The Killer in the Pool

To work closely with a killer whale in a marine park requires experience, intuition, athleticism, and a whole lot of dramatic flair. Few people were better at it than top SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who, at 40, was blond, vivacious, and literally the poster girl for the marine park in Orlando, Florida, appearing on billboards around the city. She decided she wanted to work with killer whales at the age of nine, during a family trip to SeaWorld, and loved animals so much that as an adult she used to throw birthday parties for her two chocolate Labs.

This past February 24, Brancheau was working the Dine with Shamu show, featuring SeaWorld’s largest killer whale, a six-ton, 22-foot male known as “Tili” (short for Tilikum). Dine with Shamu takes place in a faux-rock-lined, 1.6-million-gallon pool that has an open-air café wrapped around one side. The families snacking on the lunch buffet that Wednesday were getting an eyeful. Brancheau bounced around on the deck of the pool, wearing a black-and-white wetsuit that echoed Tilikum’s coloration, as she worked him through a few of the many “behaviors” he had learned during his nearly 27 years as a marine-park denizen. The audience chuckled at the sight of one of the ocean’s top predators performing like a circus animal.

The show ended around 1:30 P.M. As the audience started to file out, Brancheau fed Tilikum some herring (he eats up to 200 pounds a day), doused him a few times with a bucket (killer whales love all sorts of stimulation), and moved over to a shallow ledge built into the side of the pool. There, she lay down in a few inches of water, talking to him and stroking him, conducting what’s known as a “relationship session.” Tilikum floated inert in the pool alongside her, his nose almost touching her shoulder. Brancheau was smiling, her long ponytail flaring out behind her.

One level down, a group of families gathered before the huge glass windows of the underwater viewing area. A trainer shouted up that they were ready for Tilikum. That was Brancheau’s signal to instruct the orca to dive down and swim directly up to the glass for a custom photo op. It’s an awesome sight when six tons of Tili come gliding out of the blue. But that day, instead of waiting for his cue and behaving the way decades of daily training in captivity had conditioned him to, Tilikum did something unexpected. Jan Topoleski, 32, a trainer who was acting as a safety spotter for Brancheau, told investigators that Tilikum took Brancheau’s drifting hair into his mouth. Brancheau tried to pull it free, but Tilikum yanked her into the pool. In an instant, a classic tableau of a trainer bonding with a marine mammal became a life-threatening emergency.

Topoleski hit the pool’s siren. A “Signal 500” was broadcast over the SeaWorld radio net, calling for a water rescue at G pool. Staff raced to the scene. “It was scary,” Dutch tourist Susanne De Wit, 33, told investigators. “He was very wild.” SeaWorld staff slapped the water surface, signaling Tilikum to leave her. The whale ignored the command. Trainers hurried to drop a weighted net into the water to try and separate Tilikum from Brancheau or herd him through two adjoining pools and into a small medical pool that had a lifting floor. There he could be raised out of the water and controlled.

Eyewitness accounts and the sheriff’s investigative report make it clear that Brancheau fought hard. She was a strong swimmer, a dedicated workout enthusiast who ran marathons. But she weighed just 123 pounds and was no match for a 12,000-pound killer whale. She managed to break free and swim toward the surface, but Tilikum slammed into her. She tried again. This time he grabbed her. Her water shoes came off and floated to the surface. “He started pushing her with his nose like she was a toy,” said Paula Gillespie, one of the visitors at the underwater window. SeaWorld employees urgently ushered guests away. “Will she be OK?” one asked.

Tilikum kept dragging Brancheau through the water, shaking her violently. Finally—now holding Brancheau by her arm—he was guided onto the medical lift. The floor was quickly raised. Even now, Tilikum refused to give her up. Trainers were forced to pry his jaws open. When they pulled Brancheau free, part of her arm came off in his mouth. Brancheau’s colleagues carried her to the pool deck and cut her wetsuit away. She had no heartbeat. The paramedics went to work, attaching a defibrillator, but it was obvious she was gone. A sheet was pulled over her body. Tilikum, who’d been involved in two marine-park deaths in the past, had killed her.

