HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Duesberg’

Duesberg vindicated

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2010/06/22

In April, it had become known that UC Berkeley had received anonymous charges against Peter Duesberg:

“The specific allegations are that an article you submitted to Medical Hypotheses was investigated and then withdrawn by the publisher based on issues of credibility and false claims. The allegations also state that you failed to declare a relevant conflict of interest with regard to the commercial interests of your co-authors” (Greg Miller, “Exclusive: AIDS scientist investigated for misconduct after complaint”, ScienceInsider, 16 April).
[It must have galled the complainants to see Duesberg described as an AIDS scientist on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of the flagship periodical Science.]

Two months later, the university admits that it finds no reason to take action on the charges (Martin Enserink, “Berkeley drops probe of Duesberg after finding ‘insufficient evidence’”, June 21).

In other words, Duesberg did not fail to declare a relevant conflict of interest, and there was no evidence of false claims. The university thereby confirms what Rethinkers knew all along, that this was just part of the continuing ad hominem attempts to discredit Duesberg by people who cannot discredit by means of data his substantive assertions about HIV/AIDS.

In this connection, it’s worth noting too that Duesberg’s criticism of inflated AIDS-death numbers for South Africa, suppressed from Medical Hypotheses, has been vindicated by publication in a peer-reviewed, PubMed-abstracted journal [Medical students in Africa need not fear HIV, 2010/05/31 ; REPRINT of Galletti & Bauer, 2010/06/03].

Altogether, on those rare occasions when critiques of Duesberg, or of AIDS Rethinking in general, are considered openly and by even half-way unbiased people, Duesberg et al. come out ahead. The UC Berkeley investigation found that the charges could not be sustained, even though the task had been delegated to an individual who has himself done mainstream HIV/AIDS research. [UC Berkeley evidently lacks understanding of conflicts of interest.] When scientific periodicals like the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, that are not dominated by HIV/AIDS vigilantes, obtain peer review of Rethinking articles, those article are judged on the basis of the evidence they present and they get published. My book was reviewed favorably in half-a-dozen independent, disinterested publications (as well as in a couple of friendly ones); it was ignored by all but one mainstream HIV/AIDS periodical,  and that review was unable to cite any specific instance where the evidence I present is faulty in some way; it acknowledged the book to be “richly documented”, “asking good questions”, and for pointing to the “weak quality of evidence supporting the views  of  HIV  propagation” promulgated by the mainstream”.

Defenders of the flawed HIV = AIDS belief have resorted to ad hominem attacks for upwards of two decades simply because they have never been able to answer substantively the points raised by Peter Duesberg, by John Lauritsen, by the Perth Group, by Robert Root-Bernstein, by Gordon Stewart, and by so many other doctors, historians, journalists, scientists, and people who have experienced the trauma of being declared “HIV-positive” and being subjected to antiretroviral “treatment”.

Nowhere was it ever proved that HIV exists as infectious pathogenic virions inside AIDS patients, let alone in “HIV-positive” individuals. The Rethinking challenge has never been met: Show us the publication(s) in which that proof supposedly resides.

Of course, the mainstream is being dragged only very slowly, metaphorically kicking and screaming, to its eventual nasty but rather well-deserved fate of having to face the fact and consequences of its incompetent and iatrogenic actions. UC Berkeley’s lawyerly language in notifying Duesberg that he was off the hook was anything but gracious, and stands as yet another blemish on that university’s earlier more honorable reputation. HIV/AIDS vigilantes are already attempting to capitalize on this gracelessness by portraying Duesberg’s vindication as a Scottish-type “not proven” verdict rather than as a plain exoneration. But the fact remains, established by more than two decades of determined initiatives to discredit Duesberg, that when an even halfway independent judgment is made, all attempts to discredit him fail, and the attackers can do no more than nitpick, misquote, and continue to shout Big Lies.

Posted in experts, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, Legal aspects, prejudice, uncritical media | Tagged: , | 21 Comments »

Answering Cranks — THANK YOU, PERTH!

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/12/04

I think it was Bertrand Russell, or perhaps it was Bernard Shaw, who wrote a classic piece about the frustrations of trying to engage in substantive discussion with a crank. The essay has been cited quite often by accomplished science writers like Jeremy Bernstein. The frustration is that it takes far longer to deconstruct the crank’s claims that it takes the crank to make them. The crank pours out undocumented assertions that are wrong not only in detail but that are wrong-headed in general principle, and each assertion then requires general background discourse to establish the correct principles as well as detail-specific answers; and all needs careful documentation and attention to nuance if the contretemps is to be not just a shouting match of opposing assertions.

