HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

Nattrass on AIDS

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2012/12/26

Some time ago I had occasion to dissect an article by Nicoli Nattrass for its significant misunderstandings (HIV/AIDS vigilantes protest too much, 2011/07/09), including sociologist’s ignorance of Science & Technology Studies. Nattrass had argued that censoring the Duesberg article in Medical Hypotheses was an appropriate act of “boundary work” to keep unsound material out of the scientific literature; thereby she failed to understand that doing boundary work is not anything to be praised, it is an exercise in suppression, hardly something to be viewed favorably. The proper way to respond to false claims published in the scientific literature is to demonstrate the falsity by specifically answering the claims. Nattrass further displayed ignorance by asserting that peer review is necessary for something to be scientific.

I pointed out, too, that Nattrass (like many other vigilantes) criticizes such people as Duesberg and Mullis for writing about HIV/AIDS when they have not personally done research on it — while Nattrass herself is an economist, which scarcely qualifies her to critique work on HIV/AIDS, let alone to cross swords with distinguished actual biological scientists like Duesberg and Mullis.

These flaws and more are now on display in a book by Nattrass, The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back, published (to its shame) by Columbia University Press in 2012.

I tried to do justice to the main deficiencies of this book in a 7-page review. Its main points are these:
Nattrass does not demonstrate a conspiracy, and makes up statements supposedly from us alleged conspirators, statements that are ludicrously untypical of AIDS Rethinking, e.g. that “the pharmaceutical industry invented AIDS as a means of selling toxic drugs”.
Nor is “science” fighting back, only a small group of HIV/AIDS scientists like J. P. Moore or Mark Wainberg together with a somewhat larger group of non-scientists like Nattrass, Kalichman, and often anonymous bloggers.
Rhetorical gambits are present in profusion, through use of scare quotes and choice of positive adjectives when citing mainstream material or people and applying negative ones to Rethinkers.
Plain errors of fact abound concerning: Christine Maggiore; the Duesberg article about AIDS deaths in South Africa; the finding that Gallo was guilty of scientific misconduct; why HIV tests are flawed; breastfeeding and HIV transmission; how Elsevier censored Medical Hypotheses; the use of orphanage children for drug trials; and that Duesberg was catapulted into the limelight by Celia Farber’s article — in 2006! By that year Duesberg had been routinely and frequently castigated as the chief “AIDS denialist” for nigh on 2 decades.
Praise of unqualified individuals like the anonymous blogger Snout and the irresponsible J. T. de Shong reaches a new (low) level as a whole chapter is devoted to a prisoner who “cofounded a peer AIDS education initiative”.
Nattrass is able to remain convinced of HIV/AIDS theory even as she admits that it remains a mystery, precisely how HIV could destroy the immune system. But such destruction is the founding tenet of HIV/AIDS theory.

The book is not short of sociologese, and Nattrass even invents stereotypes of Rethinkers: hero scientist; cultropreneur (promoter of alternative treatments); living icons (elite controllers, when cited by Rethinkers); praise-singers — a supposedly “sizable” [!] group of journalists sympathetic to Rethinking.

Comedians are sometimes unable to poke fun at politicians because simply citing what the pols say suffices to produce astonished laughter. So too there are many things wrong with this book that need no explanation beyond quoting them: for instance, an asserted similarity between Andrew Wakefield and Peter Duesberg, or that the term “wellness” is replacing “health” in sinister fashion, or that “alternative and complementary” (as in the title of an Office within the National Institutes of Health!) is synonymous with pseudo-science.

One cannot but wonder what review process Columbia University Press used in appraising this text, which also contains unseemly ad hominem remarks and strange neologisms like “heroizing” and “foistered”.

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12 Responses to “Nattrass on AIDS”

  1. Lizé said

    Henry, thank you so much for your extensive and continued efforts in educating the masses on the flaws of mainstream HIV theory as well as what constitutes (good) science. Always look forward to reading your articles and posts!

    • Henry Bauer said

      Lizé:
      Thanks! I try to remind myself that the job for AIDS Rethinking is rather like the stockbrokers who advertise their concern with “one client at a time” — every person who hears and gets our message is likely to help spread the word even further. The numbers of hits are also reassuring, that Rethinking AIDS and David Crowe’s site and this blog and others get.

