Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Collapse of a consensus

"...the pandemic and its toll are outstripping the worst predictions."

Anthropogenic global warming? No, AIDS. That statement, however, turns out to be wrong, unless "outstripping the worst predictions" means 40% lower than you predicted, or "worst predictions" means "these are the dumbest predictions we ever made."

If there's "settled science" one might think it would be in diagnosis of diseases and their spread. Epidemiology follows established scientific protocols, except as practiced by the UN:
JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 19 -- The United Nations' top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N. documents prepared for the announcement.

AIDS remains a devastating public health crisis in the most heavily affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. But the far-reaching revisions amount to at least a partial acknowledgment of criticisms long leveled by outside researchers who disputed the U.N. portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic.

The latest estimates, due to be released publicly Tuesday, put the number of annual new HIV infections at 2.5 million, a cut of more than 40 percent from last year's estimate, documents show. The worldwide total of people infected with HIV -- estimated a year ago at nearly 40 million and rising -- now will be reported as 33 million.

Having millions fewer people with a lethal contagious disease is good news. Some researchers, however, contend that persistent overestimates in the widely quoted U.N. reports have long skewed funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the spread of HIV. Critics have also said that U.N. officials overstated the extent of the epidemic to help gather political and financial support for combating AIDS.

...The downward revisions also affect estimated numbers of orphans, AIDS deaths and patients in need of costly antiretroviral drugs -- all major factors in setting funding levels for the world's response to the epidemic.
The consensus, neither scientific nor settled, was; "We need more money." The hysteric money grubbing damages the reputation not just of UN funded scientists, but of science itself. The scientific method has become hostage to politics.

The same UN is telling us the world is doomed if we don't return to turn-of-the-19th-century energy use. If they're off by 40% on something relatively easily measured, how far off are they on something more arcane? Like climate models that can't account for the effects of clouds.

It's about the funding, stupid - aided by the impulse to world statism.

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