HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Loch Ness monsters’

Believing and disbelieving

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/07/03

(This is a long post. HERE is a pdf for those who prefer to read it that way).

“How could anyone believe that?” is a natural question whenever someone believes what is contrary to the conventional wisdom, say, that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, or that Loch Ness monsters are real animals.

Since the role of unorthodox views in and out of science has been the focus of my academic interests for several decades, I had to think about that question in a variety of contexts. My conclusion long ago was that this is the wrong question, the very opposite of the right question, which is,

“How does anyone ever come to believe differently than others do?” (1)

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It’s a widespread illusion that we believe things because they’re true. It’s an illusion that we all tend to harbor about ourselves. Of course I believe what’s true! My beliefs aren’t wrong! It’s the others who are wrong.

However, we don’t acquire beliefs because they’re true, we acquire them through being taught that they’re true. For the first half-a-dozen or a dozen years of our lives, before we have begun to learn how to think truly for ourselves, as babies and children we almost always believe what parents and teachers tell us. Surely that has helped the species to survive. But no matter what the reason might be, there’s ample empirical evidence for it. For instance, many people during their whole lifetime stick to the religion that they imbibed almost with mother’s milk; those who reject that religion do so at earliest in adolescence.

That habit of believing parents and teachers tends to become ingrained. Society’s “experts”  — scientists and doctors, surrogate parents and teachers — tend to be believed as a matter of habit.

So how do some people ever come to believe other than what they’ve been taught and what the experts say?

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I was prompted to this train of thought by receiving yet again some comments intended for this blog and which were directed at minor details, from people whom I had asked, long ago, to cut through this underbrush and address the chief point at issue: “What is the proof that HIV causes AIDS?”

Whenever I’ve asked this of commentators like Fulano-etc.-de-Tal, or Chris Noble, or Snout, or others who want to argue incessantly about ancillary details, the exchange has come to an end. They’ve simply never addressed that central issue.

And it’s not only these camp followers. The same holds for the actual HIV/AIDS gurus, the Montagniers and Gallos and Faucis. Fauci threatens journalists who don’t toe the orthodox line. Gallo hangs up on Gary Null when asked for citations to the work that made him famous.

Why can’t these people cite the work on which their belief is supposedly based?

Finally it hit me: Because their belief wasn’t formed that way. They didn’t come to believe because of the evidence.
The Faucis and Gallos came to believe because they wanted to, because a virus-caused AIDS would be in their professional bailiwick, and they were more than happy to take an imperfect correlation as proof of causation.
The camp followers came to believe simply because they were happy to believe what the experts say and what “everyone else” believes. Who are they to question the authority of scientific experts and scientific institutions?

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To question “what everyone knows”, there has to be some decisive incentive or some serendipitous conjunction. I’ll illustrate that by describing how I came to believe some things that “everyone else” believes and some things that “everyone else” does not believe.

The first unorthodox opinion I acquired was that Loch Ness monsters are probably real living animals of some unidentified species. How did I come to that conclusion?
Serendipity set the stage. Reading has been my lifelong pleasure. I used to browse in the local library among books that had just been returned and not yet reshelved, assuming that these would be the most interesting ones. Around 1961, I picked from that pile a book titled Loch Ness Monster, by Tim Dinsdale. I recall my mental sneer, for I knew like everyone else that this was a mythical creature and a tangible tourist attraction invented by those canny Scots. But I thumbed the pages, and saw a set of glossy photos: claimed stills from a film! If these were genuine . . . . So I borrowed the book. Having read it, I couldn’t make up my mind. The author seemed genuine, but also very naïve. Yet his film had been developed by Kodak and pronounced genuine. Could it be that Nessies are real?
I was unable to find a satisfactory discussion in the scientific literature. So I read whatever other books and articles I could find about it. I also became a member of the Loch Ness Investigation, a group that was exploring at Loch Ness during the summers, and I followed their work via their newsletters — I couldn’t participate personally since I then lived in Australia.
A dozen years later, on sabbatical leave in England, I took a vacation trip to Loch Ness. More serendipity: there I encountered Dinsdale. Later I arranged lecture tours for him in the USA (where I had migrated in 1965). Coming to know Dinsdale, coming to trust his integrity, seeing a 35mm copy of his film umpteen times during his talks, brought conviction.
It had taken me 12-15 years of looking at all the available evidence before I felt convinced.

