confirmation and induction
This comment parallels something I've tried to suggest. I'm hoping to find a public statement I can quote directly, so I won't be accused of being the evil Simon
in disguise. That is a trivial matter, though.
Kuppeveld and McClure in the UK werent necessarily bad; they were however, committed to a particular interpretation of chronic fatigue syndrome and when the first bit of evidence validated that they grabbed it and ran. She said the type of testing they did was sufficient to find a retroviruses like HIV; it was not, however, sufficient to find a retrovirus like XMRV. It was a case of using traditional techniques to search for an unusual virus.
There is a misconception here, which is very common even among professionals and researchers, about induction and confirmation. For Annette Whittemore to accept a logical fallacy in a casual conversation, when talking about work by someone else, is completely understandable. Making such a mistake in the entire conception of a study, as I believe those behind the negative studies did, is more serious.
You can collect any number of examples to validate an hypothesis without confirming it. This is the fundamental problem of induction, nicely illustrated by existence of the Black Swan, (and explored at length in a book by that name, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.) No matter how many white swans you can point to, you do nothing to establish the hypothesis that all swans are white. The best you can do is to search for non-white swans, and show that a thorough search fails to find them.
In the negative studies, somewhat confusingly, we are dealing with a negative hypothesis. The results amount to saying all swans are white, because there are no black swans, while ignoring explorers returning from Australia. When you have reports, a check of Australia seems appropriate. Similarly, finding something which is neither white nor a swan, (like a red Mini,) has little bearing on the subject.
I'm afraid the red Mini is closest to those results.
This still doesn't establish the existence of a conspiracy, or show those involved to be imbeciles. It merely highlights the problem of group think, which reduces apparent intelligence to the lowest common denominator of the group. Individuals involved may yet be salvaged.