More rebuttals of HIV/AIDS "skeptics"

As regulars may recall, about a week and a half ago, I got a little riled up at having my honesty questioned by a certain blogger who doesn't think that HIV causes AIDS. This same blogger, Dean Esmay, has been commenting fairly extensively over the last couple of months about Eliza Jane Scovill, an unfortunate child who died tragically, collapsing suddenly after an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection. At autopsy, the coroner found, among other things, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and HIV encephalopathy, leading him to conclude that Eliza Jane died of complications due to AIDS.

It's a tragedy any time a child dies of AIDS or any other disease, but this case would not have garnered any press attention had it not been for the fact that Eliza Jane's mother, Christine Maggiore, happens to be a very high profile member of a movement that professes "skepticism" (more like outright denial, actually) that HIV causes AIDS, despite the overwhelming scientific, epidemiologic, and clinical evidence to the contrary. Based on her belief, she had refused to take antiretroviral drugs or to have Eliza Jane tested for HIV. Although I have no reason to believe that she was anything other than a loving mother otherwise and no mother should have to suffer such a horrible loss, she was tragically incorrect in her decision. Dean Esmay, of course, vigorously defended her to the hilt.

What prompted my initial response was a "pathologist" report by one Dr. Mohommed Al-Bayati that purported to "rebut" the L. A. County Coroner's conclusions regarding this unfortunate child's death. Actually, it wasn't exactly the report itself, but rather it was Dean's mention of me (and others who had spoken out against the dangerous pseudoscientific myth that HIV doesn't cause AIDS) as he trumpeted the report as "proof" that Eliza Jane didn't have AIDS and lambasted the coroner and the L. A. Times for a "political diagnosis in order to grandstand." (Oddly enough, he never explained why the coroner, much less the L. A. Times, would want to "grandstand" over this case.) Oh, and Dean implied that I was dishonest and accused me of "lynch mob prejudice." Annoyed, I wrote a long and rather detailed (not to mention occasionally sarcastic) rebuttal of Dr. Al-Bayati's report, a rebuttal that Dean never bothered to respond to, although I knew he knew about it from the comments in his own blog. (Maybe the verbiage and admittedly excessively technical jargon scared him off. If so, good.)

Now, two other health care professionals have weighed in on this tragic case, and they both agree with me.

First up is Trent McBride, a pathology resident who blogs at Catallarchy. He has now presented an excellent explanation of why the Al-Bayati report is full of holes. He's also a lot less--shall we say?--vociferous than I was, but he nonetheless takes down Dr. Al-Bayati's claims with a calm, polite demeanor that's devastating. Given the way that Dr. Al-Bayati appealed to the definition of pneumonia from a single pathology textbook ad nauseam to claim that Eliza Jane couldn't have PCP because she didn't have "pneumonia," I particularly like the way that Trent turned the tables on him and quoted him back several definitions from pathology textbooks that totally support the conclusion that the findings in Eliza Jane's lungs were entirely consistent with--nay, even pathognomonic of--PCP pneumonia. Trent also found another feature that I missed and am now kicking myself for not having picked up on. Remember how I went on about how the steatosis of the liver (fatty infiltrate) described on the autopsy was not consistent with acute liver injury from amoxicillin-clavulanate? Trent agrees, but he also found a tidbit that I should have looked up. It turns out that steatosis is very common in pediatric AIDS patients. It was originally thought that this AIDS-associated steatosis was due to antiretroviral drugs used to treat AIDS, but Trent found a study that shows it's quite common in patients before they've ever been treated. True, steatosis is not in any way specific for AIDS, but it is entirely consistent with AIDS. Excellent work, Trent.

