By Kevin Wirth
ARN Director of Product Development
In a stunning announcement earlier this month it was revealed that the seminal papers outlining the probable cause of AIDS as published in the journal SCIENCE in 1984 were almost certainly falsified. SCIENCE, which is often cited as one of the most important peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world, will most likely be forced to retract the falsified papers it published (so much for the claim that peer-reviewed papers in leading science journals are the invincible bulwark of scientific investigation).
A letter submitted on December 9, 2008 to SCIENCE by the group Rethinking AIDS, stated in part:
"What prompts our communication today is the recent revelation of an astonishing number of previously unreported deletions and unjustified alterations made by Gallo to the lead paper. There are several documents originating from Gallo's laboratory that, while available for some time, have only recently been fully analyzed. These include a draft of the lead paper typewritten by Popovic which contains handwritten changes made to it by Gallo. This draft was the key evidence used in the above described inquiries to establish that Gallo had concealed his laboratory's use of a cell culture sample (known as LAV) which it received from the Institut Pasteur." 
The letter was signed by more than 40 Senior scientists.
But what is even more important is what happened during all those intervening years to the dissidents (now vindicated) who did everything they could to call attention to the problems related to flawed AIDS research. This behind-the-scenes story reveals much about what I consider to be the Achille's heel of science: Intolerance of Dissidents.
Dissent is concept many folks in the scientific community really don't want or care to hear about on issues where there seems to be an established consensus (and in fact, the very notion of the importance of consensus among scientists often creates additional stumbling blocks and challenges to scientific advancement). In fact, dissent is just the thing that creates confusion in the minds of students, the public, and especially those who control the purse strings for NSF and other major research funding grants. Unfortunately, if you challenge Big Science, you can quite often expect to get shut down.
Take the case of University of California at Berkeley retrovirus expert Peter Duesberg and Nobel Prize winner Walter Gilbert, who have been warning us for years that there is no proof that HIV causes AIDS. Their amazing claims challenged the most basic assumptions of the medical community in evaluating the cause of AIDS and is in direct contradiction to conventional wisdom about the disease.
Dr. Duesberg earned his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1963 from the University of Frankfurt in Germany. His work on retroviruses resulted in the isolation of the first cancer gene in 1970, and soon after proceeded to map their genetic structure.
"On the basis of his experience with retroviruses, Duesberg has challenged the virus-AIDS hypothesis in the pages of such journals as Cancer Research, Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of AIDS, AIDS Forschung, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapeutics, New England Journal of Medicine and Research in Immunology. He has instead proposed the hypothesis that the various American/European AIDS diseases are brought on by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT itself, which is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS. See The AIDS Dilemma: Drug diseases blamed on a passenger virus." 
The 1984 papers published in SCIENCE, were used as evidence that Duesberg and those who agreed with him must be wrong.
As long ago as 1993, Robert Root-Bernstein wrote an article titled "Rethinking Aids" in the Wall Street Journal (not in one of those really important peer-reviewed science journals) that echoed many of the same findings as Duesberg. 
In 1994, another paper (co-authored by Philip Johnson)titled "What Causes Aids," challenged many of the then standard assumptions concerning AIDS research in exquisite detail, and was published in the June issue of Reason that year. 
Fast forward more than ten years to a 2007 interview with Dr. Duesberg and we see that he was still challenging scientists to reconsider the causes of AIDS. Moreover, the interview reveals what Duesberg has been made to endure as a result of challenging the scientific establishment over the nature, cause, and future direction of AIDS. One of his critics referred to him as "nuts" and he has lost much of the funding he had enjoyed earlier in his career before he began publishing his heretical views.
Regardless of whether Duesberg's claims are accurate, his challenges seem credible enough and are certainly worthy of investigation. Fortunately, he's not alone: many other scientists agree with him.
"...other scientists think differently and strongly respect Dr. Duesberg's ideas - including Nobel laureates in chemistry Kary Mullis and Walter Gilbert. Duesberg, Mullis, and Gilbert all point out that there is no direct experimental evidence that HIV causes AIDS, and that there are numerous problems with the HIV-AIDS theory. For example, not everyone infected with HIV gets AIDS, and not everyone with AIDS symptoms is infected with HIV. In fact, the symptoms of AIDS vary from continent to continent, and a medical diagnosis of AIDS is often made simply by testing positive for HIV antibodies in the presence of a disease such as tuberculosis or cancer. However, instead of engaging in scientific debate, according to Dr. Duesberg, the only response from the scientific establishment has been to cut off funding to further test his hypothesis."
Unfortunately, Duesberg's ideas were met with tremendous resistance over the years from within the medical community, which has resulted in a series of responses that mirror the way Darwin skeptics are also treated. That pattern speaks volumes about the nature of bigotry and discrimination directed towards dissenters.
