HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Bernard Barber’

Scientists as idiots savants (Science Studies 200)

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2010/02/28

What do scientists actually do? What do they produce?

Consider, for example, the titles of the articles in volume 53, issue #2, February 2010, of JAIDS (Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes). How relevant are they to the question of interest to AIDS Rethinkers and the public at large, which is whether HIV causes AIDS?

— Urgent need for coordination in adopting standardized antiretroviral adherence performance indicators
— Pairwise comparison of isogenic HIV-1 viruses: R5 phenotype replicates more efficiently than X4 phenotype in primary CD4+ T cells expressing physiological levels of CXCR4
— Prediction of HIV Type 1 Subtype C tropism by genotypic algorithms built from Subtype B viruses
— Maternal antiretroviral use during pregnancy and infant congenital anomalies: The NISDI Perinatal Study
— Insulin sensitivity in multiple pathways is differently affected during Zidovudine/Lamivudine-containing compared with NRTI-sparing combination antiretroviral therapy
— Pooled nucleic acid testing to identify antiretroviral treatment failure during HIV infection
— Short-term bone loss in HIV-infected premenopausal women
— Pharmacokinetic interaction of Ritonavir-boosted Elvitegravir and Maraviroc
— Durability of initial antiretroviral therapy in a resource-constrained setting and the potential need for Zidovudine weight-based dosing
— Hepatitis C and the risk of kidney disease and mortality in veterans with HIV
— Bisexuality, sexual risk taking, and HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men accessing voluntary counseling and testing services in Mumbai, India
— Trends in HIV prevalence, estimated HIV incidence, and risk behavior among men who have sex with men in Bangkok, Thailand, 2003-2007
— Indian men’s use of commercial sex workers: Prevalence, condom use, and related gender attitudes
— The association between alcohol consumption and prevalent cardiovascular diseases among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected men
— Sustainability of first-line antiretroviral regimens: Findings from a large HIV treatment program in Western Kenya
— Comparison of early CD4 T-Cell count in HIV-1 seroconverters in Cote d’Ivoire and France: The ANRS PRIMO-CI and SEROCO cohorts
— Incident depression symptoms are associated with poorer HAART adherence: A longitudinal analysis from the nutrition for healthy living study
— Prevalence and correlates of HIV infection among male injection drug users in detention in Tehran, Iran
— HIV infection: An independent risk factor of peripheral arterial disease
— Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in HIV-infected persons: Epidemiology and the role of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
— Reply to “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease among HIV-Infected persons”

This little exercise is intended to illustrate what should be perhaps the first axiom of scientific literacy: Nowadays scientists qua scientists are idiots savants. They are focused professionally on just one very specific and highly technical matter that is almost immeasurably distant from the wider context that matters to everyone else. Popular coverage of science, TV documentaries, magazine and newspaper pieces make it appear as though scientists were grappling continually and always with LARGE questions: the overall story of human evolution, perhaps, or how species become extinct, or how vaccines were invented, and so on and so forth. But the overwhelming proportion of scientists spend their time on esoteric little aspects of obscure little details, and they step into quite other shoes and perform in quite other roles if they are ever brought to speak to the public at large.

Specialization nowadays has reached the degree that the old saw* becomes almost literally true — scientists get to know more and more about less and less, until they know almost everything about almost nothing while knowing essentially nothing about everything else. A minor but instructive example: Medical professionals engaged for several decades in attempts at gene therapy did not keep up with the progressive understanding of genetics and development which has revealed that the initial basis for attempting gene therapy is not valid, because the Central Dogma of “one gene, one protein” was wrong — see for example the review by Ast, “The alternative genome”, Scientific American, April 2005, pp. 58-65. “Genes” are not permanent units of heredity, they are functional assemblages of sub-units that get activated and deactivated by signals from elsewhere, and those signals must be timed and coordinated with exquisite precision.

The very success of science has entailed that achieving ever deeper understanding means that research has to focus on increasingly infinitesimal detail. Scientific research means looking intensely at properties of the markings on individual leaves; which may eventually lead to a better understanding of the leaves; which might eventually contribute to a better understanding of tree growth; which is still a very long distance from knowing much about the forest, let alone the landscape.