“Every safety protocol that we have failed,” SeaWorld director of animal training Kelly Flaherty Clark told me a month after the incident, her voice still tight with emotion. “That’s why we don’t have our friend anymore, and that’s why we are taking a step back.”

Continue Reading at Outside Online

Hard Science of Global Warming

German Physicists Trash Global Warming “Theory”

December 26, 2009

guest article by John O’Sullivan

For any non-scientist interested in the climate debate, there is nothing better than a ready primer to guide you through the complexities of atmospheric physics – the “hardest” science of climatology. Here we outline the essential points made by Dr. Gerhard Gerlich, a respected German physicist, that counter the bogus theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

Before going further, it’s worth bearing in mind that no climatologist ever completed any university course in climatology–that’s how new this branch of science really is. Like any new science the fall-back position of a cornered AGW proponent is the dreaded “appeal to authority” where the flustered debater, out of his or her depth, will say, “Well, professor so-and-so says it’s true – so it must be true.” Don’t fall for that proxy tree-ring counter’s gambit any longer. Here is the finest shredding of junk science you will ever read.

In a recently revised and re-published paper, Dr Gerlich debunks AGW and shows that the IPCC “consensus” atmospheric physics model tying CO2 to global warming is not only unverifiable, but actually violates basic laws of physics, i.e. the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics. The latest version of this momentous scientific paper appears in the March 2009 edition of the International Journal of Modern Physics.

The central claims of Dr. Gerlich and his colleague, Dr. Ralf Tscheuschner, include, but are not limited to:

  1. The mechanism of warming in an actual greenhouse is different than the mechanism of warming in the atmosphere, therefore it is not a “greenhouse” effect and should be called something else.
  2. The climate models that predict catastrophic global warming also result in a net heat flow from atmospheric greenhouse gasses to the warmer ground, which is in violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Essentially, any machine which transfers heat from a low temperature reservoir to a high temperature reservoir without external work applied cannot exist. If it did it would be a “perpetual motion machine” – the realm of pure sci-fi.

Gerlich’s and Tscheuschner’s independent theoretical study is detailed in a lengthy (115 pages), mathematically complex (144 equations, 13 data tables, and 32 figures or graphs), and well-sourced (205 references) paper. The German physicists prove that even if CO2 concentrations double (a prospect even global warming advocates admit is decades away), the thermal conductivity of air would not change more than 0.03%. They show that the classic concept of the glass greenhouse wholly fails to replicate the physics of Earth’s climate. They also prove that a greenhouse operates as a “closed” system while the planet works as an “open” system and the term “atmospheric greenhouse effect” does not occur in any fundamental work involving thermodynamics, physical kinetics, or radiation theory. All through their paper the German scientists show how the greenhouse gas theory relies on guesstimates about the scientific properties involved to “calculate” the chaotic interplay of such a myriad and unquantifiable array of factors that is beyond even the abilities of the most powerful of modern supercomputers.

The paper’s introduction states it neatly:

(a) there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects, (b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet, (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 degrees Celsius is a meaningless number calculated wrongly, (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately, (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical, (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.

This thorough debunking of the theory of man made warming disproves that there exists a mechanism whereby carbon dioxide in the cooler upper atmosphere exerts any thermal “forcing” effect on the warmer surface below. To do so would violate both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. As there is no glass roof on the earth to trap the excess heat, it escapes upward into space.Thus we may conclude that the common sense axioms are preserved so that the deeper the ocean, the colder the water and heat rises, it does not fall. QED.

John O’Sullivan is a legal advocate and writer who for several years has litigated in government corruption and conspiracy cases in both the US and Britain. Visit his website.

Science Eats Its Own

Suppression of Science Within Science

by Henry Bauer

I wasn’t as surprised as many others were, when it was revealed that climate-change "researchers" had discussed in private e-mails how to keep important data from public view lest it shake public belief in the dogma that human activities are contributing significantly to global warming.

