Skepticism about science and medicine

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Posts Tagged ‘HIV/AIDS’

Vaccination, HIV, and a reminder that we are all fallible

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2019/01/27

A favorite family stories: On a road trip in an unfamiliar country, I had taken a wrong turn that sent us tens of miles in a wrong direction. When I discovered that and confessed to my passengers, my nine-year-old daughter pointed out that “No one’s perfect, not even Daddy”.

I was reminded of that once again after reading a book review by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who has a great deal of good things to his credit.

“HENRY MARSH studied medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London, became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1984 and was appointed Consultant Neurosurgeon at Atkinson Morley’s/St George’s Hospital in London in 1987. He has been the subject of two documentary films, Your Life in Their Hands, which won the Royal Television Society Gold Medal, and The English Surgeon, which won an Emmy, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Do No Harm and NBCC finalist Admissions. He was made a CBE in 2010.”

Nevertheless Marsh too is fallible even when he appears to speak with authority. In his review of a book about vaccination, Between Hope and Fear by Michael Kinch, there are some seriously misleading comments:

“Dr. Gordon Stewart went on to maintain that AIDS was caused not by H.I.V. but by homosexual behavior. His view had a major influence on the South African president Thabo Mbeki, whose AIDS policies were subsequently estimated in a report by the Harvard School of Public Health to have resulted in 365,000 avoidable deaths” (Henry Marsh, “ Protecting the Herd”, New York Times Book Review, 9 September 2018, p.17).

In reality, AIDS is indeed not caused by HIV [1]. Stewart had observed the symptoms of AIDS resulting from drug abuse in New York City and New Orleans during 1968-71, long before “AIDS” came on the scene; John Lauritsen [2] pointed out from the beginning that what was common to the first AIDS victims was drug abuse, not homosexuality. Stewart’s insight enabled him to project correctly future official data on AIDS in Britain, whereas official projections based on HIV theory were dead wrong. As to “avoidable deaths” in South Africa [3], it was not a “report by the Harvard School of Public Health” but simply an article whose authors happen to be employed at that Harvard School, moreover an article that has been thoroughly debunked [4].

 

Marsh’s review also refers to the “false claims” of Andrew Wakefield. It is by no means established that Wakefield’s observations were incorrect, namely, that in some cases vaccination at an early age by the multivalent MMR vaccine appears to be associated with the appearance within a few weeks of symptoms of autism [5].

Altogether, controversies over vaccination and “anti-vaxxers” are badly flawed in several respects. Most notably, at the very beginning of any argument about “vaccination”, distinctions ought to be drawn between such long-established vaccinations as against smallpox or polio by comparison with the flurry of new vaccinations being produced by the pharmaceutical industry as it exhausts the possibility of marketing new prescription drugs for newly invented diseases; thus the vaccines (Gardasil, Cervarix) widely touted as preventive of cervical cancer (as well as other cancers) have never been demonstrated to do what they are supposed to do even as they have been demonstrably responsible for serious harm to a significant number of individuals [6].

There are sound general reasons why new vaccines should be tested to the utmost degree and with the greatest caution:

Ø     Vaccines are intended to make the immune system do new things, but the immune system remains far from completely understood

Ø     Reports that an autoimmune disease has set in following vaccination are therefore not implausible

Ø     Vaccines are touted as being entirely specific, yet they commonly include so-called “adjuvants”, which are entirely non-specific toxic substances intended to arouse the immune system

Ø     For commercial and not scientific reasons, vaccines often include preservatives, which are biologically active toxins

Ø     Since vaccination is intended to stimulate the immune system in some manner, it seems quite plausible that employing several vaccines simultaneously could cause adverse reactions, at least in some individuals

Ø     Officialdom has admitted harm from vaccinations in some instances by the fact that about $4 billion over a 40-year period have been paid to people harmed by vaccination, by the US National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program , including “$5,877,710 dollars to 49 victims in claims made against the highly controversial HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. To date 200 claims have been filed with VICP, with barely half adjudicated” (“U.S. court pays $6 million to Gardasil victims”)

 

To return for a moment to the issue of AIDS: Why is it that after 35 years of intensive efforts, there has yet to appear the vaccine against HIV that Robert Gallo had promised to produce within a few years of 1984? Perhaps there really is no exogenous “HIV” retrtovirus?

