Contested Testimony in Scientific Disputes: the Case of the Origins of AIDS

Professor Brian Martin, the sociologist of science from Wollongong University, Australia, first entered the origins of AIDS debate in 1991, when he arranged for the publication of Louis Pascal's seminal monograph on the OPV theory: "What Happens When Science Goes Bad?". He has never concealed his belief that the OPV hypothesis has not been fairly treated by mainstream Science, and since about 1997, he has given me a great deal of helpful feedback on my work. During the last 15 years he has written a number of essays on origins-of-AIDS - and his sense of fairness and balance, plus his track-record as a defender of free speech in Science, have won the respect of all sides in the debate. At the Royal Society conference in 2000, he made a speech on "The burden of proof and the origin of AIDS" which caused a significant amount of defensive anger among supporters of Hilary Koprowski and the bushmeat theory. In his latest essay on "Contested Testimony", available here, he examines the question of whose testimony on key issues such as the CHAT campaigns in Africa (that gathered by Stanley Plotkin and associates, or that gathered by Edward Hooper and associates) is more likely to be reliable.

EH 3/11/07

"Back in ten minutes" - A Personal Message From Ed Hooper

I have greatly enjoyed the feedback and comment which this site has engendered since it first opened three years ago.

During those three years I have received thousands of messages and enquiries, and I have replied to the great majority. Occasionally one slips through the net, and to those persons I have failed to respond to, I do apologise.

The Death of Professor Paul M. Osterrieth - and its Significance for the Origins of AIDS debate

Professor Paul Osterrieth's long struggle is over. The man who worked at the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville (LMS) between 1956 and 1960 (for the last three years as head of the virology lab) died shortly before Christmas, and he was buried on December 22nd, 2006 at his village in the Ardennes. I am reliably informed that there was a large congregation at his funeral, including fellow-professors from his last place of work, the University of Liege, at least one of whom spoke warmly about him at the service.

Smoke and Mirrors from Stanley Plotkin

In the past on this site [for instance in "Plotkin's Chums (1): Eminent scientists sign their names to falsehoods"], I have referred to identical or nearly identical letters written by Stanley Plotkin and his allies to TV executives and film festival organisers, urging them not to show "The Origins of AIDS" documentary. The reason they offer for writing such letters is inherently dishonest, for each letter is based on the false assertion that the OPV theory of AIDS origin has been disproved.

Apart from legal threats delivered through their lawyers, this letter-writing campaign has been one of the major approaches that Dr Plotkin’s group have used in their ongoing attempts to counter, and indeed to suppress, the OPV hypothesis.

I have received copies of many of these letters, which I am holding in reserve for an appropriate moment. However, I have decided that it worth posting details about one such initiative on this web-site, to give readers some idea about how Dr Stanley Plotkin operates.

The Seeds of Doom

A new drama documentary about the origins of AIDS.

The Seeds of Doom
Story of a controversial theory about the origin of AIDS

The author and performer of this one-man play, Christian Biasco, is a 33-year-old Italian-speaking Swiss man who is taking a DEA (which falls somewhere between a Masters and a PhD) in the History of Medicine at the University of Geneva. After first coming across the origins-of-AIDS controversy in 2001, he decided to choose this as his specialist topic, and as the subject of his dissertation.

He also decided to write a play on the subject, "The Seeds of Doom", which he has performed in over 30 venues in Switzerland and northern Italy in the last three years, eliciting warm praise and considerable interest among those who have seen it. Christian refers to it as a "drama-documentary", and whenever possible he takes questions from the audience after the performance.

Three Warnings About Potential Future Malpractice by Members of "the Bushmeat Group"

Updated 13/08/06

I trust that my response to Beatrice Hahn’s latest article “The Hollywooding of Science” has not only restored some balance in the “origins of AIDS” debate, but that it has highlighted the flimsy nature of some of the claims that are routinely made by key advocates of the bushmeat hypothesis.

Some of the more common of these flawed claims are that Lindi camp used the “wrong subspecies” of chimpanzee, and that phylogenetic dating analysis “proves” that pandemic HIV-1 existed in the 1930s, long before the polio vaccine trials. Of course, the most common claim of all by the Hahns is that they have “laid to rest” the OPV hypothesis. But not one of these claims stand up to scrutiny.

Science Magazine Rejects Yet Another Submission

"Science" magazine rejects yet another submission that opposes the bushmeat hypothesis of AIDS origin.

On June 6th, 2006, I submitted the following letter ("The Origins of Pandemic HIV-1: A Different Hypothesis") to "Science" magazine, in response to Keele and Hahn's paper about Cameroonian chimp SIVs, published in late May in Science express.

