HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

True Believers of HIV/AIDS: Why Do They Believe Despite the Evidence?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/10/30

A correspondent sent the following, asking whether it might be a relevant comment on one of the Nobel Prize posts. I think it’s more than that, it gets to the root of the problem that Rethinkers and Skeptics face, how to entice the indoctrinated public media and the committed mainstreamers to pay attention to the evidence that disproves HIV/AIDS theory. Andy D. wrote:

“I can find but three possible explanations for the ‘Establishment’s’ most arrogant and condescending behavior and unsubstantial, propagandistic websites and media appearances:
1. They are very well aware of the inconsistencies, problems and failings of HIV-AIDS-theory and their horrible implications regarding AIDS politics and medication, and find some overriding self-interested reason to continue to uphold what they know is wrong; or
2. They are unwilling to look critically at a theory they have established and promoted; or
3. They regard all ‘dissident’ propositions as so silly — what they call ‘moon-is-green-cheese’ pseudoscience — that they require no disproof.

I’ve seen again and again with honest scientists that they are happy to discuss and argue about their theses. Esteemed, intelligent and highly informed people like Peter Duesberg, Etienne de Harven, Heinz Ludwig Sänger, Kary Mullis or yourself should not be treated like nagging students asking the same stupidly absurd questions over and  over again.”

I touched on one aspect of an explanation for all this in “HIV/AIDS Illustrates Cognitive Dissonance” [29 April 2008]: Human psychology is such that true believers simply cannot grasp the implications of evidence that contradicts their belief. Andy’s questions spurred me to think about all this anew. How do people become true believers in the first place? If one could answer that question, it might point also to possible ways of helping people to change their mistaken beliefs.

Human beings are actually raised to be true believers. As babies and children, we are persuaded, urged, or disciplined in various ways to accept what our parents and our teachers tell us. Children  are delightfully curious and questioning, but at first they lack the background information to argue effectively against what they’re told. By and large, too, what children are told makes sense and works out in practice: “Don’t touch that hot stove!” and innumerable other commands, when ignored, prove themselves to have been good ones. So we tend to grow up with confidence in what our elders tell us, and as adults we readily substitute for parents and elders the “experts” , the “authorities”, the “Establishment”.

When we encounter someone who believes very differently than we do, we tend to be puzzled: “How could anyone believe that?!”

The answer is simple: They had different parents and teachers, and later they listened to different “experts” and “authorities”.

So to ask, “How could anyone believe that?!”, is the wrong question. The right question is, “How does anyone come not to accept what they’ve been told, what everyone around them ‘knows’?” (I’ve written more along these lines in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies, especially p. 47 ff. and p. 207 ff.).

When it comes to supposedly factual matters, textbooks and undergraduate courses emphasize learning what — according to the authorities — has already been found out and is already understood. There’s a significant difference here between “scientific” matters and non-scientific ones. If humanists and scientists can be persuaded to discuss their differing approaches to college teaching, it turns out that the scientists have a rather naïve view of their mission as one of transferring reliable, accredited information, whereas the humanists tend to emphasize the nurturing of critical thought. One indication of the difference is that science courses tend to be sequenced in linear hierarchy: students must take general chemistry before specialized inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry, and they must take some math and physics before physical chemistry, and so on. By contrast, great swaths of “upper-level” courses in the humanities have few if any prerequisites (more about this in To Rise above Principle: The Memoirs of an Unreconstructed Dean, p. 140).

So scientists and doctors, already trained by parents and earlier teachers to believe what they’re told, become even further accustomed during their “education” — more correctly, their indoctrination — to accept contemporary “knowledge” and beliefs. Once graduated and credentialed, as professionals and practitioners, to those habits of intellectual conformity there are added weighty practical considerations: straying from orthodox paths can incur serious, even disabling damage to one’s career and livelihood.

It isn’t that doctors and scientists “go along” cynically with beliefs and practices that they recognize as wrong or unsound. At best, when they’re conscious of some disparity between what they do and “what’s right”, they rationalize: for example, that they can do more to correct matters by “working within the system” than by becoming whistle-blowers. More usually, though, like other humans, they presume that, because their inherent desire is to do the right thing, therefore they cannot be doing anything that’s fundamentally wrong. That’s the basis of “cognitive dissonance”: psychological mechanisms common to all human beings can render us incapable of discerning facts that disprove our beliefs. I recommend highly the book by Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (Free Press, 1991)  for an excellent and very readable discussion of various ways in which we can fool ourselves into not seeing facts that contradict our beliefs; we are simply oblivious to them.

