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I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures.
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World AIDS Day Yet Again, Undisturbed by Rationality

December 1st, 2012

By Anthony Liversidge (Dec 1 Sat 2012)

Intelligence of readers, viewers insulted by scientists and media daily, as positive tests demonstrate HIV already defeated

Blacks, youths expected to keep “epidemic” fantasy here going, though slowing globally

Why critics have no effective influence on official fiction

Today, World AIDS Day will be celebrated with the usual attendant clamor in groups that stand to benefit from the attention it receives – gays, NGOs, scientists, officials, charities, drug companies, etc. Most of the public will take it for granted that the fanfare and the begging cans are all in a good cause, to save the unhappy souls who might fall victim to the notorious retrovirus, HIV.

We have already been treated this week to a piece in the Times telling us that California will vote on forcing actors in the “sex film industry” to use condoms (the mandate passed), a thick UNAIDS report that 30 million have died and 34 million remain harboring HIV, but that many southern African countries have made tremendous progress against HIV/AIDS, European television coverage of advances against HIV/AIDS in southern Africa, news on NPR that blacks and youth are now the hotspots of HIV’s rampage in the US, a speech by Hilary Clinton looking forward to a future where no child is born with HIV as drug treatment is expanded worldwide, and the obliging appearance of Dr Anthony Fauci on PBS Newshour to reassure its middleaged audience that a tipping point is nigh – when those treated will outnumber those catching the virus.

As Ray Suarez summed up: “Lots of reasons to be encouraged and a lot of challenges ahead.”

Or in other words, the same as last year and every year for the past twenty, with the unchanging central pillar in the form of an outstretched hand, palm upwards.

A simple primer in the HIV fantasy

Sorry, but we beg to differ. Ever since we have been familiar with the so called science of HIV/AIDS, that is, for the last quarter century, it has been clear to us (as it is to many other people) that this is one of the most remarkable examples in history of the universal stupor induced in people by established authority, in this case the authority of science and government.

But why is it that so few, even among AIDS patients whose health and lives are at stake, subject what they are told to the litmus test of simple common sense? Why have most Americans with functioning minds and the willingness to use them on official wisdom given HIV/AIDS a free pass?

Why you should cherish your positive “AIDS test”

After all, you really don’t have to know any complicated science to see through it. The core ideology of this vast scientific-medical-industrial-government-charity complex is so simple yet so contrary to common sense and established science in every major respect that anyone should be able to see through it who understands the word “antibodies”.

For HIV antibodies is what the test is for, not for HIV. It is even inaccurate in detecting HIV antibodies, since it cross reacts with as many as 80 other things, thus scoring positive when you may have none at all in you. But that is not the fatal flaw in the scheme. The unutterable silliness at the heart of HIV/AIDS is that the test is for antibodies, as it has to be. Because after they appear there is virtually no detectable virus in patients, even dying ones.

So a positive result in an “AIDS test” means that the supposedly unfortunate testee is full of antibodies to HIV, HIV which entered his or her body at some earlier point, but is now banished forever by the body’s natural defenses, antibodies specific to HIV. So you are now in no danger whatsoever from HIV any more, even if it was actually destructive (no scientist has ever proved that HIV destroys anything). You don’t harbor it, you harbor antibodies to it – the body’s usual guarantee that you won’t be bothered by an agent again.

The scientists involved have come up with all kinds of convoluted theory as to why you are still, they claim, in danger of coming down with HIV/AIDS in ten or twenty years, but none of this wriggling has enabled them to escape the simple fact that the tests are designed to find people with antibodies, simply because there is effectively no HIV left after they appear.

This point is not noised abroad, of course. Instead, this successful defense by HIV antibodies, a standard immune response, is simply denied. From the NIAID web site:

HIV Vaccines
Historically, vaccines have been our best weapon against the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, including smallpox, polio, measles, and yellow fever. Unfortunately, we do not have a vaccine for HIV. HIV has unique ways of evading the immune system and the human body seems incapable of mounting an effective immune response against virus. As a result, scientists do not have a clear picture of what is needed to provide protection against the virus.

After all, the public purse is being milked by NIAID to sustain a massive effort to find a “vaccine”, and any admission that HIV works very well as a vaccine against itself would threaten the household budgets of not a few well paid researchers. But it does provide an opportunity for amusement for anyone who cares to ask the experts after a panel why not patent HIV as a very effective vaccine, as we have done, and watch the wriggling.

