By Peter Duesberg

Rethinking AIDS Aug. 1992

Progress in the science of biology, like progress in biology itself, depends almost entirely on falsification. Evolution has "falsified" billions of point mutations to produce the readers of this newsletter. Falsification in the critical element for progress. It provides room for alternative ideas.

David Horrobin, the editor of Medical Hypothesis, writing in The Scientist (November 1990), notes: "Biomedical science may be more complex than physics and chemistry and therefor a more difficult field in which to theorize. But if we do not try we shall certainly not succeed," "We, more than any other scientists, labor under the misapprehension that our observations are theory-free. Because we are so little conscious of theory we fail to develop coherent underlying concepts against which our observations are clearly tested." "We have no tradition of analytical criticism of existing theoretical concepts." In addition, "...most established scientists do not actually want to make rapid progress. A state of atheoretical confusion is agreeable to them because in that state almost nothing can ever be shown to be wrong... As a result, general beliefs persist within the biomedical community long after the evidence is available to destroy them."

One of these general beliefs holds that all viruses are pathogenic, because some of them are. According to Gallo and Montagnier a new virus must cause a new disease, their "new disease - new agent" postulate (Scientific American 1988, 259:41). This seems plausible because in this century some of the worst human epidemics, the small pox, yellow fever, flu and most recently polio, have all been diagnosed as viral diseases and most have been eliminated or controlled with vaccines developed by scientists whose names are still household words, like Andrewes, Burnet, Enders, and Sabin. But in fact, most viral infections, even by potentially pathogenic viruses, are latent or restricted to small numbers of cells and hence asymptomatic. Above all, the modern virus hunters pursue their latent viruses oblivious to the lessons of lysogeny. Lysogenic lambda phage provided the first examples of how even the most deadly viruses can be harmless genetic passengers, as long as their cytocidal genenes are inactive.

Despite enormous efforts to date, the belief that the latent virus HIV is the cause of AIDS has not been proven and has not yielded clinically usefull results, a traditional indication for a poorly grounded hypothesis. Instead it has generated unprecedented volumes of scientific dinosaurs and a pandemic of public hysteria. According to Horrobin "...discovery in science almost always begins with an observation that can be seen to be anomalous against the background of clearly defined theoretical construct." It is hoped that AIDS will be the ultimate loser in the present battle for the best hypothesis. *