In science and medicine as much as in everyday life, human beings want to “fit in”. We are social animals and want to be part of a group, and that applies on intellectual issues as much as in other matters. The highly creative astrophysicist Thomas Gold described the intellectual conformity in scholarship and research as an expression of “the herd instinct”, illustrating it by the furious opposition he encountered over his suggestions about the mechanism of hearing (about which he later proved to have been right) and the origin of petroleum (about which he may yet turn out to be right) — see “New ideas in science”, Journal of Scientific Exploration 3 [1989] 103-12. The histories of science and of medicine are replete with instances of great breakthroughs that were desperately resisted by the mainstream “authorities” for as long as possible (the concise essay about this by Bernard Barber remains well worth reading: “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery”, Science, 134 [1961] 596-602).

That desperate resistance is a consequence of cognitive dissonance and the herd instinct. True believers have reached their beliefs not by considering the evidence but by taking things on faith from the authorities. When they are challenged, it threatens not only their belief but also their self image — their lack of critical thought — and their membership of the herd: if they came to see that the belief is mistaken, they would also have to become outsiders. All that is unacceptable in the extreme, and is therefore resisted by every available means. But true believers cannot respond substantively, because they haven’t arrived at their beliefs in that manner, they have taken matters on faith and don’t even know what the evidence pro and con is. So the desperate resistance typically takes the form of personal attacks, character assassination, guilt by association, and the like; see “Dissenting from HIV/AIDS theory” and “Questioning HIV/AIDS: Morally Reprehensible or Scientifically Warranted?”

A quite general corollary of cognitive dissonance and the herd instinct is that a significant number of counter-intuitive breakthroughs have been made by people who were outsiders rather than specialists in the relevant field; for references and discussion, including counter-examples, see T. F. Gieryn & R. F. Hirsh, “Marginality and innovation in  science”, Social Studies of Science 13 (1983) 87-106. The standard dismissal of Rethinkers by HIV/AIDS dogmatists, that the Rethinkers haven’t themselves done hands-on HIV/AIDS research, has no basis in empirical fact and the history of science.

These matters are highly pertinent for Rethinkers, or in general for anyone and any group that aims to bring down an established paradigm. A direct lesson is that it’s unusual for human beings to question what they have been taught to believe, because of the psychological mechanisms —  ranging from entirely unconscious to barely conscious — that conspire to safeguard us from “seeing” anything that might raise doubts. A bitter extrapolation from this is to recognize how enormously difficult it is to persuade someone else that their beliefs are provably wrong:

“It is difficult enough to reach a personal, informed view on matters over which controversy rages; there is little chance that the true believers or true disbelievers can be converted. ‘The most we can hope to achieve is to make the credulous more skeptical, and the skeptical more open-minded’” — p. 218 in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies,  citing Arthur C. Clarke, whose words on this subject are well worth attending to; see the Introduction and Epilogue in Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers (ed. John Fairley and Simon Welfare, G. B. Putnam’s Sons, 1984).

——————

So, Andy: My view is that we should never be surprised when adherents to mainstream views seem impervious to even the plainest evidence. That’s NORMAL! And it’s so in science as much as in any other human activity. Most of us are still taught in school, college, university, that science is objective and that scientists care only about  learning the truth; but science isn’t done that way, it’s a complicated human activity; for a relatively brief discussion, see Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method ;  and for a comprehensive account, I recommend John Ziman, Real Science.

As to HIV/AIDS specifically, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that the dogma will be abandoned because of research or publication or critical thinking or re-thinking within the mainstream. Much more likely, it will be overturned under pressure from outside sources: perhaps political, because of the inordinate, disproportionate, and unproductive expenditures; perhaps legal, if enough “HIV-positive” people damaged by “antiretroviral therapy” win enough and sufficiently important court actions; or perhaps, again legal, if someone charged with transmitting HIV manages to bring the court to look at the scientific evidence; or if someone prominent enough among black leaders comes to realize that people of African ancestry are being disproportionately subjected, without good reason, to toxic medications; or if someone powerful enough in the major media becomes so interested as to actually look into the facts. Otherwise, I fear, the mainstream will just continue to fiddle with new medications, gradually continuing to make the treatments less toxic, and gradually extending the life-span of HAART-treated people to an average beyond the present middle forties. If that is the case, then it may take a horribly long time before the death toll from antiretroviral drugs becomes so obvious and widely known that the established view is finally held to public account.

