Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Dinosaurs were not killed off by an asteroid

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/10/03

Among the several mainstream scientific theories that happen to be unproven or simply wrong [1] is the belief,  accepted by the media’s conventional wisdom (and thereby by society at large), that the dinosaurs  became extinct as a result of environmental changes caused by an asteroid that crashed into the Atlantic near the eastern coast of Mexico (the Chicxulub crater, which lies mostly under water).

To the contrary,  many geologists and paleontologists have always argued that the extinction was not  as sudden as the asteroid scenario suggests, and that in fact it was caused by the environmental consequences of long-continuing and vast volcanic eruptions in what are known as the Deccan Traps in India [2].

A comprehensive but concise and well-documented discussion of these possibilities, with mention of a third theory, is a given by Christian Smoot  in a letter to the NCGT Journal, volume 7 #3.

NCGT Stands for New Concepts in Global Tectonics, an organization founded by professional geologists and others who recognized geological phenomena that seem not to be explainable by the mainstream theory of moving geological plates, i.e. global tectonics, the scientific designation  for what popular discourse calls continental drift.

The journal is publicly available. It should be of considerable interest  to people who realize  that what the public hears from mainstream science is not always the last, absolutely true word.

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[1] Dogmatism  in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth (McFarland 2012)

[2] Dissent from the asteroid hypothesis was earlier discussed in https://scimedskeptic.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/dark-matter-and-dinosaur-extinction

and https://scimedskeptic.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/what-everyone-knows-is-all-too-often-wrong-dinosaur-extinction-and-much-more

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CoVID19: what do we really know?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/09/15

A visitor to my website sent me this email:

“Hello Dr Bauer. I just read your 2002 article on Confessions of an AIDS Denialist. . . . You must have a lot to say about COVID-19! I . . . would be interested in your view.”

I suspect that my reply will have been rather disappointing:

“I had a lot of fairly reliable data about AIDS and HIV, but there’s a great lack of sound, reliable data about the present circumstances.

AIDS was first noticed and named in the early 1980s, and I looked into it seriously some 20 years later. With CoVID-19, even well-informed experts have been revising their views steadily as more information comes in.

At least one thing is clear already, thanks in part to what has been learned about HIV/AIDS: There is no reliable gold-standard test for diagnosing infection by the supposed coronavirus. HIV/AIDS can be blamed for that because it was with HIV that virologists first allowed the medical profession to use antibody tests and PCR tests as diagnostic of infection even as the published peer-reviewed mainstream literature stated quite clearly that these tests could not establish the presence of infection and should not be used for diagnosis.

The reason is that pure virions, particles of HIV, have never been isolated direct from an AIDS patient.

CoVID-19 infection is being diagnosed on the basis of PCR tests without isolation of actual virus. Even if the bits of RNA or DNA being picked up by PCR could be known to be like some components of a coronavirus, that would not demonstrate that they actually originated from particles of such a virus. As De Harven  had pointed out with respect to HIV tests, what PCR picks up might come from random circulating pieces of DNA or RNA or from the expression of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs).

I think John Ioannidis Is trying honestly and without preconceptions or conflicts of interest to understand CoVID-19, and he is eminently qualified to do so. His most recent analysis  suggests that the virulence of CoVID-19 is comparable to that of the respiratory virus(es) underlying really bad so-called flu seasons.

The numbers that are being thrown around in the mass media are more misleading than informative. For instance, numbers of cases are continually reported and publicized as disastrous without any information about the symptomatic levels of those cases.

In my view, the clearest indication that deaths can be ascribed to the influence of a novel coronavirus is the data on excess all-cause deathshttps://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/excess_deaths.htm

https://www.euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps

Both in Europe and in the United States, it seems that 2020 is definitely worse than the bad flu season of 2018.

The comparative data for European countries do not yield obvious information about the best way of handling the present infectious agent.

I think that one more thing is, however, quite clear: we do not properly understand why excess deaths are typically somewhat higher during “flu seasons”. Is it simply that when the weather becomes more wintry, mortality increases? Of course particularly among those who are the least healthy, which tends to be among those of greater age? Do respiratory viruses play a significant role in this? If so, should some of the measures now being advocated also be practiced during all winter seasons? What is the actual efficacy, if any, of vaccinating against flu?

I do not subscribe to the conspiracy theories that regard the pandemic as planned by governments, agencies, and corporations (e.g. the Gates Foundation) as a step toward increasing domination and control of the general population. I do believe very strongly, however, that the circumstances are being made considerably worse for most people through deliberate actions of pharmaceutical companies, associated conflicts of interest among legislatures and executives, and widespread general incompetence, together with the lack of an impartial, authoritative source of scientific knowledge and understanding.

A sad lesson from HIV/AIDS is that official agencies dealing with medicine in general and virology in particular are not truly competent. Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield, the CDC as a whole, the World Health Organization, etc., continue to be quite wrong about HIV/AIDS. And the approval of drugs and medical devices is incompetent or corrupt or both, and is no safeguard against products pushed by the pharmaceutical companies even when their potential benefits are greatly outweighed by the risks and harms; look no further than HPV vaccines, for example.”