I wasn’t particularly surprised because just a few weeks earlier I had spoken at the Oakland Rethinking AIDS Conference about the dogmatism and strong-arm tactics that are rampant in a seemingly increasing range of fields of medicine and science. PowerPoint presentations of most of the talks at the Conference are available at the Conference website. Here’s a slightly modified, more readable, text version of my own talk. The theme in a nutshell:

For several centuries, modern science was pretty much a free intellectual market populated by independent entrepreneurs who shared the goal of understanding how the world works. Nowadays it’s a corporate enterprise where patents, pay-offs, prestige, and power take priority over getting at the scientific truth, and the powers-that-be have established knowledge monopolies.

I had met Peter Duesberg in person only at the Conference, but I had been quite familiar with him from many videos. What had always stuck in my mind was his expression of surprise, astonishment, sheer disbelief, as he told what happened to him after he questioned whether HIV could be the cause of AIDS:

I had all the students I wanted . . . lab space . . . grants . . . . elected to the National Academy. . . . became California Scientist of the Year. All my papers were published. I could do no wrong . . . professionally . . . until I started questioning . . . that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Then everything changed.

What happened then was that he got no more grants; his manuscripts were rejected without substantive critiques, just that "everyone knows that HIV causes AIDS"; Robert Gallo, who earlier had talked of Duesberg’s distinction as a leading retrovirologist, now publicly called him dishonest on scientific matters. Defenders of the mainstream view have even held Duesberg responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of South Africans and have described him as the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier.

What had Duesberg done to bring about that radical change?

Absolutely nothing. He was doing science just as before: gathering data, documenting his sources, making his analyses, presenting his conclusions for comment by others. Of course Duesberg was surprised that suddenly he had gone from lauded leading scientist to discredited crackpot.

Of course Duesberg was surprised, because his experience of suddenly being sent beyond the pale was obviously an aberration. Science isn’t like this. Science is done by the objective self-correcting scientific method. Peer review is impersonal and impartial. Arguments are substantive, not ad hominem. This experience must be unprecedented, unique.

Or, perhaps, shared just by other AIDS Rethinkers, because questioning that HIV causes AIDS is just too outrageous, and quite justifiably it puts AIDS "denialists" outside the norms of scientific behavior and discourse. You wouldn’t find anything like this in other, more normal fields of medicine or science.

Well, actually, you would. You do. Duesberg and AIDS Rethinkers are not alone in this. Duesberg’s experience is not unique, it’s even far from unique.

For example, there’s The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, 2001) in which Bjørn Lomborg discussed global warming and pointed out, documented by >500 mainstream source-references, that Kyoto-type policies would not reduce warming enough to avoid such major consequences as sea-level rises. Therefore it makes sense to devise adaptations that will be needed in any case, a much better investment than trying to reduce global CO2 emissions.

A rather unremarkable economic argument based solidly on calculations from mainstream data.

So Lomborg was surely just as surprised, astonished, disbelieving, as Duesberg had been, to find that his scholarly discussion placed him beyond the pale of civilized scientific discourse. The Chair of the International Panel on Climate Change asked, Where is the difference between Lomborg’s view on humans and Hitler’s? An Australian columnist agreed: Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence–it is a crime against humanity after all. An American environmentalist seconded the notion, writing that there should be "war crimes trials for these bastards–some sort of climate Nuremberg."

Of course those comments were not made in the scientific literature, which doesn’t countenance that sort of character assassination. Or so one might hope. Hope in vain, it turns out, because a book review in Nature (414: 149-50) held that Lomborg’s text employs the strategy of those who . . . argue that gay men aren’t dying of AIDS, that Jews weren’t singled out by the Nazis for extermination. . . .

So global-warming denialism is as much beyond the pale as AIDS denialism. Except that –and perhaps you’ve noticed–Duesberg has never denied that AIDS exists, he just has a different explanation for what caused it. And Lomborg doesn’t deny that global warming is occurring, he doesn’t even question that human activities are contributing significantly to it, he is just making a cost-benefit argument.