In doing research, scientists simply accept as unquestioned the theoretical framework of the prevailing mainstream consensus. HIV/AIDS researchers have no time, no incentive, no reason to wonder whether HIV really causes AIDS — that’s simply a given for them. If it weren’t, then they wouldn’t be HIV/AIDS researchers: they might be scholars of “science and technology studies” (historians, sociologists, philosophers of science, political scientists, and so on), or they might be “HIV-positive” people whose health and lives depend on how the big question is answered.

Suggest to an HIV/AIDS researcher that HIV might not be the cause of AIDS, and you are questioning the very basis of his professional life and implying that he might not be able to trust his colleagues, his guild, his “science”. That’s why those Rethinkers and Skeptics who have approached even friends of theirs who happen to be HIV/AIDS researchers have received very cold, unfriendly, dismissive responses. It is quite literally UNTHINKABLE for an HIV/AIDS researcher that HIV might not be the cause of AIDS.
It’s also unthinkable for the great majority of biologists who are not HIV/AIDS researchers themselves, for they automatically trust their colleagues in other specialties of biology or medicine to be right about their particular specialty, just as they themselves expect to be trusted about their own specialty.
And it’s unthinkable for most scientists that any area of science or medicine could be so visibly and drastically wrong on so major an issue as HIV/AIDS.

Science is a vast mosaic of overlapping specialties glued together by mutual trust. Centuries of modern science appear to the conventional wisdom as a triumphant progress to better understanding of more and more about the natural world. That the progress has actually come by many trials and much error is known only to specialist historians and others. Even for them, this awareness of continual correction of errors, and of the occasional startling “scientific revolutions”, is no preparation for the possibility that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, for history offers no instance of a mistake comparable in its huge, widespread human and financial cost. Lives lost to “AIDS” in one way or another, and resources expended on “HIV/AIDS”, are of a magnitude usually associated with wars, not with a medical-scientific blunder (of which there have been many of lesser magnitude).

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

This underscores what Clark Baker, among others, has been saying to Rethinkers for some time: Overturning HIV/AIDS theory will not result from scientific discussions, it can come only through political and social activism. The wider society must decide to force HIV/AIDS theorists to defend their faith under public cross-examination. HIV/AIDS researchers will reconsider the fundamental basis of their work only if forced to do so by irresistible outside pressure.

I’m not saying that the scientific issues are unimportant. They are nowadays of little concern only because all the necessary evidence is already at hand, in the mainstream literature, to demonstrate that “HIV” tests do not detect infection by an HIV retrovirus, that testing “HIV-positive” is not an inevitable prelude to illness, that “HIV-positive” is not in general a sexually transmitted condition; and so on. I am saying that the necessary task is to find some way of presenting that scientific evidence to the media and to the public and to socially and politically influential people in sufficiently concise yet convincing manner that they are forced to think the unthinkable, namely, to question the official mainstream consensus even when there is no precedent for such questioning.

One barrier to such a scenario is scientific illiteracy. Scientists as well as non-scientists are functionally illiterate when it comes to understanding the proper role of science in public affairs and how science should be organized to serve the wider society. That’s how scientific literacy and illiteracy should be defined, in terms of the place of science in human affairs. It’s quite unnecessary for everyone to know what molecules are, or enzymes, but it’s essential in a democratic society that everyone have an understanding of the degree to which experts, including scientists, can be taken at their professional word.

