Document:Brown reviews Bauer
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21 July 2007
Any new dissident book demands a justification – either some new approach in style, or some new viewpoint, or some new personal perspective, or some new light shed on old facts. With dozens of books already available, addressing almost every conceivable aspect of the HIV fiasco, one is tempted to question, "What more can be said?"
Quite a lot, if Henry Bauer's new book The Origin, Persistence, and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory is taken into account. For in this book, Bauer not only presents novel scientific arguments against the HIV/AIDS hypothesis, he also uses his experience in science studies to provide a compelling response to the frequent semi-rhetorical question, "How could so many scientists be so wrong?", which is often used as the first line of defense against any serious critique. The combination of scientific evidence followed by sober sociological observation is powerful, especially given Bauer's understated and calm tone.
The book is divided into three parts. In the first, Bauer provides scientific evidence against the HIV hypothesis based upon HIV antibody test demographics. The second part describes previous missteps in science and medicine and how such missteps come about. The third part combines the evidence from the first part with the observations of the second to advance an explanation of how specifically the HIV theory came to prominence, and how it has been erroneously maintained.
The first part is the longest of the three, and it largely expands upon Bauer's previous three papers on HIV antibody test demographics published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. The style is more informal than the papers, but the result is no less devastating. Bauer's approach is epidemiological, so he is attacking the HIV hypothesis straight-on. (HIV apologists long ago conceded that the most convincing evidence in favor of HIV is epidemiological, not biological or virological.) Epidemiological approaches have been taken by many over time, but Bauer's is one which, to the best of my knowledge, has never been taken by any dissident previously, and that is to focus on the epidemiology of HIV itself, rather than the epidemiology of AIDS. Or, to be more precise, the epidemiology of HIV antibody test results, rather than the epidemiology of AIDS diagnoses.
Bauer's conclusion is that HIV antibody test results display such profound regularity across categories such as race, gender, age, and geographic location, that they cannot possibly be detecting an infectious – let alone sexually transmitted – microbe. The antibody tests, of course, are the lynchpin of HIV/AIDS theory – they are presumed to indicate active infection, they are used as diagnostic tools, they are used to decide who should go on antiretroviral therapies, they are used to collect epidemiological data, and they are assumed to be highly sensitive, specific, and predictive of future disease. Any serious doubt cast upon them calls the entire HIV edifice into question.
The crux of Bauer's argument is explained so eloquently in one passage that I reproduce it here in full:
Consider such types of behavior as smoking, say, or overeating. The prevalence of smoking has decreased overall during the last couple of decades in the United States, but less among those of lower income than among middle- and upper-income people. Among the latter, it has decreased among males but increased among females. Overall, smoking is now more prevalent among youth than among older adults, whereas fifty years ago the opposite was the case. In some cultural groups, smoking is very common among males and non-existent among women, whereas in other cultures there is no great difference. In other words, smoking is not influenced independently by age, sex, and race or ethnicity. Smoking varied differently with age in the past than now, it varies differently with sex in some cultures than in others, and its variation with sex has changed over time. Thus smoking is predominantly an acquired behavior, even if there is some physiological tendency toward or away from addiction in general or addiction to nicotine in particular.
A similar argument can be made as to overeating leading to obesity. Overeating is greater in some socioeconomic groups than in others. In some cultural settings, obesity is prized among women and is therefore common among them, whereas in other cultural settings, the opposite holds. Overeating is not influenced independently by age, sex, and race; it is a relatively malleable behavior, not unalterably determined by one's genes.
That such behaviors as smoking or overeating do not show regular variations by age, sex, and race demonstrates that they are determined more by environmental factors than by inherent ones. Conversely, if some measured characteristic is influenced independently by age, sex, and race, then that measured characteristic is primarily a matter of physiology and not an acquired, culture-determined behavior. F(HIV) [prevalence of positive HIV antibody test results] – the tendency to test HIV-positive – is influenced independently by age, sex, and race; therefore it is primarily a matter of physiology, not of any tendency to practice promiscuous unsafe sex.
To give just two examples of such regularities, consider the following figures:
Figure 2 shows that F(HIV) [prevalence of positive HIV antibody test results] decreases from birth to the pre-teen years, then increases to middle-age, then decreases again after middle-age. Moreover, females always test positive less often than males, except during the pre-teen years. This age- and sex-dependent regularity would be extraordinary for an accurate test detecting a true sexually-transmitted microbe, for which infection is taken to be permanent (i.e. no possibility of "sero-reversion").
