Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

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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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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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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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Classic case of a system fighting exposure: Dreyfus

Railroaded onto Devil’s Island, Dreyfus was without doubt an innocent patriot

Army officers used anti-Semitism, manufactured evidence to keep him there regardless

Intellectuals finally freed him, but truthfinding whistleblower was persecuted, Zola exiled, Dreyfus nearly shot dead

Modern science twisted by like irrationalities, especially in HIVnot/AIDS

The Dreyfus Affair which split France reminds us of the irrational social forces which explain how an innocent retrovirus and its defenders can even today be convicted of killing humanity despite enormous efforts by high ranking whistleblowers to point out that the scientific literature has high level reviews in the best scientific journals stating without refutation that this accusation is false, a global fantasy maintained by those who live by it and cannot afford for it to be subjected to rational examination.  Far better, they think, to exile whistleblowers and censor review, at whatever cost to other people's lives. Anyone who thinks the Dreyfus Affair is an irrelevant episode which has no bearing on modern life should read today’s well executed summary of this shameful story in the New York Times Book review, where Leo Damrosch boils down Ruth Harris’s new tome, Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion and the Scandal of the Century to its essence.

An entirely innocent man was convicted of espionage and suffered four years of hell on earth on the notorious Devil’s Island before his brother enlisted Emile Zola and other intellectuals to reverse the monstrous injustice, with the Army and conservatives resisting all the way with lies, manufactured evidence and persecuting the whistleblower who discovered the real culprit, not to mention attacking Zola for libel and hounding him out of the country. Even then a zealot nearly killed Dreyfus with a pistol after he was freed.

Sound familiar? There are parallels in every facet of the appalling story of how HIV(not)/AIDS zealots who believe that HIV causes AIDS have managed to maintain their entirely irrational paradigm in the face of an avalanche of books, articles, contrary scientific papers and critics of all stripes, from both inside and outside the system – in this case, Big Science, rather than the French Army.

Nothing could be more obvious than the innocence of this harmless wisp of retroviral RNA of all charges of harming humans brought against it, yet the bulk of the world’s population has been led to believe it a very damaging and ultimately fatal threat to their health, and that the antibodies they form to it which repel it from their bodies in short order somehow much later will ruin their immune system and kill them, and anyone they have miraculously transferred those antibodies to, in a sequence of reasoning which is irrational in every step and which contradicts the basic premises of infectious disease as demonstrated throughout the rest of medicine and its science.

Have a look at Damrosch’s review and you will get a very clear picture of what happened to Dreyfus, and how human behavior in the leading civilizations of this planet has not changed one iota from over a century ago.

July 15, 2010
At War With Itself
Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century
By Ruth Harris
Illustrated. 542 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $35
The scandal known as the Dreyfus Affair still resonates after more than a century, though it has been blurred for most Americans by time and distance. It is the goal of the Oxford historian Ruth Harris to extricate the story from the myths it has generated, on both the left and the right, and to trace its tortuous evolution from 1894 to 1906 in all of its human complexity. Combining an even-tempered tone with generosity of imagination, she has achieved that goal, charting a steady course through the voluminous literature that the affair inspired and exploring the reactions of scores of soldiers, politicians, journalists, salonnières and ordinary citizens. A helpful “Dramatis Personae” at the end of the book lists nearly 150 people, all of whom are given substantial treatment during the course of the narrative.

Alfred Dreyfus grew up in a wealthy Jewish family in Alsace, a disputed eastern territory that many French people regarded as covertly German. He was 10 years old at the time of the Prussian invasion in 1870, when the French Army suffered a humiliating defeat, and he remained fiercely patriotic ever after, which motivated his choice of a military career. Intent on improving its leadership, the army began to promote officers on the basis of success in examinations rather than through the old-boy network, and Dreyfus was one of those selected for special training. The old-boy network was predictably resentful, especially when beneficiaries of the new policy were Jews, who numbered fewer than 100,000 in a nation of 38 million and were regarded by many as an insidious “enemy within.”