But that's not all. Nick Bennett, an MB/Ph.D. (he's British, hence the M.B. Chir instead of MD) is a pediatrics resident whose Ph.D. thesis concerned the molecular biology of HIV. He runs a blog called AIDS Myth, in which he routinely rebuts the distortions and selective evidence use of the HIV/AIDS "dissidents." (Now that I've plugged his blog, I just hope he updates it more often.) Dr. Bennett was also kind enough to e-mail me a PDF file containing his point-by-point rebuttal of Dr. Al-Bayati's report, and Trent was kind enough to host it for us at Catallarchy. You can download the PDF of Dr. Bennett's response to Dr. Al-Bayati here or here.

Dr. Bennett covers a lot of the same ground as Trent and I did. He nicely takes apart Al-Bayati's attribution of Eliza Jane's collapse to an anaphylactic (allergic) reaction to amoxicillin on clinical grounds. He points out that multinucleated giant cells in inflammatory lesions in the brain without granulomas are very characteristic of HIV encephalitis, even if it hasn't manifested symptoms yet. He says basically the same thing as Trent and me with regards to Al-Bayati's bogus attempt to blame parvovirus for the Eliza Jane's anemia. All of this is different in emphasis and better on some details, but Dr. Bennett's unique contribution to debunking Dr. Al-Bayati's report comes from his perspective as a pediatrician. Using that experience, Dr. Bennett does something that I (and I daresay Trent) probably never would have thought to do (neither of us being pediatricians or primary care doctors). He takes a much closer look at Eliza Jane's growth curves:
I note that Al-Bayati says that EJ’s weight is within the normal range for a child of her age. She is according to him within the 5th centile for her age, but a proper growth chart plot shows that she in fact suffered from a striking failure to thrive from the age of approximately one year. Although she did indeed gain 22 pounds during her life, a child born at 7lbs of weight is expected to weigh 4 pounds more than she did at the age of her death (a difference of around 15% of her actual body mass). In addition, it is clear that this final weight is an aberration from her normal growth curve, as if she had continued along her past track she should have only weighed 26-27lbs at the time of death. The extra 2 lbs (around 900 ml equivalent) is perhaps accounted for by the additional fluid found within and surrounding her organs at the time of death. As such, it appears more likely that the fluid accumulated over time, rather than as a result of simply moving out of the vascular spaces, as if that would have happened her total mass would remain unchanged. Alternatively it may simply be a result of the fluid boluses given to her during resuscitation – without being able to see the actual medical notes I can’t say either way. A significant resuscitation of 40ml/kg would account for around half of that additional volume.
He concludes:
As such, it would appear to me that EJ had some form of significant clinical problem for the 2 and a half years prior to her death, regardless of her status regarding other childhood illnesses (which by all accounts was unremarkable). Her weight is in lower centiles by my reckoning than what Al-Bayati states, but that may simply be a result of using different growth charts or rounding-up to the nearest line. These charts are the current (2002) versions from the CDC website, accessed Nov 2005. The lowest line is the 3rd centile, which EJ generally remains below. In basic terms, if around 100 kids of the same age were lined up, EJ would have been the smallest.

There is a possibility of a metabolic disorder resulting in failure to thrive, but since she did so well for the first 12 months of her live, I don’t consider that a real possibility. Regardless of cause, aged 3.5 years she weighed only as much as a 2.5 year old would normally weigh (and remember, she was born smack in the middle of the spread, at 7 lbs).
He further concludes that there is good evidence that her failure to thrive and fluid accumulation may have been due to nephrotic syndrome due to Minimal Change Disease, a kidney disease that shows little or no change in the kidney structure on biopsy and can be precipitated by HIV infection. Whether he's right or not about this (this is clearly more speculative than his points about parvovirus, amoxicillin allergies, etc.), he makes a compelling case, and that diagnosis as a cause of EJ's generalized edema is one I never would have thought of. Also, if the data regarding Eliza Jane's weights at various ages are correct, Dr. Bennett's analysis also casts doubt on the HIV denialist claims that Eliza Jane was "perfectly healthy" all her life. She may have seemed healthy, but if there was indeed a failure to grow it should have tipped off her pediatricians that something might be wrong. But you really should read all of Dr. Bennett's analysis. It's quite accessible to the lay person.

