the dominant paradigm are hopeful that, if it was, it will cause all the other ‘denialists’ to smarten up and get on drug therapy right away. Dissidents, on the other hand, often still have a sense of insecurity. Every time one of their number dies of AIDS they are forced to confront the possibility that they have been living a delusion. Somehow one person dying from symptoms that would not be called AIDS in non-HIV-negative people is proof that the HIV-positive person really was killed by the virus.
Rob’s father, Bob Johnston summed it up: “The chemotherapy he had between November and January for the tumour on his cheek gave him very serious side effects which were then treated with an avalanche of drugs which we are sure put more pressure on his liver. The final straw was the reaction to codeine which he was taking for pain from his Parkinson’s disease (hardly an AIDS related disease). I hope the dissidents will not take Rob’s passing as in any way weakening their serious questioning of the now ‘traditional’ way of dealing with HIV…”