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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Francis Bacon’s Guide to Blog Manners


Wise and clever science guru explains human frailty in discourse

Advises NAR staff how to manage Comments

Although the distinguished commentators here are renowned for their expert familiarity with the literature and history of the vexed issue we address, and for their informed and elegant posts in Comments, lately a few interchanges in Comments have grown a tad overheated, and words have been let loose which some participants may have later regretted.

So we placed a phone call to Heaven and asked to speak with famous Frank Bacon for his advice in managing this problem with respect to all concerned, since the participants are all superior in mind and knowledge to the NAR staff.

Although we were told by whoever answered – cute voice! – that Bacon was on the Web and too busy to talk to us just then, soon afterwards he called back and spoke to us as follows:

NAR: Milord Bacon, thank you for calling back. We would like to get right to the point. There is too much waffle in the Comments, especially by Truthseeker. Is there anything we can do about that?

Bacon: Some, in their discourse, desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment, in discerning what is true; as if it were a praise, to know what might be said, and not, what should be thought.

NAR: But can we do anything about it? OK, apparently not, we take it. But what about the posters who just have one axe to grind and don’t seem to have much else to say, even when it is pointed out more than once where they have gone wrong?

Bacon: Alas, some have certain common places, and themes, wherein they are good and want variety; which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and when it is once perceived, ridiculous.

NAR: Well, we certainly feel our hands are tied, because we have to be polite and helpful to encourage people to comment, otherwise what evidence is there that anybody thoughtful reads it?

Bacon: The honorablest part of talk, is to give the occasion; and again to moderate, and pass to somewhat else; for then a man leads the dance.

NAR: We’ll try to stay out of it, then, and just encourage interchange, especially with the benighted who question what we have already demonstrated. But should we try to stir the pot with a few jokes and personal stories?

Bacon: It is good, in discourse and speech of conversation, to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion, with arguments, tales with reasons, asking of questions, with telling of opinions, and jest with earnest: for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade, any thing too far.

NAR: Yes, it is easy to turn into a bore on this immovable topic. On the Web it is impossible to see the giveaway sign of eyes that glaze over like dead fish. We will try and follow your advice. But how about the cruel jokes? Some of the jibes seem to be rather sharp, especially from one distinguished poster?

Bacon: As for jest, there be certain things, which ought to be privileged from it; namely, religion, matters of state, great persons, any man’s present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity.

NAR: So those who try and show they are superior by making cutting remarks should be curbed?

Bacon: Yet there be some, that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant, and to the quick. That is a vein which would be bridled:

Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortius utere loris.

NAR: Our Latin is a bit rusty but we take that to mean, Boy, go easy on the goad, and pull in the reins. So you think they should curb themselves, then? Try and be nicer?

Bacon: Generally, men ought to find the difference, between saltness and bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others’ memory.

NAR: You know, we have to admit we try to flatter people to see what they have to say when encouraged. We try to acknowledge and respect the qualifications and intelligence of the dunderheads who cannot take our point.

Bacon: He that questioneth much, shall learn much, and content much; but especially, if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh; for he shall give them occasion, to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome; for that is fit for a poser.

NAR: Of course, when we flatter them, we find they may talk too much!

Bacon: And let him be sure to leave other men, their turns to speak. Nay, if there be any, that would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take them off, and to bring others on; as musicians use to do, with those that dance too long galliards.

NAR: Sometimes people talk as if they are experts, and then you find out they are just newcomers.

Bacon: If you dissemble, sometimes, your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought, another time, to know that you know not.

NAR: Very few talk of themselves, though. Not sure if that is bad or good.

Bacon: Speech of a man’s self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one, was wont to say in scorn, He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself: and there is but one case, wherein a man may commend himself with good grace; and that is in commending virtue in another; especially if it be such a virtue, whereunto himself pretendeth.

NAR: Yes, milord, we compliment people as often as possible. Luckily we haven’t had much flaming on this site, as it happens. People try not to be too personal. Rather a civil crowd, not the usual blog rabble throwing raw vegetables at the stage and each other.

Bacon: Speech of touch towards others, should be sparingly used; for discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen, of the west part of England, whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept ever royal cheer in his house; the other would ask, of those that had been at the other’s table, Tell truly, was there never a flout or dry blow given? To which the guest would answer, Such and such a thing passed. The lord would say, I thought, he would mar a good dinner.

NAR: Not sure what that story means. We will have to think about that. Does it make any sense at all, except for the first sentence? But tell us, shouldn’t truth take precedence over tact, do you think? As a man of science, presumably you think it should.

Bacon: Discretion of speech, is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him, with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order.

NAR: Oh. Well, should we encourage posters to be short and sweet, or to explain fully so that all can understand?

Bacon: A good continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, shows slowness: and a good reply or second speech, without a good settled speech, showeth shallowness and weakness. As we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course, are yet nimblest in the turn; as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To use too many circumstances, ere one come to the matter, is wearisome; to use none at all, is blunt.

NAR: Well, milord, that sounds like wisdom, but we need a little time to digest it. And we hear You Got Mail. So thank you for calling back. It has been very useful. But tell us, one final question, is it all cakes and ale in Heaven, or does it get tedious rather quickly? Is there sex?

At this point, unfortunately. the line was interrupted, possibly through divine intervention, so we never found out the answer to that question.

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