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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Reason to despair of the level of attention of the general public

And why it means we must salute Thabo Mbeki

A somewhat worrying testament to the level of intelligence and alertness of the mass television audience came this morning on Sunday in New York, which ran from 7 am to 9 am on NBC in New York.

The producers apparently were unable to find, in whatever meeting they had to determine the contents of this broadcast, which presumably reaches a healthy slice of the population who are willing to emerge by 8.45 am Eastern Time on Sunday morning, any topic more relevant than that presented by a willing young woman from some housekeeping magazine.

Apparently the editors of that magazine had sat around as is their wont and brainstormed a new use for kitchen equipment -in this case, tea towels. Ranged along the studio counter were the inspirations they had come up with:

1). Take the tea towel, cover a piece of rectangular plywood with it, cut the surplus edges off, glue it to the wood, mount a couple off saucepan hooks to it, and mount on your kitchen wall for decorative effect.

2) Take a tea towel, cut a piece from it and fold in two, then seam it on two sides to make a colorful decorative bag in which to gift wrap a bottle of wine (tie with ribbon after inserting bottle).

3) Take a tea towel, just wrap the bottle without bothering to make seams, and tie with ribbon to achieve the same effect.

4) Some other “new idea” which escapes our memory as we were already resisting the mindbending triviality and sheer uselessness of these suggestions as to how we all might spend our next spare hour.

On the other hand, it is perhaps pleasant to be reminded that there are large swathes of the Sunday morning audience in the business capital of the world who are not lying in bed like sluggards contemplating the great issues which bedevil human existence but are willing to get up and pay attention to four new ways to use kitchen towels for decorative purposes.

This suggests that at least some people have produced order out of chaos in their own private existence to such an extent, ie have everything is in its place to such a high level of control and organization, that they have no better thing to do on Sunday morning at 8.45 am than be instructed how to make original uses of their spare tea towels, or even go out and buy new ones for these projects.

On the other hand we have to be concerned that this involves a narrowing of their focus of attention and a neglect of the great issues of the world that leaves them totally vulnerable to whatever nonsense irresponsible people may be peddling in realms such as health, since they must be reading very little on or off the Web and television is no source for questioning received wisdom, with the signal exception of John Stossel of ABC News.

This is why we feel that thought leaders such as Tony Fauci, Jeffrey Sachs, Bill Clinton, Nicholas Wade, Nicholas Kristof, Chris Mooney, Ronald Bailey, Andrew Sullivan and the editors of the New York Times are abdicating a very important responsibility when they fail to assess or reassess conventional wisdom in HIV?AIDS and act as propaganda broadcasters for a paradigm which has been effectively rejected by the most tested scientific literature on the topic.

We were reminded yesterday that Tony Fauci, for example, was asked at one point by his sister Denise more than ten times if he didn’t think that Peter Duesberg of Berkeley had a point in reviewing and rejecting the HIV=AIDS claim in top journals in refereed articles. This is by Tony’s own account in the AAAS newsletter (referred to in our earlier post on Fauci the other day, Christmas gift to Jonathan must concern NIAID’s Tony Fauci, see AAAS Observer of September 1 1989, the newsletter of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose journal is Science, a note entitled “Writing for my sister Denise”.). His answer was to “laugh” at the idea.

His sister evidently does or did a lot more thoughtful reading that Tony and we would have thought he would take her advice and delve into the matter and even rethink his position, but apparently not. Apparently Tony felt even at that early stage in the great repressed debate on AIDS and its real cause that it wasn’t worth the effort, politically speaking.

Today, it is clear that no one in the higher echelons of the established media-health-complex thinks it worthwhile either, and won’t until some great editor of a major periodical takes matters into his or her hands and publishes an expose of the mass of wriggling political worms under the AIDS stone with sufficient chapter and verse that politicians and the running dogs of the other media cannot ignore it.

The point is that this is a democracy where a very large portion of voters are preoccupied with more immediate matters such as cutting up tea towels, and they trust and rely on their leaders in health as in any other realm not to mislead them, and that depends on such leaders using their brains and reading challenges to conventional wisdom, or at least getting their staff on the job, and not reserving their original thought processes exclusively for their lifetime projects of self advancement.

How many such people are there, in fact? In AIDS, only one person in the world seems to have taken this level of personal responsibility for promulgating a policy in HIV?AIDS based on accurate science, and that is Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Thabo Mbeki’s distinguished brain

A black revolutionary and intellectual, he was a prime mover in freeing South Africa from the chains of apartheid, and now he is the only leader so far on the world stage that will be able to take credit for the breaking of the chains of illegitimate scientific authority in HIV?AIDS, ie for the review and (according to the scientific literature) predictable downfall of the mass scientific and medical self-delusion in HIV?AIDS, when sooner or later this inevitably occurs.

