Aids denialism at the Spectator

October 24th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, aids, bad science | 114 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 24 October 2009, The Guardian.

A lot of strange stuff can fly in under the claim that you are “simply starting a debate”. You may remember the Aids denialist documentary House Of Numbers from 3 weeks ago. Since then, it has received many glowing outings. The London Raindance film festival explained that they were proud to show it, and a senior programmer appeared on Youtube saying they had gone through the film at 15 second intervals, finding no inaccuracies at all.

This is pretty good for a film which suggests that HIV doesn’t cause Aids, but antiretroviral drugs do, or poverty, or drug use, but HIV probably doesn’t exist, diagnostic tools don’t work, and Aids is simply a spurious basket diagnosis invented to sell antiretroviral medication for a wide range of unrelated problems, and the treatments don’t work either.

But now the film has received an even more prominent platform. Here is Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, promoting the Spectator event next Wednesday at which they will be screening this film: “Is it legitimate to discuss the strength of the link between HIV and Aids? It’s one of these hugely emotive subjects, with a fairly strong and vociferous lobby saying that any open discussion is deplorable and tantamount to Aids denialism. Whenever any debate hits this level, I get deeply suspicious.”

Of course people will have some concerns. Despite international outcry, from 2000 to 2005 South Africa implemented policies based on the belief that HIV does not cause Aids, and declined to roll out adequate antiretroviral therapy. It has been estimated in two separate studies that around 350,000 people died unnecessarily in South African during this period.
We should also remember that “teach the controversy” is a technique beloved of American creationists, and of antivaccination campaigners (with whom Fraser Nelson has also, oddly, flirted). These groups know that in our modern media, where truth is halfway between the two most extreme views, to insert doubt is to win.

But debate is also good. So what kind of debate will the Spectator be hosting? They advertise a panel of “leading medical authorities”. There are four people on this panel. One is Lord Norman Fowler. He is not a “leading medical authority”.

Charles Geshekter is a professor of African history from the University of Chicago, and is therefore also not a “leading medical authority”. He says there is no AIDS epidemic in Africa, simply poverty, and that belief in the epidemic was a product of racism and “western sexual stereotypes”. In fact he calls it “The Plague That Isn’t”, and was on President Thabo Mbeki’s notorious Aids Advisory Panel in South Africa in 2000.

Beverly Griffin is an emeritus professor at Imperial College, from the field of virology but not HIV, who is quoted by the virusmyth website as saying that HIV may not cause Aids in the 1990s. Her views may now have changed, I hope they have, I have emailed her and hope to hear back.

Lastly, Dr Joe Sonnabend is a retired american doctor who was greatly involved in the treatment of people with Aids, but was also long regarded by many in the Aids denialist community as a fellow traveller, saying that the link between HIV and AIDS was unproven. More recently he has distanced himself from this view.

I’m sure they are erudite and accomplished, but it is not clear that the Spectator have assembled “leading medical authorities” on the specific question of whether HIV causes Aids. It is also fair to say, with the exception of Norman Fowler, that all the Spectator’s panellists have disputed the mainstream consensus on Aids at one stage or another. I’m not saying that is unacceptable, or presuming their current position. I am simply saying: this is who the Spectator have chosen to put on their panel of “leading medical authorities”, and they may not reflect the overwhelming consensus – which is not a dirty word – that HIV causes Aids, and that antiretroviral medication is an imperfect but overall beneficial treatment.

And then there is the film to which their debate is pegged. We do not have time in this short column to rehash its flaws, although you can find many documented at the excellent I would however ask Fraser about one scene, which makes a very simple point. Christine Maggiore appears many times in the film, talking emotively, explaining her choice not to take Aids medication, and that this is why she is alive.

Christine Maggiore is dead, Fraser. The film tells you that but in tiny letters at the very end and it says no more. She died of pneumonia aged 52. And her daughter died of untreated Aids aged 3. Because of her beliefs about Aids, Christine Maggiore did not take medication which has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to her unborn child during pregnancy. Her daughter, Eliza Jane, was not tested for HIV during her short life. Before she died. Of Aids.

I cannot see how a film which does not tell you that – in large, bold letters, perhaps, scrolling across the screen when Maggiore is speaking to you so passionately – how a film that frames its facts in such a fashion can possibly be a helpful starting point for an informed debate. It’s not “controversial”, it’s pointlessly misleading. “Starting a debate” is fine. With this film, and with these panellists, the Spectator has framed a very odd event indeed.

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114 Responses

  1. BLBS said,

    October 24, 2009 at 12:44 am

    It’s even worse, as those tiny letters at the very end say that Maggiore’s death was “unrelated to HIV.” But she died age 52 from multiple opportunistic infections (disseminated herpes, thrush and bilateral pneumonia). Yet the filmmaker claims “I am not a denialist.”

    I doubt Joe Sonnabend would claim to be a “leading medical authority,” but he is a respected clinician who was loved by his patients. And he has treated thousands of people with HIV, as he explains in this interview:

    I think he will be as outraged by the film as the rest of the reality-based community.

  2. mauve said,

    October 24, 2009 at 1:09 am

    This makes me sick and then angry.

    I’d like to see House of Numbers now. I’m intrigued as to how so many people have been taken in by it. I hope it contains some Derren Brown-like psychological tricks that I can laugh at and applaud, not just some dull denialist screed.

  3. TriathNanEilean said,

    October 24, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Great Ben, just the right tone to take concerning the panellists named. So much more effective than ranting – though it isn’t without a certain edge.

  4. Jonny said,

    October 24, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Its been an incredibly depressing week for me. As an HIV +ve patient doing very well on ARVs (with no side-effects whatsoever) who has flirted with denialism I now ashamed of having ever harboured doubts, and even for a moment thinking there was something sinister about my doctors. But that’s the pernicious effect that the tidal wave of hate propaganda against medics and scientists engaged in HIV work pouring forth in cyber space right now can have. Even people of sound mind, intelligent, with a basic schooling in science can start to have doubts.

    Back to this week. First of all on facebook, reading some of the comments by astounding comments by nutters and then worse a HIV+ gay guy from London who complained that none of the doctors he went to see would give him ‘answers’. Naturally he’s turned now his back on ARVs, regular checkups and has become a fully paid up denialist. I was tempted to drop him a note about Dr Anna Maria Geretti who surely is the country’s leading expert on HIV virology but then I figured that he’s probably exasperated many a busy clinician already with regurgitated nonsense from denalists websites. There’s a point of no return for some of these people: even as they face death they continue to believe.

    Then the Spectator, Nelson’s Blog and this article from beyond the journalistic grave by the forgotten Hodgkinson . I sense the battle lines are being drawn between the creationaist/denialists/pseduo-science camp and the academic and medical community. Its almost as if we have witnessed the birth of a new religion of ‘anti-science’: its followers display a similar zeal, unwavering faith a and fanatical belief in their own value systems. People I hope will reassure me that this isn’t the end of the war, just the beginning.

    I’m not sure where it will end. Late one night last week a BBC World Service programme late one night that followed a creationist and his charge of vulnerable 13 yr olds round a natural history museum. The creationist bluntly explained to his charges that the fossils were fakes and that evolutionary “theories” were a value system akin to a religion (and a museum was a church because it had a donation box!). I feel that sanity is slowly seeping away and we’re marching into a new era of paganism.

  5. SteveGJ said,

    October 24, 2009 at 8:03 am

    I’d be tempted to go along if it wasn’t £35 for a ticket. There is a slightly odd contradiction in the description of the panel. At the start it describes them as a panel of “leading authorities in their field”, although later on it refers to “leading medical authorities”.

    Even though Norman Fowler is not a medical expert, I think he should be an excellent choice as he is certainly an expert in the way in which medical and scientific advice is used to develop public health policy. I know that Ben has an allergic reaction to conservative politicians, but at the time the government gained considerable praise for its handling of publicity on the matter.

    A politician could also be well placed to deal with the tactics of polemicists, such as the maker of this film. I’d be more intrigued to understand what the makeup of the audience would be. I’ve no idea who is going to shell out £35 a seat for this, but hopefully it isn’t full of the sort of individuals chosen be the BBC for many of their studio debates where they deliberately choose polarised audiences to add drama.

  6. nongovernmentalindividual said,

    October 24, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Very depressing. Take this press quote from the film’s website:
    “Leung manages to present a barrage of intriguing theories debunking our generally accepted beliefs…”

    This kind of sums it up – these people think that everything is nothing more than a “belief”, and once they are in that place, then its just one belief against another. And so naturally the controversy has to be the truth…

    What is also quite ironic is that among the supposedly monolithic establishment, there is no shortage whatsoever of debate and nuance around what the corollary effects of “structural” factors like poverty, gender inequality, or human rights violations, have on the risk of becoming infected, on how quickly the virus affects people, and on how people respond to treatment. A cursory glance at the table of contents of most medical journals shows this. Moreover there are heated debates about whether global, health funding is overly “skewed” towards AIDS… and about the extent to which AIDS has generated major community health activism movements, and how it has more generally revolutionised thinking and commitment in regard to universal access to quality healthcare.

  7. Ken Zetie said,

    October 24, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I am reminded of the wonderful quotation from Oliver Wendell Holmes (yes, he of the controversial “Three generations of imbeciles” so perhaps not the best person to quote on implementing medical advice but still):

    “… the hydrostatic paradox of controversy. Don’t you know what that means? Well, I will tell you. You know that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was of the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way. And the fools know it.”

  8. Marco said,

    October 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    It appears the Spectator, and Fraser Nelson in particular, are jumping on the “contrarian” bandwagon. Anti-vaccination, as it is all a big conspiracy. Anti-HIV=AIDS, as it is all a big conspiracy. And anti-anthropogenic global warming, as it is all a big conspiracy. Just look at George Monbiot’s run-in with Fraser Nelson and his ilk:

  9. stever said,

    October 24, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    reasonable Spectator article on Aids denial

  10. fragmeister said,

    October 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I picked up on this over at the Spectator website and was bemused by the usual Daily Mail type comments being left. Is it me or is it usual for people who hold opinions that are contrary to the overwhelming evidence to choose to limit debate by saying how important it is that these (entirely discredited) ideas should be heard? I thought the reason we didn’t hear them much was because they had been listened to before, found wanting and science had moved on.

    Thanks Ben for proving my comment on the Spectator blog correct.

  11. John Moore said,

    October 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I’m one of the scientists (the legitimate ones) that Leung deceived into appearing in this shoddy film. He used Sasha Baron Cohen-style tactics to sit in our offices and disguise his true agenda – an “honest investigation”? Yeah, right….. Leung is an AIDS denialist, pure and unadulterated. And his multi-million dollar and its promotional budget was paid for by a few wealthy AIDS denialist backers that Leung consistently refuses to identify (so much for full and frank disclosure of funding sources….. expected of and honored by AIDS scientists, but ignored by those who criticize them.

    The film itself is deliberately edited to make AIDS scientists look bad, and to create controversy where none lies. And of course Leung’s friends are made to look wise and thoughtful, honest questioners of the truth, when the reality is very, very different. Like I say, it’s Sasha Baron Cohen in action…… But of course this film is no comedy intended to entertain; its effect will be to cause yet more people to become infected with HIV and die of AIDS.

    As Ben notes, there’s much material on the AIDS denialists, who they are and what they do, posted on the AIDS Truth website. Read it and weep that such crazy and evil people can still influence others to make poor choices with their lives. And pay particular attention to the postings about Duesberg, and also that pages on “The denialists who died of AIDS”.

  12. JamesP said,

    October 25, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Just a factual correction: You list Charles Geshekter’s institution as the University of Chicago. However, the site you link to lists his affiliation as California State University, Chico. As an alumnus of UChicago, I was flabbergasted to see such a person associated with the university, but it appears it isn’t true.

  13. Sadun Kal said,

    October 25, 2009 at 5:01 am

    I agree with many of the concerns raised in the above blog post, although I’m a HIV skeptic myself. The event doesn’t appear to be useful for getting anybody closer to the truth. And I haven’t seen the film but what you say about Christine Maggiore’s death not being revealed until the ending indeed indicates that the filmmakers were significantly biased.

    It also saddened me to read that Jonny above is “ashamed of having ever harboured doubts”, because of things like these. That is a very unfortunate state of mind. I think it’s terrible if people are forced to be afraid of doubting things, being skeptical, open-minded etc. People shouldn’t be punished for such things. Shame, guilt aso. should be excluded from the mind of a scientific thinker, subjective judgments should be ignored, to maximize objectivity.

    “Of all [Science’s] many values, the greatest must be the freedom to doubt.” as Richard Feynmman once wrote.

    Now… I’d like to attract attention to this comment over at Spectator left by the members of the Perth Group, the people who argue that the available data doesn’t prove the existence of HIV:

    “We have noticed with interest that Ben
    Goldacre and Richard Wilson have been challenging Fraser Nelson to a debate.

