REPLY TO PERTH GROUP
From: email@example.com (david rasnick)
Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000
Subject: Commentary on commentary
Just a short commentary on a commentary on a commentary-very Talmudic.
Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Val Turner, John Papadimitriou, Helman
Alphonso, David Causer, Barry Page published an email commentary on the
commentary that Charlie Geshekter and I provided at the request of
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa last January.
Both Charlie and I stand by what we said. We just plain disagree on
technical details with the Perth Group. Technical debates are the heart and
soul of science. But what's going on in South Africa right now has precious
little to do with science.
AIDS is a sociological and political phenomenon-not science. That's why
Mbeki's idea of a scientific panel to investigate the questions of AZT, HIV
and AIDS is even more important than the actual panel itself. Just by
floating the idea of the panel has brought about media, journalistic, and
public discourse on these issues, albeit often shrill and ad hominem.
Mbeki and his staff, the journalists, the media, and especially the people
of the world need above all else simple, clear discourse on all things
AIDS. They don't need anyone, including Charlie and me, replacing the
ready-made answers of the HIV establishment with a new set of ready-made
answers from a new perspective.
Questions are far more powerful than answers. That's why I choose to ask
questions in the hope of stimulating others to ask their own questions. An
avalanche of questions from people all over the world will bring down the
Apartheid of AIDS.
The analyses and activities of the Perth Group, Duesberg, Rethinking AIDS,
Alive & Well, HEAL, ICMJ, the few heroic journalists etc. are powerful
catalysts that assist people in formulating their own questions. It will be
very satisfying to know that we played some small role in stimulating an
autocatalyzed flood of questioning around the world.
Maybe someday soon there will be a real scientific forum for debating the
technical details of AIDS. At that time I will be eager to participate in
any and all discussions. But until that happens, my energy and efforts are
focused on supporting Mbeki's heroic efforts to make it possible and
perhaps even fashionable to ask simple questions about all things AIDS.
That will be a Herculean task, but so was dismantling Apartheid peacefully.
Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000
Subject: Response to Rasnick & Perth Group Message
Not only do I fully endorse what Dave Rasnick has stated here but I stand
firmly with President Mbeki's efforts to get both sides talking to each other.
I have the utmost professional respect and scientific admiration for Val
Turner and Eleni Papadopulos and learned an immense amount from them when we
were together in Perth in late November. Both were extraordinarily generous
with their time and lavished me with warm Down Under hospitality.
As a physician, Val provided me with perceptive, effective advice about how a
non-physician (like me) might address the HIV/AIDS issue with doctors in
South Africa; I followed his advice with good results at a seminar I
conducted at the National Medical University (Pretoria) a week later.
The criticisms of the Perth Group about the response that Rasnick and I gave
to the President's Office in South Africa ignore or overlook an essential
point. Like the Perth Group, we believe strongly in the need to provide
compressed and distilled scientific data for a "non-specialist" audience, to
use the Perth Group's term.
We had 48 hours to do so, had no advanced notice, had to operate in a way
that would not violate confidentialities, and were separated by 175 miles.
They were not optimal conditions and we didn't have vast institutional
resources at our fingertips, but we vowed to respond to the President's Office.
So we used the faxes, telephone and emails to good effect.
It wasn't perfect. Given more time and breathing space we might have brought
others into our overall response. But we could not recall another time when a
Head of State had requested that adherents to the HIV/AIDS dissident
perspective provide some answers to questions. The situation called for a
quick action that was buttressed by references and brevity.
There are several lengthy paragraphs on the Perth Group's response that I,
for one, would like to see compressed and summarized for a "non-specialist"
For instance, there is a paragraph that quotes Philip Mortimer, and then a
paragraph immediately preceding that one and the two that immediate follow
it. Would the Perth Group show me how they would go about summarizing that
information for a "non-specialist" audience, one that consisted of, say, an
economist who was a Head of State and a historian of Africa?
Based on my knowledge of modern political economies in Africa, my own
observations of rural life in South Africa, many previous visits to rural
parts of Northeast Africa, recent interviews with "leading" HIV/AIDS
researchers on SAfrica, discussions with clinicians in Africa, and a
reasonably knowledgeable (albeit "non-specialist's") familiarity with much
HIV/AIDS literature regarding Africa, I draw some tentative conclusions about
what is making Africans sick and suggest inexpensive but effective therapies
to restore them to health.
All of these facts, theories and theories about the facts are subject to
further gathering of data, interpretations and observations to be tested
against the hypothesis.
I conclude with an observation by Einstein that: "things should be made as
simple as possible, and not one bit simpler." Thus, malnutrition is the
world's leading cause of immunodeficiency and poverty is the world deadliest
I agree with the quotation from Plato about we all ought "to be fighting for
the truth." But I also agree with Darwin who noted that "to kill an error is
as good a service as establishing a new truth or fact."
It was Ibsen who warned that "truths are by no means the wiry Methusalehs
some people think they are. A normally constituted truth lives as a rule,
seventeen or eighteen years; at the outside twenty, seldom longer. And truths
so stricken in years are always shockingly thin."
It is now nearly 20 years since Michael Gottleib first claimed to have
identified this new infectious syndrome in Los Angeles.
Perhaps it will be in South Africa that Plato, Einstein, Darwin, Ibsen and
the AIDS dissidents join forces to challenge the orthodoxy face-to-face.