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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Pew Survey measures the vast public ignorance that scientists can exploit

Today (Wed Aug 31) the Times (page A9) has a predictable story by Laurie Goldstein retailing the results of a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Center for the People and the Press, where the familiar and depressing result was to expose the grand level of public ignorance about one of the simplest and most easily appreciated scientific theories, the idea that life forms evolve naturally and without any help from supernatural intervention.

Fully 42 per cent held strict creationist views, believing that “living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” Of the 48 per cent who have somehow cottoned on to the probability that humans evolved over time, one out of five (18 per cent) thought that this was helped along by some all-powerful entity pulling strings from behind the scenes – “guided by a supreme being.”

In line with this about two thirds – 64 per cent – thought along with the No Child Left Behind president that it would be fine to teach creationism alongside evolution in schools, while nearly two out of five Americans favored replacing the teaching of evolution with creationism.

(Here is Laurie Goodstein’s story in the Times:)

(show)

Teaching of Creationism Is Endorsed in New Survey

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

In a finding that is likely to intensify the debate over what to teach students about the origins of life, a poll released yesterday found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that “living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was “guided by a supreme being,” and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.

The poll was conducted July 7-17 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The questions about evolution were asked of 2,000 people. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection. Mr. Green called it a reflection of “American pragmatism.”

“It’s like they’re saying, ‘Some people see it this way, some see it that way, so just teach it all and let the kids figure it out.’ It seems like a nice compromise, but it infuriates both the creationists and the scientists,” said Mr. Green, who is also a professor at the University of Akron in Ohio.

Eugenie C. Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education and a prominent defender of evolution, said the findings were not surprising because “Americans react very positively to the fairness or equal time kind of argument.”

“In fact, it’s the strongest thing that creationists have got going for them because their science is dismal,” Ms. Scott said. “But they do have American culture on their side.”

This year, the National Center for Science Education has tracked 70 new controversies over evolution in 26 states, some in school districts, others in the state legislatures.

President Bush joined the debate on Aug. 2, telling reporters that both evolution and the theory of intelligent design should be taught in schools “so people can understand what the debate is about.”

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, took the same position a few weeks later.

Intelligent design, a descendant of creationism, is the belief that life is so intricate that only a supreme being could have designed it.

The poll showed 41 percent of respondents wanted parents to have the primary say over how evolution is taught, compared with 28 percent who said teachers and scientists should decide and 21 percent who said school boards should. Asked whether they believed creationism should be taught instead of evolution, 38 percent were in favor, and 49 percent were opposed.

More of those who believe in creationism said they were “very certain” of their views (63 percent), compared with those who believe in evolution (32 percent).

The poll also asked about religion and politics, government financing of religious charities, and gay men and lesbians in the military. Most of these questions were asked of a smaller pool of 1,000 respondents, and the margin of error was 2.5 percentage points, Pew researchers said.

The public’s impression of the Democratic Party has changed in the last year, the survey found. Only 29 percent of respondents said they viewed Democrats as being “friendly toward religion,” down from 40 percent in August of 2004. Meanwhile, 55 percent said the Republican Party was friendly toward religion.

Luis E. Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said: “I think this is a continuation of the Republican Party’s very successful use of the values issue in the 2004 election, and the Democrats not being able up until now to answer that successfully. Some of the more visible leaders, such as Howard Dean and others, have reinforced that image of a secular party. Of course, if you look at the Democratic Party, there’s a large religious constituency there.”

Survey respondents agreed in nearly equal numbers that nonreligious liberals had “too much control” over the Democratic Party (44 percent), and that religious conservatives had too much control over the Republican Party (45 percent).

On religion-based charities, two-thirds of respondents favored allowing churches and houses of worship to apply for government financing to provide social services. But support for such financing declined from 75 percent in early 2001, when Mr. Bush rolled out his religion-based initiative.

On gay men and lesbians in the military, 58 percent of those polled said they should be allowed to serve openly, a modest increase from 1994, when 52 percent agreed. Strong opposition has fallen in that time, to 15 percent from 26 percent in 1994.

That latter figure – 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism – is the mind boggling one.

Except, perhaps, if one watches the “Jay walking” sergment of Jay Leno’s nightly talk show on NBC, where the amiably reassuring host confronts passers by on the streets of Los Angeles with questions of childish simplicity, of the order of “Which country is to the North of the US?” or “Where is France?” As Leno shows time after time, the average youngish inhabitant of Los Angeles that he picks is completely stumped.

In principle this might be a classless democracy but it is sadly clear that those who expect the average American to know what scientists are talking about are unaware of how extraordinarily disadvantaged educationally two thirds of the population are.

Fooling all the people all the time

The chances of a public outcry when scientists in for example AIDS or cancer are exposed as pulling the wool over the public’s eyes for twenty years or more seem low to zero, for this basic level of ignorance is only the lower half of the pyramid of ignorance about science which stretches up to the top levels of power in Washington.