The unorthodox view that underwrites this blog is that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. How did I come by that belief in something that “everyone else” does not believe?
More serendipity. Having concluded in the early 1970s that Nessies were probably real, I became curious why there hadn’t been proper scientific investigations despite the huge amount of publicity over several decades. That led eventually to my change of academic field from chemistry to science studies, with special interest in heterodoxies. So I was always on the lookout for scientific anomalies and heresies to study. In the mid-1990s, I came across the book by Ellison and Duesberg, Why We Will Never Win the War on AIDS (interesting info about this here ; other Ellison-Duesberg articles here).
Just as with Dinsdale’s book, I couldn’t make up my mind. The arguments seemed sound, but I didn’t feel competent to judge the technicalities. So, again, I looked for other HIV/AIDS-dissenting books, and wrote reviews of a number of them. Around 2005, that led me to read Harvey Bialy’s scientific autobiography of Duesberg. For months thereafter, I periodically reminded myself that I wanted to check a citation Bialy had given, for an assertion that obviously couldn’t be true, namely, that positive HIV-tests in the mid-1980s among teenage potential military recruits from all across the United States had come equally among the girls as among the boys. The consequences of checking that reference are described in The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory.
As with Nessie, it had taken me more than ten years of looking into the available evidence to become convinced of the correctness of something that “everyone else” does not believe.

So am I saying that I always sift evidence for a decade before making up my mind?
Of course not. I did that only on matters that were outside my professional expertise.

Studying chemistry, I didn’t question what the instructors and the textbooks had to say. I surely asked for explanations on some points, and might well have raised quibbles on details, but I didn’t question the periodic table or the theory of chemical bonding or the laws of thermodynamics or any other basic tenet.

That, I suggest, is quite typical. Those of us who go into research in a science don’t begin by questioning our field’s basic tenets. Furthermore, most of us never have occasion to question those tenets later on. Most scientific research is, in Kuhn’s words (2), puzzle-solving. In every field there are all sorts of little problems to be solved; not little in the sense of easy, but in the sense of not impinging on any basic theoretical issues. One can spend many lifetimes in chemical research without ever questioning the Second Law of thermodynamics, say, or quantum-mechanical calculations of electron energies, and so on and so forth.

So: Immunologists and virologists and pharmacologists and others who came to do research on HIV/AIDS from the mid-1980s onwards have been engaged in trying to solve all sorts of puzzles. They’ve had no reason to question the accepted view that HIV causes AIDS, because their work doesn’t raise that question in any obvious way; they’re working on very specialized, very detailed matters — designing new antiretroviral drugs, say; or trying to make sense of the infinite variety of “HIV” strains and permutations and recombinations; or looking for new strategies that might lead to a useful vaccine; and so on and so forth. Many tens of thousands of published articles illustrate that there are no end of mysterious puzzles about “HIV/AIDS” waiting to be solved.

The various people who became activist camp followers, like the non-scientist vigilantes among the AIDStruth gang, didn’t begin by trying to convince themselves, by looking into the primary evidence, that the mainstream view is correct: they simply believed it, jumped on the very visible bandwagon, took for granted that the conventional view promulgated by official scientific institutions is true.

It is perfectly natural, in other words, for scientists and non-scientists to believe without question that HIV causes AIDS even though they have never seen or looked for the proof.

