Similarities between the Church of HIV-AIDS (CHA) and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) are obvious. Recognized limitations of analogical thinking notwithstanding, our understanding of the current statu quo of applied wisdom might be improved by indulging in some jocular pursuit of these facile analogies; the exercise may provide a framework for a better understanding of how some subsets of orthodox “scientists” of the CHA react to critical analysis.
We may, to begin, broadly classify the orthodox “scientists” into three types: Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans. We will examine each with the understanding that there are numerous shades and “in betweens”, and some unusual exceptions to the generalities and generalizations put forth. These musings do not intend to constitute an exhaustive taxonomy of the Faithful.
The Jesuit Order is relatively young. It was born in the XVI century, a time when the RCC was under imminent threat of fragmentation (as it did fragment). St. Ignacio de Loyola, its founder, was responsible for providing the RCC with brain power to counter the infinitely attractive arguments – as well as the much higher moral ground – of the reformers. This brain power should operate subtly and profoundly but, very importantly, should never question the authority of the Pope and the necessity of only one truth for Salvation. As anyone trained in analytical thinking knows, this is a difficult task; one never knows where the pursuit of ideas will lead. The intellectual prowess of the Company of Jesus and their relentless drive to educate the princes during the Counter Reformation, made the Order the standard-bearer for the educational concerns of the RCC. It has been said that the Jesuits have given both the best and the worst of the legacy of the RCC to the world. Their legacy includes translation/preservation of many jewels of oral wisdom in conquered/annihilated peoples during the European expansion into the world, educational institutions that for a long time were of enviable quality, the Missions of the New World, and even important parts of that broad movement which has been called Theology of Liberation.
The true Jesuit of the CHA is educated. He/she can think rigorously and point out fallacies and inconsistencies in the heretic’s argument. He/she has accomplished “something” regarded of value in the lab. He/she “knows his/her stuff”. He/she can handle the paradoxes of HIV “variability” and invisibility, can defend the notion of “quasi-species”, will remember the error rate of reverse transcriptase and will admit that failure to isolate is indeed a serious problem. He/she will craft the cleverest smoke-screens and dialectical obstacles. However, he/she will not question the fact that all this, added together, may actually mean that the dogma is wrong. Jesuits of CHA are not abundant. Maybe, in the beginning, David Baltimore was a Jesuit; Howard Temin certainly was. Current exponents of this subtler yet bounded mode of thought subscribe the idea that simplistic statements of the sort “HIV kills like a truck” (St. Gallo dixit) or “direct cytocidal effects” are false. But, as a true Jesuit, will continue to believe that HIV is doing “something important, even essential” anyway, and will proceed to spend as much (mostly tax-payer) money as they can studying all possible combinations of differentiation markers in the cells apparently injured, directly or otherwise, by “HIV disease progression”. The Jesuit will not give up on dogma until ordered to do so from higher up, which would probably mean an irreversible upheaval of the CHA. As with the RCC with the various crowns of Europe, the CHA is bound to other power systems (such as the pharmaceutical industry and the HMOs) so tightly that it is very likely that the toppling of one will mean the demise of the others (at least in the present form). The Jesuit is faithful to a well established discipline of unified thought.
Dominicans of the CHA are, however, a completely different kettle of piranhas. [Continued]
Roberto P. Stock is a senior investigator at the Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico in Cuernavaca.