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[1]    See The Case against HIV  which cites ~900 articles and dozens of books

[2]    John Lauritsen, “CDC’s tables obscure AIDS-drugs connection”, Philadelphia Gay News, 14 February 1985; reprinted (ch. 1, pp. 11-22) in The AIDS War, New York: ASKLEPIOS, 1993.

[3]    Pride Chigwedere, George R. Seage III, Sofia Gruskin, Tun-Hou Lee & M. Essex, “Estimating the lost benefits of antiretroviral drug use in South Africa”, JAIDS 49 (2008) 410-5

[4]    Peter H. Duesberg, Daniele Mandrioli, Amanda McCormack, Joshua M. Nicholson, David Rasnick, Christian Fiala, Claus Koehnlein, Henry H. Bauer & Marco Ruggiero,AIDS since 1984: No evidence for a new, viral epidemic — not even in Africa”, Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, 116 (2011) 73-92.

[5]     Officialdom and its groupies continue to maintain that the charges against Wakefield were correct (see e.g. Do Vaccines Cause Autism?), but he also has strong and informed defenders, for instance VAXXED: From Cover Up to Catastrophe or Andrew Wakefield’s Theories about MMR Vaccines and Autism

[6]    Sacrificial Virgins: Homepage: “How young girls are being seriously damaged by the vaccine with the highest reported adverse reactions of any existing vaccine” [emphasis added]
See also, for example, The Truth is Out: Gardasil Vaccine Coverup Exposed
The Gardasil Vaccine—Bad Science, Great Promotion, Dangerous

Posted in media flaws, medical practices, prescription drugs, science policy, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who looks at evidence? Almost no one

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/06/28

I’ve been a crank for a long time about Loch Ness Monsters, frustrated because I can’t get people to look at Tim Dinsdale’s 1960 film which shows quite clearly a huge animal swimming in Loch Ness, submerging while still throwing up a massive wake.

For more than a decade, I’ve been a crank about HIV not causing AIDS, frustrated because I can’t get people to look at the clear evidence that HIV tests don’t track something infectious, and that the numbers in plain sight on the website of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, rates of sexual transmission at less than 1 per 1000 acts of unprotected intercourse, mean that HIV cannot cause an epidemic.

Now I’ve become a crank about human-caused climate change, frustrated because people won’t look at the clear evidence that carbon dioxide has been increasing steadily even as the global temperature was level or dropping form the 1940s into the 1970s, when the experts were predicting an Ice Age; and as the global temperature has not increased since the end of the 1990s.

Why don’t people look at evidence?

Because, I’ve finally realized, they don’t want to risk having to change their mind. There is no positive incentive and plenty of negative incentive. It’s beyond cognitive dissonance, which is to evade the significance of evidence after having come across it. It’s obviously even better not to have come across the evidence at all.

On human-caused climate change (HCCC), disbelief is expressed loudly and publicly by “conservatives” (in my view more accurately described as reactionaries) who have that opinion for the wrong reasons, namely the belief that economic free markets are the most important thing and regulating anything is bad.

“Liberals” or “progressives”, on the other hand (who are actually not liberal or progressive but simply knee-jerk politically correct) don’t look at the evidence because they don’t need to, it’s of no interest to them, they would take their stance that humans cause environmental damage no matter what. And they maintain perfect deniability, they are blameless, they were just accepting what the authorities, the experts, have been saying loudly and incessantly.

Most of my family and friends treat my “reactionary” stance on HCCC as a minor flaw, allowing me space because I tend to get caught up in Quixotic stuff all the time. They have no interest in looking at the evidence because they are completely comfortable with the notion of HCCC because it fits their anti-reactionary political views — which I happen to share. If it turns out that this HCCC is mistaken, there would be all sorts of undesirable consequences, in particular that reactionary views might appear to have been vindicated.

I was distressed when Stephen Colbert took HCCC as proven. I am not happy when all the MSNBC crowd does so, but they’ve become too extreme for me anyway and I rarely watch. But I was very unhappy when Jon Stewart took HCCC as proven. And Pope Francis may have been the last straw (in the wind, as far as ever changing public opinion). Though I did get a sort of sardonic enjoyment from the pundits who pointed out that the Pope knew what he was talking about because he had been a chemist. And I am getting continuing Schadenfreude over the contortions of the Republican presidential candidates as they are forced to comment on the Pope’s encyclical.

