HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Cognitive dissonance: a human condition

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/26

I’ve been kicking myself because it took so long to appreciate what Martin had been telling me [“The debilitating distraction of ‘HIV’”, 21 December 2008]. That I didn’t grasp it was not because Martin could have expressed it more appropriately or clearly, but just because my mental apparatus somehow wasn’t ready to absorb it.

That experience helps me gain a little empathetic insight into the frequent illustrations of cognitive dissonance displayed by proponents and defenders of HIV/AIDS theory. The misguided, misleading unconscious connotations of “HIV” made it hard for me to recognize some obvious aspects of clear facts, most significantly, that what defines being “a person with AIDS” doesn’t define who dies from “HIV disease” — even “knowing” that “HIV” doesn’t cause “AIDS”, I’d slipped into thinking that there’s a meaningful, functional, connection between those “things”. How much more difficult it is for people who firmly believe HIV=AIDS, to draw unbiased inferences from the plain data, to see things as they really are.

For example, look at recent exchanges between Chris Noble and me. I look at the mortality numbers (M) and the death-age numbers (D), and what I see is this: D has increased at almost the same rate for the whole period 1982 to 2004 (“almost linearly”, according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the pdf link supplied by Noble); M, by obvious contrast, has changed anything but steadily — about constant from 1982 to 1986/87; 1986/87 to 1992, drops by nearly half; 1992 to 1993, drops by nearly 1/3 in a single year; drops by another half over the next FOUR years; drops by half in a single year, 1996/97; then takes SEVEN years to drop by another half. To me, as I just said, that’s anything but a steady decline, it’s distinct phases. Yet Chris Noble says “the mortality rate has steadily decreased while the median age at death has steadily increased”. I suppose this is what Thomas Kuhn called “incommensurability”: adherents to the conventional view simply cannot see, mentally speaking any alternative interpretation of the data.

Again, Noble asks me repeatedly to calculate how age of death ought to correlate with mortality. I repeat that I start with the data on both and try to see what relationship, if any, exists between them. Noble insists that I can’t know that there’s no functional relationship, unless I first predict what it should be! I haven’t the foggiest idea what he means; if two things aren’t related, how should they be related? But Noble’s mind is fixed in the belief that whatever defines “PWA” also defines death while a PWA, so he can’t “see” the contradictory data.

These examples illustrate why critical comments to my blog seem always to have developed in much the same way. Fulano de Tal, Köpek Burun, and others begin with substantive comments on a specific point. For a while, the exchanges remain to that point — and have served to make me clarify things and to re-examine the data or to seek more. And then, when the data and my interpretations seem to have withstood the original critique, the criticisms veer off into side-tracks, trivialities, off the main point; and they also change in tone. At first there’s a suave, sophisticated, above-the-fray manner; then that disappears as matters are argued in an increasingly aggressive manner (“Why can’t you answer a simple question?”; “I’m being polite, damn you!”); and when the critique hasn’t won out, what I say gets ignored and the tone descends into personal abuse and accusations of guilt by association (“You don’t know what you’re talking about”; “Learn some math”; “Who could believe anyone who takes Loch Ness monsters seriously”; etc.).

That typical course reflects the fact that cognitive dissonance is not only an intellectual fact of human life, it’s also powered by emotion: wanting to “be right”, wanting to “win an argument”. Both emotion and intellect are also at the mercy of conflicts of interest, and many defenders of HIV/AIDS orthodoxy have substantial stakes in it: jobs for “activists” and social workers, grants and career advancement for researchers, and so on.

It’s ever so much easier to understand what’s being said in argument against us when we’re arguing with people we already know as friends and have come to trust. Friendly rivalries can be just that, friendly. I relish the achievements and honors and successes and good luck that have come to friends of mine, I don’t feel jealous of them or competitive with them. The brasher, more dogmatic opinions I held in youthful days were much modified, and much for the better, because two close friends held very different political and social views, and because we were able to argue uninhibitedly with one another — we were aiming to get closer to understanding things, not trying to best one another.

By stark and sad contrast stands what goes on in so much of the blogosphere (and also in all-too-many mainstream venues), especially when it comes to issues like HIV/AIDS. AIDStruthers are out for blood, PERSONAL blood. They want President Mbeki held responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. They seem uninterested in carrying on discussions that focus on substance and in which friendly opponents can help one another to see things ever more clearly by shredding away the curtains of preconceived notions and ideological commitments. They want people fired for disagreeing with them. (I treasure the fake concern of the disguised AIDStruther who told me s/he was worried about how my HIV/AIDS activities might affect my employment — ignorant, apparently, of what “emeritus” means.)