Posted in medical practices, peer review, science is not truth | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Patriotism, ideology, science, politics

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/09/11

The development of atomic weapons during the Second World War is widely regarded as an enormous achievement of science — though it would be described more accurately as an enormous practical, interdisciplinary, achievement with contributions from engineers as well as chemists, physicists, mathematicians — and not forgetting that government played an entirely necessary role in providing and arranging appropriate administration and resources.

Not widely remembered nowadays is the fuss, the outrage aroused by the matter of espionage concerning atomic weaponry, in particular that some details of the technical developments were shared secretly with the Soviet Union by some dedicated communists in the USA and in Britain.

Those who did this secret sharing are commonly described as traitors. However, some of them and some of their supporters defended their actions by appealing to an idealistic ideology of science as a universal public good that belongs properly to all of humankind and not just to those who make discoveries or to the discoverer’s institutions or nations.

That attempt at rationalization and excusing, blatantly self-serving, will hardly carry much weight with most of us, but there are less extreme instances where the relation between science and politics, ideology and patriotism, can be troubling and far from clear-cut.

Nowadays, for example, politically liberal skeptics about global warming and climate change may confront — or talk themselves into — a dilemma: the hegemonic attribution of climate change to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide is factually wrong: see blog posts listed below; but universal recognition of that would be a political triumph for right-leaning political groups and a severe undermining of the credibility of left-leaning groups and environmental activists. Belief in human-coerced climate change and global warming (AGW, for anthropogenic global warming) has become an unquestioned dogma among politically left-leaning individuals and groups whereas that belief is questioned or pooh-poohed almost only by those on the political right.

Should the truth about climate change, global warming, and carbon dioxide be suppressed in the fear that universal recognition of that truth might contribute to political successes by such authoritarian right-wing movements as those supporting President Donald Trump?

Dilemmas of that ilk are unavoidable so long as there is no authoritative source of scientific knowledge and understanding that is universally recognized as impartial, unbiased, non-partisan, trustworthy.

The only suggestion for what such a source could be is a Science Court that could earn the sort of respect that is accorded the United States Supreme Court in its better decisions. Prominent among the considerable number of non-trivial problems facing the possible establishing of such an institution is how to harness the political willingness and energy for such an establishment from all sides and shades of the political spectrum.

In reason, though, every individual and every political and ideological sect ought to recognize that it is to their clear individual advantage if the actual facts of the real world were in harmony with their beliefs, so that they could cite the authority of the Court as legitimation of their own particular ideology. Everyone and every group should therefore welcome the establishment of a universally agreed source of scientific knowledge and understanding.

Bringing one’s worldview or religion or ideology into harmony with material reality would also avoid the cognitive dissonance that threatens scientifically minded people whose religious or ideological sect preaches things that are at odds with scientifically established views. Thus many Catholics and fundamentalist Christians and their institutions will have been greatly relieved when the Pope finally acknowledged that evolution is more than a theory.

As the posts listed below illustrate, the evidence is quite overwhelming against the theory of human-caused global warming (AGW, anthropogenic global warming), yet it has become globally hegemonic, and contrarian dissenters are ignored or maligned or suppressed or censored or otherwise persecuted. I suggest that this topic in itself shows how sorely needed is a truly impartial and trusted institution for assessing scientific evidence and its interpretation, a Science Court. I discuss it in chapter 12 of Science Is Not What You Think: How It Has Changed, Why We Can’t Trust It, How It Can Be Fixed (McFarland 2017).

 

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A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?
Climate-change science and cover-ups
Climate models are wrong — Surprise??
Mainstream propaganda by the BBC about denialism and global warming
Evidence-based global-warming science?
Climate change is responsible for everything, as everyone knows (but what everyone knows is usually wrong)
Sea-Level-Rise Hysteria
Climate–change beliefs are politically and not scientifically determined
Freeman Dyson on climate change
Psychological toll of climate-science belief
Climate change “deniers”
The political division over climate change
Who can be trusted about science? Not the Royal Society of London or the National Academy of the United States
Climate-change facts: Temperature is not determined by carbon dioxide
Climate-change orthodoxy: alternative facts, uncertainty equals certainty, projections are not predictions, and other absurdities of the “scientific consensus”
What science says about global warming and climate change
Slowing of global warming officially confirmed — by reading between the lines
The consensus against human causation of global warming and climate change
Human-caused global warming as Groupthink
Australian university fires climate-change dissenter: dissent is not collegial…
What everyone ought to know about global warming and climate change: an unbiased review

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Why skepticism about science and medicine?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/09/06

My skepticism is not about science and medicine as sources or repositories of objective knowledge and understanding. Skepticism is demanded by the fact that what society learns about science and medicine is mediated by human beings. That brings in a host of reasons for skepticism: human fallibility, individual and institutional self-interest, conflicts of interest, sources of bias and prejudice.

