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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nit-picking or (K)not-picking? A Warm Welcome to Henry Bauer's “HIV/AIDS Skepticism” readers

YESTERDAY HENRY PUBLISHED a link to “Reckless Endangerment” in the comments section of one of his posts, with his complaint that “…as usual, my case is not being addressed, it’s just notpicking [sic] trivialities.”

If you have come here after following that link – welcome, and I hope you find this a useful resource in untangling the knotted, snarled mess of Henry’s thesis on HIV and AIDS. Henry is always complaining that no-one has seriously addressed the substance of his "arguments" ever since he first began publishing them around four years ago, and I am glad that he feels flattered that some random Snout with a laptop feels strongly enough about their dissemination on the web to have a go.

Now, I do not expect my efforts to make the slightest difference to Henry’s personal belief system or that of his most rusted-on supporters: my intended audience is those who have come across his musings on the net or elsewhere, and are wondering if there is anything to his views, and if not, where has he gone wrong.

As for the accusation of, well I assume he meant to say “nit-picking trivialities”, please judge for yourself as the posts on this site unfold over the coming months.

Consider if highlighting his mistaken assertions that
“very many HIV positive people spontaneously revert to HIV negative” and “very few HIV positive people ever become ill” are nit-picking at minor or “trivial” misapprehensions, or, are these are major factual howlers, foundational to his later epidemiologically based arguments?

Or is his claim that
“…blacks and Hispanics suffering from HIV disease live longer than Asians, Native Americans, or whites suffering from HIV disease” a trivial error based on a minor misreading of his data-source, or is it an obvious blunder, and the basis of about half his argument in his recent paper “Incongruous Age Distributions of HIV Infections and Deaths from HIV Disease: Where Is the Latent Period Between HIV Infection and AIDS” ?

Or what do you make of his
claimed starting point for his musings on HIV/AIDS, the relatively equal sex distribution of HIV positive teenaged military recruits in the US c1985-9? Is it really “unbelievable”, or does this simply demonstrate Henry Bauer's readiness to fall back on the informal logical fallacy the Argument from Incredulity?

The problem with Henry’s thesis is not a single factual misconception, or a minor logical slip-up, or an isolated misreading of data, or a solitary and inconsequential failure to grasp the significance of a particular study finding in the overall picture. His thesis consists of multiple examples of each of these faults, often serious, knotted tightly together, and presented in a prose style which superficially could give the appearance of erudition to someone who has neither the time, background, or patience to critically scrutinise the
content of his argument.

AN OBVIOUS QUESTION about this blog is “why bother?” After all, attention is what most “AIDS dissidents” crave – to many, even negative evaluation is better than being ignored entirely. This is a difficult question, but my decision to set up this site was based on seeing Henry’s ideas posted uncritically in mainstream web threads, and finding a lack of net resources that specifically deal with his arguments, which are at times as complex and opaque as they are flawed.

Unfortunately, to unpack the matted mess of Henry’s theory requires some knot-picking to begin with so the loose ends are easily identifiable. In the process I hope to clearly demonstrate the repeating patterns of errors that occur throughout Henry’s “work” on HIV/AIDS. There is a purpose to my choice of what order to approach each flawed element of Henry’s thesis, so as to make my critique flow coherently, while allowing each post to stand alone as much as possible. Please be patient, and check in again from time to time. I have an offline life and a day job (that doesn’t,
incidentally, involve collecting payola from Big Pharma or the CDC).

It has become necessary to moderate comments, after one persistent troll from the “dissident” camp decided to flood a thread with a string of six successive posts, tediously repeating the same denialist canards over and over. This is not, I repeat, yet another site for denialists to post their misconceptions and misinformation, and I don’t have the time or inclination to address every barely-coherent tangential denialist stream-of-consciousness rant, particularly when their points - such as they are - have been repeatedly dealt with elsewhere. Other comments, including critical responses, that are succinct, intelligible, and to the point of the subject at hand will be more favorably received.



Carl Anderson said...

Hi Snout,

Let's see if you can follow simple logic:

1. HIV is said to be retrovirus that kills cells (T4 Cells) by some unknown mechanism that has magically changed over 2 decades (direct lysis, apoptosis, immune response)

Because of this, HIV is said to be "bad."

2. AZT is a nucleoside analogue, that terminates cellular DNA, thereby killing the cells.

So, AZT is, in fact, "bad" because it kills cells. That's what it was designed to do.

Indeed, it is a fact that AZT causes Leukopenia and Anemia (killing of white and red blood cells). (See, Richman, New England Journal of Medicine, 1987).

3. So, I assume that you are well aware that viruses are HARMLESS, unless they infect a cell.

4. So, all "AIDS" drugs are directed against HIV that is already infect in the cell.

Since HIV purports to kill cells, how on earth is it rational to take AZT that also kills cells, quicker, directly and more efficiently?

Are you hoping to cure the patient by killing the cell, twice?

Snout said...

Hi Carl,

Let's sort out your logic a little, shall we? On the understanding that you are genuinely seeking knowledge, rather than simply spamming us with denialist rhetoric, which as I'm sure I've made clear won't be tolerated here.

Firstly, the actual mechanisms by which HIV causes T cell loss are unlikely to have changed over the past 2 decades: what has changed is our understanding of those mechanisms. And that understanding will probably continue to change as we learn more about it, and about immunology generally. This has nothing to do with magic.

Furthermore, our knowledge (or lack thereof) of exactly how HIV causes CD4+ cell depletion is a different question to whether it does. We know HIV is "bad" because people with HIV have a tendency to develop AIDS, while people without HIV don't develop AIDS, and very rarely develop anything that even looks remotely like AIDS. Among other lines of evidence, which I'm sure you can look up if you wish.