On Oct. 14, 1894, a few days after his 35th birthday, Captain Dreyfus spent the evening in his Paris apartment with his wife, Lucie, and their two young children. The next morning he was summoned unexpectedly to headquarters, subjected to a bewildering interrogation and placed under arrest. During the star-chamber trial that followed, he was never permitted to know the actual charges against him, which were based entirely on a torn-up bordereau, or memorandum, that a cleaning woman had retrieved from the wastebasket of the German military attaché. It was clear that someone was offering to sell low-level secrets to the Germans, and a chain of flimsy circumstantial evidence was said to point to Dreyfus. He wasn’t short of money and wasn’t entangled with women, two of the most frequent motives for espionage at the time, but his superiors decided that the handwriting on the bordereau was his, and an Alsatian-Jewish scapegoat was convenient.

Early in 1895 Dreyfus stood at attention in the courtyard of the École Militaire while an officer publicly broke his sword in two (Harris mentions that it had been broken and soldered together in advance to preclude any embarrassing difficulty). He was then condemned to solitary confinement in the ferocious tropical heat of Devil’s Island in French Guiana. He spent four appalling years there, forbidden to speak with his guards and with no knowledge of what was happening in France. As Harris comments, “Dreyfus, in fact, was one of the few French alive who knew nothing of the Dreyfus Affair.”

Alfred’s brother Mathieu, tireless in support despite constant threats, managed increasingly to attract the attention of politicians and journalists who suspected that in its zeal to defend its honor, the army had perpetrated a monstrous injustice. The “Dreyfusards” appealed to Enlightenment ideals of truth and justice, while conservatives, with the support of the Roman Catholic Church, argued for nationalist traditions that the army was held to embody. As Harris shows, allegiances were often complicated and illogical. Some important Dreyfusards were personally anti-Semitic, and some conservatives who believed that Dreyfus was innocent nonetheless were convinced that defending the army, and hence its persecution of Dreyfus, was more important than justice.

The case against Dreyfus, such as it was, began to unravel when Lt. Col. Marie-Georges Picquart stumbled on evidence that the real spy was Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, a commandant whose handwriting did indeed match that of the bordereau, and who did indeed need money to cover huge debts. In the tragedy of errors that followed, paranoid army leaders punished the whistle-blower Picquart and did everything in their power to protect Esterhazy. They even abetted the forging of a letter by a commandant, Hubert Joseph Henry, that allegedly confirmed Dreyfus’s guilt. Amazingly, after the forgery was exposed, the anti-Dreyfus press claimed that Henry had acted out of patriotism to defend his nation’s honor, and when he slit his throat in prison they proclaimed him a martyr.

In fact, the forces of reaction proved impervious to argument and evidence. The novelist Émile Zola became fascinated by the case and ignited a huge protest by analyzing its details in “J’Accuse,” a celebrated open letter to the president of the Republic. Zola was thereupon convicted of libel in a trial whose judge ruled nearly all the relevant evidence inadmissible and was forced to go into exile in England.

Dreyfus himself was brought back to France in 1899, a broken man after four years on Devil’s Island, and put on trial once more. His prosecutors claimed, as more recent governments have done, that national security forbade them to reveal secret evidence that would have been decisive if known, and he was convicted all over again. To forestall further controversy he was immediately granted an official pardon, which did nothing to clear his name. It was not until 1906 that a court finally declared him innocent. In 1908, after he had retired from the army, a would-be assassin wounded him slightly with a pistol; the attacker was tried and acquitted. Dreyfus died in 1935.

The story is clearly a very rich one, exposing the determination of military and political leaders to cover up their errors at all costs and, still more profoundly, the bigotry that foreshadowed the genocidal horrors of the 20th century. It was apparently at this time, too, that the word “intellectual” assumed its modern connotations, with writers and thinkers acquiring a prestige in public debate that they have retained in France to this day.

