Pseudo-scholarship - inept and unconvincing (1 star)
The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, by Henry
H. Bauer; McFarland & Company, 2007, AUD62
This book raises two important questions.
The first is, what sort of person writes a book about the epidemiology of an infectious disease without first familiarising himself with the basics of (a) the discipline of epidemiology and (b) the disease he is pretending to examine?
The second question is, what kind of "publishing editor" from an alleged "publisher of scholarly, reference and academic books" is too stupid to recognise an obvious crank who is entirely out of his depth with the subject matter he's writing about?
In Don't Get Fooled Again (Icon books 2008) author Richard Wilson writes:
Pseudo-scholarship gives the appearance of being based on logic and evidence, but relies instead on distortion, omission, fabrication, obfuscation, fallacy, emotive rhetoric and conspiracy theory. Quacks, cranks and fake historians seek to deceive by misrepresenting bad evidence as good, and using sham arguments to dismiss good evidence which conflicts with their own theories - often characterizing themselves as 'skeptics' in the process. (p. 212)
Bauer's HIV/AIDS argument is essentially based on epidemiology, a field he has no grasp of at all, and in which he appears to have made no effort to educate himself. He has simply made his methods up, and appears to have no insight into why this might be problematic. The end result is cringe-worthy.
For example, he tries to derive population-wide prevalence or incidence statistics from the ratios of positive and negative tests within quite specific subgroups and settings, without considering the criteria used to select the population under study, including the reasons for testing in the first place. He doesn't distinguish between prevalence and incidence, ineptly bundling the two concepts into his own neologism "F(HIV)". He compares the results of different cross sectional studies selecting completely different populations as if they were simply parts of the one longitudinal study.
He makes claims about the population-wide prevalence of HIV compared to AIDS that are completely at odds with official statistics: for example he claims that HIV and AIDS have completely different male to female ratios when the ratio for Americans diagnosed with HIV is 2.75 to 1 and incident AIDS is almost identical at 2.70 to 1.
He claims HIV cannot be sexually transmitted because of the age distribution of incident diagnoses, despite the fact it is almost identical to that of syphilis.
He falsely claims that HIV infection is diagnosed on the basis of an antibody response that is often transient. He claims that untreated HIV infection rarely leads to people getting sick. He misrepresents treatment studies. He doesn't have a clue about why opportunistic diseases such as Kaposi's sarcoma or tuberculosis might concentrate among people with a serious immune system disease.
He can't comprehend why an infectious disease whose incidence is highest among sexual networks of gay men and among injecting drug users might concentrate in larger cities. Or why HIV didn't spread much into the female population of San Francisco given the large number of eligible bachelors there with the infection.
He assumes that if the incidence of a sexually transmitted infection is relatively high in a particular population they must be proportionately more promiscuous, which is like claiming that the waterborne infection cholera is caused by people drinking proportionately too much water.
Not satisfied with completely botching his epidemiological "analysis", Bauer draws on his non existent knowledge of immunology to construct a vague and implausible fantasy about what the detection of HIV antibodies "really" means. It's, you know, like a non specific thingy response to umm, well, stress - like getting born, going through menarche, or living in a city. Seriously.
The second and third parts of the book are a rant about how scientists can sometimes get things badly wrong, and can be read ironically in the light of the woeful ignorance of his subject matter Bauer displays in the first.
I can recommend this book as a cautionary tale for epidemiology students, as it describes exactly what not to do. Those interested in the psychology of pseudoscientific crankery might also find it interesting. However, anyone hoping to better understand the complexities of HIV/AIDS can safely ignore it.