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.


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.

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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Africa through Brad Pitt’s eyes

What with the second Durban AIDS Conference this week, ABC’s 20/20 tonight (June 7 Tues) shows Brad Pitt and the blonde star interviewer Diane Sawyer treading the slum back alleys of an Ethiopian townships seeking out the sufferers of the scourge of Africa, that is to say, AIDS.

Even when some unfortunate, stick-thin mother lying on her sickbed is acknowledged to have TB, while the family display a few pitiful morsels of dried bread – “injara” – as their coming evening meal after the multi–millionaire visitors leave, and the pathways to the tin roof hovel force them to step carefully to avoid the running sewage, it is all laid at the door of AIDS, of course.

Luckily America is saving many of the delightfully vivacious children the glamorous duo, their guides, aides and their camerapersons meet (Brad teaches the excited black children the hip “American style handshake”) by shipping them helpful drugs, we gather, even if for some unexplained reason not all in South Africa are getting these as yet.

One good thing is that the children and other happy beneficiaries of US munificence are punctual in taking their drugs each day at six o’clock sharp. Brad is told by one schoolchild in striped tie and sweater that after the kid watched “Days of our Lives” he takes his drugs precisely at six o’clock. “Well done!” says Brad giving him an American handshake. How many do so, he asks a doctor. “What is the rate of success?” Almost 100%,” says the doctor. He means, of course, success at persuading them to take the drugs efficiently, and not what probably most viewers heard, which was that the drugs had a nearly 100% cure rate.

While nearly all of them in Africa given the drugs, says Diane in a phrase which tells more than she knows, take them “religiously”. Not so in the US. The deplorable fact is that nearly a third of AIDS sufferers in the United States abuse their global privilege by not taking these medications “religiously”, she tells us.

Brad Pitt behaves very well, kissing the dying mother on the cheeks with very loud Umwah! Umwah!s – “So nice to see you again!” – as she struggles to rise from her mattress and show him some pages she keeps close, perhaps a letter he wrote her after a previous visit Her pretty little daughter Helena has one ambition. To get five dollars from somewhere, and buy schoolbooks and thus help her mother.

The pre-teen Helena, one has to say, looks a good deal more thoughtful by nature than either of her patronizing visitors. Could it be that she has medical texts in mind, and will find out when she is grown that her mother died of neglect driven by fantasy? If so, what kind of gratitude will she ultimately feel for the ministrations of Americans?

Certainly if it is all a fantasy used to peddle useless and lethal Western drugs (which is what the unanswered, high level peer reviewed scientific critique says it is) what we are watching is an obscene theater of well intentioned but meddlesome, smug, ultra-privileged beings being welcomed as saviors by the poor and dying for the sake of a 20/20 photo op on behalf of AIDS Incorporated, when in fact all they need is a few dollars to clean up their shanty town and eat some decent food. Did Brad and Diane leave money in their wake? One can only hope so.

Or is it possible that it is all true, and her mother and other Africans did not die as fast as they otherwise would have done if they had simply been treated for TB with penicillin, hunger with food, sickness with sanitation, and poverty with a few of Brad’s and Diane’s infinite dollars, rather than with the AIDS drugs for which those who have faith in the wisdom of the white man are pleading in that part of the world?

Will we ever know? One begins to think that if this is all wrong, it will never be righted. Such is the power of media queens and Hollywood superstars blinding us with all this dazzling wattage, who will ever be able to correct it?

Brad himself is bewildered and admits it, standing against the mud wall of a hut with his stylish aviator shades parked on top of his head. Though he is deeply empathetic he cannot fathom lives so distant from his own unthinking ability to sit down at night and eat whatever he wishes with a friend, only a few feet from another room with a comfortable bed and clean sheets in it. “I try to picture what the evenings are like there. I can’t fathom it.”

“Think of the difference if the countries who have drugs to spare could offer more of a helping hand!” says Diane.

“The degree to which a small amount in Africa can save millions and millions of lives in something staggering to behold”, confirms the earnest Jamie Drummond, executive director of a campaign to get the rich nations to give a little bit more.

Jamie exudes do-gooder decency, concern, and brisk executive helpfulness from every pore, but one imagines that his actual experience of sick individuals encompasses scores or hundreds at most, and not the millions and millions he has expanded this into in the fertile fields of his imagination. And all of that personal experience was viewed through the spectacles of the current religion in all African sickness, which interprets almost any ailment now as a “symptom of AIDS”.

Come to that, what does he imagine is the problem with Helena’s mother, that his wonder drugs which can “save millions and millions” have had no helpful effect over the last five months, when she has gone from ill but standing to lying dolefully in her sick bed with TB, which Diane explicitly warns us will likely turn it into a deathbed soon enough?

There is one ray of light one can detect in this segment, however. Not all the emphasis is on AIDS. TB is allowed to make an independent entry onto the stage two or three times, as mentioned. Another example is the end of segment comment on th first segment, above (later segments are on Brad’s exciting personal life).

“The cost of just one sandwich and soda in America would fund six months of a drug to cure a child in Africa of TB,” says Diane.

Surprisingly, she (or rather, the ABC producers, the people who are the political windsocks at the network) shifted the focus to TB from AIDS.

One can only hope that this is a sign of things to come, where if the paradigm of infectious AIDS remains as scientifically bankrupt as the literature indicates, the shift to dealing with other diseases in their own name and their own right, and with the health and economic infrastructure in African nations, can only be welcomed as a new and improved direction for aid.

For the moment, however, it adds up to yet another propaganda coup for the prevailing paradigm, for which the US media almost uniformly act as if they were paid public relations spokespeople.

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