In the splendidly terse “Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters” (2009), Louis Begley brought a lawyer-novelist’s insight to untangling the deceptions through which Dreyfus was framed, and he suggests explicit parallels with post-9/11 legal abuses by the United States. More spacious, and also more densely detailed, is Frederick Brown’s “For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus” (2010), which traces the development of racist nationalism and reactionary Catholicism from the mid-19th century onward until they culminated in the Dreyfus Affair.

For readers who want a concise account of what Harris calls “the most famous cause célèbre in French history,” Begley’s book and Brown’s chapter will appeal. For the story in depth they should turn to Harris’s excellent “Dreyfus,” which deserves a wide audience for its patient, fair-minded exploration of human ideals, delusions, prejudices, hatreds and follies.

Leo Damrosch’s most recent books are “Tocqueville’s Discovery of America” and “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius.”

Anyone who remains innocently skeptical that today’s leaders of science and society and their unthinking followers can behave like braying asses in intellectual matters should read “Dreyfus” through for a good understanding of human folly, and how easy it is to mislead the faithful, even in science, when it turns political, and fights over its truths in the media rather than in peer reviewed journals.

Our not so modern era

What makes the Affair resonate so strongly even today, in this supposedly more enlightened Information Age, is that its exhibition of so many facets of crowd behavior in all its foolishness is still matched today in great issues ranging from the Iraq war to the nonscience of HIV/AIDS. For example, the US military adventures in Vietnam and Iraq were also initiated with deceptions and lies, with the Tonkin Gulf incident as imaginary as Saddam Hussein’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction.” Just as with the unfortunate Dreyfus, these false facts nevertheless became catalysts of huge waves of public feeling and misapprehension, with political responses from leaders in every social realm, and the truth of the matter quite irrelevant to the psychological forces called into action.

Likewise, the simple scientific misdirection published in Science in 1984 by Robert Gallo of the NIH that he had demonstrated that a retrovirus was the primary cause of AIDS (the key phrases being “strong evidence of a causative involvement of the virus in AIDS” and the “data suggest that HTLV-III is the primary cause of AIDS”), despite finding it in all too few AIDS patients (around a third) and despite finding the said virus thrived like Topsy in cultures of the very T-cells it was supposed to decimate, catalyzed a scientific boondoggle which is now the Worldcom of science, an enterprise whose essential bankruptcy is as yet unexposed behind the screening cloud of emotions and political and financial exploitation that has surrounded it for 26 years.

Whether Dreyfus’s sorry tale is worth going through page by unhappy page to see all the parallels with these modern debacles is probably dependent on how sophisticated the reader is in his/her perceptions of what is going on today, since the naive will probably feel it is all anachronistic old hat, now that we are free of all the problems such as anti-Semitism, blind trust in authority, belief that the law courts seek and find the truth, raging rumor mills and the tendency of a large national system such as the French Army to protect itself at the expense of justice for the individual, which France suffered then and which we don’t have any more.

If you do want to read up on this primer on mob politics and misdirection, however, we recommend the earlier book by Jean-Denis Bredin, “The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus”, which has all the important details knit together in a more effective, even novelistic dramatic structure, as against the comprehensive but rather plodding academic style of the current effort, which doesn’t add any updates which make any difference to the moral of the tale.

“Does it matter that Dreyfus was innocent? At Rennes, did Commander Merle, who wept while listening to Demange,, and Commandant Beauvais, who hesitated, it was said, until the last moment, believe that Dreyfus was innocent? It is not improbable, but his innocence was not enough to make them change their judgment. “I am convinced of Dreyfus’s innocence,” a French officer said to Emile Duclaux, “but if his verdict were up to me, I would convict him, again for the honor of the Army.” (Bredin, p.536)

The social principle that politics trumps truth in a court of law is one of the hardest lessons for the young idealist to learn. That it extends even into the heart of science is even more difficult to conceive, until one opens the Pandora’s box of skepticism about the claims of the generals of that Grand Armee, especially those in HIV/AIDS.

