A modest proposal 29 May 2003
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Aiden P. Gregg,
Reseach Fellow in Social Psychology
Department of Psychology, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ

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Re: A modest proposal

The Perth Group contend that:

>To claim proof for purification/isolation there must be at >least one study and a few confirmatory studies where the >supernatant from infected cells is banded in sucrose >gradients:

>Electron micrographs of the 1.16gm/ml band contain nothing >else but particles within the morphological >characteristics of retroviruses

>The particles are infectious. The experiment must use >controls, that is, banded supernatant from non- infected >cultures which, with the exception of “HIV”, have been >treated exactly in the same way as the infected cultures. >Also this experiment must be performed blindly.

Now, perhaps, as Dr. Foley contends, meeting these criteria is not the *only* way to prove beyond reasonable doubt that HIV, or anoy other virus, exists. However, do the Perth Group and Dr. Foley at least agree that meeting these criteria would be *sufficient* to prove the existence of HIV, and that failing to find any HIV after meeting these criteria would at least cast some doubt on the existence of HIV? If so, why doesn't some finicky bench scientist, with inclinations more empirical than argumentative, carry out the proposed series of experiments, and put an end to a protracted and acrimonious debate? The Perth Group would surely like to see their skepticism validated, while mainstream AIDS researchers would surely like to see these dissidents decisively refuted by an experiment that those dissidents have themselves proposed. How expensive can it be to conduct these studies? Is there no agency will fund them? Is there no philantropist who can be appealed to?

Even if most mainstream scientists are satisfied that HIV exists, would it not be sound scientific practice to conduct a rigorous experiment that demonstrates this anyway? Compare: The rationale for homeopathic medicine is surely nonsensical. [Most obviously, it is not possible to dilute individual atoms or molecules further, and it would in any case not be possible to clear distilled water of infinitesimal quantities of confounding substances.) I, and most mainstream scientists, don't believe that any experiment is necessary to explode homeopathy for the quackery it is. However, I, and several other mainstream scientists, nonetheless do believe that it is salutary to conduct methodologically rigorous studies that explode homeopathy empirically, for all to see.

So, would it not be equally salutary for mainstream AIDS researchers to explode the claims of dissidents by isolating, according to the Perth Group's specifications, the HIV they know exists? After all, HIV is not a phantom menace, a subatomic particle, or a postmodernist construction. Rather, it is a biological entity with well-defined properties that is the cause of a global pandemic. So why not just get it over with and run the studies the Perth Group recommend, thereby silencing them for good? Surely, mainstream HIV scientists could not be afraid of risking the refutation of a cherished hypothesis?

Aiden P. Gregg, Ph.D (Yale)

Competing interests:   None declared