26 Responses to “True Believers of HIV/AIDS: Why Do They Believe Despite the Evidence?”

  1. Michael said

    Henry, one could fill volumes with this question of why people believe in the HIV/AIDS paradigm. It seems to me that the belief simply “fits in” with so many other pre-conditioned societal beliefs of humanity that have been programmed into nearly every one of us since earliest childhood. The HIV/AIDS paradigm fits so well with beliefs in a deity that passes judgement on transgressions followed by punishments for those transgressions and feeds into the fear of those punishments. It fits with general societal beliefs about the “wrongness” of homosexuality, beliefs that blacks are “less than” whites, beliefs that lustful behaviors are bad and therefore will be punished, beliefs in coming plagues. Many of these beliefs are ancient in origin, and very conveniently mold themselves around and lend credence to the belief in HIV/AIDS, and therefore HIV/AIDS lends a credence and deepens faith in the other previously conceived belief systems as well.

    Thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, not just for those directly affected, but for all of humanity’s other false beliefs as well.

    It is also much easier to simply believe in the HIV/AIDS paradigm because it fits so well, than to additionally question all of these other ancient foundational beliefs that so many were also brought up to believe in. And even those who consider themselves “scientists” are not immune to this, because they too are still operating within the framework of their own preconceived belief systems that they were brought up with, as well as their emotional attachments to those beliefs. Therefore, their “science” must also fit within the realm of their beliefs of what reality is. They will not look for nor look at anything that does not support the preconceived beliefs. Anything that does not fit in with the preconceived notions of what reality is, is easily discarded or ignored, as it simply doesn’t emotionally “feel” right, and therefore “does not compute”.

    Basically, all of mankind is and always has been completely unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Nor can we distinguish between who has integrity and who does not. The history books are filled all through the centuries with millions upon millions of humans marching to their deaths following leaders who lacked integrity and who were following their own misperceptions of truth and reality.

  2. Oscarlena said

    Dr. Bauer,

    Thank you very much for your new article. I consider it extremely important. May I just add some thoughts.

    The behavior of a “true believer” resembles the behavior of a little kid. The difference is just that for the kid believing what parents/authorities order them to believe, might sometimes mean survival. Not because it’s always life-threatening, what the kid likes to do, but the little ones lose support when they don’t obey. And that would be life-threatening. It’s not what Nature thought life should be, because no animal on earth is forced to believe and obey just to get some food. But in the world of human beings it has been like that for a long time. So we have to cope with it.

    It’s never the kid’s fault to experience a cruel childhood, but the parents’ or other elders’ fault. But to survive a cruel childhood does not entitle someone to repeat these experiences with other innocent human beings. Growing up means becoming conscious of whatever happened in childhood BEFORE sacrificing innocents. Having survived a hell of a poisoned childhood is an explanation, but NEVER an excuse for poisoning people with ARVs or suppressing other people’s research or propagating lies in papers and magazines for decades. Believing in authorities is just what a kid has to do to survive. Growing up means to stop child-like behavior because it’s no longer necessary for survival.

    Alice Miller has been writing about the consequences of a normal and not so normal childhood for three decades now. As far as I know, all of her books have been translated into the English language. Her website is in English, French, and German. The English site is here:
    http://www.alice-miller.com/index_en.php

    Some weeks ago she edited a new flyer titled “The Roots of Violence are NOT Unknown”, which you’ll find here:
    http://www.alice-miller.com/flyers_en.php

  3. Mark said

    I believe the HIV/AIDS theory because I have seen it first hand in my practice. It has nothing to do with how I feel about race, gender, religion, humanity, etc. It has to do with the patients I have seen that fight everyday to stay healthy…HIV and AIDS is real….negatively impacts health and if left unattended can be fatal. Believing anything else can have dire consequences for those infected. I have seen patients ignore their diagnosis only to show up in my practice months or years later, deathly ill and wanting help. That is the truth of HIV.

