HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘characteristics of scientists’

Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2: The Social Psychology of Scientists

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/14

My first view of the text of Kalichman’s book came after the grapevine had reported its availability on-line at Scribd (“a social publishing site, where tens of millions of people share original writings and documents. Scribd’s vision is to liberate the written word”):

“Dear Henry,
I just stumbled upon what appears to be Kalichman’s entire book available online for free.  Do you have it yet?  If not get it here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/11369143/Denying-Aids-Conspiracy-Theories-Pseudoscience-and-Human-Tragedy
I’m only ending the Duesberg chapter, but ohee vey. Since I’ve read just about everything related to the controversy going back to 1987, perhaps 300 times more than Kalichman, and I find myself recalling information he misses, ignores, or avoids, or doesn’t know about in almost every paragraph.  And of course he’s constantly scolding dissenters for denying the Emperor has clothes, but always avoids the core scientific issues by never referencing the proof that the Emperor has clothes.  Perhaps what is needed is to critique every page, paragraph by paragraph, in another book to highlight his… I don’t have the word to describe it yet. I’m speechless except I’m not.  I’m laughing except I’m not. . . .
It is truly amazing how even highly educated people’s critical thinking skills can be so narrow and illogical… I find myself asking if he is now the Rush Limbaugh of AIDS scientism? . . .  Anyway, reading it is kinda crazy making though. . . . what he seems to be doing is pathologizing dissent, like a flawed therapist that already has decided on a diagnosis based on influential hear-say before seeing the client, and is interpreting everything from the client in a way to validate the pre-determined inference while believing he is being impartial. . . .
I almost ended by saying ‘You’re going to have fun with this one’, but based on my own feelings about it that’s probably being much too glib.”
[The writer is formally credentialed in psychology]

Someone else had suggested that I write a review of the book; and before having seen the text, I had agreed to do so. However, after the text became available at Scribd, the grapevine also informed me that I was the third most frequently castigated “denialist” in the book. Scanning the text for mentions of my name confirmed that I and my writings are referred to frequently as well as incorrectly (to put it mildly); so conflict of interest makes it impossible for me to write a review. Anyway, I wouldn’t know where to begin, for every page delivers raised eyebrows, groans, unbelieving chuckles or outright guffaws, aroused by mis-stated facts about HIV/AIDS,  by displays of ignorance about science and much else, and by attributing to my book things that are simply not there. Some of the statements are simply hilarious, for instance:

“Scientists are by their nature and training systematic and objective” (p. 112).

That semantic puerilism is what one might expect to find — perhaps! — in an easy reader for children in primary school who are being slowly eased into the more sophisticated understanding for which they are not yet quite ready. Certainly one wouldn’t encounter it in any article or book in philosophy of science, sociology of science, history of science, psychology of science, or the like. It’s not the sort of thing one would hear, either, from people who have had even cursory contact with real-life scientists. So I doubt that it’s necessary for almost anyone that I deconstruct this assertion — except, it seems, for the sake of Seth C Kalichman.

Could it really be so, that scientists are selected (or self-selected) from the mass of other human beings because they are genetically or by early upbringing (“by their nature”) destined to be systematic and objective?
Are there scientists who would be able to explain just how the training they received through graduate school and post-doctoral stints was designed to make them (even more?) systematic and objective?
Beyond that, is there anyone who could explain how, or would suggest that, any human being can attain objectivity, whether by “nature” or by “training”?

Surely only someone who knows nothing of human psychology or sociology or social psychology could venture such an assertion. Or, surely only someone who knows nothing of science or of scientists or of human psychology or sociology could make such assertion.

Oops!

The author, it turns out, is a psychologist. Seth C Kalichman is even a social psychologist, at the University of Connecticut!

What’s more, Kalichman fancies himself to be a scientist:
“Realizing that all AIDS scientists should take action . . . , I decided . . . . Like nearly every AIDS scientist, . . . . I often felt more like a journalist than a scientist” (xiv); “What is it about denialists that can push a scientist out of objectivity into a fit of rage. In the Preface to this book I described my own emotional outrage . . . (113); “For the part of the AIDS scientists, we must become better at communicating with people other than our fellow scientists” (161).

Evidently, Kalichman — admittedly, like so many of us — tends to judge others by what he knows about himself. He evidently knows he’s a scientist. Apparently he also knows that he is by “nature and training systematic and objective”. Therefore he assumes that all other scientists are also “by their nature and training systematic and objective” (unless, of course, they happen to be “AIDS denialists” as well as scientists).

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