Evidence-seeking, I realize, is an obsession of perhaps the tiniest minority there is. On the dangers of modern medical practice, there are just a few dozen voices crying out publicly in the wilderness. On HIV/AIDS, there is our Rethinking AIDS  group of some dozens of people, with a few thousand more quietly agreeing. On HCCC, there are a few academic types like myself who got here because of the evidence, and who subsist uncomfortably in the association with people whose political and social views we do not share, to put it mildly.

I’m beginning to accept that none of the items in my bucket list will see the light of an enlightened day within my lifetime: Nessie discovery, rejection of HIV=AIDS, rejection of carbon-dioxide-is-hurting-us.

But I do remain curious about how the “authorities” will adjust when reality eventually catches up with them irrevocably.

[Corrected 8 August 2015 in paragraph 7]

Posted in consensus, denialism, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, global warming, media flaws, medical practices, politics and science, science is not truth, science policy, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Mainstream propaganda by the BBC about denialism and global warming

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2013/11/05

A BBC documentary entitled “Science Under Attack” was broadcast in the UK on 24th January 2011. It is a superb piece of propaganda masquerading as a scientific documentary. Among other things, it seeks to quench any doubts that emissions of carbon dioxide are greatly speeding up global warming. A secondary aim seems to be to safeguard any and all pronouncements from the Scientific Establishment against criticism from outsiders.

Outside the UK, the program is not available from the BCC website, but on 1 April 2013 it was on YouTube for a short time before being purged for copyright reasons. An earlier YouTube posting had also been removed, as had the 7 sections of the program posted by TheChipsnbeer66.

“Science Under Attack” relied on two unstated presumptions, both of which are unsustainable: That a scientific consensus at any given moment should be taken as correct, and that computer models can accurately make predictions about something as complex as climate.

I call the program superb because it masks its propaganda so subtly:

First through being narrated by Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, a disarmingly amiable man who recounts how he has enjoyed thoroughly his lifelong work in science, along conventional lines but ably enough to bring a Nobel Prize. There is no trace of haughty arrogance in Nurse. When he says, ”Call me Paul”, it is obviously meant wholeheartedly, it is a straightforward, genuine and unassuming meeting card as he begins conversations with people who question the conventional view on global warming, HIV/AIDS, or the safety of genetically modified plants and foods. Even as I find the program deviously misleading, I continue to find Nurse wholly likable. Many likable people are wrong about all sorts of things, and many scientists are wrong about the reliability of contemporary scientific consensuses.

Second, “Science Under Attack” implies evenhandedness by allowing questioners to appear and to be treated in courteous, friendly fashion by Nurse.

Third, the very title of the program already makes its case subliminally. Surely science must actually be under attack if a program is devoted to the matter? Details might be arguable, say, the reasons why it is under attack, but surely the title couldn’t be entirely misleading, could it?
But of course it is. “Science” is not under attack by anyone. It’s just that in quite a number of fields, those in power are suppressing the views of competent peers. It is unwarranted mainstream dogmas that are under attack by a minority of largely ignored experts and informed observers [1].

Fourth, a vast range of relevant stuff is ignored. Perhaps the most important — and the least understood — is that whenever the significance of science outside its own domain is concerned, namely, the consideration of potential applications of scientific knowledge, and in particular any applications that impinge on public policies, scientists (very much including Nobelists like Nurse) are not the experts. Indeed, they are rarely knowledgeable at all. Most relevant here is that the history of science is a continuing story of mainstream consensus being found wrong and needing to be replaced. But most scientists — and many others too — still believe that scientists use a scientific method that automatically produces trustworthy results; they are not only lamentably ignorant but often downright misinformed about the history of science, the philosophy and sociology of science, the psychology of scientists. Scientists qua scientists are not reliable advisors on matters of public policy [2].

An important specific omission comes early in the BBC program, when Nurse cites a letter published in Science in which 250 climate scientists deplore the manner in which they are accused, in intemperate language, of fudging their data. Those cry-babies have nothing to complain of by comparison with how they themselves treat their own peers who happen to take a different view, as when Bjørn Lomborg — who doesn’t even question human-caused global warming, only the purported efficacy of Kyoto-type ameliorations — was compared to a Holocaust denier in a book review published in Nature (414 [2001] 149-50). Dissenters from the consensus are denied research funds, publication in leading journals, inclusion in conferences [1]. The cry-babies had their letter published in Science, but letters from those who dissent from a mainstream consensus and protest the lack of attention to the actual evidence are routinely refused publication in Science and Nature and the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine [3].

