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Parrot files circumcision story on Times front page

July 20th, 2009

South African AIDS stenographer Celia Dugger wins top billing for HIV circumcision propaganda

Zulus line up for operation said to improve sex, curb spread of harmless virus

HIV skeptics confounded by latest implication that AIDS is infectious and blamed for “330,000 deaths”

When will the Times hire unbiased HIV/AIDS reporters?

Subject to confirmation, this is believed to be a portrait of Celia Dugger, indefatigable correspondent for the New York Times from South Africa, where she is anxious that all sexually mature males should be circumcised as soon as possible to curb the supposedly catastrophic supposed spread of the virus HIV The early paper edition of the Times this morning (Jul 20, Mon) featured as its big story (above the front page fold with a very large photograph, the one below) the news that young men are “flocking” to the only clinic for circumcisions in South Africa, where a Dr. Dino Rech boasts he is getting through as many as 53 operations a day, “me, myself, personally”.

July 20, 2009
South Africa Is Seen to Lag in H.I.V. Fight

By CELIA W. DUGGER
ORANGE FARM, South Africa — Young men have flocked by the thousands to this clinic for circumcisions, the only one of its kind in South Africa. Each of them lies down on one of seven closely spaced surgical tables, his privacy shielded only by a green curtain.

“I’ve done 53 in a seven-hour day, me, myself, personally,” said Dr. Dino Rech, who helped design the highly efficient surgical assembly line at this French-financed clinic for cutting off foreskins.

According to Celia, whose copying out of what she is told by HIV operatives and enthusiasts in South Africa forms one of the most reliable bodies of misleading work in the Times of the last decade, circumcision has been “proven” to reduce a man’s risk of “contracting HIV” by more than half.

But South Africa, as always, seems to her to be dragging its feet in applying this finding to public policy in AIDS by “educating” the public and supplying the procedure gratis to those that volunteer.

Circumcision has been proven to reduce a man’s risk of contracting H.I.V. by more than half. Yet two years after the World Health Organization recommended the surgery, the government here still does not provide it to help fight the disease or educate the public about its benefits.

Some other African nations are championing the procedure and bringing it to thousands. But in South Africa, the powerhouse country at the heart of the epidemic, the government has been notably silent, despite the withering international criticism the country has endured for its previous foot-dragging in fighting and treating AIDS.

“Countries around us with fewer resources, both human and financial, are able to achieve more,” said Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, the first director of South Africa’s national AIDS program in the mid-1990s under President Nelson Mandela. “I wish I understood why South Africa, which has an enviable amount of resources, is not able to respond to the epidemic the way Botswana and Kenya have.”

Why all this is fatally flawed

Perhaps someone should explain to Dr Karim there is a body of scientific literature that explains all the conundrums and lunacies of the “fight against HIV and AIDS” as arising out of two false assumptions, that AIDS is caused by HIV and that it is an infectious disease, and that this body of knowledge, laid out by the premier scientist in the field against the panicky hostility of his better funded colleagues, has never been refuted or even effectively countered on the high platform of scientific debate on which it was placed.

Of course, as a professional AIDS bureaucrat Dr Karim would probably find this result inconceivable, given that it would turn upside down the world in which she has lived for years, personally and in public discourse. One of her basic assumptions is surely the same as Celia Dugger’s, that ex- South President Thabo Mbeki was misled by crackpot HIV skeptics into questioning HIV.

South Africa has made strides in recent years, and now provides antiretroviral therapy to more people with AIDS than any other developing country.

But this is not the first time its policies have lagged behind. The country delayed for years providing antiretroviral medicines to treat AIDS under its former president, Thabo Mbeki, who denied the scientific consensus about the viral cause of the disease. Harvard researchers estimated that the government would have prevented the premature deaths of 330,000 South Africans earlier in the decade if it had provided the drugs.

Trashing the only great HIV/AIDS politician

In fact, of course, as anyone familiar with the scientific literature knows very well, Mbeki is a very sensible fellow, the only politician we know of who has ever investigated for himself what is going on in the politics of HIV/AIDS.