What is not natural is to question that, and the relatively small number of individuals who became HIV/AIDS dissidents, AIDS Rethinkers, HIV Skeptics, did so because of idiosyncratic and specific reasons. Women like Christine Maggiore, Noreen Martin, Maria Papagiannidou, Karri Stokely, and others had the strongest personal reasons to wonder about what they were being told: since they had not put themselves at risk in the way “HIV” is supposedly acquired, and since they were finding the “side” effects of antiretroviral drugs intolerable, the incentive was strong to think for themselves and look at the evidence for themselves.
Many gay men have had similar reason to question the mainstream view, and some unknown but undoubtedly large number of gay men are living in a perpetual mental and emotional turmoil: on one hand much empirical evidence of what the antiretroviral drugs have done to their friends, on the other hand their own doctors expressing with apparent confidence the mainstream view. So only a visible minority of gay men have yet recognized the failings of HIV/AIDS theory.
One of the first to do so, John Lauritsen, was brought to question the mainstream view for the idiosyncratic personal reason that, as a survey research analyst, he could see that the CDC’s classification scheme was invalid.
Among scientists, Peter Duesberg recognized some of the errors of HIV/AIDS theory because he understood so much about retroviruses and because he had not himself been caught up in the feverish chase for an infectious cause of AIDS. Robert Root-Bernstein, too, with expertise in immunology , could recognize clearly from outside the HIV/AIDS-research establishment the fallacy of taking immunedeficiency as some new phenomenon. Other biologists, too, who were not involved in HIV/AIDS work, could see things wrong with HIV/AIDS theory: Charles A. Thomas, Jr., Harvey Bialy, Walter Gilbert, Kary Mullis, Harry Rubin, Gordon Stewart, Richard Strohman, and many others who have put their names to the letter asking for a reconsideration.

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To summarize:

Mainstream researchers rarely if ever question the basis for the contemporary beliefs in their field. It’s not unique to HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS researchers and camp followers never cite the publications that are supposed to prove that HIV causes AIDS for the reason that they never looked for such proof, they simply took it for granted on the say-so of the press-conference announcement and subsequent “mainstream consensus”.

The people who did look for such proof, and realized that it doesn’t exist, were:
—  journalists covering “HIV/AIDS” stories (among those who wrote books about it are Jad Adams, Elinor Burkett, John Crewdson, Celia Farber, Neville Hodgkinson, Evan Lambrou, Michael Leitner, Joan Shenton);
—  directly affected, said-to-be-HIV-positive people, largely gay men and also women like those mentioned above;
—  individuals for a variety of individual reasons, as illustrated above for John Lauritsen and myself;
—  scientists in closely related fields who were not working directly on HIV/AIDS.

That last point is pertinent to the refrain from defenders of HIV/AIDS orthodoxy that highly qualified scientists like Duesberg or Mullis are not equipped to comment because they have never themselves done any research on HIV or AIDS. But that’s precisely why they were able to see that this HIV/AIDS Emperor has no clothes — scientists working directly on the many puzzles generated by this wrong theory have no incentive, no inclination, no reason to question the hypothesis; indeed, the psychological mechanism of cognitive dissonance makes it highly unlikely that scientists with careers vested in HIV/AIDS orthodoxy will be able to recognize the evidence against their belief.
More generally, this is the reason why the history of science contains so many cases of breakthroughs being made by outsiders to a particular specialty: coming to it afresh, they are not blinded by the insider dogmas.

So there is nothing unique about the fact that the failings of HIV/AIDS theory have been discerned by outsiders and not by insiders, and that the insiders are not even familiar with the supposed proofs underlying their belief. Nor is it unique that the dogma has many camp followers who never bothered to look for the supposed proofs of the mainstream belief. What is unique to HIV/AIDS theory is the enormous damage it has caused, by making ill or actually killing hundreds of thousands (at least). The annals of modern medicine have no precedent for this, which is another reason why thoughtless supporters of HIV/AIDS orthodoxy may feel comfortable with it despite never having sought evidence for it.

So here’s the question to put to everyone who insists that HIV causes AIDS:

HOW  DID  YOU  COME  TO  BELIEVE  THAT?
WHAT  CONVINCED  YOU?