  4. Martin said

    Maybe in the True Believers’ Orwellian world, the evidence against the HIV paradigm is actually in support of the paradigm. Or what the HIV “denialists” call evidence isn’t evidence at all and is consequently ignored. They believe what they want to believe. When people believed in the concept of witches, it was heresy not to believe in them in spite of the observational evidence, and people who professed a non-belief in witches were subsequently punished.

  5. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, The article in today’s New York Times Magazine is a contributor to the problem. The article was “The Safety Gap” by Gardiner Harris, about the safety of drugs from what is now the largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the world: China as well as other countries like India. Here’s a quote from the article, page 48:

    “In a motion filed in federal court in Maryland, the Justice Department accused Ranbaxy of ‘a pattern of systemic fraudulent conduct,’ including filing fabricated drug data to the F.D.A. and using drug ingredients from unapproved and uninspected plants. AIDS drugs purchased by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief were among the medicines implicated, the Justice Department charged.”

    Well, obviously the fraudulent conduct of the F.D.A. in the approval of these drugs squares the problem. Ranbaxy is an Indian drug company. The toxic AIDS drugs are lauded in the press as lifesaving. Informally and anecdotally, I’ve asked people with whom I’ve talked about their knowledge of AIDS, like what are the diseases that comprise a diagnosis (Pneumocystis Carinii, Candidiasis Albicans, Kaposi Sarcoma) and what drugs are being used to treat AIDS – not surprisingly, they have absolutely no idea. The public is ignorant in just the way the AIDS establishment wants them to be.

  6. sadunkal said

    Here are a few useful links:
    http://changingminds.org/
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/welcome.html
    And a glimpse into my chaotic thoughts in search of a solution:
    http://condeve.blogspot.com/2008/07/worst-problem.html

    I personally strive to become an expert bias-overcomer. My profession (still a student) has to do with digital media production. So combining knowledge from both fields I hope to create powerful mind-changing media.🙂 (Currently working on my partially related diploma thesis, but it will be more about how to increase people’s desire to learn and raise their curiosity levels through advertisement-like videos.)

    I recently wrote an email to the Nobel Committee and co., in which I tried to take all this stuff into consideration. I’m not sure what effect it had on them but at least I tried. You can read it on the RA website or on my website, which you can reach by clicking my name.

  7. Henry Bauer said

    Mark:

    I don’t know anyone who says that AIDS is not real, or that HIV is not real. The question is, WHAT ARE THEY?

    “AIDS” in the 1980s was a result of lifestyle. After the pseudo-discovery of “HIV” as the virus causing AIDS, all manner of illnesses were moved under the umbrella of “AIDS”.

    The data from HIV tests in the USA demonstrates (http://failingsofhivaidstheory.homestead.com/) that testing HIV+ is an entirely NON-SPECIFIC sign of immune activation or the presence of proteins and other cell debris generated under physiological stress. The short-term improvement in health seen almost immediately by some “AIDS” patients under HAART is because those drugs are also antibiotics. But long-term HAART is lethal, which is why the median age of death of HAART patients in 2004 was only 45 [HAART saves lives — but doesn’t prolong them!?, 17 September 2008
    https://hivskeptic.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/haart-saves-lives-but-doesn’t-prolong-them/%5D.

  8. Michael said

    Dr. Mark’s comments remind me of a discussion that I had with an HIV positive several months ago when I discussed with him the problems of HIV isolation and proof of such isolation claims in proving disease causation of AIDS.

    My friend’s words to me after this discussion, and I quote:

    “But I KNOW HIV IS REAL because I can FEEL IT UNDER MY SKIN”!

    Simply amazing to me, to say the least. He claimed he could actually feel the sub-microscopic retrovirus that, if it could be seen, can only be seen via Electron Microscopy. Yet Electron Microscopy expert, Etienne de Harven, who specialized in EM pictures of retroviruses, has not even been able to find such a retrovirus as HIV is claimed to be in any of the blood sera from even a single extremely ill AIDS patient.

    But then again, this isn’t about science, is it? As my friend above, and as Dr. Mark’s words clearly indicate in his opening sentence of “I believe the HIV/AIDS theory”, this HIV/AIDS biz is so clearly about belief, not verifiable science, in both doctors and their patients.