Being an economist by training and a revolutionary in his experience, and thus already familiar with all the hidden economic motivations in South African political society, which must be fairly blatant among politicians there if other African countries are any guide, Thabo Mbeki easily recognized that the complaints of leading HIV/AIDS skeptics were informed and credible, and that the unproven and improbable science of HIV/AIDS could well be a mistake maintained by the abuse of power.

This was quite enough to make Mbeki proceed with caution in his medical policy, despite constant pressure from the ignorant, who assume that modern science is uncorrupted, and from gay activists, who cling to HIV as their shield against political attacks on their “life style”, which otherwise would be blamed for their health problems, as well as a drumbeat from the press, which chorused in unison that he was challenging the authority of all Western science. The New York Times has been one of the worst offenders in this regard, editorializing against Mbeki in editorials and in its reports, as in this case, where Dugger reports as if Mbeki is deserving of “withering criticism” for going up against “Harvard researchers”.

Any careful reader of the Times’s reporting and editorializing on HIV/AIDS over the last two decades and more might conclude that gay politics has had its influence on the editors there, as well as the NIAID and Anthony Fauci, who with other AIDS leaders has made sure that the Times reporters know better than to take the damning reviews of the scientifically distinguished Peter Duesberg seriously and ask for proper replies to them from the HIV paradigm proponents.

Now Celia Dugger achieves the latest high point in the fellow traveling HIV/AIDS science politics of the Times, once again reminding us that this great newspaper turned over its AIDS coverage to HIV believers more than two decades ago and has never faltered in this unprofessional policy since.

What a good Times reporter should do

So what, readers may ask, should the Times do, if Larry Altman finally leaves as he has promised, and some new and HIV-uncommitted medical reporter is put on the job – assuming that such a person even exists among those known to the Times?

The answer is simple. The reporters should read Nancy Padian’s famous study on the rate at which discordant heterosexual couples, one “HIV positive” and one “HIV negative”, transferred the virus to each other. Padian included some 600 couples in her study, the largest of its kind done in AIDS, and was unable to come up with a single instance of transmission over six years, even among couples who gaily used no condoms or any other kind of “protection” whatsoever.

In other words, Padian, one of the generals of the HIV/AIDS war on doubters and skeptics, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that HIV is not significantly transmissible among heterosexuals, and therefore the entire global HIV epidemic is a fantasy of some kind which awaits correct analysis and interpretation by people who do not find HIV under the skin of every ill person in Africa.

In particular, the prima facie absurd circumcision studies which came up with the result that circumcision protects against the transmission of a virus that doesn’t transmit need to be looked at and deconstructed.

If the Times ever does hire someone who can act as a professional reporter in this area and genuinely investigate the horrific tangle of fantastic extrapolations that HIV-assuming scientists have come up with, starting with their two grand false assumptions that HIV causes AIDS and is infectious, then he/she should examine these two conflicting results and ask the perpetrators, Nancy Padian, Daniel Halperin and Robert Bailey to explain how to reconcile them.

To claim rather feebly that “it’s different in Africa”, as Nancy Padian did when we congratulated her, two years ago at the NIAID party, for proving HIV was not an infection transmissible via conventional sex in the USA, is not good enough, whether or not you join Padian in her rather insulting implication that African men and women behave totally differently in sex than the rest of us.

The blatant absence of any heterosexual epidemic in the States after 23 years in which everybody from Dr Fauci to Oprah Winfrey predicted that it was just around the corner says it all.

HIV/AIDS is not significantly infectious, period, and any studies which depend on the opposite assumption should be challenged. They certainly should not be the basis of funding the removal of every foreskin in the African subcontinent.

If the Times is to have a future, it must act

Meanwhile, if the Times hopes to preserve itself in the coming era of electronic news triumphant, it has better look to its laurels and replace its current gang of idiotically uncritical reporters in HIV/AIDS science, such Celia Dugger, or it will expose itself sooner or later to utter defeat in its role as the supposedly most reliable source of daily news on paper.

