Nature on AIDS Contrarians: Any of this ring a bell?

March 20, 2012

Does this, like, remind you of anything?


The University of Florence has launched an inquiry into the teaching activities of an academic who assisted on a course that denies the causal link between HIV and AIDS, and supervised students with dissertations on the same topic.

The Italian university’s internal ‘special commission’ will examine the “teaching behaviour and responsibility” of molecular biologist Marco Ruggiero, a university spokesman told Nature.

The move follows a letter to the institution’s rector, Alberto Tesi, by an Italian campaign group called the HIV Forum, which represents people infected with HIV and others concerned about the disease. It calls on him to disassociate the university from the “science and activities” of Ruggiero, who, the group says, is “internationally known” for denying the widely accepted link between HIV and AIDS, and promotes a potential cure for HIV involving an enriched probiotic yoghurt for which there is no proven evidence.

Tesi replied on 29 February to announce the special commission. This “will examine whether professor Ruggiero’s conduct complies with the institutional guidelines on teaching contents and adherence to the objectives of the official curriculum of biological sciences”, says university spokesman Duccio Di Bari, who adds that any misconduct would be dealt with internally. The commission comprises Elisabetta Cerbai, the university’s vice-chancellor for research; Paola Bruni, the dean of the School of Science; Sergio Romagnani, an emeritus professor and expert in immunology; and Massimo Benedetti, who is responsible for university legal affairs. They will hold hearings behind closed doors.

 The investigation is the latest twist in the fallout from a paper1 published in December in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology (IJAE) by researchers including Peter Duesberg, an academic at the University of California, Berkeley, well know for denying the link between HIV and AIDS. The paper, which challenges estimates of HIV–AIDS death tolls in South Africa, has received heavy criticism from scientists, who have questioned how it could have passed peer review, and has led two members of the IJAE editorial board to resign in protest (see ‘Paper denying HIV–AIDS link sparks resignation‘). That Ruggiero was one of the paper’s nine co-authors prompted the HIV Forum to write to the rector.

The forum cites two student dissertations mentored or co-mentored by Ruggiero that argue against the consensus that HIV causes AIDS23. “Most available evidence does not support a causative role for HIV in AIDS,” they both conclude.

The HIV Forum also refers to a short elective course, consisting of two half days, which Nature understands ran twice in the 2010/11 academic year, and which Ruggiero collaborated on, entitled: ‘The revolution of immunotherapy: prospects for the treatment of cancer and AIDS’. According to the description, the course teaches “the role of HIV in the pathogenesis of AIDS; association but not causation”.

“What devastating effects can such false teaching have on future physicians and their patients?,” asks the HIV Forum, stressing that although academic freedom is fundamental in teaching and research, it should not be misused to spread theories that they say are “lacking any scientific evidence”.

“We hope the Commission will be scientifically rigorous and we hope that it will state that the best way to protect academic freedom is to teach according to the worldwide recognized scientific method,” says a forum spokesperson.

Ruggiero, whose supporters have also written to the rector, says he has always operated with scientific integrity and is confident he will be able to give any explanations that the committee asks for. He draws parallels with an inquiry the University of California held two years ago into the conduct of Duesberg, which resulted in no charges.

“Florence is famous for having been the city of Galileo Galilei, the worldwide recognized symbol of the predominance of scientific freedom over dogmas. I am convinced that freedom of teaching and research is a stronghold of our university system,” he says. He adds that the student dissertations and the course were approved by the university.

The commission was welcomed by Fabio Marra, a professor of medicine at the university, who says the institution must shed “full light on the events”.

“I believe that every researcher has the right to submit his or her work through peer-reviewed journals, no matter how little credibility that data may have,” Marra says. “What is not acceptable is that personal theories, that are not supported by the weight of evidence, are taught to students that do not yet have the skills to form an independent opinion and to discriminate what they are being taught from what the bulk of the literature has shown.”

36 Responses to “Nature on AIDS Contrarians: Any of this ring a bell?”

  1. I’m sure you’re salivating already at the idea of finding a causal link between CO2 emissions and catastrophic AGW, a link of a strength remotely approaching the one between HIV and AIDS.

    Keep trying!

    Ps Admittedly it’s going to be difficult, as people die of AIDS now whilst according to the IPCC, CAGW is not expected to be detectable for another two or three decades.

  2. kronocide Says:

    Yes Maurizio, keep trying. Ruggiero = Galileo!

  3. Don’t be such an idiot kronocide…I’ll believe Ruggiero the day he injects himself HIV and doesn’t develop AIDS…

    Simply, Peter’s analogy is based on a substantial equivalence between the HIV-AIDS evidence (overwhelming to say the least) and the CO2-CAGW evidence (underwhelming to say the least). If you had any hint of what logic is, you’d have pointed that out to him.

  4. There’s another alternate reality comment by Maurizio Morabito.

    Wow! The IPCC said that? Would you care to provide me with an actual source to that quote? I’m not paid enough by the illuminati to keep up with all the distortions that are being invented on a daily basis by the professional denialist blogs.

