HIV/AIDS ILLUSTRATES COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/04/29
Oh that one would hear me! … and that mine adversary had written a book
King James Bible, JOB 31:35
As a target of debunking, a review may serve as well as a book, especially when it happens to be a review of what’s [not!] known about HIV/AIDS: “The spread, treatment, and prevention of HIV-1: evolution of a global pandemic”, by Myron S. Cohen, Nick Hellmann, Jay A. Levy, Kevin DeCock, and Joep Lange, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 118  1244-54; doi:10.1172/JCI34706. The authors are heavyweight white-coated HIV/AIDS gurus, at least two of whom (Levy, DeCock) have been in this business from the beginning. The review is a textbook case of cognitive dissonance or, using Thomas Kuhn’s term, incommensurability (1).
Cognitive dissonance is the inability to “see”, or to comprehend the implications of, evidence that—objectively speaking—disproves a belief. Popular parlance might describe it as a state of denial. In Festinger’s classic study (2), when the predicted end of the world did not come on the calculated date, the believers concluded only that they had gotten something in the calculations a bit wrong, and their basic belief hardened rather than weakened.
“Incommensurability” signifies that researchers get so vested in the prevailing paradigm (i.e., dogma) that they cannot understand—quite literally cannot understand—how data could be interpreted in any other fashion than the one dictated by their belief.
Imre Lakatos (3) identified a strategy researchers use quite routinely to preserve belief in the face of contradictory evidence: they invent ad hoc explanations for each new piece of data that their theory cannot accommodate. They do not modify at all the basic belief (the “core theory”); rather, they attach to it ad hoc extensions that are not genuine corollaries because they are not inherently demanded by the theory, and they are not necessarily consistent in any natural way with other such ad hoc extensions of the theory.
This aspect of science is not part of the conventional wisdom about “science”; the popular myth, oversimplified and reverential, holds science to be trustworthy under all circumstances (4, 5). But illustrations of the fallibility of science abound, and HIV/AIDS dogma offers some cogent examples of cognitive dissonance, for example:
— The prediction that the AIDS outbreaks in major American cities would be followed by a spread into the general population was almost immediately falsified; yet the belief that HIV is sexually transmitted hardened rather than weakened.
— The prediction that a vaccine would be available within a couple of years after 1984 has been falsified over and again, despite the deployment of every conceivable strategy for design of such a vaccine, not to speak of untold millions of dollars expended. These failures have brought only increasingly strident calls to continue the attempts.
— The finding that the observed apparent rate of sexual transmission is far too low to explain the observed distribution of “HIV-positive” people was met by the ad hoc postulate that there must be some higher rate of infectivity during short periods; and this unobservable and unobserved infectiousness is nowadays dogma without the benefit of proof.
The cited review by Cohen et al. of the state of the art of HIV/AIDS offers further illustrations of accepting as fact, and disseminating as fact, things that are plainly not true, or that are unproven or unprovable, or that border on the absurd. As well, interpretations are invoked or implied that in other contexts would be immediately recognized as unwarranted, and racist to boot.
“[M]ale circumcision provides substantial protection from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-1”
Four references are given, but left unmentioned is the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (6), which found no such effect.
Even were such an effect to be suggested by correlations (which are the only available evidence), one might question a causal interpretation for its extreme implausibility with respect to “HIV-1”: how could circumcision protect males from an agent whose apparent transmission from female to male is already significantly lower than the apparent transmission from male to female, which itself is only about 1 in 1000? And given those almost immeasurably small apparent rates of transmission, how massive a set of trials would be needed to gather potentially convincing evidence?
As to circumcision protecting against known STDs, there is controversy extending over centuries and still not resolved to the satisfaction of all researchers, see http://www.circumcision.org/. For example, Professor Andrew Grulich (National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research [Australia]) reported recently at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference (Gold Coast, 11 October 2007) that there was no association between infection and circumcision status for any disease apart from syphilis (Thaindian News, 14 November).
Hardened belief in face of contrary facts:
“28 years after AIDS was first recognized…, HIV-1 requires continued global focus and investment”
Required, presumably, only because researchers want the money; for in the very same paragraph, Cohen et al. acknowledge that “global HIV-1 prevalence seems to have been stable since around the turn of the 20th century; and HIV-1 incidence peaked worldwide in the late 1990s and has been declining ever since”.
“Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the unequal spread of HIV-1”
Exactly; “surprising” because no infectious agent behaves like that.
On the one hand, “HIV-1 does not respect social status or borders”—because no sexually transmitted agent does—yet on the other hand, “racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics, are disproportionately affected… in Europe … many infections today are found among immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa”. The obvious contradiction between “no borders” and “racially discriminatory” can only be resolved by recognizing that HIV is not sexually transmitted; but those hewing to the dogma are incapable of that recognition, as Festinger, Kuhn, and others have pointed out.