Can it do it? Perhaps not. As Michael Crichton observed years ago, the great weakness of general interest dailies and weeklies is that by definition when it comes to any specialty they don’t know what they are talking about.

As money drains away from newspapers the resources devoted to investigative reporters and their work is dwindling rapidly. The Times may be the last daily capable of great series such as the one it is currently running on cancer research and treatment and its problems, which include not much progress made in curing most cancers in forty years, the fact that new lines of research rarely attract funding, and the problem that most testing is useless.

Even there, the Times is hardly saying anything new, since all these conclusions have been obvious for years. And there is no mention whatsoever of Peter Duesberg, who has led cancer research down a new path which is more promising than anything done in the last thirty years.

Meanwhile, Celia Dugger’s story portends the circumcision of every male in Africa, if only we can get them all to read the Times.

As new H.I.V. infections have continued to outpace efforts to treat the sick in Africa, there is growing concern about the ballooning costs of treatment for an ever-expanding number of patients who need medicines for the rest of their lives. Almost two million people were newly infected in 2007 in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing the total of those living with H.I.V. in the region to 22 million, according to United Nations estimates.

The major international donors to AIDS programs, including the United States and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, are ready to pour money into male circumcision, but the countries have to be ready to accept the help.

“You can’t impose it from the outside, particularly such a sensitive intervention,” said the Global Fund’s executive director, Dr. Michel Kazatchkine.

Public health doctors agree that circumcising millions of men will be no simple task. Africa has a severe shortage of doctors and nurses, and circumcision is potentially a political and cultural minefield in countries where some ethnic groups practice it but others do not.

Still, some countries are showing it can be done. In Botswana, circumcision was largely stopped in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by British colonial-era administrators and Christian missionaries.

But Festus Mogae, who was president from 1998 to 2008, provided a critical endorsement of male circumcision just before he stepped down.

Over the past year, the government has trained medical teams to do circumcisions in all its public hospitals and aims by 2016 to have circumcised 470,000 males from infancy to age 49, which is 80 percent of the total number in that group.

Public awareness is being raised through advertisements on radio and television. Billboards have sprouted across the country featuring a star of the national youth soccer team.

“Men have started to flock to the hospitals,” said Dr. Khumo Seipone, director of H.I.V./AIDS prevention and care in Botswana’s Ministry of Health.

In Kenya, where the Luo do not generally practice circumcision, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, himself a Luo, encouraged the procedure and lobbied elders. The H.I.V. infection rate among Luo men is more than triple that of Kenyan men generally — 17.5 percent versus 5.6 percent.

“Anything that could help save lives needs to be tried,” Mr. Odinga said, adding that he had been circumcised.

So far, more than 20,000 men in Kenya have been circumcised in hospitals, dispensaries, village schools, social halls and tents. Teams of doctors, nurses and counselors have even taken boats to islands in Lake Victoria to circumcise Luo fishermen.

“If the Luo Council of Elders and local politicians had been against it, the government would not have dared endorse circumcision,” said Robert Bailey, the principal investigator on the Kenya male circumcision clinical trial.

In sharp contrast, male circumcision has no political champion here in South Africa, where the largest ethnic group, the Zulus, have generally not practiced it since the early 19th century, when it was abandoned due to protracted warfare, according to Daniel Halperin, an epidemiologist and medical anthropologist at Harvard University.

Thabo Masebe, a spokesman for President Jacob Zuma, said the Health Ministry must first set a policy on circumcision before Mr. Zuma, who took office in April, can take a position. Mr. Zuma is Zulu. The province of KwaZulu-Natal, the Zulu heartland, has the highest adult H.I.V. prevalence rate in the country, 39 percent, according to Unaids.

“The president gets involved when decisions are made,” Mr. Masebe said. “If the president spoke now, and when the time comes to make a policy, a different decision is taken, it wouldn’t sound good.”

