HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Seth Kalichman’

Joseph Newton again?!

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/10/27

In 2009, quite a few posts on this blog featured vigilante anti-denialist Dr. Seth Kalichman, social psychologist at the University of Connecticut, who had researched HIV/AIDS dissidence by attempting to disguise himself as graduate student “Joseph Newton”, corresponding with several RA members and even attending a Duesberg conference on aneuploidy and cancer.

In recent weeks, some correspondence among RA members has focused on the fuss over Ebola. A search for the first studies of Ebola virus led to some 1977 articles in The Lancet, in issues not available to me direct on-line or in print. Our excellent Interlibrary Loan service delivered them to me very promptly, copied in the Storage Facility holding overflow material from the university’s main library.

To my astonishment, at the head of the text of the copied articles there appeared in large font the name Joseph Newton!

Could Kalichman/Newton have hacked into my university account? Had he been keeping tabs on me all these years?

That paranoid thought had at least some slight basis in sort-of evidence: During the e-mail exchanges in 2009, Kalichman had at one time sent (as Kalichman, not as Newton) some information intended for essentially all of his correspondents, and had — surely by mistake — included among the addressees not only me but also a psychologist in this university’s Psych Department; which explained for me how Kalichman/Newton had gleaned such inside information as that I had been a quite well-regarded Dean. Could Kalichman have used that contact to find ways to infiltrate my university accounts??

At any rate, I needed to find out how on earth “Joseph Newton” had appeared as the header on those Ebola articles. So I sent a query to Interlibrary Loan Services.

The reply was reassuring: There is a man named Joseph Newton working in our Storage Facility.

Some people might regard this as an astonishingly improbable coincidence. But I’ve had the benefit of personal instruction by more than one distinguished probabilist and have long understood that there’s nothing at all objectively remarkable about such coincidences, no matter how subjectively striking they may seem; see pp. 59-63 and 213-4 in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies (University of Illinois Press, 2001).

“Newton” is not so common a name, but it isn’t all that uncommon either. My eccentric interest of longest standing is Nessie, the Loch Ness “Monster”, one of the iconic cryptids studied by cryptozoology; and one of the compendia of cryptozoology is authored by a Michael Newton — Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers.
What’s more, that book was published by McFarland, who also published my last two books.
More “coincidence”.

Posted in HIV absurdities | Tagged: , , | 7 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 »

Beware the Internet: Amazon.com “reviews”, Wikipedia, and other sources of misinformation

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/04/11

A recent Colbert Report (TV Comedy Channel)  featured Steven Johnson and his book, “The Invention of Air”. Practicing one-upmanship, Colbert described a fictitious work whose title he appeared to make up on the spur of the moment. Johnson responded at once, “And tomorrow there’ll be a Wikipedia entry for it”.

I was pleased by this indication that the unreliability of Wikipedia has attained shibboleth status in the conventional wisdom of the popular culture. We teachers have long been troubled by the willingness of students, writing “research” papers or projects, to rely naively on material they gather off the Web. There have been serious discussions among academics for well over a decade, how to meld the desirable openness of the Internet with the quality control that serious work requires, but there’s no solution in sight. Quality control takes time and effort, and the Internet is free, and no one has devised a process by which Internet journals or other Web publications that generate trivial income can find the wherewithal to effect quality control.

The idealists who first created the embryonic Internet were research scientists who never imagined that the disinterested sharing of honest information among researchers, for which they created this medium, would almost at once be exploited by spammers, scammers, and hackers. I suspect that those who created Facebook and the like didn’t intend it to be used for purposes of identity theft. I imagine those who created blogging software didn’t do so in order to allow frustrated ne’er-do-wells to vent their spleen at their betters. Still, that’s what often happens. I imagine Amazon.com intended informative reviews of books to be posted, not character assassinations; and surely the creator of Wikipedia thought that it would attract idealistic, disinterested individuals wanting to share their authentic knowledge and understanding. However, in the words of Robbie Burns,

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain . . . .

A year or two ago, a friend I had acquired in the 1980s through a mutual interest in the Velikovsky Affair had sent me this e-mail:
“Henry,
FYI, you have a ‘stub’ entry in Wikipedia which begins ‘Henry H. Bauer is editor of the fringe science publication Journal of Scientific Exploration.’
Then lists your educational background, employment, and your 1986 and 2001 books, with links to your publications and personal webpage. . . .
It invites someone to add some ‘beef’ to this ‘stub’.
Just so’s you know,  L—-“

Around the same time, some of my colleagues in the Society for Scientific Exploration voiced concern over how the Society and its Journal (which I edited from 2000 until the end of 2007) was being characterized on Wikipedia. Fairly quickly we learned that it’s futile to attempt corrections if even a single person is determined to keep the entry to their liking, deleting or changing one’s corrections almost as soon as they are made. The procedures that purportedly safeguard Wikipedia against malicious entries simply aren’t up to the job of bringing objective and fair consideration, most especially where unorthodox views or anti-mainstream claims are concerned; no reasonable arbitration or compromise is feasible when one side comprises fanatical propagandists for their “truth”, for whom “all’s fair…”, “anything goes”.