Figures 13 and 15 show F(HIV) for soldiers and military applicants, respectively. Note that in all cases, blacks test positive more often than Hispanics, who test positive more often than whites. Even more striking, note that the age-pattern described above in Figure 2 clearly holds for all groups, no matter their race or gender. This is precisely the "independent variation" which cannot be accounted for by behavioral tendencies.
Given such evidence, I find it astonishing that apparently no statistician has ever undertaken a rigorous multivariate statistical analysis to determine the full implications of these findings. Bauer himself performs a very crude form of multiple regression in Chapter 6, "What Is It About Race?", demonstrating that racial and population density demographics are sufficient to obtain an extremely good prediction of F(HIV).
Bauer does offer his own possible explanations for what is causing HIV antibody test results and AIDS-defining diseases. Many of these have been previously offered by others. His most important points on this count concern the changing definition of AIDS and the lack of reliability of CDC statistics. It is now clear that institutions such as the CDC and WHO are deliberately obscuring the situation by their choice of definitions and presentation of data, in such a way as to maintain the appearance of agreement of the HIV hypothesis with reality. The task of sorting through such a mass of illogical, incoherent, and ambiguous data will not be easy for future historians and scientists.
Turning to Bauer's second and third parts, where he addresses sociological aspects of HIV/AIDS theory, I find an idea which was originally put forth nearly 20 years ago by Jad Adams in his book, AIDS: The HIV Myth. In that book, Adams posits:
Part of the reason why a newly discovered virus like HIV could be misidentified as the cause of a complex syndrome like AIDS is that all the fields of research involved in the AIDS story are themselves complex, and no individual scientist has an adequate command of all of them, each having to rely on the insights and choices made by specialists in other fields in order to corroborate from other disciplines the insights of one particular speciality. Thus the epidemiologist, who studies epidemics, is obliged to believe in the choices made by the virologist, who studies viruses, and vice versa; neither will have sufficient command of the other's discipline to be capable of judgement, particularly when the other discipline is straining past the point of knowledge and into speculation, as has so often been the case in the AIDS story.
Bauer uses the term "invisible college" to describe this phenomenon:
Because scientific knowledge issues from people and groups interacting, trust is fundamental. Derek de Solla Price illuminated much about scientific activity, especially the features that could be measured and expressed in numbers, including its exponential growth since the 17th century. He pointed out that the specialized nature of modern science means that any given research field is typically plowed by something like a few hundred people working in a number of different locations, a so-called "invisible college" – "invisible" because present in no single identifiable place. The work of each such college, though distinct, depends in many ways on knowledge that is in the purview of other invisible colleges. Overall progress results from a mosaic of advances made by these little groups, each of which must necessarily accept on trust what the others claim to have accomplished. In no other way could science both dig so deep and expand so widely.
"A few hundred" is often an overstatement – as mathematicians and physicists are well aware, such "invisible colleges" often constitute no more than several dozen researchers in the entire world. This was certainly the case for the new field of molecular biology-based retrovirology in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
What has happened with HIV, then, is rather like the old story of the blind men and the elephant. Bauer points out numerous cases where individuals in specific fields of HIV research clearly recognized anomalies and flat-out contradictions and discrepancies between the facts and the HIV hypothesis – yet they did not act on such findings. The reasons are two-fold: first, speaking out carries tremendous social and political consequences; but more importantly, many researchers simply trust their colleagues and accept that everything else "discovered" about HIV must be accurate and demonstrated, and that their "anomalies" will soon be explained in due time, given enough money and resources.
Thus, by the very nature of the institutions involved, ad hoc explanations multiply from the various "invisible colleges" to explain anomalies, while the vested interests develop to sociologically exclude anyone who "feels the whole elephant at once" and raises questions. The theory itself becomes institutionalized through a "knowledge monopoly" or "research cartel" which is now evident not only in scientific and professional organizations, but in activist groups, social service agencies, and pharmaceutical companies. One finds it hard to disagree with Bauer when he asserts, "...[The] prevailing theory of HIV/AIDS, and the practices based on it, will not change until the dissident cause is taken up prominently in mass media or by influential political individuals or social groups."
Bauer ends the book on a positive note, suggesting that the lessons that will be learned from the HIV fiasco will ultimately be beneficial to all of science and knowledge:
I trust that this book illustrates the usefulness of historically informed insight into what makes for scientific progress and what hinders it. Advice from historians of science and sociologists of science and others in the umbrella field of science and technology studies could help policy makers achieve a better perspective over what current uncertainties exist, what research and procedures might be feasible over what period of time, and what the chances might be that carefully attending to minority views might shed light on some matter of science, technology, or public health – for light may alter perception; and perception, belief.
© 2007 by Darin Brown