    According to Wilson and Goldacre, Fraser is ignorant of the facts. Wilson and Goldacre themselves are hardly HIV experts, so we are wondering what purpose such a debate would serve?

    It would seem a better ideas if Wilson and Goldacre oculd be persuaded to debate the Perth Group.

    We realise that this might not be a fair match-up, so we encourage Wilson and Goldacre to bring along an HIV expert of their own choosing.

    Yours sincerely


    I think this would be a good chance for Ben to arrange a better debate than the one from Spectator, and to debunk the arguments of the PG if possible. “HIV” either exists as a distinct retroviral particle, or it doesn’t. One of those views must indeed be the results of very Bad Science. So I think it’s a very appropriate task for someone like Ben Goldacre to confront the Perth Group. After all, something as trivial as the existence of “HIV” shouldn’t be much of an issue, if the mainstream view is truly based on solid evidence, which I don’t think is the case, unfortunately. So this is a critical issue worthy of a bit of effort to end the confusion caused by conflicting claims. I really want the truth to surface and the pseudoscience to sink as deep as possible.

    So I request that Dr. Goldacre invites the Perth Group to his podcast, or blog, or whatever he sees fit, in order to scrutinize their extraordinary arguments and clarify the probable truth about “HIV”. Here’s their website:

  14. Jonny said,

    October 25, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I was ashamed to have doubts because a) I delayed going on meds for too long b) doubted the very good intentions and experience of my clinic doctors at St Mary’s. But this is what denialism does to you.

    As for the pathetic pleading for the ‘middle way’ of the discredited Perth Group(sic), credit us all with some intelligence. They always crop up as some left-field, more reasonable group of ‘experts’ who deserve a hearing. They were rubbished as expert witnesses in a recent court case, and their website look like its not had a facelift since the mid-nineties.

    As John Moore has asked, who paid for House of Numbers ? Rath, Holford and media nutritionists ? Or was is some wealthy South Africans involved with the Mbeki regime ? Clearly some group as a) a lot to profit from b) a lot more to profit from …

    Its a very curious question that needs answered.

  15. Jonny said,

    October 25, 2009 at 9:31 am

    To answer my question about who might have funded the film, the credits are listed here:

    Recognise a few names from South Africa ? And there are several pictures of David Rasnick (employee of Matthias Rath’s vitamin empire) on the film’s facebook group.

  16. T.J. Crowder said,

    October 25, 2009 at 9:42 am

    @Ken Zetie: There you go, teaching the propaganda that the physicists would have us believe so we don’t make waves. We all know the level would be higher in the pipe stem end, it’s just common sense, and I have several conference abstacts to back me up. Sure, there’s all that so-called “data” from experiments funded by the hydrologist lobby, but we all know they’re in bed with the politicians and can’t be trusted.

  17. Marco said,

    October 25, 2009 at 10:22 am

    @Sadun Kal,

    Perhaps Ben should invite Peter Duesberg as his “expert” ?
    That has to be fun, considering the animosity between the two…

    Anyway, Ben versus the Perth Group would be evenhanded, considering that an Australian judge ruled that the Pert Group people were not experts (either). (points 129-140 and 141-154)

    But I would recommend against it. The Perth Group is merely after publicity. It’s like evolutionists debating creationists. No matter the scientific proof the former group shows, the creationists will reject it, but can then tout that “eminent scientists” have debated them…and lost.

  18. bse303 said,

    October 25, 2009 at 10:38 am

    What was it that the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre NSW had to say about The Smurf Group in their legal guide?

    “The evidence of both witnesses was held to be inadmissible. This was because neither of the
    applicant’s witnesses had any practical experience or qualifications in any of the disciplines to
    which their evidence pertained. Although they claimed to have done “wide reading” on the
    subjects that they gave evidence in relation to, neither witness had in fact been involved in actual
    work with HIV patients or in any clinical trials in relation to HIV.
    One of the so-called expert witnesses was said to be evasive and failed to explain complex
    scientific concepts with any ease or clarity. In addition, the witnesses failed to provide an
    alternative theory for the cause of AIDS. Their work was based solely on the critique of other
    scientific theories in the absence of any practical research to form the basis of their work. As a
    result the evidence was held to be outside the scientific mainstream and not accepted by the
    general scientific community. In addition, Sullan J found that the experts were not partial and
    objective and that they were largely motivated by a desire to assert the validity of their own
    theories over those of the mainstream scientific community.”

    Its funny how The Smurf Group do not include any of this information on their website… but then who would admit to making themselves look so spectacularly foolish?

  19. SteveGJ said,

    October 25, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    @Sadun Kal

    I’m not sure what grounds there are for skepticism on the basic principles of HIV being the cause of clnical AIDS (by which I mean the syndrome of strongly impaired immune systems coinciding with being found positive for HIV antibodies – there are othe conditions that can cause immuno-deficiency). I can’t speak as a medical expert, but I’m pretty used to being able to sort out credible evidence from the type of hotch-potch of inconsistent and often self-contradictory stuff expounded by many of the opponents of well proven treatments founded on good research.

    This is not to say that there aren’t scientific and medical orthodoxies that need challenging. That’s usually because the causative mechanisms are not very convincing and are sometimes characterised by dogmatic positions. The treatement and, indeed, diagnosis and classification of dyslexia is just such a case in point. Much of the activism surrounding the area of Autistic Spectrum Disorders falls in the same camp. The treatment of peptic ulcers was, rather more unusually, one where there was a straightforward causative mechanism, yet orthodox medical treatment appeared to rule out an infectious agent despite there being evidence (in retrospect) of this existing.

    However, AIDs is simply not one of those where there is any real doubt among the researchers actually doing the work. Anybody who disbelieves that there is a causative mechanism involving the HIV retro-virus has to come up with some fairly elaborate thinking to explain how it is that the death rate in western countries of those diagnosed HIV+ has plummeted since the 1980s, as increasingly sophisticated anti-retroviral treatments have been developed. What is also a very strong pointer to the accuracy of the HIV theory as that the mechanisms by which these drugs interfere with the HIV virus is very well understood – these are not treatment regimes which have arisen by suck-and-see type trials. The engineering of these drugs has gone right down to that of cellular mechanisms.

    The HIV theory of AIDs is extremely well founded in science at the most basic levels. An infectious agent with a long incubation period, spread preferentially by certain high-risk activities is an extremely good fit with the way this disease has developed in populations. It manifestly does not fit some of the other theories – such as malnutrician or just drug abuse (if that was the case, then we would have seen this long before, more heavily correlated with social conditions than something that has clearly increased over time).

    I think the real problem here is that, from the very outset, the diagnosis and treatement of AIDs has been unfortunately wrapped up in politics and social issues such as no other disease that I can think of. Gross & Levitt in their book, Higher Superstition (written in 1994) identified this as a particular issue. When there are outspoken individuals out there very willing to impune the motives of medical authorities, governmental bodies and some of the special interest groups, this makes for a very heady mix and the breeding of conspiracy theories. This is especially so when the theories that do emerge are an uncomfortable fit with some people’s chosen lifestyle.

    It’s to be repeated over and over again – the evidence for a major causative mechnism other than HIV for the cause of AIDs is vanishingly small. The fact that a couple of maverick scientists have held onto opposing theories with virtually nothing in the way of credible causative mechanisms is no basis for this sort of industry. It’s a superb example of where irrational special interest pressure groups start to interfere directly with scientific investigations. The responsible interest groups in this debate were supportive of these investigations and campaigned for better treatements. The damaging ones are those that undermine the credibility of some fine scientists by erroneous and damaging accusations of self-interest, bias and lack of objectivity.

    Now there is a good film to be made about the whole AIDs saga – but it is a documentary history, and how the various pressure groups and medical bodies have behaved. It is absolutely not over some rag-bag collection of carefully edited soundbites and emotive arguments questioning the basic science. The rapid diagnosis and treatment of the HIV virus, which is among the most pernicious, peverse and difficult of human infectious agents is something of which western medical science can be justly proud. The same can not be said over those individuals that have proposed irrational, and damaging theories without evidence and pushed them into vulnerable people, such as, notoriously, happened in SOuth Africa.

  20. davidgmwilson said,

    October 25, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Nobody should forget that the Publisher of the Speccie is Andrew Neil former editor of the Sunday Times, and then Hodgkinson’s boss. Neil is a good journalist, but like many, prefers a fight to the truth [he came a cropper in the libel courts over Death on the Rock in 1988/9 as a result]. Many of the rest of the people there – like former editor Charles Moore – seem to be driven by snobbery more than anything else, which of course appeals to the readership. It’s a shame about Fraser Nelson, who seems much less interesting than his predecessor Matthew d’Ancona. However whatever you think about their ideas, most them know how to write, which is not so common these days.

  21. SteveGJ said,

    October 25, 2009 at 1:52 pm


    I, too, quite like Andrew Neil as a feisty and entertaining journalist. However, he has form in this area. Under his editorship of the Sunday Times the paper did promote the line that HIV and AIDS (in Africa at least) were not connected. Of course that was quite a long time ago now, and that’s not to say that he would maintain that position now; I rather doubt it. But it’s still an interesting footnote.

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    October 25, 2009 at 4:44 pm

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  23. kim said,

    October 25, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Sorry to go off-topic here, but was anyone else disturbed by the wholly uncritical article in today’s Observer about a doctor who is apparently successfully treating infertility with traditional Chinese medicine?

  24. Marco said,

    October 25, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Kim @23, I think there’s quite a bit of placebo effect in the treatment. And in all honesty, that’s in the end the (not expressly noted) conclusion of the article as well: people don’t care HOW they got pregnant, as long as they do.

  25. Sadun Kal said,

    October 25, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    @Jonny: As far as I can see you still shouldn’t be ashamed of having doubts. The issue is that you apparently weren’t able to handle the doubts objectively. You ended up holding false beliefs about meds and docs and that’s the problem, not that you had doubts. Denial can render you biased for sure, thus doubts can even indirectly result in death. But doubts don’t always source from wishful thinking (denial), simply a desire to understand reality better can also give birth to doubts. In fact doubts are absolutely necessary for scientific progress. It’s possible to have a lot of doubts, yet still maintain objectivity and make accurate judgments about the probability of veracity of different arguments, which is likely to get you closer to the truth than ever before. So don’t condemn having doubts please, just defend your mind against cognitive biases instead.

    Apart from that, I’m pretty sure that the filmmakers are being deceitful when they say that they’re just naively questioning things and that HoN is not a film originating from a certain presupposition. Clearly John Moore is right about that lack of honesty. But all that is scientifically irrelevant. HoN is just a film and is not claimed to prove anything about “HIV”, it just raises important questions, even if not it’s totally unbiased.

    Same with whatever a judge thinks of the Perth Group’s right to ask questions, or the level of perceived beauty of the PG’s website. These too are scientifically very irrelevant, which would be especially clear if you knew more about why things are the way they are. Scientists don’t need judges to think for them or make unscientific decisions on their behalf.

    I’ve left a few comments relevant to your arguments at Spectator in case you want to learn more about my perspective:

  26. Sadun Kal said,

    October 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm


    You wrote:

    “Perhaps Ben should invite Peter Duesberg as his “expert” ?
    That has to be fun, considering the animosity between the two…”

    Peter Duesberg wouldn’t accept it. He is a pseudoscientist. He’s not capable of defending the scientific belief that “HIV exists” as a distinct retroviral agent against the Perth Group. He was the only one who really pretended to try so far by the way… So he’s still a better pseudoscientist than all the mainstream pseudoscientists in that regard.

    You also wrote:

    ” Ben versus the Perth Group would be evenhanded… But I would recommend against it… The Perth Group is merely after publicity…”

    Where is your open-mindedness? How can you be so sure? I don’t think that’s true. I’m not their publicist for example, I’m just a guy. Yet I want somebody to debate them too. All I value is scientific progress, and I suspect that they feel pretty much the same way. I’m willing to bet that they would also accept a private, confidential or secret debate. Maybe they can be convinced to never talk about it even if they seem to win it. Sign a contract with them, ensure that they won’t be able to talk about the exchange publicly. Even then they would want to debate Ben Goldacre or any “expert” just to reach that person’s mind, I bet. I’ve been following PG’s work for a while now and I know them better than any of you do probably. So maybe you should investigate my claim and think more open-mindedly about the Perth Group…

    “Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.”

  27. Marco said,

    October 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Seriously, Sadun Kal, you seriously think the Perth Group values scientific progress? You seriously think they would want a private debate and not be allowed to talk about it? Then I posit that you do NOT know the Perth Group. They have been informed on numerous occasions, even by Duesberg (hence their feud), that the virus HAS been isolated. And what do they say? “We don’t think so”. There, entrenched to the ultimate. They’ve even threatened to blow up the court case I referred to, when the defense attorney would call Duesberg or other dissenters as witnesses.