Here are some basics of scientific literacy:
There is no scientific method that guarantees objectivity (H. H. Bauer, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press, 1992).
Science is the search for consensual knowledge — consensual among fallible, non-objective human beings (John Ziman, Public Knowledge: An Essay Concerning the Social Dimension of Science, Cambridge University Press, 1968; and others culminating in Real Science—What It Is, and What It Means, 2000).
Like other human beings, scientists don’t readily change their views in the face of contradictory evidence. Resistance to new discovery by scientists is endemic. Major advances that modify or overturn an established scientific consensus have always been strenuously resisted, even as afterwards the resistance is forgotten and the formerly resisted ones are pronounced heroes — sometimes posthumously (Bernard Barber, “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery”, Science, 134 [1961] 596-602; Gunther Stent, “Prematurity and uniqueness in scientific discovery”, Scientific American, December 1972, 84-93; Ernest B. Hook (ed)., Prematurity in Scientific Discovery: On Resistance and Neglect, University of California Press, 2002).
The overwhelming majority of scientists nowadays are craftsmen, tinkerers, journeymen. Many are mediocre even in terms of their professional talents. To think of Einstein, Darwin, Freud, and the like as exemplifying scientists is like thinking of Eisenhower, Macarthur, Marshall, and the like as exemplifying soldiers (H. H. Bauer, Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy, University of Illinois Press 1984, 1999, pp. 303-6).
The great achievers are typically idiots savants. Nobel-winning scientists usually make very poor administrators or advisers on anything outside their narrow specialty. Nobelist Varmus as head of the National Institutes of Health dropped conflict of interest regulations that led to scandalous behavior by senior scientists (David Willman, series in Los Angeles Times, December 2003). Nobelist Chu as Energy Secretary has already displayed qualities of dogmatic belief and single-mindedness that high-achieving scientists need but that are dysfunctional for administrators who need to be flexible, open-minded, pragmatic, willing to compromise. The enormously successful atom-bomb project had as its director Robert Oppenheimer, a highly knowledgeable physicist but not the highest achiever within physics. (I should enter the caveat that some Nobelists are quite sensible, even wise, for example economists Herbert Simon and James Buchanan.)
In research, one accepts the prevailing theoretical framework as the working hypothesis and tries to build on it. That becomes functionally equivalent to believing that theoretical framework to be true. Anomalous phenomena are shoved aside for later attention, or reasons are found for ignoring them as flawed, or ad hoc modifications are added to the basic theory to accommodate them, no matter how illogically or awkwardly — like Ptolemy’s “wheels within wheels within wheels” to preserve the Earth-centered view of the heavens. The accepted theory is abandoned only as a last resort under a tsunami of contradictions. (T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1962/1970; Imre Lakatos, “History of Science and its Rational Reconstruction”, in Method and Appraisal in the Physical Sciences, ed. Colin Howson, 1-40, Cambridge University Press, 1976).

A couple of things about science are relatively new and have so far not become generally recognized even within the interdisciplinary field of science studies:
The normal resistance to counter-mainstream views has become actual suppression in an increasing array of fields (H. H. Bauer, “HIV/AIDS in historical context”; “Suppression of science within science”; “The new world order in science”; “21st century science: Knowledge monopolies and research cartels”).
Before HIV/AIDS, no scientific theory was so wrong as well as so influential in medical practice as to bring direct physical harm to hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of people, also causing unknowable amounts of psychological, social, and fiscal damage. That this is unprecedented makes it all the more difficult for the media and the public and the policy makers, let alone HIV/AIDS researchers themselves, to see it. (Human-caused global-warming theory is just as ill-based scientifically, but it hasn’t caused the same human suffering.)

So, again, what’s needed is to find facts sufficiently obvious to non-specialists, sufficiently incontrovertible, and of sufficient human impact, “human interest”, that the media cannot avoid taking notice and the politicians cannot continue to remain in blissful ignorance. Somehow HIV/AIDS dogma must be forced publicly to reveal and defend its supposed evidentiary basis.

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* I thought I’d read somewhere, perhaps in Gulliver’s Travels, the insight that specialization leads to knowing more and more about less and less; but a search through readily available reference-sources (Bartlett, Hoyt, Bergen Evans, GOOGLE) turned up only “An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until eventually he knows everything about nothing” in a Murphy’s Laws collection, though the first clause is attributed in several places to Nicholas Murray Butler; also “An old complaint about the narrowing of interest of the medical specialist defines him as a person who gradually comes to learn more and more about less and less” (editorial comment, Psychiatric Quarterly, 23 [1949] 567). But I’m still inclined to think that Jonathan Swift, or perhaps George Bernard Shaw, said something along those lines.

