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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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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Liberal blogger taken aback at Mark Wainberg in The Other Side of AIDS

Montreal scientist will never live down dark rant on camera

There is nothing more revealing on the intellectual level than the attempts by those scientists and officials riding high on the HIV?AIDS paradigm to bomb, strafe and otherwise dispense with their challengers by force and violence, blocking them from the public stage instead of engaging them in reasoned debate.

When one side is for free debate and the other runs away from it or tries to hang those advocating discussion without giving them a chance to speak, the implication is obvious, assuming the two sides are of roughly equal high standing.

An enlightened post to this effect appeared a week ago on Classically Liberal, and drew attention to one of the most amazing scenes in the history of film documentaries, the appalling behavior of Mark Wainberg, the AIDS researcher in Montreal when faced with the camera of Robin Scovill in the illuminating documentary “The Other Side of AIDS”.

The blogger, CLS, does an excellent job of describing this ugly scene, which in a few minutes reveals the black heart of HIV?AIDS scientific propaganda incarnated in the hideously twisted features of this foolish scientist, who after discovering that the film maker had reserved judgment on whether HIV likely caused AIDS or not, stood up and threw away his microphone declaring that the interview was over.

This uncivil gesture followed a rant in which Wainberg declared that Peter Duesberg, the self-sacrificial Berkeley scientist who has continually alerted the world in vain over twenty years that the principles and evidence of good, peer reviewed science reject HIV as the cause of anything at all, deserved indictment as a criminal who “belonged in jail”:

“Someone who would perpetrate the notion that HIV is not the cause of AIDS is perhaps motivated by sentiment of pure evil. That such a person may perhaps really want millions of people in Africa, and elsewhere, to become infected by this virus and go on to die of it. Who knows maybe there is a hidden agenda behind the thoughts of a madman, maybe all psychopaths everywhere have ways of getting their views across that are sometimes camouflaged in subterfuge but I suggest to you that Peter Deusberg is probably the closest thing we have in this world to a scientific psychopath.”

In this scene Mark Wainberg appears, as blogger CLS says, “seriously unhinged and perhaps unfit to deal with students.” There is no doubt that it is one of the most discreditable public performances ever achieved by a previously respected scientist.

A clip of the scene is viewable at the site of the film, The Other Side of AIDS, which is an excellent introduction to the conflicting claims in the field. A patient interviewer, Robin Scovill is the husband of Christine Maggiore, a woman who decisively rejected the theory of HIV when she tested positive years ago and wrote a very good book on the subject. He expertly exposes the hollowness of the justifications offered for HIV as the cause of AIDS by questioning its proponents at length, so that they are forced to admit the weaknesses in their position, and often end up looking plain silly, if not utterly self-condemned as the nasty but pitiable Mark Wainberg now does forever.

The Other Side of AIDS is a study in revealing behavior. It is highly recommended for all newcomers to this issue of spurious authority in HIV?AID. This one $20 DVD tells newcomers such as CLS more in an hour and a half about who is likely to be right on the science of HIV?AIDS than most books. Human behavior seen in action is prima facie evidence of a powerful kind.

Here is the blog post, which brilliantly describes the Mark Wainberg scene, and ten comments:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Authoritarian intolerance on campus.

I don’t pretend to be a medical doctor or a biologist. So I have no position on whether HIV causes AIDS or not. But that is not important when it comes to whether or not such debate ought to be allowed.

In any area debate ought to be free. By free, I mean unhampered by government law or regulation. I do not mean that one must respect the opinions of others only respect their rights. Nor is one obligated to help them spread their ideas in any way. It is entirely one of negative obligations: that is one may NOT do things to them but there are no positive obligations to do things FOR them.

This is a foundation of classical liberal thinking. Anyone who helps, promotes or encourages the use of government sanction to punish an individual for expressing a peaceful opinion is not an advocate of human liberty.

Recently I watched the documentary, The Other Side of AIDS, which looked at this debate between respected researchers on both sides of the issue. But one man stood out. Not because of his research but because of his viciousness and authoritarianism. That was Dr. Mark Wainberg of the McGill University AIDS Center.

Wainberg is being interviewed about this debate and he immediately starts demanding to know whether or not the interviewer is a dissident or not. If a dissident then Wainberg will immediately cut off the discussion. He will refuse to answer questions. Worse yet he launches into demands that people who disagree with his view ought to be rounded up and arrested.

Wainberg asks the man if he believes HIV causes AIDS. The interviewer says that is the prevailing view. Wainberg then demands to know “Do you personally believe that HIV causes AIDS.” Now, I couldn’t answer that because I don’t know. I have no medical degree or the scientific knowledge necessary to judge the quality of research. But Wainberg sounded like a theologian, not a serious scientist. He wanted to root out heresy and damn the heretics to some undetermined penalty.