  28. Marco said,

    October 25, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Oh, and let me add that the Perth Group’s claims HAVE been investigated, found extremely wanting, often based on logical fallacies, ignorance of newer literature, and sometimes outright distortion of the literature. You will get a more useful discussion when talking to a brick wall. At least there you don’t need to repeat yourself a hundred times, only to get the same old discredited arguments thrown back at you.

  29. Sadun Kal said,

    October 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    @Marco; So you think Duesberg proved the PG wrong? Why exactly? Duesberg himself admits that he’s unwilling to respond to their questions. His excuse for staying silent is something sad like “Why do you have to ask me, why don’t you ask the orthodoxy?”. It’s pathetic, from a scientific perspective. Understandable though, considering his painful past.

    You seem to be misinterpreting what happened in that court case too. See the final paragraph of TIG’s position statement on HIV for getting a better understanding of why the PG wouldn’t want Duesberg to come to their “defense”:

  30. Sadun Kal said,

    October 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm


    You wrote:

    “…AIDs is simply not one of those where there is any real doubt among the researchers actually doing the work…”

    What does “real doubt” mean?

    I’m not a big fan of Duesberg but check this out; last year an article on Peter Duesberg was published in the DISCOVER magazine. I quote from the article’s description:

    “…Throughout history, rebel thinkers have been essential to the advancement of science by putting conventional wisdom to test. Lenzer therefore was stunned when, during her research, several respected scientists who were willing to consider Duesberg’s theories told her they preferred to remain anonymous rather than risk being ostracized by their peers. “A few highly placed physicians didn’t want their names used even though they thought Duesberg could possibly be right in part, if not in whole, about HIV,” Lenzer says. “Some were skeptical but felt that at a minimum his ideas should be tested rather than rejected out of hand.”…”

    You see… in Science people should ideally be unafraid of having doubts, and being honest about having them. The atmosphere in the world of HIV/AIDS has always been such that it is not possible for any criticism to the HIV theory to be considered rationally, let alone objectively discuss in scientific journals or in public. It is an extremely politicized, emotionalized “scientific field”. If you read the pathetic book “Denying AIDS” by Seth Kalichman (a prof. of psychology) that should become even clearer, where he seriously spends time fantastically trying to find links between HIV/AIDS skeptics to Nazis, Holocaust deniers etc. See a review:

    There have also been cases where various “AIDS Truthers” actually campaigned against skeptical scientists, journalists etc. pressure universities, media aso. to fire the people from their positions, stop their funding, insult in various ways (homophobes, flatearthers etc.) , and even express their wishes that “pure evil” skeptics should be charged through legal means and things like that. In short, there is a huge risk of punishment for any doubter.

    There is a huge industry out there, based on the HIV/AIDS theory. Thousands of researchers constantly seek more funding and this also results in them not being honest about the state of science, or reality. (An example: ) The presented image is always one of constant progress, when they admit less publicly that they don’t really know what’s going on. We had “understood” HIV very well 25 years ago too, we were going to find a vaccine in 2 years, but it’s still the same story… They still don’t know how their “virus” is actually causing their “AIDS”. There is confusion about how ARVs seem to help some patients. They invent new explanations every now and then only to later discover that once again it doesn’t fit the data, moving on without pause and with more optimistic claims, never fundamentally questioning the HIV theory. They can’t. Their lives depend on it. This is not a conspiracy, this is the sad truth of human nature and the flawed system we created which doesn’t protect us against such biases. Scientists may be better critical thinkers than politicians and economists, but they’re still humans with unscientific tendencies, especially obvious under the current atmosphere. See here for a clear demonstration of the bias I’m talking about:

    As far as I can tell, you, and pretty much everybody else around here, never took the time to actually examine the critical arguments against the mainstream science and mainstream politics in this case. You trusted the authorities, and are/were reluctant to give any credence to critics. For the most part you trusted statistics, you trusted activists, you trusted the media and you trusted the industry. Ultimately you didn’t properly question the science which was influenced by all those. You didn’t carefully examine the origins of “AIDS” (See When AIDS Began) and the assumptions virology in general is based on.

    But I don’t care about what you did in the past right now. Instead of asking you to look at the entire history of HIV/AIDS with a critical eye and spend weeks/months/years researching what happened in the past 25 years, I have a single, simple request. Don’t ask skeptics to prove the orthodoxy wrong, but instead ask the orthodoxy to prove the skeptical arguments wrong. I quote from the PG’s website:

    “There is a tradition in science that those who propose theories provide the proof. According to this tradition it is up to the HIV protagonists to come up with proof that HIV does exist. A scientist cannot employ the “Martian” argument. That Martians exist because there is no proof they do not exist. It is our long held view that the laboratory phenomena documented by Montagnier and Gallo in Science in 1983/84 (which are still the best papers on this particular topic) are not specific for retroviruses and do not constitute proof of isolation of a retrovirus…”

    See HERE. It is much more rational to ask an expert to debunk PG’s arguments, instead of asking PG to debunk all the rest of the arguments.

    So why not get this debate over with..? Then we can all go home and rest, if you’re right… Otherwise there will always be room for doubt, and people like me will keep bothering you, eternally. Considering the publicity HoN gets the number of skeptics will probably keep rising by the way… Just saying…

  31. Sadun Kal said,

    October 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    @Marco, I missed this part apparently:

    “…Oh, and let me add that the Perth Group’s claims HAVE been investigated, found extremely wanting, often based on logical fallacies, ignorance of newer literature, and sometimes outright distortion of the literature.”

    Show me please. Where did all that happen? I’m not familiar with any publicly available info that successfully addresses the arguments of the Perth Group. If you’re right then I’m really wasting everyone’s time, including mine. But all the alleged debunking I’ve seen so far contained a misrepresentation/misunderstanding of the PG’s arguments. Why do you think the doesn’t address PG’s arguments at all? Because it’s too easy?

    Maybe I should also copy/paste the comment the PG posted at Spectator here, relevant to Bad Science:

    “The reason why we suggested that Richard Wilson and Ben Goldacre could bring along their own HIV expert is because it is obvious that members provide them with their talking points.

    To be honest, we have little interest in Mr. Wilson at present, since he has been exposed several times as a complete ignoramus. It is the incestuous relationship between Mr. Goldacre and that might interest some.

    Between September 12 and October 24, Mr. Goldacre has written blogs on “AIDS denialism” no less than 3 times, two of which had House of Numbers as subject. This is in addition to guest appearances on blogs such as this and various other things we might not have noticed.

    In return for his participation in the orchestrated AIDStruth campaigns to quell dissent, Mr. Goldacre’s writings are immediately linked or reproduced on and the related denyingaids site, hosted by Seth Kalichman, another HIV non-expert with close ties to

    Mr. Goldacre claims to expose bad science, but to anyone reading his blogs on “AIDS denialism” it becomes immediately clear that he is not engaging with the science. His purpose in each case is to “lean” on those who dare host such a debate.

    Among his targets are Fraser Nelson, Caspar Melville and those outlets that presume to screen Leung’s movie or publish dissident viewpoints. We repeat, this is a campaign orchestrated by AIDstruth activists, with the aim to suppress and intimidate anyone with a visible profile who does not toe the line. That is why Mr. Nelson got “challenged” by Wilson and Goldacre.

    Among all Mr. Goldacre’s words on House of Numbers we find a single remotely scientific argument. The one point he repeatedly brings up is that one of the drug-free “denialists” featured in the movie is dead. This happens to be the favourite topic of AIDStruth co-founder John Moore as well, who particularly recommends his “Dead Denialists” feature on a website that would like to claims that it present the scientific evidence for the HIV/AIDS hypothesis.

    Unscientific slander of people, living or dead, is thus the framing and level of debate Mr. Nelson can expect if he accepts Mr. Goldacre’s challenge.

    Revealingly, Mr. Goldacre claims in another blog dated September 12 to have read and analysed Peter Duesberg’s latest scientific paper (a paper we don’t agree with for various reasons). Here is Mr. Goldacre’s analysis:

    “To say a peer reviewer might have spotted the flaws in their paper – which had already been rejected by the Journal of Aids – is an understatement. My favourite part is the whole page they devote to arguing that there cannot be lots of people dying of Aids in South Africa because the population of the country has grown in the past few years.

    We might expect anyone to spot such poor reasoning but they also misrepresent landmark papers from the literature on Aids research. Rasnick and Duesberg discuss antiretroviral drugs that have side-effects but which have stopped Aids being a death sentence, and attack the notion their benefits outweigh the toxicity: “contrary to these claims”, they say, “hundreds of American and British researchers jointly published a collaborative analysis in The Lancet in 2006, concluding treatment of Aids patients with anti-viral drugs has ‘not “translated into a decrease in mortality”‘ That is a simple, flat, unambiguous misrepresentation of the Lancet paper to which they refer.”

    This is what appeared on AIDStruth 3 days previously on September 9:

    “That Duesberg’s paper was not properly reviewed by experts is painfully obvious, as neither facts nor logic are allowed to temper the authors’ denialist speculations and opinions. For example, they argue that AIDS is not a problem in Africa because the total population of Africa has increased during the AIDS era. One could as easily conclude that cancers are never fatal, since the population of California has increased despite the presence of these diseases. Duesberg et al. also say antiretroviral medicines have not reduced AIDS mortality, an obvious lie since these drugs have drastically lowered mortality. Worse, Duesberg et al. say they derived this idea from a scientific article. In fact, the article they cite states nothing of the sort. . . ”

    Goldacre’s “analysis” is merely a summary of AIDStruth’s talking points. He even repeats AIDstruth’s misrepresentation of Duesberg’s arguments.

    Duesberg does not argue that an increasing South African population is evidence that HIV is harmless. He argues that, contrary to all predictions, there has been no visible impact from the supposed HIV epidemic on the rate of population increase.

    Those are two very different arguments, and it would be impossible for an unbiased and science literate person reading for himself to miss it.”


  32. jtd said,

    October 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    It is so nice to come to BadScience and read logical posts on this subject. Aside from SadunKal, these people seem to be much more intouch with reality than the many AIDS Denialists I have encountered in the States.
    I am heartened to see that the posters here have not lost sight of the glaring fact that this film is indeed a denialist film with a definite agenda. The film maker has pathetically hidden this agenda by stating that he is “just asking questions.” Leung does a complete disservice to his audience by thinking that the majority of the viewers would be fooled.

  33. Sadun Kal said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:16 am

    In my post #30, I noticed that the last two links are… weird. They both go to an older blog post titled “All men will have big willies” for some reason. I don’t know how I messed it up like that but here are the links once again:

    Link to “When AIDS Began”:

    Link to “HERE” – PG’s answer to Martian argument:

    Sorry if it caused any confusion.

  34. quasilobachevski said,

    October 26, 2009 at 4:46 am

    Duesberg does not argue that an increasing South African population is evidence that HIV is harmless. He argues that, contrary to all predictions, there has been no visible impact from the supposed HIV epidemic on the rate of population increase.

    It’s hard to assess the validity of this point without seeing a copy of Duesberg’s article. But it seems significant that all three of Kalichman’s reviewers mentioned this as a particularly weak point in Duesberg’s argument.

  35. Marco said,

    October 26, 2009 at 6:06 am

    @Sadun Kal:
    Here’s where Duesberg (again) shows the PG to be wrong on isolating AIDS (no need to say he never got any money, can’t admit to being wrong now, can’t we?)

    I’m also quite interested in seeing yet another “CONSPIRACY” cry of the PG. Apparently, everyone that disagrees with the PG is being fed by or a member of AIDStruth. And you accept that argument? Indeed you do.

    Anyway, for a thorough debunking of the various PG’s arguments you can find MANY links here:
    There’s plenty of other places, too, but as we can see from the lengthy nonsense the PG throws out, and which you clearly accept as valid, there’s simply no way you will learn.

  36. Jonny said,

    October 26, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Rumours suggest that the event has been cancelled. Check out Ben’s twitter feed.

  37. Jonny said,

    October 26, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Sadun Kul is a 22 yr old media student from berlin, a young Turk! I noticed he’s been a spokesperson for the Perth Group for a while. Sadun, I am wondering why you became interesting in AIDS denialism and exactly how you have managed to pick up the such an interest in the subject. And why the Perth Group. You do fit in quite neatly with them. None of them have any qualification in HIV medicine and only one has a medical degree. Are you planning on studying genetics now or perhaps enrolling in medical school ?

  38. Sadun Kal said,

    October 26, 2009 at 7:38 am


    I’m not so sure about all that myself and I don’t have access to the paper either. (Just a few excerpts here: ) The distinction PG talks about is a bit subtle though. They say that Duesberg wasn’t arguing that the total population should’ve stopped increasing, but that there should’ve only been a noticeable change at the rate of the increase, i.e. less increase. Both AIDSTruth and 3 days after them Ben Goldacre seem to have misrepresented the argument a bit.