Since HIV/AIDS theory is pseudoscience (Science Studies 102: Burden of proof, HIV/AIDS “science”, pseudo-science, 22 July 2008;  HIV/AIDS and parapsychology: science or pseudo-science?, 30 December 2008; Trying to think about the Unthinkable, 2 January 2009; Mainstream pseudo-science good, alternative pseudo-science bad, 25 February 2009; Circumcision pseudo-science, 2 September 2009), its proponents are cranks (crackpots, pseudoscientists), and frustration is a common experience for AIDS Rethinkers. The most vociferous of the HIV/AIDS vigilantes, say Jeanne Bergman or Seth Kalichman, show that they know nothing of history of science or philosophy of science or sociology of science, and have not even done any science themselves (unless one grants their idiosyncratic claim that economics or law or psychology are sciences). So their detailed statements are embedded in discourse that is ignorant of the very nature of science, and that needs correction before one even begins to address their detailed claims.

The HIV/AIDS groupies and vigilantes have been increasingly on the defensive after Medical Hypotheses accepted, and posted as in press on the journal’s website in July, a couple of articles striking at the very heart of HIV/AIDS blunders: the fact that the sovereign nation of Italy maintains its health without recognizing HIV as a dangerous infection or AIDS as an illness caused by it (Ruggiero et al.) and that an article in JAIDS found it necessary to multiply by a factor of 25 the deaths from AIDS in South Africa (Duesberg et al.) in order to maintain the fictions that AIDS is devastating Africa and that antiretroviral drugs save lives when delivered indiscriminately to “HIV-positive” individuals.

At the same time, The House of Numbers (documentary film by Brent Leung) as making the rounds of film festivals, gathering honors and plaudits as it showed through direct on-camera interviews the vacuity of HIV/AIDS theories and the disagreements among HIV/AIDS gurus over the most elementary aspects of the whole business.

The first response was a joint letter by some of the interviewed gurus disclaiming what they were seen to have said: just as convincing as Nancy Padian’s repeated assertions over the years that her observation of zero transmission of HIV was not evidence of no transmission. In other words, the first responses was the claim that a goodly number of the leading HIV/AIDS experts are unable to say what they mean.

Luc Montagnier’s remarks were, it was alleged, (1) taken out of context; (2) suffered from Montagnier’s lack of command of English; (3) reflected trapping through leading questions from the interviewer (though Montagnier himself did not sign the letter). The claim of taken out of context would seem to have dissolved when Leung posted an unedited clip of the relevant portion of the interview in honor of World AIDS Day.

The chief attempt to discredit the film appears to be a website devoted entirely to that task. When I learned of it and looked at it, I left again almost immediately because my intellectual stomach turned in revolt at seeing the assertions has Bergman posted in typically crank fashion, undocumented, wrong in detail and wrongheaded in its ignorance of the very nature of science in particular and disciplined logical argument in general.

But no matter how time-consuming and unrewarding it may be to develop properly supported answers to such crankish stuff, it serves as a valuable resource to which other Rethinkers can refer as they try to spread the truth, one acquaintance or friend or student at a time. So we should be exceedingly grateful to the Perth Group who have posted impeccably argued and documented material that demolishes utterly the Bergmanian flim-flam.
The first installment of the deconstruction exposes the dirty little secret that HIV/AIDS theorists nowadays regard immune activation and not immune-cell depletion as what goes wrong in “AIDS”, which among other things explains why antiretroviral treatment, if or when it “reconstitutes” the immune system also brings on AIDS diseases (the phenomenon swept under the carpet by being named, Immune Restoration Syndrome). The Perthers also make mincemeat of Bergman’s attempt to discount the role played by animal models in HIV/AIDS publications (I was about to write “research”).
The second installment of the deconstruction exposes Bergman’s incompetence to write about scientific matters. There is a useful list of the Perth Group’s seminal articles questioning HIV/AIDS theory, some e-mails illustrating J P Moore’s unwillingness to engage in substantive scientific discourse, and a reminder that Montagnier has been talking about oxidative stress for quite some time but without acknowledging the much earlier proposal by the Perth Group of which he had been fully aware. The way in which HIV/AIDS virologists have taken in vain the term “isolation” is described in convincing detail, together with the filmed evidence that David Baltimore, Robin Weiss, and other experts do not appear to be aware that “HIV” has never in fact been isolated in the proper meaning of the word. The claimed evidence for sexual transmission of HIV is demonstrated to be non-existent.
Perhaps the worst of Bergman’s assertions is that of 99.9% accuracy for a two-test protocol of ELISA plus Western Blot. Since she cites no source, one cannot contradict the source; but Perth does the job nicely even without that. Lacking a gold standard, “accuracy” or specificity cannot be known; and there is no gold standard for “HIV” tests (Weiss &Cowan, cited in “HIV” tests are self-fulfilling prophecies, 10 May 2009).

