Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Science under the microscope: Unprofessional behavior raises questions

Commentary by James H. Shott

Most people do not recognize the name Peter Duesberg. They don't know that he is a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, or that he was the first scientist to isolate the human cancer gene in 1970 through his work on retroviruses, and that he mapped the genetic structure of those viruses, resulting in his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. Dr. Duesberg is also the recipient of a seven-year Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Yet, despite these impressive accomplishments and sterling credentials he is looked down upon by some of his peers because, as it turns out, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — known as the “AIDS virus” — is a retrovirus, a subject about which Prof. Duesberg is an authority, and based upon his knowledge of retroviruses Prof. Duesberg concluded that HIV, does not cause AIDS.

Despite his background and accomplishments, his research and scientific opinion on HIV are given no credibility among the HIV = AIDS faction of scientists, and instead he is vilified and punished.

The purpose here is not to defend Prof. Duesberg's theory about HIV/AIDS — readers can investigate that on their own and draw their own conclusions, or not, as they choose. The purpose is to call attention to the decidedly unscientific behavior on the part of those scientists who believe the AIDS orthodoxy, and who demean and vilify a highly qualified peer who disagrees with a popular theory.

Science is supposed to be a logical, methodical search for truth; it involves advancing hypotheses and testing and retesting them, disproving those that can be disproved, and allowing those that can't be disproved to stand until a better hypothesis comes along. It is often said in science that theories can never be proved, only disproved, and there is always the possibility that a new observation or a new experiment will conflict with a long-standing theory.

The noted chemist and winner of multiple Nobel Prizes, Linus Pauling, said that “science is the search for truth — it is not a game in which one tries to beat his opponent, to do harm to others.”

Yet, instead of engaging in scientific debate with Prof. Duesberg and disproving his hypothesis in a scientific fashion, the HIV = AIDS establishment responded by cutting off his research funding and making him a villain. Why?

Well, there is a lot of money in AIDS research and treatment. Since the mid-1980s the federal government has spent more than $20 billion in the U.S. for those purposes. If Peter Duesberg's theory is valid or cannot be disproved, it could upset the apple cart for a lot of people who have gotten comfortable in their lucrative work, so comfortable that perhaps they no longer care about objective truth.

If this situation sounds familiar it is because it is very similar to what happens to scientists with the temerity to challenge the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory, more recently referred to merely as “climate change,” now enjoying wide acceptance, but which also has been exposed as involving much less than honorable, objective science.

The Wall Street Journal noted back in 2006 that “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled … Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

Those who do not toe the alarmist line are not only punished, marginalized, and ridiculed; they are even threatened with jail in some cases. Jail? Really? As Sarah Palin would say: “you betcha.”

In 2007 the following headline appeared in Agence France Press “Failure to tackle climate peril 'criminally irresponsible,' IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) told,” a sentiment attributed to Yvo de Boer, UN Environmental Programme head.

Like AIDS research and treatment, AGW attracts an enormous bundle of research and subsidy funding.

In 2007 $50 billion of taxpayer money went to global warming advocates, while just $19 million went to skeptics — a more than 2,500-to-1 funding imbalance in favor of the AGW advocates — according to information provided on the Senate Environment and Public Works Web page. Did the appeal of filthy lucre spawn the fraud, deceit, and error-ridden research that alarmists used to build support for dangerous, expensive and unnecessary changes to our way of life?

We have come to expect this sort of dishonesty and tawdry behavior from politicians. But science is supposed be above such desperate and corrupt conduct. Like journalism — another profession we depend on for honesty and truth that has lost credibility in recent years — science is fast becoming an area where theories will be taken with the same grain of salt as a Barack Obama campaign promise.

The ethical collapse of important professions like journalism, climate science and medical research parallels the collapse of our once-resilient society, one that developed through, independence, individualism and personal integrity. As our society sheds its standards, gives up individualism for dependence, and devolves into socialism, our once-ethical professions get taken down with it.

Cross-posted from Observations

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