    Wow! They almost had me going… for a second I believed there actually was a link between atmospheric CO2 concentration and global temperature! Those hundreds of studies and multiple independent lines of observational evidence almost fooled me!

    Wow! You believe there is a link between HIV and AIDS? Are cou crazy? Don’t you get it? That university is investigating the heretic professor! They’re having hearings behind closed doors! What are they trying to cover up?

    Look, look, Maurizio! Go fetch this stick! The so-called consensus on HIV-AIDS… it’s a conspiracy! They0’re covering it up…
    Please dedicate the next 25,000 hours of your time to investigate this issue and take a break from your climate lobbying. You convinced me, I’ll take over from you for now. Please send my account number to your boss. I’ll defend big oil below this blog for just $5/comment. I’m sure that’s below your price.

  5. Eheheh Arne…no wonder you’re so confused. You can’t even read. I write about CO2 and CAGW, and you reply about CO2 and temperatures.

    I guess the IPCC reports are too complicated to mention at this stage and will wait until you pass some elementary school exam before trying with you again 😎

  6. Martin Lack Says:

    I touched on this over 6 months ago:
    “Therefore, I would humlby suggest that claiming that humanity is not the cause of climate change is even more stupid – and even more dangerous – than claiming (as did Thabo Mbeki for a long time) that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.”
    See: How to be a climate change “sceptic” (7 September 2011)

  7. “You can’t even read. I write about CO2 and CAGW, and you reply about CO2 and temperatures.”

    Yeah, what a maroon! You can’t have any confidence that global warming will be catastrophic because there has been no catastrophe yet!! How stupid do you have to be to not see that!?!

    You see, Arne, you don’t see All-Knowledge-All-Connected-All-The-Time, you know, the big picture that only visionaries like Maurizio Morabito (omnologos)TM can see with their enhanced cerebral cortexes and supercool owl eyeglasses.

    Cause if you were as smart as the rest of the Omnologos clown crew panoptics, leapfrogging as they are over disciplinary barriers [] you would know that CO2, global warming, temperatures, and heat are not related at all!

    What? That extra heat from increasing CO2 – heat that is equivalent to two Hiroshima bombs detonated every second – has to go somewhere you say? It is to laugh!

    Do you not realize that a true Omnologos uses introspection to uncover hidden passions and relate them to research in chemistry, anthropology, psychology, history, and the arts, she, too, has a treasured place on the wild frontiers of scientific truth-the terra incognita at the heartland of omnology. That’s where the heat goes, you silly little lamb!

  8. finding a causal link between CO2 emissions and catastrophic AGW, a link of a strength remotely approaching the one between HIV and AIDS.

    I take it you’re not familiar with the literature then…you have 150 years of catching up to do. By the way, what do you mean by catastrophic? World-wide extinctions like at the PETM, or some poor country experiencing massive floods, drought, crop failures?

    Also please link to the part of the IPCC report that says CAGW is not expected to be detectable for another two or three decades. Is it in WG I or II? Was it referring to a specific region or just global in general? I thought perhaps you were thinking of the Charney Report (1979), but I just skimmed it quickly and didn’t find that reference in there either but I could have missed it in my haste.

    At the end of the 70s some thought warming wouldn’t be detectable for a couple of decades although a smaller group said that it would be detectable quite soon if not detectable already–I believe Hansen might have been among the first to say it was now detectable back in the late 70s or early 80s????–so perhaps you’re thinking of an earlier report from the mid-1970s (I think Peter in one of his videos called the report an uncharacteristic muddled affair, in that there was no strong agreement on way or the other).

    But if it is from the IPCC, I’d really like to know which section and the context behind it. Thanks.

  9. I really don’t have time for the umpteenth cretin discussion about CO2 and warming, a discussion in which I’m supposed to say for the umpteen to the umpteenth time that I am perfectly aware of the relationship between CO2 and warming. And yes I am. So from now on I’ll leave alone the brainless idiots who refuse to read what I write and instead embroider their silliness as if I were an archetype rather than a person.

    As for the oft-unread IPCC, in its “Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)”, whose “Summary for Policymakers” (1) is dated November 18, 2011 (as ancient as four months ago, that is), these words appear:

    (p9) “Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame”

    Now I don’t know about AR5 but has anybody here ever wondered why in AR4 there was a WG1 Chapter 11 with projected regional changes for 2080-2099? Does anybody really believe that if the authors could have concentrated on projections, say, for 2020-2039 they wouldn’t have gone for those instead of looking eight decades ahead?

    So back to my unanswered point. The link HIV-AIDS is very very strong. The link CO2 emissions-CAGW is very very weak. If anybody wants to show there is no link HIV-AIDS they better do something very convincing. If anybody wants to show there is no link CO2 emissions-CAGW they have just to quote from AR4. And even if the models had it always right, there would be no link to show for “two to three decades”.

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