HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

The Social Psychology of “Denialist” Scientists — Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2, part 2

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/18

Scientists, we are instructed by Kalichman, are “by their nature and training systematic and objective” (p. 112; see “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2: The Social Psychology of Scientists”, 14 March 2009). That raises a seemingly obvious question:

How or why did some “systematic and objective” scientists become “AIDS denialists”?

I find no explanation for this in Kalichman’s book, even though he places quite a few of us in that category. For example, there’s Kelly Brennan-Jones, like Kalichman a psychologist and therefore also a scientist, and one for whom Kalichman had much respect and from whom he had solicited a book review: “I knew her work dating back to my years in graduate school. I knew Kelly Brennan-Jones was trained at a superlative university by some of the best social psychologists in the country” (p. xiii).

But, it turns out, Brennan-Jones differs with Kalichman about HIV/AIDS.
“My reaction was one of absolute outrage. I mean I was really angry. I was in an emotional upheaval. I surprised everyone around me, including myself, by my seemingly irrational reaction. How could someone I knew to be intelligent, well-trained as a scientist at a respectable university and in a position of influence over college students endorse a book that everyone surely knows is outdated, biased, and of little more value than that worthy of a doorstop?” (p. xiii).

Thus Kalichman describes how he himself lapsed from systemic objectivity and became irrational (though only “seemingly” so, whatever that means), but he doesn’t give a convincing explanation for why it happened. Surely that a fellow psychologist differs with him over a scientific issue can’t be the explanation — if it were, then psychologists would be in a continual state of irrational anger and outrage, given that there are disagreements over so many quite fundamental issues in psychology and psychotherapy. Nor does Kalichman suggest what might have pushed the respected Brennan-Jones, senior to Kalichman though perhaps no more distinguished, out of her customary systematic objectivity — if indeed that’s the case; Kalichman nowhere establishes that there’s anything non-objective about doubting HIV/AIDS theory, he just takes it for granted. He doesn’t even enlighten us about what convinced him personally of that. But consider the matter from Kalichman’s viewpoint for the moment; doesn’t that immediately raise the question, why did Brennan-Jones, an outstanding, systematic, objective scientist for many years, lose those attributes?

The same conundrum applies to others whom Kalichman takes to task as “denialists”. There’s Peter Duesberg, pioneer acclaimed retrovirologist, who isolated the first oncogene in 1970 and was elected to the National Academy in 1986 (p. 175) — yet who almost immediately thereafter lost the scientific attributes he had exemplified during a quarter century of highly distinguished research.

Then there’s David Rasnick (pp. 176-77), competent enough to have worked on proteases (albeit only in rats), who also apparently lost his scientific marbles in middle age or later.

Dr. Matthias Rath is not included among “denialist” scientists in Kalichman’s Appendix B, but he is referred to throughout the book as a German vitamin entrepreneur and “AIDS denialist”. It fails to be mentioned that Rath had worked closely with one of the 20th century’s leading scientists, Linus Pauling. Apparently Rath, a PhD scientist, also somehow lost his systematic objectivity in middle age or thereabouts.

Harvey Bialy had been systematically objective enough to garner a PhD in molecular biology from Berkeley. Kalichman (p. 177) appears to think he wasn’t that great a scientist, though, since he published only 27 articles and was merely an editor for a while at one the leading medical-scientific journals. At any rate, at some stage Bialy, too, apparently lost any remaining systematic objectivity and lapsed into denialism.

Then there’s the sad case of Kary Mullis (pp. 177-8), a Nobel Laureate who happens to be also an “AIDS denialist”, having evidently lost his Nobel-quality systematic objectivity at some time or other. One of the things responsible for that fall from grace, no doubt, was that Mullis persistently asked everyone he encountered to please give him citations to the specific publications that prove HIV to be the cause of AIDS; and he never received a responsive answer. Perhaps that’s enough to drive anyone out of systematic objectivity.

