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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CDC, power and money

The CDC is one of the most familiar acronyms these days, standing for the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s power to escape review is less discussed, however, as is its extraordinary size and budget.

The letter from its boss this week announcing the reorganization of its battalions into different groupings gives the game away to some extent. You can find it at CDC reorganization approved by Congress, and see how Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., currently directing the entire CDC megastructure, blames the “challenges of the 21st Century” for the need to establish Coordinating Centers to help the Centers and their army of contractors to communicate with each other.

Some might wonder why the challenges of the 21st century are so vastly expanded from those of the 20th century, in which, after all, more health challenges were scotched for good than ever before. Could it be that Julie, like Bill Gates, has been taking Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague home for her bedtime reading? Given its theme of finding a new threat to global health in every African and Asian’s carry on bag, we would not be surprised if she had bought one for every employee and every Congressperson

In passing, she mentions with pride that the CDC of 28 years ago, a mere 4,000 employees in size on a starvation budget of $300 million ($75,000 each) has now grown into a splendidly formidable 15,000 employees (including contractors) with $8 billion to spend (over half a million dollars per employee every year).

This is only one more example of how scientific and medical institutions have grown to enormous sizes in recent years. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is celebrating its 200th birthday this week with an annual budget of $1.5 billion, and 6,000 employees who “deal with issues as varied as monitoring the quality of X-ray machines and ensuring the safety of day care centers” according to a Times report today (April 24, 2005) by Marc Santora, Forged by Fire.

And, of course, new local variations of HIV which kill more rapidly than ever before, at least in conjunction with large quantities of crystal methamphetamine. One wonders if Marc, like Larry Altman, with whom he shares reporting on the deadly new HIV species, is also a graduate of the CDC.

Of course, the leading behemoth of science and medicine is the National Institutes of Health, the NIH. By 2003, it had become so large and unwieldy that a year long study by The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science (NAS) recommended a major reorganization.

The 2005 budget provides $28.6 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), after an unusually small year-to-year increase. But this levelling off comes after the budget was doubled in 15 percent increases for each of the five years between 1998 and 2003. Almost all of the money will go to research grants, and the scramble for these funds remains intense. Judging from last year, nearly four times as many grants will be proposed as will be granted.

The huge amount of money involved, and the even bigger appetite for it which goes unslaked, goes a long way towards explaining why any action from outside the established order to reassess a paradigm which is part of its blueprint for progress (and the current key to its money flow) is likely to get nowhere fast.

It suggests that the chances that those who want an official reassessment of the current AIDS theory are slim. This, despite the fact that the idea of HIV as the cause of AIDS has ruled for 21 years yet thus far achieved no explanation of how the virus works its supposed damage, no cure and according to peer reviewed literature and contrary to media claims, no alleviating medicine.

There are just too many people living off it—with their wives, husbands, sons, daughters, dogs, cats, cars, medical bills, family vacations and entire careers hinging on their faith. Expecting them to listen to a challenge to their faith is rather like asking the staff of the Vatican to reassess Catholic dogma.

Meanwhile the funds available for the critics of the paradigm, the scientists or the journalists who are needed to explain to the public that the issue is even alive, are about as tiny as the funds for the promulgation of the ruling paradigm are vast. One well known, very talented and dedicated journalist whose life has been devoted to examining the claims for AIDS science was reduced at one point to washing dishes in a New Jersey hotel. Challenging the received wisdom in AIDS is not the path to success in science or in the media.

Peter Duesberg, the establishment reviewer who eviscerated the rationale for HIV as the cause of the supposed new disease in 1987 and in many peer reviewed articles since, was a consistently successful applicant for NIH grants in his career up to that point. Since then, he has not been able to get a single grant approved at the NIH, and his lab has only survived through grants from private donors.

Some say that Duesberg should have waited for the Nobel that he was sure to get, according to received opinion, including a letter in Nature that said exactly that. Then he could have spoken out without fear of being cut adrift.

Others, however, doubt that he would have been any more welcome than the proverbial skunk at the garden party. He attempted, after all, to put a stick through the spokes of the front wheel of one of the grandest bandwagons that has ever rolled through biological research. Estimates of the amount of money spent on AIDS research so far under the current HIV-focused paradigm range past $140 billion.

Even the still shining respectability of the leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, is tied to publishing thousands of articles on this unproven and so far unjustifed premise. Yet reversal of the thinking on AIDS would at this point involved repudiating the work of so many researchers and peer reviewers it would amount to a scientific 9./11.

On the whole, these days, the Davids of science are equipped with pea shooters against Goliaths that have the power to drop cluster bombs from 20,000 feet. If the AIDS issue is, like other challenges to powerful paradigms in science, a test of truth, the challengers are heavily handicapped.

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