I have never come across a better discussion of the realities about science and its role in society than Richard Lewontin’s words in his book, Biology as Ideology (Anansi Press 1991, HarperPerennial 1992; based on 1990 Massey Lectures, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation):

“Science is a social institution about which there is a great deal of misunderstanding, even among those who are part of it. . . [It is] completely integrated into and influenced by the structure of all our other social institutions. The problems that science deals with, the ideas that it uses in investigating those problems, even the so-called scientific results that come out of scientific investigation, are all deeply influenced by predispositions that derive from the society in which we live. Scientists do not begin life as scientists, after all, but as social beings immersed in a family, a state, a productive structure, and they view nature through a lens that has been molded by their social experience.
. . . science is molded by society because it is a human productive activity that takes time and money, and so is guided by and directed by those forces in the world that have control over money and time. Science uses commodities and is part of the process of commodity production. Science uses money. People earn their living by science, and as a consequence the dominant social and economic forces in society determine to a large extent what science does and how it. does it. More than that, those forces have the power to appropriate from science ideas that are particularly suited to the maintenance and continued prosperity of the social structures of which they are a part. So other social institutions have an input into science both in what is done and how it is thought about, and they take from science concepts and ideas that then support their institutions and make them seem legitimate and natural. . . .
Science serves two functions. First, it provides us with new ways of manipulating the material world . . . . [Second] is the function of explanation” (pp. 3-4). And (p. 5) explaining how the world works also serves as legitimation.

Needed skepticism takes into account that every statement disseminated about science or medicine serves in some way the purpose(s), the agenda(s), of the source or sources of that statement.

So the first thing to ask about any assertion about science or medicine is, why is this statement being made by this particular source?

Statements by pharmaceutical companies, most particularly their advertisements, should never be believed, because, as innumerable observers and investigators have documented, the profit motive has outweighed any concern for the harm that unsafe medications cause even as there is no evidence for definite potential benefit. The best way to decide on whether or not to prescribe or use a drug is by comparing NNT and NNH, the odds on getting benefit compared to the odds of being harmed; but NNT and NNH are never reported by drug companies. For example, there is no evidence whatsoever that HPV vaccination decreases the risk of any cancer; all that has been observed is that the vaccines may decrease genital warts. On the other hand, many individuals have suffered grievous harm from “side” effects of these vaccines (see Holland 2018 in the bibliography cited just below, and the documentary, Sacrificial Virgins. TV ads by Merck, for example in August 2020 on MSNBC, cite the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as recommending the vaccine not only for girls but also for boys.

For fully documented discussions of the pervasive misdeeds of drug companies, consult the books listed in my periodically updated bibliography, What’s Wrong with Present-Day Medicine.
I recommend particularly Angell 2004, Goldacre 2013, Gøtzsche 2013, Healy 2012, Moynihan, & Cassels 2005. Greene 2007 is a very important but little-cited book describing how numbers and surrogate markers have come to dominate medical practice, to the great harm of patients.

Official reports may be less obviously deceitful than drug company advertisements, but they are no more trustworthy, as argued in detail and with examples in “Official reports are not scientific publications”, chapter 3 in my Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth (McFarland 2012):
“reports from official institutions and organizations . . . are productions by bureaucracies . . . . The actual authors of these reports are technical writers whose duties are just like those of press secretaries, advertising writers, and other public-relations personnel: to put on the actual evidence and conclusions the best possible spin to reinforce the bureaucracy’s viewpoint and emphasize the importance of the bureaucracy’s activities.
Most important: The Executive Summaries, Forewords, Prefaces, and the like may tell a very different story than does the actual evidence in the bulk of the reports. It seems that few if any pundits actually read the whole of such documents. The long public record offers sad evidence that most journalists certainly do not look beyond these summaries into the meat of the reports, given that the media disseminate uncritically so many of the self-serving alarums in those Executive Summaries” (p. 213).

So too with press releases from academic institutions.

As for statements direct from academic and professional experts, recall that, as Lewontin pointed out, “people earn their living by science”. Whenever someone regarded as an expert or authority makes public statements, an important purpose is to enhance the status, prestige, career, profitability, of who is making the statement. This is not to suggest that such statements are made with deliberate dishonesty; but the need to preserve status, as well as the usual illusion that what one believes is actually true, ensures that such statements will be dogmatically one-sided assertions, not judicious assessments of the objective state of knowledge.

Retired academic experts like myself no longer suffer conflicts of interest at a personal or institutional-loyalty level. When we venture critiques of drug companies, official institutions, colleges and universities, and even individual “experts” or former colleagues, we will be usually saying what we genuinely believe to be unvarnished truth. Nevertheless, despite the lack of major obvious conflicts of interest, one should have more grounds than that for believing what we have to say. We may still have an unacknowledged agenda, for instance a desire still to do something useful even as our careers are formally over. Beyond that, of course, like any other human beings, we may simply be wrong, no matter that we ourselves are quite sure that we are right. Freedom from frank, obvious conflicts of interest does not bring with it some superhuman capacity for objectivity let alone omniscience.

In short:
Believe any assertion about science or medicine, from any source, at your peril.
If the matter is of any importance to you, you had best do some investigating of evidence and facts, and comparison of diverse interpretations.

Posted in conflicts of interest, consensus, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, medical practices, peer review, politics and science, science is not truth, scientific literacy, scientism, scientists are human, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Percentages absolute or relative? Politicizing science

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/08/24

Convalescent plasma reduces the mortality of CoVID-19 by 35%, citizens of the United States were assured in a press conference on 23 August 2020, and the approval of this treatment for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) underscored that this constituted a breakthrough in treating the pandemic disease.