The program misleads by stating that the so-called attack on science comes from the lay public, vested ideological interests, and hapless media. In point of fact it is well qualified experts, insiders of the scientific specialty, who question the consensus [4]. Excluded from and shunned by their own professional forums, they can only turn to the public and the media in attempting to get some sort of hearing for their case.

The first flawed presumption on which the BBC program rests — unspoken but clearly entailed implicitly — is that a scientific consensus should always be accepted. This is absurd on its face, especially in conjunction with the program’s soothing assertion that the computer models of global climate are being improved all the time. This amounts to an intellectual oxymoron: If improvement is needed, obviously one shouldn’t have believed earlier claims or, by easy extension, what is now claimed. There is no guarantee that the next “improvement” will not upset the whole apple cart. To give just a couple of actual examples: It had been found that the model was diametrically wrong about the influence of clouds; and it was discovered belatedly that living plants emit significant amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane.
As Michael Crichton pointed out in a splendid essay [5], the same experts whose computer models cannot predict weather with any reliability more than a few days ahead are asking that their computer models be trusted to tell us what’s coming 50 and 100 years from now. Global temperatures have cycled over a range of about 5ºC several times during the last million years. Until the computer models can simulate that record, which they presently cannot, there is no reason to pay any attention to what they predict about the future.
I suggest that when you hear “scientific consensus”, you should immediately reach for your common sense and your history of science. Moreover, many climate scientists and meteorologists are on record as disagreeing with the so-called consensus about climate change.

Crichton is also good about the second flawed presumption. Computer models can never be better than the assumptions and data fed into them. The only way to test them is to compare them with reality. No comparison based on current or past circumstances can ever validate a model for the purpose of making predictions, because the model was constructed through knowledge of those past and present circumstances, and the future might be different in some significant, unsuspected, unforeseeable way. In “Science Under Attack”, Sir Paul expresses admiration for a demonstration at NASA of how similar are the actual circumstances and those calculated by the computer; but of course the computer’s calculations reflect accurately what is happening at the present time, because that’s the knowledge that was programmed into it. Tomorrow may be another day entirely.
The NASA scientist admits that Nature itself, rebounding from the last ice age, is causing some of the warming, but asserts that the present rate of warming is greater than anything in the past. That cannot be known. Past temperatures have fluctuated mightily: over a range of about 15ºC several times during the billions of years of the Earth’s existence, over a range of about 5-6ºC seven or eight times during the last million years, but the data from those past episodes are not fine-grained enough to reveal all the fluctuations over periods as short as a century or so. We simply do not know how rapidly the global temperature rose or fell within any given century 100,000 or a million years ago. Furthermore, assessing changes — let alone rapidity of changes — of a continually fluctuating up-and-down temperature means choosing starting and ending points for calculating the change: start at the trough before a warming period and end at an apex, and the change looks large; start at a rising midpoint and end at a falling midpoint and the “change” will be negligible. The NASA man’s assertion that warming is faster now cannot be known to be true, which makes it in effect a lie, albeit perhaps an unwitting one. A very detailed analysis of Earth’s many temperature cycles, with periodicities ranging from hundreds of years to hundreds of thousands of years, can be found in David Dilley’s “Natural Climate Pulse” [6].

Sir Paul Nurse helps create superb propaganda not only because he is so affable and sincere but also because he symbolizes centuries of scientific achievement, emphasized several times in the program as he visits the Royal Society’s archives and touches volumes by Darwin and Newton. Those lauded scientists were right, therefore we scientists are right now, is the obvious message. There is no mention of Bernard Barber’s long list of now-revered scientists, household names like Einstein (relativity) and Faraday (electrochemistry) and Lister (antisepsis) and Planck (quantum theory) who were fiercely resisted by their contemporary consensus [7]; nor did Newton’s or Darwin’s works receive immediate acclamation from their contemporary peers.
George Bernard Shaw’s insights might well be recalled, that progress depends on “unreasonable” individuals, and that all professions are conspiracies against the laity. Science has been a profession for more than a century now.