Of course, both HIV/AIDS and global warming are matters that involve not just science but public policy and large public expenditures. You wouldn’t find anything like this in a pure science like astronomy or cosmology, would you?

Yes, you would. Yes, you do.

Take cosmology and the Big-Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Halton Arp was a respected, senior American observational astronomer. He noticed that some pairs of quasars that are physically close together nevertheless have very different redshifts. How exciting! Evidently some redshifts are not Doppler effects, in other words, not owing to rapid relative motion away from us. That means the universe-expansion calculations have to be revised. It may not have started as a Big Bang!

That’s just the sort of major potential discovery that scientists are always hoping for, isn’t it?

Certainly not in this case. Arp was granted no more telescope time to continue his observations. At age 56, Halton Arp emigrated to Germany to continue his work at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.

But Arp was not alone in his views. Thirty-four senior astronomers from 10 countries, including such stellar figures as Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, Amitabha Ghosh, and Jayant Narlikar, sent a letter to Nature pointing out that Big Bang theory

  • relies on a growing number of hypothetical . . . things . . . never observed;
  • that alternative theories can also explain all the basic phenomena of the cosmos
  • and yet virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology go to Big-Bang studies.

Just the sort of discussion that goes on in science all the time, arguing pros and cons of competing ideas.

Except that Nature refused to publish the letter.

It was posted on the Internet, and by now hundreds of additional signatures have been added – just like what happened with the letter the Group for Rethinking AIDS had sent to Nature, Science, the Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine, all of which had refused to publish it.

At a mainstream conference on "Outstanding questions for the standard cosmological model"–there was not even a mention of the stunningly outstanding question of those anomalous redshifts. So the non-Big-Bang cosmologists organized their own separate meeting–again, like AIDS Rethinkers, or like those who question the mainstream dogma about how to cope with global warming.

For some reason, non-Big-Bang cosmology is as much beyond the pale as AIDS "denial" which isn’t denial or global warming "denial" which isn’t denial.

Then there’s that most abstract of fundamental sciences, theoretical physics. The problem has long been, How to unify relativity and quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics regards the world as made up of discrete bits whereas relativity regards the world as governed by continuous, not discrete, fields. Since the mid-1970s, there has been no real progress. Everyone has been working on so-called "string theory," which has delivered no testable conclusions and remains a hope, a speculation, not a real theory. Nevertheless, theoretical physicists who want to look at other approaches can’t find jobs, can’t get grants, can’t get published. (Read Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics.)

You begin to wonder, don’t you, how many other cases there could be in science, where a single theory has somehow captured all the resources? And where competent scientists who want to try something different are not only blocked but personally insulted?

Well, there’s the matter of what killed off the dinosaurs. Everyone knows that the dinosaurs were killed off 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. Everyone knows that, that is, except the paleontologists, whose specialty this sort of question is supposed to be.

The asteroid theory had been developed by Luis Alvarez, Nobel Laureate in physics, and his son Walter, a geologist. Paleontologist Dewey McLean had earlier developed a detailed theory based on volcanism –it had long been known that tremendous volcanic activity, the "Deccan Traps," had occurred at the relevant time.

Do you think Alvarez engaged McLean in civilized, substantive discussion?

Or would you be surprised to hear that at a conference, Alvarez said to McLean in private: "I’ll wreck your career if you persist." And Alvarez did indeed contact McLean’s university and tried to block McLean’s promotion–I know that for sure because I was Dean of Dewey McLean’s College at the time.

Of course, there’s always been resistance to change in science, as in other human activities. But this degree of suppression of minority views and the use of gutter language and character assassination makes it seem like a new phenomenon. At least it has seemed so to the people who have found themselves suddenly ejected from mainstream discourse and resources.

Arp, Duesberg, Lomborg, McLean and other "denialists" of various mainstream theories are surprised because it isn’t supposed to be like that in science. Lomborg doesn’t know that "AIDS denialists" are treated rather like "global warming denialists." Arp doesn’t know that AIDS and global warming "denialists" have it even worse than those who question the Big Bang. McLean doesn’t know that "denialists" about AIDS, Big-Bang, and global warming also have their careers threatened. Everyone who experiences personally this sort of thing imagines it’s a unique experience, because science isn’t supposed to be like this.