The researcher responds: “I don’t have enough information either way quite honestly.” That’s not good enough for the Grand Inquisitor. “Are you one of the dissidents?” he demands to know. The interviewer says he is not a dissident..This does not satisfy this theologian. “How can you say you don’t have enough information?” Maybe because he is not trained in the fields required for him to make such a judgement. What Cardinal Wainberg is demanding is not that the man make an informed judgement at all. He is demanding that the man agree with him. He is demanding that Wainberg’s view be accepted without evidence. Wainberg tells the man he should have had an opinion formed before doing the interview.

What it means is that Wainberg will only be interviewed by people who already agree with everything he is going to say. Why such a fear? Why such intolerance? Wainberg told the man that unless he already agreed with him he may want to edit his remarks to make him, Wainberg, look foolish. Why? Wainberg was already doing that all on his own.

Then Wainberg issued his fatwa against anyone who dared disagree with him. “Anyone, those who attempts to dispel the notion that HIV is the cause of AIDS are perpetrators of death. And I, would very much, for one, like to see the Constitution of the United States and similar countries have some means in place that we can charge people who are responsible for endangering public health with charges of endangerment and bring them up on trial. I think that people like Peter Duesberg belong in jail.”

“Someone who would perpetrate the notion that HIV is not the cause of AIDS is perhaps motivated by sentiment of pure evil. That such a person may perhaps really want millions of people in Africa, and elsewhere, to become infected by this virus and go on to die of it . Who knows maybe there is a hidden agenda behind the thoughts of a madman, maybe all psychopaths everywhere have ways of getting their views across that are sometimes camouflaged in subterfuge but I suggest to you that Peter Deusberg is probably the closest thing we have in this world to a scientific psychopath.”

Wainberg is seriously unhinged here and perhaps unfit to deal with students. What is really scary here is that at this moment I’m reading How the Idea of Religious Tolerance Came to the West by Perez Zagorin. He discusses the logic of those who burned heretics at the stake and their reasoning. They sound exactly like Wainberg right down to the accusation of the heretics being “pure evil.”

The interviewer made a mistake with this scientific mullah. The interviewer had seen that Wainberg’s irrational statements were all directed at Dr. Peter Deusberg alone. So he mentioned that there are other scientists who take the same position. The mere mention that numerous researchers disagree with this Mad Doctor of McGill was enough. Wainberg gives the man a dirty look and says: “And now this interview is over” and walks out.

My inclination is to go with the scientific consensus in most cases where I don’t think I can draw my own conclusion. But when I see people like Dr. Wainberg acting in such a way, and demanding that their views be legally protected from challenge, then I have to wonder if those who disagree don’t have a real case. This sort of intolerance is so often rooted in a fear that one may be wrong. It is ripe in theology but ought not exist in the academic world. Dr. Wainberg is an embarrassment to his profession and a man with such a passionate hatred for academic freedom that he ought not hold a position at a respected university. He may be right about the medical facts. But he shames his own position when he acts like an academic Stormtrooper. The world will never be a civilized place as long as men sit in university posts who want to imprison others over intellectual differences.

posted by CLS at 3/23/2006 04:45:00 AM

10 Comments (the last one by Francis Bacon blocked by CLS, the otherwise anonymous blogger, who has not made a post since):

Francis Bacon said…

A very excellent post, portraying exactly what happens in this documentary segment, and the conclusion one must draw from it: that Mark Wainberg is exhibiting every sign that he has the unconscious (let’s be charitable) awareness that what he believes is not well justified at all, and he has to bully to keep it from examination.

The only disappointment is that CLS is showing the same symptom as the filmmaker, believing that because he/she is not a scientist or doctor per se, therefore it is beyond his competence to form a view of the issue.

Wrong. Anyone as intelligent as CLS will have no difficulty in following the essential arguments against the idea of HIV as the cause of AIDS, which flouts not only many basic tenets of medicine but also of plain common sense.

Have a look at http://www.NewsAIDSReview.com for a good introduction to the topic. The site ridicules the HIV paradigm as laughable nonsense and the behavior of the scientists who run the field as an embarrassment to science.

