Sunday, August 24, 2008

Michael Shermer Disappoints - Regarding HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Michael Shermer, a widely respected skeptic, is asked in 2006 :

Q: You confess in "Why Darwin Matters," "I became a creationist shortly after I became a born-again evangelical Christian in high school in 1971 and I argued the creationist case through graduate school in 1977."... What caused you to see the light about evolution?

MS: Taking a class in it by Bayard Brattstrom at Cal State Fullerton, where I got a master's degree in experimental psychology. He was an evangelical evolutionist and his class met Tuesday nights and then adjourned to the local pub and continued until closing time. He would just hold forth, like Socrates, sitting around with beer and ale, and talking about God, religion, the big bang and cosmology. He was a dynamic speaker. It was great stuff. I was just sitting there stunned, like, Oh my God, this stuff is real. I had no idea. I didn't really know anything about science.

Like most creationists, you just know what you read in creationist books. When you read them, it makes the theory of evolution sound completely idiotic. What moron could believe in this theory? When you actually take a class in the science of it, it's a completely different picture. That's also when I realized I enjoyed the company of scientists and science people much more than religious people and theologians...

That's all good... But let's examine this right here:
The AIDS Heresies - A Case Study in Skepticism Taken Too Far by Steven B. Harris
(From Skeptic: The Magazine: Back Issue: Volume 3, Number 2)

This text begins with this notice at the top:
Note from the editor: This article is unusual for several reasons: 1.) It is a monograph -longer than an article but shorter than a book [32Pages]; 2.) Skeptic usually features several voices on one subject, but because of the length we decided to allow the AIDS skeptics to respond in the next issue ...
Alright, let's check out the next issue: Skeptic: The Magazine: Back Issue: Volume 3, Number 3


There is only a small section called "AIDS Forum", where you can read a few letters from a few guys... Fair?

Yet Mr. Shermer has no problem publishing texts like this on the Skeptic website:
... Skeptic is open to exploring subjects not previously discussed in back issues and, in fact, is always in search of cutting-edge controversies and ideas worthy of further exploration. Skeptic is a science magazine, and therefore we are evidence driven, not position driven. One may be skeptical in either direction. E.g., when we investigated the HIV-AIDS controversy, the evidence led us to conclude that we should be skeptical of the HIV-AIDS skeptic’s claims, not the medical establishment’s claims. ...
Would he have been able to determine if the theory of evolution is a rational theory back then, with such unbalanced information as he lets the Skeptic publish about the HIV/AIDS theory? Apparently not... Why so confident now?

Maybe Mr. Shermer was a little too inexperienced back then for being a perfect skeptic. Maybe he should rethink AIDS with the skills he's got today, no?

Conclusion: The AIDS dissidents should get a real chance to present their arguments for the good of us all. It's the responsibility of all those who support real scientific inquiry to demand/support/organize more scientific debates and ask more questions. The dissidents I know are always open for any offer, unlike the mainstream scientists who accept the HIV/AIDS hypothesis without sufficiently informing themselves about alternative viewpoints.
... It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations. ...
From "The Value of Science - By Richard Feynman".

UPDATE: I emailed this to Mr. Shermer, he never responded. I hoped that he'll get past the title and properly respond, an open minded skeptic would've achieved that for sure...

By the way, the same Skeptic monograph is criticised here at the interesting website for a very good reason:
... Skeptic has published an article on this subject ... that seeks to affirm the correctness of the conventional viewpoint and, in typical pseudoskeptical fashion, ignores at least one key argument of the AIDS critics. That is the argument that HIV tests are completely invalid. The Perth Group had already made that case in 1993 in a paper published in Bio/Technology (Vol.11 June 1993). Their claims were reported in a headline story on June 1, 1993 in the Sunday Times of London. Yet, over one year later, Dr. Harris does not even mention this critical component in the skeptical case against the conventional theory of HIV/AIDS in his article. Instead, he misleads his readers into believing that AIDS skeptics recognize the validity of HIV tests in the first place by stating that "critics of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis have had to struggle to keep up with sensitivity increases in HIV testing". ...
Visit this link for more on this topic: HIV = AIDS ?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monkey See Human Do

Cool experiments confirming social pressure's role in bias:
Monkey version (Potentially fictional)
Human version (Asch's Conformity Experiment)

They're not exactly the same but they both demonstrate how the society makes people decide irrationally or dishonestly. Related to what I wrote about the "biggest obstacle" and the approach to 9/11 conspiracy theories. And also to the whole HIV/AIDS debate of course, to all the "good germans" in the AIDS research field, even if they are right...