But science nowadays IS like this: Disagree with the conventional contemporary scientific wisdom and you won’t get grants, won’t get published, will be compared to Holocaust deniers.

And it really wasn’t always this way. Nowadays "science," "pure research," has become cutthroat in the extreme, and there’s much corner-cutting and sheer dishonesty in science. For example, NIH newsletters routinely name specific individuals who are being barred from seeking grants for some specified period because of some act of dishonesty.

There was no need, in the good not-so-old days, for a federal Office of Research Integrity–a designation that George Orwell would have relished. But now we do have such an Office, and at colleges there are Centers for Research Ethics, and publishers put out journals like Accountability in Research–there’s a burgeoning young academic industry devoted to telling scientists how to behave properly.

That’s what science has come to. Genuine science, the search for better understanding, has been hijacked by self-interest and vested interests and is now captive to knowledge monopolies and research cartels: A single theory exerts dogmatic control over grants, publications, jobs, promotions.

WHY?? How did this happen?

In a follow-up piece, I’ll describe how we arrived at this New World Order in Science.

December 17, 2009

Henry H. Bauer [send him mail] is Dean Emeritus of Arts & Sciences and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Science Studies at Virginia Tech. His books about science and scientific unorthodoxies include Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method (1992), Science or Pseudoscience (2001), and The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory (2007). He currently writes an HIV Skepticism blog.

Copyright © 2009 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

End of Science as We Know It

The New World Order in Science

by Henry Bauer

I’m going to sketch a chronology and analysis that draw on the history of several centuries of science and on many volumes written about that. In being concise, I’ll make some very sweeping generalizations without acknowledging necessary exceptions or nuances. But the basic story is solidly in the mainstream of history of science, philosophy of science, sociology of science, and the like, what’s nowadays called "science & technology studies" (STS).

It never was really true, of course, as the conventional wisdom tends even now to imagine, that "the scientific method" guarantees objectivity, that scientists work impersonally to discover truth, that scientists are notably smarter, more trustworthy, more honest, so tied up in their work that they neglect everything else, don’t care about making money . . . But it is true that for centuries scientists weren’t subject to multiple and powerful conflicts of interest. There is no "scientific method." Science is done by people; people aren’t objective. Scientists are just like other professionals – to use a telling contemporary parallel, scientists are professionals just like the wheelers and dealers on Wall Street: not exactly dishonest, but looking out first and foremost for Number One.

"Modern" science dates roughly from the 17th century. It was driven by the sheer curiosity of lay amateurs and the God-worshipping curiosity of churchmen; there was little or no conflict of interest with plain truth-seeking. The truth-seekers formed voluntary associations: academies like the Royal Society of London. Those began to publish what happened at their meetings, and some of those Proceedings and Transactions have continued publication to the present day. These meetings and publications were the first informal steps to contemporary "peer review."

During the 19th century, "scientist" became a profession, one could make a living at it. Research universities were founded, and with that came the inevitable conflict of interest between truth-seeking and career-making, especially since science gained a very high status and one could become famous through success in science. (An excellent account is by David Knight in The Age of Science.)

Still it was pretty much an intellectual free market, in which the entrepreneurs could be highly independent because almost all science was quite inexpensive and there were a multitude of potential patrons and sponsors, circumstances that made for genuine intellectual competition.

The portentous change to "Big Science" really got going in mid-20th century. Iconic of the new circumstances remains the Manhattan Project to produce atomic bombs. Its dramatic success strengthened the popular faith that "science" can do anything, and very quickly, given enough resources. More than half a century later, people still talk about having a "Manhattan Project" to stop global warming, eradicate cancer, whatever.

