Why deny only one part of science? IDists branch out into AIDS denial


Over at Uncommon Descent, the blog of William Dembski and friends, a contributor has a post up discussing Peter Duesberg’s aneuploidy hypothesis for cancer (which Orac discussed here for more background). The post itself is a bit confusing–it’s titled “When Darwinism Hurts,” and according to the author’s clarification, it’s about “Darwinism” leading us down the wrong path as far as cancer research goes. (Though whether cancer would be due to mutations in specific genes or in chromosomes, it’s still an evolutionary process, but I digress…) To me, anyway, the more interesting portion was in the comments section, where both DaveScot and Sal Cordova imply also that HIV might not cause AIDS; more over at Aetiology.


Also, for the past several months, a large fraction of the UD posts have been global warming denial.

Yes, ignorance knows no bounds. Sad to see how the same lack of skepticism that rules ID is not limited to evolution. Scientific ignorance indeed.

My visits to the lunatic fringes have convinced me that a new (to medicine) syndrome exists. It is variously called, polykookism, polycrackpotism, polydelusionalism, polyrealitydenialism, etc.. Some people seem to just collect as many delusions as possible and believe them all.

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if a lot of creos also don’t believe HIV causes AIDS, don’t believe the holocaust happened, don’t see global warming, believe the moon landings were faked, do believe that there is a nest of UFO aliens at area51, and many other odd, strange, and zero proof “theories”.

After all, 20% of the US population still believes that the sun goes around the earth. I expect a new entry in the next edition of the DSM.

Some of these beliefs are harmless, whether there is a flying saucer factory under the Nevada desert or not isn’t going to affect one’s everyday life (I hope). Some of them are deadly. In the last year alone, we have seen two people decline modern medicine (cancer and hypertension) for alternative quackery. They are both dead way before their time.

We often ask them why the normal rules of evidence apply in computers, the germ theory of disease, rocketry, and not in phylogenetic evidence (which can hardly be epistemically based on unfathomable miraculous causes), fossils, and the extrapolation of known mutation and “selection” processes to explain not only the “micro” scale of change but also the “macro” scale of change—the two of which are very similar (speciation being the only difference “in kind”).

Maybe they’re taking our counsel to heart. First deny that HIV causes AIDS, that biology has anything to do with medicine (well, they’re halfway there with evolution denial), then they can move on to levitation through meditation and telepathy. Why worry about our pathetic level of detail when magic can do it all?

Indeed, the latter has always been the implied message of ID. I applaud their consistency, where it exists, and urge them on to greater and greater consistency.

Come on Phillip Johnson, you know you want it. Why should evidence ever matter, when you have pompous lawyerly speeches which you have to replace all of that fussy detail nonsense that those “materialists” laughably concern themselves with.

Glen D http://geocities.com/interelectromagnetic

I posted what’s below at Aetiology.

I think the irresponsible statements about cancer deserve to be addressed, as well as those about HIV. Aetiology was overwhelmed by anti-HIV trolls.

Peter Duesberg, despite being an HIV denier, may have some merit when he suggests that aneuploidy is important in cancer. However, some leukemias and lymphomas are not aneuploid, and dysregulated expression of multiple genes is likely to be the main reason why aneuploidy is a marker for cells with abnormal phenotypes. I concede below that some sort of gene-independent chromosome effect is not inconceivable, but to me, personally, that sounds like a real stretch. Unlike the IDers who quote him, Duesberg surely understands what chromosomes and genes are. I state this merely to make it clear who I am criticizing.

As with “random mutation and natural selection”, there may be a semantic difference, with some legitimate scientists using short hand terminology and implying a broad interpretation. My harsher statements below don’t apply to someone who uses the term “aneuploidy” to imply “gene dysregulation resulting from and mutations associated with aneuploidy”.

The ostensible “aneuploidly versus mutation” argument is an oversimplified straw man, and can only appeal to those quite ignorant of cancer biology.

I’m going to simplify a bit, too, to make my point, but in a way that is non-deceptive.

Biochemical and cell biological events that disrupt chromosome structure, typically in offsring cells during cell division, are obviously a type of mutation. It is primarily the resulting disruption of gene expression that leads to an abnormal phenotype, of course. Genes are disrupted, or removed from their regulatory environment in one chromosomal millieu and placed into an abnormal location.

Constitutive expression of a gene which should be regulated, lack of expression of a regulatory gene, etc, can result.

Arguing that disruption of chromosome structure is somehow distinct from disruption (“mutation”) of genes and their regulatory elements is, in essence, a confession that one does not know what genes or chromosomes are.

In lymphoma and leukemia, cancers of cells which are already circulating when normal, the resulting translocations frequently lead to the transposition of an oncogene.

This link leads to promotional material for a commercial lab, but it discusses several example translocations quite nicely.


With solid tissue cancers, the situation is more complex. By the time a clone of solid tissue cells has become metastatic, it has undergone an enormous number of abnormal genetic events.

Cancer is clearly analagous to evolution. A population of genetically variant cells emerges, which is free from the controls of multicellularity. The individual cells enjoy a selective advantage, relative to cells that “obey the rules” (not necessarily by dividing faster). They are able to consume a disproportionate amount of the available resources, and to some degree “take over”. Eventually, the cancer cells “foolishly” destroy their own environment (in this case, the individual multicellular organism), and go extinct.