And so it continues. Charles Geshekter (pp. 178-9) had been a systematic, objective social scientist (historian) until he contracted denialism. Claus Koehnlein (p. 179) too — though he had been only a practicing physician, not a researcher, not a scientist, so perhaps he never had been systematically objective. The Perth Group (pp. 179-80) has several doctors and scientists who were infected with denialism around mid-career. There’s also Etienne de Harven (p. 180), formerly of the University of Toronto and the Sloan-Kettering Institute. Roberto Giraldo, who might never have been very systematically objective because his medical degree was only from South America and he had been merely a medical technologist in New York (p. 181). Mohammed Al-Bayati (p. 181), PhD from the University of California at Davis, somehow became unsystematic and unobjective at some time thereafter. Lynn Margulis (pp. 181-2), who was elected to the National Academy in 1983, is rightly famous for having discovered the mechanism of symbiosis by which evolution advances in leaps rather than by infinitesimally slow natural selection from genetic mutations; however, she too suffered a breakdown of systematic objectivity as the years went by.

And then (p. 182) there are a couple of mathematicians, Serge Lang and Rebecca Culshaw. Of course, the majority view is that mathematics isn’t a science, neither “hard” nor soft, and so maybe mathematicians lack systematic objectivity to begin with. On the other hand, it’s also a majority view that mathematics is the most rigorously logical enterprise of all — all of pure mathematics is the following of axioms to their logical conclusions.

We know, too, that the denialist scientists named in Kalichman’s book are the merest tip of a proverbial iceberg, because there are hundreds more PhDs and MDs among AIDS Rethinkers.

And yet, despite having all these examples to work with, Kalichman offers no explanation for how or why scientists morph from systematic objectivity into wacky denialism.

To fill this vacuum (vacuity?) left by Kalichman, I’ll venture a suggestion.

The clue, I think — as with HIV/AIDS itself — is the matter of age. One of the curiosities of “HIV” is that it “infects” chiefly individuals who are in the prime of adult life, 35-45 years. (And, curiously enough, as I’ve remarked in several blog posts, after a “latent period” of healthy life averaging 10 years, followed by many years of “living with HIV/AIDS” while being kept alive by antiretroviral drugs, they still die chiefly at ages 35-45).

We have a rather similarly curious situation with “AIDS denialism”: It strikes people at relatively advanced ages and typically after decades of healthy systematic objectivity.

However, if one looks more carefully into the histories of these sufferers from denialism, one can often detect some early warning signs of a tendency to deviate from the systematic objectivity of their colleagues and to strike out in new directions, to have different ideas, to be creative and innovative; but this only becomes extreme decades later, when it blossoms into full-blown AIDS denialism.

Evidently, AIDS denialism in scientists, like AIDS in people at large, is brought on by a very slow-working infection that becomes manifest and serious only a decade or more later. Obviously the cause of denialism is, as with AIDS, a lentivirus.

“HIV”, of course, is the type specimen of the species “pathogenic lentivirus”, since the earlier and very first lentivirus, which causes kuru, turned out to be a prion and not a virus at all. We know that one mode of transmission of “HIV” is from mother to child. We further know that there is a genetic predisposition to contract “HIV”, in particular, African genes predispose to contracting “HIV”.

By analogy, we can expect that the “denialist” lentivirus is also sometimes passed on from mother to child, or at least “within families” like HTLV-I and II (p. 114 in Gallo, Virus Hunting, 1991) — there is a correlation between the intellectual qualities of parents and children, after all. And there’s also a genetic predisposition to AIDS denialism: Germanic genes predispose to denialism, according to Kalichman (pp. 54, 145; there’ll be more about this in “The German Connection —Kalichman’s not-so-Komical Kaper #3”).

Kalichman has identified other characteristics of denialists as well. Most notably, they are suspicious people and conspiracy theorists (e.g., p. 13 ff. & chapter 4). But this raises the same problem as denialism itself: Why did so many now-denialist scientists contract these conditions only after decades of unexceptionable, even distinguished research?
Obviously, again, it’s that lentivirus. As “HIV” is capable of explaining every form of deviance from physical health, so the denialist lentivirus is capable of explaining every form of deviance from mental health.

AIDS scientists and AIDStruthers have had no success in protecting against the denialist lentivirus through education. Indeed, as the prominent AIDS scientists praising Kalichman’s work have testified, denialism has become a major threat to public health. Since we know that there’s a genetic predisposition to it, perhaps it will turn out that gene therapy (disabling or modifying Germanic genes) is the only really effective means of prevention — just as with HIV, where abstinence, condoms, microbicides, and vaccines have all failed miserably (“HIV gene therapy trial promising”).