Posted in experts, Funds for HIV/AIDS, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, HIV/AIDS numbers, uncritical media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

True Believers of HIV/AIDS: Why Do They Believe Despite the Evidence?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/10/30

A correspondent sent the following, asking whether it might be a relevant comment on one of the Nobel Prize posts. I think it’s more than that, it gets to the root of the problem that Rethinkers and Skeptics face, how to entice the indoctrinated public media and the committed mainstreamers to pay attention to the evidence that disproves HIV/AIDS theory. Andy D. wrote:

“I can find but three possible explanations for the ‘Establishment’s’ most arrogant and condescending behavior and unsubstantial, propagandistic websites and media appearances:
1. They are very well aware of the inconsistencies, problems and failings of HIV-AIDS-theory and their horrible implications regarding AIDS politics and medication, and find some overriding self-interested reason to continue to uphold what they know is wrong; or
2. They are unwilling to look critically at a theory they have established and promoted; or
3. They regard all ‘dissident’ propositions as so silly — what they call ‘moon-is-green-cheese’ pseudoscience — that they require no disproof.

I’ve seen again and again with honest scientists that they are happy to discuss and argue about their theses. Esteemed, intelligent and highly informed people like Peter Duesberg, Etienne de Harven, Heinz Ludwig Sänger, Kary Mullis or yourself should not be treated like nagging students asking the same stupidly absurd questions over and  over again.”

I touched on one aspect of an explanation for all this in “HIV/AIDS Illustrates Cognitive Dissonance” [29 April 2008]: Human psychology is such that true believers simply cannot grasp the implications of evidence that contradicts their belief. Andy’s questions spurred me to think about all this anew. How do people become true believers in the first place? If one could answer that question, it might point also to possible ways of helping people to change their mistaken beliefs.

Human beings are actually raised to be true believers. As babies and children, we are persuaded, urged, or disciplined in various ways to accept what our parents and our teachers tell us. Children  are delightfully curious and questioning, but at first they lack the background information to argue effectively against what they’re told. By and large, too, what children are told makes sense and works out in practice: “Don’t touch that hot stove!” and innumerable other commands, when ignored, prove themselves to have been good ones. So we tend to grow up with confidence in what our elders tell us, and as adults we readily substitute for parents and elders the “experts” , the “authorities”, the “Establishment”.

When we encounter someone who believes very differently than we do, we tend to be puzzled: “How could anyone believe that?!”

The answer is simple: They had different parents and teachers, and later they listened to different “experts” and “authorities”.

So to ask, “How could anyone believe that?!”, is the wrong question. The right question is, “How does anyone come not to accept what they’ve been told, what everyone around them ‘knows’?” (I’ve written more along these lines in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies, especially p. 47 ff. and p. 207 ff.).

When it comes to supposedly factual matters, textbooks and undergraduate courses emphasize learning what — according to the authorities — has already been found out and is already understood. There’s a significant difference here between “scientific” matters and non-scientific ones. If humanists and scientists can be persuaded to discuss their differing approaches to college teaching, it turns out that the scientists have a rather naïve view of their mission as one of transferring reliable, accredited information, whereas the humanists tend to emphasize the nurturing of critical thought. One indication of the difference is that science courses tend to be sequenced in linear hierarchy: students must take general chemistry before specialized inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry, and they must take some math and physics before physical chemistry, and so on. By contrast, great swaths of “upper-level” courses in the humanities have few if any prerequisites (more about this in To Rise above Principle: The Memoirs of an Unreconstructed Dean, p. 140).

So scientists and doctors, already trained by parents and earlier teachers to believe what they’re told, become even further accustomed during their “education” — more correctly, their indoctrination — to accept contemporary “knowledge” and beliefs. Once graduated and credentialed, as professionals and practitioners, to those habits of intellectual conformity there are added weighty practical considerations: straying from orthodox paths can incur serious, even disabling damage to one’s career and livelihood.

It isn’t that doctors and scientists “go along” cynically with beliefs and practices that they recognize as wrong or unsound. At best, when they’re conscious of some disparity between what they do and “what’s right”, they rationalize: for example, that they can do more to correct matters by “working within the system” than by becoming whistle-blowers. More usually, though, like other humans, they presume that, because their inherent desire is to do the right thing, therefore they cannot be doing anything that’s fundamentally wrong. That’s the basis of “cognitive dissonance”: psychological mechanisms common to all human beings can render us incapable of discerning facts that disprove our beliefs. I recommend highly the book by Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (Free Press, 1991)  for an excellent and very readable discussion of various ways in which we can fool ourselves into not seeing facts that contradict our beliefs; we are simply oblivious to them.

In science and medicine as much as in everyday life, human beings want to “fit in”. We are social animals and want to be part of a group, and that applies on intellectual issues as much as in other matters. The highly creative astrophysicist Thomas Gold described the intellectual conformity in scholarship and research as an expression of “the herd instinct”, illustrating it by the furious opposition he encountered over his suggestions about the mechanism of hearing (about which he later proved to have been right) and the origin of petroleum (about which he may yet turn out to be right) — see “New ideas in science”, Journal of Scientific Exploration 3 [1989] 103-12. The histories of science and of medicine are replete with instances of great breakthroughs that were desperately resisted by the mainstream “authorities” for as long as possible (the concise essay about this by Bernard Barber remains well worth reading: “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery”, Science, 134 [1961] 596-602).

That desperate resistance is a consequence of cognitive dissonance and the herd instinct. True believers have reached their beliefs not by considering the evidence but by taking things on faith from the authorities. When they are challenged, it threatens not only their belief but also their self image — their lack of critical thought — and their membership of the herd: if they came to see that the belief is mistaken, they would also have to become outsiders. All that is unacceptable in the extreme, and is therefore resisted by every available means. But true believers cannot respond substantively, because they haven’t arrived at their beliefs in that manner, they have taken matters on faith and don’t even know what the evidence pro and con is. So the desperate resistance typically takes the form of personal attacks, character assassination, guilt by association, and the like; see “Dissenting from HIV/AIDS theory” and “Questioning HIV/AIDS: Morally Reprehensible or Scientifically Warranted?”

A quite general corollary of cognitive dissonance and the herd instinct is that a significant number of counter-intuitive breakthroughs have been made by people who were outsiders rather than specialists in the relevant field; for references and discussion, including counter-examples, see T. F. Gieryn & R. F. Hirsh, “Marginality and innovation in  science”, Social Studies of Science 13 (1983) 87-106. The standard dismissal of Rethinkers by HIV/AIDS dogmatists, that the Rethinkers haven’t themselves done hands-on HIV/AIDS research, has no basis in empirical fact and the history of science.

These matters are highly pertinent for Rethinkers, or in general for anyone and any group that aims to bring down an established paradigm. A direct lesson is that it’s unusual for human beings to question what they have been taught to believe, because of the psychological mechanisms —  ranging from entirely unconscious to barely conscious — that conspire to safeguard us from “seeing” anything that might raise doubts. A bitter extrapolation from this is to recognize how enormously difficult it is to persuade someone else that their beliefs are provably wrong:

“It is difficult enough to reach a personal, informed view on matters over which controversy rages; there is little chance that the true believers or true disbelievers can be converted. ‘The most we can hope to achieve is to make the credulous more skeptical, and the skeptical more open-minded’” — p. 218 in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies,  citing Arthur C. Clarke, whose words on this subject are well worth attending to; see the Introduction and Epilogue in Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers (ed. John Fairley and Simon Welfare, G. B. Putnam’s Sons, 1984).

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So, Andy: My view is that we should never be surprised when adherents to mainstream views seem impervious to even the plainest evidence. That’s NORMAL! And it’s so in science as much as in any other human activity. Most of us are still taught in school, college, university, that science is objective and that scientists care only about  learning the truth; but science isn’t done that way, it’s a complicated human activity; for a relatively brief discussion, see Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method ;  and for a comprehensive account, I recommend John Ziman, Real Science.