As usual, critical voices ventured to disagree. One physician reported that he had been using this treatment for a considerable length of time and had noted a perhaps marginal, certainly not great benefit for this intervention. Others pointed out that the use of convalescent plasma in general was nothing new.

That “35%” mortality reduction was emphasized a number of times in the televised official announcement. It was only a few days later that we learned that the original data suggested a reduction of mortality to about 8% from 11-12% for presumably comparable patients not so treated. In other words, 3 to 4% of patients may have derived a benefit in terms of decreased mortality.

Indeed, 8 is about 35% less than 11-12. However, a 3.5% reduction in mortality is nothing like a 35% reduction.

This episode illustrates what is quite commonplace as drug companies seek to impress doctors and patients with the wonderful benefits to be derived from their medications: relative effects rather than absolute ones are reported.

This is just one of the many things wrong with present-day practices in medicine, of course; dozens of works describing the dysfunctions are listed in my periodically updated bibliography.

Investigative reporters also revealed and that the FDA’s emergency use approval had come at the behest of the White House. Historians will recall that the whole science of genetics was derailed in the Soviet Union for a generation as Stalin’s administration enshrined as science the pseudoscience invented by Lysenko.

Posted in conflicts of interest, fraud in medicine, media flaws, medical practices, politics and science, prescription drugs, scientific literacy | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Continuing CoVID19 uncertainties

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/07/14

I found this recent review by Dr. Jane Orient very helpful.

She happens to be wrong in accepting the conventional story about HIV/AIDS, but that does not detract from her ironic comparison of Fauci’s response to AIDS and to CoVID19.

Estimates made by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention at the end of April indicate that the morbidity and mortality are comparable to the 2009 H1N1 flu season.

 

  Age range CoVID19
(to end April 2020) *
H1N1 2019
New York City **
Symptomatic case fatality rate      
  0-49 0.0005  
  0-17   0.0008-0.0012
  18-64 0.0081-0.0132
  50-64 0.002  
  65+ 0.013 0.0094-0.0147
  all 0.004 0.0054-0.0086
       
Symptomatic case hospitalization rate      
  0-49 0.017  
  0-17   0.098-0.151
  18-64 0.076-0.124
  50-64 0.045  
  65+ 0.074 0.079-0.124
  all 0.034 0.084-0.134
% asymptomatic infections   35%  
asymptomatic vs. symptomatic infectiousness   100%  
       

* https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html, “best estimate”

** https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0011677

 

I still do not understand many aspects of this pandemic well enough to try to convince others. Some uncertainties will remain intractable until there are reliable data, comparable from different sources, about at least
— What is being tested? what tests are being used? are they comparable across countries? How specific and how precise?
— Rates of infection
— Ratio of hospitalizations to infections
— Actual causes of death of what are being labeled “CoVID19” deaths. Orient’s quote about Medicare reimbursements is rather frightening, suggests hospitals would call every death they conceivably could as “CoVID19”

The uncertainties are underscored by the remarkable experience of Joseph Fair, who had all the apparent symptoms, was very ill for some time; but on 5 tests 4 were negative and one “weakly positive”; and he is negative on antibody tests: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/health/after-severe-illness-nbcs-dr-joseph-fair-tests-negative-for-covid-19-antibodies/2506117/

With all that, it does seem clear that USA and UK did not shut down early enough nor sufficiently enough.

Not being discussed, but surely needed:

“Bad” “flu” seasons seem to harm as many people as this “pandemic” does; but most of the harm is not owing to actual influenzas but to what the CDC calls “influenza-like illnesses”. It would be nice to know more precisely what goes on and what — if anything — might be worth doing on both personal and society-wide levels; particularly as the “flu shots” are only minimally effective: https://theconversation.com/the-flu-vaccine-is-being-oversold-its-not-that-effective-97688

 

CoVID19 Conspiracy theories are rampant.

I reject them for two quite general reasons:

  1. They suffer from the same fallacy that pervades so much popular as well as academic discourse about social matters, namely, attributing intentionality to the interactions of human characteristics and social forces: ambition, arrogance, dogmatism, greed, ideology; silly laws, bureaucracy, etc. etc.
    Not to mention insufficient technical understanding of viruses and human immune systems.
  2. Malice is much less common than incompetence

Posted in media flaws, medical practices | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

The end of the Enlightenment era

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/05/05

The previous two posts (CoVID19, HIV — Enlightenment? Reason based on evidence?; CoVID19 and the HIV legacy: Toxic “antiretroviral” drugs and PrEP) described the actual lack of competence of the medical scientists whose words are being treated by the mass media as Gospel Truth, about CoVID19 as well as about related or other matters.

Quite clearly, what such acknowledged experts as Anthony Fauci (Director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) say and advise cannot be trusted automatically. In this day and age, lauded not infrequently for its advanced medical science, how has this come about?