“Africa has witnessed the full devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic”
but the population there has continued to grow at an annual rate of a few percent!
“DNA sequences of viruses in distinct clades can differ by 15%-20%”
and yet all of them are supposed to do about the same thing, with only minor differences in efficiency of transmission and “pathogenic potential”.
But in other contexts we’re told that human and chimp genomes differ by less than 1%, which suffices to produce quite major differences in the products of those genes.
“In Eastern Europe … brisk and severe epidemics emerged among injecting drug users in the late 1990s”
Grant—for the moment—that HIV can be transmitted via infected needles: how to conceive “brisk and severe epidemics” from shared needles? Try to picture the orgies of needle-sharing that would be required, particularly when two decades of experience have revealed that catching “HIV-positive” from needle punctures is even less probable than the 1 in 1000 chance via unprotected intercourse.
How HIV is transmitted in different parts of the world:
Since this figure sports precise percentages, the casual observer might be tempted to regard this as scientifically established fact, instead of pausing to recognize how absurd it is on its face. Marital sex responsible for half of all infections in the most affected area, and for a quarter of them in Asia—but not at all in Eastern Europe? Casual sex more significant in Eastern Europe than transmission among men who have sex with men, who remain in the United States the group most regarded as at risk?! Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) virtually unknown outside Africa, including in Asia where “marital sex” represents a quarter of all transmission?? Doesn’t marital sex in Asia ever lead to pregnancy?!? Medical injections, too, virtually unknown outside Africa; and in Africa allowed just a few percent, ignoring the numerous publications by Gisselquist, Potterat et al. that indict such injections as a more plausible source of the “pandemic” than sexual intercourse?!?! Sex workers a substantial risk in Asia and Latin America, but far less dangerous than marital sex in Africa, and no risk at all in Eastern Europe?!?!?
To believe all this, one would have to also believe that these various regions of the globe are characterized by cultures and lifestyles so different as to bespeak the presence of altogether different species of Homo.
The text of the review article notes that “the US epidemic remains a paradigm of HIV/AIDS in the developed world”, indicates that sex among males is the greatest source of infections there, and suggests something similar for Western Europe. Those are the regions for which the data are most copious and reliable; and moreover North America is the region where HIV/AIDS originated, the veritable “mother of all HIV/AIDS regions”; so why are Western Europe and North America absent from the figure, whose source is “Bringing HIV prevention to scale: an urgent global priority”?
“even in settings of generalized epidemics [i.e., self-sustaining in the population], the risk of infection with HIV-1 is … increased in persons with higher rates of partner change or who acquire classical … STDs … [or] who experience other significant exposure(s) to HIV-1, such as injection drug use”
— those people who also happen to be endowed with black skin, in other words, because all our data has shown for a couple of decades that they, everywhere in the world, are the most likely to test “HIV-positive”: “In the US, racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics… in Europe … many infections today are found among immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa”.
Note how the term “minorities” is deployed as a euphemism in mainstream discourse about HIV/AIDS (and in many other contexts too). In the United States, Asians constitute a much smaller numerical minority, and Native Americans an even smaller minority again, than either blacks or Hispanics. But Asians are significantly less affected by “HIV” than are white Americans, and Native Americans are affected not much more than Caucasians and significantly less than Hispanics, let alone blacks. “Minorities” serves as a euphemism for both “liable to reprehensible behavior” and “black”.
This review article constitutes a goldmine of additional opportunities to debunk HIV/AIDS theory. It is replete with unproven assertions, for instance about “acute viral syndrome”, and contains the occasional nugget of acknowledgment that the most fundamental, central, matter of all remains as mysterious as when it was first declared that HIV destroys the immune system:
“To date, the destructive properties of HIV-1
have not been completely unraveled”.
If one omits the misleading euphemistic weasel-word, “completely”, this statement is demonstrably true. None of the many suggested mechanisms have stood the test of reality. No plausible mechanism for the destruction of the immune system by HIV has been discovered in a quarter century, following more than $100 billion spent on research.
(1) Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press (1970, 2nd ed., enlarged; 1st ed. 1962)
(2) Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, & Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of A Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World, University of Minnesota Press (1956)
(3) Imre Lakatos, “History of science and its rational reconstruction”, pp. 1-40 in Method and Appraisal in the Physical Sciences, ed. Colin Howson, Cambridge University Press (1976)
(4) Henry H. Bauer, Fatal Attractions: The Troubles with Science, Paraview Press (2001)
(5) Henry H. Bauer, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press (1992)
(6) Millett GA et al., “Circumcision status and HIV infection among Black and Latino men who have sex with men in 3 US cities”, JAIDS 46 (2007) 643-50