Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Bishop Dave Chikosi: HIV AIDS cure claims: Why serendipitous discoveries must be given a fair hearing

By Bishop Dave Chikosi

Not every major discovery or invention is made in the conventional science laboratory. Dmitri Mendeleev did not come up with a logical way to organize the chemical elements in a lab or classroom. ““In a dream I saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper,” he wrote in 1869.

Bishop Dave Chikosi
Bishop Dave Chikosi

Five years earlier August Kekula had one night turned his chair towards his fireplace and dozed off to sleep. In a dream he saw atoms dancing. They danced themselves into the shape of a snake. And the snake kept turning around to bite its own tail! Weird dream yes, but that is how he discovered the molecular structure of Benzene.

But beyond the fortunate stroke of serendipity, direct religious experiences can also be a fruitful source of inspiration for new discoveries. Mr Srinivasa Ramanujan was a man of negligible formal training in mathematics. However in his short lifetime of 32 years he produced almost 4000 proofs, identities, conjectures and equations in pure mathematics well ahead of his time, and which continue to inspire and direct mathematical research even today.

His source of inspiration? The Hindu goddess Namagiri who many times appeared in his dreams. Ramanujan claimed that one time while sleeping he had an unusual experience.

“There was a red screen formed by flowing blood, as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.”

It’s a good thing society was not dismissive of his discoveries because of their religious origins.

The field of scientific discovery is too important to be left to trained scientists. Discoveries, inventions and innovations from non-scientific fields & sources must be encouraged, not judged and dismissed out of court prematurely.

The non-scientists are not always conversant with the procedures to follow when they stumble upon a new discovery. Usually and in the heat of excitement they make public pronouncements prematurely. But that is no reason for society to be dismissive of their claims and label them as charlatanic on account of an unorthodox methodology.

Wisdom would demand a suspension of judgment until all relevant authorities have had the opportunity to assess and evaluate the claims using their own clinical trials. “Do not go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor humiliates you” (Proverbs 25:8). Wise piece of advice to both sides in this Zimbabwean debate!

The number of people living with HIV Aids is estimate at over 36 million. Over 40 million have died since AIDS started killing people 38 years ago. The majority of casualties are in poor countries where the cost of drugs is beyond affordable. And affordability is a big issue in this debate.

The “Big Pharma” makes over $300 billion a year on pharmaceuticals. It tries to justify the high cost of drugs by citing high costs of R&D. However, according to a 2016 Washington Post article, 9 out of 10 big pharmaceutical companies put more money into marketing than research. Many of them spend almost double on annual marketing than they do on R & D. So the situation is more complex than high prices paying for the research.

Interestingly, Turing Pharmaceuticals, a global drug company, made international headlines in 2016 for hiking the price of a HIV medication by a whopping 5,556 percent. When asked why, CEO Martin Shkreli replied, “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients; it is us trying to stay in business.”

Which is why we must welcome and explore local initiatives that will help find cheaper ways of combating the AIDS menace, including religiously inspired initiatives. Ndatenda.