I have no satisfactory answer to offer, unfortunately, for how AIDStruthers could be brought to useful mutual discussion. Matters of personal psychology are clearly important, but that doesn’t entail that psychologists could help us fashion a suitable approach. I‘m always reminded in this connection of one of the many things I learned about people and academics while I served as a Dean of Arts & Sciences. One of the few tenured faculty members whom we discharged for cause (refusal to carry out teaching assignments) had been on the faculty for more than a dozen years. The formal hearings that led to his eventual discharge revealed with extraordinary clarity that the person was paranoid — several of us independently recognized the stunning similarities with Captain Queeg’s court appearance in “The Caine Mutiny”. The irony is that the ill person was a member of the psychology department; none of his colleagues had diagnosed his illness during all the years he had been with them. Physicians, as they say, can’t heal themselves.

Here’s a criterion for whether a discussion is genuinely substantive or not, directed at clarification and increased understanding: no personal comments adorn the to-and-fro. If B appears not to understand what A is saying, then A looks for other ways of presenting the case, A doesn’t simply keep repeating the same assertions spiced with “Why can’t you…?”, and the like. [Added 28 December: Another hallmark of the non-substantive comments is that the commentator not only keeps harping on the same thing but does so by return e-mail, leaving no time to consider what s/he is replying to; see Burun’s admission of suffering from that failing.]

One lesson from experience is that the aim of Rethinkers cannot be to convince the AIDStruthers. It soon becomes a sheer waste of time to attempt to argue substance with them; a waste of time because you can’t learn anything from them, and they are incapable of learning anything from you. Rethinkers and Skeptics should address the bystanders, onlookers, the unengaged “silent majority”. There seem always to be with us some people who cheerfully continue to believe that the Earth is only about 6,000-10,000 years old, and many other things that most of us judge to be utterly disproved by factual evidence. One of my friends has been striving for more than two decades to educate those who remain convinced of the merits of Immanuel Velikovsky’s writings, and I judge his progress to be at or close to zero. As Max Planck said about quantum theory, the diehards don’t get convinced: progress comes as they die off. Even after the wider public has recognized that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, the AIDStruthers won’t admit they were wrong. Rather, Mark Wainberg and J P Moore and Fulano and Köpek Burun and their ilk will treat us to elaborate re-writings of history to show that they were always in line with the facts as known with any certainty at any given moment. Rethinkers, they will let it be known, may have happened to be right but it was for wrong reasons, for non-scientific reasons, whereas AIDStruthers just happened to be temporarily wrong, but for the right reasons, they were always guided by then-known facts, as is proper in science.

At any rate, AIDStruthers are not the audience to be courted. Their arguments must be countered with answers directed to the media and the general public in terms that are understandable by and clearly convincing for unengaged observers. That means the points cannot be too technical.

That’s why I’ve continued to look for “smoking guns”. The epidemiology of “HIV” tests shows “it” isn’t infectious, and isn’t correlated with the illnesses dubbed “AIDS” in the early 1980s. That’s a blatantly smoking gun, but it requires people to slog through a large mass of accumulated data to appreciate it. I think the significance of the death statistics is more readily understandable. Look at all the people who have been officially classified as “living with AIDS” over the years. Their mortality (rate of death) has gone since 1982 from 65% to 3% — not steadily, but in distinct phases, about 5 of them. What’s different about each phase is how “living with AIDS” was defined. So mortality depends on how the disease is defined, not on what “it” “is”, or how “it” is treated. That obviously means, there’s something wrong with the definition. And, by the way, could you think of any other disease whose definition has changed like this? And furthermore, any disease whose definition is different in different countries?
(Yes, I know: psychiatric illnesses. See above, what I said about psychology. Maybe I should add that some of my good friends, and indeed valued members of my family, have been and are psychologists. But it isn’t a science, not even a medical science.)

18 Responses to “Cognitive dissonance: a human condition”

  1. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, How can you take a “diagnosis” of paranoia seriously and at the same time say psychology isn’t a science? Psychiatry isn’t medicine although it’s practitioners pretend it is. Sigmund Fraud (intentional) “diagnosed” his most famous proteges — Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow as insane because they disagreed with Freud. Freud used diagnosis as a weapon. The Reverend Jim Jones “illness” wasn’t “discovered” until after the massacre.

