HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Doctors aren’t scientists, and medicine isn’t science

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/11/25

That doctors aren’t scientists is entailed by the training that doctors experience, which is appropriate for practicing medicine but not for carrying on research [“Nobel Prizes illustrate that doctors are not scientists”, 19 October 2008]. I’ve understood that for many years, so I felt quite chastened when the clearest support for that distinction occurred to me only recently: there’s a very obvious and clear-cut difference of principle between scientific knowledge and medical knowledge:

Scientific knowledge is universal, whereas medical knowledge is local.

One of the norms of science that Robert Merton identified in the late 1930s is its universality: chemists and physicists believe and teach the same facts and theories everywhere. Atoms and electrons and molecules are described everywhere under identical laws. The movements of the solar system, when accurately described, are the same for Europeans as they are for Asians or Americans. The photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, X-ray spectroscopy, etc., etc., etc., have no regional or national variations in description (facts) or in explanation (theory).

Please note that I said, re solar system, “when accurately described”. There are some dishonest scientists, and there have been some fraudulent publications in science, and at times there have been politically imposed ideologies to which scientists at times have had to bow, like Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union or “Deutsche Physik” in Nazi Germany. But no scientist with un-addled brain regarded those as constituting science. Left alone, science is universal. [Of course, I’m not saying that everything scientists believe is true. Scientific understanding changes and progresses. What I’m saying is that there are no culture-specific facts or laws of chemistry or any other science.]

Whereas science left alone is universal, medicine left alone — in the unfettered professional hands of doctors — is not universal. What doctors believe to be the best treatment for a given condition varies from country to country, because the understanding of what that condition is, the explanation of that condition, also varies from country to country.

I’m not speaking of differences often referred to between Western medicine and Chinese medicine, or between “modern” and “traditional” or “folk” medicine; I’m speaking of differences between what is regarded as modern, “scientific” medicine in so-called developed countries. Anyone who has incurred similar illnesses in the United States and in Britain is likely to have encountered some of the differences I’m talking about here. When I’ve had urinary-tract (or other) infections in the United States, antibiotics were prescribed immediately; when I had one in Britain, the doctor told me that these are usually self-limiting, that it’s best not to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and to come back if the infection hadn’t cleared itself within a few days. In the United States, my wife had been offered an hysterectomy whenever she was ready, because of occasional pain; in Britain, the gynecologist was aghast that anyone would contemplate so drastic an operation at so early a stage of occasional and minimal discomfort. At a time when acupuncture was still regarded as quackery in the United States, around 1960, a friend of mine was permanently cured of migraines by a practitioner of acupuncture in France. Nowadays, homeopathy is a respected technique in several European countries, but it’s viewed as quackery or pseudo-science in the United States.

When it occurred to me to footnote my earlier post with this to-me-new insight, it also occurred to me that it would be good to have something more than such anecdotes to support the assertion that medical knowledge is local whereas scientific knowledge is universal. I enquired of a former colleague, the medical historian Ann LaBerge, and was rewarded by being referred to a truly marvelous book on the subject: Medicine and Culture — Varieties of treatment in the United States, England, West Germany, and France by Lynn Payer. I recommend it unreservedly to all and sundry. One indication of its value may be that it was first published in 1988, revised in 1996, and remains in print (the author died some years ago, though).

