Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You Got to Love the Internet

Communications via the written word, whether chiseled into stone, written on paper, or flitting across your electronic device's screen is an inefficient and sometimes very confused creature. No matter how clear you think you are, you sometimes aren't.

Case in point:

I visit a site where there are sometimes lively and controversial discussions. Recently, a poster there put up something that led to such an exchange. The names and such are left out, to protect the guilty, I'll just use Mr. X:

"From Mr. X:

Sorry to interrupt...

It looks like they maybe have cured AIDS.


OK. Go back to whatever you were talking about.

Mr. X"

Wow, that's impressive, how did I miss that? So I clicked on the link.

Doesn't say there's a cure for AIDS. It offered that an in vitro experiment (in a test tube) shows promise as an idea that could possibly result in a way to stop the AIDs virus by using the immune system.

That's pretty cool, but no way a "cure," nor anything close to one.

So, I put this up:

"Um, Mr. X --

If this was a track meet, I think you'd have gotten called back for jumping the gun.

The news media in all their myriad forms, bless 'em, tend to sound like Born Agains telling us about the imminent Second Coming. More than a few times, we have been told of a cure for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, only to find out that this was an in vitro (test tube) experiment that hadn't even gotten to rats yet, much less people.

As is the case here.

"Could lead to a vaccine" is not anywhere near "a cure." Being able to some day prevent folks from catching something is not the same as curing somebody who already has it.
Hope is a wonderful thing and I'm all for helping it along. In the war against disease, it probably doesn't help to make truth a casulty ... "

For which my reward was this:

"From Mr. X -- (Webmaster)  feel free to delete my previous post and this one. I got excited and forgot for a moment that when not feeling entitled to drop the "N" word whenever, Steve Perry has ALWAYS got a fresh stream of piss if you happen to have a bowl of cornflakes. What was I thinking?"

So I thought, let's take this offline. I'll email the guy. Which resulted in this exchange:

"Mr. X:

If I am in error please feel free to call me on it. If you get pissed off when I call you on it? Check your facts before you post -- you were wrong, moaning about it doesn't change that.

I use the term "nigger" when it is appropriate; if you can show me otherwise, I'll apologize for it.

Good luck with that.

Steve "

"From: Mr. X:

Wallow in your use of that word. Enjoy yourself. I'll continue to respect you exactly as much as I ever have, you self righteous racist twit."

Wow. So I said:

"Well. So much for reasoned debate.

We're done here.

Steve "

And got this:

"From Mr. X


 I never signed on to "debate" you. You don't like my, or Johns Hopkins, use of the word "cure" - so fucking be it. Like i said to (Webmaster), I foolishly got excited and thought I'd share what I took to be good news. I just forgot for one minute your over there just waiting to be a pedant and take the wind out of someone's sails. Arguing medical semantics with a smug racist such as yourself is a priori a thankless task. Which is WHY I asked (Webmaster) to remove my post. Enjoy your bleak and hopeless existence you sniping prick.

 - Mr. X"

My smug-racist-prick-bleak-and-hopeless existence? Oh, dear. Did I miss that, too? Geez. I got to get a new mirror.

"Mr. X

We're done here.

Steve "

I went back to the site, and said this:

"Hey, Mr. X

If you say something and post a link, you might expect that folks will go see what it says
If the article doesn’t say what you offered it does, you might expect to have somebody point that out.

I wish there was a cure for AIDS. There is not. The article doesn’t say there is. It doesn’t say there is about to be. You telling people it does is wrong.

If that is pissing in your cornflakes, I plead guilty. I'm not taking the wind out of your sails, I'm telling you your boat is parked on the beach.

I used to work at a clinic. One of the most disheartening aspects of the job was to have a patient who had a chronic and incurable illness come in, having read some jump-the-gun journalist's story that there was a new cure, and ask us if we could get it for them. We couldn't. It didn't exist.


This is why I don't like to see inaccurate news stories about medical advances from people who don't have a fucking clue what they are talking about.

Apparently my use of the term "nigger" has some relevance to this topic, though what escapes me, save that somebody is still pissed-off over an argument we had here a year and a half ago. And loading jacketed ad hominem rounds.

I’ve been dropping by for a couple years. If you search the archives, you won't find I used the word the most, nor often, nor as a personal insult when I did, but in discussions of the Confederacy and political correctness.

Read those posts, and if you see racism in them? You brought it with you.

