HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

HIV/AIDS refuted, according to Kalichman! — Kalichman’s very-Komical Kaper #8

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/05/07

Among the many surprising — not to say startling — features of Kalichman’s book, “Denying AIDS”, is his acknowledgment in so many places that “denialists” have refuted HIV/AIDS theory:

“Merely raising these questions refutes AIDS science” (p. 22).
Yes indeed.

“In 2007, more than 20 years since she first refuted AIDS science, Papadopulos-Eleopulos . . . .” (180).
What’s going on here? I thought Kalichman believed HIV to be the cause of AIDS and that he says we’re wrong in denying it. Now here he is, saying it was refuted more than two decades ago!

“John Lauritsen is among the earliest critics of how CDC reported HIV/AIDS statistics. He refutes sexual transmission of HIV . . . .” (184).
And rightly so, of course; as also set out in my book, HIV/AIDS statistics from the CDC do refute the notion that HIV is sexually transmitted.

“most current denialists refute HIV as the cause of AIDS” (12).
Well, of course we continue to  do it, since Papadopulos did it so long ago.

“Denialists refute new facts” (8).
Well, I have to agree; we often refute “facts” claimed by defenders of HIV/AIDS theory. But why is Kalichman giving us credit for it, when he seems to be claiming that we’re wrong?

“Crowe is a signing author on numerous letters and documents refuting HIV/AIDS science” (185).
Yes indeed, there are numerous documents that refute HIV/AIDS “science”.

And so it goes, time after time:
P. 21 — “There are support groups for people who have tested HIV positive and refute their medical diagnosis”. They know they’re not infected, in other words.
P. 38 — “denialism refutes science conducted by thousands of researchers”. Well, not quite, we refute much of the BAD science conducted in HIV/AIDS research.
P. 50 — “this  same  research  finding  refutes  the  effectiveness  of  HIV  treatments”. Yes, undoubtedly, I have to agree.
P. 100 — “The following example refutes the known disease causing pathways of HIV”. Well, I wouldn’t put it quite like that, I’d rather point out that HIV/AIDS researchers have never agreed on exactly how HIV is able to destroy the immune system. But Kalichman’s statement will be understood well enough by most readers: the supposed disease-causing pathways by HIV have been shown not to be disease-causing. No disagreement from us.
P. 128 — “Mbeki refutes the idea that HIV/AIDS is the major killer in Africa”. Absolutely, and he’s not the only one.
P. 140 — “a fringe group emerged that refuted the established views of AIDS, including rejecting that HIV causes AIDS”. Isn’t it inappropriate to call it a fringe group since it was able to refute HIV/AIDS orthodoxy?

But what about “Denialism actively propagates myths, misconceptions, and misinformation to distort and refute reality” (8). Refute reality?! What a nice trick. “Denialism” is powerful indeed.

Or could it be that I’ve been mistaken about the meaning of “refute”?

No, the dictionaries on my shelves (1991 Random House Dictionary; 1992 [3rd ed.] American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language) give the same meaning as I’m familiar with: to prove that something is false, or to prove someone is in error. What’s more, in quite a few other places, Kalichman properly uses “refute” in that sense:
P. 28 — “He [Duesberg] refuted his own work on retroviruses and rejected the concept of oncogenes being sufficient to cause cancer”.
Yes, Duesberg showed that his previous notion had been wrong and modified his view to accommodate the evidence, just as scientists are supposed to do.

P. 32 — “he refutes the idea that oncogenes cause cancer”.
Exactly, the evidence points elsewhere.
P. 48 — “Duesberg would refute the evidence”.
Yes indeed, not only would but did.
P. 49 — “researchers refute this misinterpretation”
P. 76 — “The AIDS pseudosciences reviewed thus far are easily refuted by the medical facts of the disease”.
Huh? What about the refutations by AIDS “denialists” cited above from pp. 8, 12, 21, 22, 38, 50, 100, 128, 140?
P. 85 — “The results flat out refuted Gisselquist”;
and also pp. 136 (“a brief statement designed to refute the claims of Duesberg and the other denialists”), 146, 150.