    Perhaps it is well past time for those such as Dr. Mark (whose claim to fame is his blog site promoting HIV/AIDS, as well as his entire financial livelihood is based on treating those diagnosed as HIV/AIDS) to step back from their fear of the invisible boogeyman, and take a few moments to consider the mind/body connection as it relates to health and illness. Perhaps he should read and re-read the many papers on stress and the immune system, and stress and the thymus gland where CD4 T-cells are created (or not created in highly stressed patients), as well as understand the connection of prolonged and intense stress (as is so clearly obvious in the words of my HIV-positive friend above) such as the intense stress that is caused by the very diagnosis of HIV or AIDS, and the effects of such stress on the mind, as well as on the body.

    I myself am not even sure that the HAART drugs are as effective as an antibiotic, as perhaps they are most effective in relieving the stress in those who believe they will sicken and die without them.

    Of course, we would not know the answer to that, as not a single of these drugs have ever been placebo tested!

    Though, I do realize, that those such as Dr. Mark also have their ego as well as their personal financial connections to their belief in HIV/AIDS to contend with, thus the possibility of someone such as Dr. Mark publicly admitting, or even privately admitting to his own self, that he may have erred is slim indeed.

    P.S. 1:
    By the way, I also can’t help but wonder how many of his patients Dr. Mark has actually helped to further stress and further sicken, by Dr. Mark projecting his own beliefs of inevitable sickness and death onto his unwitting patients, and by convincing these patients that they will sicken and die without his immediate intervention of “life-saving” HAART drugs.

    8 years of schooling may give someone a medical degree, but such degrees surely do not make someone much of a healer, now do they?

    P.S. 2:
    I revisited Mark’s website, and I must apologize. Mark is not an MD, but he is a registered nurse.

  9. Martin said

    Thanks, Michael: Mark, a registered nurse, doesn’t even appear to have read anything in Dr. Bauer’s postings or, for that matter, anything else that AIDS Rethinkers have written. In fact, the way his posting was written, looks like just the way “true believers” write. An assumption that HIV is killing the people he has allegedly “treated” in his “practice”.

  10. heja said

    Michael,

    As you pointed out, mind-body connection seems particularly crucial in the case of our favourite ‘virus’. How many cases have you heard of where people refuse to accept a negative, say, diabetes diagnosis (no evidence of a major problem with blood-sugar metabolism)? Yet this happens quite often with HIV. If you do not believe this happens, go and see for yourself in any of the testing fora! The very thought of possibly being infected with this media-constructed virus scares the hell out of people and in many instances leads to emotional disorders where people refuse to accept their ‘negative’ diagnosis and get depressed. It really does not happen with many other diseases. There is something very powerful about the psychology of HIV/AIDS!

  11. Henry Bauer said

    Heja:

    Are referring to “bug-chasing”? Could you give a URL for one of those testing forums?

  12. heja said

    Henry,

    No, I was referring to the fora that give ‘advice’ to people who are either undergoing or have already undergone testing and cannot for some reason deal with the stress of it. One example is thebody.com (although there only selected posts, chosen by the forum moderator, are displayed), another is aidsmeds.com (also havily moderated). There you will find hundreds of people who want to ‘re-test’ because they cannot accept that they are ‘negative’. On the one hand very bizarre, on the other quite understandable given the shaky science underlying all the testing and the scare the media created.

    The big point is (and people do seem to feel it, even if only subconciously) that with the current state of HIV testing (lack of gold standard) there are not any ‘true negatives’ (as there are not any true positives)!

  13. Sadun Kal said

    I think Heja is referring to this, to be exact:

    ..which is very striking in my opinion…

    There was also this recently:
    http://groups.msn.com/AIDSMythExposed/general.msnw?action=get_message&mview=0&ID_Message=36284&LastModified=4675696603116720229

    And I read that some “bug chasers” actually avoid getting tested fearing that they might test positive and the whole “adventure” will end, which is pretty insane, I guess, no matter how you look at it.

    And related quotes from “The Other Side of AIDS”:

    “There’s something… attractive… about giving up…”
    “It’s a really euphoric feeling.”

    So yes, the psychology of HIV/AIDS is a very interesting one indeed.

