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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).
TABLE OF CONTENTS | REVIEWS
Andrew Kaufman's Take on the Pandemic That Wasn't
The Corona Conspiracy, Part 9
Whoever takes the virus as causal agent out of a pandemic has a really hard time to explain both the nature and the spreading pattern of this new disease called COVID-19.
Andrew Kaufman, the hero/villain of our Corona Conspiracy series, has become somewhat of a celebrity in alt-med circles. Last week he showed up on The Highwire, a weekly show by Del Bigtree, an American television and film producer and one of the most prominent voices in the anti-vaccination movement. He announced Kaufman as "the most requested doctor in Highwire history", so this is somewhat of an indication of the celebrity status of Kaufman. We will take the opportunity to see if Kaufman summarized his take on the coronavirus pandemic, in a dialogue format instead of the usual monologues, even if Bigtree can hardly be characterized as a critical journalist.
As you may recall, Kaufman doesn't believe in the existence of viruses, though he usually phrases this as "there is no evidence for a virus." Whatever researchers observe under a microscope, he maintains, are not at all viruses but particles produced by our own cells, when they are put under stress or have suffered some trauma. These particles are called "exosomes", and they have about the same size as viruses, he claims—so the confusion might be understandable. He has even suggested that "the similarities [between viruses and exosomes] have been recognized by scientists, including virologists, and many times scientists have actually said they are the same thing, or they have substantial overlap. Including prominent virologists." (see Part 3)
Summary of Kaufman's Narrative
Here's a brief summary of the Kaufman narrative, compared to the scientific understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and the ensuing pandemic:
However, we have shown that the one "prominent virologist" Kaufman cites, James Hildreth, believes nothing of the sort. Besides, Kaufman had demonstrably quoted Hildreth out of context (see Part 3). What is more, world class exosome exerts such as Jan Lötvall and Ken Witwer forcefully reject the suggestion of the equivalence of viruses and exosomes (see Part 4).
On top of that, Kaufman has recently conceded that he never did any virological research (in the video "Panel with Judy Mikovitz and Marcy Cravat"). To make things even worse, in this same video Kaufman was sternly lectured on viruses by Mikovitz. Herself a discredited virologist who featured prominently in the movie Plandemic, she stated bluntly as her opinion, backed by decades of research experience: "viruses are by themselves infectious agents."
Kaufman, remember, is a forensic psychiatrist turned alt-medic, not a virologist. This leaves him in the awkward situation that both regular and alternative prominent scientists are denouncing his views on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the global pandemic. Yet, he persists in his conviction that viruses simply don't exist, and people are dying from other causes—everybody else has it wrong. And yet, whoever takes the virus as causal agent out of a pandemic has a really hard time to explain both the nature and the spreading pattern of this new disease called COVID-19.
As a brief aside, to give you an indication of how alt-med conspiracy thinking has reached the popular market, the virology bestseller list on Amazon (as of July 23, 2020) is headed by "Plague of Corruption" by this alternative scientist Judy Mikovitz and "Spillover" by David Quammen, a bona fide popular science writer (who is currently in the process of writing a book on the pandemic). It's a close call!
ON LESS SOLID TERRAIN
Kaufman rejects the germ theory of disease, and has embraced the so-called terrain theory of disease, which goes back decades into medical history. This theory holds, among other things, that bacteria, fungi and viruses are not external intruders that threaten our health, or even independent life forms, but particles or entities that are produced by our own cells, and can morph into each other. This is usually called "pleomorphism".
This of course upsets our scientific and widely accepted understanding of the Tree of Life, which unites all domains of life (archaea, bacteria, and eukaryotes—which include unicellular organisms, fungi, plants and animals) into a tightly fit grand evolutionary pattern (sometimes compared to a tree or a bush or a "tangled tree", to use a book title from Quammen). For the alternative pleomorphic paradigm, no such data are available, except for a few disputed microscope observations.
With this in mind, let's dive into the 40 minutes interview Del Bigtree had with Andrew Kaufman, and note that even if Bigtree is mostly on the side of Kaufman when it comes to questioning the received pandemic narrative, he still managed to ask some mildly critical questions.
When asked about his credentials by Bigtree Kaufman claims he is uniquely qualified to speak on these viral matters because of his scientific training and his independece from the medical and academic establishment. However, having some academic training doesn't qualify one in the least to speak with authority on such a highly specialized field as virology. Not even closely similar specializations such as epidemiology or statistics provide that capacity.