Secondly, AZT does not "kill cells, quicker, directly and more efficiently" than it inhibits HIV replication. The enzymes used by cells to replicate DNA are DNA polymerases, while HIV uses its own reverse transcriptase. The key bit of information you are missing is this: The affinity of AZT for blocking cellular DNA polymerase is very weak (which is why AZT failed as a cancer drug) in comparison to its affinity for HIV RT. This is why it was possible for AZT to increase CD4+ counts when they are being depleted as a result of HIV replication. Incidentally, in people who don't have HIV, AZT has no discernable effect either way on CD4+ counts, although it does have a small and reversible effect on blood cell turnover, as evidenced by a measurable increase in mean red cell volume.

Now if you are genuinely interested in whether the benefits of AZT monotherapy outweighed the risks for people with HIV at different stages of progression, you would need to look for reliable information - say the scientific literature - rather than caricatures on denialist websites, which tend to leave out important bits of information. The answer is complicated, but in simplistic terms it's yes until resistance develops after which the balance swings the other way. This is why strategies to counter viral resistance (principally HAART) have been so important.

I hope that clears a few things up for you, but I emphasise that if you are getting your "information" solely from denialist websites you are getting a distorted picture, and you will need to broaden your reading if you want to get a more accurate grasp of the issues. Good luck.

Chris said...

In your reply to Carl Anderson, you write (without cited reference):

"The affinity of AZT for blocking cellular DNA polymerase is very weak (which is why AZT failed as a cancer drug) in comparison to its affinity for HIV RT"

If this is so, why does AZT have so many deadly side effects, including the killing of neutrophils, a subset of white blood cells, as well as white cells in general?

A huge problem with you and your ilk is that you rarely if ever honestly examine: (a) the side effects of the Black Box drugs and (b) the extreme limitations of the so-called HIV anti-body tests.

Not that it matters for purposes of a silly blog discussion, but I tested positive for HIV 8 years ago, started taking the drugs, mostly out of fear, but due to the side effects, stopped after 14 months. I have only resumed intermittenly.

Physically, I feel great. Mentally, it is difficult to cope with the stigma and constant pressure from activists in the medical community and even some of my well-intentioned friends, who have bought the AIDS propaganda.

I focus on my nutrition and health, always have. I pay little credence to subjectively interpreted lab results, which caused me so much mental anguish.

I do acknowledge, though, that the drugs do give some of my HIV Poz friends a degree of comfort, and they seem to tolerate them well, reasonably well. To each their own. I try not to rain on their parade, and they have become more respectful of my health choices as well.

Snout said...

Chris, I’m glad you are feeling physically well, and I hope this continues for many years to come. I also hope that whatever health decisions you make are based on being as fully informed as possible.

In my answer to Carl I hope I didn’t create the impression that AZT cannot have side effects associated with its inhibition of cellular DNA polymerase activity – rather I was trying to explain how it could be possible that the risk of such side effects could be low enough that there could be an overall benefit in treating people with HIV. Carl was stuck on a theoretical point, but had missed the fact that these adverse effects of AZT arise by its action on a different enzyme and mechanism to the beneficial effects, and that AZT has a far greater affinity for the enzyme we want it to work on than the one we don’t want it to work on. This doesn’t guarantee that AZT will always be beneficial on balance, but it at least explains why it can be.

Denialist websites often list the adverse effects of HIV treatments, and while these are important to know, such knowledge alone is not enough for an informed health decision. You also need to know the frequency of those adverse effects, how serious and/or reversible they are, how likely they are to affect you, and to be able to weigh such risks against likely benefits. For you. Denialist websites do not give you this complete picture. Ideally your doctor ought be able to tell you this, because they know your medical status. If they can’t, consider getting another opinion, if not another doctor.

jtdeshong said...

Hey Snout,
My first comment is that these two have missed the point of this post. It is about Bauer and his failed logic and his hypocritical comments about your blog and how you are not understanding him nor taking him seriously!
For Carl, I have to ask: "How many HIV (virus') do not infect cells"? That's what they do, and therefore your logic that they are only "bad" (understatement) when they infect a cell does not make much sense!! Can you say circular logic?
As for Chris, where have you ever seen orthodox scientists say that HIV medications have no side effects? OR even try to dispute the potential hazards? It is the denialists who scream that the drugs are ONLY toxic and have no or very little beneficial use? It is the denialists who offer up a one sided version of the toxicities of the drugs. Any rational doctor or scientist would say that when taking HIV meds (hell, ANY meds, for they all have toxic side effects) one needs to monitor their health. Take an active role in your health. You wrote that you stopped meds after 14 months due to the effects. That is good. I have done that too. However, I tried other meds until I found what worked for me. Why is that such a foreign concept?
You also tend to be a little misinformed on the antibody tests, as well. These tests are very good and they are backed up by a second test. How many other diseases do you know that require two positive results on two completely different tests? You have probably read where Christine Maggiore said that pregnant women have false positives all the time. Not true. See the link below where 3529 women were tested over a 4 year period and only 0.88%tested poz.
From a personal note, you might be interested to know that the hospital I work out has an entire women's wing and we HIV test every woman before they give birth. I asked one Med Tech how many positives she has seen, and she replied she can only think of a few in three years. You see, Christine Maggiore would have you believe otherwise.
One last thing. If you are not going to take HIV Meds, please do not take them intermittently as you stated you do. That will cause you to become resistant very fast, and when/if you do need them in the future, your choices will be very limited.
J. Todd DeShong