Thank you, Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Valendar F. Turner, John M Papadimitriou, David Causer. Well done! Yet another of your invaluable contributions to the Rethinking literature.

Posted in experts, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

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)


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?


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?


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.


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:


(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 »

Pots and kettles: Is ignorance an excuse? — Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #6

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/04/20

A favorite tactic of AIDStruthers, including Kalichman (e.g., p. 71 in “Denying AIDS”), is to dismiss without further ado anything said by AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics on the grounds that they have never done any AIDS research themselves. As I pointed out in “Science Studies 101: Why is HIV/AIDS ‘science’ so unreliable?” [18 July 2008]:

“HIV/AIDS vigilantes like to denigrate rethinkers for not having had their hands dirtied by direct research on the matters they discuss. Historians and sociologists of science, however, know that some of the most acclaimed breakthroughs were made by disciplinary outsiders, who were not blinkered and blinded by the contemporary paradigm (24, 25). . . .
24. Ernest B. Hook (ed.), Prematurity in Scientific Discovery: On Resistance and Neglect, University of California Press, 2002.
25. Henry H. Bauer, The progress of science and implications for science studies and for science policy, Perspectives on Science 11 (#2, 2003) 236-78.”

At the same time as the Guardians of the HIV/AIDS Faith insist that it’s worth attending only to people who have themselves worked in a given specialty, those same Guardians of the Faith apparently feel themselves perfectly qualified to hold forth on matters of science in general and of pseudo-science in particular without having themselves done any scholarly research into those matters, indeed without displaying knowledge of even the rudiments of those subjects. They are ignorant even about aspects of Science Studies where they might be thought to have some insight, as when a clinical/social psychologist makes the stunningly ludicrous assertion that “Scientists are by their nature and training systematic and objective” (“Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2: The Social Psychology of Scientists”, 14 March 2009).

Kalichman further ventures the astonishing and equally ludicrous assertion that one can discuss pseudo-science without first identifying criteria by which to distinguish science from what isn’t science: “Fortunately, we do not have to define science to understand pseudoscience” (p. 57).
The most cursory consideration reveals that statement as utter nonsense. If you offer me a pseudo-apple, the only way I can know it’s pseudo is if I could  recognize a real apple. “Pseudo-science” surely means something that masquerades as science but isn’t the real article; if one cannot recognize real science, then one cannot recognize pseudo-science. Generations of philosophers and other specialists have tried every which way, unsuccessfully*, to find a definitive set of criteria by which to distinguish science from non-science, pseudo-science, pathological science**, “cargo-cult” science, and all the other pejorative terms that Guardians of The Only True Faiths like to toss around:

“Self-styled ‘skeptics’ (26) like to denigrate heterodox views as ‘pseudo-science’ just because those views are heterodox, ignorant of the fact that there are no general criteria available by which to judge whether something is ‘scientific’; and they tend to be also ignorant of the fact that ‘scientific’ cannot be translated as ‘true’ (2, 27, 28). . . .
2. Henry H. Bauer, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press, 1992. . . .
26. The mother of all “skeptical” groups is CSICOP, publisher of Skeptical Inquirer; see George P. Hansen, “CSICOP and the Skeptics: an overview”, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 86 (#1, 1992) 19-63.
27. Chapters 1-3, 6, 7 in reference 9.
28. Henry H. Bauer, Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies, University of Illinois Press, 2001.”