    The real issue isn’t the overall accuracy of that paper though, not even the PG really cares about the Duesberg paper. What’s questioned is Ben Goldacre’s scientific rigor (and AIDSTruth’s). Did Goldacre even read the paper? Then why did he make the argument sound more simple than it actually was, by saying?

    Goldacre wrote:

    “…they devote to arguing that there cannot be lots of people dying of Aids in South Africa because the population of the country has grown in the past few years.”

    Was it just an honest mistake or was he indeed carelessy repeating what the authorities (AIDS Truthers) were feeding him, or at least did he become influenced (biased) because of such authorities?

    And yep, the event seems to be canceled. Probably Sonnabend was warned about the dissident tendencies of the film and… resisted. It’s understandable I guess. Now can we focus on PG please? :)

  39. Sadun Kal said,

    October 26, 2009 at 7:51 am

    @Jonny, I care about the topic because it’s big. It’s important for the humanity, and therefore me too. I want to improve the quality of life on earth. So this debate should be resolved. If the PG is correct in arguing what they’re arguing then this has tremendous implications for the entire humanity. Why the PG? Because they’re the ones who demonstrate most scientific rigor. They do not inflate statistics, they do not make baseless assumptions, they do not lean on ad hominems like you insist on doing etc… That’s why.

    And no I’m not planning on studying genetics now or perhaps enrolling in medical school.

    Did you make that comment because you’re questioning my motives, or to communicate with others that I don’t have any qualification in HIV medicine? Are you aware that all those are scientifically irrelevant? And if you’re going to imply that nothing I can say can have any scientific merit that would be an ad-hominem argument?

  40. Jonny said,

    October 26, 2009 at 8:05 am

    A media student has no business discussing science with scientists, and we’ve got a few very well qualified ones participating in the debate. Go off and get yourself educated, then once you’ve got at least a 1st degree in genetics or immunology you might understand some of the basics better. This is the Bad Science blog, and you certainly are full of it.

    Yeah I am happy to make ad-hominem “attacks” people who get off on talking sh1t all the time. There’s a lot of crazies all of a sudden getting interested in this particular conspiracy theory, as Deusberg admitted. God knows why ? What do they get out of it ? Unfortunately many unnecessary lives were lost in South Africa because of people like you.

  41. SteveGJ said,

    October 26, 2009 at 9:01 am


    There are plenty of people who are well informed on a debate without necessarily having an immediately relevant specialist qualification. In a world full of very narrow specialisms, it’s an important skill to be able to evaluate the credibility of claims. In this case it’s fairly clear – the AIDS delusionists (a better term than denialist in my view) are increasingly being chacterised by nothing much more that opposition to the medical and scientific consensus on tha causative role of HIV. As is often the case with movements such as this, then they factionalise and often produce contradictory arguments. The whole of the CAM industry falls into that – often united only by a suspicion of conventional (that is, evidence-driven) medicine with no coherent strands of logic outside that basic premise.

    Now none of this means that there is the vaguest sense in anything that Sadun Kal is posting just now, apart from the repeating of it being important for scientific theories to be open to question. Of course that’s true, but he missed the important qualifier of “credible” to that questioning. It’s increasingly obvious that he really knows nothing about the science behind this at all and is resorting to selective quotes from his favoured groups of dissident theorists who (when you read their website) ignore all the evidence that contradicts their claims.

    As to why there are “crazies” involved – well the area of AIDS has been fraught with irrational allegations from the very beginning. From the mad conspiracy theories of some accusing governments of engineering the virus to attack gays, Africans or whatever, to some on the right percieving this as divine retribution. There were also many who got into “denialism” about this being related to their own high-risk behaviour. (One thing that medical science has proven is that uncontrolled exchange of bodily fluids, especially blood and semen, is a major risk factor in the communication of some very nasty diseases – the continuing ability of medical science to deal with the consequent issues is not something we can guarantee for the indefinite future). To that can be added the views of some scientists who seems to have become hostage to their own, discredited, theories. Even some of the finest scientists on the planet, such as Fred Hoyle and Linus Pauling have fallen foul of that very human fault. But it all provides fuel for this sort of thing.

    Incidentally, “many unnecessary lives were lost” is an unfortunate bit of wording. Perhaps “many lives were lost unnecessarily” might just be better.

  42. Marco said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Sadun Kal, the PG is known to show the LEAST scientific rigor. They have never ever in their life done ANY research on this topic themselves, including any of the HIV tests. Their self-touted publication record only shows “Letters to the Editor”. We call those people arm-chair scientists, suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    Oh, and read the abstract of Duesberg’s retracted paper:
    It clearly suggests that the death rate can’t be high, since there is a significant population growth…

  43. Snout said,

    October 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Sadun is indeed a young animation student from Berlin who for some accountable reason has spent the better part of the last year or two making literally hundreds of posts on the internet drawing attention to the views on HIV/AIDS of a certain Mrs Eleni Eleopulos-Papadopulos of Perth, Western Australia and her friend Dr Valendar Turner. He has even solicited donations for this odd pair on his website, but what these exactly donations are supposed to be for is, well, a secret.

    When you ask him what, precisely, are these views of the Perthians that he considers so vital that they demand the immediate attention of, you know, actual scientists, he goes all vague, and usually responds by copy-pasting slabs of incoherent text from various AIDS denialist websites.

    Then he accuses you of being “unscientific”, or he questions your motives, or calls “ad hominem”.

    Try to pin him down on exactly what he is arguing and he quickly disappears, claiming that his attention is urgently needed elsewhere.

    If anyone is interested in reading the full text of Duesberg’s laughable Medical Hypotheses paper, it has been preserved in all its glory at the website of one of its inept and medically illiterate co-authors:

    Even the other HIV/AIDS denialists are embarrassed by it.

  44. CarlottaVance said,

    October 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    The event has been cancelled! I called the Spectator to ask if any tickets were available and was told ‘because some of the experts have pulled out, the panel would be unbalanced, so we’ve cancelled the event.’ Its unlikely the AIDS denialists would have pulled out….

  45. BLBS said,

    October 26, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Since it may have been lost amidst all the babble, note that Sadun Kal wrote this (to Jonny):

    “You ended up holding false beliefs about meds and docs and that’s the problem, not that you had doubts. ”

    What he is saying here, to an HIV-infected individual, is unambiguous. Sadun is in no way skeptical, he is already certain about what is false and what is true, despite a complete absence of the knowledge required to make that distinction. When combination therapy became available in 1996, ending the worst of the horror, Sadun was 9 years old.

  46. Sadun Kal said,

    October 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    @Jonny, SteveGJ et al;

    Funny world we live in. So much fascinating hypocrisy… I find it amazing that in this day and age supposedly educated people can’t understand that it’s absolutely necessary to have an open-mind, not be sure until you know enough to be sure etc. I’ll quote from Carl Sagan and leave you people be for now:

    “….what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas….But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, which ever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.”

    Ben Goldacre can find the email address of the Perth Group on their website. Good luck.

    Well before I go let me briefly answer a few other points too:

    @Marco: That’s not what the AIDStruth and Goldacre wrote though…

    @Snout: I disagree obviously. Our understanding of “coherent” differs I suppose. I think you’re biased and you -probably unconsciously- misinterpret many things, including my actions and motivation. Oh well…

  47. Sadun Kal said,

    October 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm


    I think you missed the context. Sorry if it lacked clarity but I was basically saying that his docs were indeed sincerely trying to help him and his meds weren’t as unhelpful as many dissidents often make them out to be. His “denial” mislead him about these. Admittedly I didn’t know Jonny’s docs but I thought that it was very unlikely that they could really be “evil” or something. And I know that meds can help some people. So maybe I should’ve stuck a “probably” into that sentence somewhere, would’ve been more scientific to acknowledge the possibility that his docs may have truly been “evil”, but I thought I could afford to sound certain when making orthodox claims in an anti-denialistic environment like this. Apparently it is so anti-denialistic around here that you’ll even attack me if I agree with what you say. Again; funny world.

  48. jazz_the_cat said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    As someone who as actually been working on ARV’s for quite a while, I find this conspiracy stuff rather annoying. If any one of the ARV’s (say indinavir) were not functioning as a control of the virus, then there wouldn’t be any drug resistant mutations in the virus. There are, and if you have HIV that possesses them you can’t use that drug (well you can but it won’t do you any good).

    The reason that you need to be extraordinary compliant with treatment regiments is that once the virus repopulates your body it has a higher chance being resistant. With the drugs, the really sensitive viruses were knocked way down, and the slightly resistant ones were knocked down a little less. When they rebound in the absence of drug and create more variations the new population is biased to resistant variations. Of course this overlaps with natural selection, so I guess creationists are out of luck.

    The specific medications are different from a vaccine. The virus possesses (fortunately) enzyme and receptor systems that are not part of normal mammalian biology so they are relatively easy (that is to say just hard vs. impossible) to target. Vaccines require your body to raise an immune response. One of the troubles with HIV vaccines is that the specific cells HIV first infects are those that the vaccine potentiates. So it is conceptually difficult to see how to make a vaccine. Not that this should stop us from trying. If HIV first infected anything else, there’d be a vaccine that works by now.

  49. Sadun Kal said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    @Marco; Sorry, now to think in a way you actually repeated what Goldacre said I guess. But that’s not what the paper actually tries to argue. It’s really not just simply about whether or not the population has increased, it’s about the rate of increase and how that contradicts the predictions made by experts, based on assumptions about how deadly HIV must be. But anyway, for a proper critique I recommend this actually:

  50. SteveGJ said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    @Sadun Kal

    You need to know that the “open mind” is not a synonym for “credulous mind”. Believing every half-baked, ill-though out, badly researched idea that comes out is the opposite to having a skeptical viewpoint (and I’ve very much an arch-skeptic). It’s that which the non-scientifically trained have problems with – they tend to think that every idea is on the same level. The fact that the ego of a few scientists blind them to the evidence is just an example that we are all human.

  51. Marco said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Sadun, please tell us your motivation for promoting a cause that has been tested and found completely out of touch with reality?

    Carl Sagan also had this to say:
    “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring”.
    And that fits quite well with the HIV delusion of the PG. Note also that Sagan was not in any doubt about the causal link between HIV and AIDS.

  52. quasilobachevski said,

    October 26, 2009 at 6:31 pm


    Thanks to Snout, we now have a copy of the paper. (Thanks, Snout!) Ben had written:

    My favourite part is the whole page they devote to arguing that there cannot be lots of people dying of Aids in South Africa because the population of the country has grown in the past few years.

    First, note “the whole page”. It seems pretty clear that he read the article.

    Turning to whether or not Ben misrepresents them – of course he did, strictly speaking. Strictly speaking, he should have said something like “because the population of the country has grown fast in the past few years”. But humour is one of Ben’s weapons, the sentence as written is funny, and that argument in the Duesberg paper is laughable.

    You’re quite wrong to say it’s a “subtle” distinction; the Duesberg paper makes a very unsubtle mistake (“people can’t be dying because if they were then the population would have grown slower than it did” – spot the circularity) and Ben represented it even less subtly in order to accentuate its ridiculousness.

  53. Jonny said,

    October 26, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    @SteveGJ thanks for pointing out my howling typo.

    The point I was attempting to articulate was that HIV denialists/delusionists hone in repeatedly on what they perceive as weaknesses in the science: for example, the HIV virus satisfying Koch’s postulate and claims that HIV has never been isolated. I don’t have a clue how you isolate a virus. I don’t really know what it means beyond a superficial appreciation of having to identify something! That’s one for the trained scientists.

    Ditto, the finer points of HIV testing protocol: I guess I would need to ask my doctor about that. Yes you can be informed about a specific topic but to have a deep understanding of the issues, in that case its often hard to know who to believe. The delusionists have an irritating habit of encouraging flashes of niggling doubt.

  54. Snout said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    One important thing to understand about HIV/AIDS denialists is that they are not just at war with reason and mainstream medical science – there is also a bitter civil war going as well between (at least) two of the main factions within HIV/AIDS denialism.

    On the one hand is the Rethinking AIDS cult gathered around Peter Duesberg and his close supporters like David Rasnick, who hold that HIV definitely exists but is a “harmless passenger virus”, and on the other are those that gather around Mrs Eleopulos Papadopulos and Dr Turner – the so-called “Perth Group” – who hold that HIV does not exist at all, together with their supporters like Anthony Brink of South Africa and Claus Jensen and of course our friend Sadun. The battle lines, however, are not purely around whether HIV exists or not but are intensely political and strategic and are centred on which particular idiot ideology can be made to prevail against the scientific mainstream. Many of Duesberg’s closest supporters are in fact ambivalent on the rather important question of whether HIV exists – which in itself reveals the ineptitude and scientific vacuousness of the denialist project.