The program’s simulation of evenhandedness is entirely misleading. Fred Singer is allowed to make only a single point, that there’s a strong correlation between the solar wind and Earth temperatures. Commenting later on that conversation, Sir Paul points out that one must take into account all the evidence, not just a single factor, implying that this is what Singer does. In reality, Singer in his many publications takes into account every known factor no less than do the orthodox climate scientists, and some might say he considers all the data better than the orthodoxy does. A documentary that made Singer’s case could be just as convincing as this one is, yet in the opposite direction, if 95% of the program expounded Singer’s views of “all” the evidence and if, “in fairness”, one exponent of the orthodox view were allowed to make only a single point.

Similarly, Sir Paul talks with Tony Lance and allows him to mention that he has been “HIV-positive” for 13 years and entirely healthy and that he saw many friends dying after taking AZT. Later Sir Paul confesses that he doesn’t understand Lance’s thinking. Of course he doesn’t, he didn’t spent the requisite time learning about all the mainstream literature Lance has accumulated that supports his interpretation. Were Sir Paul to attempt to convey his own thinking to someone else in the space of a short conversation, that other person could well remain unable to understand Sir Paul’s thinking.

It is also worth bearing in mind that Sir Paul Nurse is a biologist. On the matter of global warming, he takes on trust the purveyors of the orthodox view. This is standard practice within science: specialists in one field trust what they hear from specialists in other fields. But one can reasonably ask, why does Nurse trust the Establishment specialists rather than the at-least-equally qualified and eminent Fred Singer and the thousands of other well qualified specialists who maintain that human-caused global warming has not been proved?
A partial answer to that may be found in “The New World Order in Science”: Conflicts of interest within science and vested interests from outside science have distorted “the search for truth” to the degree that a contemporary “scientific consensus” reflects power and not truth.

“Science Under Attack”, then, is thoroughly wrongheaded and misleading, about matters large — the nature of science, the significance of a scientific consensus, the role of computer models — and about matters smaller, the specific evidence for and against human-caused global warming, HIV-caused AIDS, and the dangers of genetically modifying organisms. It is superbly convincing through the devices I’ve described. It is propaganda pure and simple, at its best — which means at its moral worst.
It would therefore be gratifying to wax furious at Sir Paul Nurse and the writers and producers of this program for their devilish ingenuity in manufacturing such a fine piece of propaganda. But the reality is even worse. We should never attribute to deliberate malice what can be explained by incompetence or ignorance, because incompetence and ignorance are really so much more common than deliberate malice [8]. In more than one place, Sir Paul asserts that science is always trying to test its theories to self-destruction, always looking to all the evidence, always empirical and open-minded. It’s clear that he genuinely believes those things, not understanding that they are ideals and that scientists fall far short of practicing those ideals, individually to some extent but chiefly collectively, because science nowadays is a collection and a hierarchy of interlocking institutions that make it enormously difficult to change any established consensus [1].

This BBC program was produced by perfectly well-intentioned true believers, whose ignorance is vast and quite unsuspected by them. They don’t know that they are cultish followers of the ideology of scientism, and they would be disbelieving, shocked, offended were that pointed out to them.

It is always worth recalling that the path to Hell is paved with good intentions.

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[1] Henry H. Bauer, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, McFarland 2012.
[2] Authoritative discussions of this point by a well-informed writer on science and politics can be found in Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion (2001) and Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism (2007), both by Daniel S. Greenberg, University of Chicago Press. As to the so-called scientific method, see Henry H. Bauer, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press, 1992.
[3] See “Suppression of Science Within Science”.
[4] See for instance the Science and Environmental Policy Project,  established by the distinguished scientist Fred Singer. See also my summary of why human-caused global warming should be treated with the greatest skepticism: “A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?”.
[5] Michael Crichton, “Aliens cause global warming (Caltech Michelin Lecture)”, 17 January 2003.
[6] The book can be downloaded from Dilley’s website  under “Climate Cycles” and then “Climate Pulse E-Book”. I couldn’t make the links work, so Google “David Dilley Climate” and go from there.
[7] Bernard Barber, “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery.” Science, 134 (1961) 596-602.
[8] I believe that I first saw this expressed as one of Murphy’s Laws, which contain a huge amount of practical wisdom: Arthur Bloch, Murphy’s Law and other reasons why things go wrong; Murphy’s Law Book Two — more reasons why things go wrong; Murphy’s Law Book FourThree — wrong reasons why things go more (Price/Stern/Sloan, 1980-1982).

Posted in denialism, global warming, politics and science, resistance to discovery, science is not truth, science policy, scientism | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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