So how did Dean react to Trent's rebuttal of Dr. Al-Bayati's report?

He repeated the same canard about Pneumocystis being 100% ubiquitous, which Trent rebutted and ignored all the substantive criticisms of the report that Trent and I had made. And then he called me dishonest again.

And how did I react to Dean's impugning my honesty a second time?

I laughed. (Never let it be said that I don't learn from experience to consider the source.)

Oddly enough, though, Dean seemed the most annoyed by a throw-away comment I had made about how he liked to argue from authority a lot and tended to wave Dr. Duesberg's credentials around like "a talisman to ward off attacks against his pseudoscientific posturing." (OK, perhaps that was a bit more of a rhetorical flourish than I needed to use; but give me a break; I was on a roll.) Quoth Dean in the comments:
I tried reading Orac’s response, by the way, but it was so full of false accusations that I couldn’t get through it. The man argues first and foremost through attacks on others’ credibility. I do not, for example, “wave credentials” at anybody, not for my friends or detractors. I note only that credentials do matter, and that in any area of science, a qualified scientist should be respected as having the right to a dissent, even if it’s a minority position, AND, that one shouldn’t treat qualified scientists as kooks or people who can be dismissed with an airy wave of the hand. That is all I have ever said on the subject of credentials; Orac’s dishonesty in this leads me to the (admittedly ad hominem) conclusion that he can’t be trusted to be honest on anything else.
Of course, notice (as Joseph did) that Dean neglected to point out a single instance of a "false accusation." Surely if I'm that dishonest, it should have been child's play to point one example of my "dishonesty" out. Second, he characterizes my debunking of Dr. Al-Bayati's nonsense as being primarily an ad hominem attack, when in reality I spent about one paragraph on Dr. Al-Bayati's credentials (or lack thereof, actually) and many long paragraphs addressing the meat of his report. Truth be told, I had learned some unflattering things about Dr. Al-Bayati's previous work that I could have pointed out but intentionally refrained from doing so in order to focus on the report itself. (I will not go into them here, either.) If all you knew about what I wrote is what Dean said, you'd have thought that all I did was to trash Dr. Al-Bayati, when in fact questioning his credentials was a small part of what I wrote.

But the funniest thing of all is that, a couple of comments before his broadside at me, Dean had confirmed exactly what I said about his penchant for arguing from authority. How? He had waved Dr. Al-Bayati's credentials about (metaphorically speaking), of course! But that wasn't enough. He had also pointed out an endorsement of Dr. Al-Bayati's report by Andrew Maniotis, Ph.D., someone whom Dean termed a "Professor of Pathology at the University of Illinois at Chicago." Well, not exactly a Professor, Dean (at least not a full Professor), but rather an Assistant Professor and a Ph.D. researcher. (To be fair, I did notice that his department web page hasn't been updated in a long time, making it possible that, since he finished his postdoc in 1997, he may have recently been promoted to Associate Professor). Also, Maniotis is not a pathologist, although most people, probably including Dean, wouldn't realize that from his title. (Most people just aren't aware that most academic pathology departments have Ph.D. basic science researchers on their faculties who are not pathologists but are professors of pathology; just because someone has the title of Professor of Pathology does not necessarily mean that person is a pathologist.) None of this, a priori, means he is wrong, but he's probably no more qualified to comment authoritatively on HIV than Dr. Al-Bayati. Also, Dr. Maniotis has just as much of a bias as Dean, Dr. Al-Bayati, or Christine Maggiore as shown by--surprise! surprise!--the fact that he just happens to have signed on to a letter by the Perth Group, to be on the Board of Advisors (with Dr. Al-Bayati) of the HIV/AIDS "dissident" group Alive and Well (founded by Christine Maggiore), and to have been characterized by Dean himself as thinking that "the HIV/AIDS theory is hogwash." (To be fair, though, I will give Dr. Maniotis props for doing what sounds like some rather interesting research on vasculogenic mimickry in melanoma and chromatin structure in cancer cells. I may even look up a couple of his articles to see what he's up to.)

