Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

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 ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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House of Numbers quietly explosive

September 5th, 2009

Remarkable movie shows how AIDS story falls apart under questioning

Leading luminaries confess flaws, confirming critics’ concerns

Clarity and entertainment value may gain wide audience for documentary

But John Moore and his squad are on the job to sink it if possible

shipoffoolsHouse of Numbers premiered last night at the Quad in New York City, and contrary to the uninformed review by Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times (see previous post), the documentary is a winner on every level – clarity of exposition, entertainment value, and unexpected revelation. Small wonder it has started garnering prizes at festivals (six so far).

Brent Leung adopts the Boy Scout approach of innocent inquiry, and travels the world in search of answers to the huge questions that HIV/AIDS ideology raises in every inquiring mind. He ends up gaining remarkable admissions from some leading lights in the field.

Web of inconsistency

The impression left as the credits roll is that every time he pokes at the supposedly solid science of HIV/AIDS he finds he meets no resistance, and his finger tears another hole is what seems like a cobweb of false claims, one that needs sweeping away before it catches another million hapless “HIV positives” to feed killer drugs to and, the film implies, shorten their lives for no good purpose except to preserve the careers and salaries of all in the vast economy of this statistically exaggerated and medically misread disease.

The film makes all the major points that the much vilified (by HIV defenders) “denialists” have made over the years, starting with Peter Duesberg’s brilliant and unrefuted reviews of the late 1980s, which have been censored from public attention ever since by Anthony Fauci of NIAID and the editors of the New York Times. But none of these McCarthy-ite internal politics are touched on in the film, which keeps it all very simple.

Conjuring the statistics

Can electron microscope images of the AIDS virus be produced? A leading expert in the technique shows Leung all the pictures produced by Gallo and by others since, but confirms they are only “probably” HIV. Do any tests provably confirm the presence of HIV or even HIV antibodies in the blood of “HIV positives”? No they don’t, other experts admit.

As the scientists quarrel on camera about which combination of tests might be definitive, it emerges that all tests, even PCR tests, have package disclaimers saying that in themselves they confirm nothing about the HIV status of the individual. Meanwhile, test interpretation varies by country, and by the information you have given the tester (are you gay? are you poor?). Rapid tests, used widely now in South Africa, are unreliable and prove nothing, it turns out, though Brent takes one on camera. Many Africans are still judged to be AIDS victims without any testing at all (the Bangui definition is still widely used, he discovers, for symptoms as simple as diarrhea and fever, no testing required).

James Chin, who was chief epidemiologist for WHO for five years, says he warned headquarters how flimsy the statistics were but no one paid any attention. Now he predicts that their “house of numbers” will collapse as the true situation emerges, and indeed huge downward adjustments have been made by the UN for the total of HIV “positives” in the world. (Kevin De Cock, the WHO official who stated a couple of years ago, that heterosexuals have never in reality been threatened by AIDS is not mentioned.)

With Brent and his audience thus instructed how a positive status doesn’t necessarily mean they are infected or have ever been infected by HIV, he is then shown how damaging and even lethal the drugs administered are. Reducing the dosage of the dreaded AZT in the nineties by substituting David Ho’s cocktail of protease inhibitors slowed patients’ decline, reprieving them from the early death guaranteed by full dose AZT before the mid nineties. Everyone lasted longer, so the triumph of protease inhibitors was applauded and the cause of AIDS spuriously confirmed. But deaths have continued at the same rate in the US since (about 17,000 a year). Meanwhile the definition of AIDS was expanded so that a decline was turned into a doubling of cases.

Applause during the film

By the time the film contemplates the experience of Steve and Sherrill Nagel the audience is ready to be horrified. The Nagels adopted a baby from Romania who tested positive in the US, and dutifully fed her AZT while doctors predicted she would barely last till age two. Her leg pains, loss of coordination, and mental disruption are disturbing to watch, and the parents finally decide that even by the measure of standard AIDS ideology it is not worth harming the child any further with AZT. There was a burst of applause at the premiere when it is announced that the child is now 19 and perfectly healthy.

The film doesn’t leave room for any official rebuttal of this or other anecdotes, but on the core points of the science and its politics well known figures such as Anthony Fauci of NIAID are given time to rebut the cynics. When they contradict themselves this is shown clearly. But what is most surprising is that Martin Delaney, who turned from being a skeptic to a staunch advocate of AIDS drugs when his San Francisco group Project Inform gained drug company funding, expresses a lot of world weary doubts about their usefulness and even notes that the companies have no financial motivation to think up a better way to go.

Montagnier’s stunning statement

In its final phase Brent Leung maps AIDS worldwide and shows how it matches poverty and how lack of good food and hygiene gives rise to exactly the same symptoms that are laid at the door of HIV. Is it possible, he asks, that much of global AIDS is sickness from poverty, and would be cured by pouring money into clean water and decent food rather than damaging drugs? That the drugs are damaging is earlier highlighted by photos of buffalo humps and by the death of Joyce Hafford after only 39 days in a test of nevirapine, with grotesque skin symptoms.