Of course, this simple fact of HIV vaccinating itself leads to the enormous question why we are all being told that an epidemic is just around the corner, if we don’t limit the number of positives in the US with preventive drugs which will stop them transmitting HIV to someone else. After all, antibodies are not infectious, from one person to another. There is no HIV left. So what is “transmitted”?

The answer must be, nothing. An HIV epidemic is therefore impossible. But surely this must be confirmed in the scientific literature, if it is true? And indeed it is. Nancy Padian, a decorated HIV/AIDS general, carried out the largest ever study of potential transmission within heterosexual couples in the nineties only to find there was no transmission whatsoever, as one would expect. This embarrassing revelation has been swept under the carpet, with her Wikipedia entry incorrectly reporting that she demonstrated transmission, and an HIV promoting website featuring her own denial stating that it proved the opposite.

In short, the evidence for the sexual transmission of HIV is well documented, conclusive, and based on the standard, uncontroversial methods and practices of medical science. Individuals who cite the 1997 Padian et al. publication (1) or data from other studies by our research group in an attempt to substantiate the myth that HIV is not transmitted sexually are ill informed, at best. Their misuse of these results is misleading, irresponsible, and potentially injurious to the public.

In fact, the paper states infection rates far too low to support an epidemic, and even those are not actual, but supposed to have occurred before the study.

Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight-times more efficient than female-to-male transmission and male-to-female per contact infectivity was estimated to be 0.0009 (95% CI 0.0005-0.001). Over time, the authors observed increased condom use (p < 0.001) and no new infections. Infectivity for HIV through heterosexual transmission is low.

“Low” as in non existent during the study, during which there were “no new infections”. We had the pleasure of congratulating her on this signal result of proving nil transmission at a Washington NIAID conference, as reported here earlier, to which she replied weakly, “Well, it transmits better in Africa”.

Such HIV proponents who insist that HIV does transmit in the dark continent desperately offer various insulting fantasies of African sexual customs unknown in the US, or claim that the epidemic there is achieved through dirty needles in clinics. But the awkward fact remains: the biggest study in the US showed no transmission among heterosexuals, so all claims to the contrary must be unscientific. Certainly the proven science matches the experience of heterosexuals in the US, where contrary to the loud alarms raised by Oprah Winfrey et al in the eighties, there has been no discernible heterosexual epidemic.

Be that as it may, the bottom line remains. An HIV/AIDS pandemic based on HIV transmission is an impossibility according to the basic science of the matter, and any studies which claim heterosexual transmission must be mistaken. Thus, the claims of HIV/AIDS numbers rising in blacks and in youth which the CDC has peddled in the last week, in the run up to World AIDS Day, must be based on studies which have not been carried out properly, by definition, as far as they concern heterosexuals.

Of course, this fatal flaw at the core of HIV/AIDS propaganda is not the only obvious proof that HIV is not the culprit for any AIDS symptoms. The rest of the theory reeks of claims that no rational peson can believe. Do you want to buy some HIV for your lab? It will arrive flourishing in cultures of T cells, the very immune cells it was originally thought to attack. While the grand theorists of HIV/AIDS such as Anthony Fauci have given up claiming that HIV kills T cells, the propaganda continues to imply it does:

From avert.org: Why is it difficult to develop a vaccine for HIV and AIDS?

Developing a vaccine is a very difficult challenge for scientists. There are many reasons for this, including:

Nobody has ever recovered from HIV infection, so there is no natural mechanism to imitate
HIV destroys the immune system cells that are meant to fight against it
Soon after infection, HIV inserts its genetic material into human cells, where it remains hidden from the immune system
HIV occurs in several subtypes, each of which is very different from the others
Even within each subtype, HIV is highly variable and constantly changing
There are no good animal models to use in experiments although the use of non human primate (NHP) models could become a more significant model for HIV vaccine design and testing in the future.

Freezing minds

Anyone at all familiar with the true science of HIV/AIDS knows why each of these statements is fatuously misleading, but this is not our point. The point is that the minds of almost all who read this tripe are frozen into acquiescence. How else can one explain why, if HIV has no practical effect discernible to scientists or anyone else other than to create antibodies to itself, people have accepted that one needs to “recover” from it, and that down the line one will get AIDS symptoms, wither and die, unless one is given drugs which are clearly themselves responsible for the deaths that follow (17,000 a year, says the CDC, predominantly from symptoms of liver and kidney failure which have nothing to do with HIV)?

