Enough With the Prostitution of Science

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick takes advantage of the publication of two new books on the lies behind much of the anti-AIDS campaigns to make a strong point about the dangerous coupling of political interests with experts’ high-minded society-changing goals:

in a 1996 commentary on the British AIDS campaign […] journalist Mark Lawson accepted that the public had been misled over the threat of AIDS, but argued that the end of promoting sexual restraint (especially among the young) justified the means (exaggerating the risk of HIV infection): as he put it, ‘the government has lied and I am glad’.

This sort of opportunism is not confined to AIDS: in other areas where experts are broadly in sympathy with government policy – such as passive smoking, obesity and climate change – they have been similarly complicit in the prostitution of science to propaganda.

A few details that may or may not sound quite close to contemporary AGW campaigning:

  • the AIDS bureaucracy [is] a ‘byzantine’ world…in which ‘money eclipses truth’.
  • the British AIDS story is an example of a ‘glorious myth’ – a tale that is ‘gloriously or nobly false’, but told ‘for a good cause’.
  • ‘estimates and projections are “cooked” or made up’.
  • [they were] manipulating statistics to maximise their scare value
  • exaggerated claims for the scale of the HIV epidemic (and the risks of wider spread) […] enable authorities to claim the credit for subsequently lower figures, as they ‘ride to glory’ on curves showing declining incidence
  • the main problem of the mendacity […] is that it leads to misdirected, ineffective and wasteful campaigns […] while the real problems […] are neglected
  • over the past decade, mainstream AIDS scientists, including most infectious disease epidemiologists, have virtually all uncritically accepted the many “glorious” myths and misconceptions UNAIDS and AIDS activists continue to perpetuate’