As Payer herself acknowledges, medical practices change continually, and differences between nations don’t remain the same; thus acupuncture has gained a foothold in the United States, for example. But Payer does much more than delineate differences, she lends insight into the reasons. For instance, the attitude among Anglo-Saxons towards “natural dirt” is one of horror focusing on the “dirt”, entailing a great emphasis on disinfectants, frequent washing, and the like; whereas French medicine emphasizes the “natural” part and considers a certain degree of exposure to “dirt” as beneficial toward the acquisition of a robust immune system. Again, I would not have imagined that, 20 years ago, Germans would have been consuming 6 or 7 times as many heart medications as Americans, yet Payer has the data to prove it — as well as an intriguing suggested explanation rooted in cultural context.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be radical differences between countries regarding HIV/AIDS theory. There are some minor discrepancies as to “HIV” tests, of course; Val Turner has pointed out succinctly and clearly that there are about a dozen different criteria in use in different regions and laboratories for what supposedly constitutes a “positive” Western Blot [“HIV tests: danger to life and liberty“, 16 November 2007; for a very detailed critique, see “Valendar Turner’s evidence in chief” (1.2 MB pdf)].  There are also differences in criteria for an AIDS diagnosis: in Africa under the Bangui definition, clinical diagnosis doesn’t need the support of an HIV test; and few if any other countries agree with the CDC’s decision to regard, as AIDS patients, asymptomatic HIV-positive individuals with CD4 counts below 200. On the central mistaken points, though, that HIV causes AIDS and that HIV is sexually transmitted and that antiretroviral drugs are a good thing, there seems to be trans-national agreement.

Still, the general point, that medicine isn’t science, is fully illustrated by the sad tale of HIV/AIDS.

12 Responses to “Doctors aren’t scientists, and medicine isn’t science”

  1. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, Did you see the article about how Mbeki’s “AIDS” policies resulted in 365000 “AIDS” deaths because the “victims” were denied the “life saving” poisons?
    Isn’t it sad that the Orwellian redefinition of what had been restricted to certain risk groups expanded to the Bangui definition. Almost anyone living in abject poverty and sick would qualify as an AIDS diagnosis.

    Is Harvard also part of this mess?

  2. Henry Bauer said


    Evidently neither Celia Dugger nor her editors at NYT read my blog! 😉

    I deconstructed that “Harvard” study a month ago in “Poison in South Africa”, 26 October 2008

    This is an example of academic “publish or perish”. The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest; the “corresponding author” is M. Essex, Chair, Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative 8)

  3. Frank said

    With “World AIDS Day” arriving on Monday, The New York Times and other newspapers will be ramping up their annual festival of alarmist boosterism.

  4. Martin said

    Frank : “The New York Times and other newspapers will be ramping up their annual festival of alarmist boosterism.” That’s right! Gotta keep those big pharma advertizers happy.

  5. Hugosw said

    I studied polytechnics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm before I switched to medicine and started my medical studies at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
    The switch made a profound difference in the way of thinking and learning that was expected of me.
    At the Royal Institute of Technology, Mathematics, Physics and Mechanics were major subjects and analytical thinking was required.
    At the Karolinska Institutet Medical University, on the other hand, creative thinking was not expected or welcomed. You learned by heart what was written in the textbooks and said in the lectures. More than once I discovered that the teachers did not understand what they were teaching. You were not supposed to question anything, but to assimilate what was taught.
    As the admission to medical studies takes the very best grades there is in Sweden, the students are all taken from a very small subset of youth that have a special ability to please their teachers. Maybe that is of some consequence later when they are doctors. They tend to believe everything they hear or read from authorities. I have tried to discuss the question of HIV and AIDS with my colleagues but they will not hear about it. I have asked young doctors to read Duesbergs’ papers on AIDS and give it some critical thought, but they will not read it. They will not step down from their position as the professor’s pet, so to speak.
    Yes, you are perfectly right. Doctors are not scientists!

  6. Nick Naylor said

    Indeed, Martin and Henry, let’s not forget nonscientific medicine’s bastard step-children, epidemiology and public “health”, which in the USA is rapidly approaching the status of one of Orwell’s Ministries.

    This may go beyond “World AIDS Day”.

    I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of “all alarm bells ringing” for Daschle when he takes office at HHS, similar to Janet Reno and Waco at the dawn of the Clinton Administration.

  7. Henry Bauer said


    Thanks! Direct personal experience lends the force of reality to abstract generalizations.

  8. Michael said

    The study mentioned by Martin in the first post, that can be read in its entirety here: , showing how 365,000 lives could have been saved, was done by none other than Max Essex himself.

    And who was Max Essex for those who are unfamiliar?

    Max was a veterinarian, who later became a retrovirologist who claimed he discovered FIV, and claimed that it was the cause of cancer and immune suppression illnesses in cats.