One part of the wider context for this bemusing and dangerous state of affairs is that since the latter decades of the 20th century, research, “science”, has become so commonplace an activity that its practitioners are anything but a small elite distinguished by outstanding intellect and background knowledge. Instead, most people doing “science” nowadays are journeymen practitioners carrying on predetermined tasks that do not call for original thinking. “Science” in the 21st century is a corporate, bureaucratic activity carried on without much (if any) thinking about whether accumulating evidence continues to support contemporary beliefs, the prevailing paradigm, the conventional wisdom in the given specialty. Science can no longer be relied on to be self-correcting.

Following WWII, science had increasingly become so intertwined with other social sectors as to have lost what characterized the Scientific Revolution and subsequent Enlightenment, namely, an unfettered single-minded pursuit of veritable, demonstrable truth. As John Ziman pointed out (Prometheus Bound, 1994), toward the end of the 20th century there was no longer a substantive distinction to be made between applied science and pure science: science was serving commerce and industry and government at least as much as being a search for genuine understanding. Science has not learned that it is impossible to serve both God and Mammon.

What has happened with science is just one aspect or symptom of something even more significant, portentous, indeed cataclysmic: a distinct change in the world order, marking the end — or at least the beginning of the end — of an era in which Western Civilization dominated the Earth. For a full and erudite discussion, see Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (2000). The accuracy of Barzun’s diagnosis, published already a quarter of a century ago, is being demonstrated by the rising influence of China as well as India, while the United States and Europe have lost their dominance and are striving mightily just to keep their heads above water, so to speak.

It was not unusual in the 19th and 20th centuries to note that the authority of science had eclipsed that of religion. That stemmed in part from the decadence of religious institutions, progressively corrupted from their initial ideals in becoming large, bureaucratic, institutions — bureaucratic institutions being self-serving almost by definition, and “large” tends to make for mediocrity. Catholic priests and Anglican pastors were by the 20th century quite ordinary men (and women, among the Anglicans), not at all like the idiosyncratic, highly motivated characters among the apostles of Jesus, nor at all like such strong personalities as Luther or Calvin who rejuvenated the Christian religion in the 16th-century Reformation.

Modern science, emphasizing the careful, scrupulous attending to tangible evidence on which to base beliefs, is consensually dated to the 16th century Scientific Revolution, which led to the 17th century Enlightenment that sought to extend that scientific method to human culture as a whole. Just as religion became corrupted, so too has modern science become corrupted through growth and worldliness. The hosts of people nowadays doing some sort of “science” also display the pervasive mediocrity that follows inevitably as an activity attracts more and more people, with the forming of an increasing number of organizations with the inevitable consequence of bureaucracy and an effective loss of any ideals with which the enterprise might have begun. (A prescient discussion was published in 1985: Jan Klein, “Hegemony of mediocrity in contemporary sciences, particularly in immunology”, Lymphology 18:122-31; it is a little eerie in this age of deadly viruses that Klein emphasized immunology, since our only truly effective weapon against viruses is the immune system; and Klein wrote just as the HIV/AIDS blunder was taking hold.)

Religions became decadent as the host of ordinary priests and pastors merely parroted what they had been taught. Just the same decadent mediocrity has now overtaken science and its acolyte, medical science. The media feature as “experts” a variety of scientists and practicing physicians whose credentials illustrate this phenomenon: anyone with an MD or a PhD is automatically accorded the status and prestige of expertise, when in point of fact far from all of these featured experts deserve that appellation: not many of them offer added value beyond what they were taught and what the prevailing so-called consensus happens to be. Before they speak, one knows pretty much what they are going to say, for it differs in no way from what the mainstream conventional wisdom happens to be.

And so it has come about in the 21st century that science has lost and superstition has won, as the public and the media simply accept on the authority of science — in other words, on faith, superstitiously — whatever they are told by “the experts”, no matter how unlikely or contrary to available facts. (See historian John Burnham’s How Superstition Won and Science Lost, 1987).

Almost universally accepted is the belief, disseminated by the International Panel on Climate Change, that human generation of atmospheric carbon dioxide is the prime cause of global warming, a belief that is proved wrong by the long-standing and unquestioned actual data in the geological literature (lack of correlation between global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide; for primary sources see Climate-change facts: Temperature is not determined by carbon dioxide).

The degree to which science is generally accorded unquestioned and magical powers is nicely illustrated by the fact that knowledgeable advertisers understood that it would be effective to market a remedy for declining memory (Prevagen) by claiming that its efficacy stemmed from an ingredient first discovered in jellyfish, a species not otherwise known for remarkable powers of memory.

When historian Jon Meacham notes that Trumpism marks a loss of Enlightenment values, he may not realize how deeply that loss is pervasive in contemporary culture.

 

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Caveat re contemporary CoVID19 panic: That Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield and others lack all credibility does not mean that they are necessarily wrong about CoVID19 or anything else. Many Trumpists, after all, happen to be right about climate change. We are all fallible, and we may sometimes be right just by chance, perversely and for wrong reasons.

