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Bauer’s Continuing War

Since Bauer’s War was published, Prof Bauer has delivered yet another blow, from the safety of his heavily moderated blog, in the disinformation campaign he and Rethinking AIDS president, David Crowe, are waging against the Perth Group and their sympathizers. It is symptomatic of the corruption wrought by the infection of politics and ambition on a mind still capable occasionally of cool analysis, and so deserves a notice here. Please keep in mind when reading the following that Prof Bauer is a highly credentialed Professor Emeritus of Science Studies at the prestigious Virginia Tech. It is easy to forget.

In a reply from Bauer to (retired biochemist) chemical engineer, Eugene Semon, we find following remarkable passage (we have numbered the arguments and our comments for easy reference):

1)      What is really simple, clear and direct, as to “the existence issue”, is this:
One cannot prove a negative.

2)      How do you imagine the general public reacts to an insistence that the existence of “HIV” has never been proven? With a great big yawn. So what?

3)      The experts respond that their drugs work, QED.

4)      On the other hand, that even a mainstream monograph (Wormser) states — in the chapter by Weiss and Cowan — that there is no gold standard HIV test, that no such test can diagnose or confirm the presence of HIV,

5)      and that false positives are common in low-prevalence populations — that’s simple, direct, clear, and meaningful, consequential, suitable for winning court cases.

We’ll take it point for point:

1)      Bauer is now summarizing the Perth Group’s entire enterprise as an attempt to prove the non-existence of HIV, which constitutes an elementary error, as he correctly points out. As one can see in point 5, Bauer even pretends that the Perth Group’s (in consultation with Anthony Brink) legal strategy consists in attempting to deliver final proof of the non-existence of HIV, rather than demonstrating that it has not been isolated (which is of course by no means final proof that it doesn’t exist). We have pointed out many times that these increasingly caricatured presentations of the Perth Group’s work is one of the cornerstones in RA’s anti-Perth propaganda, as well as the clearest proof one could ask for that this campaign is in progress. Bauer is a professor of Science Studies, he is able to read and understand nuanced arguments, and he knows very well that the Perth Group is not committing the basic “fallacy” he falsely attributes to them.

2)      RA president David Crowe has summarised the rationale for RA’s passenger virus strategy by comparing the news that HIV has not been shown to exist with parachuting into a medieval French village and telling people that God doesn’t exist, the implication being that the message is so advanced and so offensive that the messenger would be burned at the stake before he could change a single mind. But Prof. Bauer apparently has reliable information that disproof of the existence of God in David Crowe’s medieval French village would have provoked a yawn at best (or worst). This is news, but of course not in terms of the general incoherence of RA’s position.

3) The experts (the clergy in Crowe’s analogy) would simply respond that the HIV drugs (Confession and prayer in the analogy) work, according to Bauer. If this counter-argument is as effective as Bauer claims, what makes him think it would be less effective if one tried to convince the public that they’re infected with a passenger virus which is not reliably detected by the HIV tests? Would the drugs cease to work of a sudden?

4) As demonstrated in Bauer’s War, once he has misrepresented the Perth Group’s position, Bauer rarely fails to assume the identical position and pretend it’s his own. That is also the case here. Using mainstream references to demonstrate that there is no gold standard for the HIV tests, and consequently no way of telling if someone is infected with HIV, is a perfect summary of the Perth Group’s work and legal strategy.

5) Bauer admittedly has introduced an original twist. Once he has shared what is apparently no longer the Perth Group’s discovery, that the mainstream admits there is no way of telling if a person is infected with HIV, he shares another unique insight: In low prevalence-populations false positive HIV test results are common. A judge will no doubt be interested in learning how  Bauer distinguishes a false positive from a true positive test right after he has argued convincingly that this is not possible.

Assuming we and the judge were to accept Bauer’s claim that false positives occurring at high(er) rate in low prevalence populations is a knock-out argument against the HIV tests, he has at the same time knocked out just about every other test for every other condition, since the truth of the statement is based on calculations that apply equally to every diagnostic test.

Perhaps Bauer’s point is that the HIV tests are unusually prone to false positives, though why that would be the case only in low-prevalence populations is one of the great RA mysteries.  But how do we know about these false positives, assuming with Bauer that we do know about them? Because the test algorithms, combinations of tests, are excellent at catching them. Any HIV professional, including Duesberg, would testify under oath, and with great conviction that current HIV testing is state of the art.

The same applies to the impressive-sounding ”70 conditions  known to produce a positive test result”. We know they are false positives because the extensive, state-of-the-art HIV research has identified them as false positives.

Still 70 conditions sounds like a whole lot, maybe there is something funny about HIV tests after all.  Let us compare with Treponema pallidum, a bacterium and therefore easily visualisable, much easier to deal with than HIV.  A single randomly chosen source gives us about 20 conditions (and there are undoubtedly more) many of them similar to those causing  positive HIV tests:

{short description of image}
TABLE 2
Causes of False-Positive Serologic Tests for Syphilis
 


Nontreponemal causes
Acute condition (<6 months)  


Chronic condition (>6 months) 


Pneumonia
Viral
Pneumococcal
Mycoplasma
Hepatitis
Tuberculosis
Mononucleosis
Chancroid
Chickenpox
Human immunodeficiency virus infection
Measles
Malaria
Immunizations
Pregnancy
Laboratory error
Liver disease
Malignancy
Intravenous drug use
Aging
Connective tissue disorders
Multiple blood transfusions
Treponemal causes
Acute condition (<6 months)  


Chronic condition (>6 months)  


Mononucleosis
Lyme disease
Leprosy
Malaria
Systemic lupus erythematosus

Information from references 5 and 8.