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Cited:
(1) Henry H. Bauer, Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy, University of Illinois Press, 1984; chapter 11, “Motives for believing”.
(2) Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1970 (2nd ed., enlarged; 1st ed. 1962)

Posted in experts, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, prejudice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Henry Bauer and the Loch Ness monsters

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/02/16

One of the burdens that AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics impose on one another is that the HIV/AIDS groupies and vigilantes seize every possible opportunity to assert “guilt by association”. I’ve felt apologetic for some time that my fellow Rethinkers and Skeptics have been tarred by the brush of being associated with Henry Bauer, who is a believer in Loch Ness monsters (“Nessies”). Most recently, Seth Kalichman and Richard Wilson have been trying to make hay from this association, so I thought it might be useful if I made a plain statement about the matter — useful, that is to say, for anyone who is interested in actual facts.

But first, some comments on what the real issues are here.

1. Guilt by association is understood by all thinking people to be invalid, whether it’s being held accountable for someone else’s views or actions (e.g., House Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthyism) or whether it asserts that a person who is wrong about one issue is therefore wrong about all other issues — e.g., because Isaac Newton spent most of his time and intellectual energy delving into alchemy and Biblical exegesis, therefore his views on calculus and celestial mechanics are not worthy of consideration.

2. People who seek to counter what I’ve written about HIV/AIDS by pointing out that I’ve written about the Loch Ness mystery reveal thereby their inability to counter the arguments I’ve made about HIV/AIDS. It’s rather like the response that HIV/AIDS defenders always give when they’re asked to cite specific data that prove HIV to be the cause of AIDS: they never give a direct reply, it’s always about “overwhelming evidence”, “virtually unanimous consensus”, “hundreds of thousands of papers over 25 years” — when the argument would be cut short decisively in their favor if only they could cite such specific data. Similarly, if the groupies and vigilantes had conclusive answers to the data and inferences presented in my book, they could just give those answers, and then they wouldn’t have had to spend the considerable effort that they’ve evidently devoted to reading my writings on so many other matters, not only about Loch Ness but even my memoir of academic administration.

The following isn’t directed at those whose interest it is to assassinate characters because they can’t answer my substantive arguments, and it isn’t for those who pull things out of context to serve as innuendos; it is for my fellow Rethinkers and Skeptics who may have felt embarrassed by my Loch Ness connection and who have at times defended me from those sorts of attacks in the many Internet venues that I personally eschew, in which guilt by association, character assassination, bleep-worthy invective, and the like, are standard fare.

A direct question:

Do I believe in the existence of Loch Ness monsters?

A direct answer:

Yes and No     😉
It depends on what the meaning of “believe” is   😉

Flippancy aside: When we say in conversation, “I believe Loch Ness monsters are real animals”, or “I believe the President’s economic stimulus package is the best thing to do”, we’re expressing a strong opinion that’s not the same as saying, “I’m 100% certain that  Loch Ness monsters are real animals and that the President’s economic stimulus package is the best thing to do”.

I believe that the balance of the available evidence is that unidentified animals disport themselves deep under the waters of Loch Ness, but I’m not 100% certain — I wouldn’t bet on it anything that’s important to me.
If you’re interested in what the significant evidence is, read my essay, “The case for the Loch Ness Monster: The scientific evidence”, Journal of Scientific Exploration, 16(2): 225-46 (2002).

My book about the matter, The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery, doesn’t make the case for the existence of Nessies, it is the second of my books to explore the differences between knowledge-seeking within and without the formal scientific community. Though it’s a scholarly monograph published by a university press rather than a popular work, its sales have exceeded 4500 copies plus some unknown number in a British edition and as a “book on tape”. I was delighted by some two dozen reviews of the book (all are listed at my website), overwhelmingly favorable, for example:

“We need more books of this type. Although Bauer personally says that he thinks the creatures do exist in Loch Ness, he is careful not to push his views, or to turn this book into a plea for Nessie. It remains a cautious examination about what is known, what is believed, why it is believed or not believed. The reader is left to make his or her own conclusion, or to make none at all. .  . . Rationalists will be pleased” (Gordon Stein, American Rationalist).

