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.


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.

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)

Expanded GUIDE TO SITE PURPOSE AND LAYOUT is in the lower blue section at the bottom of every home page.

Pfizer takes it on the chin

Billion dollar development of torcetrapib scrapped after trial shows it kills

Could the HIV∫AIDS machine withstand similar independent review?

Pfizer chief Jeffrey B. Kindler (Fred Beckhman/Associated Press) said he was surprised and disappointed by the results of the drug trial.

The extraordinary financial penalty of abandoning the development of a promising new drug has been highlighted this week by the fate of a drug which promised to do something entirely new in fighting heart attacks and strokes – raise the level of good cholesterol.

Torcetrapib did this well enough to reach the late stages of clinical testing, but it raised blood pressure and caused more heart problems for patients who died more often than without it. With a billion dollars invested in the drug which was expected to rejuvenate the company when it went on the market, there was a lot at stake. But Pfizer immediately dumped the drug once the review came in and the company’s chief scientist, who had fathered the drug, heard about it in his shower Saturday morning.

How come the problems were made public and the company forced to abandon it? The answer is independent review.

An independent monitoring panel reviewed the trial and recommended ending it, and Pfizer complied.

This is an extraordinary turnaround since only a week ago Pfizer was telling the investment world at an analyst briefing that they would ask FDA permission to market torcetrapib next year, after which their shares rose 2%. On Monday after the announcement they plunged 11% however and took $21 billion off the value of the company, reflecting the lack of alternatives in the company’s pipeline that promise the $15 billion a year in sales that was expected to come from torcetrapib.

Pfizer with $50 billion in sales and $12 billion in profits a year employs 106,000, and is the world’s biggest drug company. Yet independent review has seen it withdraw a drug on which its immediate future rested, since it would have represented up to a quarter of annual sales.

Independent review also the answer to HIV∫AIDS

Dr Anthony Fauci speaks to warmhearted HIV positive Regan Hoffman, the Editor of POZ magazine, fellow soldier in the trenches against misunderstanding of HIV and for the necessity of condoms and getting tested.

Sometimes HIV∫AIDS critics must feel like King Canute ordering the tide to stop coming in, but we see this week’s developments as promising evidence that even gargantuan sums can be turned aside from wrongly keeping a failed medical initiative afloat.

We think that it may even presage a change of heart – or anyway, policy – on the part of Dr Anthony Fauci, heroic fund raiser for research at the NIAID he leads, and chief strategist for the defense of the paradigm ever since 1986 or earlier.

Certainly all that is needed in HIV∫AIDS is the independent review which has been politically blocked under the leadership of Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID with the aid of his proudly admitted censorhip of the media and promotion of financial sanctions on scientists who break ranks, who will then find they get not one more penny from the NIH to fund their laboratories even if they have been one of the NIH golden haired boys for years without a single grant refused, have been a winner of the NIH’s rare Special Investigator grants and are members of the National Academy.

We are of course referring to the case of Dr Peter Duesberg, the prime critic of the undemonstrated claim that HIV is the cause of AIDS. It is not just that Dr Fauci tried to drive Duesberg’s scientific finances into the ground and largely succeeded. What has crippled his review more than anything in the field is that every other scientist knows he or she will be in the same boat if they so much as speak up in his support, and every science reporter knows that the topic is verboten.

In support of his scientific Potemkin Village Anthony Fauci has turned his scientific fiefdom into a good imitation of Stalinist Russia.

(Potemkin Village by Gerhard Busch (see this page for this work and more)

And just as the New York Times correspondent at the time managed to overlook the genocides of Stalin, so the New York Times of today overlooks the genocide of Dr Fauci, with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of gay men in his wake, not to mention the deaths of potentially huge numbers of Africans who will go unmedicated or mismedicated for their real diseases such as TB or malnutrition, except for inappropriate antiretrovirals kindly funded by the two richest men in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and the most celebrated politician in the world, William Jefferson Clinton.