9 Responses to “Classic case of a system fighting exposure: Dreyfus”

  1. cervantes Says:

    TS, I am astounded by your last phrase “fights over its truths in the media rather than in peer reviewed journals” – as the last abominable 26 years “peer reviewed” journals kept, and keep, casting Duesberg et al. into professional Hell, the same peer-reviewed journals literally sentencing millions to miserable Hiv iatrogenic death (or suicide).

    Duesberg is on record many times citing peer review has prohibited any investigation into the absurdity of Hiv being pathogenic.

    And this goes ten-fold on the overwhelming catastrophe of “peer reviewed” vaccine-advocacy now crushing innumerable infants into autism Hell (and many other Hells such as crippling allergies, asthma, autoimmune afflictions, cerebral palsy, SIDS, on and on) with 38 to 41 vaccine doses by age 18 months in the U.S. injected into infants’ flesh with their many toxic-to-life ingredients.

    How in the world can you go on record advocating “peer review” is anything in our present time but a propaganda phrase, masterfully employed by Fauci and his fellow Medical Gangsters?

  2. cervantes Says:

    Pardon TS, I should have included the Picture Of Hell itself… it should come up in dazzling color:


    If clicking on it doesn’t work, just copy and paste, pull it up.

    This is the most frightening Document I have ever seen, and most all of it goes back 10 years.

  3. Truthseeker Says:

    Well, we take your point, Cervantes, if it is that peer reviewed journals are vulnerable to the usual human frailties which bedevil the search for truth in science in every field, which we listed in our encyclopedic roundup in the blue section at the bottom of every home page, our Master List of Scientific Corruptions, which we have also given its own page, in case anyone wants to add to it, since probably half the dictionary of psychology and politics applies.

    However, peer reviewed journals are all we have as a record of whatever frail humans in science are willing to commit to the permanent record of print, for the initial inspection of their peers who may or may not be as foolish or biased as they are, but then let us acknowledge there is the subsequent endless inspection of others who wish to check their work, and find and demonstrate its errors if they see any that the peer reviewers may have missed. It is this process of double checking by the readers both in science and among the general public that is really the extended warranty on peer reviewed published science, and your own contribution above is an exciting example that has provoked the kind of public discussion that can correct things which have gone wrong earlier in the process.

    It is at this point however that we sometimes encounter the censorship and evasion of further review especially by the public which marks the perpetrators of it in, for example, HIV(not)/AIDS, as essentially antiscience and dishonest in their blocking the process with political maneuvers and other ways to defeat what is a worthy final leg of this standard process of ensuring scientific truth. One good example which we haven’t yet laid out in all its perfidious detail is the recent success of HIV(not)/AIDS promoters in getting Duesberg’s excellent article taken down from Medical Hypotheses web site and its editor removed for publishing it. We intend soon to write a full post including all the horrifying examples of this tendency which Duesberg has had to suffer from recently, as soon as we can obtain a pair of tongs sufficiently long to be able to pick up the examples and arrange them without their poisonous stink reaching our nostrils.

    This censorship of free speech is such an egregious distortion of the proper scientific process that it simply reveals the personal flaws of its perpetrators, and not those of the process. The human mind is generally too flawed anyway to be a reliable instrument to divine scientific truth without all kinds of psychological distortion, which is why scientists try to use mechanical instruments rather than their own eyeballs to measure what is going on, but at least those who have a honest and upright nature try to correct their bias in this way and by asking others to double check their reasoning and results for them, in the professional manner which scientists are supposed to profess.

    One characteristic of Peter Duesberg which has long been obvious to anyone who deals with him is that he is always open to any objection that anyone makes to his work, at least if they are reasonably well informed about it and have the same objective, truth in science, as he has himself. Unfortunately the zealous promoters of HIV(not)/AIDS tend not to have either qualification.

  4. cervantes Says:

    “This censorship of free speech is such an egregious distortion of the proper scientific process that it simply reveals the personal flaws of its perpetrators, and not those of the process.”

