In the comments to this post on creationists’/HIV deniers’ (mis)use of statistics, several people have been trying to argue that because overlapping membership in the two groups is limited, my comparison of the two is false. I explained:
It’s the *tactics* that are the same in both groups: misleading use of statistics as evidenced in this post, cherry-picking the lit, appeals to authority, grand conspiracies imagined, painting scientists as greedy and hopelessly biased, quote-mining, hell, they even each have their own prizes based on an impossible standard of evidence.
Oh, I get it Tara, however you seem to be of the naive belief that this behavior applies only to AIDS Rethinkers and ID’ers, and you seem to have lost all of your healthy sense of scepticism when it comes to establishment HIV/AIDS science.
Tara, is there any, even one minor, tiny, miniscule point worth considering, that the rethinkers have ever brought up on your site in the days, weeks, and months of posts that you have read? Or… Is every word and every piece of evidence that they have brought up pure garbage and untrue bullshit just because they are Rethinkers? Did Peter Duesberg, the National Academy of Science member, ever say one word of truth in all of his books and papers about Rethinking AIDS, or one piece of math that was correct?
I have yet to see you give any consideration whatsoever, to any statement ever made by any Rethinker. I have however, seen you rudely call them all names such as “denialists”, and I have seen you pretty much paint every one of them as fanatical nitwits. Is there even one line in all of your threads, where you ever backed a single word that any rethinker has ever said? Even one Tara?
My thoughts after the jump….
Regarding Michael’s first assertion that the kind of behavior I mention is limited to HIV and evolution deniers, I’ve never said that. Indeed, I’ve noted the opposite. It also applies to many other groups of science deniers, as well. And I certainly have a healthy sense of skepticism about any newly published findings; that’s part and parcel for a scientist, even if they accept the “orthodox” thoughts on any topic. I critique a lot of papers on this site, as Michael perhaps hasn’ t noticed. But it seems like, to Michael and others, the only definition of “healthy sense of skepticism” is “agrees with me about HIV [or name the issue here]”.
Michael also asks if I’ve ever given any consideration to any statement made by the “rethinkers.” Indeed, it’s exactly that which got me interested in this area (and in ID/creationism as well). Being trained as a scientist, of course I’d read the mainstream research and learned the “orthodox” ideas, and so when I first heard about ID, or people who didn’t accept HIV as the cause of AIDS, or anti-vaccination folks, etc., the first thing I did in all those cases was to find out what arguments they put forward to support their case. I read books and articles and websites on the various (often mutually exclusive) arguments against the scientific “orthodoxy.” As readers know, I’ve been far less than impressed with all of them, and in some cases, outright embarrassed that it’s credentialed scientists making such claims. But no, I don’t think they’re all “fanatical nitwits,” nor do I think I’ve painted them all in that light. (A few of them, well, sure…) For some others, I think their hearts are certainly in the right places, but as I’ve mentioned previously, I just think they lack the breadth of understanding in the field, and they therefore latch onto one meme (“the HIV tests aren’t accurate!”; “a virus can’t discriminate by race and sexual preference!”; “no missing links”!, etc.) without really getting how that fits into the broader picture of viral diagnostics, epidemiology, or evolutionary biology. And then once they’ve been convinced by this, they start to wonder how the scientific community could have “missed” something like this, and this therefore makes it easier for them to buy into the other “rethinker” arguments, including some of the more outlandish ones (such as that HIV doesn’t even exist).
Do I think they’ve ever brought up something worth considering? Sure, but nothing scientists hadn’t already thought about. Does HIV work solo? Does a co-factor, such as potentially another virus, increase or decrease the severity and onset of disease? Why doesn’t everyone progress from HIV infection to AIDS in a similar time frame? What is the best use of anti-retroviral drugs? How do complex features evolve? What is the best way to reconcile religious beliefs and scientific findings? There are many genuine questions out there, but it’s been my impression that “rethinkers” don’t honestly want them answered; they simply want to use them as battering rams to beat against the “scientific orthodoxy.”