And those irrationalities are hardly all. For those of a more scientific taste, allow us to go back to our post from last World AIDS Day and once again list the incredibilities inherent in HIV/AIDS’s global ideology, which together clearly mark the money printing paradigm as the world’s greatest piece of science fiction:

So what exactly is it that you believe in when you accept HIV as the cause of AIDS? Let us count the ways, and see how you like them. To believe in HIV/AIDS, you have to believe in

-an infectious viral disease causing a global epidemic where the virus’s rate of infection is zero among heterosexuals
– a cell killing retrovirus, when retroviruses are otherwise known never to kill cells
– a virus which is provided to labs in immortal cultures of the same human T cells it is said to kill off in people
– a transmissible, fatal virus that hardly be found in most patients, even dying ones, only antibodies to it
– a disease where patients merely with antibodies can nevertheless somehow transmit the agent and die of the disease
– a disease whose nature varies radically from place to place, being almost entirely a homosexual and drug user ailment in North America and Europe, but entirely heterosexual elsewhere
– a disease that correlates with drug use in North America and Europe, yet is to be prevented by a bowl full of damaging and ultimately lethal drugs
– a disease whose mechanism, including an up-to-twenty-year delay in onset, is as yet quite unexplained
– a cell killing disease that also causes cell multiplying cancer, with no trace of the virus in the cancer
– a disease said to be a killer epidemic in Haiti and South Africa, with no significant change in overall mortality, and long endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where a population explosion nonetheless has added 200 million people in the last decade, to 800 million, with a growth rate of 2.5% annually.
– an epidemic mapped in Africa by the World Health Organization almost entirely without the benefit of AIDS tests
– a disease for which the tests are not for the agent but for antibodies to it
– a disease for which the tests cross react with many other agents
– a viral epidemic without initial exponential growth or bellshaped rise and fall, which has maintained level prevalence in the US for 30 years (at around 1 million positives)
– a viral epidemic which has not found immunity anywhere
-a killer disease where no doctor, nurse or researcher working with it has caught the disease
– a disease with risk group, lifestyle, and malnutrition specific symptoms
– a disease whose every symptom is shared with other diseases–in fact, a disease which would in every case be counted as those other diseases except for the supposed presence of antibodies to the “virus that causes AIDS”
– a viral epidemic without a sign of a promising vaccine despite the best funded army of researchers in history
– a viral disease which quickly achieves the antibodies of vaccination of its own accord
– a virus transmitted 25-50% through birth which has produced no epidemic among children.
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As we have often said, anybody who knowingly believes in the above list we would like to contact us, since we have a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn that we would like to sell them for an extremely large sum of money.

The HIV/AIDS pyramid

There have been many effective critics who have deconstructed HIV/AIDS lore over the years, but still this pyramid of nonscience seems only to grow more solid and immovable each year. The critics have included everyone from the finest scientist in the field, Peter Duesberg of Berkeley, to expert and lay authors of some forty books, infuriated and excited by their discovery of how they have been misled, and how obvious the impossibility of HIV causing illness becomes once the official distorting spectacles are removed.

Another brave new book

Such books continue to come out. The latest, with the refreshingly blunt title AIDS: They Suckered US, Greatest Blunder in Medical History, is self published by Noreen Martin from Charleston, a writer and nutritional consultant who recounts her own sudden decline nine years ago from a mysterious ailment which weakened her immune system and was diagnosed as HIV/AIDS. This was one patient who read up on the topic for herself, however, and she soon took her treatment into her own hands, rejecting AIDS drugs for what she believed to be the saner approach of restoring her immune system with diet and supplements, and now feels thoroughly vindicated by the result. Her book assembles a mound of her research on alternative thinking on AIDS which she presents uncritically but with the uninhibited enthusiasm and despatch of an autodidact who has reliably detected error in established dogma.

The book is not by a professional researcher, its assembly is not smoothly edited, and Martin simply assumes the credibility of all her sources, even business Web sites, if they are in line with her beliefs, leaving readers to make up their own minds about what they will credit. But with her copious and complete gathering of so much useful information, all will surely see how consistent the data in her alternative medical approach is, and be influenced if not persuaded. She has found like so many others that even though her starting point was only to second guess standard practice and peer reviewed research, the alternatives to standard medicine form a coherent and convincing whole.

Her book is up to date enough to include the famous remark by Luc Montagnier, the senior French scientist in Paris who won the Nobel for discovering HIV in 2008, unguardedly telling Brent Leung, the maker of the revelatory documentary House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic, that HIV presents no threat to a healthy person, who will shrug it off in a week:

Leung: If you take a poor African who’s been infected and you build up their immune system, is it possible for them to also naturally get rid of HIV?