    But, TS, the personal flaw of the ‘perps’ is how deeply committed they are to the vast funding they receive via “the process” on all major medical issues (cancer, heart/blood-pressure drugs, pain-killers, exploding autism and the other vaccine-caused horrors I cited prior), along with the perps’ immense Kingdoms and reputations. Honest peer-review will not happen in our lifetime. So I for one will not give Fauci’s World of peer review any plausibility, anymore. And, sorry to say, that goes for NEJM and Nature, and all the Journals I read at the Natl Library of Medicine.

    It will take the written word by solitary scientists (with some banded together of course), everyday citizens, and Media Owners/editors to reveal the horrors inflicted on the unwitting citizen.

    After all, common sense does not require a degree in chemistry and peer-reviewed published papers to know daily doses of chemotherapies given without reprieve until death will in fact bring about death and have nothing to do with an alleged pathogen with no claimed capacity to induce the mortal symptoms produced by the chemos’ lethality. The Mainstream Media has utterly failed to reveal this, so they are complicit with Fauci as you have innumerable times brought up.

    Fauci’s peer-review Gang and the process will never change in the foreseeable future, though a defector from Mainstream Media may come forth, but I’m not counting on it. So it all comes down to the worldwide web with such as NewAidsReview/Science Guardian, Age of Autism, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Vaccine Risk Awareness Network (VRAN), Rethinking AIDS, Perth Group, websites of Dr. Gary Null, and many, many others. These are MY peer reviewers.

  5. Truthseeker Says:

    Agreed, Cervantes, funding and other influences have corrupted peer reviewed publications of late perhaps more than ever, but let’s face it, there have been and always will be flaws in this human process. The writings of people without funding for it who are driven by idealism, iconoclasm, love of truth, curmudgeonism, desire to help humanity, etc are now essential corrective sources, agreed. But they have their own twists and gaps and errors, so we must take them with a pinch of salt too (the present site excepted, of course, which is an extreme example of extraordinary accuracy, helpfulness and self destructive disregard for funding of any kind which probably makes it nearly unique among human endeavors related to modern journalism). But isn’t this the general principle of information gathering these days? One has to assess the source more carefully than ever before.

    In science this means reading the published peer reviewed literature, the non peer reviewed literature (not including Nature, which was intriguingly but wrongly accused recently in a comment on its site of using only in house editors/editorial reviewers, just like the old and highly valuable Medical Hypotheses, to assess the validity of submissions, and not outside unpaid peer reviewers; but this was soon corrected by a member of the editorial staff*), and the whole range of information on the Web, right up to the looniest crackpotism we may encounter, since it is not unknown for the most obviously extreme silliness to turn out to be true. It is also not unknown for crackpot and reliable authority to be combined in one person, human beings being the oddities that they often are.

    As you know, you have to use your own judgment in deciding whether any source is reliable on any topic, as the Web constantly reminds us. In a way the whole point of this blog is to get people to realize that human factors are a hall of fun fair mirrors distorting truth whenever and wherever we seek it, even in the top journals, and they operate everywhere except at this blog.

    Wait! Is that true? We will have to check our list again to make sure that none of it is operating here. Let’s see…..