Kaufman may have initially been trained as a biologist at MIT (as an undergraduate), but he has worked for biotech companies, worked as a physician assistant, worked in cancer medicine (hematology) and went to medical school in psychiatry at Duke, and specialized in forensic psychiatry. As he summarizes his resumé: "so i've done quite a lot of things in healthcare and medicine." And he is selling health care products for a living now (and charging hundreds of dollars for a short online consult).
Here's his take on the current pandemic, and he obviously represents a more extreme view than his already quite far-out talkshow host is willing to entertain:
I just want to separate the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is what they've named what they call as a virus and COVID-19 being the illness. So I actually reject both hypotheses.
What brought Kaufman to this rather extreme view? He looked at the earliest scientific papers that claimed a virus had been isolated, which took him some time because the language used was very technical, and concluded that in none of these cases was that actually true. In his understanding, it was first concluded that the early patients suffered from some SARS-related illness and when taking samples of their lungs, they decided some genetic snippets were evidence for such a virus:
What they did is, they amplified a piece of genetic material that had a part of its sequence that they were specifically looking for, because they had pre-identified these sequences as being from viruses. And they just basically identified a snippet of this genetic material and said that this was a virus. And they did really nothing more. So there was never a particle that was purified from which they would extract genetic material and say: this RNA came from this particle, therefore it belongs to the particle and it makes up a basically genome of a virus.
What Kaufman doesn't mention—or even fails to understand—is the following: the earliest Chinese researchers produced a full genome of this new virus, using state of the art sequencing technology that allows you to do that in a matter of days, or even hours. Soon other researchers would do the same, in many countries all over the world, and these genomes matched up perfectly, resulting in the consensus that the genome of SARS-CoV-2 consists of about 30.000 bases. Other viruses are much smaller or bigger (see Part 6).
Over time, tiny genetic differences showed up, signalling mutations that are to be expected with these RNA viruses. Thus an evolutionary tree could be built of this particular virus. This tree, and those of other viruses as well, can be viewed in real time at nextstrain.org, as I have mentioned many times. Please do! Based on this collaborative information, countries could trace how the virus had entered their borders and take measures accordingly.
What is more, this newly assembled SARS-CoV-2 genome was quickly matched against its predecessor SARS-CoV, and to other coronaviruses, both of human and bat origin, again in an elaborate evolutionary tree of this family of viruses, showing exactly how and where this particular SARS-CoV-2 virus was different.
And that's an important point: because any test that aims to detect this particular virus only needs to focus on what makes it unique—not on the full 30.000 bases genome of the virus itself, nor on the bases that it shares with its corona family members (which include innocent common colds as well). Tests that are devised based on this information could therefore be made highly specific for this virus. It's not that when you are tested for COVID-19 and you have a common cold, you are automatically tested positive.
WITH A BLIND EYE FOR DATA
And yet, closing his eyes to these data, Kaufman keeps saying "they have never isolated any virus." He correctly understands that these tests specifically look for a short sequence, but maintains that we never know where that piece of RNA came from. Its source could as well have been our own cell material, more specifically the exosomes we produce ourselves, and which sometimes contain RNA, or perhaps from bacteria in our lungs.
But what Kaufman never does is go to these published SARS-CoV-2 genomes, which are publically available, and point out exactly which of these "viral" gene snippets are actually part of our own human genome (which contains, not 30.000 but 3.200.000.000 bases—so good luck with that). See Part 15 for an attempt like that—which failed miserably—in which it is claimed that our human chromosome 8 is involved.
In the meantime, Bigtree and Kaufman are back into conspiracy lane, and wonder why no scientists in the past months have actually "isolated the virus", and they see that as a burning question! Perhaps they did, and they didn't like what they found, they surmise? But without this isolated virus, they tell each other, there is no ground for any lockdown measures, social distancing, let alone for vaccination to be implemented on a worldwide scale (to the benefit of vaccine manufacturing companies). What they fail to understand is that part of the sequencing protocol are several elaborate steps of purification. How deep can one be lost in pseudo-science?