Kalichman claims to rely on “standard definitions of pseudoscience” (p. xv) — of which none exist, if “standard” has its usual meaning of accepted throughout the pertinent intellectual community. He lists a number of purported attributes of pseudo-science (p. 57 ff.) — all of them easily deconstructed as invalid — yet doesn’t even pretend to show how any of those are supposed to be exemplified by AIDS Rethinkers or HIV Skeptics. According to Kalichman, moreover, “Pseudoscience, which is not science at all, differs from bad science and junk science, which are science but utilize faulty methodologies to draw incorrect conclusions” —
What on earth does he mean? Is he implying that pseudo-science doesn’t utilize faulty methodologies to draw incorrect conclusions?! What distinction is he trying to draw between his notion of pseudo-science and his notions of bad science or junk science — neither of which he defines beyond the just cited sentence?

This colossal and cavalier ignorance about what science is and how it works leads Kalichman even to adduce, as examples to support his case, instances that actually point exactly in the opposite direction:

“Scientists who hold views outside of the mainstream play an important role in truth seeking. Dissident scientists do not agree with the prevailing theory or do not accept the body of accumulated observations as fact. The importance of dissidence in science is unquestionable, with many celebrated examples throughout history. Revolutions in how we think about our world come from those who move science in new directions. We remember the dissident scientists who changed the way we think. Galileo Galilei changed how we view our universe. Albert Einstein changed how we contemplate space and time. Alfred Wegener changed how we think about the formation of our planet. Charles Darwin changed our view of life. Sigmund Freud changed how we view ourselves. Dissident scientists turn into revolutionaries when their thinking causes science to shift course. Science surely values diverse thinkers, dissent, disagreement, and vigorous debate. How those of us outside of a respective field of science distinguish between genuine dissidence and destructive attempts to undermine the science is a far more complicated matter” (p. 6).

No, my dear Kalichman, it’s not at all a complicated matter to understand how people outside  a field — or inside a field, for that matter — “distinguish between genuine dissidence and destructive attempts to undermine the science”: the long-demonstrated fact is that they don’t so distinguish because they cannot; no one can. As history tells us, devotees of a mainstream consensus regard all dissidence as destructive, just as you and the other AIDStruthers regard AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics as destructive just because we question the orthodox dogma. Objectively speaking, however, making the distinction is not so much a complicated matter as literally impossible. How can contemporaries distinguish the crank from the genius? As Albert Einstein acknowledged, “There is no objective test” ***.

In point of fact, every one of these former dissidents cited by Kalichman to illustrate how we revere revolutionaries actually illustrates the very opposite. All of them were anything but revered by their contemporaries, ranging from being ignored to being attacked viciously. Galileo’s troubles are well known, and his name has even become the standard example in the conventional wisdom about people who were right even when the authoritative experts pronounced them wrong and wanted them to recant. Darwin and Freud were persistently opposed both by scientists and by non-scientists. Alfred Wegener is one of Gunther Stent’s textbook examples of “premature discovery”, so far ahead of his contemporaries that it was the best part of half a century before his claims were vindicated — posthumously by about 35 years. One of the reasons Wegener’s ideas were ignored or dismissed by earth scientists was, of course, that Wegener was an outsider, not an earth scientist. As to Albert Einstein, the Nobel Committee was careful to note that he was being awarded the Nobel Prize “in particular” for studies relating to quantum theory , not for the then-still-controversial theory of relativity; that disclaimer is somewhat reminiscent of the manner on which Scientific American (May 2007, 53-59) recently prefaced Duesberg’s invited presentation of his views on aneuploidy and cancer:
“Editors’ note: The author, Peter Duesberg, a pioneering virologist, may be well known to readers for his assertion that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. The biomedical community has roundly rebutted that claim many times. Duesberg’s ideas about chromosomal abnormality as a root cause for cancer, in contrast, are controversial but are being actively investigated by mainstream science. We have therefore asked Duesberg to explain that work here. This article is in no sense an endorsement by SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN of his AIDS theories.”

Yes indeed, my dear Kalichman, “Revolutions in how we think about our world come from those who move science in new directions”. But if it were up to people like you, it would never happen, because according to you, only the specialists have a right to an opinion. Except, of course, when it comes to history of science or philosophy of science or sociology of science or science & technology studies, where outsiders like yourself think themselves somehow qualified to speak even though they lack the most elementary familiarity with the matters they address.

