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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AIDS as Jonestown

The “dream became a nightmare”, as Jones’s crowd of followers was led over the cliff

From Jonestown and Virginia Tech to HIV∫AIDS, large groups can’t easily shed shared assumptions

Plenty of warning signs

jimjones.jpeg“White night! White night!’ That phrase, loudly announced on the loudspeakers accompanied by an air raid siren, was the signal for an emergency meeting at the remote jungle plantation of Jonestown, a call for the unfortunate Marxist socialist Utopian members of the People’s Temple to gather, sometimes all night, to discuss how to repel threats from outside to their paradise.

In the end the proposals included discussions of mass nurder-suicide. Drills were conducted for it. There were people with guns and rifles surrounding the assembly, an armed encampment, the guns pointing inside as well as out, says one inmate who survived.

“I was not free to leave, nor was anyone” says another. “He was punished so severely that he was literally frightened out of his mind,” says one survivor of another, who tried to escape but never did succeed. “I didn’t trust anyone. Everyone was watching everyone”.

Misled by a paranoid

Jim Jones’ rants are being replayed on the History Channel, which is carrying a program this weekend, Paradise Lost, revisiting the last days of Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 with testimony from a few who escaped the final mass suicide. From the perspective of any viewer now Jones’s speeches, taped or acted, are obviously those of a drug taking paranoid.

But once a crowd takes you as a guru, and are sufficiently oppressed and punished, this history reminds us, you can rant as insanely as you like and they will swallow it all whole. Perhaps the alternative is too hard for an individual to face – that you have followed a cheat and a madman. But it is also group pressure. “I really cared what the others would think of me, “says a defector.

It is also that the followers grasp at the straws offered them by the leader, who provides the rationale for reversing reality. “I have never understood how people could lie with such freedom and conviction”, Jones told NBC. Thus it was other people who lied, and not the guru, even to those that lived in the encampment and experienced it for themselves.

How easy the con game is

In the end Jones controlled 913 people so effectively that they took his Kool Aid laced with cyanide voluntarily, and even murdered their kids first. One or two people resisted and were forced, and a grandmother hid successfully under her bed, but when she crawled out the next day, there were bodies of the deluded lying still everywhere.

Congressman Ryan flew to Guiana with Don Harris from NBC and Tim Reiterman from the San Francisco Examiner, all of them supposedly sophisticated in politics and human behavior, but they did not realize till the very end they were in danger of their lives from a man whose mind behind his habitual dark glasses was murderously paranoid.

“We are under the protection of Congress,” reasoned the hapless Congressman, who ended up shot on the tarmac as he was trying to leave in his plane, his body joining four others including those of the newsmen.

The best thing ever

Earlier, Ryan had addressed the crowd soon after arrival and talking to Jones. According to the reenactment, he said with a reassuring smile that he could see there were people here “who thought this was the best thing that had ever happened to them in their whole lives.” He himself only wised up to the reality of the situation when leaving, when he was attacked with a knife by a Jones fanatic, whose blood spattered his shirt.

Stephen Jones’ son could see his father was a drug crazed nut case long before it all happened. “Anybody is capable of putting a bullet into your head”, his father informed him helpfully, as he left to play in a basketball tournament. His mother seemed to feel a disaster was in the offing. Some members had wanted to leave the community as soon as they arrived. Yet on the flimsiest of pretexts, Jones was able to led 913 people to their doom. Only a handful left with Ryan to the airport, 15 in all. They were shot by a truckload of Jones riflemen, who killed five and wounded others, some of whom escaped into the jungle.

Motivations of a leader

Of course, the motivation of Jones is all important here too. “Every hour of the day Jim Jones knew he was a fraud. he knew he was a bad guy. He just didn’t want anyone else to know about it,” says his son. The bottom line was that Jones didn’t want to die alone. He was afraid of exposure. He was afraid of being abandoned by his group of followers. He was nothing without them. He didn’t fancy taking the Kool-Aid himself, however. He had himself shot in the head.

To all who attend the topic of this blog, all this remind you of anybody? Seems to us all of these factors apply to Anthony Fauci, Robert Gallo and John Moore, except they are not ready to get shot just yet.

What Cho showed

If you read the Times today (Sun April 22) you will also find Benedict Carey’s discussion “When a Group is Wise”, in The Week In Review. His topic is Seung-Hui Cho, the Virgina Tech mass killer, and how the community that surrounded him noticed his strangeness and tried to establish communication. Cho’s teetering on the edge of insanity was obvious to many he encountered, and upset many of them enough to be discussed and/or action taken.

Carey seems to think all this should satisfy the concerns of those who worry that his potential as a killer was overlooked until too late. Yet surely the story of Cho only confirms how difficult it is for people to beak away from the basic feel good assumptions of the group they are in, which in this case was the university community and its ruling presumption that a paid up member is not nuts, however violent his writings and isolated his behavior. This assumption stubbornly resisted replacement in the face of all the warning signs, and nobody saw the possibility of another deluded mass killer, even though the police were brought in.

Can you say “inviolable illusion”?

Both these stories of disillusion seem to us to have great bearing on the story of HIV∫AIDS science so far, which as professional psychologists and theorists of the psyche like Caspar Schmidt, Mark Biernbaum and others have pointed out, is a story in which individual and mass delusion plays a large part, not only among patients and the general public but among the scientists who ignore the scientific literature and Peter Duesberg’s reviews, and insist on remaining loyal to their leaders even when their claims are unreasonable, illogical, flout common sense and established science, and even contradict the literature they themselves write and publish in scientific journals.