In any case, I'm sure Dean is incapable of seeing the irony in his own statements and how his own response simply confirmed my assessment of him.


  1. Orac

    I read this post and it was the first time I've heard about Dr. Al-Bayati. I find it interesting that no-one could find an actual pathologist (that is an MD who has taken specialty training in the discipline of pathology) to make the claim that Eliza Jane died of something other than AIDS. She had an AIDS-defining illness, and I don't know of any competent pathologist (and I'm one myself) who wouldn't have made that diagnosis. Dr. Al-Bayati may teach and work in the department of pathology, but he's not qualified (or trained) to make those diagnoses.

    Alas, I think the denialists are working from a predetermined, irrational viewpoint and evidence is not going to change this. But you gotta keep telling the truth. Keep it up.

  2. Orac,

    I just wanted to give you a general "thumbs up" on your blog. I really do enjoy reading your posts, and I'm especially impressed with your recent posts on the HIV/AIDS tragedy of that little girl. They are well written, sometimes (and always appropriately) amusing, and easy for a non-medical person (me) to read. Thanks for all your work.

  3. The PDF report was a very good read and just reaffirmed everything that had been previously mentioned. I don't think that Dean can manage to simply dismiss something a third time by merely claiming 'dishonesty' without starting to look really biased or pushing an agenda. Not that I expect any actual reply anyway.

  4. A few months ago, I heard about the report published by Salon (and others) about how mercury in vaccines causes autism. As the parent of an autistic child, I was naturally interested, and this was, indeed, the first time I'd heard this particular theory, so I started to do research.

    In the process, I found this blog and some others that I continue to read, so that was a good thing. I also did a great deal of research into the mercury/autism thing and felt I could safely discount it, particularly when I check my child's vaccination records and found that, indeed, there were no thimerisol vaccines used (we live in Australia, which discontinued thimerisol use in vaccines in the 1990s).

    ANYway, I have since fallen down the rabbit hole with regard to pseudoscience and strange quasi-religious movements (yes, I do see some of the anti-vax and mercury parents and other groups as a sort of quasi-religious cult, and yes, I know a good deal about cults, both religious and otherwise). I'm a pretty well educated person, but honestly, I had no idea that there were so many fringe groups with bizarre beliefs centered on pseudoscience and what appeasr to be outright mumbojumbo.

    I've known for a long time that the majority of people can't or won't make the effort to reason something out or to examine evidence logically, but I really am kind of shellshocked to see the vast numbers of presumably otherwise reasonable people who are part of some anti-this or conspiracy-that group dealing with medicine.

    I'm not sure I actually wanted to know about these people, actually. Oh, if only I'd taken the blue pill...

  5. Arguing technical stuff before a lay audience is often a waste of time.

    For what it is worth, when someone questions HIV causing AIDS- I ask if (s)he thinks that tens-of-thousands of academic, government and commercial researchers worldwide, studying AIDS in the clinic and the lab over more than twenty years are all deluded. I encounter so few HIV-deniers that I can't tell you how effective it is, it shut a couple people up.

  6. As others have mentioned, this has been a great series to read, one of the most effective debunkings I have seen in a while.

    it leaves me wondering, though, why in the world anyone would want to deny that HIV causes AIDS. What is the agenda?

    It seems to make no sense at all. At leat the mercury/autism thing makes sense, it that it would be nice to find a preventable cause of autism. But the HIV denial seems to serve no purpose at all. After all, something must cause AIDS, and the (solidly-established) cause is preventable, as well as treatable. Any idea why this cult is attractive to anyone?

  7. Joseph,

    I have often wondered what the incentive is to insist the irrefutable evidence for HIV=AIDS is untrue is pure desperate denial.