* Larry Laudan, “The demise of the demarcation problem”, pp. 111-27 in Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, ed. R. S. Cohen & L. Laudan, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983
** Henry H. Bauer, “‘Pathological Science’ is not Scientific Misconduct (nor is it pathological)”, HYLE (International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry), 8 (#1, April 2002) 5-20
*** I. Bernard Cohen, “An interview with Einstein”, Scientific American, July 1955, 69-73

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The Social Psychology of “Denialist” Scientists — Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2, part 2

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/18

Scientists, we are instructed by Kalichman, are “by their nature and training systematic and objective” (p. 112; see “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2: The Social Psychology of Scientists”, 14 March 2009). That raises a seemingly obvious question:

How or why did some “systematic and objective” scientists become “AIDS denialists”?

I find no explanation for this in Kalichman’s book, even though he places quite a few of us in that category. For example, there’s Kelly Brennan-Jones, like Kalichman a psychologist and therefore also a scientist, and one for whom Kalichman had much respect and from whom he had solicited a book review: “I knew her work dating back to my years in graduate school. I knew Kelly Brennan-Jones was trained at a superlative university by some of the best social psychologists in the country” (p. xiii).

But, it turns out, Brennan-Jones differs with Kalichman about HIV/AIDS.
“My reaction was one of absolute outrage. I mean I was really angry. I was in an emotional upheaval. I surprised everyone around me, including myself, by my seemingly irrational reaction. How could someone I knew to be intelligent, well-trained as a scientist at a respectable university and in a position of influence over college students endorse a book that everyone surely knows is outdated, biased, and of little more value than that worthy of a doorstop?” (p. xiii).

Thus Kalichman describes how he himself lapsed from systemic objectivity and became irrational (though only “seemingly” so, whatever that means), but he doesn’t give a convincing explanation for why it happened. Surely that a fellow psychologist differs with him over a scientific issue can’t be the explanation — if it were, then psychologists would be in a continual state of irrational anger and outrage, given that there are disagreements over so many quite fundamental issues in psychology and psychotherapy. Nor does Kalichman suggest what might have pushed the respected Brennan-Jones, senior to Kalichman though perhaps no more distinguished, out of her customary systematic objectivity — if indeed that’s the case; Kalichman nowhere establishes that there’s anything non-objective about doubting HIV/AIDS theory, he just takes it for granted. He doesn’t even enlighten us about what convinced him personally of that. But consider the matter from Kalichman’s viewpoint for the moment; doesn’t that immediately raise the question, why did Brennan-Jones, an outstanding, systematic, objective scientist for many years, lose those attributes?

The same conundrum applies to others whom Kalichman takes to task as “denialists”. There’s Peter Duesberg, pioneer acclaimed retrovirologist, who isolated the first oncogene in 1970 and was elected to the National Academy in 1986 (p. 175) — yet who almost immediately thereafter lost the scientific attributes he had exemplified during a quarter century of highly distinguished research.

Then there’s David Rasnick (pp. 176-77), competent enough to have worked on proteases (albeit only in rats), who also apparently lost his scientific marbles in middle age or later.

Dr. Matthias Rath is not included among “denialist” scientists in Kalichman’s Appendix B, but he is referred to throughout the book as a German vitamin entrepreneur and “AIDS denialist”. It fails to be mentioned that Rath had worked closely with one of the 20th century’s leading scientists, Linus Pauling. Apparently Rath, a PhD scientist, also somehow lost his systematic objectivity in middle age or thereabouts.

Harvey Bialy had been systematically objective enough to garner a PhD in molecular biology from Berkeley. Kalichman (p. 177) appears to think he wasn’t that great a scientist, though, since he published only 27 articles and was merely an editor for a while at one the leading medical-scientific journals. At any rate, at some stage Bialy, too, apparently lost any remaining systematic objectivity and lapsed into denialism.

Then there’s the sad case of Kary Mullis (pp. 177-8), a Nobel Laureate who happens to be also an “AIDS denialist”, having evidently lost his Nobel-quality systematic objectivity at some time or other. One of the things responsible for that fall from grace, no doubt, was that Mullis persistently asked everyone he encountered to please give him citations to the specific publications that prove HIV to be the cause of AIDS; and he never received a responsive answer. Perhaps that’s enough to drive anyone out of systematic objectivity.