    @Jonny, denial movements such as HIV/AIDS denialism exist to spread an ideology that exists outside of mainstream science or another established field of human endeavour like history. They function by the spread of argumentoids and factoids – short, punchy, but ultimately fallacious or factually wrong statements – that seem almost naturally selected to spread easily through media such as the internet, and which are almost impossible to eradicate. Denialists also sometimes try to create a facsimile of credibility by publishing in marginal or pseudoscientific “journals” like Medical Hypotheses or the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, and also make propaganda films to try to recruit a wider audience (of which House of Numbers is a classic example). Denialist factoids and argumentoids are effective memes because they often refer to complex fields of science or history that are outside the everyday knowledge of most people, and which require far more effort to refute than they do to propagate.

    All denialist movements, whether HIV/AIDS denialism, creation “science”, 9-11 Troofers, Holocaust denialism, or Obama birthers – all these movements have an extensive collection of argumentoid memes which they deploy with relentless and often rapid fire repetition whenever they spot a likely target. Probably the best response to this standard strategy of denialist movements I’ve seen is the “Index to Creationist Claims” on the Talk Origins Archive, which neatly and systematically catalogues and refutes literally hundreds of argumentoids deployed by creationists in their war against evolutionary theory. I suspect that those of us opposing HIV/AIDS denialism will one day have to produce a comparable Index.

    For an excellent introduction to denialist argumentoids in general see:

  55. Sadun Kal said,

    October 27, 2009 at 5:12 am

    Just one last quote from Sagan, too sad but too relevant too:

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. it is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous. (So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles rise.)”

  56. Marco said,

    October 27, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Relevant to HIV/AIDS denial, Sadun. When do you realise that the PG is still using old and long-refuted arguments to “bamboozle” people all around the world. It rejects all new findings, since it is not interested in the truth. It is interested in promoting itself.

  57. Sadun Kal said,

    October 27, 2009 at 6:09 am


    I saw your comment #35 just now. I overlooked it previously and thought that you didn’t make any attempts at addressing my question in #31.

    You wrote:

    Anyway, for a thorough debunking of the various PG’s arguments you can find MANY links here:

    When I asked:

    “I’m not familiar with any publicly available info that successfully addresses the arguments of the Perth Group… Show me please. Where did all that happen?”

    Unfortunately your link is useless in this context. There is no attempt to address the PG’s arguments. Nothing. So again, I’m unable to perceive any evidence that “PG is still using old and long-refuted arguments”. This is a baseless, misleading claim as far as I’m concerned. I dare you to prove me wrong. Show me.

  58. Marco said,

    October 27, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Sadun, I don’t think you will ever be willing to accept a successful debunking of the PG’s arguments, for two simple reasons:
    1. You lack the scientific understanding to see how the science completely debunks the fundamental claim of the PG: that HIV does not exist
    2. You have too much invested already: accepting the PG has been wrong all along would mean you have supported an organisation that is (directly and indirectly) responsible for the deaths of thousands of people by ‘bamboozling’ them.

    Anyway, here’s evidence that HIV exists and fulfills ALL of Koch’s postulates: (get the article in your University library)

    And note that the PG uses the Koch postulates as if it is some kind of religious edict, thereby showing a gross failure to understand those same postulates and their history. By this strict approach, you can dismiss quite a few diseases as being caused by a pathogen. For some reason, the PG doesn’t want to go there…

    The rest of the PG’s arguments are all based on a fundamental failure to understand epidemiological research, and in many cases they keep referring back to “no evidence of a virus”.

  59. Charles Copeland said,

    October 27, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    CarlottaVance informs us that the Spectator has cancelled its AIDS ‘debate’. And I’m cancelling my Spectator subscription, which I’ve been sharing with two colleagues of mine for over a decade.

    As regards the AIDS denialists’ poster woman, the deceased Christine Maggiore, an excellent article is to be found at the website ‘Science Based Medicine’:

  60. jai96 said,

    October 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I want to clear up something.
    Christine Maggiore died of pneumonia. That’s unfortunate, because she was an aids-rethinker and anti-ARV, so the apologists will use her as an example. They’ll say, “See? We told you!” But then unless you’ve done the research, you won’t know about her medical history. Which, briefly, was that she got an HIV test as a recommendation, but wasn’t in any risk group, so thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. After the test came back positive she became an AIDS activist. She’d gotten re-tested and the results came back negative and inconclusive as well. For various reasons, she started to question the HIV=AIDS=Death and did her own research. She wrote a book about it. Also, you mention her daughter. Christine had to fight, while grieving, to prove that she was not a negligent mother after her daughter died. It was actually found that her daughter died of an allergic reaction to a drug she was prescribed, and not AIDS.
    I get why people trust doctors and scientists, but I truly think that we all need to take some responsibility to question those who make a profit off of our illnesses. There is NOTHING wrong with that.
    BTW, Here are some FACTS about HIV tests:
    1. They do NOT test for HIV, but for antibodies that are not specific to HIV.
    And 2. the tests results are subjective, which means a lab can interpret your test as positive in one country, but negative in another.

  61. quasilobachevski said,

    October 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm


    Did you look at the link that Charles Copeland posted to David Gorski’s “article, immediately above your comment? It addresses your remarks about Maggiore, as well her daughter, very thoroughly.

    Please justify your assertion that “her daughter died of an allergic reaction…and not AIDS” in the light of Gorski’s analysis.

    Regarding your “FACTS”, I refer you to another article, which explains what you need to know about AIDS testing quite clearly.

    If these don’t satisfy you, please tell us:

    (a) whether you believe that HIV causes AIDS; and
    (b) if you don’t, what kind of evidence it would take to persuade you that it does.

  62. quasilobachevski said,

    October 27, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Whoops, my first paragraph was meant to look like this:

    Did you look at the link that Charles Copeland posted to David Gorski’s article, immediately above your comment? It addresses your remarks about Maggiore, as well as her daughter, very thoroughly.

  63. Snout said,

    October 27, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    @jai96, Christine Maggiore died of disseminated herpes, pneumonia, and candidiasis, according to her death certificate which is on the public record and easily searchable on the net. That combination is pathognomonic of catastrophic collapse of cell-mediated immunity, of the kind that essentially only happens with transplant anti-rejection drugs, certain cancers and their treatments, and AIDS. It is a familiar pattern of illness to anyone who looked after patients with end-stage AIDS in the years before there was effective antiretroviral treatment. In a person with untreated HIV for at least 16 years and no history of cancer or a transplant, AIDS is the only diagnosis likely beyond any reasonable doubt.

    The Los Angeles Coroner found that her daughter died from pneumocystis pneumonia, the commonest AIDS-defining condition in children. She also had HIV encephalopathy, and other features of chronic HIV disease in children such as severe anaemia, thymic atrophy, recent growth retardation and hepatic steatosis. She died of HIV/AIDS. No person qualified to examine the evidence could reasonably conclude otherwise.

    The person who claimed that she died from an anaphylactic reaction to amoxicillin is not qualified to make that claim. He did not conduct an autopsy, did not apparently examine all the available specimens including the silver stained lung slides clearly and unequivocally demonstrating PCP, and is not a medically qualified pathologist – he is a veterinary toxicologist. He also has an obvious personal interest in the case, as he was on the board of Maggiore’s ironically named “Alive and Well” organisation, and bears some of the responsibility for supporting her denialist position and it’s tragic consequences. He is neither professionally qualified nor independent enough to adjudicate on the case. His report is deeply flawed, not the least of which for citing anaphylaxis two days after taking antibiotics for the first time in the child’s life. It has never been accepted by anyone qualified to examine the case.

    Maggiore was in a miserable trap in the years between her daughter’s death and her own. I would not wish that on anyone. The denialist trap contributed to her death by making it impossible for her to seek competent specialist care for her final illnesses. However, the responsibilty for that trap lies partly with her, and also with the people who set her up as a poster child for HIV/AIDS denialism. That such people would continue to deny the obvious – that both Maggiore and her daughter died from AIDS -is as deplorable as it is predictable.

    HIV antibody tests are about the most specific medical tests in existence. A lab cannot interpret a test as positive in one country and negative in another – in very rare circumstances and at the very outside a test read as positive in one country might be read as indeterminate in another. Indeterminate means that the pathologist wants to do further testing before committing to a diagnosis. And there are plenty of tests that look for virus itself – PCR, culture, viral load, p24 antigen, etc. They are not usually used for diagnosis because the antibody tests are cheaper, easier, quicker, and in most circumstances have a higher sensitivity and specificty for determining HIV infection status.

  64. Sadun Kal said,

    October 28, 2009 at 2:42 am


    Re 1. Two assumptions there: First that PG is debunked by some scientists and second that I’m unable to get that this is the case. You can’t prove the second until you can prove the first. And the only way to understand whether or not you’ve proven the first is to objectively examine your “evidence” as I’ll briefly try to do below.

    Re 2. Don’t worry, I’m pretty good at protecting myself against biases. I do no “support” the Perth Group the way you imply it. I support science. To be more specific in this case this means that I want people to either properly debunk PG’s arguments or acknowledge that they might be on to something. And that something is something pretty critical for humanity.

    Anyway, you wrote:

    “…By this strict approach, you can dismiss quite a few diseases as being caused by a pathogen. For some reason, the PG doesn’t want to go there…”

    PG may or may not go there in the future. But this is scientifically irrelevant. A logical fallacy. See here and please avoid repeating it:

    Unfortunately none of your links succeed at adressing PG’s arguments. First one doesn’t even discuss what’s meant when Duesberg says that “HIV is isolated”. Second one also directly assumes that HIV is already proven to exist as far as I can see; it’s irrelevant. Third one fails to ask or answer any purification/isolation-related questions too. Fourth one refers to the PG’s arguments as “their bizarre criteria” on the basis of the same logical fallacy you came up with above; appeal to tradition. So there’s no attempt to argue why “their bizarre criteria”, which is actually what any non-brainwashed person would expect before accepting that something is truly isolated, is actually scientifically not absolutely necessary.

    In short; I’m sorry, but I’m not satisfied.

    What I would expect from a real debunking is that you take the arguments of the PG, avoid all logical fallacies, misrepresentations, simplifications, and clearly respond to all their arguments in detail, point by point. Shouldn’t be too hard to arrange something like that for such a glorious scientific community. We’re just talking about a few papers here. Why not objectively respond to their critique of the original Gallo and Montagnier papers for starters..? Then if they can’t properly respond to your counter-arguments you win! And I shut up! Isn’t that cool?

  65. Marco said,

    October 28, 2009 at 5:52 am


    Christine Maggiore’s daughter did NOT die of an allergic reaction to a drug. That lie, and it IS a lie, came from someone who did not do the autopsy, had no experience as a pathologist, did not even have a medical degree, and who was specifically hired to give a counter-opinion because he was an HIV/AIDS denier.

    And if you would have done your research, you would know it is rather special for someone of Maggiore’s age to get pneumonia in a city like L.A., and DIE.

    Finally, regarding the test:
    1. where’s your evidence (beyond the PG claims, once again without evidence) that (one of!) the HIV test(s) does not test for antibodies that are specific to HIV? You can also get a PCR test, which does not test for the antibodies, but for the RNA of the virus itself. If you don’t believe it is specific RNA, please show us in the humane genome, which is available, where the HIV-specific RNA is located.
    2. Test results of ANY antibody test are ‘subjective’, giving slightly different results between labs and even within a lab. That’s common for ANY ELISA test for any other disease, and simply “the name of the game”. That’s why one never just uses one ELISA method for HIV.

  66. Marco said,

    October 28, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Great, you start with a circular argument: I cannot prove that you will not understand the debunking, until I have proven that the PG has been debunked. The problem is that the PG simply says “not proof” against anything that others bring up. Their argumentation is often not scientific, because they categorically decline to take the whole body of evidence together. They continuously fall back on their starting position: “HIV has not been purified, and thus does not exist, so anything else people do with that non-existing virus must be wrong, too”. It’s a circular argument.

    I also see you do not even understand logical fallacies. It is, in fact, the PG that makes an Appeal to Tradition by very strictly applying Koch’s postulates to HIV (in fact, it is a faulty interpretation of these postulates). Much more strict than Koch ever did himself, and on a pathogen-type (viruses) that Koch had not even heard of.
    What I pointed out was that the Koch postulates, as interpreted by the PG, would rule out just about ANY virus as the cause of ANY disease, simply because it cannot be fully purified from cell components (actually, scientists have done so with clones, but those are ‘of course’ not HIV, according to the PG, since the latter has not been purified and thus does not exist…).
    Therefore, even though the PG does not explicitely say so, it implicitely rejects the existence of most viruses as the cause of diseases. That’s not an Appeal to Tradition, but a *logical* extension of the PG’s arguments.

