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.

Rath’s Wrath: Can Ads Kindle New AIDS Debate?

HIV skeptics find an expensive way to get their arguments before the public, but do ads get read?

Today (Friday May 6) there is a great surprise in store for anyone familiar with the underground nature of the HIV debate. Open the New York Times to page A22, and you will find an entire color page, with photos and charts and maps, devoted to the theme that it is the drug companies selling AIDS medications that power the paradigm, prevent rational review and fuel the antagonism to non-HIV approaches to restoring health.

As you probably guessed, this is not a Times story covering an alternative view of AIDS—that’ll be the day!—but an ad, in this case fueled by the passion and money of Mathias Rath, one time colleague of Linus Pauling in that Nobelist’s later-life promotion of Vitamin C as an antidote to colds and cancer.

Rath finds South Africa

Since Pauling’s death from prostate cancer in 1994, Rath has been on his own crusade, promoting natural alternatives to conventional cancer treatment with chemotherapy. I saw his traveling circus when it came to town a while back, and attracted a crowd to a Manhattan hotel auditorium to view his slides and hear his pitch for nourishing cells rather than killing them, but still, according to his theory, getting rid of cancer cells in the process.

Now he has set up in the one country where it would indeed seem, logically, that his nutrient approach is needed, that is, if Peter Duesberg and the HIV skeptics are right and rescuing people from “AIDS” is a matter of strenuously avoiding the wonder drugs being pushed by the medical-scientific-NIH-corporate cartel and administering standard treatments for conventional disease and malnutrition.

Rath’s focus is on what he calls “micronutrients”, and according to the ad he has been trying out a combination of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and polyphenol extracts from green tea on patients in Khayelitsha, a township of Cape Town, who have “advanced AIDS” and who have never taken antiretroviral drugs.

Small but hopeful results

After only a month he is so personally albeit unscientifically excited about the promising but short term results that he is publishing the ad today, which can be found on his web site at Stop AIDS Genocide By the Drug Cartel! According to this open letter, “blood tests and clinical evaluation” have shown such a remarkable recovery especially in those “in the most severe stages of AIDS” that Rath felt he had to “publish the key findings without delay for the benefit of all mankind.”

While positive, the results (on the Web site) so far don’t seem all that striking, one has to say, and the young woman’s erased neck ulcer, which is striking, is, of course, scientifically speaking, a mere anecdote. But anyone familiar with the whole sorry tale of the havoc wreaked by antiretrovirals—truly horrific, in some cases—can empathize with Rath’s feeling of triumph.

Unfortunately, one imagines the typical Times reader, presumably as urbane and skeptical of challenges to the status quo as the newspaper itself, viewing this lurid presentation with a jaundiced eye. Screaming headline, ink the color of blood, unpleasant before and after pictures of a large neck ulcer, and the picture of Rath with chin in hand and something of an aura of commercial prosperity and salesmanship about him, all this is rather too strident to impress many readers favorably with the scientific soundness of what he is doing.

This is a pity. Whatever the merits of his scientific rationale, which seemed plausible though simplistic in the Manhattan hotel, his approach to treatment certainly fits in with the peer reviewed, and increasingly time substantiated anti-HIV scientific critique.

Politics cynical but realistic

And with the politics, it must be said. Rath’s sensational style of presentation of his ideas is perhaps a little too reminiscent of know-nothing conspiracy theorists, but his substance seems very much in line with the most worldly views reigning these days of the motives and machinations of the medical-industrial complex.

This cynical view of life in medical science is not by any means an outsider description any more, for now the editors of leading journals on both sides of the Atlantic have joined in deploring the situation, one in a very well received book recently exposing the self-serving influence of the drug companies over the medical profession.

In fact, it is rather hard to take exception to anything that Rath, in his passion, writes of how he sees the overall picture of politics and influence in AIDS. Read any of the books on the topic from Jad Adams thru Peter Duesberg to Harvey Bialy’s recent zinger (see earlier post), and you’ll see page after page of consensus that power, prestige, prizes and purses, private and public, are the Four Horsemen of the AIDS apocalypse.

In the ad Rath points out that Bush’s promised $15 billion in AIDS relief is nothing but a huge subsidy for the drug companies, since alternative approaches won’t be funded. He states that Paul Wolfowitz, recently appointed head of the World Bank, immediately announced more billions to fight AIDS with drugs. He claims that the WHO and other UN organizations founded to serve global public health have been taken over by the same drug cartel ideology and promote the same policies.

He states that the Institute of Medicine plans a “Drug Crusade” to “enslave millions of people in Africa on behalf of the drug cartel, according to a master plan published at Healers Abroad: Americans Responding to the Human Resource Crisis in HIV/AIDS (2005). He claims that Tony Blair’s Marshall Plan for Africa will entrain GlaxoSmithKline, maker of AZT, whose revenues are larger than the economies of the 50 poorest nations in Africa combined. He claims the political pressure on the South African government to buy ARV (antiretroviral) drugs comes mainly from two organizations funded by millions from the drug cartel, the Democratic Alliance a political opposition party, and the Treatment Action Campaign, though it vociferously denies it.

