Document:Brown reviews Bialy

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A Window on a World
Review of Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS
by Darin Brown
23 April 2006



In his new book published by the Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, Harvey Bialy recounts Peter Duesberg's besieging of the dual citadels of oncogenes and HIV with humor, wit, and a close eye for irony. There were times reading this book when I had to stop from laughing so hard, and only later did the enormous gravity of the stories begin to really set in. This book stands alongside Serge Lang's Challenges and John Crewdson's Science Fictions as one of the most potent works on the politics of modern science.

Tony the Paper Tyger [Fauci] should not be pleased with this book, because it airs a lot of dirty laundry. Anyone who still holds the naive assumption that all biomedical science proceeds as a disinterested quest for truth according to some Platonic scientific method is in for a rude awakening. The fact is that most scientists rely on the official judgments of Science and Nature, and Bialy shows how, with respect to oncogenes and HIV, a relatively small group of researchers have been able to manipulate the system to convince the rest of the scientific community of the validity of their paradigms. After reading the accounts, it is difficult to determine whether the researchers or the journal editors themselves deserve more blame.

Most people will pick up this book because of its coverage of Duesberg's HIV position. Indeed, Chapter 5, covering President Mbeki of South Africa and his Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel, as well as the "Durban Declaration" and the 2000 AIDS Conference from which it took its name, is alone worth the price of the book. But the coverage of the aneuploidy theory of cancer is even more interesting, because it is Duesberg's challenge to the oncogene theory of cancer which may very well prove even more important and revolutionary than his HIV/AIDS critiques. The HIV hypothesis is an obvious blunder – akin to someone stepping off a cliff and then denying gravity in mid-flight. The oncogene theory represents a long, slow deterioration of standards, a deterioration which, (pardon the metaphor) has infected many other areas of science, most especially AIDS research itself.

The book is extensively documented and contains helpful comments in notes at the end of each chapter. The details do become a bit technical at times, but a patient reader with some knowledge of virology and immunology should not have trouble following, and many potentially unfamiliar terms are explained.

© 2006