    I don't think it's unlike victims of a traumatic experience. Despite the reality of the event, they may block it to such an extent that at some point, it didn't happen (in their minds).

    HIV=AIDS is such an intensely horrid idea to them....the thought of sexual responsibility, faced with your own mortality, anything seems better.

  8. Hey Orac,

    Just found the site and have spent hours going back and reading old posts. I was going to comment at some point, and then I watched ER tonight (I'm not a doctor, so it doesn't drive me crazy). One of the storylines was a mother who comes in with a child who has pneumonia. As the child gets worse, the team start finding evidence of a compromised immune system. At this point I turned to my co-watcher and said "the mom is HIV+ but denies the link between HIV and AIDS" (having just read all the stuff here). And what do you know, that's exactly the story! Mom starts spouting off about "toxins" and "healthy lifestyles". My cable kept cutting out, so I don't know exactly where it went (I have a sneaking suspicion that it ended happily, with the mom finally accepting to put her kid on meds) and I'm not sure that it forcefully enough made the point that there is no (valid) debate about the source of AIDS. But it was very interesting nonetheless.

  9. I don't think you are going to convince Dean of the errors of his logic and scientific understanding.

    Dean has already accused Nick Bennett of being dishonest so he will presumably ignore any thing that he writes. I should also add that Dean has never provided an example of where Nick has been dishonest.

    I am a "pathetic little bully" and a "fascist" because I tried to get Dean to answer some of my questions regarding Duesberg's theories. Dean apparently thinks he is qualified enough to endorse Duesberg's ideas but not qualified to answer any serious questions.

    Dean cannot debate the science. All he has at the end is an appeal to authority.

  10. I also watched "ER" last night with the HIV denialist subplot. I don't have cable... but my attention wavered in and out (something about having to converse with spouse).

    Apparently the mom was convinced to treat (and test?) her son by a simpathetic nurse.

    My impression was that the writers were re-writing the outcome to what they think would have happened if Maggiore had brought her daughter to competent medical doctors (definitely more competent than the three she consulted). One doctor in the program left in disgust ranting about the whacked out proclamations from the mother.

    Also, I don't think it was a coincidence that it was broadcast on "World AIDS Day"

  11. In the 1980's I might have considered that HIV didn't cause AIDS, or that HIV combined with some other pathogen, was the culprit, but its 2005, and we know better now.

    I've been HIV positive since 1991 (at least). I don't use drugs, I don't smoke, I eat a balanced diet, and except for not getting enough exercise, live a very healthy life. Over the years I've watched my T cell percentage drop from 30% down to 11%. Since I've been on meds for 2 years its gone up to just over 20%. I'm not under any illusion about what I'm facing.

  12. Flagrant conflicts of interest in the Maggiore/Scovill household.

    Maggiore for her empire of self-promotion and book sale revenues. Her husband, Robin Scovill for his film, “The Other Side of AIDS” - a pathetic excuse for a “documentary” that is about as biased as one can get for supporting the ridiculous idea that AIDS is not caused by HIV.

    From the grave their daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, has probably written the most accurate review of his film - a deadly fantasy!

  13. A longtime AIDS Denialist Fintan Dunne has interviewed Al-Bayati and Andrew Maniotis.

    Interview with Al-Bayati and Maniotis

    They have clearly read the comments made by yourself, Trent McBride and Nick Bennett. They have also left some traces of their internet searches.

    The only new point that has been added is that the alleged allergic reaction was apparently caused by the dye in the amoxicillin preparation.

    According to Dunne Red Dye 40 is chemically related to Nevirapine. ????

  14. A longtime AIDS Denialist Fintan Dunne has interviewed Al-Bayati and Andrew Maniotis.

    Interview with Al-Bayati and Maniotis

    They have clearly read the comments made by yourself, Trent McBride and Nick Bennett. They have also left some traces of their internet searches.

    The only new point that has been added is that the alleged allergic reaction was apparently caused by the dye in the amoxicillin preparation.