It is conceivable that chromosome structure alone might have some gene-independent effect, but there is no reason to think that this would be major.

ID jacka$$es are remarkably deficient in any idea of what they are talking about. They repeatedly show that even basic biochemistry and genetics are utterly unknown

raven Wrote:

My visits to the lunatic fringes

Oh frak, one of my favorite commenters have turned to the dark side! Why, oh why, couldn’t he/she be content with the frequent visits from the grave yard of minds, that we can observe here and on Tara’s pages?

More seriously, perhaps this new cluster syndrome is polyphrenic in nature? Dembski can go from math to fart in a heartbeat. OTOH dumps do tend to gather all sorts of waste…


.…..have turned to the dark side!

It’s not that bad! LOL. I said visit, not move there.

I can only take small doses of much of the reality denial movements. They are very disturbing. If it didn’t matter, there would be no reason to spend any time at all.

But trying to pretend that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS is potentially fatal. HIV/AIDS is one of the three top single agent killers in the world, 40 million infected, 3 million die of it each year. Most of those sick people would see turning down state of the art medical care that could add 20 years to their life, as incomprehensible. So do I.

My take as a cancer researcher on Duesberg’s chromosomal aneuploidy hypothesis:


Basically, Duesberg commits the cardinal sin of the crank in that to him it’s all-or-nothing, either-or thinking. It’s either mutation or aneuploidy. Of course, we in the cancer research biz know that there’s no reason that both couldn’t be major contributors to the development of cancer. There’s little doubt that chromosomal derangements are big players in cancer, and there’s lots of interesting research going on about it right now. However, Duesberg did not originate the concept, nor has he done particularly compelling work on the topic.

Re “polykookism, polycrackpotism, polydelusionalism, polyrealitydenialism, etc..’



Henry J Wrote:


Oh, snap!

LOLparrot cackles softly on Dembski’s shoulder: “C no crackers. Iz nuts!”

Cancer, (the unregulated, rapid growth of human cells) is caused when a cell loses it’s program, and the cell replacing it also doesn’t have the correct programming. Then the cell doesn’t know what it’s to do, or become, so it grows haywire, and so the the cells that replace it because they don’t have the right code (program), either.

(Please, accept my apology for the run on sentence.)

Enzymes play an important part in keeping our cells healthy, which encompasses our cells keeping their proper programming.

There is, of course, a lot more to cancer than this, but this is the mechanism going on in most, if not all cancers, at the basic cellular level.

If anyone would like more clarification, please ask.

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chris torvik Wrote:

Cancer, (the unregulated, rapid growth of human cells) is caused when a cell loses it’s program

As in most or all diseases, evolution is an integral part in its pathology and treatment. Besides the effects of cancers adaption to its environment, we know that all cancers can’t be described as simply loss of function in genetic material.

“… many cancers originate from a viral infection … they appear to be the second most important risk factor for cancer development in humans … The mode of virally-induced tumors can be divided into two, acutely-transforming or slowly-transforming. In acutely transforming viruses, the viral particles carry a gene that encodes for an overactive oncogene called viral-oncogene (v-onc), and the infected cell is transformed as soon as v-onc is expressed. In contrast, in slowly-transforming viruses, the virus genome is inserted, especially as viral genome insertion is an obligatory part of retroviruses, near a proto-oncogene in the host genome. The viral promoter or other transcription regulation elements in turn cause overexpression of that proto-oncogene, which in turn induces uncontrolled cellular proliferation. [Bold added.]”

What do you know, even such a basic resource as Wikipedia knows this!

chris torvik Wrote:

If anyone would like more clarification, please ask.

What we would like, is that ignoramuses doesn’t insert pseudoscience or anti-science into science blogs while pretending otherwise. Questions or discussions are welcome - pushing lies are not.

Chris Torvik -

Please feel free to use my questions as a guide for actually learning something.

Cancer, (the unregulated, rapid growth of human cells)

What do you mean by “growth”? (Individual cells getting bigger?) Are all cancers characterized by rapid cell division relative to their normal counterparts? Is all misregulated cell division an example of “cancer”?

is caused when a cell loses it’s program,

What is a cell’s “program” and how does it “lose” it? There is potentially a meaningful answer here - but it should be detailed and specific.

and the cell replacing it also doesn’t have the correct programming.

What on earth do you mean by “the cell that replaces it”?

Then the cell doesn’t know what it’s to do, or become, so it grows haywire, and so the the cells that replace it because they don’t have the right code (program), either.

What does “grows haywire” mean?

(Please, accept my apology for the run on sentence.)

Apology accepted. Now please apologize for posting nonsense.

Enzymes play an important part in keeping our cells healthy, which encompasses our cells keeping their proper programming.

Please define the word “enzyme”. Please explain how enzymes help our cells “keep their proper programming”. (Again, despite the choice of poor terminology on your part, there is potentially a meaningful answer here. Please be detailed and specific.)

There is, of course, a lot more to cancer than this, but this is the mechanism going on in most, if not all cancers, at the basic cellular level.

This doesn’t make sense, but might if you answer the questions above.

If anyone would like more clarification, please ask.

Where did you get your information from?

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on July 2, 2007 8:40 AM.

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