19 Responses to “The Social Psychology of “Denialist” Scientists — Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2, part 2”

  1. Stefan R. said

    Very good analysis,Henry.
    In my case I got the virus by stumbling accidentally onto Prof. Duesberg’s papers back in 1998. After digging into the whole stuff over months, I had undergone a 10-year “latency period” (and I am now very sorry for that….). In spring 2008, when the Semmelweis Award was granted to Celia Farber and Peter Duesberg, I developed full-blown AIDS denialism. And further on in 2008 I was just 46 years old🙂🙂 ….

  2. [Quote]We have a rather similarly curious situation with “AIDS denialism”: It strikes people at relatively advanced ages and typically after decades of healthy systematic objectivity.[End quote]

    Unless the denialism lentivirus is that of strain LV-666 and LV-911, then the effects are seen as early as teenage and college years.

  3. Sadun Kal said

    The trouble is that human studies are already out of the question; too dangerous for public health.

    And animal studies with this virus would be hard to interpret correctly, they would be just plain bizarre! It is probable that denialism is not unique to the human species, see the end of this video:

    …but how can animals communicate their refusal to accept a scientific theory?

    So I guess we’ll just have to assume that ADV is indeed responsible for all this, and we should act before it spreads more. It’s already at a critical level! We better hit hard, hit early too. I, as a victim, intend to start an AIDS Denialism awareness organization soon. I’ll tell people my own story and hope I can inspire some of them. The stigma is the hardest part but there is still life even after full-blown Denialism.

  4. Sadun Kal said

    Uh oh! Prof. Kalichman, who is too busy with his career, asks:

    “So when Bauer posts “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper”, is he telling the KKK that he is a brother? It seems unlikely that Henry Bauer is an internalized Anti-Semitic Klansman. Although nothing would surprise me about Henry Bauer. So how demented can Old Henry be?”

    I must admit that I also didn’t get that K thing either actually.🙂 But that wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind as a possible explanation.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Sadun Kal:
      Quite a common idiom when describing incompetent blundering is to liken people to “Keystone Kops”, who were featured in some of the earliest silent movies.
      I suppose one could regard this as a sort of Rorschach test. Some people, like me, when they see “KKK” in connection with “comical”, will immediately think “Keystone Kops”. Others apparently have racism on their mind, whereas that doesn’t seem to me in the slightest comical.
      One reason that nothing about me would surprise Kalichman is that he knows nothing about me, and even manages to misquote (sometimes inside quotation marks) things that I’ve never said or written. However, as I’ll describe in later blogs, it may be that Kalichman heard some of these things from “Joseph C Newton”.

  5. Sadun Kal said

    Well, Prof. Bauer, you’re not exactly trying to hide your age either:

    🙂 Looks really old, but interesting… Their action scenes look much more real than it is today in most movies I think.

    Other than that, I’m also interested in the Joseph Newton stuff of course. By the way, recently(2 weeks ago?) Prof. Kalichman was also speculating about a link between Nazis and the rethinkers on his blog, it was here:

    When I commented on it he thought that I was a Nazi too, because of some strange coincidence, plus “The German Connection” perhaps.🙂. But after I told him a bit about myself he was convinced that it’ll be better if he removes the whole thing apparently. So maybe now he’ll remove that comment with KKK too, who knows..?

    In the end I think he’s too scared of dissidents really, always inclined to believe the worst imaginable scenarios about us. Or at least he tries to be scared and to scare others. I don’t know how successful he is deep inside.

  6. Tracy D. Ellis said

    I like this one allot. So light and funny.

    What about people like me that are diagnosed AIDS over a decade and a half ago but our bodies are in “denial” and remain clinically healthy. Does Mr. K mention us? Has my body’s denial warped my mind? Have we come up with a fancy name for this yet? If not can we please lol🙂

  7. Joe said

    It’s very striking to see how Henry takes apart Kalichman’s book analytically and with just a modicum of humour, when on Kalichman’s blog he and his associates just resort to slurs and innuendos.

    From the things Henry’s quoting from Kalichman, it looks to me like his book hardly deserves to be considered academic. Kalichman really should be ashamed of himself — no true academic would stoop to his level.

    Incidentally, having seen the other books listed by Henry, I’m off to buy a couple of them. The book on scientific method looks most interesting.

