HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘pseudo-science’

Scientifically illiterate science pundit: Ben Goldacre

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/01/18

My previous post, “Scientific illiteracy, the media, science pundits, governments, and HIV/AIDS” (15 January 2009),  had taken on a life of its own after starting out as a comment on Goldacre’s error-filled piece about Christine Maggiore. Now back to Goldacre.

Scientific literacy means to have learned the salient findings of history of science and related fields, for example, that a mainstream consensus is sometimes wrong, especially when it comes to novel matters. Scientific literates know that one cannot accept a mainstream consensus without further ado. Scientific literates know that if a mainstream consensus is challenged by competent people, one then needs to burrow fairly deeply into the actual evidence before reaching an eventual judgment about where the best case probably lies, with the mainstream or with the challengers.

Science pundits who talk about pseudo-science should know that the problem of defining pseudo-science has never been solved. They should know that philosophy of science concluded, after decades of intense effort, that there are no logical definitions or formal descriptions by which “real” science can be distinguished in principle from non-science, or false science, or pseudo-science. Those who label a subject “pseudo-science” should know that some topics so labeled later became accredited parts of mainstream science, while some matters long regarded as “scientific” were later relegated to the rubbish heap (see Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies).

It requires detailed and comprehensive knowledge of each specific controversial claim to reach a reasonably informed estimate as to whether it’s likely to be lauded or dismissed in the scientific future. Scientifically literate pundits who do have such detailed knowledge, and who are also without vested self-interest pro or con, are unlikely to call something pseudo-science if distinguished scientists claim to discern some merit in it; at most they might spell out why it seems possible, or perhaps even likely, that these competent people have gone wrong this time. Above all, a genuinely informed science pundit will hesitate for a long time before making an assertion that presupposes 100% certainty — and 100% certainty is asserted when something is called pseudo-science.

Ben Goldacre carries the mantle of science pundit for a newspaper widely regarded as respectable and perhaps even generally reliable (Guardian, UK). I admit, though, that I hadn’t heard of him before his recent piece about Christine Maggiore appeared. It’s a shoddy, uninformed disgrace to journalism which exposes Goldacre as a scientific illiterate.

Goldacre transgresses what ought to be a sine qua non of science punditry and responsible journalism by feigning knowledge that he doesn’t possess. His ignorance about Maggiore is illustrated in the very first paragraph when he describes her as “lauded in the American media”. Perhaps he has never come across the Los Angeles Times, published in Christine’s home town, where she has been roundly maligned, indeed persecuted. All the information is readily available online,  including a complete file of the material about Maggiore and her daughter in the Los Angeles Times.

The second paragraph by Goldacre describes Maggiore as HIV-positive, when anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with her experience knows that she suffered a succession of positive, negative, and inconclusive tests, the very experience that led her to look into what’s actually known about HIV/AIDS. In the same paragraph, Goldacre asserts about breastfeeding that it “has been shown that this increases the risk of maternal transmission” — when the very opposite happens to be the case, to the considerable and ongoing consternation of mainstream researchers (“More HIV, less infection: the breastfeeding conundrum”, 21 November 2007).

About Maggiore’s daughter, Goldacre is sure enough right, that “The coroner attributed the death   to Aids” [sic, British usage], but he fails to mention that this coroner was long infamous for incompetence or corruption or both, that he made the “AIDS” diagnosis in a way that suggests it was only because he had come to know who the mother was, and that there is a still-pending law-suit against the coroner for disseminating his conclusion without proper evidential basis.

“Maggiore’s views on HIV were driven by the work of Peter Duesberg” is also untrue. Parroting the description of Duesberg as an “AIDS denier” illustrates how Goldacre simply repeats sound-bites unthinkingly: Duesberg has never denied that AIDS exists, in fact he has offered explanations for what brought it about. Nor has Duesberg done “very well with journalists”. Neville Hodgkinson did not learn from Duesberg, he discovered for himself in Africa that HIV/AIDS there is a colossal mistake; Hodgkinson was instructed by people like the Krynens, who had gone to Africa as conventional AIDS charity workers and then discovered at first hand that HIV/AIDS theory is wrong.

One can, I suppose, excuse a Pommie (Englishman) who calls Nature “probably the world’s most important academic journal”, but a scientifically literate pundit would not do so, recalling perhaps the words of Nobelist Paul Lauterbur that the history of science could be written in terms of paper rejected by Nature [“Nobel Prizes illustrate how research is done and evaluated”, 21 October 2008].