    The “diagnosis” of the hapless psychology professor was a final nail in the coffin of his career — it was used as a weapon. What did this psychology professor not do with respect to his teaching assignments that so infuriated his colleagues? That’s the crux. Always look for the reasons a person does things — no matter how much you disagree with them.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Martin:

      The fellow described in great detail how people were persecuting him, see Chapter 2, “Learning”, in my Dean’s memoirs, http://henryhbauer.homestead.com/files/TRAPFULL.pdf

      I think there’s a great deal of insight in Freud’s work, even though he went overboard at times, was human in his over-ambitiousness and the like, and some “followers” of his went way too far. But I have a bias there, because my paternal grandmother had been a governess to Freud’s children, and my father was named for one of them. I even shook the great man’s hand in 1939 (in England).

  2. CathyVM said

    It suddenly occurred to me that an interesting exercise would be to take 10 people from each side of this “debate” and subject them all to a polygraph. Then we’d know who suffered true cognitive dissonance and those who harbour some doubts while continuing to insist they speak the truth.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Polygraphs aren’t sufficiently reliable, Cathy. Experienced liars “pass” because they have no involuntary emotional stress when they lie

  3. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, The psychology professor had a belief that he was being persecuted, Jews believe they are the chosen people, Christians believe Christ was born of an immaculate concecption, Moslems believe when they go to heaven they will have 49 virgins, drink wine and eat dates. If a group of people share a delusion, that’s called religion, if it’s a single person (with the delusion like they are receiving transmissions from the FBI in their teeth), it’s (diagnosed as) paranoid schizophrenia. I was raised in a Jewish home to believe there is no heaven or hell when we die, Christians are raised to believe there is.

    I don’t take psychiatric diagnoses seriously — however because of the power psychiatrists wield, the State does, and it can seriously affect your future and career. Thomas Szasz has much to say about this in most of his books, most recently “Coercion as Cure”.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Martin:

      I agree there’s a lot of dirty water in psychology and psychoanalysis and psychiatry, but I don’t want to throw it all out without rescuing, if not a baby, then perhaps an embryo? Any time the power of the State comes into play, on just about any issue, there’s good reason to worry, I think.

  4. CathyVM said

    I personally suffer from Pharmaceutical Propaganda Aversion Disorder.
    I’ll bet it ends up in future issues of the DSM.
    Mutter, mutter, mutter…

    • Henry Bauer said

      CathyVM:

      Be glad you’re not exposed to United States TV, with incessant pornographic advertisements for sex — Cialis, Viagra, etc. — and earnest “citizens” assuring tha if you can’t afford to pay for your prescriptions, help may be provided by “America’s PHARMACEUTICAL RESEARCH COMPANIES”.

      However, I read some time ago, forget where, that New Zealand shares honors with USA in allowing direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

  5. Henry Bauer said

    P.S.
    Added 28 December: Another hallmark of the non-substantive comments is that the commentator not only keeps harping on the same thing but does so by return e-mail, leaving no time to consider what s/he is replying to; see Burun’s admission of suffering from that failing.

  6. Henry,

    The embryo you’re looking for is already 30 years old. It is the re-incarnation of another embryo, buried in September 1897 by — yes, Sigmund Freud.

    In the year 1896 he published “The Etiology of Hysteria”, where he told the story of 18 of his patients, who suffered from a condition he called “hysteria”, and all of whom had been sexually abused by their closest relatives during childhood. All of them – without any exception.

    His patients all belonged to the upper Vienna society, and Freud was shocked about the frequency of this crime, committed by well educated, highly respected citizens.

    Unable to bear his own findings, only months later Freud escaped the horrifying thoughts and went into a state of denial, where he remained for the rest of his life. Not only did his brother and younger sisters suffer from severe forms of “hysteria” (!); also his best friend Wilhelm Fliess refused to accept the facts. Not surprisingly, because as Jeffrey M. Masson wrote in his book “Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing”, Fliess himself had abused his son Robert, who later became a psychoanalyst himself.

    The third part (the longest one) of Alice Miller’s book “Thou Shalt Not Be Aware” is about Freud and his turn from truth to lie. In 1897 he invented the “drive theory” and since then, no child has ever been sexually abused, they are just “fantasizing”. The myth of the “fantasizing child” became the psychoanalytical dogma, which has destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients. This dogma makes it impossible for the patient to remember and realize the truth, because whatever the patient remembers (while experiencing unbelievable pain and horror), all that had never happened, the patient is just fantasizing — fantasizes the dogmatist/therapist.

    What you demonstrated here with your words about Freud is fascinating and illustrating. Alice Miller has written ten books and in all of these books she stresses the importance of not abandoning the truth just because of the emotional ties we had to our parents, caregivers, authorities, or other people in our childhood.

