Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

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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.

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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

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American Inventor reality

Poignant crackpot show suggests source of HIV∫AIDS infatuation among scientists

But is there a lesson for HIV dissidents? Will “everything be alright”?

Why HIV dissidents may need a Therapy Buddy

p6072349.JPGAmerican Inventor is back! It has reappeared tonight (Wed Jun 6) on ABC in all its former camp glory, with even more useless, uninventive and often scatological ideas than last year put forward by possessed crackpot amateurs, frequently furious at their rejection by the judges.

Their honest wrath is especially directed at the obligatory toffee nosed Brit judge, the critical Peter Jones (click pic left), who like Simon Cowell (who happens to be co-creator of the show) is quite liable to tell contestants they are “utterly mad” if he thinks so.

Fellow judges Pat Croce and blonde Sara Blakeley are kinder, in the polite American tradition of saving other people’s feelings, and George Foreman is kindest of all. But as a fellow Brit it seems to us that Cowell is often bluntly saying what anyone uninvolved can see, which is that most of the contestants are deluded.

Is it science in microcosm?

We think there is a lesson in all this for all paradigm challengers. American Inventor may be a parable for the ways ideas are bought and sold in HIV∫AIDS science, at least in some crucial respects. The parade of nonsense may be at the low end of the intellectual spectrum, but the human factors are similar.

One question in both reality show and in HIV∫AIDS science is, why don’t the aspiring inventors or the scientists who are their counterparts – the ones who came up with the new and (as insiders said then) the very silly idea of HIV as the cause of AIDS twenty two years ago – see it?

Well, evidently, as American Inventor shows, for any average human, fathering (or mothering) an intellectual idea can be much the same in emotional terms as parenting a child.

Daddy or Mommy feel the same fierce loyalty, devotion and deluded overvaluation of their brain’s unique offspring as the parents of human babies do.

And equally clear, according to the show, is the fact that the inventor’s friends and loved ones either have equally bad judgement or are unwilling to tell him/her the obvious, for in every case no one has been willing to rain on the inventor’s parade, however unlikely his/her brainwave product.

An abundance of bad ideas in good faith

To any outsider not invested emotionally or financially in the outcome it is immediately obvious that most of the clumsy inspirations on American Inventor are not good ideas:

A jacket and cap with straps to hold your head straight while sleeping in a plane seat (“Are you mad? Must be mad! Definitely no!” says Jones);

Paper with drawings that turn colorful when peed on (to be put into the toilet to encourage children to “go”) which a realtor, Bridgette, had spent $11,000 to develop, but luckily did not have a child on hand to demonstrate as such (“what happens when you poo?” asks Jones);

A strap-on feeder pouch for a dog to be sick in (“You’ve invented something that doesn’t need to be invented” – Jones )

A personal aluminum sack to escape house fires in (“I’m speechless!” – Jones).

Anger at critics

None of these was the next Great American Invention worth $1 million investment, clearly. But it was useless to ask the inventors. All of them thought they were front row contenders, and were extremely put out, even angry, when they were not recognised as such.

Sound familiar? The phenomenon of personal hostility towards critics on the part of the chief HIV∫AIDS paradigm promoters is well known.

Mark Wainberg of Montreal, President of the International AIDS Society and Canada’s best known and most aggressive defender of the status quo, has called for the imprisonment of those “psychopaths” who advocate a formal review and reassessment of the hypothesis that HIV is the root cause of AIDS ills.

mark_weinberg.jpgWainberg is notorious in this paradigm war for suddenly getting up, removing his microphone and storming off the set when he was being interviewed on camera by Robin Scovill, a documentary maker who asked him what he thought of the Duesberg challenge. It was a quintessential American Inventor moment.

(The clip can be found under the name Free To Question (click here) at The Other Side of AIDS, the site of the documentary that resulted. For earlier posts on Wainberg, search this front page for his name in the index on the right.)

Bad ideas, utmost conviction

Slightly better though not particularly inventive was the next undeserving inspiration:

The Auto-Bib (paper bib for eating in an auto, which half of American drivers do at least once a week – accepted as an LA finalist, tears, hugs from the family, yells).

But things went downhill from there with

The Boom-Brella (umbrella with speakers attached inside),

The Household Sponge Gloves with sponge built onto palm and fingers. (“I say Yes!”- Foreman),

The Sober-Key (key with alcohol breath detector “I have one similar device in my car already!” says Sara; “But does it stop you using your car!?” asks Foreman),

The Potty Sniffer (seat-attached deodorizer with fan sniffs contents of toilet bowl and emits scent when necessary – “I vote yes, I give a lot of parties! – Foreman),

The Diaper-Wiper (Handiwipes stuck to each diaper in a pack, from a 10 year old boy who cries bitterly into his huge Mom’s stomach when rejected as uninventive, and finally

The A-Cycle, a bicycle with large spinning wheels attached to the normal wheels. This from Steve, who before his audition is revved up to the max, shouting “I am the American Inventor!” and banging on the door of the judge’s room.

The wheels attached as hubcaps will have environmental messages on them, he explains, even though they spin and keep spinning when the bike stops.

Steve is summarily rejected, but is initially incredulous. “Are you serious? This is about saving and changing lives!” he replies, standing stock still in shock and disbelief and apparently undecided as to whether to leave or advance on the increasingly nervous judges. There is a whiff of mad aggression in the air. Is Steve totally under control?

Finally he walks out, muttering “I put my life into those wheels! This is ridiculous! I am not monkeying around! You guys are going to see this all over the world! Don’t worry, I am not going to snap, guys!”

“You had my back, right, George?!” says Pat to ex-heavyweight champion George Foreman. “Oh yeah” laughs George.

Out of the mouths of babes

The entertainment value of all this striving human frailty arises from the unlikelihood of the “inventions” combined with the resentment of the contestants and their defensive remarks.

A high point is the rejection of a cute little 10 year old girl’s brainwave of an “Indoor Camping Kit”, complete with a miniature fake fire, a Smars “roaster that actually roasts Smars” and some sound effects.

p6072314.JPGThe cute one smiles winningly and confidently, until she realizes she is rejected, when she looks down and mutters (about Peter Jones) “I want to punch him really badly!”

“REALLY REALLY BADLY!” she adds more loudly, warming to the thought.

Another summary rejection is earned by a man who explains that he has made a machine that runs forever on one fill of salt water, but that he hasn’t had time to get it ready.

The blindness of authority

However, there was at least one item the appeal of which Jones did seem to misunderstand.

Why reject the Protector, a small display of moving messages attachable to a car back window which will signal to other drivers “Help! Kidnapped!” when you are carjacked and put into the trunk, where you can switch it on? “Are you kidding me?” says Jones, turning it down.

“One day when he is stuffed into a trunk he will is not going to think this idea is so silly!” says the husband of the husband and wife team darkly, once they are safely outside the judging room doors.

But Jones did like Guardian Angel, a fireman’s idea of a device to attach to a fake Christmas tree to sound an alarm and douse it with water if it catches fire, which is often a cause of the death of children. The fireman made it through.

Faith in a very bad idea

All of this must have spoken to any dissident in HIV∫AIDS watching the program, for the phenomenon of extremely strong faith in and fondness for a very bad idea is familiar to all jaundiced critics of that disputed paradigm.

The inverse difficulty of getting a good idea through the head of some judge new to it is also familiar to critics, who universally find that interest in reviewing the HIV∫AIDS paradigm is minimal to zero among scientists in the field, scientists outside the field, doctors, health workers, patients or the population at large.

Of course, this is not too surprising. Ideas that differ from conventional wisdom in any sphere are generally viewed with a jaundiced eye, with most present wondering if the iconoclast is nuts. Not to mention that, in common with some of the American Inventions, there is even an unwelcome scatological aspect to HIV∫AIDS to discourage close examination.

But the apathy with which heterosexuals view the possibility that their romantic life has been queered by scientific nonsense funded at vast public expense, and that numerous gays and Africans have been sacrificed in this cause, and billions wasted which could have gone into cancer or African health infrastructure, shows how much easier it is to be skeptical of novelty than the status quo, in the Peter Jones mode.

“Everything will be alright. Believe it.”

On the other hand, HIV∫AIDS dissenters may have found faint encouragement in the finale of the program, which was a lesson in making a triumphant comeback. This was provided by a determined contestant from last year trying again, who proved that faith in his product and perseverance in promoting it could triumph over its perceived inherent absurdity as judged by Peter Jones.

p6072322.JPGRichard Kopelle’s My Therapy Buddy is a large soft anthropomorphic toy with no more than a smiley for a face on its round head. It is designed to comfort insecure adults, who can cuddle it as it tells them in a somewhat computerized tone that “Everything is going to be alright!”.

This inspiration was rejected summarily last year by Jones, on the somewhat illogical grounds that “If I needed a cuddly toy to tell me it’s alright I would know everything was not alright!”

“This is American Inventor, not British Inventor!” responded Kopelle, 61, meaning that Jones just didn’t understand the American market.

Apparently he was right, since he has brought a pair of My Therapy Buddys back to compete again, claiming that in the year intervening that it has become a “national phenomenon”. (According to his web site, it is for sale at $70, and many comments on the Web are enthusiastic).

This time he has better luck. “Richard, can I hug one?! asks Sara. “I happen to think that the judges last year were wrong!”

“I know I am not crazy!” says Richard. “Peter has been my nemesis for a year. It’s difficult for some men to understand we need a touch. Everybody goes through some bad times once in a while. Everybody needs a Therapy Buddy. Peter, you need to hug this thing!”

“I am never going to hug that thing!” says Peter.

“Everything is going to be alright! Believe it!” says the toy.

Therapy Buddy is right, as it turns out. The toy “invention” is voted in to the LA finals. Richard wins a ‘Yes’ from Pat, Sara and George, and thus a place in the LA finals. “Good gracious me!” exclaims Peter Jones. “You’ve passed the Therapy Buddy! Everything is not alright!”

“I’m vindicated!” cries Richard, embracing and dancing in circles with his male partner outside. “I am ecstatic but I am not surprised, cos I know the American public is with me and this is going to be the Great American Invention!”

Do dissidents currently need a Therapy Buddy?

therapybuddytshirt.jpgDissidents in HIV∫AIDS seem to have been somewhat winded by the gross failure of Harpers Magazine’s 15 pages of exposure of the skulduggery, mendacity and misguided science in the field in March last year to incite its less perceptive and independent minded peers in the magazine realm, such as Atlantic and the New Yorker, into similar investigations.

They may like to take courage from this story of how perseverance pays. Or at least, purchase a Therapy Buddy.

For in recent weeks it appears that some key figures in the fight for good science in this area have retired at least temporarily from the fray.

Harvey Bialy posted the last contributed post on his critical blog You Bet Your Life on May 12 and has announced to colleagues that he considers that he has said everything necessary on the topic for the time being, and has retreated into a Buddhist sanctuary presumably to cleanse his soul of bitterness.

Celia Farber has found another role in bringing justice and human rights to the world and for the moment at least is also leaving the field to other contestants.

Even we recognize the sad lack of response to the Harpers article – and the uninformed nature of Specter’s recent piece in the New Yorker, as we noted in our recent post – as an indication that the likelihood of making headway against the mountain of human politics that HIV∫AIDS has engendered is not much greater than Don Quixote moving the Great Cheops pyramid without splintering his lance.

In fact we judge that with Bill Clinton about to get an award from the Business Coalition to Fight AIDS, with $30 billion now to be poured into the Federal HIV∫AIDS trough by George Bush, and with the New Yorker and all the other elite media still under the unbroken spell of the NIAID, as shown by the new Vanity Fair, a fat issue on Africa edited by Bono, it does not seem that anything but a sudden perception of political advantage for a leading politician, or a positive AIDS test for the son or daughter of a billionaire, or a very sensational court case inside the United States, will make any difference at all to the status quo and its continuing global expansion.

As a result, while we are not planning to buy a Therapy Buddy ourselves we also feel that we have said quite enough on this topic in past posts to show any interested reader both sides of the debate.

We therefore will be expanding to other paradigm war fronts in future to show other examples of how modern science is now a very different system than it was half a century ago, and how progress through paradigm replacement – by definition the only major progress in science – is now increasingly difficult in every field where vast sums are poured in from the public and the private sectors.

4 Responses to “American Inventor reality”

  1. MacDonald Says:

    One is almost tempted to think the Truthseeker has posted this in response to John Moore’s toe cringing attempt at humour (if not in reponse to the idea of an HIV vaccine. How would Peter Jones rate that idea on the crankometer?):

    http://aidstruth.org/crank-how-to.php

    One will know this piece is funny because JP says so in the introduction.

    Of course, it cannot have escaped anyone, not even JP himself, that he isn’t often voluntarily funny. Perhaps this is why he hasn’t had the courage to risk the leap from clown to satiric author but preferred to borrow his “crank-how-to” step by step guide from Mark Hoofnagle – another one of the many academic nobodies who, like Scalise, are trying to prop themselves up by shooting ex cathedra at any and all targets thought to be soft enough.

    http://barnesworld.blogs.com/barnes_world/2006/12/bialy_correspon.html

    Why, since JP possesses the sound scientific judgment not to author any satirical pamphlet himself, that same judgment has failed him so miserably in thinking that Hoofnagel is any more talented in this area, is part of the riddle of the man. The reader is invited to compare with the curious circumstance that JP is quite capable of reviews of HIV science that would make the trumpets of Joshua sound like a lullaby to the inhabitants of Jericho, and still they are not sufficiently loud to tear down the walls in his own critical mind.

    Perhaps JP lacks the heart to follow where his mind leads, and therefore chooses to follow the lead of intellects inferior to his own. In this case, he seems to have acted on Hoofnagel’s ultimate advice to aspiring cranks.

    Finally don’t forget other cranks are an excellent resource! Cranks usually like to hear about other cranks ideas, even if they conflict with their own crank ideas (…) Remember, intellectual consistency doesn’t matter as long as you are both criticizing the orthodoxy. These other cranks can mention your idea. They will undoubtedly find it “interesting” (…) Ideally they will link your site, join your webring, mention your ideas, and many other cranks will promptly arrive to acknowledge your genius

    And indeed, JP has linked Hoofnagel’s innovatively named “denialism” blog. Is this the beginning of a “webring” one wonders?