These may seem intemperate words but they are unfortunately scientifically and medically accurate, according to the established medical literature available on PubMed, which will offer for your scrutiny more than 15 million papers published in reputable journals which will back up these statements if you go to your nearest computer and look up whatever you need to check.

An alternative is to look at earlier posts on this blog, which laboriously try to draw the picture in terms which the man in the street can understand, and even be entertained by, as well as appalled.

Pfizer Likely to Seek Approval of New Heart Drug in 2007

Scrutiny of Other Heart Drugs Could Grow After Failed Trial

Collapse of a Cholesterol Drug

Doing My Bit for National HIV Testing Day By Regan Hoffman

Anyone looking for light relief from the above serious topic might like to read POZ magazine editor Regan Hoffman’s blog entry this summer when she learned of a friend who had – ohmygod! – slept with her new love without using a condom.

Long Blonde Hair and AIDS and All By Regan Hoffman:

Regan’s HIV Blog
Editor In Chief, POZ Magazine

Long Blonde Hair and AIDS and All

from Long blonde hair and AIDS and All – AIDSMed.com

Forgive my absence in the blogosphere! I’m back. Hmmmm….where to start? First, the news. Things have been heating up significantly at POZ headquarters…Marvelyn Brown (our POZ covergirl in January ’06 and spokeswoman extraordinaire) has joined our team and we’re delighted to have her. We’re working away on several big ideas to pitch at the International World AIDS conference in Toronto this August. (We plan to have those ideas come to fruition on World AIDS Day come December and will share them with you as soon as we can.) I have been appointed to the board of directors of NAPWA (The National Association of People Living With AIDS) and London’s interest in the POZ story has been piqued…get ready for some breaking press on the other side of the pond. I’ve met lots of wonderful, HIV-savvy celebs (Kathy Bates, Tea Leoni, Miss Universe, Lucy Liu, Rosie Perez, and Gabriel Byrne, to name a few) and am slowly, but surely, making my rounds within the HIV/AIDS community, meeting many more incredible and inspiring people.

A notable example is Anthony Richardson, executive director of Perceptions for People With Disabilities (differentfolks.org), whom I met in Washington, DC at the press conference for National HIV Testing Day. Anthony lost his eyesight due to HIV-related illness but managed to be one of the few who braved the flood waters (that rolled in the night before) to attend the conference. I found it amazing that while the national and regional press (save for a few tenacious souls) couldn’t seem to navigate their way across the watery capital to hear about the importance of HIV testing, a blind man and his dog got there with no trouble from NYC. Okay, well, maybe not “no” trouble – it WAS quite a deluge.

The day after the ill-attended press conference, on June 27th, I joined Frank Oldham, executive director of NAPWA, Doug Michels, CEO of Orasure Technologies and Thomas Frieden, commisioner of the NYC Department of Health to open the NASDAQ. They blasted the announcement that it was National HIV Testing Day in several-story-high digital letters above Times Square. It was pretty awesome to see the name of our disease looming above the throngs wandering around in the neon glow. It was also pretty awesome to see how oblivious many seemed to the message…I had envisioned a stampede of newly enlightened folks rushing from Times Square to the nearest testing site to find out their HIV status. However, reality checked me and instead, I took solace in the fact that at least several NASDAQ staffers were inspired by our announcement to get tested. We need to figure out how to get more people aware and motivated next year.

Which brings me to the meat of this blog.