Has Kaufman really no clue about how genomics works? He knows it even better:
So just to give you a sort of a picture of the scale of this, they say that the full genome—which they haven't mapped in the way that I described but they pieced together using computer modeling, just like Ferguson's computer modeling—but they say that it is, I think, 30 or 40.000 bases long, the whole genome. The little snippets that they're testing for are two to three hundred bases long, so they're just a fragment of what they say this whole genomic sequence is. But once again, they don't have any proof of the origin of this sequence of RNA, so what they're just showing is that this sequence of RNA is present in a variety of samples. And I think the president of Tanzania even tested it on a piece of fruit and showed that it was present.
To start with the last claim, the president of Tanzania is an anti-vaxxer and hardly a source to be trusted. As I explained, the tests are so specific that they detect only viral material. But seriously, no researcher has ever claimed the genome of SARS-CoV-2 to be 40.000 bases, not even close. That tests look only for small snippets is precisely the purpose with these tests, not something to lament. And their origin can be traced to the full viral genomes that have been separately assembled. Besides, the "little snippets that they're testing for" are about two dozen bases long, like: CTCCCTTTGTTGTGTTGT, not "two to three hundred".
Now, comparing this to the computer modelling done by Neil Ferguson, a mathematical epidemiologist at Imperial College London who led an influential, but controversial, simulation of the coronavirus pandemic, is a blunder of the first magnitude. Genome sequencing is a totally different scientific problem, which uses its own highly sophisticated software (see Part 6).
So Bigtree tries again, "but we are told this virus is very similar to the previous SARS virus", but Kaufman is adamant:
Well I want to first say that the original SARS virus wasn't isolated either and they used the same exact procedures in that, so you have to really question the basis of comparison to something that wasn't clearly proven in origin in the first place.
These days every single living thing is sequenced, from plants and animals to bacteria and viruses. If Kaufman would be consistent, he would question all these efforts equally, not only in the case of viruses, but for some reason he doesn't. And whether the most burning scientific question really is if viruses are actually exosomes or not, as the gentlemen conclude, what holds Kaufman back from consulting the exosome experts and see what they think? We already know and they are not impressed, as we have seen. He will probably browse through that literature until he finds something that confirms his preconceived notions, as he did with James Hildreth.
Left without a virus as causal agent, Kaufman needs to come up with alternative explanations for the spikes in deaths that have been observed in many countries (though some even want to deny that). He suggests: people have been scared to death(!) when the WHO declared the worldwide pandemic, they died because of wrong medical treatments, or because of air pollution, anything goes in these alt-medical circles as long as it is not a virus.
Our knowledge of viruses is vast, which even a cursory glance at the virology literature would make clear—unless, perhaps, for Andrew Kaufman. There are data, research, journals, conferences, and yes, controverses. But Kaufman wants you to believe this is all a mirage. And he doesn't feel the burden of proof is on him, for "a virus has never been isolated." With smug superiority Kaufman claims that "the science should be properly done first", and he bluffs his way into virology.
Unfortunately many will be vulnerable to his message of self-healing and virus denial.
So here we go again, this is how Kaufman blunders on the topic of modern virology:
OTHER VIDEO REVIEWS
I found two videos that respond to this Highwire interview with Andrew Kaufman, which I want to share with you—a very long and a rather short one. The first is by Kevin McCairn, a brain scientist living in Japan who has debunked many of Kaufman's video on his own Youtube channel:
The other video review is by Benjamin Neuman, a Texas based virologist, who runs a Facebook science group "Ask Dr. Ben" specifically related to COVID-19:
To end on a more positive note, London Real, the online platform that hosted the interview with David Icke which originally prompted me to write this series (see Part 1), has now featured Dennis Carroll, who serves as the Chair of the Global Virome Project Leadership Board. Very sensible talk for a change! See: Dennis Carroll - "How Every New Virus We're Going To See In The Coming Decades Already Exists", Digital Freedom Platform, freedomplatform.tv, July 22, 2020. See also: Kevin Berger, "The Man Who Saw the Pandemic Coming", Nautilus, March 12, 2020.
83 Vaccine Myths from docbastard.net
To all those who claim SARS-CoV-2—or any virus—does not exist: the virosphere consists of 4 realms, 9 kingdoms, 16 phyla, 2 subphyla, 36 classes, 55 orders, 8 suborders, 168 families, 103 subfamilies, 1421 genera, 68 subgenera, 6590 species. Take that. https://talk.ictvonline.org/taxonomy/
A summary of early parts of this series has appeared in the Dutch magazine Skepter 33(3), September 2020, as "Viruses don't exist" (covering Parts 1-5). German: Skeptiker (December 2020); English: Skeptic.org.uk (January 2021)
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