Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Conspiracy Skeptic

Karl Mamer hosts repeat Conspiracy Skeptic guest Abbie Smith.  Smith is working to obtain her PhD in retrovirology at Oklahoma University.  On her first appearance Smith discussed HIV deniers and conspiracy mongers.  This time Smith, after fending off plentiful Karl fanboy gushing, discussed one of the latest alleged medical secrets "they" don't want you to know about: the XM retrovirus (XMRV) is the cause of chronic fatigue syndrom (CFS), and instead of finding appropriate medications and treatments to suppress this XMRV to treat the suffering it is being kept from the masses.  

Smith tells an interesting tale of an initially hopeful paper which indicated that a RV was the cause of CFS, but the paper was later found to have some serious flaws.   Other labs could not replicate the initial promising results, and some of the protocol seemed a bit funky.  The lead author instead of taking the criticism in a professional manner struck back accusing detractors of improper motives.  From here the story moves to alleged intellectual property theft, contempt of court proceedings, with the result a large number of people thinking 'the man' is hiding treatment options from them.  

More than the tale of some off track conspiracy, it is the tale of how the scientific process works in the real world, and what can occur when someone goes broken arrow.  

It was not only an educational interview, but also quite entertaining.  The Science or Discovery Channel could somewhat redeem themselves if they turned this into a made for TV movie.  

Some side observations: I am always struck at the caliber of guest Karl attracts.  Smith is a graduate student.  Astronomer Royale, Stuart Robbins is a freshly minted Phd.  Karl has had Chuck Morrison, M.D. as a guest.  Skeptical rising star Hayley Stevens, now published in Skeptic magazine, as an honored guest etc.*  Also, as learned on this episode Smith is a fan chocolate.  Dr. Robbins is a  Euro-trash chocolate snob.  SkepReview worldwide HQ is in self proclaimed Chocolatetown, U.S.A. home of good old all American Hershey's Chocolate.  I have heard Stevens is a fan of Reese's peanut butter cups.  I wonder if Skeptics tend to have sweet tooth . . .  

*No idea how I have ever qualified as a guest.  Lapse in judgement for sure by Karl.  


  1. There has been no replication attempt of Lombardi et al. What are you talking about? Now explain why there is a no env gene in the 22Rv1 virus in the Genbank and why a VP62 sequence in the genbank has been updated with PreXMRV-1? Same virus?

  2. Hey Anon. Your question might be better answered if you posed it to Abbie herself:


    You seem to have done research into this. Not sure why your deep knowledge into this didn't help you find Abbie's blog. It was linked straight from the podcast page. For starters. Heck, even googling xmrv give me Abbie's blog as the third result.

    Well, best of luck.

    1. Anons 'questions' have been addressed time and time again. Think of it like a Creationist saying 'THERE ARE NO TRANSITIONAL FOSSILS!!!'

      Anon is one of the crazy ones I mentioned, who neurotically post the same thing over and over and over and over on any/all news/blog posts about XMRV. Amazing how they have the energy to do *that*, but not to get a typing/secretarial job and contribute to society like a normal person...

      These creatures are a perfect example of the Dunning Kruger effect. September 2009 they knew nothing about viruses. October 2009 they suddenly know everything/anything, certainly much more than us hoity toity professionals (or, we do know better, its just we are all in on the conspiracy, you see).


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