So shortly after World War II, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was established, and researchers could get grants for almost anything they wanted to do, not only from NSF but also from the Atomic Energy Commission, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of the Interior, the Agriculture Department . . . as well as from a number of private foundations. I experienced the tail end of this bonanza after I came to the United States in the mid-1960s. Everyone was getting grants. Teachers colleges were climbing the prestige ladder to become research universities, funded by grant-getting faculty "stars": colleges just had to appoint some researchers, those would bring in the moolah, that would pay for graduate students to do the actual work, and the "overhead" or "indirect costs" associated with the grants – often on the order of 25%, with private universities sometimes even double that – allowed the institutions to establish all sorts of infrastructure and administrative structures. In the 1940s, there had been 107 PhD-granting universities in the United States; by 1978 there were more than 300.

Institutions competed with one another for faculty stars and to be ranked high among "research universities," to get their graduate programs into the 20 or so "Top Graduate Departments" – rankings that were being published at intervals for quite a range of disciplines.

Everything was being quantified, and the rankings pretty much reflected quantity, because of course that’s what you can measure "objectively": How many grants? How much money? How many papers published? How many citations to those papers? How many students? How many graduates placed where?

This quantitative explosion quickly reached the limits of possible growth. That had been predicted early on by Derek de Solla Price, historian of science and pioneer of "scientometrics" and "Science Indicators," quantitative measures of scientific and technological activity. Price had recognized that science had been growing exponentially with remarkable regularity since roughly the 17th century: doubling about every 15 years had been the numbers of scientific journals being published, the numbers of papers being published in them, the numbers of abstracts journals established to digest the flood of research, the numbers of researchers . . . .

Soon after WWII, Price noted, expenditures on research and development (R&D) had reached about 2.5% of GDP in industrialized countries, which meant quite obviously that continued exponential growth had become literally impossible. And indeed the growth slowed, and quite dramatically by the early 1970s. I saw recently that the Obama administration expressed the ambition to bring R&D to 3% of GDP, so there’s indeed been little relative growth in the last half century.

Now, modern science had developed a culture based on limitless growth. Huge numbers of graduates were being turned out, many with the ambition to do what their mentors had done: become entrepreneurial researchers bringing in grants wholesale and commanding a stable of students and post-docs who could churn out the research and generate a flood of publications. By the late 1960s or early 1970s, for example, to my personal knowledge, one of the leading electrochemists in the United States in one of the better universities was controlling annual expenditures of many hundreds of thousands of dollars (1970s dollars!), with several postdocs each supervising a horde of graduate students and pouring out the paper.

The change from unlimited possibilities to a culture of steady state, to science as zero-sum game, represents a genuine crisis: If one person gets a grant, some number of others don’t. The "success rate" in applications to NSF or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is no more than 25% on average nowadays, less so among the not-yet-established institutions. So it would make sense for researchers to change their aims, their beliefs about what is possible, to stop counting success in terms of quantities: but they can’t do that because the institutions that employ them still count success in terms of quantity, primarily the quantity of dollars brought in. To draw again on a contemporary analogy, scientific research and the production or training of researchers expanded in bubble-like fashion following World War II; that bubble was pricked in the early 1970s and has been deflating with increasingly obvious consequences ever since.

One consequence of the bubble’s burst is that there are far too many would-be researchers and would-be research institutions chasing grants. Increasing desperation leads to corner-cutting and frank cheating. Senior researchers established in comfortable positions guard their own privileged circumstances jealously, and that means in some part not allowing their favored theories and approaches to be challenged by the Young Turks. Hence knowledge monopolies and research cartels.

A consequence of Big Science is that very few if any researchers can work as independent entrepreneurs. They belong to teams or institutions with inevitably hierarchical structures. Where independent scientists owed loyalty first and foremost to scientific truth, now employee researchers owe loyalty first to employers, grant-givers, sponsors. (For this change in ideals and mores, see John Ziman, Prometheus Bound, 1994.) Science used to be compared to religion, and scientists to monks – in the late 19th century, T. H. Huxley claimed quite seriously to be giving Lay Sermons on behalf of the Church of Scientific; but today’s scientists, as already said, are more like Wall Street professionals than like monks.