  67. pronk said,

    October 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm


    I”d not heard of the Perth Group before now, so I had a look at their website – specifically the “what is argued” page.

    After I’d finished laughing, I thought of something that would settle this. Let’s move away from debunking by endless rounds of producing perfectly good evidence that you find some flimsy technicality to ignore before waxing lyrical about scientific rebels, because it’s quite clear you’re not willing to take on board the evidence given you still hold the position the Perth Group aren’t obviously a bunch of publicity-seeking buffoons who don’t seem to understand basic biology. And let’s be quite clear here – they are buffoons. If they can’t look at the evidence and understand it, then they’re either morons or wilfully ignoring contradictory views simply because they are contradictory.

    You are wrong, they are wrong and simply saying “there is a debate” doesn’t make it the case. There is no debate among well informed people who can understand the evidence and who do not have an ulterior motive to ignore such evidence. None.

    But I digress. The Perth Group believe the fact “HIV/AIDS is infectious, either by blood, blood products or sexual intercourse” hasn’t been proven. In fact, they of course don’t believe HIV exists at all. So, put your money where your mouth is. Will you agree to a blood transfusion from (or to have unprotected sex with, your choice) an HIV-positive person? Because if The Perth Group are right, you’d be *absolutely* fine as long as you avoided those nasty oxidants and drank some green tea. Literally nothing would happen to you, other than vindication of course. I’m sure people on this website could make it happen – there are enough doctors here who could arrange a meeting, and enough people suffering from HIV/AIDS who would be willing to be involved if it would help prevent the spread of misinformation about the disease (and that of course should appeal to you too – after all, if you and the PG are right, this will be splendid evidence to that effect). This would be *far* more effective than some mere online debate with the PG. In fact, why don’t we invite them too and they can all partake?

    Of course, if they *are* talking nonsense you’d all be setting yourself up for at best a lifetime of illness and quite possibly a horrible death. But you and they seem very convinced that there’s no danger of that. And besides, many of the PGs arguments could only be realistically proved to be true or false by recording the success or failure of deliberate attempts at infection. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t organised such an event already – surely they’d be hypocritical cowards not to, so I can only assume this oversight must be down to some sort of terrible scheduling issue as they’re obviously very busy, important people.

    So, will you take the plunge for them and do it?

    If yes, I admire your principles.

    If no, why should anyone listen to someone without even the courage of their convictions, let alone a realistic grasp of why those convictions are quite so wrong? But the ball’s in your court now – put up or shut up.

  68. Sadun Kal said,

    October 28, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    @prone; I’m sorry but your comment is unscientific from beginning to the end. Even if I were to unscientifically claim that I’m sure that “HIV doesn’t exist” -which I do not- and even if I were to agree to your challenge and even if you could actually organize it all despite all the legal/ethical obstacles and even if I were to remain fine after the transfusion then this still wouldn’t be a vindication, because the orthodoxy already has all kinds of excuses for that kind of stuff (See “LTNPs” or “elite controllers”). I’d hope that you will inform yourself about scientific philosophy, about the arguments of the Perth Group and about the history of this HIV/AIDS debate before you again come up with simplistic suggestions which won’t be of any serious help at all. This is not a game. It’s supposed to be science. There is no ball.

  69. Sadun Kal said,

    October 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I meant pronk, sorry.

  70. quasilobachevski said,

    October 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm


    You ask for a rebuttal of the PG’s criticisms. As a non-specialist, it seems to me that Marco above (comment 66) has given a very succinct rebuttal, which goes roughly like this.

    1. The PG think that HIV hasn’t been proven to exist, because it hasn’t been shown to satisfy Koch’s postulates.

    2. Virtually no viruses can be shown to satisfy Koch’s postulates (not surprising, as they weren’t known to exist in Koch’s time), so the PG are clinging dogmatically to an outdated medical argument.

    Like I said, as a non-specialist (though admittedly a scientist), I find this very convincing.

    So tell me, why aren’t you convinced?

  71. Sadun Kal said,

    October 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm


    You said: “…you start with a circular argument: I cannot prove that you will not understand the debunking, until I have proven that the PG has been debunked.”

    I did not say that you have to convince me. But you have to stick to scientific argumentation to prove it to the objective observers who can understand, even if I’m not one of them. I have a lot of reasons to believe I’m much more objective than you are though, but that’s just me… :)

    You said: “..The problem is that the PG simply says “not proof” against anything that others bring up. Their argumentation is often not scientific, because they categorically decline to take the whole body of evidence together. They continuously fall back on their starting position: “HIV has not been purified, and thus does not exist, so anything else people do with that non-existing virus must be wrong, too”. It’s a circular argument.”

    The problem is that so far nobody really brought up anything that succeeds at taking the whole of their arguments into consideration. What are they supposed say if it’s really “not proof”? Should they just back off because it hurts your feelings?

    The whole body of evidence never made asking the fundamental question about the purification/existence irrational. It always featured inconsistencies with the accepted concept of “HIV”. Most of the “whole body of evidence” is totally irrelevant anyway, since a lot of it is done mostly with molecular clones.

    But forget all that, Gallo and other potential “expert witnesses” themselves admitted that purification is a logical necessity, and there is no proof for purification. See:

    There is not much to discuss apart from these crucial fundamental problems actually. Also the textbooks state that purification is necessary.

    Re: appeal to tradition, the PG does not say that “Koch’s postulates must be fulfilled because that was the tradition” like you do, they argue that it’s a scientifically necessary criteria IF interpreted correctly. That’s why you think their criteria is even stricter than Koch’s.. If Koch’s postulates had never existed maybe they would be called “PG’s postulates” today. You have to determine a scientific criteria. You have to have some means to verify all claims of “We’ve proven the existence of a new virus!”. Currently the mainstream virology functions arbitrarily really… They’re like children let loose without any supervision or self-discipline. Well I exaggerated it a bit, but not too much…

    Anyway, your logical extension is indeed not illogical, but it can’t be used as an argument against the PG’s. Not in science, no.

  72. Marco said,

    October 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Sadun, if you DO accept HIV exist, why do you still defend the PG? Because the denial of the existence of HIV is the one pillar that the PG has. ALL of its argumentation is circular: HIV does not exist, so any and all subsequent analysis is wrong, because HIV does not exist. They cannot accept Duesberg’s claims, because it would invalidate all of their previous argumentation, which has as its core the supposed non-existence of HIV.

    Oh, and you have a 1% chance of being a LTNP and 0.3% of being an elite controller. Wanna take that chance?

    Finally, your link to “the history this HIV/AIDS debate” comes mightily close to a (false) Appeal to Authority. Your appeal to “scientific philosophy” is even more laughable, considering that the HIV deniers fail to see (on purpose and/or due to gross inaptitude) that their alternative hypotheses simply do not fit the data.

    Your sounding more and more like a creationist; a young-earth creationist.

  73. skyesteve said,

    October 28, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Sorry to jump onto my usual hobby horse but, as before, if someone or something (like a film or a newspaper/magazine) trumpets a view which flies in the face of the evidence and which leaves open the potential of significant harm to public health why can’t they be sued? There is no freedom of speech to tells lies, especially when these lies result in demonstrable harm to others.
    It’s already the case that the Government can clamp down on this kind of misinformation in the interests of public health but they never do. Why?
    I am sick to the back teeth of uneducated (or, even worse, educated) morons and idiots who feel that no matter how outrageous their view or how flimsy the evidence to back it up it deserves to be treated with the same weight, value and gravitas as the “orthodox” view. And they always use “orthodox” as a pejorative term when what the word actually means is the “right opinion”!
    I was a young medical student in Edinburgh in the mid 1980s. I watched a city’s youth ravaged by HIV; I spent days and nights on dedicated HIV wards at the City Hospital in Edinburgh; I watched a close childhood friend die of AIDS, and his girlfriend too. All of these things make me highly offended when people claim it doesn’t exist and HIV is not the cause. Get a grip! These are real people dying; real people whose lives are being blighted; real families and communities being torn apart. If you deny HIV/AIDS you are in your own small way culpable for all that misery. You should be ashamed.
    It’s simply not enough to say you don’t agree with the established view – you must provide contrary evidence of AT LEAST equal quality to back up your view. Blind faith is illogical and irrational and has no place in ANY scientific debate.
    How did we get into this Americanised, conspiracy-based society anyway? It’s just nuts!

  74. quasilobachevski said,

    October 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm


    I don’t think Sadun will let himself be pinned down that easily. He seems to have learned a bit of sophistry from the PG which goes:

    “I don’t deny the existence of HIV, I just refuse to admit that its existence has been proved.”

    Which is why I thought your point about Koch’s postulates was so apt.

  75. Marco said,

    October 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    You’re probably right, quasilobachevski. He’s completely entrenched in his position. And somewhat understandable: accepting the PG is wrong would be accepting that it has been a significant factor in the death of many people, AND that he’s been following a group which has done a great disservice to science. At least some creationist ‘scientists’ actually do some research themselves, the HIV deniosphere just attacks and distorts others.

  76. quasilobachevski said,

    October 28, 2009 at 9:37 pm


    I hadn’t seen your comment number 71 before now.

    Please humour me and clarify your point. I think this is an essentially methodological disagreement.

    You’re saying: “mainstream virology is methodologically incorrect; I am only satisfied by the Perth Group’s methodology”. Is that correct?

    I want you to be clear about this, because you make a number of very bald statements about what you can and can’t do “in science”. But scientific methodology is very complicated, and varies a lot from discipline to discipline. It’s the sort of thing that amateurs and inexperts tend to get badly wrong.

    I’m not trying to argue from authority here, I’m just pointing out the value of expertise.

  77. Staphylococcus said,

    October 29, 2009 at 12:52 am

    @ Sadun Kal #71.

    Seriously: Biochemistry fail. If you knew anything about the field you’re arguing over, you’d know that nothing can ever be shown to be pure. “Pure” means “contaminants at below the detection levels of our assays”.

    “The problem is that so far nobody really brought up anything that succeeds at taking the whole of their arguments into consideration”

    Interpretation of evidence fail. Their argument consists of simply disagreeing with evidence everyone else produces (they do NO original research of their own). Therefore it is impossible to “take the whole of their argument into consideration”. THEY are the ones who must take the evidence into consideration when formulating a hypothesis and assessing its strengths (as must all scientists). A good scientific theory is one that best explains ALL of the data, and so far the PG has shown much willful ignorance/slavish devotion to outdated methods.

    “Most of the “whole body of evidence” is totally irrelevant anyway, since a lot of it is done mostly with molecular clones.”

    Molecular biology fail. Do you even know what that means? I don’t think you do.

    “Also the textbooks state that purification is necessary.”

    Argument from authority fail.

    “they [PG] argue that it’s a scientifically necessary criteria IF interpreted correctly. That’s why you think their criteria is even stricter than Koch’s.. If Koch’s postulates had never existed maybe they would be called “PG’s postulates” today. You have to determine a scientific criteria. You have to have some means to verify all claims of “We’ve proven the existence of a new virus!”.”

    Yes, you do have to determine scientific criteria, and in this area your narrow interpretation of Koch’s postulates has been found wanting. Hence you (and by extension, the PG) fail.

    “Currently the mainstream virology functions arbitrarily really… They’re like children let loose without any supervision or self-discipline. Well I exaggerated it a bit, but not too much…”

    No you just have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s blatently obvious to this molecular microbiologist that you’ve never actually read any of the scientific literature in the field and nor would you understand it if you did.

  78. Chris Noble said,

    October 29, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Perhaps Sadun can give us a single example of a retrovirus that has been proven to exist using the criteria that the Perth Group insist are necessary?

  79. Sadun Kal said,

    October 29, 2009 at 3:23 am

    At this pace I probably won’t be able to sustain this conversation with all of you, and I had actually intended to leave much earlier, but let me respond to the comments once more even if I may never come back again:

    @skyesteve; I’m sorry for what you’ve been through but nobody is claiming that it was an illusion. The discussion is about causes. And there is not much place for emotions in true science.

    @Marco; “HIV” may or may not exist. I don’t really “accept” anything. I currently assume that it doesn’t exist in the classical sense, because it seems unlikely to me, but I don’t claim to know the truth. I defend the PG’s right to have a voice and argue that their arguments deserve serious consideration due to the topic’s extreme significance. Other than that I disagree with the other views you express.

    @Staphylococcus; You may be correct in some of your critique, not sure since you didn’t lay out any arguments to support your judgments, but your respond indicates to me that you’re not really familiar with the arguments of the Perth Group. How many of their papers have you actually read if I may ask, and request a truthful answer?