Many people have asked about what it’s been like to disclose publicly and whether I feel that doing so has made an impact. As to the first question, I can unequivocally say that it does feel great. The fear is gone. I am still here. The shock and awe are over and except for people I’ve never met before to whom I have to tell the news, thing have mostly returned to normal in my life. Some of my fellow HIV-positive peers have written to say that they’ve also disclosed since I spilled the beans and that they’re doing okay, too. I think that’s great. Sometimes, I feel a little like the first one back in the ocean after a shark attack. You know, I’m the dumb one who wades in first while others watch from the shore to see if I’m going to be ripped limb from limb before joining me. I have to say, so far, no dorsal fins. C’mon in if you’d like. The more the merrier. There is great power in facing your greatest fear and having it not kill you or destroy your life, as we so often imagine our greatest fear can. I’m not saying it’s been fun, fun, and lots more fun. I’ve been terrified, criticized, looked at funny and told, by an HIV-positive man, no less, that I’m not someone they want to associate themselves with because I am publicly associated with AIDS. BUT, mostly, it’s been just dandy. The best reaction I’ve gotten so far? I went to a party where I saw a casual acquaintance who’d heard the news. The last time I saw him, three years ago, I had short, black hair (that’s a story for another blog). So, when he walked into the party and saw me, he boomed, “Hey, look at you! Long, blonde hair and AIDS and all!” (might be a good title for my memoir: Long Blonde Hair and AIDS and All.) While I was stunned (though not as much as those other guests who had no idea about my status), I also found myself laughing. In a way, wasn’t his reaction what I dreamed of? To see AIDS handled in as casual a way as my latest haircolor? It was oddly refreshing to hear it expressed in such an offhand way.

As to the impact of my disclosure, it’s hard to measure. Everyone’s been so supportive, but I’ve often wondered whether the news that I have HIV actually motivates people to change their behavior. So, I’ve started asking around: Have you been tested? Do you know your partner’s status? Are you using protection?

One probe into a female friend’s life surprised me. She is recently out of a long-term relationship and shared with me that she slept with “her new man.”

Me: Did you get tested together?

Friend: No.

Me: Do you know his HIV status?

Friend: No.

Me: Well, then I’m sure you used protection, right?

Friend: Well, he was married and had only one other girlfriend.

Me: Arrrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

I mean, come on! Anyone hot enough for my hot friend to date has NOT had two lovers in his life. Especially when his life spans four decades.

I was driving when she told me the news, and I pulled off the highway to yell at her. I am not normally a hot head, but her conviction that he was telling her the truth and her naivety about his status infuriated me. I said to her, “Listen, while you’re at it, why don’t you just do a few shots of hard alcohol, get in your car, leave the seat belt off, blindfold yourself and drive around at 70 miles an hour and see what happens?!” Okay, so it was a little excessive, but how could she believe that it couldn’t happen to her when it had happened to someone just like her? Then, I calmed down and said, “If I can’t influence even my best friends to take care of themselves, how am I going to convince strangers that they need to practice safer sex?” There was a long silence. Then, I asked her, “What’s the issue? Do you really think you’re immune?” And then, she surprised me. “I’m embarassed to buy condoms.” WHAT!? She continued: “I know the guy at our local Duane Reade. He’s the son of a friend of mine and I don’t want to be seen buying condoms.” Well, at least now I had something concrete to address. “Let me get this straight, ” I aid. “You have the courage and resolve and self esteem to extract yourself from a bad relationship. You found a man you think might be the man of your dreams. But you are not going to protect his life and yours because you are afraid to appear sexually responsible in front of your friend’s son!?” I continued. “You get over to that Duane Reade and you get condoms in every shape and size and modality and you plop them on the counter in front of that teenager and if he even looks at you sideways, you tell him that at least you respect yourself enough to take responsibility for your own life. Oh, and at least you’re getting laid. A lot.” She laughed. I did not. “One last thing,” I said. “I am not coming to your art opening (she’s an artist) until I see PROOF.”

I hung up the phone and eased my car back on the highway. I drove, for a while, feeling like my disclosure might have been in vain, after all. I seriously doubted my ability to inspire others to avoiding contracting HIV if I couldn’t persuade my closest friends that the threat was real, and all around them. I worked through the day, but with the wind very much out of my sails, until late afternoon, when my phone buzzed. There was a text message from my friend.

It read (sic): Duane reade-trojan 12 v thin lub-$9.75.

And I allowed myself a tiny cheer. One down, several hundred million more to go.

Posted by Regan Hofmann on July 18, 2006 7:44 PM | Permalink

But of course, an independent review is just what Dr Fauci’s strategy of censorship and propaganda aimed at avoiding all these years. There is little chance that he will welcome any such thing now, unless he is willing to take responsibility for causing a health catastrophe.

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