  2. HIV is an essential vitamin for everyone said

    “Nattrass had argued that censoring the Duesberg article in Medical Hypotheses was an appropriate act of “boundary work” to keep unsound material out of the scientific literature; thereby she failed to understand that doing boundary work is not anything to be praised, it is an exercise in suppression, hardly something to be viewed favorably. The proper way to respond to false claims published in the scientific literature is to demonstrate the falsity by specifically answering the claims. Nattrass further displayed ignorance by asserting that peer review is necessary for something to be scientific.”

    This quoted section completely fails to see things from the viewpoint of the authoritarian mentality. As they see it, claims fall into two categories, the authorised (truth) and the unauthorised (falsehood). The job of all responsible authorities is therein to sort everything out into those two categories and prevent the heinous crime of material unworthy of being authorised being improperly credentialed.

    From this worldview, it is “obvious” that peer review is one of these authorisation systems, and thus evidently the authorisation system for distinguishing authorised (“true”) science. It follows (in this mindset) that:
    (1) peer review is the criterion of whether something is proper science or mere pretence; and
    (2) the proper function of peer reviewers is to ensure that only appropriately correct material is granted peer review accreditation.

    Unfortunately the authoritarian mentality can no more change its mental spots than the leopard can change its physical ones. The clash between them and the creative/scientific mentality is the greatest of all competitive struggles, greater than the class struggle or those between races and so on. But the authoritarians get to decide what history gets published, so you never hear about it except in their own distorted terms (as from Natrass here).

  3. Jason Hart said

    I know you’re busy with other stuff, but please post more often. Happy Hannuka / Christmas, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you Dr Bauer.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Jason Hart:
      I sincerely appreciate the appreciation.
      I found myself with less and less NEW things to say about the HIV/AIDS catastrophe, and realized also that this mainstream error is far from unique, rather it reflects what has happened to science. So I’ve wanted to set out the main points about that, and it didn’t seem appropriate at HIV/AIDS Skepticism, so I started my other blog, Scimedskeptic, where I’ve so far posted about basic axioms of scientific literacy; how modern science has changed from pretty reliable to pretty unreliable; that science is really an alien culture; how the grant system has become dysfunctional, including more dishonesty, how that might be ameliorated, and that political views should not determine opinions about matters of science.

      There’s a lot more to be said about all that: about consensus and peer review; that many of the so-called denialists have perfectly sound technical credentials; that we won’t get disinterested reliable science without paying for it; and then I plan a heap of stuff about what’s wrong with the current drug-based medical practice.

      But whenever something about HIV/AIDS seems particularly absurd, or touches points I haven’t addressed before, I certainly plan to post it here.

    • [too long name] said

      Actually while we do like to hear from you I reckon there are already too many words written about same things (on blogs, ‘news’ sites and in peer-reviewed outlets) and it is best if Henry proceeds on that priniciple of posting when there is something new to be said.
      By the way I just looked at the London School of Hygiene etc and their website is headed by a big slab about the “science” of you-know-what.

      • Henry Bauer said

        [too long name]:
        I didn’t see that on the LSHTM website just now

      • NameCensoredByHB said

        The LSHTM site has a sequencing “gallery” at the top and one of its panes is about AIDS. “AIDS: It’s Not Over”. (Looks like counter-denialism to me!)

  4. mo79uk said

    ‘statements that are ludicrously untypical of AIDS Rethinking, e.g. that “the pharmaceutical industry invented AIDS as a means of selling toxic drugs”.’

    To be fair, Nattrass does point out a thorn in Rethinking, or should I say one aligned with it. There are videos and articles saying outlandish things like Gallo created a virus in his lab to wipe out humanity, and that sort of Blofeld characterisation probably needs to be outlined as distinct from, I guess, “Duesperthian” thought.

    • Henry Bauer said

      mo79uk:
      Yes, the crazies are a definite thorn in Rethinking sides precisely because they give Nattrass et al. the opportunity to misrepresent the main thrust (the mainstream?!) of AIDS Rethinking.

      That’s a quite general problem with any group that differs with the accepted beliefs in a given field. I’ve written quite a bit about it in relation to Nessie hunting in The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery (1986) and in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies (2001).
      We have no way of disciplining our ranks, or keeping undesirables out, whereas established social institutions have carrots and sticks to prevent their persona being hijacked or besmirched.

      Also, as your nice coinage of Duesperthian illustrates, there is typically no single agreed paradigm among minority groups, so the Establishment can also criticize us for being only negative about mainstream views without being able to offer something clearly better.

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