I would no more disown my associations with Loch Ness than Barack Obama would disown his associations with a man who was the preacher at his church for many years. There’s a bit more to me than my associations with Loch Ness, but I have no reason to be ashamed of those associations. Indeed, attempting to satisfy my curiosity about the possible existence of Nessies led to all sorts of good things for me, both personally and professionally.

I was first at Loch Ness during a honeymoon in 1958. I didn’t then take Nessies seriously, made no effort to ask about them, and didn’t buy the recently published book by Constance Whyte, “More than a Legend”. A few years later, I came across Tim Dinsdale’s 1961 book while browsing in the local library. Still photographs in it that were claimed to come from a moving film intrigued me, and I wanted to learn more. During a sabbatical leave in Britain in 1972-73, we encountered Dinsdale, and I arranged lecture tours for him in 1975 in Kentucky and 1979 in Virginia. Whenever there was the opportunity to visit Britain, I would try to include Loch Ness. I took a mini-sabbatical there in 1985, during which time I wrote my memoir about academic administration and made a number of friends. I spent a second honeymoon actually at Loch Ness, and my wife and I took summer vacations there for about 20 years, forming some close and valued friendships and delighting in the scenery across the Highlands; there cannot be many trails or by-ways that we haven’t traversed more than once, and I became quite adept at the maneuverings and the courtesies appropriate to single-track roads with infrequent “passing places”, often unpaved or with only two tire-width strips of asphalt.

So Loch Ness brought me quite powerful and altogether positive personal experiences. The mystery of the possible existence of Nessies brought me stimulating and rewarding intellectual experiences. My first question, naturally, had been, “Could these things really exist?” The second question came from looking in encyclopedias and journals for relevant information, leading me to ask myself, “Why can’t I find an authoritative scientific resource about this?” That led me to explore that question with historians, journalists, and others, and to a recognition that scientific activity is a far more complicated matter than “applying the scientific method”. And that led to my change of academic career from chemistry to science studies, with an interlude in academic administration that was also very instructive about the intellectual differences among academic specialties.

That background of learning about how science works, and about the role of unorthodox views in the progress of science, prepared and enabled me to look for the “beef” in HIV/AIDS theory after I had become aware that some people questioned the mainstream view. What I had learned about the history of science allowed me to contemplate the possibility that a firmly held consensus might be wrong, a realization shared by all too few people outside the academic fields of history of science and science studies or the like.

So there you have it. I “believe” (estimated probability ≥0.9) that Nessies exist, and I believe quite firmly (probability ≥0.999) that studying controversies over such matters can be intellectually rewarding. In the words of the motto adopted by the student newspaper at my alma mater:

Honi soit qui mal y pense

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Of UFOs, Loch Ness monsters, Independent Thinkers, and dogmatists

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/09/29

Last Saturday I enjoyed the company of interested and interesting people at a one-day meeting of the Virginia-North Carolina section of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). I talked about “Challenges and advantages of researching UFOs and similar  subjects”. The text (mufon2008) and PowerPoint summary (also titled mufon2008) are posted here because there are many similarities between taking an unorthodox view as to HIV/AIDS (or global warming, or cold fusion, or fluoridation of water, etc.) and taking the view that it’s worth looking into the claims about Loch Ness monsters, UFOs, psychic phenomena, and the like.

The fundamental similarity is that one is cut loose from the support structure of mainstream scientific activity, and that has consequences in organizational, intellectual, and personal or social matters. Being clear about this can be very useful; I’ve certainly found it so. When I stumbled into active HIV/AIDS skepticism, I recognized quite a few aspects as being specific instances of generalizations that I was familiar with: lack of agreement and cohesion among the skeptics, for example; for another, the cadres of fanatical defenders of the orthodoxy, typically people who themselves had not contributed substantively to the orthodox case and who play the role of attack dogs and character assassins.