  8. Cathy said

    In my case, I caught the denialism lentivirus via my computer (typical huh?). I had read that awful Horowitz book –– while I suspected most of it was nonsense, he did widen a crack that was already open from working “within the system”.
    The prodrome kind of sat in the background (for about 5 years) until the abovementioned book prompted me to peruse PubMed (up until this point my primary focus had been CVD).
    Quelle horreur! I sat in my hot, sweaty upstairs office going back over more than 2 decades, drowning in the plethora of papers, to find… exactly nothing! Nothing that was definitive proof that this strangely protean, magical “virus” caused AIDS. “Sacré Merde!” I thought –– how could this be? I know they did this with the cholesterol theory, and the heart disease theory, but… but… NOT THIS! I felt so alone, so stigmatised by this knowledge. At this point I had no idea that there were others suffering the same terminal affliction. I did see a witch doctor (Rev. Muthee I think) and he assured me it is incurable (and then he exorcised me anyway).
    Thank GOD for blogs like this!

    Prof. Bauer, the KKK didn’t occur to me either –– I just thought it was an alliterative thing.

  9. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, Joe said: “no true academic would stoop to his level.” The sad thing is, even I was surprised at how many academic fields of endeavor are populated with small-minded people like Kalichman, who have no other argumentative techniques at their disposal than the ad-hominem attack. Their methodology is as bankrupt as the hedge-fund derivatives dreamt up by the financial “wizards” at AIG. When John Lauritsen revealed the house of cards built on the myth that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, renowned academics whose careers were staked on it virtually had no method other than to attack Lauritsen directly, like with his association with the AIDS denialists.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Joe, Martin: re academe
      I spent my career in academe in Australia and in the United States. My idealistic notions about it took a hit at the first faculty meeting I attended, and it went down-hill from there. Recall the saying, attributed to lots of people, that disagreements in academe are so fiercely fought because the stakes are so low. For a few stories, see my Dean’s Memoirs. I doubt that academics are basically any different, but the environment enhances tendencies to pomposity, self-importance, abuse of power (over students, and also the supporting staff), and the like. Still, some of my best friends have been academics! 🙂

  10. MacDonald said

    One could regard Kalichman’s Klan Kaper as a Rorschach test, but that would be true denial.

    Fact is, this is part of the deliberate propaganda function Kalichman serves, and which our friend, Valerie, has described for us earlier. The idea is to associate Prof. Bauer’s (and others’) names with homophobia and racism as much as possible without risking a libel suit.

    Kalichman does it repeatedly in his book, for example when he freely invents the psychological type of the “denialist”, consisting of dual personality traits, such as proneness to homophobia and mistrust of the government. This is pure pseudoscience, even as psychology goes, with no basis in empiricism or anything else apart from Kalichman’s transparent political agenda.

    Although taking apart Kalichman’s pretenses to science is mildly amusing, we should not imagine science, accuracy or any other academic virtue was ever part of his mission. The book, from cover to cover, is a poorly written political smear job, and this was how it was intended (apart maybe from being that poorly written).

    The blog passage referred to by Sadun is a textbook example of how AIDS Inc., Kalichman in this case, disseminates propaganda and creates certain associations in the reader’s mind. Note below how Kalichman pretends to throw the KKK thing in there as a spontaneous jocular reference along with Nessie, Aliens and all the other classics:

    For those interested in Bauer I suggest they do visit the link you provide as well as the links to the right which direct you to his seminal work on Nessies as well as being a Homophobe in recovery. You might also visit Reckless Endangerment, also linked to the left under Nessie’s, I mean Alien’s, I mean Henry’s picture.
    His posting title does interest me.
    You know Henry Baueer is often accused of being a racist. I do not know why anyone would think that saying Black people test HIV positive because their immune system is “different” from White people’s would make him a racist.
    Still, is Henry revealing that he is a racist by replacing words that start with ‘C’s with ‘K’s to get a string of KKK?
    It is a well known fact that the Ku Klux Klan historically marked friendly businesses in this way to let fellow Klansmen know of a meeting place. The classics were “Kountry Kitchen Kafe” or the “Kozy Korner Kitchen”.
    So when Bauer posts “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper”, is he telling the KKK that he is a brother? It seems unlikely that Henry Bauer is an internalized Anti-Semitic Klansman. Although nothing would surprise me about Henry Bauer. So how demented can Old Henry be?