{short description of image}

The results in the table are for a so-called non-treponemal test, i.e a non-specific antibody test, which is why a confirmatory Treponema  pallidum-specific test is needed, much like the HIV screening tests are confirmed by a Western Blot. However, false positives can occur on the confirmatory test for the same reason they occur on HIV tests: cross-reacting antibodies. False positive results can also come about as a result of past infection with Treponema pallidum, but the ratio of false positive tests due to cross reaction vs past infection is difficult to determine, as one might imagine. The result of these various difficulties is the familiar array of complex test algorithms, multiple-antigen Western Blot confirmatory testing, professional interpretation, clinical case story investigations etc.  to arrive at sensitivities and specificities similar to those claimed for HIV tests.

Keep in mind this is for a test, one single, randomly chosen test, that does have a gold standard, namely the Treponema pallidum organism itself (what role Treponema pallidum actually plays in tertiary syphilis is a different issue).  So what could one possibly achieve by pointing out that the HIV test, lacking a gold standard, is fraught with the same difficulties as most other tests for microorganisms that can be visualised and do have a gold standard? The answer should be obvious: the comparison will lend much needed credibility to the HIV test in the eyes of any competent judge. And as Bauer says, what could possibly be  more ”simple, direct, clear, and meaningful, consequential, suitable for winning court cases”?

CLAUS JENSEN

3 Responses to “Bauer’s Continuing War”

  1. Gene Semon says:

    Claus :o ),

    It is correct that you and Val Turner and Henry Bauer agree that “one CANNOT prove a negative”.

    It is also correct that I’ve attacked David Crowe for the same thing as you’ve stated above: clouding the minds of dissidents. But at this stage, I don’t see any forward progress in repeating the old charges against Crowe, especially when “Bauer’s War” includes censoring me at his blog.

    So since you’ve mentioned me Claus, and flattered me as a “retired biochemist”, I’d like to set the record straight.

    “Simple, direct and clear” was in originally in one of my posts and – shades of “what’s her name again?” – the identical words show up in the response of our favorite emeritus professor.

    And I’m a retired chemical engineer – the distinction is important because chemical engineers do open book tests and biochemists have the fundamental reactions of living cells in their heads. I do claim amateur status in a new field of expert witnessing – the history of scientific controversies.

    I think readers are entitled to know complete details about the latest battle in Bauer’s War, hence the censored posts (context at Bauer’s Blog: how will the truth of HIV come out):

    (Note: These were written in an emotional state of frustration – I’m sick of the “incoherence” evasion. But in retrospect, if Professor Bauer wants to argue little substance without the Chris Rawlins quote, that’s reasonable.)

    3/26 post: A warning!!!??

    I’m outta here anyway …

    So OK fine, everyone who doesn’t get it and refuses to engage substance, repeat Henry’s mantra … he’s incoherent … he’s incoherent … this circle jerk is sooooo much fun …

    It’s not even true you know that you can’t prove a negative!

    Here’s a proven negative: the electron doesn’t follow a pathway like a planet in the solar system.

    What a stupid restriction on human imagination and the frontiers of science worth investigating!

    3/27 post: Wow – all this is just too much for you – that’s what you just said.

    So go ahead, tell your fans it’s my fault that the nonexistence vs “numbers game” arguments are failing to “cohere” in your brain.

    I’m not your enemy man, this should be clear after all these years.

    So I don’t care if you censor me – it’s gonna come out anyway.

    More on the problems with proof based on fHIV numbers from a coherent point of view;

    Chris Rawlins: “The Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA), which has been driving the ‘epidemic’ here for 25 years under the leadership of academic charlatans like Rob Dorrington, has just published its latest ASSA2008 model. As predicted they are saying the annual number of plague deaths in SA has reduced sharply because of the rapid expansion of the chemotherapy treatment programme in addition to substantial increases in condom use and other prevention strategies like circumcision. Just a brief initial glance( you can see the figures on their site) reveals the massive discrepancies with previous research evidence. For example our Human Sciences Research Council study of 2002 based on testing showed 500,000 prevalence between ages 5 to 14 whereas ASSA2008 shows just 33,000 for that year from age 5 to 14. If you try communicating with Dorrington et al they will ignore you, which is why the real communication is with those bemused Londoners emerging slowly into the light this morning.”

    Do you really think your position can escape this type of treatment?

    (Note 2: I’ve sworn off this line of argument (it’s a Jersey thing :o ), as Professor Bauer knows.)

  2. Gene Semon says:

    Here’s an introduction to this fascinating development in expert witnessing, where the historian “need not be a subject matter expert” and certain “historians are being called upon to provide testimony concerning the responsibility of industry in undermining the health of US citizens”:

    TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HISTORIANS ENTER THE COURTROOM by David Rosner

    http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl72+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs...

    Or http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp

  3. Gene Semon says:

    BTW, what if Professor Bauer is cross examined by the other side’s sharp attorney on false negatives?

    Can there be such a thing as false negatives, yes or no Professor Bauer?

    If he says “yes”, then the issue is over, HIV exists as defined by its markers and there’s your gold standard, ladies and gentleman of the jury …

    If he says “no”, then all negatives are true negatives and he’s contradicted himself on the absolute idea – cannot prove a negative.

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