How to attack a scientific theory and get away with it (usually): the attempt to destroy an origin-of-AIDS hypothesis
Supporters of dominant scientific theories sometimes attack competing, less favoured theories in ways that conflict with expectations of proper scientific behaviour, for example by using double standards. To reduce concern about their actions, supporters can use a variety of techniques: cover up the violation of expectations; devalue the competing theory and its advocates; interpret the process as proper; use expert panels, meetings and other formal processes to give a stamp of approval to the dominant view; and intimidate opponents. These are the same five methods used regularly by perpetrators of actions widely seen as unjust, such as violent attacks on peaceful protesters. When these methods fail, the attack can backfire on the attackers. Orthodox scientistsÃÂ¿ treatment of the theory that AIDS originated from contaminated polio vaccines used in Africa in the 1950s illustrates how this framework can be applied to science. Opponents of this theory have used all five methods of inhibiting concern about violations of expected scientific behaviour. This analysis shows why supporters of orthodoxy have a tactical advantage over challengers.