    Hmmm… cute sort of semi-humorous rambling along a tangent, right?


    The above was from March 18. This is from March 15. – Kalichman even refers to Reckless Endangerment, the blog where he posted it:

    Henry is often accused of being a racist. I do not know why anyone would think that saying Black people test HIV positive because their immune system is “different” from White people’s? But is Henry revealing that he is a racist by replacing words that start with ‘C’s with ‘K’s? It is a well known fact that the Ku Klux Klan historically marked friendly businesses in this way to let fellow Klansmen know it was a meeting place. The classic was “Kountry Kitchen Kafe” or the “Kozy Korner Kitchen”.
    So when Bauer posts “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper”, is he telling the Klan that he is a brother?
    I doubt that Henry is Klan. But his stupidity is undeniable.

    There might be different versions elsewhere on the net.

    Kalichman makes sure he can weasel his way out of a libel suit, but the casual reader is left with, “Bauer, Ku Klux Klan, homophobia, Nessie”, and that of course is the sole intention.

    What always strikes me as extraordinary is that Kalichman and most other AIDStruthies view themselves as “progressive”, anti-fascist, anti-religulous, vote for Barack Obama etc., and yet they embrace the exact same political smear tactics that the extreme Religious Right uses, for instance, against Obama when they try to associate him with Marxism, terrorism, Islam, Weather Underground and so forth.

  11. J Reister said

    Sometimes a ‘K’ is just a ‘K’ (a little psychology humor).

  12. Henry Bauer said

    Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Re “people often say”, “X is often accused of…” — This smear tactic or strategy has been familiar to me since college days. One of our professors was notorious for doing it. At every opportunity, he would remark: “Isn’t it disgusting, awful, the way they’re spreading rumors about ‘Y——-’; they say he cheats on his wife, just because he’s often seen leaving that girl’s house late at night. And I really don’t believe that he’s bisexual and even harasses his male graduate students. And why would he do tax dodges when he’s already so well off?”… etc. etc.

  13. Sadunkal said

    Yes, important points. It appears that this is a pretty conscious effort and not just a result of fear as I earlier speculated.

    Oh Seth… why do you hate us so much?
    We don’t want to harm you, we’re just trying to improve the current situation.
    Try not to feel threatened to the degree that you turn yourself into a propaganda machine, please.
    Everybody has to make some sacrifices for progress.

  14. Laura said

    Mr Kalichman’s clumsy smear attempts bring to mind the old schoolyard riposte: I’m rubber, you’re glue, your words bounce off me and stick to you. He constantly reveals more about himself than he intends.

    When I first read “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper” I actually LOL’d … okay, it was more like a snort. But I thought it a lively treatment for the subject at hand.

    The humorous appeal of the letter ‘K’, especially when it is kitschily (is that a word? — anyway, think Krispy Kreme) substituted for ‘C’, goes far beyond the Keystone Kops. From “Krazy about K”:

    “What would Yiddish be without the K, ever-important for its humorous, Germanic undertones? Think kvetch, kitsch, knish, kibbitz. That student of Borscht belt humor, Neil Simon addressed the comic appeal of K in The Sunshine Boys. As his comedian character Willy explains, “Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. Alka Seltzer is funny. You say ‘Alka Seltzer,’ you get a laugh . . . Words with ‘k’ in them are funny.”

  15. Photonaut said

    Dr Bauer

    This post of mine at my blog concerns the above piece of yours, & what happened when I alerted Seth Kalichman to it, & challenged him to write some form of rebuttal.

    Do you think it’s appropriate? If someone is a blatant liar, fraud & cheat, it’s not inappropriate to call them that — do you agree?

    • Henry Bauer said

      It’s good to call a spade a spade (even though Kalichman will detect a racist slur in the comment, just as he discerns it in “Krispy Kreme” or “Keystone Kops”). In Australia, where there’s a long tradition of liking colorful epithets, we’d have been likely to call it a bloody shovel.
      More seriously, I think it’s a good idea to couple such comments with specific examples, which Kalichman fails to do in his ad-hominem attacks on us.

  16. pat said

    Kalichman failed to discern JT DeSchlongs racist slurs about kikes and fags. Apparently he has understanding for that level of hatred… when it is directed at his enemies. Let me look for that comment on Tara’s Blog…

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