Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma

Via Pharyngula, we find an article about HIV denialists. These are the people who claim that HIV does not cause AIDS. This belief is big in Africa, but even people in the developed world fall for it. At least with creationism, I can understand the appeal. I don’t understand the appeal of HIV denialism.

However, like the evolution denialists, the HIV-ignorers use a familiar approach. A section of the article is titled “Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma”. Does any of this sound familiar?

Since the ideas proposed by deniers do not meet rigorous scientific standards, they cannot hope to compete against the mainstream theories. They cannot raise the level of their beliefs up to the standards of mainstream science; therefore they attempt to lower the status of the denied science down to the level of religious faith, characterizing scientific consensus as scientific dogma.
Deniers also paint themselves as skeptics working to break down a misguided and deeply rooted belief. They argue that when mainstream scientists speak out against the scientific “orthodoxy,” they are persecuted and dismissed.
HIV deniers accuse scientists of quashing dissent regarding the cause of AIDS, and not allowing so-called “alternative” theories to be heard. However, this claim could be applied to any well-established scientific theory that is being challenged by politically motivated pseudoscientific notions—for example, creationist challenges to evolution.

2 Responses to “Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma”

  1. Dave Says:

    Two points here. I live in South Africa and get to see the humiliation of Aids all around. South Africa has the highest Aids incidence in the world, and its leaders really do not like taking responsibility blaming the sexual behaviour of its people for the epidemic. Easier then to just pretend that Aids is a “syndrome” unrelated to HIV, and draw on the “science” of the denialists. I don’t condone this approach, but I can at least see where it is coming from.

    The second point is that the portrayal of science as faith is an accusation levelled at mainstream Aids science. Actually, the denialists are guilty of portraying faith as science. Faith has all the properties needed to be a denialist. Selective use of evidence and documentation is one of the techniques used by faith (as evidenced by the anti-homosexuality selectively gleaned from Leviticus) . Faith also likes to set the outcome prior to undertaking the investigation. Really not science at all. And 99% of scientists will accept they are wrong if you can bring the evidence. This is really not faith at all.

    Apart from this, you have a fun blog. Keep rolling the stories.

  2. Dave Says:

    Woops. I see you cover my second point rather nicely in your “Real Science vs. Creation Science” story. Good on Dr “L”.