The Oxford English Dictionary [2nd ed., 1989-97] offers a possible resolution of this conundrum of very different meanings of “refute”:
“    5. trans. Sometimes used erroneously to mean ‘deny, repudiate’.” [Note erroneously]
Something like that erroneous usage was apparently not uncommon 500 years ago:
“    †1. trans. To refuse, reject (a thing or person). Obs[olete]. rare
1513 BRADSHAW St. Werburge I. 1535 Her royall dyademe and shynynge coronall Was fyrst refuted for loue of our sauyoure.”

But it’s really confusing to see the same word used correctly and incorrectly, in about equal proportions, throughout this book.

I suppose Kalichman, and his editors at Copernicus/Springer, might seek support once more from that Urban Dictionary:
“    refute
To disagree, or assert the opposite.
(The original meaning was to DISPROVE something: ‘He refuted their claims by referring to widely accepted experimental results’. But these days journalists who are unwilling or unable to assess the strength of an argument, or to check facts, just write ‘refute’.)
‘The Prime Minister refuted the suggestion that he was a fool, by saying that he wasn’t.’”

Aha! The Urban “Dictionary” collects and seeks to enshrine usages that stem from lazy journalists. Just as reliable and trustworthy as Wikipedia, as I’ve said before.

15 Responses to “HIV/AIDS refuted, according to Kalichman! — Kalichman’s very-Komical Kaper #8”

  1. mo79uk said

    I know some would say that picking on ‘ad homonynm’ and the misusage of ‘refute’ would be pedantic, but it’s indeed hard not to note such errors as a grasp of the language is as important as what’s being said.
    Maybe Kalichman’s misunderstanding of the word ‘denialism’ alone has led him down this erroneous path, never mind what theory he’s chosen.

    • Henry Bauer said

      mo79uk:
      The purpose in speaking or writing is to communicate. The value of conventions, dictionaries, grammar, syntax, is that they enable communication to be accurate. Bureaucratic jargon, politically correct euphemisms, and the like are not only poor expression, they often serve to deflect from the actual substance of what’s being said, which the speaker or writer doesn’t want to acknowledge honestly. Here’s a pertinent extract from my forthcoming post about “ad homonym”:

      . . . using words incorrectly is not so trivial a matter:

      Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune,
      whose words do jarre;
      nor his reason in frame,
      whose sentence is preposterous

      Richard Mitchell [“The Underground Grammarian” ] liked that quote so much that it became the motto of his newsletter. All his writings are now available on-line, and I recommend them in the strongest possible terms for clear thinking by an independent mind as well as uproarious commentary on butcherings of the English language, particularly at the hands of social scientists, bureaucrats, university administrators, and the politically correct.

  2. Joe said

    I’ve complained several times here [in Britain] about the ignorance of journalists who file reports whilst unable to distinguish between ‘refute’ and ‘reject’. My husband is not a native English speaker, and left school at 16, yet even he knows the difference since he’s heard me shout at the TV often enough.

    One might be able to excuse journalists giving a live report from making such mistakes (although the mistake is too consistent for that to be the real reason). But there is no excuse for Kalichman making the same mistakes in a book which one assumes had an editor. Yet here he is flaunting his ignorance in a book that is supposed to be about theory, belief, proof, etc., when he has no grasp of the basic terms.

    As far as I’m concerned, if someone is unable to recognize that distinction they have proven themselves incapable of reasoned discourse. No wonder then that Kalichman resorts to hurling abuse and slander.

    Some of his students and colleagues will no doubt be reading his book. Many of them will recognized the distinction. He’s set himself up to be the laughing stock of his own university. For his own sake, he has to hope that the book isn’t widely read!

    For pity’s sake, the man is supposed to be the editor of a scientific journal, and he doesn’t recognize the distinction between ‘refute’ and ‘reject’. I presume his job as editor of “AIDS and Behavior” is so time-consuming that he wrote his book in haste. If he’d only known that he could just reject manuscripts rather than having to refute them, he would find being an editor less work🙂

    • Henry Bauer said

      Joe:
      Re “a book which one assumes had an editor.”

      Here’s from the book’s Acknowledgments:

      “I am indebted to Bill Tucker at Springer for his endless support of this
      project. Bill is a wonderful editor and a terrific human being whose commitment
      to publishing sound AIDS science has surely saved lives. I also owe
      enormous thanks to Paul Farrell for his critical reading and editorial direction.”

      The book comes from one of the world’s most prominent publishing houses.

  3. Heh. Yeah, I remember noticing this the first time reading the book. Chuckling under my breath.🙂

    At first, I didn’t think much of it, but I think there’s a lot to take away from this observation.

    First, some dictionaries do mention Kalichman’s usage:

    “2. To deny the truth or accuracy of” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

    “2. To deny the accuracy or truth of” (American Heritage Dictionary)

    However, Collins Essential English Dictionary states:

    “The use of refute to mean “deny” as in I’m not refuting the fact that is thought by some people to be incorrect. In careful writing it may be advisable to use refute only where there is an element of disproving something through argument and evidence, as in we haven’t got evidence to refute their hypothesis. [Emphasis mine]

    As well, Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage states:

    Refute has two senses, both of which are in common use, but one of which is widely regarded as an error. Its original and uncontroversial sense is ‘to prove wrong; show to be false or erroneous’… Its disputed sense is ‘to deny the truth or accuracy of’… This sense seems to have originated in the 20th century. Its common use has become apparent only in the past several decades, but criticism of it dates back as far as Utter 1916. Most usage commentators now routinely take note of it, and all that do consider it a mistake (the British in particular, seem to feel strongly on this subject). It is, however, extremely common, and the contexts in which it occurs are standard. Its most frequent use is by journalists in reporting the emphatic denials issued by those accused of wrongdoing. Hardly a day now goes by, it seems, without one government official or another refuting a new set of allegations.” [Emphasis mine]

    Certainly such a bastardized meaning should be avoided in scientific and mathematical contexts, and doubly avoided in a purported scholarly work.

    I think it’s very interesting that this errant usage is committed mostly by journalists, and specifically in the context of reporting denials of wrongdoing. In attempting to defend Newton’s behaviour, Kalichman has resorted to a journalistic defense. I mean, he is now portraying himself as a journalist.

    What can we take away from his misuse of “refute”, given the Merriam-Webster usage note above? Kalichman has stated that the scientific questions about HIV are already completely settled, indeed settled long ago. So clearly, he doesn’t mean refute in the proper sense of disproving. But his usage makes a lot more sense, if we think of him as a journalist reporting on (or more accurately, constructing) a moral narrative, one in which those who deny the scientific consensus are accused of wrongdoing, in effect they are accused of committing a moral transgression.

    Kalichman doesn’t interpret dissident claims as scientific statements attempting to refute scientific hypotheses. He interprets them as denials of moral transgressions. One of the final chapters of the group fantasy Schmidt hypothesized 25 years ago, now being realized.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Darin:

      I enjoyed your dissertation re Kalichman as journalist as revealed by his language (mis)use; BUT

      What editions of Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionaries?
      There’s an age-old controversy as to whether dictionaries should be descriptive or prescriptive. Webster’s 3rd edition became infamous for including an alternative meaning for “disinterested” as “uninterested”. y making “disinterested” ambiguous just because it had been MIS-used often by “lazy journalists” and illiterate others, this threatened to rob us of a word with definite meaning, a word increasingly important in days when conflicts of interest were mushrooming.