Posted in consensus, global warming, media flaws, resistance to discovery, science is not truth, scientific culture, scientists are human | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

CoVID19 and the HIV legacy: Toxic “antiretroviral” drugs and PrEP

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/05/04

The blunder of believing that HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that causes AIDS has brought enormous harm to innumerable people across the world for more than three decades, and it continues to do so as toxic drugs are administered to “HIV-positive” individuals; and even as “pre-exposure prophylaxis” (PrEP) to perfectly healthy people categorized as being at risk of infection — black people, of course, in Africa and elsewhere, and gay men, and those who inject drugs.

Gilead’s PrEP drugs Truvada and Descovy list as “side” effects “Kidney problems, including kidney failure. . . lactic acidosis . . . which . . . can lead to death. . . liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. . . . Bone problems, including bone pain, softening, or thinning, which may lead to fractures”.

All those risks in the absence of any real benefit at all.

Nevertheless, the US government recommends PrEP, alleging that “No significant health effects have been seen in people who are HIV-negative and have taken PrEP for up to 5 years”.

That bald claim is obviously misleading. All those “side” effects actually occurred in a significant number of people; that’s why they come to be listed.
It may well be true that some people, really healthy ones no doubt, and quite possibly a small number only, were able to tolerate the PrEP drugs for as much as 5 years, but that is not a legitimate basis for the sweeping generalization.
A different but also official page is only slightly less misleading:
“PrEP can cause side effects like nausea in some people, but these generally subside over time. No serious side effects have been observed, and these side effects aren’t life threatening. If you are taking PrEP, tell your health care provider about any side effects that are severe or do not go away.”
Perhaps it takes a little sophisticated cynicism to recognize this as an admission that some side effects that have not gone away might even be “severe”.

On everything pertaining to every prescription drug, it must be remembered that a drug is approved on the basis of clinical trials carried out for the drug company by groups whose livelihood depends on getting results that the drug company wants. Innumerable articles and books have documented that clinical trials always seem to find that the drug marketed by the trial-sponsoring company is better than competing ones, for example.
There are many ways to bias clinical trials toward a desired result, for example by judicious sampling of who gets included in the “treated” group and in the “placebo” group respectively.
One of the students at one of my seminars happened to have worked on arranging such trials, and she confirmed what I had read elsewhere: There are people, typically unemployed, often homeless, who get comfortable accommodation and earn some or all of their livelihood by being volunteers for clinical trials, having becoming known to and favored by trial organizers because of being outstandingly healthy and least likely to show undesired “side” effects that the drugs might have. (Leisinger et al., Healthy volunteers in clinical studies, Ch. 8 [pp. 67-70] in Schroederet al., Ethics Dumping: Case Studies from North-South Research Collaborations, Springer 2018; Sebastian Agredo, “Professional volunteers: human guinea pigs in today’s clinical research”, Voices in Bioethics, 26 March 2014).

For much more about routine deceptive practices by drug companies and their associates, see for instance (but not only) the books by Abraham, Angell, Braithwaite, Goldacre, Gøtzsche (2013), and Healy listed in What’s Wrong with Present-Day Medicine.

The hidden carnage perpetrated by PrEP, unremarked by pundits or mass media, is abetted with surely the best of intentions by such charities as the Gates Foundation. Mainstream “science”, “medical science”, has simply failed to recognize that HIV = AIDS is a blunder, let alone abandon it. Thus Anthony Fauci spoke favorably of Gilead’s experimental antiretroviral drug against CoVID19, Remdesivir, as “proof of concept” that SARS-CoV2 is vulnerable to drugs. Fauci recalled that AZT, the first drug used against “HIV”, had led the way to even better medications. But AZT is highly toxic (“AZT actually killed about 150,000 ‘HIV-positive’ people between the mid-1980s and the mid- 1990s” — see “HAART saves lives — but doesn’t prolong them!?”); nevertheless it remains in use, as do its toxic analogues, as well as the toxic later invented protease inhibitors, integrase inhibitors, and fusion inhibitors.
Treatment regimes for “HIV” have to be continually modified to preserve the lives of the patient-victims; see the official Treatment Guidelines.
For documentation of these facts, see   section 5, “What antiretroviral drugs do”, in The Case against HIV.

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CoVID19, HIV — Enlightenment? Reason based on evidence?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/05/02

The historian Jon Meacham has quite often described the presidency of Donald Trump as signifying an end to the Enlightenment era that began in the 17th century, when reason and logic based on evidence began to supersede the authority of monarchs and clerics.

Sadly, though, those being hailed as the voices of reason against Trump over the Coronavirus hysteria cannot be said to represent reason and logic based on evidence.

Those leading the public charge for “science” are Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield, and Deborah Birx. Yet they continue to uphold and disseminate the mistaken notion that HIV is a deadly, sexually transmitted, virus.

(For those who do not yet know that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, see the bibliography at The Case against HIV; consult my The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory; for a short synopsis, read “Confession of an ‘AIDS denialist’: How I became a crank because we’re being lied to about HIV/AIDS”)

The primary blame for the acceptance of that mistaken notion about “HIV” must rest on the unbridled and unscrupulous ambitions of Robert Gallo (read John Crewdson, Science   Fictions), lent institutional authority by an unwitting Secretary of Health and Human Services. Incompetent statistics at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention had set the stage (John Lauritsen, ch. 1 in The AIDS War: Propaganda, Profiteering and Genocide from the Medical-Industrial Complex, 1993).