Goldacre is not alone, of course, in accepting results from a “demographic modelling study” as being so reliable as to be worth disseminating further; but, again, no self-respecting scientifically literate person should do so.

The peroration of Goldacre’s screed is, “Hundreds of thousands of lives, perhaps millions, have been lost because of a stupid idea, promoted by stupid people.”

No scientific literate would confuse being wrong on a matter of medical science with being stupid; by Goldacre’s criterion, he himself is stupid many times over. Nor would any thoughtful person label someone as stupid just because that person had an idea that might be called stupid; Goldacre’s clear implication is that he has never himself had an idea that might be called stupid, suggesting an infallibility nothing short of Pope-like or God-like.

I simply repeat Goldacre’s last two sentences, for they can be properly applied to the people who, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, continue to insist on HIV/AIDS theory:
“To the best of my knowledge, not one has either apologised or clarified their stance. Just don’t let anyone tell you pseudoscience is harmless.”

Indeed, much harm has been done in the name of the pseudo-science of HIV/AIDS [“HIV/AIDS and parapsychology: science or pseudo-science?”, 30 December 2008].

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The only justification for disseminating what columnists, experts, pundits have to say is that the rest of us might learn something that we would be unlikely to know already. Goldacre merely repeats sound-bites, mis-information, and mis-interpretations that have made the rounds for a long time. He’s not doing his job.

Posted in experts, HIV/AIDS numbers, uncritical media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Science Studies 102: Burden of proof, HIV/AIDS “science”, pseudo-science

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/07/22

For a long time, the central question in philosophy of science was to find objective, specific, and practically applicable criteria for deciding whether a claim or investigation warrants designation as “science”; without that, one cannot legitimately class anything as “not science” or “pseudo-science”. Tried and found wanting were notions of “scientific method”, falsifiability, progressiveness or regressiveness of research programs, as well as other, less well known attempts. Perhaps the definitive history and debunking of these attempts is by Larry Laudan (1).

Nevertheless, the epithet “pseudo-science” continues to be bandied about in controversies over such matters as human-caused global warming, psychic phenomena, HIV/AIDS, Loch Ness monsters—wherever dogmatists are 100% sure of their beliefs, they like to describe the opposing position as pseudo-science.

The history of such arguments teaches that they are finally settled only by evidence specific to the particular claims, not by application of abstract notions like scientific method or falsifiability (2); for no matter how plausible some abstract criterion may seem at first sight, in practice illustrations of it can be found on both sides of the imagined divide between science and pseudo-science.

Take the matter of burden of proof (3). Defenders of mainstream paradigms like to portray those who put forward unorthodox claims as saying, “Prove me wrong”, when actually the onus is on the dissenters to prove their claims right; but in practice, one can find mainstreamers themselves setting the challenge, “Prove us wrong”, instead of providing the necessary proof that the mainstream view is sound.

Immanuel Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision” had received great public acclaim in the 1950s, and the Velikovskian cult gained widespread support even among prominent humanists and social scientists (4), despite the huge implausibility of his claims: that a comet ejected from Jupiter had nearly collided with Earth and Mars, producing such Biblical events as the parting of the Red Sea and the fall of Jericho’s walls before settling eventually into its present position as the planet Venus.
“Throughout Velikovsky’s writing runs the subtly misleading attitude that the onus is on his critics to prove him wrong. Whenever he states — as he often does — that his case is unshaken and has not been disproved, the unwary listener or reader is led to expect that some clear disproof is called for, and that in its absence Velikovsky’s reconstruction stands as plausible or even valid. But in all fields of knowledge the onus of proof rests on the new proposition” (5).

Yet when it comes to HIV/AIDS, it is the orthodoxy that states, “Prove us wrong”, and that refuses to accept the onus of proof. Mainstream discourse is salted and peppered with statements to the effect that “the evidence that HIV causes AIDS is overwhelming” (6), yet the mainstream has never established, for example:
1. That a positive HIV-test marks the presence of active infection (7).
Whole virions of HIV have never been isolated direct from an HIV-positive individual. Indeed, a prize of $50,000 awaits anyone who uncovers a scientific publication in which such isolation has been demonstrated (8).
2. That HIV-positive portends progress to AIDS, and all AIDS patients are HIV-positive.
To the contrary: It has long been known that there are thousands (at least) of “long-term non-progressors” or “elite controllers”, HIV-positive individuals who have not become ill, some of them “positive” since the early 1980s. It has also been known since the early 1990s that there are many clinically diagnosed AIDS patients who have never tested HIV-positive, causing the mainstream to invent the new condition of “ICL” (9).
3. What mechanism it is by which HIV destroys the immune system (11).
4. What properties a vaccine needs to have to protect against infection (12).