    Oh, and this of course:

    “When HIV is identified with feared (and unconsciously desired) homosexual intimacy, the result is a powerful draw toward seroconversion. The uninfected men interviewed … repeatedly express the view that HIV Positives live richer, more complex, more “authentic” lives, get more attention, are better able to take risks — including, significantly, the “risk of intimacy” — and that only with such risk-taking can life be meaningful and full. This perceived link between HIV Positive status and emotional fulfillment is just one among many factors now propelling gay men toward seroconversion.”

    http://www.healtoronto.com/cult.html

    In sum, one factor is that being “HIV+” is “cool” for some people, another factor is it relieves you from your responsibilities, sets you free, allows you to live carelessly and causes other people to be much more kind and forgiving toward you.

    Another related, interesting thing is how people sometimes want you to have the disease even if you don’t, and die. But we’re all familiar with the term “denialist”… There are many different reasons for that one. Some of them are pretty weird, like a mother assuring her son that he’ll die, complex psychology, complex relationships…

  14. sadunkal said

    I just watched a movie/documentary titled “Stupidity” on Google Video, it wasn’t perfect but the subject interests me.🙂 Towards the end, an artist/comedian named Trevor Strong, author of the book “Get Stupid!”, gives a few tips for ultimate stupidity, the idea being “Ignorance is Bliss”… Anyway, one of the tips was about efficient cognitive-dissonance reduction:

    “The most important thing to do about denying is to deny to yourself that you denied. It’s a very hard mental state to be in. So once you denied something because you have to protect yourself, then you have to quickly forget that you ever denied anything.”
    😀 I think it defines some behaviour related to this debate fairly well… like the denial of seroreversion, the denial of fraud, “scientific” censorship, biased media, deliberate exaggerated claims, drug “side”-effects, lack of scientific evidence, lack of any true gold standard for any test, the importance of vitamins and nutrition, the conditions under which the “AIDS epidemic” originally began within the gay community, how many people are forced to live miserable lives because of the horrifying brainwashing, the rates of suicide, and so on…

    Unfortunately, the documentary doesn’t propose any solution. But obviously it has to be the opposite of what’s labeled as “stupidity”; it’s defined more or less as ignorance, willful or imposed. So the solution might very well be something like a thirst for true knowledge, no matter what it means for the person. Replacing “Ignorance is Bliss” with “Knowledge is Power” ? I’m still working on that…

  15. Joe said

    I was just reading an article today about the way in which David Bellamy (one of THE faces of science on TV in the UK for about 20 years) has been denied publicity in the last few years because he doesn’t accept that global warming is a human-generated phenomenon, and because he denies the world is a warmer place now than it was in the past two millenia.

    http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/69623

    The media like to consider themselves unbiased (and they may well be relatively unbiased when it comes to the major political parties). But it is so clear that there are a whole host of moral/political issues (sexuality, race, gender) on which they are extremely biased. Interestingly, it looks like certain science issues also get filtered out (AIDS, global warming, cholesterol).

    I was involved with radical grass-roots political movements in the 1980s, and there was a kind of Stalinist position which was initially laughed at — we used to joke that things were ‘politically correct’ or ‘not politically correct’. In the following decade the irony of this was lost, and things did indeed become politically correct, which means that they are things which cannot be publicly questioned. This has suffused society.

    Rather than see the refusal to contemplate or discuss the issues around HIV/AIDS as people clinging to some kind of religious belief, I think it is more useful to consider religious belief as an instance of what happens with ‘political correctness’. Religious people often espouse the restriction of some behaviour when they are in public, yet in private fail to live up to their stated beliefs. The beliefs cannot be questioned (at least in public), despite the existence of countervailing facts.

    I’m not saying that political correctness is all bad — it’s now considered unacceptable to say something that is racist or anti-gay (well, in my experience people test the water with new acquaintances, and when they find that they can be racist or anti-gay, they will be). Something similar happens with regard to health issues, too.

    Straight people (in their actions) have never really believed that they were at risk from AIDS. For 15 years I’ve asked straight friends whether or not they use condoms. Many who were having casual sex would use condoms with a total stranger; a significant number would not even in that situation. But without a doubt, once they started to ‘go steady’, they would abandon condoms. Yet if asked, they will trot out all the public health ‘information’ about HIV and AIDS.

    But in any context where I discuss the possibility of me having AIDS — doctors have suggested I take a HIV test because I’m gay and have back pain, my boyfriend had a cough and his doctor recommended a HIV test — these same straight people have expressed shock to hear that my boyfriend and I do not use condoms.