    Activism, arrogance, authority wielding, avarice,
    backscratching, bootlicking, browbeating, bullying, bureaucratic bumbling and self preservation,
    careerism, closemindedness, censoring, censoriousness, clubbiness, club membership, coercion, collegiality, competitiveness, confidence tricks, conformity, convention, cooking the books, competing for credit, corruption of power, cowardice, credulity, crowd psychology, currying favor, cv expansion,
    deceit, defensiveness, delusions of grandeur, gratitude, discretion, dissembling, dogmatism, dreams of glory,
    embarrassment, empire building, envy, experimental bias,
    false hope, fanciful theorizing, family loyalty, fashion, fear and loathing, fear mongering, flag waving, flocking, fondness for the status quo, friendship,
    group loyalty, grant seeking,
    herd instinct, homophobia, hubris, human error, hypocrisy,
    iatrogenic ignorance, ideology, illogic, instigating panic, institutional affiliation, intimidation, irrationality, insanity,
    job retention,
    lack of controls, laziness, lickspittle press instincts, loyalty to superiors, lying, lynch mob mentality,
    maintaining parents, wives, mistresses and offspring, masochism, media stenography, mental inertia, mentor allegiance, misdirection, misunderstanding, naivite, narcissism, Nobel hunting,
    obedience, obeisance, officiousness, opportunism, overclaiming,
    panic, paradigm protection, patron pandering, peer pressure, perks, preconceptions, privileges and prizes, piety, politicking, political pressures, popularity, power seeking, pseudoscience, prejudice, preserving face, prevarication, pride, protectionism, Ptolemaic rationalizing, public relations, PubMed illiteracy, pusillanimity,
    racism, rage, rationalization, religion, religious instinct, respectability, reputation enhancing, resistance to change, rivalry, ruthless ambition,
    sadism, scheming for advancement, self-deception, self-interest, self-justification, self-preservation, self-promotion, scientific illiteracy, shame, sloth, slow wittedness, smug orthodoxy, social ambition, social belonging, status seeking, sheer stupidity,
    terrorizing, thievery, timidity, toadying, trickery, tribalism, ‘truthiness’,
    unchecked error copying, uninformed certainty,
    vanity, venality, veneration, virus hunting,
    witch hunting, wishful thinking, worship of authority,

    and all other primeval forces of human nature flowing through modern social systems defeating intelligent objectivity and rational public choice.

    Hmmm, OK, we claim that none of the above has affect the purity of our efforts to enlighten the masses on their effect on renowned scientists such as Anthony Fauci and John Moore.

    And we are pretty sure that none of your thinking is affected by these influences either, Cervantes, is that correct?

    (*see Comment by Edward Schaefer at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100318/full/news.2010.132.html:

    “Furthermore, IIRC, Nature itself does not use peer review, but instead keep sufficient well-trained editorial staff on hand to do all reviews internally. Note that this level of staffing is a luxury that most journals cannot afford, which is why peer review is so ubiquitous.”

    Comment by Nicolas Fanget at same page:

    I am subeditor at Nature, and I thought I’d put a little note in here to clarify our policies.

    Unlike what has been said in this thread, papers submitted to Nature are peer-reviewed, in fact our peer-review policy can be seen here: http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/peer_review.html.

    Further information in our selection process were also published recently in an editorial available here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7283/full/463850a.html.

    So while it is true that, unlike most journals, Nature can afford to have a dedicated panel of Editors, the papers published are all peer-reviewed.

    The page Fanget references states:

    Nature 463, 850 (18 February 2010) | doi:10.1038/463850a; Published online 17 February 2010

    Nature’s choices

    Exploding the myths surrounding how and why we select our research papers.

    As the current headlines make all too clear, controversies over scientific conclusions in fields such as climate change can have the effect — deliberate or otherwise — of undermining the public’s faith in science. As journals are an essential component of the scientific process, it perhaps makes sense to offer an explanation of how we pick research papers for publication in Nature, focusing on a number of false impressions that we have become aware of in and beyond the research community.

    One myth that never seems to die is that Nature’s editors seek to inflate the journal’s impact factor by sifting through submitted papers (some 16,000 last year) in search of those that promise a high citation rate. We don’t. Not only is it difficult to predict what a paper’s citation performance will be, but citations are an unreliable measure of importance. Take two papers in synthetic organic chemistry, both published in June 2006. One, ‘Control of four stereocentres in a triple cascade organocatalytic reaction’ (D. Enders et al. Nature 441, 861–863; 2006), had acquired 182 citations by late 2009, and was the fourth most cited chemistry paper that we published that year. Another, ‘Synthesis and structural analysis of 2-quinuclidonium tetrafluoroborate’ (K. Tani and B. M. Stoltz Nature 441, 731–734; 2006), had acquired 13 citations over the same period. Yet the latter paper was highlighted as an outstanding achievement in Chemical and Engineering News, the magazine of the American Chemical Society.

