Thursday, March 17, 2011

More roundabout attempts to discredit the WPI

S Asleep said:

This editorial uses loaded language to paint a very slanted picture.

Consider the second paragraph, where Mikovits et al are said to have made "claims" in contrast to the more humble "suggestions" of their critics. Add to this the fact that the four "contamination" papers published last December in Retrovirology were accompanied by a press release from Wellcome Trust that outright asserted that XMRV does not cause ME/CFS. Some form of "suggestion" that is!

In the third paragraph, use of the word "blame" projects onto Mikovits et al an aura of defensiveness. Why not use a more innocuous phrase like "point to" or "suggest" (which has already been afforded to their critics here).

"Hypotheses that are later discarded by science can linger on in the minds of the public: witness the supposed link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, which has refused to die years after the weight of evidence should have squashed it. Patients who latch onto XMRV as the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome are likely to find it hard to let go, even if most scientists eventually conclude that the evidence is against it."

How is this anything but pure argument by association and poisoning of the well? Surely these types of fallacies are below the standards of a journal like Nature. In fact the entire paragraph that this quote is taken from reads like prolonged character assassination of an entire population. It contrasts the "high-profile groups" of scientists to a portrayal of patients as indistinguishable from those "crazy anit-vaxers" who "latch onto" ideas and don't "let go." The world is full of people doing things based on "unproven hypotheses," so the lobbing of this charge in particular is a bit disingenuous.

"But Mikovits and her critics need to maintain an open mind."

Though this sentence is technically balanced in admonishing both "sides", the explicit naming of Mikovits in contrast to the generic reference to "her critics" subtly but distinctly directs this criticism predominantly towards her.

"Scientists are taking the risk of XMRV seriously, as they should."

Are they? Why has so much effort been put into roundabout attempts to discredit the WPI's finding, while at the same time no one has yet attempted to simply replicate their exact methods? This confounds the imagination and seems at odds with the seriousness asserted here.

"..ensure that time, money and the careers of young scientists are spent effectively."

One doesn't have to wander too far between the lines to catch the implication that studying XMRV and/or ME/CFS is not an effective use of time or resources, according to Nature. This is not a very "open minded" concept for a well-respected journal to be promulgating.

Lastly, one is left wondering what exactly distinguishes this piece, besides perhaps subtlety, from the pantheon of criticisms that have constituted Mikovits' "reward."

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