    At some level, people’s behaviour betrays whether or not they really believe something, or if they are actually just mouthing the words they know they must say (because if they don’t say them they risk disapprobation). Straight people have known for 15 years that they are not really at risk of getting AIDS, yet they still expect gay people to use condoms, even in a monogamous relationship that’s lasted almost a decade.

    But the issue with AIDS is complicated because people see that there are sick people who get treated with ARVs and the sick people make some kind of recovery (who knows for how long). But what we ignore is that doctors often are just treating symptoms. And that is probably what is happening with ARVs. Who knows why certain ARVs work with one person, but not with another? Logically speaking, any of them should work — they’re each supposed to terminate viral replication. Yet monotherapy was a disaster. They reduce the dosage and toss in some others ARVs, and hey… sometimes they work.

    The doctors have treated all my physical problems with stronger and stronger pain-killers. No attempt has been made to explain the cause and symptoms; just try to mask they symptoms and hope the patient gets better naturally, or at least doesn’t die from the treatment.

    As a gay man who has lived in major capital cities of Europe and Asia, and who’s visited NY and SF, I don’t think any credence should be given to the notion of ‘bug chasers’. To the extent that this exists it is obviously a pathological phenomenon. When I talk to gay friends about it, they’ve never heard of it, and laugh at the idea that someone would do it.

  16. Henry Bauer said

    Joe:

    Thanks for those very interesting points.

    As to the term “political correctness”, I had totally forgotten that it had been used in the context of dogmatic Soviet Communism. As to the notion of political correctness, I like your comparison with religion. There’s a conjunction of dogmatic 100% belief (faith, in other words) and the human capacity for cognitive dissonance, which could be interpreted as hypocrisy if it were fully conscious — in other words, your differentiation between words and actions, which is of salient importance.

    I’m not sure, though, how widespread is the recognition that AIDS is no threat to straight people; my daughter and her partner had HIV tests before they decided to have children, within the last 15 years.

    The improvement in health that some HIV+ people have experienced almost immediately upon taking ARVs can’t be the result of antiretroviral action, because the latter couldn’t take effect so rapidly; it seems plausible that it’s the result of antibiotic effect on bacteria or perhaps mycoplasmas or fungi or parasites, or — according to Dr. Juliane Sacher — some sort of anti-inflammatory action.

    As to back pain: I experienced months of that (in retrospect, probably induced by psychological stress), culminating in a collapse; at which stage my doctor, who had been prescribing pain killers, agreed that something else was needed, and he suggested chiropractic — which I had long regarded as quackery. It cured me. If you haven’t tried it, consider doing so. The chief problem is to choose a practitioner, because approaches vary from rather violent and somewhat risky to much gentler; it’s an entirely empirical art.

  17. sadunkal said

    Since global warming “denialism” has been briefly mentioned, I’ll use that chance to say that Michael Crichton died on Tuesday. There’s not much to say about that I guess, obviously unpleasant news.

    And I don’t want to stray too far away from the topic, but may I ask why you used to see chiropractic as quackery? That’s sort of hard to grasp for me. I guess it may have something to do with the fact that today’s “digital” youth is physically much more passive than former generations and most people from my generation are forced to notice the mechanical disorders of our musculoskeletal system every now and then. I instinctively learned to perform chiropractic adjustments to myself years ago.😀 As pathetic as it sounds, it’s true unfortunately…requires a little flexibility though.

  18. Henry Bauer said

    Sadunkal, re chiropractic:

    One of the first compendia about “pseudo-science” that I read (probably about 30 or 40 years ago) was Martin Gardner’s “Fads and Fallacies”, and chiropractic is mentioned there, together with homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy — all of them originated by a single person, apparently on the basis of a hunch, not empirical evidence. So I just accepted Gardner’s view

  19. Marcel said

    Prof. Bauer,

    How was naturopathy originated by a single person, and not on the basis of empirical evidence? I think that’s not true. Much of naturopathy is surely the result of centuries, even eons, of observation and experimentation (even if it wasn’t published in “scientific” journals.)

    Although I’ve never been to a chiropractor, I’m sure a lot of the idea that it’s “quackery” comes from the organized smear campaign that allopathic medicine has conducted against chiropractic for many years.