    Your shaking of Freud’s hand as a boy does not delete the fact, that he took side with the rapist of one of his patients, who later became famous as “Dora”. How should Dora ever heal with such a therapist? No chance.

    Though I’m personally addicted to reading I’ve been recommending Alice Miller’s books as the only real Must-Read-Books on the planet for a decade now. And I will continue to do that. The English translation of one of her books is available on-line in full length: “For Your Own Good”. Perhaps you may want to read it after reading the Contents of the book:

    http://www.nospank.net/fyog.htm

    Miller’s first book was “The Drama of the Gifted Child”, published in 1978. That’s why I said the embryo is 30 years old now.

    On Miller’s website a reviewer says:

    “The author believes that during their lives, most people go through five psychological stages:

    As a small child to be hurt and not recognizing the fact.
    Failing to react to suffering with appropriate anger.
    Showing gratitude to the parents for their supposedly good intentions.
    Forgetting everything.
    Discharging the stored-up anger onto others in adulthood or directing it against oneself.”

    http://www.alice-miller.com/books_en.php?page=2a

    Dr. Chris Noble obviously is in the fifth state. He has been crusading the Internet for more than a decade now, writing an unknown number of postings for an unknown number of blogs and forums, trying to hunt down “dissidents”. He has been banned from at least one forum. It isn’t hard to image why they banned him.

    On the contrary it is very hard to imagine how he manages to write so many postings over such a long period of time in addition to a normal bread-and-butter-job. Unless — thisis his bread-and-butter-job. About a decade ago the Internet became widely known to and used by the general public. Maybe crusading the Internet is just a kind of public-relations campaign for some branches of AIDS Inc.

    The words he uses against you demonstrate the dramatic tension and desperation he finds himself in now. Even UNAIDS has announced that there is no heterosexual AIDS epidemic. And if heterosexual “HIV” is not contagious, homosexual “HIV” cannot be contagious either. A homosexual sperm is exactly the same as a heterosexual sperm: It is just a sperm. Period.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Sabine, maybe I should be more specific about what I’ve found useful in Freud’s work. His approach to slips of the tongue and interpretation of dreams has worked for me quite often, as did free association to uncover apparent origins of panic attacks; and after the uncovering they did fade away.

      But of course I don’t claim that these personal anecdotes prove anything about general applicability of even those aspects, let alone of Freud’s views on childhood sex and abuse and hysteria. I also think that much about his theories reflects the fact that his clients were largely well-off Viennese Jews during a rather atypical historical period.

      And thanks for the recommendation re Alice Miller.

  7. MacDonald said

    Sabine,

    One doesn’t exclude the other. Quite a few lives have been ruined because children do fantasize or tend to respond to suggestions from their analyst or interrogator.

    Myth shows that incestuous relationships, or fantasies about them, are universal.

  8. CathyVM said

    Prof Bauer
    Yes, we do have revolting DTC [direct to consumer] advertising of prescription-only drugs here, and the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to “self-regulate”, resulting in totally overblown claims and minimised side-effect information.
    I detest all advertising so if the television is on, the mute button is hit within a split-second of any advert beginning.
    When it comes to advertising I am a complete Luddite. Likewise on the Internet I refuse to even look at an ad. I think it stems from being a bloody-minded person that doesn’t like being told what to buy, what to think, how to dress, how to eat etc. My automatic reaction to any claim is “Yeah? Sez who?”

    • Henry Bauer said

      CathyVM, in those respects, we’re identical twins. But since my reflexes are slowing, I still catch some of the stuff, and see some of the words on the screen, and am continually bemused that anyone would want to try these drugs that “may” cause everything under the sun that you wouldn’t want.

  9. Henry:

    Thanks for clarification. You took the words right out of my mouth. The uncovering of the origins of your panic attacks made them fade away. Life would be much easier for all of us if the AIDS crusaders would uncover the origins of their ad hominem attacks. The attacks would fade away.

    And what is more important: The never ending production of scapegoats and the poisoning of them with “life-extending” drugs would stop as soon as the AIDStruthers would stop the discharging of their stored-up anger by uncovering the real origins of their anger.

    The “voluntary” march to the pile would end, when the scapegoats would uncover the origins of their pain, which they try to narcotize by not really an impressive amount of legal and illegal drugs.

    But I cannot agree with your suggestion that Freud’s theories had anything to do with religion or the population he accidentally found in Vienna at the time.

    The abuse of children has been ubiquitous for many centuries, though it is not a human condition to abuse children, because there was a time, where children have been treated with utmost respect. Of course mainstream doesn’t allow us to know anything about it.