    At that time, the “War On Cancer” was in full swing, and the NIH was full of virologists who were looking for the viral cause of cancer. As none was found, and as much information about corruption was leaking out to Congress, about misused funds, patients being experimented on without being informed, and many other charges, Congress was about to drop their funding when the whole “gay disease” thing came along.

    Max Essex, by the way, is the one who originally told Robert Gallo to pursue retroviruses as the cause of illness in gays, because Essex was convinced that a retrovirus was the cause of leukemia and immune illness in cats.

    (By the way, such feline AIDS seems to me, after investigating, to be nearly completely restricted to feral cats that are malnourished, or cats that were severely malnourished when they were kittens.)

    Max is also the one who claimed that he had discovered HIV-2, which was later proven to be a false claim — it was again the French who described this first — and secondly, HIV-2 turned out to have a full 60-percent difference from what is called HIV-1, so it could not possibly have been even remotely related. But that is a whole other issue.

    Max, of course, was also very threatened by Peter Duesberg, whose research led Peter to conclude that the retrovirus was harmless.

    And this is where the now-21-year-ong vendetta by Max Essex against Peter Duesberg had begun.

    The vendetta still continues, as is plainly obvious by reading the words of Max in the study you point out, that again, for Max Essex’s millionth time, claims Peter is so wrong. We can also read Max’s recent castigations of Peter on page 50 of the Jeanne Lenzer piece that was in Discovery magazine a few months ago:

    As such, it becomes plain to see that Essex’s recent paper was not about science, whatsoever.

    It was about his long-standing vendetta against Peter Duesberg.

    And in fully reading the study, those in the aware can again see quite clearly how Max Essex et al. mislead by basing their “modeling” on the most slippery of statistics of how many are supposedly HIV positives and of how many supposedly died of AIDS, statistics that have been slip-sliding in all directions, while fully leaving out factors such as being based on highly flawed ELISA tests given out at pregnancy clinics, when it is well proven that pregnancy often causes false positives. The study also fails to mention how many of the AIDS deaths were actually due to poverty, malnutrition, stress, or other factors that were obviously the prime causes of death in so many of those who died in the toxic slums and ghettos of Africa.

  9. Martin said

    Thanks, Michael, for giving a nice perspective with respect to Max Essex and Peter Duesberg. The ELISA test like the Western Blot are not just “highly flawed”. They are invalid. Why would a shelved toxic drug like AZT be chosen as the drug of choice for treating supposedly infected AIDS victims? What’s really Orwellian is the trade names of the AZT drugs like Acyclovir, Ritonavir, Indinavir, Combivir, Efavirenz (Sustiva) — all have the word “vir” for virus in them. When in fact they aren’t anti(retro)viral drugs at all. They really kill just about anything. Now Gallo knew that he couldn’t even find HIV — he said it was very difficult — I believe he was exaggerating — he never could find it. So what were Max Essex and Robert Gallo really trying to do? He knew how toxic these drugs were. Hitler would have succeeded if Gallo, Baltimore, Fauci, and Essex were in his employ because we would still be trying to end the Jewish Plague assuming there were any Jews left.

  10. Vito said

    Just found this.

  11. CathyVM said

    Thank you, Michael, for putting that in perspective. And thank you for your magnanimity in dealing with “that awful, foul-mouthed lout” on that other unworthy blog.
    Like Obama (okay, MacDonald, feel free to retch) you transcend the baser feelings to which so many of us succumb. More power to you. And I really mean that with all sincerity.

  12. Hugo said, “I have tried to discuss the question of HIV and AIDS with my colleagues but they will not hear about it.”

    I find this is true all over the place. One would think that a “long term non progressor” (22 years) that never took anti-HIV meds except for a couple of months and found no benefit would be open to new information. I’ve been conversing with him for some time now, but to no avail. It was just yesterday I received this opening line in an e-mail from him;

    “Interesting that I was just listening to Robert Gallo on NPR speaking about the current state of affairs on World Aids Day and there is nothing about the alternative viewpoint. I will wait for my next copy of The Nation which always exposes all sides of every issue.”

    I replied: “Don’t hold your breath.”

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