This letter contains 300 words, the maximum permitted by Science for letters to the editor, and I also submitted a version at 358 words, which included some material about the flimsy nature of the phylogenetic dating of HIV-1.

On June 9th, I received a rejection note from "Science editorial" by e-mail. It did not afford the possibility of discussion or reply.

Given the history of rejection by Science and Nature of all submissions which question the hegemony of the bushmeat hypothesis of origin, this latest rejection letter is perhaps not surprising.

Beatrice Hahn. A Portrait of Scientific Certainty

Beatrice Hahn. A Portrait of Scientific Certainty: Doctor Strangelove in a Silk Shirt.

The Hollywooding of Science

"The Hollywooding of Science". Beatrice Hahn's latest SIV sequences from Cameroonian chimps: an alternative interpretation

Updated 5 August, 2006

If you're new to these issues, read this first.


a) The latest paper by Beatrice Hahn's team (B. F. Keele, B. H. Hahn et al: "Chimpanzee Reservoirs of Pandemic and Nonpandemic HIV-1") [Reference 1] features claims that they have discovered the source of pandemic HIV-1, the "AIDS virus".

b) However, on the basis of the evidence presented, this claim is unsafe. In fact, more than that, it represents a rash over-extrapolation.

c) The reasons for rejecting Hahn's claim include the following: (i) less than 1 in 200 of the chimp troops in this part of Africa have thus far been sampled for SIV; (ii) in reality, the new chimp viruses she has found fall far short of being "dead ringers" for pandemic HIV-1, as has been claimed; (iii) there are close physical and biomedical similarities between Pan troglodytes troglodytes (Ptt) chimps and Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii (Pts) chimps, which some believe should be regrouped into a single subspecies; (iv) members of some groups of Ptt cluster genetically with Pts, and vice versa; (v) despite their claims to the contrary, Hahn and co-authors have not established that Ptt (rather than Pts) represents the reservoir of pandemic HIV-1; (vi) furthermore, the closest primate virus ancestor to pandemic HIV-1 may have existed in a chimp troop that is now extinct.

d) The true reason why it is so important to Hahn's group to establish the Pan troglodytes troglodytes subspecies of chimpanzee as the reservoir of pandemic HIV-1 is that they believe that this refutes the OPV/AIDS theory, which proposes that AIDS began as a result of chimpanzee experiments conducted in Stanleyville, Belgian Congo, in the late 1950s.

e) However, their latest findings do not disprove the OPV/AIDS theory. For a long time, there has been substantial anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that at least some Ptt chimps were present at Stanleyville and/or the nearby chimp camp at Lindi. But a recently-unearthed Belgian article from 1965 proves that the Stanleyville doctors were working with at least one Ptt chimp in early 1960, and perhaps in 1959. Co-caging and group caging were routine at the holding centres at both Lindi and Stanleyville, meaning that viruses could have spread from this Ptt (or similar animals) to other primates (Pts and bonobos) housed in these centres.

f) Furthermore, it is far easier to postulate Ptt chimps, including chimps from south-eastern Cameroon, ending up in the huge holding centres at Lindi and Stanleyville than it is to postulate a human infectee moving from Cameroon to Leopoldville, allowing AIDS to spawn there - and only there.

g) It is also worth emphasising that because of recombination between SIV strains, the origin of pandemic HIV-1 does not automatically require the involvement of the closest viral ancestor genetically. [See below for further details.]

h) There are multiple problems with the latest Hahn/Sharp scenario of how the AIDS pandemic might have started in Leopoldville (over 600 miles by river from her alleged chimpanzee "source"). By contrast, the OPV/AIDS hypothesis is inconvenienced by none of these.

i) The discovery that Ptt were used in the Stanleyville experiments has more significance for the origin of AIDS than Hahn's latest data from Cameroon. Once again, the claims by Hahn and her buddies that "the OPV theory has been laid to rest" are revealed as empty bluster.

The Emperor's New Clothes: Beatrice Hahn and The Latest Mumbo Jumbo

Sadly, some scientists seem to believe that by repeating an untruth often enough, you can persuade the world that it is actually true.

One such group of scientists is that led by Dr Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama, whose members seem to be much more interested in trying to earn themselves grants and glittering prizes than in actually helping us understand how the AIDS pandemic began.

New Claims from Paul Sharp - But Has the Source of HIV-1 Really Been Located?


February 2006. In recent days there has been much press coverage about new claims by American, British and Belgian scientists that they have discovered the geographical source of AIDS. These researchers have apparently detected simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) that are closely related to the AIDS pandemic virus, HIV-1, in the stools of wild chimpanzees living in the very south-eastern corner of Cameroon, in western Africa.


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