HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Seth C Kalichman’

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

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oops!

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

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

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

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Introducing Seth Kalichman (Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #1)

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/08

I first heard of “S. C. Kalichman” when, in September 2008, he posted at amazon.com a “review” of my book, The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory. His “profile” gave no information beyond that he was located in New York:

kprofileold
Not much later, the grapevine told me of a forthcoming book, “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy”,  by Seth C Kalichman. His profile on amazon.com was now a bit more informative, and he had moved from New York to Connecticut:

kprofilenew

Having emerged from his New York closet, Kalichman has assiduously publicized his book, and its associated blog,  in a number of places around the Internet.

Even though I don’t know Kalichman personally, nor had known anything of him before the fall of 2008, it turns out that we had actually been exchanging e-mails for many months. Here’s how that happened:

After my book had been published (in the first half of 2007), I began to make new acquaintances among other people who had realized that there’s something seriously wrong with HIV/AIDS theory. A few communications were by phone or letter, but most were by e-mail. Among the latter, in August 2007, was a request for more information from “an advanced graduate student in public health”, Joseph (Joe) C. Newton. Later posts on this blog will describe some of the features of my correspondence with JCN that seemed incongruous with the identity he claimed, features that had made me suspicious from the very beginning that Joe Newton wasn’t who he claimed to be. I remained curious about his real identity for quite some time, until JCN’s approaches to another Rethinker yielded a strong clue. Finally, now, Kalichman’s book makes plain at numerous places that Joseph C. Newton and Seth C. Kalichman are one and the same. Later chapters in Kalichman’s Komical Kapers will accordingly have more to say about JCN as well as about the contents of SCK’s book.

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Kalichman on “Denying AIDS”: an answer to Job’s prayer

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/05

behold, my desire is,
that the Almighty would answer me,
and that mine adversary had written a book

JOB 31:35 (King James Bible)

With “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy”, Seth C. Kalichman has gone a long way to discrediting the AIDStruthers and their hangers-on. With adversaries like Kalichman, AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics have scant need of allies.

But could it be fair to find people guilty by mere reason of association? Well . . . Kalichman does so, which should mean that he believes so — assuming, of course, that he practices as he preaches.

In any case, several prominent mainstream HIV/AIDS researchers, not AIDStruthers or vigilantes, have lauded the book so extravagantly that perhaps the whole HIV/AIDS enterprise can be indicted on the basis of this single volume (reviews taken from amazon.com, 090225, screen shot on file; emphases added):

“Editorial Reviews
‘. . . superbly captured the contradictions inherent in AIDS denialism. . . . deftly captured . . . . AIDS denialism has left confusion in its wake as it undermined public health efforts to curb the greatest health challenge of the 20th century. . . . vividly shares his experiences, understanding, and dilemmas as he unraveled this phenomenon piece by painful piece’ — Salim S. Abdool Karim, Member of the 2000 South African Presidential Panel on AIDS, Professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Director of Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

‘. . .  . However, myths and misunderstandings about HIV/AIDS still abound and pose a real threat to our progress. In Denying AIDS, Seth Kalichman provides a fascinating look into the thinking of those who propagate AIDS myths and the negative impact it has on our response to a deadly disease. He shows us how AIDS pseudoscience has at times confused the public and threatened sound public health policy. . . . ‘ — Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO CARE USA and former Director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Assistant Surgeon General, and Member of the 2000 South African Presidential Panel on AIDS

‘Seth Kalichman is an excellent scientist . . . . This excellent volume examines the detailed history of HIV/AIDS denialism as well as its damaging impact throughout the world. HIV/AIDS denialism and its proponents have created confusion . . . .’ — James Curran, Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Coordinator of the 1981 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‘Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections’ and former Director of the CDC HIV/AIDS Division.

‘. . . . brilliantly uses a psychological lens to expose the wacky world that creates and maintains its presence despite the untold numbers of deaths and suffering it has caused. . . . A must read for those who want to know more about the power and influence of pseudoscience’ — Michael Merson, Director, Global Health Institute at Duke University and Former Director of the World Health Organization’s Global Program on AIDS.”

Note, by the way, in the highlighted phrases, how very influential AIDS Rethinkers have been. That’s a real morale booster, even as we’ve barely begun to fight.

I leave it to any readers who manage to wade their way through this book to judge for themselves the accuracy of such terms as “superbly”, “deftly”, “vividly”, “unraveled”, “fascinating”, “excellent volume”, “brilliantly”.
For those who find themselves unable to tolerate Kalichman’s treatment, future blogs will spell out — in unfortunately also nauseating detail — how this book plays fast and loose with matters of fact, to the extent of misquoting material inside quotation marks and attributing to people things they’ve never said or written. There are some absurd inferences, wild leaps from faulty evidence to ridiculous conclusions. What the book says about “science” displays ignorance to an extent truly extraordinary in a volume that claims to apply validly the label “pseudo-science”. And that’s not even the half of it.

This book truly is an answer to Job’s prayer.

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