      I question the Merriam-Webster (? edition) assertion that both meanings of ‘refute’ are in common usage. You noticed the misuse and chuckled. I noticed the misuse. Why didn’t we recognize it as a “common” alternative usage? Because it isn’t.

      I was also aghast, because the book uses BOTH meanings at different places.

      A common misusage by sociologists, which used to set my teeth on edge when I was a Dean, was “referred” publication instead of “refereed”. Because it’s common, should it be in a dictionary?

  4. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, That Kalichman’s book passed the editor and was glowingly received by other AIDS establishment propagandists says more about their own poor language usage skills. I think the English language as an accurate tool of discourse is devolving. I would predict that only a small percentage of the students at Kalichman’s university have the language skills to ascertain that Kalichman can not write accurate discourse.

    • Laura said

      Speaking of Kalichman’s students, if the comments on ratemyprofessors.com are anything to go by, I doubt his classes offer much for those looking for something intellectually vigorous:

      “I loved going to his class just because he was so funny. The class was really easy, and he practically spoon-feeds you”

      “One of the worst teachers I’ve ever had. Does not answer questions well because he doesn’t know the answers himself, doesn’t show up to classes or the exams, and has his TA teach the entire class. His exams are rediculous and completely out of the book.”

      “Lectures are pointless, hes not a bad guy, but you could learn all the material from the book and the online practice tests from the book. If you do that then you never need to show up for class”

      “doesn’t answer questions very well. his lectures are pointless, just do the reading and show up for exams”

      • Henry Bauer said

        Laura:
        One needs to be cautious in interpreting comments from a small sample of students. In cases like this, where comments come from personal initiative and not a survey, there tends to be over-representation of those who have the strongest feelings, one way or the other.

      • I have to agree with Henry. Don’t take all student evals or responses at face value. I’ve had students tell me an exam was “nothing like the homework”, when all the exam problems were verbatim from homework assignments. I’ve had students who were routinely absent and complained the instructor was “not available enough to answer questions”. Students who didn’t do all assigned homework problems, and then said they were left “unprepared” for exams. Students who said I “didn’t give any examples in class” when I gave at least 3-4 for each topic. And so on… This isn’t to say student evals can’t provide valuable feedback, but more often than not, it ends up being a way for students to deflect the fact they didn’t meet their responsibilities in the course.

  5. MacDonald said

    Right. Using bastardised or derivative meanings, as also happens with the term “conspiracy theory”, is bad form (or manipulation). But to use the same word, a word whose meaning(s) is essential to the premise on which the book rests, in two opposing senses is no trifle.

    As with homonym and hominem, the similarly sounding refute and refuse get conflated in Kalichman’s mind. Any student of psychology (as opposed to faux journalists with an interest in public health) will know that this associative mode is the hallmark of the unconscious (dreams), or the Child State of mind. It is diametrically opposed to academic or scientific discourse, whose tool and purpose are to carve out clear, logical distinctions in the primal confusion language and thought naturally gravitate toward.

    Language is the medium in which we formulate thought, hence dim speech for dim wits, as wise old men somewhere in the vicinity of Germany used to say.

    • This is getting slightly off-topic, but I had a professor in college once who told us, “If you think you have an idea ‘on the tip of your tongue’, but you just can’t put it into actual words, then you don’t really have an idea formulated yet.” A sort of existential viewpoint on thought.

      • MacDonald said

        Darin, the Anglo-Saxon tradition basically equates thought and language. No words, no thought. I guess it comes down to the definition of “cogito”. If you cannot formulate cogito ergo sum, you per definition are not – or what (-:

  6. Martin said

    Hi Dr. Bauer, Thomas Szasz’s “The Meaning of Mind Language, Morality, and Neuroscience” is one of the very best discourses on the subjects that are currently being discussed. Had the so-called science of psychology followed the precepts outlined by Dr. Szasz, it would be a respected science instead of a handmaiden to the pseudo-medicine of psychiatry.

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