Sunday, February 21, 2010

AIDS, South Africa, Lysenko and Climate Change Denial - when ideology trumps science

In an article talking on the hopeful prospect of controlling HIV through a combination of screening and treatment, we are reminded of one of the great tragedies of the 20th century -- how the ideology of Mandela's African National Congress tarnished his personal legacy and, far more importantly, led the premature death of millions ...

Blanket HIV testing 'could see Aids dying out in 40 years' | World news |

... More than 30 million people are infected with HIV globally and two million die of the disease each year...

... The disease is overwhelmingly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for a quarter of all HIV/Aids cases globally. Half of these are in South Africa....

The ANC in general, and Thabo Mbeki in particular, chose ideology over science. Mandela, by then an old man, did not object. Millions will die, even with the best current treatment millions will suffer and many will die prematurely.

Stalin made a similar mistake, choosing Lysenkoism over Darwinism, in part because Lysenko suited Stalin's ideology. Millions died of the famines that arose in part from following Lysenko's practices.

In modern America the GOP is today following the grim path of the African ANC and the Soviet Communist Party. Again, ideology is preferred to science. Again millions of lives are at stake.

There is hope. Most of the GOP disagrees with me about the responsibility of the strong for the weak, and much of the GOP doesn't share my thoughts on the role of fundamentalist Christian theology in American governance. Those differences are fundamental, and not directly amenable to logic or scientific resolution. On the other hand, the GOP's opposition to climate science seems more opportunistic and tribal. There is room for negotiation, including creation of a Grand Jury of Science to help move the cultural debate.

This is not the time to give up. GOP -- don't become the ANC.

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