We look forward to that day not only because it will scotch a paradigm which (according to the repeated reviews in the best refereed literature) is costing untold dollars, lives and misery without reason or evidentiary justification, but because it will strike a blow for the status of Africa and Africans in the world which will finally blow apart the remaining colonial mindset that allows ignorant reporters and editors in the US press to view the continent and its people as wholly benighted and superstitious woolly heads straight out of the pages of Black Mischief.

It really is about time that the New York Times stopped running little else about Africa other than famine, genocide, disease, supposed pandemic and, most sensationally of late, gross aberrations of sexual culture that its pith helmeted reporters unearth in dark corners of a continent which is in important ways the first cradle of human civilization, and which was a lot more stable and prosperous before it was disrupted by colonial takeover, exploitation and abandonment by the West.

Now we have the new colonial exploitation of African AIDS, and when Mbeki perceives this accurately as such (in line with the scientific literature which so many in the West ignore) he is demeaned in the New York Times and other media in the US as racist by editors and reporters are apparently less scientifically literate than Mbeki himself, who was trained as an economist.

It is about time that American media developed the same respect for Africa and Africans as they have for America and the Americans.

In this regard we like a relevant quote we came across recently by the neuroscientist and brain researcher Michael Gazzaniga of Dartmouth, who told an interviewer at The Planetary Society:


There isn’t ten cents worth of difference between the Kalahari bushman and the Oxford don. The cultural patina is different to be sure but the basic drives and mental capacities are more similar than different.

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(show)

The Planetary Society

Michael Gazzaniga – psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist

” There isn’t ten cents worth of difference between the Kalahari bushman and the Oxford don. “

How were you motivated to choose your particular field?

When I was a young boy, our neighbor commented to my father one day that “Mike is going to be a philosopher”. I don’t know why he said that but I always had a bug in my bonnet to examine things. My father was highly curious and always trying to tinker with surgical procedures to improve the lot of his patients. Maybe I picked up on this. In high school I set up a laboratory in the garage to study the enzymes of rabbit muscle. My brothers and sisters also very much liked to tinker. One became a surgeon and the other a film maker, writer and creative artist. Maybe there is a gene in the family.

When I was older I was drawn into the field following a summer fellowship I received from Roger W Sperry at Caltech. I had written him about a job after I had read an article he had written on nerve growth for Scientific American. It was a captivating article and since Caltech was next door to where my girlfriend lived, I thought it would be a great idea spending the summer studying nerve growth.

After I arrived at Caltech, I saw for the first time, a bustling research lab and most of the scientists were working on animal models of split–brain research. It was fantastically interesting to a neophyte like myself and I have never looked back since. How the brain enables the mind is such a challenging subject, one gets out of bed every morning with vigor and purpose.

Click for larger image

What can you share about your creative process?

I am one of those who thinks the creative process is directly related to the amount of time one spends mulling something over. I come back and revisit ideas, data, thoughts, all the time. I think this keeps key semantic networks active and then “bingo” an inconsistency or consistency suddenly presents itself to consciousness and the beginnings of a new idea appear.

What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?

The human community will bring to Mars their brains. Fortunately or unfortunately that means it brings with them all the scripts and pre–wired programs for how we think, what we enjoy and how we form our coalitions. There isn’t ten cents worth of difference between the Kalahari bushman and the Oxford don. The cultural patina is different to be sure but the basic drives and mental capacities are more similar than different.

Ideas about how to change the basic nature of humans have failed, repeatedly. Thus, the community on Mars should take note of the good and tried ways humans have to enjoy each other on earth and take those plans to Mars. If they don’t, they will have unhappy people on Mars. The Brazilian government tried to change the way Brazilians should live with the town of Brazilia. That colossal failure is right up there with China’s attempt at the Great Leap Forward.

New environments are fascinating and challenging. We combine elements of the new place with different outcomes. Yet, the piece of biologic tissue that does these wonderful things is the same for all humans and hasn’t changed in thousands of years. On Sunday afternoon on Mars, citizens of the New City will still love a cold beer and a good NFL game.

We have been studying what Gazzaniga and other neuroscientists have to say about the human brain and its often rather defective operation, analytically speaking, and have discovered that with each passing year brain research explains more and more about the abysmal record of the scientific community in regard to the HIV?AIDS paradigm, and we will post about that very soon, once we have finished our morning operation of cutting up tea towels and other personal priorities.

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