    @Chris Noble; Nope. Scientifically irrelevant to “HIV” anyway, claiming otherwise would again be a logical fallacy (appeal to tradition).

    @quasilobachevski; The more I learn about “HIV science”, the more I’m convinced that it lacks a truly scientific basis for its claims. I’m not sure if it can be generalized to entire retrovirology or virology but my guess would be a sad “probably”.

  80. Sadun Kal said,

    October 29, 2009 at 3:38 am

    @quasilobachevski; I noticed the comment no 70 just now.

    Re 1. Again; “Koch’s postulates” is just a name. PG’s argument is not that this was a nice tradition but it came closer to a more scientific methodology as you put it. If you’ll examine their arguments you’ll see that it’s common sense really. You have to properly seperate the virus from everything else before you can claim to know all it’s properties.

    Re 2. You seem to assume, arbitrarily, that all the viruses are proven to exist exactly as they’re claimed to exist. Well… Here’s where this topic gets a bit fringy for regular minds I guess, but you sense what I’m getting at I suppose… Since there are so many virus claims already, it’s hard for so few people to verify the scientific basis of them all. So if there’s something fundamentally wrong with the methods used in modern virology, then we’re all facing a big obstacle as you can imagine. It will take time to sort things out I suppose. But again, maybe it’s all fine and dandy actually… Who knows? I just doubt it and I’m willing to explore, since it’s an important topic. Don’t see anything wrong with having an open mind as long as I can remain objective. The lack of curiosity on the planet is somewhat disappointing nowadays. :)

  81. Chris Noble said,

    October 29, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Sadun, you keep on using these words – logic, science, objectivity – but you show zero evidence that you understand their meaning.

    The basis of the Perth Group’s argument is that their criteria are the standard “rules for retroviral isolation”. This is their claim. Not mine.

    If these criteria really are necessary it should be trivial to come up with a single example of a retrovirus that has been proven to exist using these criteria.

    The sad truth is that they can’t.

    Perhaps the Perth Group want to argue that no retrovirus or virus exists (or in weasel words that they have not been proven to exist).

    The problem is that in order to reject the existence of HIV they end up rejecting the majority of science. HIV Denial is fundamentally a rejection of modern science.

    You apparently feel comfortable with this.

  82. Staphylococcus said,

    October 29, 2009 at 4:32 am

    @ Sudan #79

    I have read the papers on their website (a year or so ago) and laughed heartily. I know they do no original research of their own because none of them are affiliated with a research lab and they don’t publish original material, only critiques of others. They don’t write like real scientists (constantly and without mercy invoking “proof” when we all know that only mathematics provides it) and their standards of evidence are odd to say the least.

    Beofore I move on, I’ll just point out that I’ve answered your question but you failed to address mine in my original post.

    Here is an amusing example of the PG’s odd evidence requirements:


    Point 2 in the above paper states that the extant nature of reverse transcriptase (RT) in protein gradients isn’t satisfactorally demonstrated.

    You see, actual scientists centrifuge the cell debris soup, collect RT from its sedimentation point and then confirm that it is RT by performing a reverse transcription assay. Apparently, this isn’t good enough for the PG who say that this reverse transcriptase activity could be due to DNA polymerase.

    Apart from the fact that DNA polymerase wont copy RNA, do they seriously suggest that anybody would carry out the assay without a no-RT control? If their claims were true, we would expect polymerase activity from no-virus control samples due to DNA or even RNA polymerase. We don’t see that, therefore the claim is false. This is really basic stuff. Their interpretations have been controlled for in experimental procedures but they still blather endlessly about some wild conspiracy.

    This is but one small example in a whole website filled with junk science.

  83. Sadun Kal said,

    October 29, 2009 at 4:33 am


    If what you call “science” is based on flawed principles, then I’m certainly comfortable with challenging it. The difference between PG and you is that they actually strive for certain “rules for retroviral isolation”, determined on a rational basis, whereas you and others like you are comfortable with there being no clear, rationally determined rules at all. As I hope you remember I repeatedly asked you about your “rules of isolation” before, and you never attempted to answer. And then you dare to claim that you’re the ones on the side of “science”… and expect me to trust these people who really don’t base their work on any rational criteria. Well I have limits to how much I can unquestioningly trust authorities. Authorities have caused much damage in the past, and I’m not sure if the human species can take it much longer…

  84. Sadun Kal said,

    October 29, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Expect resistance, in other words…

  85. Staphylococcus said,

    October 29, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Sadun, get over yourself, you’re not fighting the power, you’re wading into waters you don’t understand.

    “The difference between PG and you is that they actually strive for certain “rules for retroviral isolation”, determined on a rational basis, whereas you and others like you are comfortable with there being no clear, rationally determined rules at all.”

    What a load of crap. Why should there be standard rules of isolation? Devotion to an inflexible framework leads to dogmatic adherence. Just because something cannot be shown in a certain way does not mean it doesn’t exist. Can you see the wind? No, but you can see its affects. Can we grow every known species of bacteria in the lab? Of course not but we can still sequence their genomes from environmental samples – we know they’re there.

    What I (and the others) am trying to say is that the PG’s “rules” are rubbish. They are asking for things that do not need to be asked for. In short, they don’t understand what constitutes reasonable evidence, and neither, it seems, do you.

  86. Chris Noble said,

    October 29, 2009 at 5:00 am

    For people who don’t know the history of the self styled “Perth Group”

    1982: They publish their grand “A Mitotic Theory” which claims that oxidants (including sperm and cigarette smoke) are the cause of cancer.

    ~1983: They decide that the exact same oxidizing substances now cause GRID/AIDS

    1984: Gallo publishes 4 papers detailing the evidence that a retrovirus is the cause of AIDS

    ~1985: The Perth Group now become self declared experts in the isolation of retroviruses.

    Sadun, being a skeptic, you should ask yourself why these oxidising substances changed from causing cancer to causing AIDS around 1984 and how the Perth Group suddenly became the leading authorities in retroviral isolation only after HIV was discovered and linked to AIDS without doing any experimental work whatsoever themselves.

    The only reason that the Perth Group claim that HIV doesn’t exist (sorry, has not been proven to exist) is because they have their own theory. Instead of trying to find evidence for their own pet theory they engage in the typical crank behaviour of inventing spurious reasons for ignoring the evidence that HIV causes AIDS.

    They attract a motley following of scientifically illiterate, anti-science, anti-authoritarian, paranoid conspiracy theorists who typically deny several other aspects of modern science such as evolution, global warming and vaccination.

  87. quasilobachevski said,

    October 29, 2009 at 5:05 am


    We have two competing “methodologies”: the PG’s, and mainstream virology’s. I think that a good way for the layman to distinguish between two competing paradigms is to see what each has to offer.

    Mainstream virology can identify many pathogens, and offer treatments and vaccines. This includes tests and treatment for AIDs, as well as the near-eradication of diseases like smallpox and polio.

    What has the Perth Group’s methodology to offer? You stand up for the “rational basis” of its criteria. But surely one should require much, much more from a medical theory?

    On a different note, you say:

    Authorities have caused much damage in the past…

    At last, we get an inkling of what makes you tick! Would you care to give us a relevant example of the damage done by the virologist “authorities”?

  88. Staphylococcus said,

    October 29, 2009 at 5:50 am

    The funny thing about the PG is that on their website they state:

    [The PG have argued:] That AIDS and all the phenomena inferred as “HIV” are induced by changes in cellular redox brought about by the oxidative nature of substances and exposures common to all the AIDS risk groups and to the cells used in the “culture” and “isolation” of “HIV”.

    This is, of course, a testable hypothesis (its total annihilation by the current literature not withstanding). So my question is, therefore, why haven’t you self-styled experts actually done some research to confirm or deny it? Oh, I’m sorry, it’s easier to be an armchair crank gleefully criticising everyone else’s contributions whilst adding nothing of your own.

  89. Sadun Kal said,

    October 29, 2009 at 5:58 am

    @Chris; Ad hominem.

    @quasilobachevski; These are complex issues. There are many questions you fail to consider when you’re making such judgments. Question things and the answers may become less “self-evident”.

    Re; authorities: I wasn’t referring to the virologists when I said that. Think about the political authorities driving people into wars if you wish. Mainstream science resisted scientific progress many times in the past though. All authorities must be questioned until they can rationally justify their ways.

    @Staphylococcus; Your concept of “reasonable evidence” requires justification. You can’t simply demand obedience without clarifying your rationale. Well it works on the majority of the population apparently… but that’s more because of a lack of awareness probably. And I’m confident that in the future things will change in that regard. I’m unsatisfied with the excuses I receive from “experts” like you.

  90. Sadun Kal said,

    October 29, 2009 at 6:03 am

    “…why haven’t you self-styled experts actually done some research to confirm or deny it?”

    Assuming you mean experiments; first of all they can’t get funding or equipment or labs or whatever, because “truthers” make life kinda difficult for them. And they possibly expected some mainstream researchers with funding to actually bother to do some relevant experiments, which didn’t happen exactly as expected.

    But on their webpage they recently put up a section requesting donations for experiments, so that can be considered progress I suppose. It’s not about oxidation stuff though, it’s about HIV’s existence as far as I know.

  91. Chris Noble said,

    October 29, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Sadun, you steadfastly refuse to answer any questions that are posed to you. You also demonstrate that you do not understand the ad hominem fallacy. Saying that somebody is wrong and an idiot is not fallacious.

    Where are all the retroviruses that have been proven to exist using the criteria that the Perth Group claim are “self evident”?

    Why did oxidising agents that supposedly caused cancer in 1982 start causing AIDS in 1984?

    When did the Perth Group become the authorities on proving the existence of HIV?

    If you are anti-authoritarian why do you insist that there have to be fixed dogmatic “rules for the isolation of retroviruses”? It is a very strange view of science. If science worked that way then we would never discover anything new. Viruses certainly did not fulfil the “rules” for pathogens when they were discovered.

    … and if you think that anyone is going to give money to the Perth Group so they can not find HIV then you are completely nuts.

    You keep on trying to shift the burden of proof onto everybody else to convince the Perth Group that HIV exists. If the Perth Group don’t want to accept that HIV exists then no amount of evidence will ever convince them. They will always come up with some excuse for denying the evidence just as creationists come up with excuses for denying the evidence that evolution explains the diversity of life on the planet.

  92. Marco said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:03 am


    You fail to answer the questions you are asked. You fail in identifying logical fallacies. And you fail even more devastatingly in realising that it is the PG that is resisting scientific progress. It demands a very strict isolation of a virus, an isolation that is absent for MOST viruses (and even many other pathogens) known today. But whenever isolation of HIV HAS been achieved, the PG just screams “CLONES!”, without explaining how we can clone something that the PG claims has not been isolated and thus(!) does not exist. It also does not explain how it is possible that a clone of this supposedly non-existing virus can generate the same effects in animal models as the proposed effects HIV has in humans. The PG shows a devastating failure in understanding scientific principles, merely promoting its own hypothesis that does not, in any way, explain the many observations. By its failure to test its *own* hypothesis, and ignoring those studies that do and find it to contradict the observations, it is violating basic scientific principles.

    Sadun, you are clearly one of those people who WANTS to be deceived by the PG, because the alternative is just too scary.

  93. Marco said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Sadun, I would also like to note that Gallo never claimed “isolation”, as per the PG’s criteria, is a necessity. It is a good example of deliberate out-of-context quotation, in this case of Gallo.

  94. Chris Noble said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Up until recently the HIV Denialists have used the Friend Virus as an example of a retrovirus that has been proven to exist.

    Ironically, the Perth Group now also deny that the Friend Virus exists either.

    A former coauthor with the Perth Group (Stefan Lanka) now denies the existence of any virus that causes disease in humans.

    Maybe the HIV Denialists should all sit down together and try to reach an agreement?

    This should be possible after all. They are all driven purely by science and logic.

    All one has to do is present evidence to them and they’ll be convinced.

  95. Staphylococcus said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:56 am

    @Staphylococcus; Your concept of “reasonable evidence” requires justification. You can’t simply demand obedience without clarifying your rationale.

    Actually, it requires clarification, not justification. And my rationale is obvious: reasoned thought.

    The the real world, if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck and sounds like a duck, we call it a duck. Is that reasonable? Whilst technically correct that what defines “reasonable evidence” is somewhat open to interpretation, you’re simply playing semantics here. Never mind, I’ll play along, but my patience at your inability to answer the questions posed to you about the ramifications of your thought processes by the good people here is wearing thin.

    Here’s a hypothetical example. I say, “look over there, a duck!” You say, “well it looks like a duck, but it might just be a wooden statue painted like one”. [Early days for a hypothesis, data are open to interpretation. This is where debate shines in science.]

    We walk a bit closer “well it smells like a duck”
    “But that could just be that someone sprayed it with scent.”