Luc Montagnier:I would think so. It is important knowledge which is completely neglected. People always thinks of drugs and vaccine.

Brent Leung: There’s no money in nutrition, right?

Luc Montagnier: There’s no profit, yes.

A fine piece of guerilla interviewing. As Francis Bacon noted four centuries ago, “A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open.” Quite how Dr Montagnier reconciles his assurance that HIV is not by itself the cause of AIDS, the premise on which his medal was awarded, with his acceptance of that medal without mentioning this interesting fact, we leave up to connoisseurs of professional standards in science to tell us.

In fact, it is worthwhile to note here that the full transcript of the House of Numbers interview actually contains the following:

Luc Montagnier: “… I believe HIV, we can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected. Our immune system will get rid of the virus in a few weeks, if you have a good immune system; and this is also the problem with African people; their nutrition is not very equilibrated, they are in oxidative stress, even if they are not infected with HIV, so their immune system doesn’t work well already, so it is prone, you know, to allow HIV to get in and persist. So there are many ways, not the vaccine, many ways to decrease the transmission, just by simple measures of nutrition, giving anti-oxidants, proper anti-oxidants-hygiene measures, fighting the other infections.”

Leung: “If you have a good immune system, then your body can naturally get rid of HIV?”

Luc Montagnier: Yes.”

Brent Leung’s documentary House of Numbers is a classic documentary (here’s a free copy on YouTube if you don’t have the well deserved monetary payment it asks for the triple DVD at the documentary’s site) which is the definitive investigative work on film that exposes the embarrassing disarray in theory and opinion of the world’s top HIV scientists, and how they often contradict the paradigm they are trying to defend. In this case, the man who graciously accepted an award for the being the discoverer of HIV, a discovery whose importance hinges on its status as the cause of AIDS, is repeating the opinion he has actually publicly held for twenty years, that by itself the notorious retrovirus is harmless.

Adding to Martin’s credibility, more and more alternative medicine in diet is being backed up by mainstream research, which shows in the lab at least that phytochemicals can be more effective against cancer cells, for example, than drugs. Certainly Noreen’s rejection of HIV is aligned with the views of Peter Duesberg, the best innovative researcher in cancer and the most prominent reviewer in the field of HIV/AIDS, who has argued in leading science journals and extensive lectures since 1987 that HIV cannot be the cause of AIDS. That alone, for many, will guarantee the credibility of Noreen Martin’s work.

But her book is only the latest of some forty well informed volumes dismissing the standard claim in HIV/AIDS, on which annual spending rests which amounts to tens of billions annually. Numerous articles have appeared over the years in the mainstream press challenging the idea, as well as more scientific articles in leading peer reviewed journals debunking it. Conferences have been held, lectures given. The Web carries copious material, ranging from one of Duesberg’s finest lectures, to a Dutch collection at VirusMyth by Robert Laarhoven of most of what has been written against HIV, to an up to date news and analysis site Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society run by a Canadian executive, David Crowe. The best academic level site is HIV Skeptic by emeritus professor and expert on scientific controversy Henry Bauer, author of The Origin, Persistence, and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory (2007). There is a specialized AIDSWiki which features entries which haven’t been bowlerized by HIV defenders, unlike those on Wikipedia. Then there is OMJ, the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice, a site of news and editorial by Clark Baker, a criminal investigator. Even this site features most of the key material in posts since 2005, in well informed discussions in comment threads and in the blogroll down the side of the page on the right).

Why HIV/AIDS dogma is immovable

Yet after twenty five years it can be fairly said that HIV heresy has got precisely nowhere in terms of altering the official story or the medical profession’s or the public’s views.

Why this defeat of rationality? We count the following among the most important factors repressing public review of HIV/AIDS:

Overwhelming official endorsement

Not only has President Obama showed no sign of seeing through the HIV/AIDS fairy tale, but he has endorsed the effort, having Clinton announce expanded drug treatment funding and putting up a very large red AIDS ribbon on the North portico of the White House today. Thus he joins every other president since Reagan in backing the strenuous efforts of NIAID and UNAID to “find a cure”, as NBC News put it today, meanwhile applying billions of tax payer dollars to that end and expanding access to “lifesaving drugs” to demolish the health of AIDS victims around the world. With the seal of approval from every official body inside science and out, and from every scientific body, innumerable charities and NGOs and the Hollywood actors that support them from the late Elizabeth Taylor on downwards, the standard HIV/AIDS dogma has become the most automatically approved cause in the culture, with instant reflex suspicion of the sanity and possible “homophobic” motives of anybody who calls it into question.