Anthony Fauci and Robert Redfield were enthusiastic acolytes of Gallo from the very beginning (Birx seems to have become involved in HIV/AIDS considerably later). Redfield worked in the Army HIV Research Group in the very earliest days of AIDS. He is one of the co-authors on articles that reported in the mid-1980s that teenage female prospective recruits tested HIV-positive no less frequently than did teenage males, indeed often more frequently. That was clearly at odds with the accepted belief that HIV entered the United States first among gay men in a few large metropolitan areas. It had been this contradiction of the prevailing theory of the origin of HIV that stimulated me to look into what HIV tests were all about. Redfield, it seems, what was not so stimulated; why not? Was he not thinking about what he was finding?

Among the other evidence Redfield published, of course together with others, was that the localities in the United States with the highest prevalence of HIV were, oddly enough, not the areas with the highest prevalence of AIDS; Huh? Surely that should raise the question of whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. It didn’t for Redfield, apparently.

Then too the earliest data from HIV tests, again from the Army HIV Research Group including Redfield, showed black Americans to be more frequently HIV-positive than others by a significant multiple — a racial disparity that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has been quite willing to ascribe to stereotypical prejudices about black sexual behavior.
(Full details of the Redfield and associated publications are in The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory).

Later, Redfield claimed to have established heterosexual transmission of HIV through a study that presumed that an HIV-positive spouse could only have contracted HIV from the other spouse (JAMA 253 [1985] 1571-3; among 10 co-authors, Redfield comes first, and Gallo last as director of the lab). The assumption seems without obvious basis, and there also seems no a priori reason to wonder whether a sexually transmitted agent could be transmitted heterosexually — unless of course one harbors strangely homophobic views.

When Redfield was appointed Director of the CDC in 2018, Laurie Garrett reported that he had promoted a vaccine against HIV even after it was shown not to work, and that he holds views about sex that appear to be those of a religious ideologue.

Anthony Fauci, for his part, attempted in 1993 to explain away the often-noted numbers of AIDS patients who were HIV negative by declaring this to be a disease separate from AIDS, namely CD4 T-cell lymphopenia, a condition not much talked of nowadays (“CD4+ T-lymphocytopenia without HIV infection—no lights, no camera, just facts”, New England Journal of Medicine, 328 [1993] 429-31).

The legacy of the HIV blunder includes claiming a viral cause without isolating the postulated virus; using routinely tests that have never been validated because there is no gold standard test in absence of properly isolated virus; diagnosing infection because test results are positive even as the test kits warn explicitly that they are not valid for diagnosis of infection; corrupting the concept of “isolate” to call it isolation when bits of RNA or DNA can be detected by PCR.

After one of my closest friends in Australia had read The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, he remarked that a sad side-effect would be an overall loss of confidence in science. That did not happen; perhaps it will take the long-term damage from the CoVID19 affair to do that.

Meanwhile, given the history and legacy of the HIV blunder, one might be inclined not to believe what Fauci, Redfield, and Birx have to say about viral diseases (or perhaps anything else). Nevertheless, these three prominent representatives of contemporary medical science are being widely hailed for representing authentic science by contrast to Trumpist ignorance.

More later about this in the wider context of illustrating an end to the Enlightenment era.

 

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Never again say “just the flu”

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/04/14

Trying to understand whether CoVID-19 really is a disease caused by the new (in humans) virus SARS-CoV-2 has instead made me realize that I never had a proper understanding of so-called “normal” “seasonal flu”.

Now I’ve learned that “influenza A and B viruses can cause epidemic disease in humans” whereas “type C viruses usually cause a mild, cold-like illness”.
And it is not only new viruses jumping to humans from other species that cause exotic dangerous diseases like SARS or MERS; influenza viruses too have natural reservoirs in other species, in particular aquatic birds, and can cause disease in a range of mammalian species including pigs, seals, horses, and humans (https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/influenza).

During the so-called “flu season”, we often respond to inquiries about minor discomforts by saying, “it’s just the flu”, but we really should say, “it’s just a cold”, because flu — influenza — is not at all a negligible matter; it can result in significant illness and mortality and can spread rapidly around the world in seasonal epidemics. “Pandemic influenza is caused by a new or novel influenza that is introduced into a population where few people are immune. . . . The 1918 pandemic (influenza A/H1N1) which infected an estimated 500 million and killed 50-100 million people worldwide has been the most devastating pandemic to date . . . [while the] 1957 Asian Flu pandemic (influenza A/H2N2), 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic (influenza A/H3N2) and the 2009 (influenza A[H1N1]pdm09) result[ed] in far fewer deaths” (https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/influenza).

What we — meaning I — have been thinking of as “normal seasonal flu” is potentially much more deadly than I had realized. Between 1976 and 2006, annual influenza-associated deaths “with underlying pneumonia and influenza causes” averaged 6300 in the USA. But what makes flu so dangerous is that it can greatly exacerbate other “underlying” challenges to health; so the number of annual influenza-associated deaths with underlying respiratory and circulatory causes averaged 23,600, ranging in individual years from 3300 to more than 48,000; for instance, nearly 41,000 in 2001-2 and more than 95,000 in the two years 2003-5 (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 59 [2010] # 33).