    According to Dunne Red Dye 40 is chemically related to Nevirapine. ????

  15. Why would someone want to deny the HIV-AIDS link?

    I think it is dangerous to hypothesise too far. People have different reasons.

    Winston Zulu was at one stage a HIV Denialist he was featured in Christine Maggiore's movie. He was apparently a good friend of Maggiore's. She and others convinced him to stop taking antiretrovirals. Until he became seriously ill. He then had another rethink.

    Here are his words:I was already looking for a way out, something that meant I wasn't inevitably going to die. So here were these people saying, 'It's all been this vast mistake. It's not what causes Aids.' Looking back, I think it was about wishing Aids away.


    Winstone Zulu survived his period of HIV Denial. Others aren't as lucky.

  16. Chris,

    I'll have to listen to the full interview later after work, but one thing that I did notice from listening to a few minutes of it right now is that Dr. Maniotis was referred to as a "pathologist," when he is not a pathologist--as I pointed out above.

    That's just downright deceptive. Maniotis doesn't have an M.D. and has not trained in pathology. The reason he's a "professor of pathology" is because he happens to do basic research in a pathology department. He is probably even less qualified than Al-Bayati to comment, who at least has a degree in veterinary medicine.

  17. Listening to HIV science is enough to curdle the brain, results are the real acid test: Allopathic aids cures--nil/0/naff all

    "He was one of my most dramatic recoveries with AIDS, and the reason I say that is that he was the most far gone. He was in the absolute, end stage -- they have that wing in the hospital where they have given up on you. You can smoke pot and do anything you want. They had given up on him."—Dr Shulze, who cured 16 from last stage full-blown AIDS.

  18. You need to go up and read the post from Dec. 2nd.

    Also, anything from John Scudamore's site is not going to get you far. It is full of misinformation and plenty of tin-foil hat conspiracy stuff:

  19. If I undestand this right-

    Dean dismisses those who disagree with him by claiming they're dishonest.

    You guys dismiss those who disagree with you by saying they wear tinfoil, or that they can't handle technical jargon, or that they're religious fundamentalists.

  20. Give me a break. I don't dismiss Dean (or any other AIDS denialist) because they "wear tinfoil hats" (although some of them--not so much Dean, though--certainly do say stuff that puts them in with the tinfoil hat -wearing crowd.

    I dismiss Dean because he's wrong on this issue, and demonstrably so based on present science, and I try to back up what I say.

  21. Firstly, I hope Orac and others don't blame me for any time they waste listening to Fintan Dunne's interview or any nausea experienced. It is remarkably content free. They do talk about the steatosis of the liver which demonstrates that they have read comments by Orac, Trent McBride and Nick Bennett but do not address in any detail the criticisms that have been made.

    You guys dismiss those who disagree with you by saying they wear tinfoil, or that they can't handle technical jargon, or that they're religious fundamentalists.

    In terms of inductive reasoning if something appears on the website you should be skeptical. There is a good probability that it is false or unsubstantiated. This is not deductive reasoning. It does not necessarily mean that it is false.

    The only way to determine the veracity of the claim is to look at the evidence. Richard Schulze is an ND not a MD. He claims to have cured several people of AIDS yet he can produce no documentation or evidence to support his claims.

    The thing that amazes me about AIDS Denialists of all the different flavours is that they subject "orthodox" science to endless skepticism but are incredibly credulous regarding claims made by fellow Denialists.

    Dean is lacking in the knowledge or training that would be necessary to evaluate Al-Bayati's report. Even for lay-people there are many factors that should trigger skepticism in the report. Al-Bayati rejects the histological evidence for presence of HIV in the brain tissue yet he argues for the presence of parvovirus despite no serology. Nevertheless Dean presents Al-Bayati's report as the truth.

  22. Okay... I have two questions:

    1) My understanding is that a person who does forensic pathology on humans needs to be a qualified medical doctor to work on humans... so I assume that means that the person has to be a licensed HUMAN medical doctor. In what state or country does Dr. al-Bayati licensed to work on humans?