Media running dogs

The mainstream media from the New York Times on down have uncritically and irresponsibly taken a position in a scientific debate which they do not investigate or understand, with rare exceptions simply repeating the standard dogma of HIV causing AIDS and serving as its leading propagandists. The rest of the media follow the Times like their own Pied Piper, with a very few brave exceptions, the best known of which is Harpers, which published a long piece by the best writer in the field, Celia Farber, only to abandon the politically embarrassing initiative after a counter attack from scientists and activists invested in the HIV scheme was mounted. So too have corporations, from the AIDS drug companies which fund NGOs and gayactivists defending the status quo to corporations climbing on the band wagon, such as Chevron, which bought three pages of the ad-starved issue of Time this week to state that “We Agree” (that AIDS is Going to Lose).

Money talks, reason walks

Those foolhardy enough to take up their scientific or literary cudgels for the cause of reform in HIV/AIDS tend to give up over time, as defenders of HIV very well know. The imbalance in resources is huge, with billions spent on HIV propaganda (which is embedded in every official, industry, research, professorial, NGO and charitable action in the arena), and the media coverage they get. Scientists will lose funding support from their colleagues if they open their mouths to object – Peter Duesberg, once the golden boy of grant seeking at the NIH, has not had a public penny to spend in twenty five years. Any critical journalist and author will be starved of assignments and foundation support, indeed, reliably bankrupted if he or she tries to pursue truth in the area too long without a second career or private income. Questioning HIV is the third rail of professional medical or science journalism, as its handful of practitioners know, though the gratitude of patients who with their help find another path to health is overwhelming.

Time silences dissent, reinforces consensus:

The longer HIV proponents manage to hold off reviewers, the more firmly they consolidate their rule. In the end, they win by default.

Like a Middle Eastern dictator who holds on against a popular uprising with violence, the scientists who protect HIV from questioning have spread fear throughout the scientific and media community. Any researcher who brings up the HIV issue in a scientific forum today would be in danger of being referred to a psychiatrist. Dr Anthony Fauci stated publicly early on that any reporter who raised the topic of hostile HIV critiques at the NIH would be spurned as incompetent.

Dealing with this kind of pressure is impossible for all but the toughest idealist, one without spouse or children as hostages to fortune, one prepared to sacrifice his or her career if need be. Such types are as rare as Nader. Few are prepared to resist the kind of tactics that have been employed in the now silenced AIDS debate – the phone calls behind their back to employers and universities labeling them dangerous, the scotching of their appearances to state their case on television (to be replaced at the last moment by spokesmen for the paradigm), the attack on editors who see fit to publish their views, sometimes costing them their jobs.

As a result, both scientific and journalistic heretics eventually retire into silence on the topic, isolated and bereft of publishing platforms or live appearance stages to air the topic. Their absence quiets the debate. Eventually, those not directly involved assume they have been defeated in argument and by new evidence. The assumption becomes universal, even among sophisticated observers.

Thus we recall attending the meeting celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pope’s Academy of Science inside the Vatican, and explaining to a senior member of the academy, a Belgian, the doubts about HIV’s role in AIDS and that Peter Duesberg’s rejection of the hypothesis in top journals against strict peer review had never been refuted on the same high level, in fact had never been answered in the same journals.

“I am glad you told me. I was following that earlier and thought he was right”, he said. “I just assumed when I stopped hearing about it that he had lost the argument.”

The irony of course is that the success of HIV proponents in silencing heretics in HIV/AIDS is that indeed, they have won the argument.

An unmentionable topic

Then finally, last but perhaps not least, there is the simple fact that the topic is essentially unmentionable in polite society, since it evokes a raft of distasteful images, from holloweyed, skeletal AIDS victims at the door of death to the sexual high jinks of gays which most people prefer not to think about over dinner. Like a skunk which stinks when you kick it, the topic simply subjects heterosexual conversationalists to a concern over whether they are gay, and if not, why the interest in the topic, which is certainly not going to help them impress women?