Funny thing? If you do go through the archives and look for the dreaded N-word, the most recent time it shows up? In a post by you, pal. I won’t take it out of context -- it’s a book title -- but that only makes my point that there are times when, as Twain offers, we should use the right word and not its second cousin.

You want to believe I'm a racist? Have at it. One more thing you get to be wrong about ..."

Then there is this other guy -- or girl, I can't tell by the name, and it looks like a screen nom anyhow, who allows that s/he agrees that this is big news and the closest to a cure we have.

To which I am about to say this:


• eliminate (a disease, condition, or injury) with medical treatment:"This technology could be used to cure diabetes."



The interview on VoA, from which the link first mentioned here took its cue.

The end of the piece:

"So far, research has been conducted only in the laboratory. But Graham says he hopes studies in animals and humans will eventually lead to an AIDS vaccine."

Sure, I hope so, too. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Promising research is not a cure, nor anywhere close to it. Putting a dollop of poison on a cell and killing it in the lab is not the same as curing or preventing an illness in a human being. 

"Scientists have discovered an enzyme that stops cancer cell reproduction in petri dish cultures." Morphs to SCIENTISTS DISCOVER CURE FOR CANCER!

Making that leap is wishful thinking at best. That's not how it works.

If they refine it, if it works in rats and monkeys and if the side-effects don't do more harm in humans than good, it will indeed be one of the stories of the century. And if they fast-track it out the wazoo, it will be years before we know if it works well enough to be offered.

And yes, this much is news. But it's not what it was purported to be.

ALIENS LAND ON THE MALL IN D.C.! If they happen to do that, will also be news.

If, if, if. 

Is there no one here familiar with the scientific method?"

Sometimes, no matter how reasonable you try to be, people will persist in a spittle-laced response. I guess I should know that by now, but somehow, it always kinda surprises me.

And the beat goes on ...


Loki said...


Not that it matters too much to your point above, as it's a completely different process, but there *is* a (so far) proven cure for AIDS (and HIV - I hate it when people don't differentiate). It was covered briefly in 2008, and it has just recently gotten more news coverage. That said, it's not easy or cheap, and it's arguably not even practical - but it does work.

The cure is actually quite simple to describe: a bone marrow transplant from someone with the CCR5-Δ32 deletion mutation. Of course, the problem is that while it is easy to talk about, a bone marrow transplant is anything but simple or safe to do.

There is only one public case so far, but it is quite interesting. The man's name is Timothy Brown - his case has been covered by multiple medical journals, most recently "Blood".

Steve Perry said...

I read the NEJOM article and this is indeed fascinating, at least in this one patient.

THe matching problems and infrequency of the mutation probably render this treatment moot for any kind of broad application, but it's another of those interesting roads in HIV research.

Jim said...

Part of the problem is that we've failed to teach generations of students the truth about science and the scientific method. They watch science fiction and interpret it as science fact because they saw it on tv or in a movie. But then we've gone on and told everyone that they're opinion, even if based on nothing but their belief, is valid. And reinforced that when we glorify a celebrity's uninformed, and often ignorant, opinion. (See the recent accusation of racism against Herman Caine because he dares think that we don't need another 4 years of Barrack Obama in the White House.)

Shoot, people will bitch if you use the word "ignorant" properly...

William Adams said...

Opinions are like buttocks, only those which are well-formed should be shown in public.

Bill W said...

I do not disagree with what you have written but have you seen the
english telegraph today article?


This a little hard to forward from Lethbridge Alberta on this new computer. Nothing works the the same.

You should see the RR bridge here. Very long very tall.

Bill W

Steve Perry said...

Another interesting line of attack, Bill. The article is careful to qualify its claims -- pointing out that they aren't sure if the provoked immune response will be theraputically-effecitve before it gets into "what it?"

Scientists are generally quick to qualify their claims until they have replicable proof. "Could possibly," "might," "hope ..." and this is a good thing.

Good journalists pay attention to what gets said, but they tend to jump to unwarranted conclusions. And I don't think I've ever read an interview they've done with me that didn't get at least one thing wrong. Even one letter mis-heard can screw it up: "Japanese" is the not the same as "Javanese ..."

Believe half of what you see and none of what you read, and that includes this ...

Mark said...

"jacketed ad hominem rounds" wins. And consider the source that your e-adversary, someone who supposedly knows how to employ "a priori" correctly, can't form the contraction of "you are."