    2) As a person who has been on Usenet (slightly) longer than Orac... why should I take anything John Scudamore (in case you didn't know, that is the name of the owner of the website) says seriously?

    I even provided website that showed what kind of "data" he had on his website. I am not dismissing him because of one or two errors, but of several years worth of pure sillyness. Once upon a time I actually read the documents on his website. I was taken aback by one which seemed to describe the American Indian and their "filthy habits" and further degrading comments, only to realize it was written well over a century ago. It turns out that it was rarely that Scudamore used documentation from the 20th, much less the 21st, century! Sometimes he posts something in the newsgroup without really understanding what it means, he then gets taken to task for misinterpreting the document. This is one reason why I never really killfiled him, just for the pure entertainment (unlike some other voracious posters of absolute nonsense... sorry, T.H.E. Probe, I just don't have the patience with the more prolific loons!).

  23. Another mundane observation:

    Two of the doctors that examined Eliza Jane before her death were members of Christine's Advisory Board

    Dr Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH
    Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
    University of Southern California Medical Center
    Los Angeles, CA

    Dr Philip Incao, MD
    Medical Doctor and Homeopath
    Founder of Steiner Holistic Medical Center
    Denver, CO

    As are the "pathologists" Al-Bayati and Maniotis.

    Dr Mohammed Ali Al-Bayati, PhD, DABT, DABVT
    Pathologist, Toxicologist
    President of Toxi-Health International
    Dixon, CA

    Dr Andrew Maniotis, PhD
    Program Director for the Department of Pathology, Anatomy, Cell Biology and Bioengineering
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    Chicago, IL

    and not to forget Peter Duesberg, Harvey Bialy, Peggy O'Mara of Mothering magazine and others.

  24. Orac,
    I was responding to some of the comments I've read in this thread, not so much to you. I find your use of quotation marks, er, weird and sort of childish, but I agree that you did respond to a lot of what he and the people he cites claim. I don't have a dog in this fight, at all, nor the education to figure it out for myself.

    So for me it is a battle of the experts. On one side highly qualified people are saying it is almost certainly AIDS. On the other hand, people who are otherwise rational are saying it isn't, (you might not think Dean is otherwise rational, but he is) are presenting their own experts, and questioning the honesty of the other experts...

    What's one to do? On the one hand, when I read that the theory Dean Esmay subscribes to is "far right quackery" I bristle. I'm familiar with Dean's blog, and I can be my own expert on his politics. He is a libertarian, maybe center right. I know neither honesty nor accuracy are the paramount concerns of the author of that statement.

    Then there is the argument that the vast majority of scientists believe something- so anybody who disagrees is part of a cult. Again, I call bullshit. Anyone familiar with the history of science knows scienctists are fallible and corruptible. Science provided moral support for slavery in America- as scientists got paid to show African-Americans were genetically inferior. They did so for decades.

    When people make arguments that are, in effect, ways to AVOID relevant arguments, that indicates their arguments that are relevant are weak.

    Finally, while I don't know what Dean Esmay stands to gain by denying the HIV/AIDS connection, I do know that billions of dollars, and thousands of careers, are dependent upon that connection being real.

    What I find most compelling is the argument that the number of AIDS cases in Africa is exagerated ... since most of the Africans who are diagnosed with AIDS aren't tested for AIDS... I mean that should make anybody cry shenanigans...

    Anyway, I think (maybe "guess" or "trust" would be better words) Dean is wrong and you are right. Trent McBride's piece convinced me.


  25. "Then there is the argument that the vast majority of scientists believe something- so anybody who disagrees is part of a cult. Again, I call bullshit. Anyone familiar with the history of science knows scienctists are fallible and corruptible. Science provided moral support for slavery in America- as scientists got paid to show African-Americans were genetically inferior. They did so for decades."

