In 2002 Arnold S. Relman, a professor of medicine at Harvard University commented that: “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country [USA] are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”
Those who are interested in the notion of truth and its pursuit recognize what led Professor Relman to blow the whistle on his profession and its standards. His observation can be applied to almost every academic and research domain. Rather than seeking the truth, what our universities and research institutes do most often is to bend an ‘image of truthfulness’ and an ‘illusion of scientific discourse’ to fit with the interests of those who are powerful enough to dictate their views. We do it to our past (history) and to physics, chemistry, biology, political science, legal studies and most other contemporary scholarly domains.
Yet, although truth is evasive and the subject of relentless assault by those who are supposed to be its guardians, truth survives. Miraculously it manifests a unique and undeniable trait: truth always unveils itself.
Not many living scientists have been subject to as much public hounding as professor Peter Duesberg. Some have come close to accusing the scientist of mass killing. And yet it was Duesberg who, well ahead of most, noted that medical science had gradually become compromised and treacherous in its ethos.
Whether we like to admit it or not, Peter Duesberg predicted the current institutional turmoil to do with Novel Coronavirus and the dangerous conjunction between those who mimic the image of ‘scientific thinking,’ and the pharmaceutical industry and other oligarchs who see financial opportunity in human suffering.
Duesberg is known to many as the ‘HIV Denier.’ In the 1980s, while he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, he came to the conclusion that the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) is a harmless passenger virus* and had little to do with the AIDS condition.
I do not have an opinion, nor am I qualified to comment on Duesberg’s scientific theories. Yet, it was Duesberg’s work that alerted many critical minds, including mine, to the disturbing fact that medical science had lost its way. Perhaps to some it is more disturbing that in the long run, it has become clear that whether Dueseberg’s science was right or wrong, the gist of his argument has been adopted by most of us, including those who deny the validity of his science.
Duesberg’s research led him to believe that it wasn’t HIV that caused AIDS, instead he thought it was the lifestyle choices within the male gay community at the time that made this community so vulnerable. He referred primarily to illicit drug use and profligate sexual interactions. He practically blamed the victims, but when the victims made the necessary changes in lifestyle, AIDS somehow became ‘less infectious.’
Duesberg was a romantic 19th century style scientist, he understood the essence of scientific thinking in general and of medical science in particular. He observed that AIDS patients were dying of a variety of diseases that were related to the failure of the immune system, however, the ill only became ‘AIDS victims’ once diagnosed as ‘HIV positive.’ Duesberg smelled a rat already in the 1980s. He grasped that we had accumulated numbers rather than thinking about the problem scientifically. He identified the corrosive role of the pharmaceutical industry and the dangerous impact of world health institutions. Now at the peak of the Corona crisis, many of us can hardly manage to bear the stink of that rat that grew exponentially into a rotten dinosaur.
The medical discipline is traditionally defined as the science of dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease. Forms of Medical Science have appeared in many different cultures and variations, but throughout, the science is primarily committed to maintaining health and to identifying symptoms and defining a course of treatment.
There are two crucial parts to medicine, 1.the diagnosis – the art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms. 2. The course of action. We understand that Western medicine existed successfully before we possessed the means to conduct forensic ‘viral tests’ whether for HIV or Covid 19. In 1917, at the time of the Spanish Flu, patients were diagnosed as carriers of the disease without the help of ‘bio-labs’ and forensic tests. The same applies to malaria, pneumonia, different cancers and so on. They were then treated according to the knowledge and means available.
It should be embarrassing to admit that four month after the outbreak of the contemporary health crisis, and over a century after the Spanish Flu, medical science and the public health authorities haven’t progressed much. They probably have less of an understanding of the philosophy at the core of their profession. We see governments desperate to put their hands on ventilators and CV19 tests just to find out that ventilators are actually deadly and the tests do not really work. In fact, we learn, just a bit too late, that putting patients on their belly often achieves better results than a ventilator. As in the case of AIDS we insist upon reducing a difficult situation involving a manifold of symptoms and complex implications into a Covid-19 ‘binary test.’
Duesberg didn’t deny that young males were dying in large numbers from a score of infectious diseases in the 1980s. What he doubted was whether it was all caused by a single mysterious virus. He believed, and with reason, that the human experience and human health are complex and cannot be reduced into binary reasoning or a single factor. Duesburg, like Relman a decade and a half later, realised that medical science in the West has been compromised. Instead of the maintenance of health and diagnosis and treatment of disease, it has committed itself to the maintenance of the pharmaceutical industry and other satellite institutions associated with that corrupt universe.
Peter Duesberg wasn’t the first to point at the collapse of the medical scientific ethos. Notably, the Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger realised in the early days of the 20th century that medical science was about to lose its bond with a holistic understanding of the human as an organism and was destined to morph into “a matter of drugs, a mere administration of chemicals.” It seems likely Duesberg would have found common ground with Weininger.
Some Americans were upset in the last few days by the fact that many fatalities in NYC were added to the Corona victims’ list despite the fact that they never tested positive. I hold the opposite view. Medical science can operate perfectly well without Covid-19 tests. In Britain we trust members of the general public to diagnose themselves as Covid-19 carriers and to self -isolate accordingly. If a Brit can diagnose himself as a carrier of a lethal virus without a test, we should assume that an educated American medical professional can do the same for a patient.
What Peter Duesberg understood well ahead of most people was that the so-called Global Health Organisations may not have been operating with what is traditionally regarded as the core medical ethos. Thirty years later, we are locked down by our governments that are following the directives of such an organisation, one that offers little or no medical scientific thinking let alone an exit strategy from the current crisis.
The lesson we draw from the Duesberg Saga is not novel. Truth, wisdom and creative brilliance are the property of just a few. For a society to move forward and fulfil its potential, it must learn to tolerate its mavericks, those who most often scare us in our guts. The English speaking Empire was spectacular in celebrating brilliance, revolutionary and controversial thinking, but those days are long over. When the USA is brave enough to look into its decline, it may identify the authoritarian elements that robbed America of the one quality that made America great.
* A passenger virus – an harmless virus that is frequently found in samples from diseased tissue but does not contribute to causing the disease.