Ship of Fools by Joel Peter Witkin, or possibly the current situation in HIV/AIDS
The establishment in HIV/AIDS has practiced answers to all this, to be sure, though none of them bear examination, as we have found in writing this blog. So perhaps Brent Leung can be forgiven for not including them, although they are undoubtedly among the 300 hours of film he has recorded. What he has produced is a vivid documentation of unanswered – in fact, confirmed – doubts about the scientific rationale peddled in HIV/AIDS, conflicting claims by experts, and real people examples of ignorance and suffering. He has shown how AIDS drugs could equally be causing the same and worse symptoms and deaths as HIV is supposedly causing.

The climax of the film comes with Luc Montagnier assuring him that “a good immune system” can rid the body of HIV in a few weeks. Leung gets him to repeat this unexpected statement and then asks if it applies to poor Africans. If their immune systems are restored with adequate nutrition, would their bodies conquer HIV too? The soon to be Nobelist Montagnier says “I would think so.”

Montagnier also emphasizes as he has done over the years (he was barred from the San Francisco AIDS Conference for it) that a co-factor is always necessary for HIV to do its deadly work, which opens the possibility that HIV itself is not actually involved. Presumably now that he alone won the Nobel last year for discovering HIV “the cause of AIDS” he will now be less frank in public. But here he is on film. The cat is out of the bag.

Will the doc be stopped?

This is the kind of paradigm threatening conclusion that a huge array of vested interests cannot abide, ranging from the emotions of patients who have committed themselves to taking the drugs to the vast array of career and financial interests that need to keep the 25 year old HIV/AIDS ideology in play, including now George Bush and Bill Clinton, who have both sought redemption through AIDS funding.

John Moore of Cornell, the HIV scientist most hostile in public and behind the scenes to outside review, has vowed in email to them that the filmmakers will, as the Hollywood phrase has it, ‘never eat lunch in this town again.’ Yet his efforts haven’t been able to stop their momentum so far, despite his supporters at the Times, which itself now has a huge, 25 year investment in the status quo.

With the politics so intense the censors of AIDS review may still succeed, but on behalf of the public Leung has fired the loudest shot yet across the bows of the great ship of fools, SS HIV Science. It is hard to imagine that, as has already happened, thoughtful people completely unaware of the real situation before they take their seats won’t leave the cinema skeptical of and even hostile to those that want to shut off public debate.

And the irony is that Leung has done nothing but document the tale that HIV scientists tell against themselves. The confusion he records looks amusingly like the Mad Hatters tea party from Alice in Wonderland. Could it be that they have led the world through a looking glass for 25 years?

Entertainment plus important revelation. All in all, a stunning achievement.

House of Numbers savaged by Times on cue

September 3rd, 2009

Jeannette Catsoulis, resident pit bull, unleashed on Leung

Naive review compares HIV skepticism with questioning gravity

But can Times afford to open this can of worms?

Brent Leung sits in the cemetery of the once renowned virtues of the New York Times and wonders why his baby was stabbed through the heart by Jeannette  Catsoulis even before it was christened in Manhattan, especially since it appeared that she had not even bothered to think about it.  Surely Jeannette is not a close friend of John Moore of Cornell, but perhaps the editor who assigned her is fully aware of the larger predicament of the Times in covering the topic of HIV/AIDS for 25 years as if it was the paid representative of Anthony Fauci of NIAID, something which Brett's film might expose unless violently trashed before it takes Manhattan.

The New York Times, reliably irresponsible shill for the HIV/AIDS establishment for the last quarter century, has wasted no time in unleashing its house attack dog on House of Numbers, the revealing documentary on scientific confusion in HIV/AIDS which will open at the Quad tomorrow night.

Second tier critic Jeannette Catsoulis achieves a career peak in AIDS Seen From a Different Angle, her brief dismissal of the film in tomorrow’s paper, combining a vindictive level of nastiness about the unfortunate director Brent Leung’s work with zero evidence that she has actually viewed with any real attention more than the film’s trailer:

AIDS Seen From a Different Angle
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
Published: September 4, 2009

Couched as a “personal journey” through the history of H.I.V. and AIDS, “House of Numbers” is actually a weaselly support pamphlet for AIDS denialists. Trafficking in irresponsible inferences and unsupported conclusions, the filmmaker Brent Leung offers himself as suave docent through a globe-trotting pseudo-investigation that should raise the hackles of anyone with even a glancing knowledge of the basic rules of reasoning.

Assembled from interview fragments with doctors, scientists, journalists and others, the film cobbles together an insinuating argument against the existence of H.I.V. as a virus and AIDS as the resulting disease. Among the many inflammatory claims is that diagnosis is a pharmaceutical-industry ruse to sell complex drug therapies (which the film then presents as the real cause of the syndrome we identify as AIDS). Evidence to support this and other highly dangerous contentions is found not in verifiable statistics (house of numbers, my foot) but in the impassioned anecdotes of individuals who have outlived the expectations of an H.I.V.-positive diagnosis.