The similarities as to organizational and social or personal matters are considerable, but there are important differences regarding the intellectual aspects. Those who look for UFOs or Loch Ness monsters suffer from a dearth of hard data, a lack of clear indications about how more and better data might be obtainable, and the absence of any satisfactory explanation for the putative phenomenon. By contrast, with HIV/AIDS the hard data are on the side of the skeptics, not of the mainstream orthodoxy. However, those data are hard only in the destructive sense of disproving HIV/AIDS theory, not in a positive sense of pointing to all-encompassing explanations of everything about AIDS and about HIV that everyone would agree with. Defenders of HIV/AIDS orthodoxy experience intellectual challenges similar to those of UFO buffs, because their phenomena don’t cohere with an overarching theory: if it’s a virus, then vaccines and microbicides should be possible — but all attempts over more than two decades have failed; if it’s spread sexually, then there should have been epidemics in every country — but there haven’t been; breast feeding by “HIV-positive” mothers should be  deleterious — but it isn’t, quite the contrary; since HAART reduced dramatically the death rate among “HIV-positive” people, “HIV-positive” people should have been living longer — but they haven’t been; since there’s a long latent period, and benefit from antiretroviral treatment, people should on average be dying at much greater ages than those at which they become infected — but that’s not the case, the age distributions are superposable; higher viral load should mean lower CD4 counts and worse clinical prognosis — but those three things don’t correlate in that manner; untreated “HIV-positive” people should die, but many don’t even become ill; Africa’s population should have been decimated — but it’s grown steadily and quite rapidly. HIV/AIDS phenomena and HIV/AIDS theory don’t cohere, the same sort of dilemma faced by UFO buffs and by searchers for Loch Ness monsters.

As to behavioral matters, defenders of HIV/AIDS orthodoxy display the same characteristics as one finds within the mother of all pseudo-skeptical organizations, CSICOP, the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and among its associated groups. Most members of CSICOP are science groupies, not scientists — and similarly some of the most extreme HIV/AIDS vigilantes are economists, psychologists, and the like. Among those with technical scientific credentials, the vast majority have not themselves contributed anything of much note — for obvious reason: as Bernard Shaw remarked long ago, “Those who can, do” — it’s the low achievers who spend (waste) their time attacking characters and denigrating open-mindedness. The orthodoxy-defenders reveal deep personal insecurity, behaving as though it were life-threatening if everyone doesn’t agree with their views.

By contrast, those who don’t take the orthodox position on trust and as absolutely certain don’t display that degree of personal insecurity; they’re often much more interesting, and they certainly seem to enjoy themselves a lot more. Last Saturday, for example, the people I encountered were there out of pure interest. I heard from a man who had spent decades gathering information and whose life had thereby been greatly enriched, through wide travels and through making an enormous variety of friends. I met a couple who traverse the globe with the aim of observing eclipses, and along the way they have learned a great deal about many cultures. Another couple had relocated simply in order to offer their children a better intellectual environment. These are what Patrick Moore described, with empathy and sympathy, as “Independent Thinkers” (Can you speak Venusian?, David & Charles, 1972) — whereas less objective and insightful pundits than Patrick Moore use terms like “crank”, “crackpot”, “pseudo-scientist”. What Independent Thinkers explore might often turn out to be wrong in minor or major ways, but these individuals think for themselves. And that’s what the world needs more of; there’s a vast oversupply of people who just follow their leaders.

My own experience has been that an inclination to think for oneself brings interactions with a marvelous range of personalities, some of whose interests jibe while others do not. I find myself collaborating as to Loch Ness monsters and the like with people whose political views are almost diametrically opposite to mine. I find that my critiques of students who don’t study bring me into touch with others who make similar critiques and who also see flaws, as I do, in HIV/AIDS theory — but who tend to the orthodox view as to global warming whereas I do not. And so on. The company of Independent Thinkers is wonderfully refreshing, compared to the constipated rigidity of the vigilantes of orthodoxy. The latter don’t know what they’re missing.

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