    Indeed, the papers we publish with citations in the tens greatly outnumber those in the 100s, although it is the latter that dominate our impact factor. We are proud of our full spectrum.

    Another long-standing myth is that we allow one negative referee to determine the rejection of a paper. On the contrary, there were several occasions last year when all the referees were underwhelmed by a paper, yet we published it on the basis of our own estimation of its worth. That internal assessment has always been central to our role; Nature has never had an editorial board. Our editors spend several weeks a year in scientific meetings and labs, and are constantly reading the literature. Papers selected for review are seen by two or more referees. The number of referees is greater for multidisciplinary papers. We act on any technical concerns and we value the referees’ opinions about a paper’s potential significance or lack thereof. But we make the final call on the basis of criteria such as the paper’s depth of mechanistic insight, or its value as a data resource or in enabling applications of an innovative technique.

    At the same time, we operate on the strict principle that our decisions are not influenced by the identity or location of any author. Almost all our papers have multiple authors, often from several countries. And we commonly reject papers whose authors happen to include distinguished or ‘hot’ scientists.

    Yet another myth is that we rely on a small number of privileged referees in any given discipline. In fact, we used nearly 5,400 referees last year, and are constantly recruiting more — especially younger researchers with hands-on expertise in newer techniques. We use referees from around the scientifically developed world, whether or not they have published papers with us, and avoid those with a track record of slow response. And in highly competitive areas, we will usually follow authors’ requests and our own judgement in avoiding referees with known conflicts of interest.


    Of course, readers should be warned that this valiant profession of drawing on world wide expertise to ensure the correction of egregious error in Nature submissions has not prevented the unfortunate journal from publishing innumerable articles which assume wrongly that HIV causes AIDS, a misapprehension which Peter Duesberg has even more valiantly tried to correct over the years to no avail, largely owing to the unprofessional behavior of John Maddox, the editor of Nature over the relevant period, who took sides in the scientific dispute prematurely (and quite unprofessionally, since in his role of editor outside the field of HIV(not)/AIDS he had no business doing so at any time) and never seemed to be able to renounce the commitment as the number of papers Nature published which were based on the paradigm of HIV/AIDS rose to record heights.

  6. cervantes Says:

    TS, Thanks for your elaboration re Nature machinations. Nature has clearly become part and parcel of “the process” that deserves no respect whatsoever.

    To paraphrase Ronald Reagan regarding Fauci’s perpetual promotion of lethal anti-Hiv drugs: “Trust, but also verify whether I have tested them on myself.”

    By the way, has Snout gone to the Big Popper Disco in The Sky (if you know with your vast network), or has he been censored here?

  7. Truthseeker Says:

    Do you mean the Snout of Reckless Endangerment? He still seems to be posting, the latest being a confused complaint that Seth Kalichman has made $17 million for smearing HIV mythbusters, while the equally faithful and plodding Snout has not made a penny out of his endless HIV defense, even though it is a tad scientifically more informed than Kalichman, who seems totally illiterate in the field.

    However, Snout’s wriggling to get out of the way of Luc Montagnier’s advisory in House of Numbers that healthy people have nothing to fear from HIV, which they can shrug off in a few weeks, is a marvel to behold.

    It is rather like watching a plane taxi-ing forever down a two mile runway without ever quite achieving the speed of takeoff, only to come finally to a halt, having burst through the fence at the perimeter of the airfield, ignominiously stuck nose down in the ploughed field across the road.

    Pity, really, that Snout can never quite manage to rise to the occasion that good logic demands. It would be useful to debate him if he could. But we had forgotten him, after his failure to win any points here. Now it seems that he is slaving away as hard as ever on his blog, to not much avail.

