HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘ad hominem’

Kalichman disclaims and makes AD HOMONYM attacks (Does illiteracy matter? — Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #9)

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/05/14

Among statements in Kalichman’s opus that particularly caused my eyebrows to lift was this one:
“I have also tried to avoid ad homonym attacks by focusing more on what the denialists are saying than who they are” (xv).

What on earth does he mean? Avoiding attacks directed at “homonym”, which means “same name”? Is he trying to say something about guilt by association, like about names that sound German?

But from the context, I fear he meant “ad hominem”, which means “directed at a person”.

Google reveals that there is even a “dictionary” to be found that permits this mis-spelling: the Urban Dictionary — “Urban Dictionary is the dictionary you wrote” — and thereby, of course, aiming for the lowest common denominator, just as insidiously unreliable as Wikipedia, say, or the web sites where students can post their spleen-stimulated “evaluations” of their professors.

Naturally enough, since “you” wrote it, Urban Dictionary provides no etymology to explain how any given word derives from earlier languages. However, a decent high-school education (but that was in another country, and that wench is also dead) left me with a rudimentary awareness of Greek and Latin roots of English words and of commonly used phrases from those dead languages:
“Ad” is Latin, encountered in many commonly used expressions: “ad absurdum”, “ad hoc”, “ad infinitum”, “ad lib”, “ad nauseam” . . . .
“hominem” is also Latin, from the root “homo” (MAN), here in the accusative case following the preposition “ad” (TO as in TOWARD).

By contrast, “homonym” is marked by the “nym” as derived from Greek, as in words with which Kalichman/Newton surely ought to be familiar —  “pseudonym”, “anonymous” — as well as other such common words as “acronym”, “eponymous”, “patronym”.
For “homonym” the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) offers the meanings
“1. a. The same name or word used to denote different things.
b. Philol. Applied to words having the same sound, but differing in meaning: opp. to heteronym and synonym.
c. Taxonomy. A generic name or a binomial that duplicates a name attached to a different plant or animal.
2. A person or thing having the same name as another; a ‘namesake’.
Hence †ho’monymal a., agreeing in name.”

Thus “homo” in “homonym” doesn’t stand for “man”, it stands for “same”, as in “homogeneous”, for example.

The writing of “homonym” instead of “hominem”, as well as the use of a Latin preposition with a Greek noun, displays (1) illiteracy but also (2) carelessness. Nothing like this should appear in a properly edited book from so prominent and well-established a publisher as Springer. There are all too many other places in this book where fact-checking makes itself sadly obvious by its absence, even in such rudimentary matters as checking that material inside quotation marks is actually in the quoted source (Caveat lector! — Kalichman’s less-than-Komical Kaper #7, 3 May 2009).

What’s most substantively wrong here, however, is that the claimed avoidance of “ad homonym” attacks is not at all in evidence in the book’s text, which is actually replete with ad hominem material. Just scanning the text for mentions of my name immediately turns up the following:

“Bauer has never done AIDS research. In fact, he has never done any scientific research. Henry Bauer is a pseudoscientist’s pseudoscientist!” (71)
“Henry Bauer is also one of the world’s leading authorities on the Loch Ness Monster. That is right, the Loch Ness Monster!” (71) [and there again is that Newtonian penchant for exclamation marks]
“it would be hard to believe that he [Bauer] was ever taken seriously by his colleagues given that he had not conducted scientific research and delved deeply into the world of pseudoscience” (72)
“It is not so remarkable that Bauer has contributed to AIDS pseudoscience, given his long and strange career. Bauer had hoped that his book would land him an interview on the Today Show and change the course of AIDS research and treatments. What is most remarkable about Bauer is how rapidly denialism has embraced him and taken up his conclusions. Bauer offers a vivid example of how denialism indiscriminately embraces anything that agrees with it” (74)
“Conservative groups have also embraced AIDS pseudoscientist and Nessie expert Henry Bauer” (141)
“Bauer also has a history of homophobia” (143)

I submit that those statements are about who I am, not about what I’ve said or written about HIV/AIDS. I submit further that they would be judged by most people as derogatory rather than neutral, in other words, ad hominem remarks. Indeed, since several of them are blatantly counterfactual, I think many people might even judge them to be libelous.

********************

Some of my friends claim that I have an unfortunate penchant for attempted humor and flippancy on serious matters, and perhaps I’ve let that carry me away here over what might seem substantively trivial matters like the spellings and meanings of words. I promise to get back to pointing to actual substantive falsehoods in Kalichman’s book, like the characteristics of scientists, my German connection, how to test hypotheses, ignorance about science and pseudo-science, and more. I’ll also have more to say about attributing to me what I’ve never said or written.

But 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.)

About ad hominem attacks there are also two pertinent and substantive points to be made:
1. What’s really wrong with resorting to ad hominem statements — personal attacks on people you disagree with — isn’t that they’re uncivil or that they might offend someone, it’s that they are IRRELEVANT to the subject under discussion. It’s a fact of human life that some people whose behavior might be widely regarded as despicable can nevertheless be correct about matters of fact, or science, or economics, or medicine, or anything else; and people who are universally admired for their integrity and regard for others can nevertheless be entirely wrong about matters of fact, or science, or economics, or medicine, or anything else.
Moreover, people who are right about one thing may be wrong on another. I suspect there are people who are wrong about everything, but no one is right about everything.
Ad hominem statements are merely invalid attempts to invoke guilt by association.
2. Why do people resort to making ad hominem attacks? Because they can’t win an argument on the merits of their case. Frustrated and infuriated, the believers lash out at those who reveal that their Emperor is nude.  AIDStruthers can’t cite a set of specific publications to prove that “HIV” tests detect active infection, and they can’t cite a set of specific publications to prove that “HIV” causes AIDS; so they try to “kill the messengers” who bring these facts to public attention.

Posted in experts, HIV skepticism, Legal aspects, prejudice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »