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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Brilliant revelation ignored – Serge Lang’s book Challenges

Serge Lang’s “Challenges” is such an enlightening book that we feel we should repeat and expand on our mention in the previous post of this unique Lang legacy. “Challenges” is a completely trustworthy guide to intellectual skulduggery and mendacity in the top ranks of the US scientific intelligentsia and academy, and it is unique in how far it goes to detect and exhibit it.

To repeat, any public affairs intellectual, science student or media iconoclast who doesn’t buy their own copy of “Challenges” will remain forever underresearched in how things are done in the corridors of academic and editorial power. Currently a hefty $47.95 at Amazon new and still $36 used, it’s worth every cent as a prime source.

Apart from Lang’s unerring objectivity, the book is special because Lang always nailed his victims by reproducing primary documents, so you can see for yourself the contempt they have for his ideal of accuracy. These self indictments show how much the corrspondents prefer that their errors and misleading public statements be forgotten or whitewashed than any corrections made. They are classic examples of the problem of correction of error that Lang sought to root out.

What many don’t realize is that in science correction of error is as hard as anywhere else. Walter Gilbert the crack Harvard biologist who won a Nobel for his great advance in DNA analysis once told this correspondent that if he ever took up a new line based on a journal report of an experiment, he would redo the experiment himself, and often found that it was simply wrong.

Gordan Moran, an established authority on irresponsibility and censorship in science by virtue of his classic book, “Silencing Scientists and Scholars in Other Fields: Power, Paradigm Controls, Peer Review, and Scholarly Communication (Ablex 1998), is now writing a second one on the difficulties of correcting false statements and research in science, art and other studies.

Lang’s “Challenges” goes beyond this general book level discussion by presenting letters, articles and all the other evidence to nail down exactly what went wrong in the reporting of facts in the investigation and reporting of the greatest professional scandals in science in recent decades, including the Baltimore case, the Gallo case, and the case of HIV and AIDS.

In these Lang clearly demonstrates that the investigations were compromised and the facts were manipulated by the principals, and glossed over and misreported in the mainstream press. The figures under investigation were never forced to take full responsibility for deplorable acts which flouted the spirit and the professional practice of science, not to mention abused the public trust and robbed the public purse.

In fact, after temporary setbacks in the form of official reprimand, forced resignation and withdrawn credit for discovery, the principals now are all thoroughly rehabilitated in books and articles and restored to their previous lustre, at least in the eyes of those not in the know. They now occupy peaks of positional power as high as ever. In Baltimore’s case, his presidency of Cal Tech is the West Coast equal of his previous position, the presidency of Rockefeller University, from which he was deposed by professorial disapproval.

The omission of mention of “Challenges” in the Times obituary last Sunday is a sad example of how this indispensable resource has been conveniently ignored by the establishment it aims to reform. Thus power speaks to truth. The result has been that the book is rare and not read by many who would find it exciting and rewarding fodder for their desire for truth rather than fiction in science and scholarship.

In fact, “Challenges”, together with Harvey Bialy’s “Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: The Life and Scientific Times of Peter Duesberg”, Duesberg’s own “Inventing the AIDS Virus” (Regnery, 1996) and Gordan Moran’s “Silencing Scientists and Scholars in Other Fields” are the prime bookshelf in this field, sine qua non briefings for anyone who wants to know how scientists and their editors really behave.

Here are the sparse Amazon editorial and customer reviews of “Challenges”:

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

This collection, based on several of Lang’s “Files,” deals with the area where science and academia meet the worlds of journalism and politics: social organization, government, and the roles that education and journalism play in shaping opinions leading to policy decisions. In discussing specific cases in which he became involved, Lang addresses general questions of standards: standards of journalism, standards of discourse, and standards of science. Recurring questions concern: – How people process information and how misinformation is spread and accepted – Inhibition of critical thinking and the role of education: teaching students to think clearly and independently — or conditioning them to accept dominant modes of perception uncritically – How to make corrections, and how attempts at corrections are sometimes obstructed – The extent to which we submit to the authority of those higher up, and whether one can keep the higher ups accountable, possibly in the face of evasions, stonewalling, and intimidation – The competence of so-called experts – Our responsibility for what we say or write – The use of editorial and academic power to suppress or marginalize ideas, evidence, or data that do not fit the tenets of certain establishments By dealing with case studies and providing extensive documentation, Lang challenges some individuals and establishments, at the same time that he challenges us to reconsider the ways they exercise their

Book Info

In discussing specific cases in which the author became involved, he addresses general questions of standards, standards of journalism, standards of discourse, and standards of science. Paper. DLC: Science – Moral and ethical aspects – U.S.

Product Details

* Paperback: 816 pages

* Publisher: Springer; 1 edition (October 30, 1997)

* Language: English

* ISBN: 0387948619

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

The review posted below from Boston is prize exhibit 1, July 15, 2004

Reviewer: textgenie “textgenie” (New York, NY USA) – See all my reviews

I hope no one will be put off by the review below this one, presumably some supporter of Huntingdon for reasons other than good logic.

The guy just completely missed the thrust of Lang’s comment, which is to point out, as enlighted commentators always do (pity they have to bother, it is such an obvious fact) that such terms as Liberal or Conservative are impossible to define with any rigor, and should never be used in any purportedly rigorous academic discussion and analysis. So just the fact that Huntington sets out to do that proves him the ass that Lang finds him, and skewers so effectively.

These are journalistic terms and Huntington’s level of thinking is that of a journalist, not an academic, as Lang shows in his file on Huntington. Nothing wrong with that, unless it is represented as academic rigor, which Huntington apparently does as a habit.

It is Huntington’s hapless lack of rigor which infuriates Lang, and which the poster is too obtuse to understand. This is the whole point of Challenges, and one thing that makes it exceptionally useful as a reference. Standards of logic and evidence are loosening all over, it sometimes seems, and certainly Huntington is an example, as measured by Lang, unless he has reformed since (this is quite a long time ago).

Challenges is an expensive book at first glance but once one reads it one realizes that it is worth the price for every File included. This book has the power to make a difference, unless of course it is misunderstood for emotional reasons. It is the kind of work which justifies the search for intelligent life on earth, which can easily seem hopeless if one reads too much Huntington level commentary.

Once one has read Challenges, one realizes how fatuous the confortable analyses in the likes of Foreign Affairs and similar establishment pap journals are.

1 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

intellectually dishonest, un-rigorous, and irresponsible, April 1, 2004

Reviewer: A reader

This book is god-awful. It is an astounding piece of writing I thought I would only have to encounter in a freshman composition class. It’s amazing that a mathematician can have so little sense of logic, rigor, or intellectual honesty. The book is an utter waste of time, and I feel for the scientists who have the misfortune to come under Lang’s gun. It’s like being accused of being a (…)communist–you must reply, but the accusation itself is so sloppy and absurd, replying is the worst thing you could do. I’ll just give you one example from the book. (You can pick a page at random and find several similar examples on your own).

On pp 53-54, Lang finally gives an actual quote from one of Huntington’s books. It is a lengthy passage, wherein Huntington defines what he means by the terms “liberal” and “conservative.” It appears from this excerpt that these are important terms he will be using often, and so takes some time to define them. (Indeed Lang calls this definition of “liberal” the “cornerstone” of the book.) Now here is Lang’s response to the definition: “I object to Huntington’s sweeping generalities. I don’t know anyone whose point of view fits the definition of Liberalism . . . that Huntington gives. Military men sometimes run a country by force, sometimes they seek or get political power, . . . but I have seen no evidence that they universally and at all times ‘claim that the natural relation among men is conflict,’ . . . or the rest of what Huntington attributes to ‘the military ethic.'”

You read that right. Lang’s argument against Huntington’s definition of the terms as he will use them is: “that’s not what I mean by ‘liberal.'”

This level of “argument” goes on page after page. It’s appalling this thing was ever published, and appalling Huntington was ever even expected to reply to these ravings.

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

A clean window into the realpolitik of science and academia, April 15, 2001

Reviewer: textgenie “textgenie” (New York, NY USA) – See all my reviews

This is a quite remarkable collection of insider documentation of the ways in which incompetent, hypocritical or even downright fraudulent star members of the science and academic establishment weasel, evade and lie when faced with the intellectual Exocet missile that is Lang.

Lang is a mathematician with zero tolerance for any reshaping of the truth and he evidently has a fierce passion for taking the lid off the instances he finds where the bureaucracy or the prestigious, Nobel laureated leaders of science are misleading the public or their students and collegues.

More than that, however, he has an infinite capacity for keeping to the exact point of his insistence on factual statements and this leaves his hapless victims no room for wriggling. The cases which he builds, reproduced here, which he calls Files because they are complete records of the exchanges he builds up in corresponding directly with the various luminaries he challenges, are rounded off with reprints of the published articles and other material evidence of the case at issue. These enable the readers to be fully informed and judge the case for themselves, and they are as factually objective as good mathematical proofs.

As a record of what happens when the cosy collegiate fudging and mutual backscratching and support against exposure that normally goes on behind the closed doors of the establishment, and a collection which includes personally directed letters and exchanges which are not normally exposed to public view, this stuff is unbeatable.

Any reader who has an ambition to lose the naive view and see what really goes on behind the scenes quite starkly illuminated, including cases which are in at least one instance – the case of AIDS– evidently gigantic examples of scientific irresponsibility if not downright fraud, should buy this book. It shows convincingly how much of the conventional wisdom of the media in celebrating some figures and denigrating others in major scientific disputes, such as the Baltimore case, is evidently quite unjust.

There are no rivals I know of for this work by an established and reputable academic who is rare if not unique in putting truth above collegiality, even if it has won him a reputation as a crank. If he is a crank, he is certainly an informed one who makes the reader his equal in that respect. What a pity this hasn’t yet reached a truly wide audience. It might change the ways things are done.

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful:

Exhaustively documented dishonesty among scientists, January 6, 2000

Reviewer: Michael Buchanan (Princeton, New Jersey, USA) – See all my reviews

Lang’s Challenges is highly recommended for those who expect honesty and openness in academic science. Lang is very experienced in dealing with cases of academic fraud and coverup, and provides an excellent model for his successors to follow. In a series of four or five self-contained cases (termed “files”) the controversy is presented from its source materials, then Lang describes his response, the subjects’ counter-response, third party contributions to the controversy, etc. Much of this is through verbatim citations of correspondence, augmented with commentary on outcomes, the presentation of the controversy to the public, etc.

The controversies themselves are quite significant, revealing the impunity and fraudulence of prominent researchers, disturbing nonscientific and even scandalous behavior of major funding organizations, and the wholesale deception of the public in regard to the AIDS phenomenon. I expect intelligent readers of all fields will find this book to be a revelation in regard to the business of science in academia and government, and they will gain an understanding of what may lie behind the news from those areas.

There are only four, which shows how neglected this remarkable resource is. That partly flows from the disinterest the old fashioned Lang had in the Net. He preferred paper mail and the telephone, which he would use to call up and launch into a conversation without a greeting or even saying who it was.

Recently, however, we heard he allowed a student to show him what his exposure was on the Web, and was fascinated. According to our informant, he read an Amazon review by this writer of Harvey Bialy’s “Oncogenes, Aneuplody and AIDS: The Life and Scientific Times of Peter Duesberg”, another of the handful of really important books available exposing the secret lives of scientists who play politics with and censor the truth behind the scenes.

“He knows what he is talking about!” Lang reportedly said approvingly. As far as we are concerned, there could be no higher accolade. It occupies the opposite end of the spectrum from the Pulitzer prizes, where apparently the general idea is that the winner is coopted by the establishment into joining the club and losing all critical faculties as far as fellow members are concerned.

The chances of a Pultizer committee recognizing talent which opposes its comfortable assumptions seem to us as low as the judges of a piano contest recognizing the value of great originality. But perhaps we are prejudiced by the award of a Pulitzer to “The Coming Plague” (Penguin, 1994) by Newsday’s Laurie Garrett, now at the Council of Foreign Relations uncritically raising the alarm over global health threats with barely a reference to the scientific literature, as previously noted.

This highly praised and prized book lost its authority with us on the basis of its half page (p. 383) dismissal of Duesberg’s extensive, peer reviewed review of HIV/AIDS as “debunked” and contradicting “overwhelming evidence”. That a professional and experienced journalist covering the science of disease didn’t credit a critic of impeccable standing, let alone notice for herself the absence of a single paper of proof that–or explanation of how–HIV caused AIDS in the “overwhelming” literature was more alarming than the coming plague in our eyes.

If there is one science book that deserves the Polk, Peabody snf Pulitzer rolled into one it is “Challenges”, but as its absence from the Times obituary presumably indicates, its chances are nil.

Enter the Web. Not only are its 816 pages freely advertised and available for a price at Amazon (sales rank 260,854 compared to #14,721 for Duesberg’s “Inventing..” and #287,590 for Harvey Bialy’s “Oncogenes”) but readers of Duesberg’s book may be drawn to his exemplary Web site http://www.duesberg.com and the Viewpoints page which lists excerpts from Serge Lang’s book http://duesberg.com/viewpoints/index.html.

Here anyone with a browser can read chunks of Challenges and there is nothing that the officials, editors and scientists that it condemns can do about it, other than maintain their silence about this diamond of a book and crank their noisemakers to drown out scientific and common sense among those who have not read it.

There is nothing like “Challenges” for the complete evisceration of the shallow attitudes that pass for thought in the conversation and writings of many scientists and journalists in this arena.

Lang trashes the trasher: the case of Cohen

Particular satisfying, for example, is the way in which Lang counters the fatuities of Jon Cohen, the Science writer assigned the putdown of Duesberg in 1994 which was accepted by many casual readers as definitive. Lang found Cohen’s questions (which Lang insisted be put in writing) so defective that he refused to deal with Cohen and wrote Daniel Koshland the editor of Science to say why.

Here is what he thought of the article:


One effect of the Science article of 9 December 1994 was to acknowledge officially, in the #1 magazine of the scientific establishment, the existence of an expanding challenge to the HIV/AIDS hypothesis and to the establishment’s way of dealing with this challenge in the past.

On the other hand, I regard the Science article of 9 December 1994 as tendentious and skewed, but here is not the place to make a comprehensive detailed analysis. However, I give a couple of examples.

First I object to personalizing dissent about the official line that “HIV causes AIDS” in the context of “The Duesberg Phenomenon.” I object to lumping together different people such as Harry Haverkos (who sponsored the NIDA May 1994 meeting on nitrite inhalants), the co-authors of the article on AIDS in Africa14 referred to in footnote 4, or myself among many others, as part of “the Duesberg phenomenon.” What has “not gone away” is that an increasing number of individual scientists, with different points of view, different backgrounds, and different responsibilities, have publicly documented reservations about the official position of the government or the scientific establishment concerning HIV and AIDS. Lumping together independent scientists under the single category of Duesberg “supporters” skewed the perspective on the dissenters and on their multiple reasons for dissent.

Second, the article completely omitted mention of dissenters such as Bialy and Haverkos, as well as many points raised by the dissenters. For example, the NIDA meeting of May, the position of Harry Haverkos on nitrite inhalants, the situation in Africa, the fact that malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, and influenza, test false positive on the HIV antibodies test, were still not mentioned in the Science article. The AAAS June meeting was mentioned in only one sentence: “In June, the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science) sponsored a daylong meeting at which the dissidents offered their points of view.” No indication was given what were these points of view.

Specific to Jon Cohen’s incompetence as a reporter was the footnote Lang appended in his book, just to make it crystal clear from the contact the unfortunate Cohen made with Lang to get some quotes from the Yale mathematician and find out why he supported a review of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis.

Footnotes for page 649

14 … Cohen tried to interview me. I asked that his questions be put in writing, and he faxed me a letter containing questions on 1 November 1994. I found Cohen’s questions and statements so defective that I refused to deal with him, and wrote a letter to Koshland explaining in detail why I refused to deal with Cohen. I made a line by line analysis of Cohen’s letter to me. For example, Cohen wrote me: “You extensively cite Duesberg’s writings and references that he has provided you with, yet I do not see any other references of AIDS literature. Have you investigated the AIDS literature to address the question about the link between HIV and AIDS?”

Cohen was referring to the present article, which I had sent to him before publication in the Yale Scientific. As I wrote to Koshland, Cohen’s statement (“Yet I do not see…”) documents blindness, as well as incompetence in processing information. To cite just two examples, in my article I quote from a paper by Papadopoulos et al (especially Bialy), and I devote an entire section to the paper by Ascher et al., published by Nature, and reported in the New York Times among many other newspapers which took seriously a press release by Nature. I did not get either of these papers from Duesberg. Bialy himself sent me his preprint.

In any case, what of it if Duesberg is kind enough to provide me with scholarly references at my request? I learned that malaria tests false positive for HIV antibodies from the Kary Mullis interview in the California Monthly, and I learned of a similar situation with respect to leprosy and tuberculosis from Neville Hodgkinson in the London Sunday Times. I asked Duesberg to provide me with the scholarly references to that effect, and he brought to my attention the actual scientific papers by others, reporting these facts. Scientifically, it does not matter who provided me with these references or when, but it was appropriate to acknowledge Duesberg for his bibliographical help.

There is intellectual pleasure in seeing someone finally nail the wriggling worms of specious and empty calumny which infest the public discourse about HIV/AIDS review.

Normally, to use another metaphor for a moment, it seems as impossible to take its practitioners to task as it is to shoot down a cloud of nerve gas with bullets.

Lang shows this is not the case after all. It can be done. He is uniquely willing to dig out individual worms from the rot and expose them to the light before chopping them with reason’s blade. It feels much as if we are relieved of some kind of worm under the skin ourselves.

What is sad is that even an accomplished journalist such as Jon Cohen is not atypical in his built in servility to mainstream opinion, even in the face of high qualified and established academic critics. If writers for Science can do no better, what hope is there for disinfecting the science pages in public discussion and ridding them of this bias?

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