And so it continues. Charles Geshekter (pp. 178-9) had been a systematic, objective social scientist (historian) until he contracted denialism. Claus Koehnlein (p. 179) too — though he had been only a practicing physician, not a researcher, not a scientist, so perhaps he never had been systematically objective. The Perth Group (pp. 179-80) has several doctors and scientists who were infected with denialism around mid-career. There’s also Etienne de Harven (p. 180), formerly of the University of Toronto and the Sloan-Kettering Institute. Roberto Giraldo, who might never have been very systematically objective because his medical degree was only from South America and he had been merely a medical technologist in New York (p. 181). Mohammed Al-Bayati (p. 181), PhD from the University of California at Davis, somehow became unsystematic and unobjective at some time thereafter. Lynn Margulis (pp. 181-2), who was elected to the National Academy in 1983, is rightly famous for having discovered the mechanism of symbiosis by which evolution advances in leaps rather than by infinitesimally slow natural selection from genetic mutations; however, she too suffered a breakdown of systematic objectivity as the years went by.

And then (p. 182) there are a couple of mathematicians, Serge Lang and Rebecca Culshaw. Of course, the majority view is that mathematics isn’t a science, neither “hard” nor soft, and so maybe mathematicians lack systematic objectivity to begin with. On the other hand, it’s also a majority view that mathematics is the most rigorously logical enterprise of all — all of pure mathematics is the following of axioms to their logical conclusions.

We know, too, that the denialist scientists named in Kalichman’s book are the merest tip of a proverbial iceberg, because there are hundreds more PhDs and MDs among AIDS Rethinkers.

And yet, despite having all these examples to work with, Kalichman offers no explanation for how or why scientists morph from systematic objectivity into wacky denialism.

To fill this vacuum (vacuity?) left by Kalichman, I’ll venture a suggestion.

The clue, I think — as with HIV/AIDS itself — is the matter of age. One of the curiosities of “HIV” is that it “infects” chiefly individuals who are in the prime of adult life, 35-45 years. (And, curiously enough, as I’ve remarked in several blog posts, after a “latent period” of healthy life averaging 10 years, followed by many years of “living with HIV/AIDS” while being kept alive by antiretroviral drugs, they still die chiefly at ages 35-45).

We have a rather similarly curious situation with “AIDS denialism”: It strikes people at relatively advanced ages and typically after decades of healthy systematic objectivity.

However, if one looks more carefully into the histories of these sufferers from denialism, one can often detect some early warning signs of a tendency to deviate from the systematic objectivity of their colleagues and to strike out in new directions, to have different ideas, to be creative and innovative; but this only becomes extreme decades later, when it blossoms into full-blown AIDS denialism.

Evidently, AIDS denialism in scientists, like AIDS in people at large, is brought on by a very slow-working infection that becomes manifest and serious only a decade or more later. Obviously the cause of denialism is, as with AIDS, a lentivirus.

“HIV”, of course, is the type specimen of the species “pathogenic lentivirus”, since the earlier and very first lentivirus, which causes kuru, turned out to be a prion and not a virus at all. We know that one mode of transmission of “HIV” is from mother to child. We further know that there is a genetic predisposition to contract “HIV”, in particular, African genes predispose to contracting “HIV”.

By analogy, we can expect that the “denialist” lentivirus is also sometimes passed on from mother to child, or at least “within families” like HTLV-I and II (p. 114 in Gallo, Virus Hunting, 1991) — there is a correlation between the intellectual qualities of parents and children, after all. And there’s also a genetic predisposition to AIDS denialism: Germanic genes predispose to denialism, according to Kalichman (pp. 54, 145; there’ll be more about this in “The German Connection —Kalichman’s not-so-Komical Kaper #3”).

Kalichman has identified other characteristics of denialists as well. Most notably, they are suspicious people and conspiracy theorists (e.g., p. 13 ff. & chapter 4). But this raises the same problem as denialism itself: Why did so many now-denialist scientists contract these conditions only after decades of unexceptionable, even distinguished research?
Obviously, again, it’s that lentivirus. As “HIV” is capable of explaining every form of deviance from physical health, so the denialist lentivirus is capable of explaining every form of deviance from mental health.

AIDS scientists and AIDStruthers have had no success in protecting against the denialist lentivirus through education. Indeed, as the prominent AIDS scientists praising Kalichman’s work have testified, denialism has become a major threat to public health. Since we know that there’s a genetic predisposition to it, perhaps it will turn out that gene therapy (disabling or modifying Germanic genes) is the only really effective means of prevention — just as with HIV, where abstinence, condoms, microbicides, and vaccines have all failed miserably (“HIV gene therapy trial promising”).

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