The new health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, spoke at length about AIDS in a recent speech to Parliament but made no mention of male circumcision. Dr. Yogan Pillay, a senior official at the National Department of Health, said a policy was being drafted and would be put forward for discussion by the end of the month.

In March 2007, the World Health Organization concluded from rigorous clinical trials in Kenya, Uganda and here in Orange Farm township that male circumcision reduced female-to-male H.I.V. transmission by about 60 percent.

“This is an important landmark in the history of H.I.V. prevention,” the W.H.O. said at the time.

That same year, a committee of scientists, advocates and others advising the South African government recommended offering circumcisions as quickly as possible, perhaps by contracting with private doctors while public health workers were trained. Instead, the government set up a task force to study the issue, said Dr. Abdool Karim, a committee member.

The surgical methods developed in Orange Farm are now being copied in the region. Population Services International, which provides counseling at the Orange Farm clinic, is putting them into practice in Zimbabwe in collaboration with the Health Ministry there. It also received $50 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work with the governments of Zambia and Swaziland in the hope of circumcising some 650,000 men in those two countries.

South Africa has made strides in recent years, and now provides antiretroviral therapy to more people with AIDS than any other developing country.

But this is not the first time its policies have lagged behind. The country delayed for years providing antiretroviral medicines to treat AIDS under its former president, Thabo Mbeki, who denied the scientific consensus about the viral cause of the disease. Harvard researchers estimated that the government would have prevented the premature deaths of 330,000 South Africans earlier in the decade if it had provided the drugs.

There is one thought in the article with which we have no quarrel whatsoever, though. That is the last one:

“South Africa has no shortage of scientists,” said Olive Shisana, chief executive officer of South Africa’s government-financed Human Sciences Research Council. “We have a shortage of people willing to take the evidence that exists and use it for public health.”

FURTHER READING:

Circumcision and HIV infection – CIRP (Circumcision Information and Resource Pages) :

A number of studies from Africa point to the fact that the regions of Africa most troubled with HIV infection tend to overlap with the regions where male circumcision is rare. However, this does not imply a causal link: If the same argument were applied to the industrialized world, one would note that the United States has a high circumcision rate, and also has the highest prevalence of HIV.28,31,32 38 Circumcision alone cannot explain these differences…..

Meta-analyses

de Vincenzi and Mertens found that the existing evidence did not control sufficiently for confounding factors concerning the relationship between circumcision and HIV infection.17 They warned that caution was necessary: Implementing surgery as a strategy for controlling the spread of AIDS was not recommended based on the existing evidence.

Van Howe also concluded that circumcision could not be recommended to prevent HIV infection.44 This conclusion was based on a statistical analysis of all of the data from multiple published studies. In fact, the analysis indicated that circumcised men had a slightly greater chance of contracting HIV.

Angus Nicoll of the British Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre recommended that circumcision should not be used to control HIV infection.32…..

The Task Force on Circumcision of the American Academy of Pediatrics examined the issue with the help of an epidemiologist. The task force concluded in its official Circumcision Policy Statement that “behavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status.”45

The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association has also examined the issue. The Council on Scientific Affairs stated, in a report titled Report 10: Neonatal Circumcision, that “…behavioral factors are far more important risk factors for acquisition of HIV and other sexually transmissible diseases than circumcision status, and circumcision cannot be responsibly viewed as ‘protecting’ against such infections.”53

Cochrane Review

The Cochrane Library established a protocol for the review of the HIV/Circumcision literature. That review notes the cultural bias of circumcision researchers. that review also expresses concern about the negative effects of circumcision on efforts to effect behavioural change.59 The systematic review reported a general failure to control for confounding factors and, in addition, found insufficient evidence to recommend male circumcision to control HIV infection and transmission.68

YouTube: John D. Geisheker, J.D., LL.M., Executive Director for Doctors Opposing Circumcision discusses circumcision in Africa in relation to H.I.V.

Southern Africa: Male circumcision – what’s the latest? – Johannesburg, 23 June 2009 (PlusNews)

IRIN/PlusNews has compiled a list of the progress made so far in eight southern African countries.

