And going to the university and the University of Florence in particular, it came out that Professor Ruggiero – that’s myself – was in absolute terms the Best Professor in the Entire University... and not only in biology and medicine but overall, concerning all the professors of the entire university" - Dr Marco Ruggiero, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Florence.

"Derrida's method consisted in demonstrating the forms and varieties of this originary complexity, and their multiple consequences in many fields. He achieved this by conducting thorough, careful, sensitive, and yet transformational readings of philosophical and literary texts, to determine what aspects of those texts run counter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis)."
- Wikipedia: Jaques Derrida (and also copy-pasted to 2,520 other websites)

"I have long ago given up looking at anything from Snout... He has no credentials at all to discuss the things he talks about, yet feels free to denigrate a long-established, peer-reviewed Italian journal, and highly competent, even distinguished scientists and scholars. If anyone prefers to take his opinion rather than mine, I think that shows rather poor judgement in view of the curriculum vitae posted on my website and the anonymity and missing C.V. of Snout…"

- Henry H. Bauer. Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Science Studies and Dean Emeritus of Arts and Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How not to read vital statistics reports (Henry Bauer Flunks)

HERES A QUICK EXAMPLE of how Henry Bauer completely fails to read his data sources properly, and ends up forming absurd conclusions as a result.

On his 7 January 2008 post, “HOW TO TEST THEORIES (HIV/AIDS THEORY FLUNKS)” he poses the supposedly unanswerable question:
Why do blacks and Hispanics suffering from “HIV disease” live longer than Asians, Native Americans, or whites suffering from “HIV disease”?

— Among American women, between 2002 and 2004, all deaths from “HIV disease” among Asians, Native Americans, and whites occurred before age 45; but one third of black and Hispanic women with “HIV disease” lived past 45.

— Among American men, between 2002 and 2004, all deaths from “HIV disease” among Asians, Native Americans, and whites occurred before age 55; but more than 10% of black and Hispanic men with “HIV disease” lived past 55.

It’s generally believed that black and Hispanic Americans do not enjoy as high a level of medical care as do white Americans. So why do they stave off this disease better?

Could it be because they are not being treated with “life-saving” or “life-prolonging” antiretroviral drugs?
Henry’s “evidence” for the startling claim that there were no non-black/Hispanic male AIDS deaths over 55 and no female non-black/Hispanic deaths over 45 comes in the form of two tables he produced showing male and female HIV/AIDS deaths broken down by age and race. His breakdown looks like this:

Source: "Incongruous Age Distributions of HIV Infections and Deaths from HIV Disease: Where Is the Latent Period Between HIV Infection and AIDS?" JPandS 13:3 p79

NOW THE FIRST THING THAT JUMPS out from these tables is that there are no data for white/Asian/Native American female deaths above age 44 or for males above 54. Or for anyone at all over 64. Henry claims this is because there weren’t any deaths at all in those categories. This is odd, because the CDC reports 2271 deaths of persons with AIDS over 64 in those three years (Henry says none) and 6018 deaths among persons with AIDS in the 55-64 age range (Henry only notes only 2243, all black or Hispanic males).
In the JPandS article his claim is softened from "no deaths at all" to "negligible" deaths:
On the one hand, black and Hispanic Americans are much more prone to become HIV positive than are members of other racial groups, and to the same extent more prone to die subsequently of HIV disease; yet appreciable numbers of these more-affected people survive the disease to greater ages than the supposedly less-affected others. Among HIV-positive individuals, some 11%–13% of black and Hispanic men survive beyond age 54, while a negligible number of men of other races do; and 30%–35% of black and Hispanic women survive beyond age 44 whereas a negligible number of women of other races do. - JPandS 13:3 p78

What is going on here?

The answer is that Henry got his data from the National Vital Statistics Reports, which list data only for the top ten causes of death for each age/sex/race category. Among white women 45-54, for example there is no figure given because AIDS is not in the top ten causes of death – other causes such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are becoming relatively more numerous. Among black women, however, AIDS is still one of the top ten causes at that age, and doesn’t fall off the top ten until the 55 plus age range, because AIDS has about 20 times the prevalence (per capita) in black women as in white (and is 7 times more prevalent in black men than white).

Deaths among older white men, for example, are not "negligible". They are numerically comparable to those among older black men because although AIDS has only one seventh the (per capita) prevalence among white men as black, there are roughly seven times as many whites as blacks.

But the age distributions for AIDS deaths are very similar among white, black and Hispanic adults with HIV: what differs is the proportion of each racial group affected by HIV, and therefore the relative importance of AIDS as a cause of death in any given race/sex/age category compared to non HIV related causes.

The reasons for the racial disparity in HIV and AIDS prevalence will be explored in a future post, but they have little to do with any genetic tendency to test “HIV positive” as Henry hypothesises, and in fact they have far less to do with supposed broad differences in sexual or drug using behavior than is often assumed.

But to answer the question that Henry poses as a "disproof" of mainstream HIV/AIDS theory, "Why do blacks and Hispanics suffering from “HIV disease” live longer than Asians, Native Americans, or whites suffering from “HIV disease”?"

They don't. Henry has simply failed to read his data properly.


SteveN said...

Hi Snout

Once again, a nice article. I actually find it hard to believe that Bauer is as incompentent as is suggested by this article and by his interpretations of other epidemiological data. The errors are so glaring that even he should be able to recognise them immediately. I can only assume that he is deliberately spinning the data to support his misconceptions, safe in the knowledge that his gullible denialist followers have neither the inclination nor the wits to spot the crass errors involved.



Snout said...

Thanks, Steve.

The weird thing for me about Henry’s woeful “Blacks and Hispanics live longer with HIV” argument is that it doesn’t just appear on his blog, but also in the allegedly peer-reviewed “Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons”.

Whether it is ineptitude or deliberate misrepresentation to push an agenda, I can’t be sure, but I think it says as much about the quality of the JPandS “peer review” process as about Henry’s epidemiological competence.

Chris Noble said...

That's a beautiful example of a crank in motion.

This should, but probably won't, be a lesson for Bauer and cranks of all persuasions.

If you find an "anomaly", a "paradox" or a "glaring fault" in a scientific field in which you have no training, expertise or understanding then you should very strongly consider the possibility that you are looking at a product of your own ignorance rather than a problem in the "orthodox" science.

At this point you should talk to someone who does have training, expertise and understanding in this field.

However, like other cranks, Bauer has become far too attached to the beautiful and seductive idea that the majority of scientists are wrong and that he and a few select individuals have special knowledge. He is never going to admit to his own ignorance and incompetence.

Steve, the first person that Bauer is fooling is himself. Never underestimate the power of self-delusion. Bauer, the self-styled Perth Group, Duesberg and other Denialists really believe the nonsense they write.