Since those who pay the piper call the tune, research projects are chosen increasingly for non-scientific reasons; perhaps political ones, as when President Nixon declared war on cancer at a time when the scientific background knowledge made such a declaration substantively ludicrous and doomed to failure for the foreseeable future. With administrators in control because the enterprises are so large, bureaucrats set the rules and make the decisions. For advice, they naturally listen to the senior well-established figures, so grants go only to "mainstream" projects.

Nowadays there are conflicts of interest everywhere. Researchers benefit from individual consultancies. University faculty establish personal businesses to exploit their specialized knowledge which was gained largely at public expense. Institutional conflicts of interest are everywhere: There are university-industry collaborations; some universities have toyed with establishing their own for-profit enterprises to exploit directly the patents generated by their faculty; research universities have whole bureaucracies devoted to finding ways to make money from the university’s knowledge stock, just as the same or parallel university bureaucracies sell rights to use the university’s athletics logos. It is not at all an exaggeration to talk of an academic-government-industry complex whose prime objective is not the search for abstract scientific truth.

Widely known is that President Eisenhower had warned of the dangers of a military-industrial complex. Much less well known is that Eisenhower was just as insightful and prescient about the dangers from Big Science:

in holding scientific research and discovery in respect . . . we must also be alert to the . . . danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite

That describes in a nutshell today’s knowledge monopolies. A single theory acts as dogma once the senior, established researchers have managed to capture the cooperation of the political powers. The media take their cues also from the powers that be and from the established scientific authorities, so "no one" even knows that alternatives exist to HIV/AIDS theory, to the theory that human activities are contributing to climate change, that the Big Bang might not have happened, that it wasn’t an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, and so on.

The bitter lesson is that the traditionally normal process of science, open argument and unfettered competition, can no longer be relied upon to deliver empirically arrived at, relatively objective understanding of the world’s workings. Political and social activism and public-relations efforts are needed, as public policies are increasingly determined by the actions of lobbyists backed by tremendous resources and pushing a single dogmatic approach. No collection of scientifically impeccable writings can compete against an International Panel on Climate Change and a Nobel Peace Prize awarded for Albert Gore’s activism and "documentary" film – and that is no prophesy, for the evidence is here already, in the thousands of well-qualified environmental scientists who have for years petitioned for an unbiased analysis of the data. No collection of scientifically impeccable writings can compete against the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, innumerable eminent charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, when it comes to questions of HIV and AIDS – and again that is no prophesy, because the data have been clear for a couple of decades that HIV is not, cannot be the cause of AIDS.

As to HIV and AIDS, maybe the impetus to truth may come from politicians who insist on finding out exactly what the benefits are of the roughly $20 billion we – the United States – are spending annually under the mistaken HIV/AIDS theory. Or maybe the impetus to truth may come from African Americans, who may finally rebel against the calumny that it is their reprehensible behavior that makes them 7 to 20 times more likely to test "HIV-positive" than their white American compatriots; or perhaps from South African blacks who are alleged to be "infected" at rates as high as 30%, supposedly because they are continually engaged in "concurrent multiple sexual relationships," having multiple sexual partners at any given time but changing them every few weeks or months. Or from a court case or series of them, because of ill health caused by toxic antiretroviral drugs administered on the basis of misleading "HIV" tests; or perhaps because one or more of the "AIDS denialists" wins libel judgment against one or more of those who call them Holocaust deniers. Maybe the impetus to truth may come from the media finally seizing on any of the above as something "news-worthy."

At any rate, the science has long been clear, and the need is for action at a political, social, public-relations, level. In this age of knowledge monopolies and research cartels, scientific truth is suppressed by the most powerful forces in society. It used to be that this sort of thing would be experienced only in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but nowadays it happens in democratic societies as a result of what President Eisenhower warned against: "public policy . . . become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

December 19, 2009

Henry H. Bauer [send him mail] is Dean Emeritus of Arts & Sciences and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Science Studies at Virginia Tech. His books about science and scientific unorthodoxies include Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method (1992), Science or Pseudoscience (2001), and The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory (2007). He currently writes an HIV Skepticism blog.

Copyright © 2009 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.