Duesberg makes a comment in his interview that provides some hard-learned insight on the treatment dished out to dissenters:
"Scientists are selected for instincts that help them to get funding, recognition, invitations to meetings, access to publications and awards. None of these are available to scientific minorities. On the contrary, minorities are excommunicated at many levels from the consenting majorities, even from personal contacts with mainstream colleagues. Those are strong incentives for scientists not to "examine" unpopular ideas."
So much for scientific integrity.
The question I'm asking my readers to consider is this: could the same treatment towards dissidents exist in other areas of science? More importantly, could science be WRONG about other sacred cows in their orthodoxy corral?
Like, for instance, Darwinism?
The takeaway lesson from the treatment meted out to Duesberg and other dissidents is that the AIDS-HIV issue is just symptomatic of what goes on in the scientific and medical community whenever someone challenges orthodox views. The sad part is, many scientists don't seem to be learning the key lesson here about the value of dissent. Instead of closing ranks around orthodoxy, you'd think scientists would figure out after incidents like the AIDS fiasco that that if they could be wrong about something as big as the AIDS-HIV connection, perhaps they could be wrong about a few other cherished notions as well.
And let's not forget that the AIDS-HIV error was promoted in a peer-reviewed journal. And not just any Journal, we're talking about one of the most prestigious science journals on the planet. This is one of the issues Darwin critics are faulted for - it is widely claimed that their views should not be tolerated because they don't publish in the same circles as everyone else who dutifully follows the orthodox scientific bandwagon. The AIDS blowup demonstrates that the argument for heavy reliance on peer review as a defining factor of reliability is subject to enormous failure. Sure, it may serve science well in most instances, but it's certainly not infallible. What this incident does is show us just how clearly peer review is used as a mechanism to maintain control of an idea regardless of other data that contradicts the orthodox view.
When dissenters are slapped down by self-styled Saviors of Science, regardless of the venue, it's amazing how the same patterns of behavior emerge, indicating that it might just be the peer review process and resulting discrimination that should be investigated rather than the alleged stupidity or warped conclusions of the dissenters.
Consensus and unity about the cause of AIDS, or the reality of evolution are far more important to many scientists than listening to the persistent nagging of those pesky dissenters who keep raising their hands and insisting that there are problems with how we view the scientific data. Amazingly, it matters little how qualified a dissenter may be. The treatment of dissenters within the scientific and academic community is quite often so politically motivated that one wonders how anyone manages to conduct good science in the first place. And the treatment of dissenters ranges from censorship, turning them into "outsiders," denying them funding, to slaughtering their careers.
The best thing we can do, according to the scientific dogmatists, is marginalize dissenters as pseudoscientific idiots with improper motives, and dismiss them as crackpots for being so stupid as to dare challenge what every other qualified expert already knows and takes for granted.
And there's the rub.
This seems to be a familiar refrain no matter what the context of dissent might be where Big Science is concerned. Since it's unlikely that the leadership in the scientific and academic communities are going to acknowledge that their distaste for dissent is not appropriate, it's up to the "misinformed" and largely "ignorant" public to put the pressure on. We need to take aim at intolerance of dissidents by nipping it in the bud.
How do we do that?
If you have a child who attends a university where dissent is either not allowed, or where any form of discrimination against those who dissent is tolerated, perhaps you might consider sharing your thoughts with the appropriate administrators. Let your views be known. Don't let it pass. Academic freedom is a precious right, and it can be underscored by the insistence of Parental Patrons who subsidize universities through tuition payments. I'm firmly convinced that money is a language most university officials understand (especially these days...), and if you organize enough parents to challenge behaviors that should not be tolerated, it will have an impact.
Meanwhile, it's time to consider the staggering results of the refusal of the scientific community to listen to the voices of dissent. How many lives have been lost, damaged, or otherwise put at risk over the AIDS fiasco, and how many millions of research dollars flowed in the wrong direction? One can only begin to wonder how many other research programs are similarly flawed, despite the overwhelming evidence of "peer-reviewed" findings.
Science, to its credit, did post the following articles at no charge to the public:
 Press Release dated 12/9/08 from the group "Rethinking Aids"
 Robert Root-Bernstein, "Rethinking AIDS"
 Johnson, et.al, "What Causes AIDS"
For readers who would like to find out more about what happens to Darwin Dissenters, and many others who have suffered discrimination for being Darwin skeptics, I recommend grabbing a copy of "Slaughter of
the Dissidents," which can be ordered here.
Seattle area writer and Darwin skeptic Kevin Wirth is a founding member of ARN (formerly Students for Origins Research). He is also the Senior editor, contributor, and publisher of the book "Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth About Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters" by Dr. Jerry Bergman (2008). This is the most comprehensive book published to date documenting the extent and types of discrimination against Darwin Dissidents. He is also the publisher of Caroline Crocker's upcoming book about her experience as an Expelled University professor which is scheduled to be released sometime in early 2009.
To read more essays by Kevin Wirth, click here.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Kevin H. Wirth, all rights reserved. Quotes and links are permitted with attribution.
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