As to HIV/AIDS specifically, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that the dogma will be abandoned because of research or publication or critical thinking or re-thinking within the mainstream. Much more likely, it will be overturned under pressure from outside sources: perhaps political, because of the inordinate, disproportionate, and unproductive expenditures; perhaps legal, if enough “HIV-positive” people damaged by “antiretroviral therapy” win enough and sufficiently important court actions; or perhaps, again legal, if someone charged with transmitting HIV manages to bring the court to look at the scientific evidence; or if someone prominent enough among black leaders comes to realize that people of African ancestry are being disproportionately subjected, without good reason, to toxic medications; or if someone powerful enough in the major media becomes so interested as to actually look into the facts. Otherwise, I fear, the mainstream will just continue to fiddle with new medications, gradually continuing to make the treatments less toxic, and gradually extending the life-span of HAART-treated people to an average beyond the present middle forties. If that is the case, then it may take a horribly long time before the death toll from antiretroviral drugs becomes so obvious and widely known that the established view is finally held to public account.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, Funds for HIV/AIDS, HIV and race, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV risk groups, HIV skepticism, HIV transmission, Legal aspects, sexual transmission, uncritical media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

CAN EVERYONE BE WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/04/07

After just a little thought, most people would answer “Yes” to that question, surely. After all, everyone has been wrong about all sorts of things over the ages; the Earth being flat is perhaps the most commonly cited example (though it’s a popular misconception that this was the case as recently as medieval times).

Most people, too, would have to agree that there are some matters over which large chunks of humanity must be wrong. When it comes to God, say, there are a number of competing beliefs, none of which commands majority adherence even though no more than one of them can be correct. Most people would see matters of politics as another and similar illustration. Yet on those very same questions of politics and religion, each group of adherents is firmly convinced that their group—and only their group—has it right while all the others have it wrong. In other words, all manner of minorities believe that the others, who are in a majority, are wrong.

But in this age which is often (self-)described as a scientific age, there’s a widespread  belief that science is somehow exempt from the polarization of opinions that characterizes other spheres of intellectual life, that science possesses some magic ability—namely, the scientific method—to have it always right; and it’s blithely taken for granted that science is synonymous with the established institutions of science and with the views of those who happen to hold leading positions in those institutions.

That circumstance coexists with a general willingness to cite Thomas Kuhn (1962/70) on “paradigm shifts” and “scientific revolutions”, and to get the significance of Kuhn’s work entirely wrong. It’s not that science advances by periodic giant and revolutionary steps; “revolution” here means getting rid of the present order. Kuhn’s insight, buttressed by a pretty good knowledge of the history of science, is that periodically the accepted view of things is overturned, as it’s realized that what was previously believed to be right turns out to be wrong.

Very little known are the works of Bernard Barber (1961) and Gunther Stent (1978), lately revisited in an important, long-overdue discussion (Hook 2002): history of science reveals that corrections of mistaken scientific paradigms are always fiercely resisted up to the very moment that they succumb to a revolution. Just now I came across a discussion of this phenomenon that predates Barber’s classic and focuses in large part on matters of medicine (Stevenson 1958).

By and large, it’s only scientific pioneers who discover this truth of routine resistance to new scientific discoveries, when the pioneer’s peers refuse to consider even well-supported claims that don’t fit the mainstream consensus. Peter Duesberg illustrates the surprise that such pioneers experience when the approbation and high regard they have long enjoyed is suddenly switched off, indeed reversed, because they said something different.

Even when these insights of Barber and Kuhn and Stent and Stevenson are recalled and pointed out, it doesn’t shake the mainstream belief on any given topic; somehow, the conventional wisdom is able to sustain the illogical and intellectually unsustainable view that this time, on this particular issue, one can be absolutely sure that “science”—the mainstream, their own group, the Establishment—has it right beyond any doubt. Added to the certainty expressed by the insiders is that disseminated by the science groupies, herds of dogmatists who reveal themselves on blogs as utterly sure about matters of which they actually have little if any direct knowledge. All they know is that it’s what “science” says and so it must be right. Such dogmatists may be found in academe as elsewhere, and they populate such organizations as the Committee for Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal (CSICOP), which is comprised of more non-scientists than scientists, does no investigating, and is as one-sided in its approach to evidence as those blogs that style themselves as scientific.