South Africa: How Safe is Traditional Circumcision?:

“Since 1995 more than 6,000 boys have been admitted to Eastern Cape hospitals, more than 300 have died and 76 have had their genitalia amputated due to botched circumcisions. The state has responded by putting in place a variety of mechanisms to regulate the practice, most recently in the form of the 2005 Children’s Bill which gives male children the right to refuse circumcision and makes those who circumcise a child against his will guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment. Attempts by the state to regulate traditional practices have been met with outrage and resistance in some quarters.

Rituals are commonly identified as mechanisms contributing to social order in all societies, maintaining the organization of groups into hierarchies, specifying the performance of roles linked to factors such as age and gender, renewing group unity and a means for the transmission of values across generations. But in a society so deeply penetrated by colonialism, apartheid and industrialization, as South Africa is, what role do these rites play in the contemporary context?…”
Vincent, L. “Cutting Tradition: the Political Regulation of Traditional Circumcision Rites in South Africa’s Liberal Democratic Order.” Journal of Southern African Studies 34.1 (Mar. 2008): 77-91.

Circumcision may offer Africa AIDS hope – Procedure linked to much lower rate of new HIV infections – SFGate – San Francisco Chronicle – Sabin Russell, Chronicle Medical Writer – Wednesday, July 6, 2005:

The study’s preliminary results, disclosed Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, showed that circumcision reduced the risk of contracting HIV by 70 percent — a level of protection far better than the 30 percent risk reduction set as a target for an AIDS vaccine.

According to the newspaper account, the study under way in Orange Farm township, South Africa, was stopped because the results were so favorable. It was deemed unethical to continue the trial after an early peek at data showed that the uncircumcised men were so much more likely to become infected.

More news from the Fifth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Capetown, 2009: Africa: Male Circumcision Does Not Decrease Sexual Satisfaction – by Anso Thom – 20 July 2009 – AllAfrica.com:

Nervous giggles filled a meeting room at the 5th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2009) yesterday when discussions turned to the sexual satisfaction of the female partners of circumcised men and the “cosmetic outcome” of the circumcision.

“How did you measure the sexual satisfaction of the women partner?” a delegate from Zimbabwe asked while a delegate from Botswana quizzed the researcher on whether they had reports from who thought the “circumcised penis looks ugly, it’s awful”.

Three research studies have shown unequivocally that male circumcision leads to a 50 to 60% reduction in the transmission of HIV to the male partner. It has shown no protective benefit to the woman partner.

Godfrey Kigozi of the Rakai Health Sciences Programme in Uganda described how they had recorded the sexual satisfaction of 455 women between the ages of 15 and 49 who were partners of men who had been circumcised as part of the initial trials to test the efficacy of male circumcision.

Researchers collected information from the women before their partners were circumcised and after with the women self reporting the changes in sexual pleasure.

South Africa Considers Male Circumcision as Part of HIV Prevention Plan – by Talea Miller, PBS Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer – March 20, 2009:

It’s believed that removal of the foreskin reduces the ability of HIV to penetrate the skin on the penis, and there is also evidence that HIV targets cells from the inner surface of the foreskin.

After the Orange Farm trial, two more studies done in Uganda and Kenya in 2006 supported the results that circumcision reduces HIV transmission by about 60 percent, leading to the World Health Organization issuing recommendations for the procedure as an HIV prevention method in 2007.

With the WHO go-ahead, a number of countries with high HIV prevalence are now considering how to integrate the procedure into their existing health services.

“What is critical for all involved is to make sure that enough ground work is done that if a policy is implemented in this country it would not encounter problems,” Hadebe said.

Special note: The hysterically self-justifying paradigm defense site AIDSTruth.org seems to have erased Nancy Padian’s classic attempt to disown her own research finding for the benefit of John Moore and other paradigm promoters, possibly because it was so feeble and specious that it had the paradoxical effect of calling attention to the study, the most embarrassing in the history of HIV debate for the paradigm faithful. We will track down a copy and reproduce it here.


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