Sunday, April 02, 2006 8:57:19 PM

CLS said…

Thank you for the comment, mostly. I have read the arguments on both sides and I honestly do not know enough to form a firm opinion. I would like to see a good debate between the two sides but that is not taking place. But then this is a blog on classical liberalism which itself can draw no conclusion per se. It is about methodology not conclusions. Liberalism advocates free speech and open debate. It supports reason and science. What conclusions come out of that process are not part and parcel of liberalism itself. So it is not my task here to draw conclusion but to defend the process. It is much the same with economics. I support a free market but I don’t try to tell producers what they must produce or who they ought to trade with. It’s the process that concerns this blog.

Sunday, April 02, 2006 9:10:50 PM

Francis Bacon said:

Well, there is a middle ground between the fight for free speech and for opening up debate, which is the main fight in the HIV is/is not the cause of AIDS debate, and the ability and willingness to judge the arguments and evidence from outside the profession of science, which many feel they are not competent to do, as you say you are not.

The in-between area is to make a judgement of some kind as to who is likely to be right, based on behavior. One can reasonably conclude I suggest that those who go bananas if challenged and try to bully or otherwise prevent examination of their arguments, as the appalling Mark Wainberg does, must feel the weakness of their position acutely. Those who welcome free debate may ceteris paribus be taken to be confident of the soundness of their arguments.

If both have more or less equal standing, expertise and intelligence, and are high level in all three, then one can reasonably conclude that the free speech advocates are right in their science, and the ones who try to repress them are wrong.

Then of course there is the question of interests. In this case they are all on one side. The challengers have nothing but self sacrifice to gain out of it, and have to sweat to justify and convey every single point they want to make. Those is charge have high pay, royalties, prestige, media exposure, publication acceptance, prizes.

Another indication of who is probably right.

By the way, you are clearly a philosopher and the business of a philosopher is evaluation of ideas. Get in there. They need smart thinkers to clear up that messy dispute.

Monday, April 03, 2006 6:09:47 AM

CLS said…

Your logic doesn’t work. Wainberg is clearly an ass. But I’ve known people who are right who are intolerant assholes and people who are totally wrong who are pleasant and willing to discuss. Your examples can not be applied across the board. I can think of two individuals who both take similar positions. One is a gentleman who is happy to debate his viewpoints openly. Another is an intolerant, mean, drunk who shouts down his opponents and calls them names. And yet their views do not differ in a significant way. Many individuals have supported capitalism (rightly) yet wanted to silence communists (wrongly). On the other hand there were communists who hated markets (wrongly) yet said they wanted open debate (rightly).

I certainly understand your point. If you read the history of the Reformation you will find that people like Luther and Calvin all debanded free speech when they were in the minority and had no power but demanded censorship when they had the reigns of state in hand. Every statist out of power wants liberalism but return to their core values when they have power.

I just don’t think we can draw conclusions based on this as tempting as it might be.

Monday, April 03, 2006 6:25:00 AM

Mark Biernbaum, PhD said…

I have found, in my own investigative conversations with those in the HIV=AIDS establishment (like the American Academy of HIV Medicine, Gregg Gonsalves of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and Sean Strub of Poz magazine), that Wainberg’s response is not uncommon — the discussion ends when I admit to skepticism about the HIV=AIDS theory. They all seem a bit like Lady Macbeths to me — methinks they doth protest (against legitimate scientific debate) too much!

Monday, April 03, 2006 9:58:03 PM

CLS said…

Mark: This may be the case but it is not a method by which one can determine truth. And that is the point I’m making. I know people who I know are right on something but intolerant about it and people who I know are wrong on something but open to debate. Whether or not a person is intolerant is not a good measure by determining whether the position they take is correct. Even if there were a high correlation between a lack of tolerance and being wrong it is a faulty method for determing truth. And I was basically being asked to make a scientific conclusion based, not on the science involved (which I do not feel qualified to judge here), but on the personality of the people stacking out the positions. That is something I have to reject.

Monday, April 03, 2006 10:13:57 PM

Francis Bacon said:

“Whether or not a person is intolerant is not a good measure by determining whether the position they take is correct. Even if there were a high correlation between a lack of tolerance and being wrong it is a faulty method for determing truth. And I was basically being asked to make a scientific conclusion based, not on the science involved (which I do not feel qualified to judge here), but on the personality of the people stacking out the positions. That is something I have to reject.”

No, not quite, CLS, you were not asked to determine truth based on this indication, you were asked to note this social behavior as an indication of who felt vulnerable.

We must distinguish between personality warp and social warp, as you correctly and cleverly point out. There may well be all kinds of behavior arising from personality, but to indulge them to block free enquiry is prima facie is an indication that a man is not a good scientist, since a good scientist tries to free scientific discussion from politics and from personality, as far as possible. I presumed you were drawing attention to Wainberg’s behavior not only as an example of crass and foolishly self destructuve behavior, but also because of its social import. Otherwise what was the point of your post?

A situation where the political situation allows a man such as Wainberg, who occupies a responsible position in the science of researching AIDS, to indulge his personal inclination toward cruelty, arrogance and irrationality in public and on camera no less, is a context where something has gone wrong with expected norms, scientific and social. It is not significant as a matter of personality, but it is as a matter of social and professional context which in its permissiveness exhibits the loosening or even abandonment of scientific moorings that the AIDS dominant scientific faction is accused of.

It is the abandonment of scientific standards which has corrupted the field and that is the accusation of its scientific critics and of the few journalists who have an independent view and manage (with difficulty) to get published, the latest and best being Celia Farber’s success in getting a finely honed 12,000 word piece in Harper’s March issue, in which the abandonment of scientific standards in AIDS research was the fundamental point made.

If public behavior such as Wainberg’s was purely a function of personality then journalists would be entirely hamstrung in investigating situations such as the AIDS HIV scene, which now looks very much like a grand scam where the leaders have consciously misled the world for their own benefit. That is to say, for anyone who troubles to read the scientific literature on the topic it is almost inconceivable that people like Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier do not know very well that their enthusiasm for HIV as the cause of AIDS had no scientific justification.

Luckily, however, behavior is significant in detecting what people are up to when they are carrying out concealed mischief, and good journalists detect the signals and sneak around the back to go through the garbage, even though the front door is barred.

Since philosophers are needed to sort out the smokescreen of complicated claims that the paradigm defenders may surround an empty box with, it behooves them not to be naive and think that behavior is driven just by personality, but also reflects social context and that is where the outsider looks first for signals.

NewAIDSReview.org has blogged on this theme today, so if it is wrong and you didn’t mean to make this point, you should go there and correct the impression in a comment.

CLS said…

FB: First be aware you posted the same message three times. Second, try to remain brief or briefer at the very least.

I posted my message not because he refuses to debate or is an ass. I posted it because he called for legal restrictions on people he opposes. That is what I found disgusting. No one is required to enter a debate against their will. And people are free to draw any conclusions they wish. Perhaps he does feel vulnerable but then his own emotional response to his own beliefs are not necessarily evidence for me to make a determination regarding the views he holds. You seem to want me to draw a conclusion on a subject of which I have already said I do not feel qualified to make. Long posts are not about to make me suddenly feel qualified in a field I honestly don’t understand since I have studied almost zero biology in my life. And I am quite happy to say there are fields of which I know nothing and hope to learn from others.

But when it comes to promoting the classical liberal values of a free, rational society, I do know something, including enough to know when not to feel entirely confident about my own views. And so I commented on what I think I do understand and did not comment on that which i don’t feel competent. I don’t see where else we can go on this unless you expect me to invest many, many hours to learn the field and study the positions. I could do that but the benefit of doing so would be miniscule. It won’t make you side much stronger. It won’t make this jerk in Canada suddenly decide he supported freedom of speech. It would divert me from what is important to me to work on something that is clearly important to you. I support freedom of speech and will defend your freedom even if I am not prepared to draw a conclusion. But also remember that means I have not drawn a conclusion for the other side other. I honestly don’t know.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006 9:47:34 AM

nonymous said…

Mark, did Tom Gegeny “protest too much” in your email exchange with him? Did the discussion end when you admitted your skepticism?

Perhaps you, by engaging sincere people like Tom in a fundementally dishonest discourse, are the one who is at fault? Perhaps the people who did not discuss the issue with you sensed this?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 1:04:13 AM

Francis Bacon said:

CLS I posted three times only because the software did not confirm.

Sorry not to be brief, but I thought you needed things to be spelled out.

Now you say that you are not interested in what lies behind Mark Wainberg’s attempt to suppress dissent, and that you only object to his call for restrictions on free debate.

Fair enough, not for us to tell you what you should be interested in. But you forget what you wrote in your own post:

“But when I see people like Dr. Wainberg acting in such a way, and demanding that their views be legally protected from challenge, then I have to wonder if those who disagree don’t have a real case. This sort of intolerance is so often rooted in a fear that one may be wrong.”

Your post was both brilliantly descriptive and made terrific points. Now you say you don’t have any interest in what lies behind Wainberg’s attitude. But your post shows you are very familiar with the name Peter Duesberg, though you spell it wrongly.

The inconsistency between your expert despatch of Mark Wainberg and your current claim not to be interested or qualified in the issue being debated in the documentary The Other Side of AIDS you bought and watched so attentively is baffling.

What do you use your talent for, if we can ask?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 1:24:51 PM

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