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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Ira Gershwin chimes in again in support of skepticism

In an earlier post on George Gershwin’s perceptive view of human nature, we found encouragement for HIV?AIDS dissenters in his lyric “They All Laughed.”

In a comment Robert Houston drew our attention to another, equally supportive lyric from Gershwin, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”


It Ain’t Necessarily So

It ain’t necessarily so, (repeat)

De t’ings dat yo’ li’ble

To read in de Bible,

It ain’t necessarily so.

Li’l David was small, but oh my! (rpt)

He fought big Goliath

Who lay down an’ dieth!

Li’l David was small, but oh my!

Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale, (rpt)

Fo’ he made his home in

Dat fish’s abdomen.

Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale.

Li’l Moses was found in a stream, (rpt)

He floated on water

Till Ole Pharaoh’s daughter

She fished him, she says, from that stream.

It ain’t necessarily so, (rpt)

Dey tell all you chillun

De debble’s a villun,

But ’tain’t necessarily so.

To get into Hebben don’ snap for a sebben!

Live clean! Don’ have no fault.

Oh, I takes dat gospel

Whenever it’s poss’ble,

But wid a grain of salt.

Methus’lah lived nine hundred years,

But who calls dat livin’

When no gal’ll give in

To no man what’s nine hundred years?

I’m preachin’ dis sermon to show,

It ain’t nessa, ain’t nessa,

ain’t nessa, ain’t nessa,

Ain’t necessarily so.

Music by George Gershwin. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin. © 1935 by Gershwin Publishing Co.

Perhaps in the forthcoming (imaginary) revue presenting the saga of the scientists in AIDS as happy and successful conmen who have led the world by the nose for twenty years, accruing much profit and acclaim at the expense of a little collateral damage, we can use this song as the opening number.

By collateral damage we mean of course the sizeable number of ill and dead gays in the US and ill and dead inhabitants of less developed regions of the world where people mostly have a different skin hue.

In the musical both groups are viewed by our heros and heroines as socially remote and therefore relatively dispensable in the cause of advancing their own careers as leaders of a scientific field which thanks ironically to the political promotion of their victims has attracted ten times more funding than its relative importance as a cause of death deserves.

Among the songs being worked on for this entertainment are “Who Would’a Believed It?”, “Jargon is a Scientist’s Best Friend”, “Falling in Love with HIV”, “Everything’s Coming Up Positive”, “What Kind of Fool Was I?”, “I Believed in You”, and “Don’t Rain on My AIDS Parade”.

Of course, any parallel with real life is positively denied.

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