As noted before [Science Studies 101: Why is HIV/AIDS “science” so unreliable?, 18 July 2008], the repeated publication of mainstream HIV/AIDS claims without adequate proof represents a failure of peer review that began in the late 1980s when Duesberg’s critiques were ignored. The initial claim that Gallo had discovered the “probable” viral cause of AIDS became accepted by default, it was never followed by definitive published proof; a prize of ₤50,000 awaits whoever produces proof of isolation of virions from AIDS patients (13).

By contrast, HIV/AIDS rethinkers and skeptics have accepted the onus of proof by publishing positive evidence to the effect that
1. A retrovirus cannot do what HIV is charged with doing (14).
2. Illnesses developing in “AIDS” patients who abuse drugs are specific to the particular drug; signifying that it is the drug that produces the illness and the frequently positive HIV-test in drug abusers (15).
3. Kaposi’s sarcoma in gay men in the United States results predominantly from persistent inhalation of nitrite “poppers” (16).
4. Official data show that the tendency to test HIV-positive has the characteristics of an endemic physiological property, not of a spreading infection (10).
5. Officially reported deaths from “HIV disease” since 1987 demonstrate that antiretroviral drugs have had no life-extending effect (17). AIDS patients treated by alternative modalities have lower mortality than those treated with antiretroviral drugs (18).
6. Officially reported death statistics together with officially reported data on HIV “infection” demonstrate that the 10-year latent period supposed to intervene between “infection” and illness does not exist (17).

References

1. 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

2. Henry H. Bauer, Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies, University of Illinois Press, 2001

3.  pp. 220-1 in reference 2

4. Henry H. Bauer, Beyond Velikovsky, University of Illinois Press, 1984

5. P. 171 in reference 4

6. For instance, read the testimonies of the expert witnesses in the Parenzee case.

7. “The birth of antibodies equal infection”, Appendix II (pp. 333-40) in Celia Farber, Serious Adverse Events, Melville House, 2006

8. May 2007: Alive & Well $50,000 Fact Finder Award—Find one study, save countless lives

9. See “ICL” in index of reference 10 for details and sources

10. Henry H. Bauer, The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, McFarland, 2007

11. Chapter 7 of Principles of Molecular Virology

12. “Is it time to give up the search for an Aids vaccine? After 25 years and billions of pounds, leading scientists are now forced to ask this question”, 24 April 2008, by Steve Connor and Chris Green, Independent.co.uk

13. The Michael Verney-Elliott Memorial Prize: £50,000 reward for the existence of ‘HIV’; letter of 29 March 2008

14. Peter H. Duesberg, Retroviruses as carcinogens and pathogens: expectations and reality, Cancer Research 47 (1987) 1199–220; Human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome: correlation but not causation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 86 (1989) 755–64.

15. Duesberg, P., Koehnlein, C. and Rasnick, D. The Chemical Bases of the Various AIDS Epidemics: Recreational Drugs, Anti-viral Chemotherapy and Malnutrition, Journal of Bioscience 28 (2003) 383-412

16. John Lauritsen and Hank Wilson, Death Rush: Poppers & AIDS, Pagan Press, 1986

17. “HIV DISEASE” IS NOT AN ILLNESS, 19 March 2008; “Disproof of HIV/AIDS theory” [Society for Scientific Exploration, Annual Meeting, Boulder CO, June 2008]; http://aras.ab.ca/index.php at News for June 30; “Incongruous age distributions of HIV infections and deaths from HIV disease: Where is the latent period between HIV infection and AIDS?” in press, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons

18. Only 3 of 36 (12%) of Dr. Köhnlein’s AIDS patients died under alternative treatment compared to about 63% of all AIDS patients in Germany, most of whom were treated with antiretroviral drugs; pp. 401-2, Table 8, in reference 15

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, HIV tests, HIV transmission, vaccines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »