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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Crowd prejudice

Hot media topics suggest how HIV?AIDS is deeply rooted

Ways in which the paradigm could be overwhelmed – or not

Strange map of prejudice

Don Imus found that humor sometimes fails to make racial insults palatable, but the cultural threads of prejudice run through society in more unexpected waysIn New York City this week, two topics ruled the media – the Duke students being cleared of rape, and Don Imus being hung, drawn and quartered for his “nappy headed ho’s” disrespect of the exemplary Rutger’s female basketball team, fatally losing big sponsors to Sharpton’s opportunistic headlining.

News coverage climaxed today with an unusually deeply felt debate on Imus and his fate among the flustered talking heads of Meet The Press this morning, which completely overran the time allotted to other promised sensations (Wolfowitz’s fate, unanimously agreed to be resignation from the World Bank for boosting his female friend’s salary too significantly, and the Attorney General’s upcoming exit). There were 60 Minutes segments on both topics tonight.

We think it worth noting that both events are part of trends which are changing America, and both have implications for those trying to change the public view of HIV?AIDS, which is also subject to crowd phenomena and other forces in common. Among them:

1) YouTube power: The Don Imus outcome shows that a change in assumptions can occur almost overnight if a video on Web platform like YouTube sparks a brushfire.

2) Generation change: The Imus backlash with all its outcry and commentary not only revealed how much hurt lies below the skin of the older generation of blacks in this country, but also how much less racist the younger information generation, bred on the Web as well as TV, are compared with the white male baby boomer performers, listeners, reporters and rulers of the media, and also how many black and brown boomers are now in positions of importance at NBC and other power centers of the media and corporate world. Generation change is becoming a powerful force.

3) Power of censorship: A grand jury can be led to “indict a ham sandwich” (as Pat Buchanan put it) by a ruthless rogue prosecutor, primarily because no defense attorney is allowed to appear before them to counter his statements, and he may even refuse to look at any thing the defense attorneys have to offer as in this case. (A distinguished contributor to this blog reports from the inside that he served on a grand jury in New York City and was able to counter this bias and prevent the indictments of two African Americans for drug dealing under overly harsh laws by raising questions as to lack of definitive evidence sufficient to convict according to the jurors’ manual, whose rules were being flouted by the DAs). Given the continuing clearing of convictions by the Innocence Project, indicating much prosecutorial misbehavior, and this stark case of abuse of prosecutorial authority, public skepticism seems likely to effect a change. Similar exposure of censorship in HIV?AIDS should have an effect is freeing up the debate.

4) No reverse gear: It took over a year for even an entirely baseless prosecution to be abandoned, even though firm contradictory evidence emerged from the beginning. The unjust indictment and conviction of a harmless virus for causing a supposed US epidemic and now global pandemic, a virus which is prima facie not infectious among heterosexuals and shown to be uninfectious in mainstream studies, has resisted correction for 22 years now, and the obviously valid exculpation of HIV advanced by AIDS “denialists” shows no signs of moving the mountain so far, even if some cracks have been opened. Correction evidently could be a long time coming, because there is really no reverse gear in the field now that such a huge amount of self interest, authority, coporate dollars and activist reputation has been invested in the current paradigm.

5) Authority driven: Media coverage tends to assume guilt and so does much or most of the general public, because it is authority driven. If the authority is broken, then a reversal can occur quickly, as another authority is substituted. If a change in authority can take place somehow in the field of HIV?AIDS, then a swift collapse might occur. It would be interesting, for example, if Peter Duesberg got a Nobel for a cancer breakthrough. After all, Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier and Anthony Fauci do not seem to be looked on with favor in Stockholm. One wonders why.

6) Deep prejudice: At the same time as 60 Minutes in New York City, NBC’s Dateline carried a revealing study from the Journal of Personality and Harvard and Washington showing that even blacks often carry an innate mental/emotional connection between good and white, and between bad and black, due to media news and propaganda and other forces. Such unconscious racial biases affect behavior, for example, leading teachers to expect more from whites than blacks, expectations which are self-fulfilling.

Uphill battle to change minds

The HIV?AIDS critics have to overcome similar deep prejudice before media editors or the public will attend to what they say without prejudice. As 24 critical books, a 12 page article in Harpers, extensive newspaper coverage in London, many extraordinarily well argued review articles in elite peer reviewed journals and a range of informative Web sites attest by their lack of influence so far, this is not so much a battle of ideas so much as with authority – unless there is a brushfire which turns into a forest blaze.

Here is the cleverly designed experiment of Maserin Banashe, Harvard University and Anthony Greenwald, University of Washington, which showed and measured the deep prejudice that is present in all of us toward members of another tribal group:

Anthony Greenwald, University of Washington: We find that frequently some people are disturbed by their results.

“Dateline” put this experiment to a difficult challenge, testing a cross section of men and women, including some who have impeccable credentials in race relation—people like Ronda, a civil rights attorney.

During the first half of the test, black is linked to bad, and white is linked to good. For Ronda this half of the test is a breeze. She never makes a mistake.

But let’s see how she does when the information is reversed. When the left box marked bad, has a bad face, and the right box labeled good, has a black face.

Suddenly the test becomes much more difficult for Ronda. About a third of the way through she makes a mistake, linking the white face to the right box, even thought that shows a black face.

Ronda’s score indicates a strong preference for white. Is this because she unconsciously associates white with good?

Ronda, volunteer: Well, I could tell when I was taking it, I had so much of an easier time doing the white with good, much to my dismay.

MSNBC.com


Testing for a hidden racial bias

Mistakes volunteers make in computerized test are revealing

By Sara James

Correspondent

Updated: 6:56 p.m. ET April 15, 2007

This report airs Dateline Sunday, April 15, 7 p.m.

While Don Imus has apologized for his racial slurs, he insists he’s not a racist. But is it possible that virtually all of us have a hidden racial bias, hidden even from ourselves? Several years ago Dateline brought together two groups of volunteers, African-American and white, who agreed to take a test, scientifically designed to answer just that question.

Here’s how it works: Words and faces appear rapidly one after another around the screen. The test taker is supposed to link each one to the left or right box here in the center—linking positive words like ‘friend” to ‘good” and negative words like ‘awful” to ‘bad.” White faces with white. Black faces with black. And it’s the mistakes that are so revealing.

Anthony Greenwald, University of Washington: We find that frequently some people are disturbed by their results.

“Dateline” put this experiment to a difficult challenge, testing a cross section of men and women, including some who have impeccable credentials in race relation—people like Ronda, a civil rights attorney.

During the first half of the test, black is linked to bad, and white is linked to good. For Ronda this half of the test is a breeze. She never makes a mistake.

But let’s see how she does when the information is reversed. When the left box marked bad, has a bad face, and the right box labeled good, has a black face.

Suddenly the test becomes much more difficult for Ronda. About a third of the way through she makes a mistake, linking the white face to the right box, even thought that shows a black face.

Ronda’s score indicates a strong preference for white. Is this because she unconsciously associates white with good?

Ronda, volunteer: Well, I could tell when I was taking it, I had so much of an easier time doing the white with good, much to my dismay.

Maserin Banashe, Harvard University: We all might be prejudiced in ways we’re not aware.

Maserin Banashe of Harvard University and Anthony Greenwald of the University of Washington created this test.

Sara James, Dateline correspondent: What do you think this test reveals that perhaps we didn’t know before?

Banashe: How fair are we being when we judge a person.

Betsy, an events planner, had similar results.

Once again, on the part of the test which associates black with good and white with bad, a white test taker flounders.

There would be many people who would say, ‘What’s wrong with showing a preference for your own race?’

Greenwald: In some context it’s actually illegal to do so. In employment context, in college admissions.

But what does all this prove? Like the other participants, Jeff first took the test individually on a computer and his test too revealed a preference for white.

But he refused the subsequent studio test saying, he doesn’t think the experiment reveals anything at all.

Jeff, volunteer: I think the test for those for a person like myself, who has some spacial difficulties and left/right difficulties, is questionable.

James: Professor Banashe, Jeff is questioning your test.

Banashe: Well, Jeff’s experience is not unusual. Let’s say you are having spacial difficulties or let’s say you’ve never used a computer before. It could easily have been the case that if that was the problem, that we could see a strong preference for black over white. But that didn’t happen.

In fact, this experiment has passed scientific scrutiny and the results of the professor’s experiments have been published in leading psychological journals.

Our results reflect the professor’s findings.

Banashe: Something like 79 or 80 percent of white Americans who take the test, show a preference for white over black.

And as revealing as those results are, the biggest surprise is yet to come. Even for many black test takers the more challenging part of the test seems to be when black is associated with good and white with bad.

After two attempts, one of our participants still can’t make it to the end.

Even so, Joan still thought she’d show a preference for her own race.

James: Would you be surprised then, Joan, if I said that your test showed a slight preference for white?

Joan: Yes, I would be.

James: Does it shock you?

Joan: Yes…

James: You’re flabbergasted!

Joan: I’m flabbergasted.

And Joan isn’t alone. Dennis is the leader of a civil rights organization. According to his test in the studio, Dennis is neutral but his individual computer test showed a preference for white. His response:

Dennis, volunteer: All we had in images were whites through the type of media outlets that we were exposed to during my age generation and that was a constant reinforcement over and over again.

Of the African-Americans the professor has tested, 42 percent show a preference for white. It’s a large number—especially when you consider that only 17 percent of whites show a preference for blacks.

And what of the other African-Americans we tested?

Heather is an assistant district attorney. On the part of the test where the black face is paired with the word bad, Heather has noticeable difficulty and can’t finish. She showed a strong preference for African-Americans and her pride was unabashed.

Heather, volunteer: This made me feel more comfortable knowing that I’ve embraced my culture.

Randall, a high school music teacher, also showed a preference for his own race.

James: Does it concern you at all that you have a strong preference for African-American?

Randall, volunteer: Does that score mean that I do not like European-Americans? No. Is my subconscious aware of the condition that African-Americans are in this country at this particular point? My conscience is.

According to the research, 48 percent of African-Americans have a preference for their own race.

The professors note that there’s a difference in reaction between blacks and whites when they find out they have a preference for their own race.

You could say it’s pride or prejudice. What blacks consider a badge of health self esteem, many whites regard as an embarrassing revelation.

The professors say this test also reveals something else, something more subtle but equally important. That even unconscious racial biases may effect your behavior. For instance, do white teachers unconsciously favor white students? Jennifer teaches sixth grade.

James: Jennifer, your score came out as a strong preference for white. Do you believe that those unconscious attitudes for whites effects your teaching?

Jennifer, volunteer/teacher: I would hope not. I don’t view people by what they look like. I view people on what they can do and what they feel and how they are.

These aren’t just words and faces on a screen. Not just abstract images. This test suggests that when it comes to the potent question of race, our subconscious is making decisions everyday. They’re decisions that in real time in real life have real consequences.

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18122831/

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