An invasion of drug salesmen

Putting aside the forceful political tenor, this is possibly true in important respects, as far as facts go, though the TAC adamantly denies being drug company funded. In the case of the Institute of Medicine, we have this reported, for example, on another site (of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Schools, whatever that is) at ASAHP News:

New Organization Needed To Mobilize U.S. Health Care Workers, Other Experts To Assist Countries Devastated By HIV/AIDS

The federal government should create and fund an umbrella organization called the United States Global Health Service (GHS) to mobilize the nation’s best health care professionals and other experts to help combat HIV/AIDS in hard-hit African, Caribbean, and Southeast Asian countries, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Full-time, salaried professionals would make up the organization’s pivotal “service corps,” working side by side with other colleagues already there to provide medical care and drug therapy to affected populations while offering local counterparts training and assistance in clinical, technical, and managerial areas. The proposal’s goal is to build the capacity of targeted countries to fight the pandemic over the long run. The dearth of qualified health care workers in many low-income nations is often the biggest roadblock in mounting effective responses to public health needs.

To those with a cynical view of AIDS aid, this conjures up precisely the image of an invasion of Western health workers and doctors acting as front line salesmen for retrovirals, all of them so convinced of the validity of the regimen that they automatically dismiss any doubts they encounter among the ignorant natives of the Dark Continent.

As far as the other allegations are concerned, one thing that has become clear over the years to those who investigate is that in the US, as far as AIDS activist organizations supporting the standard drugs go, whenever one turns over a stone, one finds the worms of drug company funding. So it is par for the course if these South African activists are similarly funded, though they may deny it.

With luck, those readers that notice this ad and read it without prejudice will go to the site and learn more. Ideally, of course, though unrealistically, the New York Times will somehow awake to its responsibility and assign a thinking reporter, finally, to pursue the case, at a paper where the reflex has long been to attack Mbeki for his doubts, support the status quo editorially and send establishment stenographers, so to speak, to report on African AIDS. In the unlikely event this does happen, the paper can take a step towards redeeming its so far disgracefully neglectful record on AIDS and its theoretical problems.

Whether this will happen one waits to see. Meanwhile, perhaps we can note a new trend in the debate. Proponents of HIV review and of open debate are finally taking to spending money on ads to get their message into the public arena, unmediated by the media.

Serge Lang’s ads

Till now, there has only one other case where a proponent of AIDS-HIV review has had the resources and willingness to pay for ads, when unable to obtain fair editorial coverage and refused an op-ed voice. That is the recent example of Yale’s inimitable Serge Lang on his annual visit last year to Berkeley, when his attempted five page correction of a news item in the Berkeley student newspaper was limited to one page by the student editors concerned.

The new item was a fairly balanced profile of Peter Duesberg and his ostracism by colleagues for taking a stand against HIV as the cause of AIDS, but Lang objected quite validly that it left the usual false impression that Dueberg’s case was weak and had been given a fair hearing and full coverage in the media, an impression he wanted to address fully and correct.

Awarded only a page of Op-Ed rebuttal, Lang decided to take out an ad at his personal expense for $5000, and print the rest of his full explanation of the history of the issue. For a moment, it looked as if he would trump the effort by the Berkeley student editors to bowdlerise his message, but their nervous resistance continued with their new insistence and rather fantastic notion that he should append to his pages a statement that the content was his “opinion”.

Lang is precisely the wrong person to ask to do such a thing, for the whole purpose of his many campaigns to improve the quality of public debate on various issues is the replacement of opinion and other misleading manipulation of discussion by officials and media with corrected facts and accurate statements. So naturally, he refused to make such a statement about his response to the Duesberg profile.

Unfortunately, the result was that both his op-ed and his ad pages were refused, and the correction of the false public impression was once again blocked, in one of the many examples of restriction of free speech this arena has recorded over the years.

In several other cases of Lang’s attempts to correct media statements, however, he has published ads usefully setting the picture straight for anyone who reads them, most notably in the Yale student newspaper.

Ads may trigger the Web

Is this the wave of the future—that views and corrections blocked from the news columns and op-ed pages of important media will find display on ad pages? Given that the cost on Rath’s one page was $50,000 (by one estimate, this figure will be checked) it seems unlikely to be taken very far, though evidently Rath’s vitamin selling in the US and elsewhere has made serious money.

And how many people are there with Serge Lang’s passion for clarifying public discourse on important issues, and with a public spirit strong enough that they are prepared to spend $5000 of a math professor’s salary on an ad that will be only seen, let alone read, by a few thousand Yale students?

It seems clear that in the future the real outlet for the display of countervailing opinion will have to be the Web, given these economics. But for the moment, while print media retain their dominance, one waits to see if Rath’s ads, assuming he can afford any more, will make any difference.

The paradox is that probably the only way they will have any influence is through the Web. Over the next week, we will be googling to see if we can detect it

Meanwhile we think the better and more effective way ahead is probably being pioneered by none other than Harvey Bialy, whose efforts to bring his first class book (see earlier post) into the public eye have continued since publication a year ago, a duty imposed on every aware author nowadays, but especially in his case, where his work is a literary Exocet missile aimed at the side of the great cruise ship HIV-AIDS.

We hear that Harvey Bialy has just fired off a broadside to the entire membership list of The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, all 35,000 of them, bringing his book Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg and its admiring Nature/Biotechnology review to their attention.

Mr. Bialy emailed us that he does not have much faith in anything published as long as the mainstream media do not take up the fight:

“My contention is that no amount of good sense or good writing will ever make any difference whatsoever in the fight for common sense and simple truth, and that no amount of advertising dollars will do the slightest bit of good either.

Unless and until some mainstream media outlet turns from pussycat to tiger, nothing will change and people will continue to suffer completely unnecessary miseries of all kinds.”

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