Nature Reviews “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy”

Seth Kalichman has written a book on HIV AIDS denial and Nature has a book review that’s got me excited to get my copy. From the review:

Inadequate health policies in South Africa have reportedly led to some 330,000 unnecessary AIDS deaths and a spike in infant mortality, according to estimates by South African and US researchers. This carnage exceeds the death toll in Darfur, yet it has received far less attention. Seth Kalichman, a US clinical psychologist, shows in Denying AIDS how words can kill. His marvellous book should be read alongside Nicoli Nattrass’s Mortal Combat, covering similar ground but from the perspective of a South African.

The tragic events in South Africa have been exacerbated by AIDS ‘denialists’ who, Kalichman alleges, assert that HIV is harmless and that antiretroviral drugs are toxic. The author discusses the psychology of denialism, which he says is “the outright rejection of science and medicine”.

These attitudes are not unique to HIV. Denialism, notes Kalichman, is “partly an outgrowth of a more general anti-science and anti-medicine movement”. Groups that support intelligent design, doubt global warming, claim that vaccines cause autism, argue that cigarettes are safe, believe that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were an intelligence-agency plot or deny the Holocaust all use similar tactics.

As Kalichman says, denialism “will not break until the public is educated to differentiate science from pseudoscience, facts from fraud”.

Excellent! These are the points we’ve been trying to get across for years and I’m excited to see others catching on and emphasizing this point. It’s not about differing opinions it’s about different tactics. The tactics of the pseudoscientists are easy to spot, and don’t require expert knowledge of science. If people know about them, and recognize them, then fighting against insidious ideas like HIV/AIDS denial or evolution denial gets that much easier.

Get yourself a copy!


8 responses to “Nature Reviews “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy””

  1. D. C. Sessions

    Get yourself a copy!

    Doubly so since Kalichman is about to have the mother of all legal bills as scores of libel suits are launched against him in the UK.

  2. John M 307

    “Groups that support intelligent design, doubt global warming, claim that vaccines cause autism, argue that cigarettes are safe, believe that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were an intelligence-agency plot or deny the Holocaust all use similar tactics.”

    In the case of 9/11, I observe the opposite: defenders of the 9/11 official stories (plural — note that they’ve changed) respond with insult and denial when presented with evidence of the falsity of the official stories, or evidence that the official stories are infested with lies, propaganda, and incompetence.

    Anyone with basic science and math competence should see the howlers in this statement from Popular Mechanics:

    “Why couldn’t ATC find the hijacked flights? When the hijackers turned off the planes’ transponders, which broadcast identifying signals, ATC had to search 4500 identical radar blips crisscrossing some of the country’s busiest air corridors.”

    And then there’s this blood libel of the FAA, appearing in the 9/11 Commission’s report:

    “The Secret Service was getting this information directly from the FAA. The FAA may have been tracking the progress of United 93 on a display that showed its projected path to Washington, not its actual radar return. Thus, the Secret Service was relying on projections and was not aware the plane was already down in Pennsylvania.”

    (In the section of Chapter 1 labeled “United 93 and the Shootdown Order”) (p.41 of the PDF version’s Chapter 1)

    The note to this paragraph cites an interview with Tim Grovack. Nothing can be found about the interview or Grovack.

  3. Francis

    YES!! Buy double Kalichman’s book… he is donating the money from the book to purchase HIV/AIDS medications in Africa. Denialist law suits will boost sales as well!! All the better for charity!

  4. Over the past eight dark years in which woefully inadequate leaders have ruled, a human tragedy of colossal proportions has been fulminating. Population experts have persistently and willfully denied apparently unforeseen and exceedingly unwelcome scientific evidence of human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth. Although the research published by Russell P. Hopfenberg, Ph.D., and David I. Pimentel, Ph.D., remains unchallenged and appears to be scientifically correct, this research is evidently politically incorrect and, moreover, economically inexpedient. Experts inside and outside the community of science who have reviewed the evidence have refused to state their views publicly, especially in professional journals. Their solemn “duty to warn” of potentially catastrophic consequences has not been accepted. I believe this unfortunate situation is occasioned by a realization that, on one hand, they do not believe what is before their eyes and, on the other hand, they cannot refute the science. So they choose to remain electively mute.

    If you please, Mark, review the evidence in the 33 minute presentation, World Food and Human Population Growth, at the following link,

    The implications of these data appear profound.

    Also, thanks for all you are doing to save life as we know it, Earth and its frangible environs from being ravaged by unrestrained per-capita overconsumption, unbridled overproduction and unregulated overpopulation activities of the human species in these early years of Century XXI.

    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  5. LanceR, JSG

    You may be correct, Steven, but this thread is about AIDS denial. Spamming unrelated fora will not help your case.

    Just sayin’.

  6. John M 307

    LanceR: I beg to differ. Given the original highlight, this thread is about denialism with AIDS perhaps as the primary example. In that context, Salomy’s post is not so off-topic.

    Innumeracy is one tactic or character of the denialist — having no sense of the numbers, size, or scale involved in a situation.

  7. I am old enough to remember the period before AIDS, then the murky urban-legend-like first reports. While this was transpiring around me I also happened to have a health-care job that thrust me into compiling information on AIDS victims to supply as epidemiology reports to the State lab where I resided and worked. Through my job, then the death of my friends, I saw how cavalier the disease, the suffering victims, different sexual practices, the treatments, then finally the death toll was all handled by government, media, physicians, scientists and Big Pharma. Then the resultant harsh, greedy, and sometimes patient-unconcerned race for tests development and monies, the often substandard testing processes themselves, and then for me the big enchiladas: the theories of origin, those involved, and the documentation thereof. Why 28 years later am I still waiting for rational, truthful, un-hysterical, non-defensive governmental or global examination of ALL the evidence compiled by denialists, “conspiracy theorists”, DOD accident claims, vs the scientific golden child, monkey to man?

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