Politically sensitive gay readers may object to us pointing this out, since the reaction obviously contains a certain amount of prejudice, or “homophobia”, not on our part but on the part of the typical conversationalist. Then of course there is the tiresome reaction of many people to any idea which engenders cognitive dissonance of a major order, which is essentially discomfort, usually resolved by labelling the perpetrator misguided if not insane. We distinctly remember the moment when a middle aged gay man outside the New School after a panel on HIV/AIDS who seemed to think he was bonding with us over shared views only to discover – horror of horrors – that we were heretical on the topic, whereupon he literally scooted away about thirty feet to place a comfortable distance between himself and his newly discovered candidate for burning at the stake.

Delusions we are all heir to

Finally, the dominant factor may well be the flaws in reasoning inherent in human nature which have been illuminated in several books recently, notably the best seller Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Drawing on decades of research in psychology that resulted in a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman takes readers on an exploration of what influences thought example by example, sometimes with unlikely word pairs like “vomit and banana.” System 1 and System 2, the fast and slow types of thinking, become characters that illustrate the psychology behind things we think we understand but really don’t, such as intuition. Kahneman’s transparent and careful treatment of his subject has the potential to change how we think, not just about thinking, but about how we live our lives. Thinking, Fast and Slow gives deep–and sometimes frightening–insight about what goes on inside our heads: the psychological basis for reactions, judgments, recognition, choices, conclusions, and much more. –JoVon Sotak

Others which are less comprehensive but more readable include The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life by Robert Rivers,

“Self-deception has long been a dark, opaque side of our behavior, but the author brings a bright flashlight to his investigation of why we alter information to reach a falsehood…. Trivers examines our biases and rationalizations, denials and projections, misrepresentation and manipulations, and his writing is comfortable and suasive, resulting from his familiarity and command of the subject’s broad application and investigative history…. A gripping inquiry. Trivers is informal but highly knowledgeable, provocative, brightly humorous and inviting. – Kirkus Reviews

and the amusing and telling You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, who writes the blog of the same title. (Interestingly, McRaney provides a ironic example of the Physician, Heal Thyself problem that Kahneman has described, which is that expertise in the pitfalls of thinking does not guarantee an author notices them in his own beliefs. His article Spinners of Web: AIDS crusaders in the Deep South on a milieu where many have had positive tests for HIV antibodies shows that despite his expertise he has been taken in hook, line and sinker by the HIV claim.)

Whether you’re deciding which smartphone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic. But here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us—but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human.

Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them. But often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter—covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency—is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.

Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.

All these volumes detail the delusions that afflict mankind in general at every corner of their supposedly lucid reasoning process, and show precisely why a grand delusion may live on despite its debunking by brilliant and persistent critics, since it is supported by the common delusions of the crowd of normal human beings who believe it. In other words, most of us have to make a serious and prolonged effort to think straight if our beliefs are going ever going to be in line with reality.

For example,

(From a Guardian review of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow by Oliver Burkeman): Take the famous “Linda question”: Linda is a single 31-year-old, who is very bright and deeply concerned with issues of social justice. Which of the following statements is more probable: a) that Linda works in a bank, or b) that Linda works in a bank and is active in the feminist movement? The overwhelming majority of respondents go for b), even though that’s logically impossible. (It can’t be more likely that both things are true than that just one of them is.) This is the “conjunctive fallacy”, whereby our judgment is warped by the persuasive combination of plausible details. We are much better storytellers than we are logicians.

Relevant pages are at Scientific American on Trivers, Guardian on Robert Trivers, Guardian on Daniel Kahneman

Myth making at the heart of culture

All of these kinks in human reasoning arise not from neuronal inefficiency at navigating logic per se but from the corrupting effect of emotions on reason. Since there is no sluice gate to close between brain and body, objective reasoning is impossible without a very great effort to remove their influence, which is made very difficult by the fact that we all tend to be blind to the effect in ourselves (present company excepted, of course).

So if myth can be said to be belief founded in emotion rather than reason, then mankind’s love of myth may be the final factor in the triumph of HIV/AIDS ideology, a force against which reason is generally powerless, as in religion. The mechanisms of religion – the unison of crowd behavior, the love of authority, the tribalism, the wish fulfilling fantasy, the healing power of story – are all engaged by the power of myth, and HIV/AIDS is a powerful myth, which through its appeal to everyone from scientists to gays clearly binds groups and enforces subscription to a biblical text. Prising a believer away from his or her belief in HIV as a deadly virus is as difficult as separating the Bible from the Pope.

Against such a force, the hapless individual heretic in HIV/AIDS, however well credentialed, is reduced to the status of a mouse facing a juggernaut.


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