    Besides being an obvious strawman (with a dash of poisoning the well thrown in for good measure), that, my good sir, is also variant of a rhetorical technique known as the Galileo Gambit. It is a technique in which the person using it tries either to don the mantle of Galileo as a scientific rebel. The variant you're using tries to cast doubt on current science (and by implication give credibility to the idea being defended or discussed) just because scientific understanding has been wrong about various things in the past. Unfortunately, in this case (as is the usual case for this particular gambit), it's an irrelevant diversion, a red herring. Just because scientists have been wrong in the past does not make pseudoscientific wingnuttery like AIDS denialism correct or even mildly credible, nor does it cast doubt on our present understanding of how HIV causes AIDS. Data talks, and the present data is overwhelmingly in support of the hypothesis that HIV is the primary causative agent of AIDS.

    As has been said by Michael Shermer and Carl Sagan in various forms, "They laughed at Copernicus. They laughed at the Wright brothers. Yes, well, they also laughed at the Marx Brothers. Being laughed at does not mean you are right." (One other variant says they "laughed at Bozo the Clown.) Just because AIDS deniers are dismissed by the scientific community does not make them correct or credible.

    As for Dean, he is the one who made this personal first by questioning my honesty on at least one occasion on his blog, one occasion on Catallarchy, and on at least another occcasion that I heard about through a third party. I've never questioned his honesty (although, given his behavior towards me, perhaps I am being foolish by trying to stay on the high road). Dean seems so convinced that he is correct about this and so sensitive about criticism on this particular issue that he truly seems unable to envision any other explanation for someone disagreeing with him on this other than that the person must be lying, even though he can't point out a single lie that I have told about this issue (or any other, for that matter). In essence, Dean has labeled me a liar because I have rebutted his HIV/AIDS wingnuttery in very strong terms and made a couple of snarky (but supportable) comments about his defense of teaching ID in the classroom and his tendency to wave around the credentials of HIV denialists that he agrees with, people like Duesberg, Bialy, and Al-Bayati.

    That being said, I'm glad that you're finally convinced, however it happened and whoever was finally responsible.

  26. I have read elsewhere (but I missed seeing it myself) that ABC News Primetime did a story on Maggiore. Here it is:

    You will notice that it has a link to the LA Coroner's report (along with al-Bayati's)... but there are problems downloading it, apparently stemming from problem with the ABC server... so Peter Bowditch put it on his:

  27. Ah, I just checked... the link from ABC News has been fixed, and loaded okay:

    Surely Trent McBride and Nick Bennett may want to check it out.

  28. "Besides being an obvious strawman (with a dash of poisoning the well thrown in for good measure), that, my good sir, is also variant of a rhetorical technique known as the Galileo Gambit. It is a technique in which the person using it tries either to don the mantle of Galileo as a scientific rebel. The variant you're using tries to cast doubt on current science (and by implication give credibility to the idea being defended or discussed) just because scientific understanding has been wrong about various things in the past..."

    You don't know what a strawman is. I specifically responded to the argument that I should trust the majority of scientists BECAUSE THEY ARE A MAJORITY OF SCIENTISTS. Therefore citing an example of a time when a majority of scientists were wrong is not a strawman.

    From Wikipedia: "A straw-man argument is the practice of refuting a weaker argument than an opponent actually offers. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to your opponent."

    As for this Galileo Gambit crap- "The variant you're using tries to cast doubt on current science... just because scientific understanding has been wrong about various things in the past..."

    That in fact, IS a strawman argument. I'm not saying I disagree with the HIV/AIDS theory, 1st of all, so it doesn't even apply. 2nd- I rejected the idea that I should trust the majority of scientists simply because they are the majority of scientists. I NEVER said I should DISTRUST the majority opinion just because it is a majority opinion- I said the fact that a majority believes something is not enough alone. Again, I'm not defending an idea- through implication or otherwise- I simply reject the argument that I should agree with a majority of scientists ONLY because they are a majority or scientists.


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