  8. d_lee Says:

    Oh my God. I am really in trouble. I have been fighting my hospital, state insurer and a social security judge for nearly ten years (located in the midwest). My letter’s that have went to The White House I think have left some egg on people’s faces at the hospital judging by the hostility that happened after that letter. A file with “circumcised” on it was in my chart that I some how missed. I do not go to the hospital anymore because I was threatend with being given a staph infection, plus, my state insurance was canceled. I was called “straw man, set ‘im up, knock ‘im down” and “Dreyfus” by the receptionist before that. She also said she “felt like she was reading porn” which is a reference to my records I have been complaining about being falsified. My treating physician some how lost her job and moved. My states Senator told me antisemitism but it went right over my head then his office said they couldn’t help me anymore. Now having found Mr. Damrosh’s review, I am terrified. I never new what to do before, now I am really lost. The SSA does not want to allow accident proneness as a disability for a period of insurance. My accident reports do not appear in the exhibits, plus, the hearing transcripts are destroyed with testimony of accidents and the tapes with recorded testimony are “crashed”. Medical evidence that explains the problem is witheld by the hospital, or, otherwise withheld from appearing in the exhibits, and, misrepresented in the judges comment in his decisions. In addition, the SSA will not contact my employers to verify my problem which makes me look like I don’t have one, therefore, the state insurance code’s won’t treat me. All that happens is useless appointment’s accumulate that make me look like, guess what, a Munchhausen. My positstion is negligent homicide and manslaughter laws are a severe consequenc and a civil responsiblity to avoid (In other words, I shouldn’t put myself in posistions to kill others on purpose). I fell asleep six times while on duty in a nuclear power plant, four time while in a containtainment. That is not the place to fall asleep. If I new it was happening, I would have got up and left and saved everyone, including myself the embarrassment. I was given drug screening on the spot. If there was an illegal drug or alchol involved I would have been placed in treatment. I was not. I really do have a medical problem that explains disorder. I am not asking for a permanent disability, but, the judge in my case stated he doesn’t approve periods of disability and all his denials have expired my employer’s insurance. My attorney is hoping my last appeal in SSA Hearings and Appeals, being decided right now, was going to have a different view. Now, after reading Mr. Damarosh, I am terrified I am going to be nothing but feathers when their done. What my case is really about is the use (abuse) of electronic medical records that concerns us all. Do you Science Guardian’s include constitutional scholars or legal magician’s? I need a word of advice.

  9. Truthseeker Says:

    You fell asleep on watch at a nuclear power plant, and your defense that you have a medical condition is rejected by the court, which has refused you disability, since your medical records are incomplete in some way?

    Sounds like a classic case where the judge compares the law with the evidence presented, and rules accordingly, which is what judges do, however sympathetic they may (or may not) be to the supplicant.

    As always you need the very best lawyer who can present the judge with the very best legal reasons why the evidence indicates you should prevail. Those reasons are found in the applicable law and the evidence you present, which should be of the highest quality you can manage.

    If bureaucracies are involved eg record keepers at a hospital etc it can indeed be a painful process gathering a complete file of evidence supporting your claim.

    The process has nothing to do with your own feelings of being abused and unjustly treated, however understandable. It is always a matter of what is the law, and what is the evidence that the judge has to compare with the law. And how intelligent and assiduous is your lawyer in presenting the two in justifying your appeal to the court.

    You should do everything you can to provide your lawyer with all the evidence he needs, and to ensure that he does not overlook any of it. Discuss the case with him at every opportunity in a respectful manner, asking if you can do anything further to help, and for him to explain what he needs and what actions he is taking and why.

    The clearer the case is in your own mind, the better you will be able to assist your lawyer. At the moment, your comment unfortunately suggests you should work on this.

    That is the process, in theory, though of course, being human, lawyers, judges and supplicants overlook important points all the time. It is not a search for truth or moral justice, but an exercise in applying the laws which lawmakers have enacted, which also include plenty of oversights, to to mention pork, etc.

    Then there are all the non-legal motives for action or inaction which surround every step you ask others to take on your behalf, which muddy the waters. You have to consider why your records have been corrupted in some way, if that is your point.

    Above all, you can best help yourself by getting everything very clear in your own mind. and discussing it with any friend you can find who has a clear mind about these things, perhaps from previous experience.

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