Rife with fuzzy logic (most people with AIDS live in poverty, therefore poverty causes AIDS) and a relentless fudging of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions, this willfully ignorant film portrays minor areas of scientific disagreement as “a research community in disarray” and diagnostic testing as a waste of time. A few months ago 18 angry doctors and scientists interviewed in the film issued a statement claiming that Mr. Leung “acted deceitfully and unethically” when recruiting them and that his film “perpetuates pseudoscience and myths.”

Mr. Leung said in a recent interview, “All we do is raise questions.” Perhaps his next film will question the existence of gravity.

HOUSE OF NUMBERS
Opens on Friday in Manhattan.
Produced, directed and edited by Brent Leung; written by Llewellyn Chapman. At the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is not rated.

Luckily a more sober and responsible description of House of Numbers is carried in the Movie section on line (House of Numbers (2009), otherwise this childish diatribe would discourage too many people from seeing what is surely one of the most important documentaries this year, given the light it throws on evidence that billions of dollars have been misspent and and countless lives needlessly destroyed by the HIV/AIDS juggernaut:

Review Summary

What is HIV? What is AIDS? What is being done to cure it? These questions sent Canadian filmmaker Brent Leung on a worldwide journey, from the highest echelons of the medical research establishment to the slums of South Africa, where death and disease are the order of the day. In this up-to-the-minute documentary, he observes that although AIDS has been front-page news for over 28 years, it is barely understood. Despite the great effort, time, and money spent, no cure is in sight. ~ Baseline StudioSystems

We are familiar with Catsoulis’s unjustly scathing style, for example, in attacking America the Beautiful last year, as if she would like to have hung, drawn and quartered the director, Darryl Roberts, of that interesting and personal essay on the ways in which the obsession with good looks is distorting American lives, apparently because the film was not sophisticated enough in content and style to suit her.

America the Beautiful
August 1, 2008
What You See
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
Published: August 1, 2008

Clueless, directionless and altogether pointless, “America the Beautiful” will outrage only those who have spent the last 50 years in suspended animation. Paddling in the shallow end of a very deep pool, the writer and director Darryl Roberts bumbles his way through a hodgepodge of impressions about our national quest for physical perfection before suggesting — wait for it — that real beauty is on the inside. I feel enlightened already.

Stuffed with empty sound bites from the likes of Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton, this fabulously inept documentary aims much of its ire at the beauty industry’s purported tyranny of impressionable young women. Ignoring writers who have spent their careers studying this issue (including Jean Kilbourne and her pioneering video series, “Killing Us Softly”), Mr. Roberts conducts embarrassingly naïve and occasionally creepy interviews with young girls concerned about their body image. Though what we can learn from a close-up of a 12-year-old model’s naked thigh is not precisely clear.

Displaying an astonishing degree of ignorance about his chosen subject (“What’s a six-pack?”), Mr. Roberts zigzags from eating disorders to music videos to Eve Ensler chatting about — what else? — designer vaginas, without drawing breath or conclusions. If he had, he might have noticed that the tragic story of that 12-year-old model offered all the material his movie needed.

“America the Beautiful” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Flesh, fantasy and four-letter words.

Minor critics have always found it easiest to make a name for themselves by showing they are cleverer and more literate than their hapless victims, but we always thought that one of the virtues of the Times was that, like the New Yorker, it employs people who are both skillful and mature enough to please without showing off at their subject’s expense.

You can judge for yourself whether to take Catsoulis’s reviews at face value at Metacritic’s listing of her reviews, which suggest that the Times editors have not, after 247 of them, yet seen fit to send her to major releases, and we can imagine why.

The shame of the Times

In this case, however, one imagines that the politics of the Times in this arena dictated that the editors unleash their pet movie pit bull for a guaranteed throat ripping lest the film gain any traction in New York.

For God forbid that this documentary should be in contention for an Oscar, let alone win one, when it threatens to expose the foolishly one sided Times coverage of HIV/AIDS and its supposed science since 1984.

Even their science reporters, in particular medical reporter Lawrence Altman, write about HIV/AIDS as if they were suddenly unaware that paradigms shift in science all the time as they are reviewed and displaced by better notions, and that the process is made doubly difficult when vast amounts of money and careers are invested in the standard wisdom.

That the Times should have taken sides against Peter Duesberg, the leading light of the field of retrovirus research, ever since he rejected the notion that HIV accounted for AIDS, is unforgivable. And it creates an almost insurmountable barrier to reversing course now that Duesberg’s view is more and more confirmed with every passing year of non-achievement in the field.

If House of Numbers and its message were to gain the audience and respect it deserves (see the LA Times in our previous post for an example of a rational reaction to the film) where would that leave the Times, now struggling financially while trying to leave behind the very serious embarrassments of fiction on the front page and other errors of the last few years?

The irony is that the great newspaper is turning its reporters attention more and more to investigative exposes of waste and venality. Could its tattered reputation survive the revelation that for 25 years its own science reporters and editors have been hoodwinked by Anthony Fauci, Bob Gallo, David Baltimore, Max Essex and John Moore into writing pr for the WorldCom of science?


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