    The amendment to honor your parents, no matter what they’ve done to you, is not Jewish, it is mandatory in every religion. It was this amendment, that made it impossible for Freud to see the truth, though he discovered it himself.

    The drive theory is a perfect instrument for a therapist to help the patient not to violate this amendment. Unfortunately all other psychotherapeutical theories serve the same purpose. You’ve experienced it yourself: Problems won’t fade away unless you uncover the origins of them. What if the origins where the deeds of the parents?

    MacDonald:

    The atrocious crime of incest is universal, indeed. But incest is not a myth – it is a fact. It is another universal fact, that children are never to be believed or to be taken serious.

    Universally they are accused of fantazising or of “ruining families” with their fantasies.

    The question is: What makes us think that children are fantasizing whenever they tell us something we don’t want to hear or what makes us feel guilty?

    That was just a rhetorical question. You’ll find answers to this question in the books I’ve mentioned in my previous comment.

  10. Macdonald said

    Sabine,

    What I said was one doesn’t exclude the other. Just because some people would prefer to think that children are fantasizing rather than face the fact that real crimes have taken place, it doesn’t mean that children are never lying or fantasizing.

    And just because the drive theory can be used to rationalize or deny certain things, it doesn’t mean it is wrong or useless. Can you or Alice Miller explain why the drive theory doesn’t work?

    I said incestuous relationships, or themes, are omnipresent in myth, as are fratricide, patricide, rape etc. Rape of young children less so. You are confusing incest with the atrocious crime of abusing a helpless victim.

    Myths (archetypes) are a window into our unconscious mind (Jung) Freud’s concern was the unconscious, or subconscious, as he called it. If a theme is omnipresent in myth, it strongly suggests that there is a corresponding unconscious drive or archetype. The child’s fantasies are rarely conscious, but if you activate these mechanisms in various ways, the stories surface.

    Likewise, when a child is already socialized – at a very early age – it learns to use social norms and expectations, most of which are the results of unconscious drives and corresponding taboos in the first place. There are also various self-protective mechanisms that come into play, whenever we have been subjected to a traumatic experience or are under pressure. One of them is repression, another is invention. In one of his gems (Beyond teh PLeasure Principle Ch. II), Freud recognizes the symbolic or displaced repetition of a traumatic event, such as the absence of the mother, in an attempt to master it, in order to regain control of one’s world.

    Children. just as adults are highly unreliable and manipulative narrators, especially if they are themselves manipulated by the expectations of others.

    There was a case recently about an 8 year old boy, who admitted unqualifiedly to having shot his father and another man. A psychologist
    commenting said that he had experience
    with a number of similar confessions. They had all turned out to be false.

    Was this psychologist in denial?

  11. MacDonald,

    I’m sorry, but I can’t explain here on Henry Bauer’s blog, why the drive theory doesn’t work, because:

    a) I’m neither a psychiatrist, nor a therapist, nor an analyst.

    b) Alice Miller has been practising as a psychoanalyst for twenty years, before she gave up this profession, precisely because during these decades she discovered that the theory damaged her patients even more. Every single patient of her’s proved the theory wrong. She explains the reasons, why the drive theory doesn’t work, exhaustively in all of her books.

    c) There is an inseparable connection between reading her books, the process of understanding what she’s talking about not only with your brain, but even more with your heart, and the inner growth resulting from this endeavor.

    d) There is no shortcut.

    Your question resembles the question of somebody called “Jeet” on the “Re-Comments”-page:

    “i really want to ask you .. if you can state in points like 1, 2, 3 why you believe that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. i guess then it would make our job of reading your site easier. Coz at this point of time .. it has very poor presentation. And pl give the links to each of the points. Thank you.”

    https://hivskeptic.wordpress.com/re-comments/#comment-1021

    If you like to know how other people experience the above mentioned process, feel free to read the “readers’ mail” on Miller’s website:

    http://www.alice-miller.com/readersmail_en.php

    Unfortunately, when inner growth is at stake, there’s nothing like 1, 2, 3.

  12. Nick Naylor said

    I have no idea whether the “drive theory” is right or wrong, Sabine, but Macdonald’s point has more to do with what forensic psychiatrists call “the role of suggestion in normal everyday human interactions”. This effort to “identify what is unique about hypnosis” results in “important lessons learned … that suggestion is ubiquitous in the social environment and that it doesn’t need to be intentional to have an impact.”

    “Suggestion” is of course a technical term like “drive”.

    In any event, for a fascinating article on eyewitness testimony and how interviewing investigators can “contaminate” such testimony I recommend the latest issue of the Forensic Examiner (www.acfei.com).

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