  2. Truthseeker Says:

    As you note, MacD, this remarkable example of “satire” that fails in the first duty of the form, which is to be cleverer than its victims, is borrowed from its proper place on its originator’s blog, at Crank HOWTO. This blog, “Denialism Blog” , appears to be run on the principle that debate can most easily be stifled if it is labeled “denialism”, since its subhead is “Don’t Mistake Denialism for Debate”. (But then it is a proud member of “scienceblogs”, a home for bloggers who typically extend the witless pandering to orthodoxy of the juvenile editors of the sponsoring Seed Magazine, a newish “cultural-political significance of science” magazine whose fitful stops and starts signal funding problems which they hope to escape by this policy.)

    That is why we already had it listed in our right hand margin index of sites relevant to paradigm challenge under the heading “Misleading”, even though it appears that the intellectually heavy footed Mark Hoofnagel (who bills himself as “a MD/PhD Candidate in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at the University of Virginia. His interest in denialism concerns the use of denialist tactics to confuse public understanding of scientific knowledge.”) shares the blog with his brother, Chris (“an attorney with experience in consumer protection advocacy in Washington and Sacramento. His interest in denialism concerns the use of rhetorical tactics by various industries in dumbing down policy debates”).

    Chris is the author of The Denialists’ Deck of Cards, another blog entry which seems slightly more intelligent and based on practical realities than his brother’s leaden footed caper, perhaps because he is a lawyer and not a doctor by training. Why is it that doctors, whose training by nature is almost all a drill, are so contemptuous of new ideas? One would think they would teach medical students some history at some point, at any rate enough to show them that conventional medicine has made huge paradigm leaps in the past, which by definition shows they should value new ideas as possible improvements.

    There is something we find inescapably irritating about not very clever people such as Mark trying to satirize not very clever people, as in this case, and we are not quite sure why this is. There are much better guides to crackpots around, but it is not that. Is it the missed opportunity? Is it the arrogance of ignorance? Perhaps here it is the J. P. Moore et al habit of boomeranging arguments against the “dissidents” which apply to himself and his colleagues. As our post tried to suggest, it is Moore who is a crank, not his critics.

    While it is true than almost every general critique in this paradigm challenge can be reversed against the other side, there is something especially annoying (to those that care about language) about the paradigm promoters’ myopia when it comes to seeing that the word “denialist” applies so much more appropriately to their denial of review, of science, and of common sense, than it does to the HIV∫AIDS critics, who are merely pointing out that there is not a single good reason to support the paradigm when it is examined against the scientific literature.

    But of course this set of blinkers is the reason that their satire falls flat. It is hard to dance when you can’t see the edge of the stage. You end up making the audience laugh alright, but for the wrong reasons.

  3. drpsduke Says:


    As a result, while we are not planning to buy a Therapy Buddy ourselves we also feel that we have said quite enough on this topic in past posts to show any interested reader both sides of the debate.

    I think dissidents already have the perfect therapy buddy in the person of Elani Papadopulos-Eleopulos. She is, after all, very willing to sleep with any HIV-infected person.

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    I think dissidents already have the perfect therapy buddy

    Drpsduke, thank you for this comment, which is below the standards of this science blog in several respects, not least of which is that it is very silly and therefore quite funny, which redeems much in our book. However, Eleni Papadopoulos-Eleopulos merely stated in court in a certain context in answer to a question that she would have no medical concern in sleeping with an HIV-positive person out of fear of the action of HIV, which is a valid statement justified by the scientific literature from several points of view, including the absence of any evidence in 22 years that HIV causes any illness, that HIV is tranmissible between heterosexual lovers, and the difficulty of locating any peer reviewed paper by any competent thinker that justifies such a concern.

    She stated her lack of concern in this context and according to the science of the matter, and was not expressing any social attitude to justify your (and other adolescents) implication that she is willing to indulge in indiscriminate liaisons with HIV-positives or anyone else, and we find insults of this kind to be a little questionable, even if they were meant in a jocular spirit, for they imply a lack of respect for a respectable, widowed lady, and for the hallowed environs of this blog, which we should remind you is a rare if not unique refuge for apolitical scientific analysis on the Web.

    Anyhow, what precisely is wrong with purchasing a Therapy Buddy for $69.99 and sending same to the dissident of your choice, if you are persuaded that they are in need of comfort? We have to say that we think you are praiseworthy for sympathizing with the plight of truthseekers in the modern world, for it is certainly an uphill battle they fight when at any moment $30 billion is liable to be thrown into the pot against them.

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