    I remember hearing an MD relative of mine, many years ago, calling chiropractic quackery. I’m sure that’s one of the facts he memorized in med school. Today I think that he’s the quack.

  20. Marcel said

    Re Michael’s comments about HIV-AIDS fitting in with religious anti-sex views that unmarried sex must always have bad consequences, I recall what the sheeple are reported to have said widely in the early days of AIDS:

    “First God sent Herpes to warn people not to have sex. It was a nuisance but not fatal. So when people continued having sex, God got angry and sent HIV.”

    There are also arguments that syphillis is not caused by its associated microbe, and was similarly a badge applied by the doctor to any sick person known to be illicitly lustful.

    See “SYPHILIS. Is it a Mischievous Myth or a Malignant Monster” By Herbert M. Shelton
    http://www.soilandhealth.org/02/0201hyglibcat/020134syphilis/020134syphilis-toc.htm

  21. Henry Bauer said

    Marcel:

    Thanks, you’re right, Gardner doesn’t say that naturopathy was founded by a single person, unlike homeopathy (Hahnemann), osteopathy (Andrew Taylor Still), and chiropractic (Daniel Palmer).

    Although the notion of “natural cures” surely originated long ago in pre-historical times, modern naturopaths claim to have systematic or specific knowledge based on traditional understanding, not on controlled trials. Quite a balanced summary by a generally skeptical person is at http://skepdic.com/natpathy.html

  22. Marcel said

    Prof. Bauer, I don’t find that article balanced at all.

    “Naturopathy is based on the belief that the body is self-healing.” Excuse me, that’s a BELIEF? I thought that was an obvious fact. My body heals itself all the time, in myriad ways.

    “Yet, only medical doctors are competent to do the tests necessary to determine if an individual’s immune system is in any way depressed”. Oh really, like counting t-cells and testing for Hiv?

    “The notion that vitamins and colloidal minerals, herbs, coffee enemas, colonic irrigation, Laetrile, meditation, etc., can enhance the immune system and thereby help restore health is bogus.” Is it? There’s tons of research that indicates that vitamins can restore health and cure illness. Read Dr. Matthias Rath’s work. Read what Dr. Ralph Moss says about Laetrile and the way the evidence that showed it helped against cancer was suppressed by Sloan-Kettering http://www.whale.to/c/moss.html

    Read the article archives at thenhf.com

    I’m sure that certain herbs have been shown in scientific studies to be effective. Saw Palmetto, for one. Doubtless, many others. Now I don’t know about coffee enemas and irrigation and stuff like that, but certainly one can say, upon a brief reading, that this article is not balanced, rather highly biased.

  23. Marcel said

    Yes, Skepdic.com is certainly a fine site for balanced scientific analysis. Such as this paper:
    http://skepdic.com/aidsdenial.html

  24. Henry Bauer said

    Marcel:

    What can I say? 🙂

    “Touche”, if only I knew how to put the accent over the “e”… 8)

    AHA! Thanks to sadunkal: “Touché”….

    Quite a while ago, I friend of mine had been corresponding with Skepdic and making that entry on “AIDS denial” less bad, apparently the improvements didn’t stick. Same with the entry that an anonymous “AIDStruther” put on Wikipedia about me.

    My reaction to both is a mixture of contempt and pity for people who are so unaware of their own biases, who think they are being objective even while they ignore facts, who criticize others for not knowing what they’re talking about while doing exactly that themselves…

    As to naturopathy, I think the term is intended to mean relying ONLY on natural means. I think we’re probably in large agreement, I don’t need any convincing that mainstream drugs should be used only as a last resort, and that naturally occurring substances have medicinal uses — a significant number of drugs were discovered by looking at traditionally used plants.

  25. sadunkal said

    I also have trouble with “the accent” on characters. Especially typing something like “Barre-Sinoussi” correctly is exhausting; copy/paste.🙂

  26. Henry Bauer said

    Sadunkal, thanks; I hadn’t tried that before.

    I’ve been rather gun-shy about copying from Word into the blog because some coding was showing up sometimes, so I was advised to go via Notepad first, and Notepad wasn’t taking the accent when I typed direct into it…

    I guess I belong to the generation that will never be quite comfortable with computers, i-pods, etc. So I do appreciate all the help I can get!

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