The substantial mortality of “normal flu” hints at the problem of trying to understand whether what is happening nowadays can or must be properly attributed not to influenza but to a novel strain of a Corona virus. When it is “only” a matter of the flu, of course we do not see the sort of panic that the news currently brings us daily about overwhelmed healthcare systems, lack of protective equipment for caregivers, tragic individual deaths, and so on.

But what I just wrote happens not to be true. It turns out that such rather panicked communal behavior was in fact described in the 2017-18 flu season, with no other virus than influenza being blamed:

“medical centers are responding with extraordinary measures: asking staff to work overtime, setting up triage tents, restricting friends and family visits and canceling elective surgeries, to name a few. . . . The hospital’s urgent-care centers have also been inundated, and . . . outpatient clinics have no appointments available. . . several hospitals have set up large ‘surge tents’ outside their emergency departments to accommodate and treat flu patients. . . . some patients had to be treated in hallways . . . . Nurses are being ‘pulled from all floors to care for them’ . . . . Many nurses have also become sick, however, so the staff is also short-handed. . . ‘More and more patients are needing mechanical ventilation due to respiratory failure . . . .’ (Amanda Macmillan, “Hospitals overwhelmed by flu patients are treating them in tents”, TIME, 18 January, 2018).

Just like now, it seems. Yet I do not recall anything like the present media-wide, nation-wide hysteria accompanying these conditions — even though the death toll being ascribed to CoVID-19 seems unlikely to end up any higher than that attributed to “flu” in 2017/18: the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimated the number of “influenza-associated” deaths then at 61,000 — which happens to be the same as the current estimated projection for CoVID-19, down from much larger numbers projected a few weeks ago.

The many uncertainties in the 2017-18 estimate are illustrated by the range of the “95% confidence interval”: 46,404 – 94,987 (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2017-2018.htm): not far from 100,000 Americans might have died of flu in that season.

Why did not the mass media as a whole pick up the story about the 2017-18 epidemic after it was published, including on-line, by TIME magazine? Is it just that a novel non-influenza virus thought to have come from China is more newsworthy than “just another bad flu season”?

The last question is, of course, of much less immediate interest than the issue of trying to find out whether the contemporary pandemic really is owing to a novel corona virus originating in China, as opposed to being a misdiagnosed pandemic of “seasonal flu”.

That question may be well-nigh intractable, unanswerable with any degree of certainty, because of many uncertainties that are unlikely ever to be resolved, given the lack of sufficiently specific and genuinely trustworthy data. The reports of mortality from the CDC reflect the data available to them, and there is no obvious other source for such data. The CDC’s publications do not make it possible to specify the actual individual causes of death: deaths of patients suffering from influenza as well as other respiratory diseases and cardiovascular problems are designated “influenza-associated”, and similarly with patients dying of pneumonia, no matter what other than influenza might have been the precipitating cause of the pneumonia.

In the absence of better data than that available from the CDC, we will have to be satisfied with less than demonstrable certainty in seeking to answer the salient question, whether the global pandemic attributed to CoVID-19 might in fact be owing instead to a particularly virulent strain of influenza, or perhaps even some other virus.

But does it really matter, which virus is responsible for what is now happening? After all, the same practical measures — careful personal hygiene, social distancing — would be taken toward trying to limit the spread of whatever the infectious agent is.

In the long run, of course a vaccine could only the effective if it targets the actual cause, but that bridge cannot be crossed now, it lies more than a year in the future.

Irrespective of now or later, though, it does matter very much if we come to believe something about this pandemic that is not true. The consequences of being wrong could do damage in unforeseeable ways far into the future. The inescapable precedent for that is the case of HIV.

More than three decades ago, it came to be almost unanimously but wrongly believed that HIV causes AIDS (for overwhelming proof, see THE CASE AGAINST HIV). Among the consequences have been immeasurable physical and psychological harm to innumerable people; the establishment, as more or less routine medical practice, the use of inevitably toxic substances as though they could kill viruses without killing the host’s cells that the virus uses for its own replication; and the mistaken but widespread belief that testing HIV-positive is in itself proof of active infection with HIV.

That last belief seems to have become generalized to the extent that at present a positive test for “CoVID-19” is accepted without further ado as proof of infection, even as none of the tests have been established as valid in the only way that could be trustworthy, namely, the prior isolation of pure virus direct from an infected individual. How long-lasting the sad consequences of such mistakes can be is illustrated by the fact that no HIV test has yet, after some 35 years, been established as valid for diagnosis of active infection. The mistaken belief concerning HIV has even survived the open fact that a vaccine against HIV had been projected within a couple of years of 1984 but has never eventuated despite much effort.

A very informative and accurate recounting of the HIV blunder, in the context of the “CoVID-19” pandemic, has recently been posted by Celia Farber (“Was the COVID-19 Test meant to detect a virus?”, 7 April 2020).

Posted in consensus, media flaws, medical practices, prescription drugs, science policy, scientific culture, scientism, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

 
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