Wednesday, April 22, 2015

#1348: Hank Barnes

A.k.a. David Steele (apparently real name)

Hank Barnes is a personal injury lawyer who runs the website Barnesworld and You Bet Your Life blog (or at least used to run them – don’t know if they are still up), where he promotes HIV denialism. No, Barnes apparently doesn’t believe that HIV causes AIDS, and he thinks those who do commit the fallacy of appeal to authority, since they tend to appeal to the conclusion of scientists who know things about diseases, and the fallacy of argument ad populum because they appeal to the fact that the vast majority of scientists think that HIV causes AIDS. For the record, that’s not quite how the fallacies “appeal to authority” and “argument ad populum” work. Furthermore, Peter Duesberg is being persecuted – after all, most people think Duesberg’s conclusions are wrong and crazy and call his bullshit “bullshit”, and if that isn’t persecution, then Barnes doesn’t know. (He doesn't know.)

Nor does Barnes like peer review. “Peer review enforces state-sanctioned paradigms. Pollack (2005) likens it to a trial where the defendant judges the plaintiff. Grant review panels defending the orthodox view control the grant lifeline and can sentence a challenger to ‘no grant.’ Deprived of funds the plaintiff-challenger is forced to shut down her lab and withdraw,” says Barnes. Yes, they are all out to get the brave, maverick dissenters who deny that HIV causes AIDS by science, logic, reasoning, evidence, reality and all those other sources of bias, and like dictators refuse to give equal time and resources to thoroughly debunked fringe denialist views. In my humble experience – purely anecdotally, of course – peer reviewers tend to like novel ideas; I guess it’s the fact that they also like those ideas being backed up by evidence to support them is what really irks people like Hank Barnes.

You can see a fine example of how Barnes reads the scientific literature here. As Steele (his real name), he has apparently also been involved in some unsuccessful legal cases involving HIV denialist claims representing Duesberg (also here).

Diagnosis: Irritating denialist who has at least shown that he doesn’t understand logic, reasoning or evidence, trading them for his own definitions based on how logic, reasoning or evidence should work to support his conclusions. His impact is unknown, but HIV denialism is actually rather scary. 

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