As Steven Johnson indicated on the Colbert Report, Wikipedia is just another illustration that there’s no quality assurance on the Internet; nor could there be, given its great virtue of universal accessibility. Anyone who uses Wikipedia must surely learn quite quickly that there’s no quality control. There are two obvious corollaries:
1. You trust what’s in Wikipedia (or on the Internet in general) at your peril.
2. To correct mis-information in Wikipedia or on the Internet is literally impossible. Even should you succeed, after tortuous interactions with biased people, in modifying incorrect Wikipedia entries to be merely pervaded by bias and innuendo rather than gross factual errors, the same people who are determined to spread mischievous mis-information can just place what’s removed from Wikipedia on their own websites, on blogs, in discussion groups — and, just like at Wikipedia, they can do so anonymously.

So I stopped paying attention to my “biography”, or that of the Society for Scientific Exploration, or any such entry, in Wikipedia. (Which is not to say that everything in Wikipedia is bad, of course. On non-controversial matters the entries can be unexceptionable. The trouble is, unless you’re already familiar with a subject, you won’t know that a very different story might exist, that there exists a controversy not mentioned in Wikipedia.)

Another place for mischief on the Internet is Amazon.com. Anyone can post “reviews” of books. I think the first time I realized this was with the intemperate reaction from HIV/AIDS vigilantes to Rebecca Culshaw’s fine book, “Science Sold Out”. In particular, there was a long rant from AIDStruther Kenneth W. Witwer, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins; Witwer’s piece was quite striking in describing as mis-statements of fact what are demonstrably accurate statements of fact, for example, that “HIV prevalence in the US has remained constant since at least 1985” — the accuracy of that statement of Culshaw’s can be checked by anyone who cares to look at the original sources (several of which are cited at p.1 of my own book).

The same Witwer later posted an equally calumnious “review” of my book. Unfortunately I didn’t make a copy of it at the time, and it was later withdrawn. But around the same time, my friend alerted me that my Wikipedia entry had now been made even more derogatory, and he copied me on his e-mail to someone who is interested in these matters:

“J—,  Subject editor on Wikipedia is a very ornery dude who insists on phrasing everything in Henry Bauer’s entry as negatively as possible.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_H._Bauer&gt;
He insists, among other things, on calling J. Sci. Explor. ‘a fringe science publication’ after I changed it to something like ‘a scholarly, refereed journal that published material mostly ignored by mainstream science’.
… Got any suggestions for how to deal with this obstinacy and mean-spiritedness?
The NIH URLs used to rebut the claim that HIV does not cause AIDS are b.s., worthless propaganda, unsigned, and unsourced. How to deal with these as sub-prime sources?  The editors who are opposing Bauer seem to think that medicine is infallible as though it never made any mistakes on the cause of ulcers or cholesterol causing heart disease….
L—-”

When I checked “my” revised “biography”, I found much the same calumny there as had been in Witwer’s “review” on Amazon.com.

I suppose each one of us has to learn about this sort of thing for himself, but perhaps this blog post may be of some use to those who haven’t encountered such Internet untruths themselves or haven’t thought about it. I started drafting what I’m now writing after receiving an e-mail from someone who has been studying the HIV/AIDS arguments as an academic project and as an outside observer:

“Dear Professor Bauer,
It seems I have just been causing more trouble.
I have tried to defend you on Wikipedia, despite kind warnings from one “ludwigs2” that the more I accomplish, the more the ‘anti-fringe’ crowd will push back (in this long thread).
Before, your article stated that ‘Bauer hypothesises that African Americans are more likely to test HIV-positive because of supposed genetic mutations’, to which I objected because I thought that ‘mutations’ should be replaced by ‘adaptations’, and that your reasoning and your words in support of this view should also be presented. After all, one wouldn’t say that dark skin is due to a ‘genetic mutation’. Now, that part is unchanged, but additionally the article says ‘Bauer claims that African Americans are more sexually promiscuous and use more illegal drugs than other groups, but says sex and drug use are not involved in AIDS since, according to him, Native Americans are also sexually promiscuous and have high drug use but do not often test positive for HIV (p.64)’ which is even more egregious in my view, since it neglects to state that you were associating both groups with risky behaviour via poverty, and besides which my impression of that passage on p. 64 of your book was that it was a hypothetical line of reasoning which you contradict elsewhere. . . .
Best wishes and sorry for what is happening on Wikipedia,
F——–”

Well, yes, that stuff about promiscuity and drug abuse that, I’m told, is (or was for a time) in Wikipedia is the very opposite of what I argue in my book, the earlier articles, and my blog posts. Still, the Wikipedia entry gives the title of my book, so interested people can look into it for themselves, and there are links to my personal website and to several of my publications; anyone who cares to use those links and go to those source can easily get accurate information. As for the calumny directed at me by people who are afraid to attach their names to it (which includes the administrators or subject editors at Wikipedia), I said a little about it in “Defenders of the HIV/AIDS Faith: Why Anonymous?”, 6 November 2008:
“But why would AIDStruth groupies and other supporters of mainstream views be unwilling to communicate openly and honestly? What are they afraid of? Do they sense subconsciously that they have no substantive grounds to stand on and that they must fight by innuendo and attempted character assassination? Why are they ashamed to let others know who they are?”

But perhaps it’s even more astounding when people like Kenneth W. Witwer (and Seth Kalichman, J P Moore, Mark Wainberg) are apparently NOT ashamed of openly and publicly directing abuse at those whose arguments they cannot counter.

Posted in HIV skepticism, Legal aspects, prejudice, uncritical media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 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

Posted in HIV skepticism, prejudice | Tagged: , , , | 14 Comments »