Over the years, I’ve come to prize more and more those rare individuals who are able to admit their own fallibility and who strive to mold their beliefs to the best available empirical evidence while remaining aware that what’s now the best available will not remain so. I’ve found such individuals everywhere, even in the ranks of CSICOP. The late Gordon Stein, for example, was active in CSICOP and intent on debunking what deserves to be debunked while refraining from the indiscriminate castigation of every unorthodox opinion in which most CSICOPpers indulge. Just as I know of no one who is always right, so too I’ve not been unfortunate enough to get personally into contact with anyone who is always wrong. (Well . . . maybe I can think of a couple.)

The state of affairs that I’ve described applies, of course, to HIV/AIDS as to many other and many less prominent topics. Dogmatists over HIV/AIDS will readily—or at least ultimately—admit that, of course, science and medicine have sometimes been quite wrong; it just happens, they maintain, that this time and on this issue, there’s just no doubt at all. The evidence, after all, is overwhelming, and the overwhelming majority of qualified and competent doctors and scientists are unanimous about it.

The trouble is, those dogmatists are committing the usual, the typical, the routine error of not applying to their one pet subject the lessons that history offers; and, as the saying goes, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it”.

It’s not only the lessons from history of science that they forget; it’s also the substantive history of HIV/AIDS itself. “HIV” was never isolated by Gallo from all his AIDS patients, in fact he claimed to have found it in fewer AIDS patients than in association with what used to be called pre-AIDS. As Michelle Cochrane has documented, the shibboleth that the early AIDS victims were “young” and “previously healthy” is wrong on both those counts. As John Lauritsen pointed out long ago, the shibboleth that the early AIDS victims were young, previously healthy “gay men” is also misleading because the common factor was drug abuse, not gay sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seem to have forgotten that they have proclaimed year after year for about two decades that about 1 million Americans were “HIV”-positive, as they continue to talk of spreading infections. Some of the most careful and comprehensive studies are ignored whenever they conflict with the accepted view: the Concorde study which showed AZT to be useless at best and CD4 counts to be clinically irrelevant; the Rodriguez study that found no correlation between CD4 counts and “viral load”; the Antiretroviral Collaboration, with data from 22,000 patients, which found that HAART brings “adverse events” on sooner. The significance is ignored of huge masses of data: that HIV tests do not track an infectious agent; that deaths from HIV disease show no sign that the “lifesaving” antiretroviral drugs have extended life; that every bright idea for a vaccine against HIV fails to make good on its promise. And innumerable self-contradictions are swallowed whole, say, that HIV crossed in Africa from monkeys or chimps to humans, did no damage there but made its way to the Western Hemisphere where it produced the first epidemics, whose cause was then somehow transported back to Africa to spread like wildfire there even though it hasn’t in the developed countries where it first appeared. This infectious disease is unique, unprecedented, “everyone” is willing to accept: it discriminates by race, unlike every other infectious disease; it kills preferentially adults in the prime years of life, unlike every other infectious disease; the virus multiplies prodigiously without being detectable, and it mutates at an unprecedented rate while remaining fully pathogenic.

And so on. During these months where I’ve become increasingly irritated by the lack of intellectual integrity displayed by political partisans and pundits, I find myself sadly reminded that intellectual integrity is in short supply everywhere, by no means excluding academe, science, and medicine.

Citations:
Barber, Bernard (1961). Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery. Science, 134: 596-602.
Hook, Ernest B. (ed) (2002). Prematurity in Scientific Discovery: On Resistance and Neglect. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962/70). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1st ed. 1962, enlarged 2nd ed. 1970).
Stent, Gunther (1972). Prematurity and uniqueness in scientific discovery. Scientific American, December, 84-93.
Stevenson, Ian. (1958). Scientists with half-closed minds. Harper’s Magazine, 217: 64-71.

Posted in HIV absurdities, HIV and race, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, HIV tests | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »