The Congress, like any political body or any politician, need not worry about what reality is, only the perception of reality. Scientists, on the other hand, it's their job to be concerned about what reality really is. — Charles Thomas, biochemist
I was going to post on "viral load" determinations this week, but an accidental circumstance has led me to comment more generally today.
The major impetus for creating the AIDS Wiki was a continued
frustration with the editors at
Wikipedia; in particular, frustration with their inability to tell, as Serge
Lang would have put it, "the difference between a fact, an
opinion, a hypothesis, and a hole in the ground". I made the mistake of returning to the article I created
more than three years ago at Wikipedia on HIV dissent and made a small but
important change to the introductory text, the importance of which was first
pointed out to me by Harvey Bialy some months ago.
Consider the following text which appeared at Wikipedia until quite
"The AIDS reappraisal movement (or AIDS dissident movement) is a loosely connected group of activists — journalists, scientists, doctors, HIV-positive persons, and concerned citizens — who deny, challenge, or question, in some way, the consensus that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)."
Compare and contrast this statement to the text at AIDS Wiki:
"An AIDS dissident is an individual who denies the veracity of, challenges, or questions, in some way, the prevailing scientific consensus that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a necessary cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)."
The most important modification here (among many) is "denies the veracity of" in place of "denies". This is especially true, given the fact that dissidents have been increasingly branded as "denialists" who "deny" that "things that are so are so".
What is the distinction between "denying a consensus" and "denying the veracity of a consensus"?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consensus as "general agreement...group solidarity in sentiment and belief". Those who doubt the HIV hypothesis do challenge and question the "general agreement...group solidarity in sentiment and belief" on HIV. However, they do not deny it. To deny the HIV consensus would be tantamount to claiming that most researchers conclude HIV is not the cause of AIDS, or that dissidents really aren't in the minority, after all. This claim is hardly tenable.
"What dissidents do deny is the veracity of the consensus. Merriam-Webster defines veracity as "power of conveying or perceiving truth ... conformity with truth or fact". Dissidents do deny that the consensus view on HIV has the "power of conveying or perceiving truth" or is in "conformity with truth or fact". When I recently made this correction at the Wikipedia article, I was immediately "reverted" because it was felt my edit represented a subjective statement of viewpoint rather than a neutral relating of fact."
At first, I thought this particular incident was just another example of common stupidity, of the inability to understand the meaning of words, or of the inability to pay sufficient attention to the meaning of words. This would be nothing new, either in HIV/AIDS 'thinking' or Wikipedian practice.
Upon further reflection, I came to realize that this particular incident is emblematic of a much deeper pathology afflicting thought on HIV, as well as other issues in today's society. "Why," I thought, "would someone even consider changing 'consensus' to 'veracity of a consensus' to be subjective and expressive of a 'point-of-view'?"
It finally hit me -- for these people, there is no distinction between a consensus and its veracity. They are one and the same. Merely to acknowledge the distinction between a consensus and its veracity is forbidden, is beyond the boundaries of acceptable thought. Consensus is reality. There is no distinction between reality and created reality. It is all the same house of mirrors, the convex and concave distortions of reality replacing reality itself.
Currently, the Wikipedia text reads:
"The AIDS reappraisal movement (or AIDS dissident movement) is a
loosely connected group of activists — journalists, scientists, doctors,
HIV-positive persons, and concerned citizens — who dispute the consensus view
that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of acquired immune
deficiency syndrome (AIDS)."
Merriam-Webster defines dispute as "to call into question...to struggle against". They got that much right. As always, however, the only way they can maintain accuracy is to shift the rhetoric to political and social struggles and away from the veracity of scientific claims about reality.
Brown received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California,
Santa Barbara in 2004. His dissertation was in algebraic number theory, although
he tells us he also has "interests in Fuchsian groups, category theory, and
point-set topology". (Fuchsian groups? Sounds exciting !) His "mathematical
lineage traces to Stark and Chebyshev".
Dr. Brown is also the wikimesiter at the AIDS Wiki,
and recently became curator of the Memorial Serge Lang Archive, announced in the
Oct. issue of The
Notices of the American Mathematical Society