Small wonder that the scientists who perpetrate these unproductive paradigms on the basis of literature the most tested of which long ago showed that they were money wasting dead ends seem entirely unworried that they will ever be held to account for their actions.

It is not just the general public who are defenceless in the face of any scientists who want to engage them in the scientific equivalent of three card monte, it is the media editors and reporters, the senators and congressmen, and government officials who are in theory those who are meant to guard the public purse from any such scams.

They must depend on skilled advisors they trust, who must be able to comprehend such fields to the level where they can distinguish between viable and ill founded ideas in science, and have no political prejudice in making such assessments, even if their bosses do.

This is a tall order, as the present state of scientific policy under the hand of the Bush administration shows. There’s both left and right bias in the scientific claims that are made in the political realm, and the supply of impeccably objective and uncompromised advisors is very slim.

Yet this is a problem which must be surmounted if society is to be protected from being fooled into funding paradigms which are already exploded in the peer reviewed literature. In AIDS and cancer, in particular, it seems unlikely that the scientists who lead those fields and thus the public and governments round the world into funding the themes they sound will ever be held to account for their suppressing discussion of the difficulties that result, which according to the critiques that have survived the most hostile peer review to be published in the leading journals are inevitable because their theories do not make scientific sense.

For the only investigation which will make any difference at this stage would be either a sudden improvement in the alertness and objectivity of the coverage of these fields in the New York Times, and a long and comprehensive investigative report in that paper or just possibly a similar awakening in the pages of Harpers or the Atlantic; or a Congressional investigation with testimony from leading scientists of both stripes, that is to say, the human pillars of these two paradigms and their critical reviewers.

Perhaps this might be achieved by a pubic spirited patron willing to deliver copies to the major media, Senate and Congress of the book by Harvey Bialy, “Aneuploidy, Oncogenes and AIDS: The Life and Scientific Times of Peter H. Duesberg” (North Atlantic Books, 2004).

This invaluable survey, already a classic in the minds of many informed readers, is as we have noted earlier currently the definitive evisceration of the theory and practice of the purported sciences of AIDS and cancer as now perpetrated by the scientists who lead the field, and an account of how they managed to bamboozle even the editors of Nature and Science into helping them sideline the critiques of both paradigms by Berkeley’s Peter Duesberg, even though his rejecting reviews had been published in the very best journals after the most severe and hostile (and thus validating) peer reviewing in the recent history of either field.

The big problem here, however, is that Bialy’s book may be of great interest and satisfaction, even entertainment only to those intelligent readers with some acquaintance of the science involved in his classically precise and intellectually lively and often amusing work.

To the average reader, however, even the intelligent reader with some idea of what he is talking about, the book is a hard read, and not one which any editor, reporter, Senator, Congressman, or staff member will be able to fathom without devoting an unusual amount of time to studying its explanations of why Duesberg’s critique is irresistible even if the accumulated mass of theory and practice it takes apart has so far proved immovable.

On the other hand, the politics and behavior of the stars of science who play leading roles, and their essential corruption and evasion is dealing with Duesberg’s review of their stock-in-trade, is clear enough in Bialy’s book. It is the abundant, precise and rather technical science that he elegantly purveys throughout the book that stops most readers, unfortunately, even those who are already sympathtic to his theme.

Even for these sympathizers its difficult science – accurate and invaluable though it is to anybody seriously researching the issues it deals with, and utterly persuasive because of this precision – as a promoter of change in public policy and public opinion the book is likely to fail because it is simply not an easy enough read. With the science included at every relevant point without additional explanation for the layman it becomes at those points, as even one lay journalist actively supporting free speech and debate in these fields put it to us, “unreadable.”

For this reason we say that what the world is waiting for is a vivid journalistic expose of the politics and behavior of the scientists rather than yet another analysis of where they have gone wrong in science, a topic which has already seen fourteen very good books in AIDS which have gone nowhere, even though more than half of them do also expose very well the politics and behavior of the scientists involved.

A tipping point may be approaching

It is the focus on the politics and behavior without too much science which seems to be the crucial approach which might lead to the long awaited (by the AIDS heretics and the much smaller group of cancer theory skeptics) tipping point in these fields, such that a reexamination of the paradigms by a Congressional committee and/or the Times will be provoked.

Interestingly enough there is just such a piece in the works from a journalist of great talent who has achieved, according to the draft we read, the magical goal of reporting the politics and behavior of the scientists, drug companies, officials and activists in AIDS and their manipulation of the media, other scientists, and the data and the studies on which all depend in such clearly honest, accurate and readable terms that we expect almost all readers to smell a global-sized rat in the science of AIDS even though the discussion of the science of AIDS in the piece is minimal.

It will be interesting to see what the effect of this piece when published will be. We confidently expect its moral outrage to be shared by almost every impartial reader who encounters it, and thus that it will be influential in provoking the media and Wahsington at long last to look at the picture it draws with new eyes.

If that is so, it might be, after more than two decades of effectively complete suppression of free speech and alternative views in AIDS, a tipping point.

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