It seems pretty clear that Robert Gallo, Anthony Fauci, and John Moore could tell their community that the Virus was made of gorgonzola cheese and transmissible by anyone eating it who wiped their knife on the back of a dog owned by a Portuguese sailor with a wooden leg, and the claim would be treated as Biblical text worthy of being researched to the tune of $1 billion dollars a year.

The Jonestown of science

In fact, it is hard to see how the grotesque saga of Jonestown differs in any significant way from the tale of HIV∫AIDS now sweeping the world.

There is the same phenomenon of a leader or leaders peddling an impossible fairy tale, the same deluded followers willing to assume they know what they are talking about, the same crowd being punished and abused into a slavery of the mind, the same rewrite of this unhappy and dangerous treatment as kind and beneficial, the same Kool-Aid being administered to avoid exposure of what is really going on, the same penalties being visited upon defectors, the same ranting paranoia when faced with critics, the same goon squad ready to do violence on truthseekers.

Could it be that the spirit of Jim Jones somehow found its way into the souls of the leaders of HIV∫AIDS?

Surely not. HIV∫AIDS self destruction is simply the typical insanity of the crowd in all matters ideological, here harnessed by those who have turned a science into a religion where they are the self-serving gurus, no matter who is sacrificed to their ambition.

Jynona Norwood, who lost 27 relatives in Jonestown, questions whether Jones was ever motivated by benevolence.

“Everybody wants to paint these pretty stories about how it started off OK. I personally believe that Jim had deep hatred in his heart from Day One.”

Californian Fred Lewis lost his wife and seven children at Jonestown.

“I blame myself. I blame my wife,” he told CNN. He also blames Jim Jones. “He was a con artist all the way.”

But don’t blame the victims, said one speaker at a memorial service held Tuesday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.

“Remember the people of Jonestown, not for their horrible deaths, but for who they were — people in search of a better world.”

CNN 1998 Jonestown Anniversary Report:

Jonestown massacre + 20: Questions linger
November 18, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) — Twenty years after the world was shocked by the mass murder-suicide in the supposedly utopian community known as Jonestown, the questions linger: How and why did 913 people die? Some believe answers may lie in more than 5,000 pages of information the U.S. government has kept secret.

“Twenty years later, it would be nice to know what went down,” said J. Gordon Melton, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion.
Time to declassify?

Over the years, there have been rumors of CIA involvement. Some people believe CIA agents were posing as members of the Peoples Temple cult to gather information; others suggest the agency was conducting a mind-control experiment.

In 1980, the House Select Committee on Intelligence determined that the CIA had no advance knowledge of the mass murder-suicide. The year before, the House Foreign Affairs Committee had concluded that cult leader Jim Jones “suffered extreme paranoia.”

The committee — now known as international relations — released a 782-page report, but kept more than 5,000 other pages secret.

Without those documents, it’s hard to confirm or refute the speculations that have sprung up around Jonestown, said Melton, who planned to be in Washington Wednesday to ask for the documents’ release.

George Berdes, chief consultant to the committee at the time of the investigation, told the San Francisco Chronicle the papers were classified to assure sources’ confidentiality, but he thinks it is time to declassify them.
Paradise becomes a prison

What is known about the end of Jonestown is that on November 18, 1978, Jones ordered more than 900 of his followers to drink cyanide-poisoned punch. He told guards to shoot anyone who refused or tried to escape. Among the dead: more than 270 children.

Only two years before, Jones — the charismatic leader of the Peoples Temple, an interracial organization that helped the desperate — was the toast of San Francisco’s political circles.

But after an August 1977 magazine article detailed ex-members’ stories of beatings and forced donations, Jones abruptly moved his flock to Jonestown, a settlement in the jungle of Guyana, an Idaho-sized country on South America’s northern coast.

The plan was to create an egalitarian agricultural community. But Peoples Temple members who worked the fields and subsisted mostly on rice soon learned it was more like a prison, recalls Jonestown defector Deborah Layton.

Dissent was unthinkable, she says. Offenders sweltered in “The Box,” a 6-by-4-foot (1.8-by-1.2-meter) underground enclosure. Misbehaving children were dangled head-first into the well late at night. Loudspeakers broadcast Jones’ voice at all hours.
‘Time for us to meet in another place’
Layton: “It was like walking into a leper colony”
(Audio 179 K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

In May 1978, Layton, a trusted financial lieutenant for Jones, slipped out of Guyana. She went to the U.S. consulate and later to newspapers with a warning: Jones was conducting drills for a mass murder-suicide.

But there was little official government action until November 1978, when U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, who had been contacted by a number of people worried about their relatives in the Peoples Temple, decided to lead a delegation of reporters and relatives to Jonestown.

Ryan’s group arrived on November 17. Their visit began happily enough, but the mood soured after some Jonestown residents indicated they wanted to defect. The group was ambushed the next day as they tried to leave at a nearby airstrip. Ryan and four others were killed.

Later that night, Jones told his followers “the time has come for us to meet in another place,” as the mass suicide began. He was found shot through the head.
‘Jim had deep hatred in his heart’

Jynona Norwood, who lost 27 relatives in Jonestown, questions whether Jones was ever motivated by benevolence.

“Everybody wants to paint these pretty stories about how it started off OK. I personally believe that Jim had deep hatred in his heart from Day One.”

Californian Fred Lewis lost his wife and seven children at Jonestown.

“I blame myself. I blame my wife,” he told CNN. He also blames Jim Jones. “He was a con artist all the way.”

But don’t blame the victims, said one speaker at a memorial service held Tuesday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.

“Remember the people of Jonestown, not for their horrible deaths, but for who they were — people in search of a better world.”

Correspondent Don Knapp and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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