    “Listen, it sounds like a duck.”
    “But someone might have planted an audio player with duck sounds.” [Notice how as the evidence builds, the excuses become more silly?]

    “It moves like a duck and it’s soft and feathery like a duck. I think it must be a duck”

    “No it isn’t, you haven’t isolated a duck. Ducks don’t exist. Waaaaaaaaaah conspiracy! Those closed-minded scientists wont listen to my fringe theory that ducks are actually wooden models!”

    Okay so it was a silly example, but the idea is there. The fact is that there is a mountain of evidence to support the existence of HIV. Ignoring it will not make it go away and it makes you look stupid. (Also an ad hominem is a personal attack on someone in the absence of any reasoned argument. If I gave you a spade and you told me it was a flower, it’s not an ad hominem for me to make the observation that you are a moron.)

    Well it works on the majority of the population apparently… but that’s more because of a lack of awareness probably. And I’m confident that in the future things will change in that regard. I’m unsatisfied with the excuses I receive from “experts” like you.

    Excuses? From “experts” like me? Indeed. I’m not an expert in HIV, but I am a microbiologist and I’ve had plenty of exposure to the field. But please, enlighten me, what kind of excuses do you get and about what?

    But on their webpage they recently put up a section requesting donations for experiments, so that can be considered progress I suppose. It’s not about oxidation stuff though, it’s about HIV’s existence as far as I know.

    What, they’re going to try and disprove the existence of HIV? You realise you can’t prove a negative in the empirical universe, right? To use Dawkins’ favourite example: you cannot disprove the existence of a teapot orbiting Mars, however unlikely it may seem.

  96. Ben Goldacre said,

    October 29, 2009 at 10:31 am

    out of interest, how do the aids denialists respond to basic information about treatments, such as this meta-analysis showing that antiretrovirals work, one better than none, two better than one, and 3 are better than 2?

    that seems to be strong evidence that is inconsistent with their position.

  97. Snout said,

    October 29, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Ben, if AIDS denialists were capable of honestly responding to basic information that was inconsistent with their position… well, they wouldn’t be denialists.

    Some denialists, such as Claus Koehnlein, say that ARVs “appear” to work because they are, in fact, broad-spectrum antimicrobials. They are effective against a variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi, apicomplexa and other parasites, In fact, they are a panacea against just about every kind of microbial pathogen known to man – except for retroviruses, of course.

    Koehnlein suggests that instead of using “toxic ARVs”, doctors should just focus on treating AIDS defining opportunistic infections with antimicrobials specific for the particular pathogen involved – antifungals for fungi, anti-mycobacterials for TB and MAC, anti-herpetics for HSV and CMV, etc.

    Apparently, in the entire nearly 30 year history of AIDS treatments, no one has thought of treating the opportunistic diseases before.

  98. Chris Noble said,

    October 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

    out of interest, how do the aids denialists respond to basic information about treatments, such as this meta-analysis showing that antiretrovirals work, one better than none, two better than one, and 3 are better than 2?

    1) The prize is dedicated to Huw Christie who despite denying the causal connection between HIV and AIDS died from the disease.

    2) The criteria deemed to be necessary for proving the existence of a retrovirus are different from those of the Perth Group. In fact, the Perth Group deny the exitence of the retrovirus that de Harven claims to have electron micrographed.

    For a classic example of denial you should check out Duesberg’s rationalization of this 1998 paper which again shows the one ARV is better than none, two are better than one and three are better than two.

    “The WHO and the Declaration report
    in 2000 34⋅3 million “living with HIV”, and the WHO
    reports 471,451 AIDS cases for 2000 (World Health
    Organization 2001b) (obtained by subtracting the WHO’s
    cumulative total of 1999 from that of 2000, see also table
    4). Thus, even if we assume that all AIDS cases were
    fatal in 2000, the resulting global mortality rate of HIV-
    positives would only be 1⋅4% – and thus 4 to 6 times
    lower than the 6⋅7–8⋅8% mortality rate of HIV-positives
    treated with anti-HIV drugs in the US and Canada.”

    Duesberg tries to argue that the mortality in untreated people with HIV is less than those taking drugs. The flaws in his logic are large enough to drive a truck through.

  99. pronk said,

    October 29, 2009 at 11:36 am

    @ Sadun

    Of course I was being facetious, but you have made my point for me. You’ve yet again proven you clearly don’t understand (or refuse to understand) why the position of the PG is so utterly nonsensical, and I’m increasingly of the opinion you’re just here for an argument for the hell of it, whether it’s because you like standing up to “the man” or feel like trolling or whatever.

    The PG say that HIV hasn’t been proven to exist because the evidence doesn’t match up to impossible criteria they are demanding be met. If you actually knew anything about science, after everyone here has patiently explained why a number of times, you’d know:

    1) why their impossible criteria are just that – impossible
    2) why they make excuses when evidence contradicts their position
    3) what those excuses are
    4) why they’re invalid or irrelevant, and therefore
    5) why the sum of their actions is the scientific equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and going “la la la la laaaaaa I’m right and you’re wrong la la laaaaa” as loudly as possible.

    They may as well reject all evidence for HIV that wasn’t gathered in a mobile laboratory being towed by a 1970s Ford Anglia on the Birmingham ring road on a Tuesday by a man called Gerald dressed in a stovepipe hat and dungarees as “invalid” – it would make about as much sense. Or perhaps something more simple – maybe they could deny HIV exists because they can’t see it with the naked eye. Absurd? No more absurd than the criteria they demand be met. Or indeed no more absurd than you accepting what they say seemingly without question or concern they’re taking you for a ride. So answer this: you clearly don’t understand the science here (and please don’t pretend you do – or in fact please *do* say that you do, because to do so would render you a laughing stock), so why do you support the Perth Group who have nothing rather than the overwhelming, evidence-backed consensus? Simply because they’re the outsiders?

    As I say, I have my suspicions you’re just here for the kicks of winding people up. Unfortunately, by spreading misinformation and sowing the seeds of doubt with pseudoscience where there is no evidence for that doubt, you’re not just having a jolly little spat with some other nerds online. If this were just an internet row, it really wouldn’t matter one jot and you could happily spin your nonsense wheels harmlessly – but it isn’t. It’s far, far more important than that, and that’s why your absurd posturing about a subject you clearly can’t or won’t grasp is quite so despicable.

    Through hubris, a desire for attention and/or stupidity, the Perth Group casually put lives at risk at no threat to themselves. And through your promotion of their nonsense and your own hubris, desire for attention and/or stupidity, you are also casually putting lives at risk at no threat to yourself.

    Before you come back with another load of waffling nonsense patched together out of misinformation, conspiracy theory, flat-out cobblers and a misguided sense of fighting the powers that be – assuming you have the nerve to do so – bear in mind people *may actually die* just so you can enjoy having an online argument and make yourself feel like a big man for standing up to all those awful, conformist science types. Please do take some time to reflect on that, and consider you may be more comfortable engaging, say, film fans in a debate as to whether Jar-Jar Binks was in fact the best Star Wars character ever. You’ll still have your row, but no one will die as a result. As you say, this is not a game – so stop treating it like one, grow up and stop acting like a bad loser just because your heroes have been shown to be attention-seeking, clueless bluffers rather than the anti-establishment renegade science warriors you clearly wish to see them as.

  100. Caledonian1976 said,

    October 29, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Why are you all still bothering with that idiot? Anyone reading who was even slightly wobbling over to his side will have long since worked out that he’s* a clueless charlatan. You’re just wasting your time (interesting though the start of the toing and froing was).

    *Who he is is obvious.

  101. Snout said,

    October 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    @Caledonian1976, pronk, Staphlococcus, quasilobachevski, Marco, etc:

    If you reread all of Sadun’s posts in this thread (not that I recommend this) you will notice that he has never once articulated any of the Perthian’s specific claims, or tried to argue them. He never does.

    Instead he posts paragraph after pargraph of syntactically correct but meaningless waffle designed to draw attention to his friends Mrs E-P and Dr Turner, and makes vague accusations that those who disagree with him are “unscientific”, “illogical”, “closed minded”, “bamboozled by the powers that be” or indulging in “ad hominems”. He’s been doing this on multiple threads for many, many months now.

  102. Caledonian1976 said,

    October 29, 2009 at 4:59 pm


    Exactly – he’s nothing more than a glorified troll. As the favourite drunk saying goes “leave him; he’s not worth it”.

  103. mikewhit said,

    October 29, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    “But on their webpage they recently put up a section requesting donations for experiments”

    – Aha ! it’s all about trying to line their own pockets ! no-one who does research for money can be disinterested !

    (as the CO2 skeptics might put it …)

  104. pronk said,

    October 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I’m sure you’re right, Snout. But the occasional pointing out to trolls that we’re fully aware they’re trolls never hurts :)

  105. quasilobachevski said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    The great Henri Poincare famously said:

    To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

    I wonder if he had someone like Sadun in mind?

  106. Staphylococcus said,

    October 29, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    I had noticed, but I was bored. What can I say? :)

  107. Sadun Kal said,

    October 30, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Boah! I can’t keep up with all this, sorry. Better to leave now than to exhaust myself completely. I only read and will respond to Dr. Goldacre’s comment in this last visit of mine, re meds;

    Irrelevant question. Even the orthodoxy doesn’t claim to know everything about how “HIV” is supposed to do its thing and how the ARVs or vaccines are actually supposed to stop this thing. So there is a lot of room for speculation but even complete success wouldn’t mean anything for the fundamental scientific questions lingering around, like the ones posed by the Perth Group. If you must know however, ARVs are reported to protect the T-cells of “HIV negative” people too:

    Best wishes to all contributors…

  108. quasilobachevski said,

    October 30, 2009 at 1:51 am

    To paraphrase Sadun’s last comment:

    “OK, so maybe there’s a condition, which you might call AIDS, and maybe it’s caused by something, which you might call HIV, and maybe taking ARVs helps, but I refuse to believe that there’s any proof that any of these things work in the way that you think they do.”

    Russell’s teapot looms large.

  109. nongovernmentalindividual said,

    October 30, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I see that the Spectator is organising a debate later this month on the question “Are cyclists a menace? Eco friendly warriors or hazards to road safety”. How long will it take Sadun Kal to go all over the two-wheeler lists to argue that they have never been scientifically proven not to be a menace?

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  111. Rob Manzoni said,

    May 21, 2011 at 5:40 am

    I know this comes very late in this discussion (‘just read and joined BadScience), but I see several derogatory references to “South Africans”, implying that this is synonymous with “denialist”. Please note that Mr Mbeki and his ilk – and their (il)logic – don’t reflect the stance of the rest of us – by a long shot. The outrage which his public denialism caused here is a matter of public record; and it lead, among other actions, to a high court ruling compelling the reluctant SA government to provide infected persons – and pregnant mothers in particular – with ARVs. That this took so long to get underway is also a matter of shame, not helped by (now president) Zuma’s embarrassing utterances during his trial for raping a woman known to be HIV positive. Sadly, AIDS education here, like sex education, (and education in general) is poorly handled at official levels; and as we see the world over, one can’t teach the uninformed effectively if every word and concept in the discussion has to be explained. A good education is usually a prerequisite to good understanding. Adding to the problem of the ballooning AIDS epidemic here, is the law which prohibits the medical establishment from informing an infected person’s partner (male- or female) of his or her status. Legally, a hospital may not even test a patient for HIV without consent (and this is often withheld!). In a country where obligatory notifiable conditions include tuberculosis, gun-shot wounds and shark-bite, it seems idiotic that a person with HIV is allowed to infect the unsuspecting ‘partners’ with whom (s)he comes into sexual contact. A person who knowingly or deliberately infects another with TB is charged with attempted murder, yet those doing the same with HIV and AIDS (often deliberately) are not. Yes, ca. 330 000 have died due to Mbeki’s callous policies (is this a crime against humanity?), yet it’s not over yet – nor is it slowing down. . . Like global population growth and the elephant in the room (or Dawkins’ gorilla), no-one’s talking about it.

  112. gishan said,

    May 30, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Already very successful Ayurveda treatments for Aids in Srilanka

  113. joey89924 said,

    November 16, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I think this would be a good chance for Ben to arrange a better debate than the one from Spectator

  114. kevin king said,

    January 24, 2015 at 3:13 am

    There are an awful lot of numptys in the world as this blog clearly demonstrates. Referring to Peter Duesberg as a pseudo-scientist really does take the biscuit. In the field he was the leading scientist of his day and it’s disgraceful the way he has been treated by a bunch of second rate types like Gallo et al. There is not AIDS epidemic in the West or in Africa. Just like climate change this is a fantasy of the mollycoddled middle aged progressive who has lost his way in religion anymore and surrounded by rampant commercialism the progressive seeks his salvation in cults wrapped up as science. It’s a depressing age to live in. I feel we are heading back to the middle ages.