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)

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Robert Gallo vouches for Peter Duesberg

Here is a quote for the blog commenters who do not seem to fully appreciate the stature of Peter Duesberg, the critic of HIV?AIDS:

“Peter knows more about retroviruses than any man alive”. – Dr. Robert Gallo, who first officially claimed that HIV was the retrovirus that probably cause AIDS.

We record this comment as revealing the true status of Peter Duesberg in the eyes of his colleagues before he challenged what became their favored theory, and the bedrock of their prestige and funding.

Here is the full quote, in a published introduction, see Duesberg on AIDS – Introduction by Robert Gallo

Introduction For Peter Duesberg (1984)

By Robert C. Gallo

National Cancer Institute, Maryland U.S.A.

“It is time now to introduce my friend Peter Duesberg. Where do I begin? At NIH, Peter is sometimes known as the battling bulldog. He gets his teeth into something and 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years later those teeth are still sunk in it. I Should be serious a bit, shouldn’t I? Peter, of course, was born here in Germany. He was educated at Tübingen and he came to the United States 20 years ago at age of 27. I’ve known Peter now for about 15 years. When I first met him, he was already doing molecular virology, and I was already involved in retroviruses. Peter first began work on the molecular virology of parainfluenza and influenza viruses. He was the first to show that parainfluenza had a singular RNA genome and that influenza had multiple RNA’s. This was the first time a virus was shown to have a segmented genome, thus explaining the rather distinctive ability of that virus to undergo frequent recombination by reassortment.”

“He began working with retroviruses around 1966, and he was among the first, or perhaps even the very first, to characterise their structural proteins. He was involved in the first work that provided a genetic map of retroviruses. Surely, this is one of the most important of his many biochemical contributions, that is, the order of the genes gag, pol env, and some aspects of the nature of their nucleotide sequences. We now know that this fundamental result is applicable to all retroviruses, including HTLV-I, II, and III. So, the application of biochemical methods to the mapping of retroviral genes was first and primarily carried out by Peter. Some of his work also ultimately became critical to the taxonomy of retroviruses.”

“He carried out the first restriction endonuclease mapping of a provirus. This was the first, or one of the first, to demonstate repetetive sequences at the ends of the proviruses, which were the beginning of our understanding of the LTRs that we talk about routinely today. He was involved in the first publications which demonstrated that these viruses replicate via a circular proviral DNA form. After reverse transcripts was discovered (it was about that time I began to know Peter fairly well), Peter did some of the early characterisation of this DNA polymerase. His publications with his colleagues were the first reports showing that reverse transcriptase utilised a primer mechanism, not just a template, but a primer to initiate DNA synthesis, and he was the first to show that the primer was a 4S molecule. But actually, although listing this as one as his major accomplishments, I remember Peter telling me when he did those experiments he didn’t know what a primer actually was!”

“The next major phase of his work involved his classic studies with Peter Vogt; Vogt the biologist. Peter the biochemist. This really led to the first molecular and genetically defined transforming gene, the sarc gene. A great deal of this brilliant and original, the real critical aspects, was carried out by his extraordinarily effective collaboration through the 1970’s. Of course, Peter also worked on a number of other onc genes, describing several for the first time, mostly in avian systems but also in murine systems. Most recently this has been in collaboration with Takas Papas at NCI.”

“These are some of Peter’s contributions. There are many more. However, there are things about him that stand out as much as his science. Peter Duesberg is a man of extraordinary energy, unusual honesty, enormous sense of humour, and a rare critical sense. This critical sense often makes us look twice, then a third time, at a conclusion many of us believed to be foregone. However, his critiques are sometimes a major problem for the casual observer. When is he truly debating? When is he only being the devil’s advocate? When is he being the devil himself? The casual observer is also often at a loss to determine which of the many weapons he possesses he is using. Peter, it is hard for us to tell when you are using your machine gun or your slingshot, or simply exercising your vocal cords. In any event you are an extraordinary scientist, a man who makes life more interesting and pleasurable to many of us: and it is my good from: fortune to know you as a friend.”

Source: Modern Trends in Human Leukemia VI, Haematology and Blood Transfusion vol.29 p.1, 1985.

How did it happen that he lost the support of Gallo and his very fine reference?

This way: In 1984, Gallo, a scientist at the NIH, was hauled off the plane by the scruff of his neck by Margaret Heckler, Reagan’s Health Secretary, and shoved in front of the world’s press to announce that American scientists (ie Gallo and his lab workers) had discovered the “probable cause of AIDS” in the form of a retrovirus, subsequently named the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, that he had detected in little more than half (26 out of 48, or 54%) of the blood samples from AIDS patients, according to a paper not yet even published in Science magazine.

Heckler was excited because the AIDS question was becoming a political thorn in the side of the Administration as gay activists were agitating for the government to deal with the disease more attentively. This supposed victory in the search for a cause would take the heat off.

By the next day Larry Altman at the Times was trumpeting that Gallo had found “the virus that causes AIDS” (“probable” was mostly gone) and ever since the Times has been printing the same mantra any time it mentions HIV.

Didn’t appear to concern anyone overmuch that the Gallo papers were not yet published and exposed to the scrutiny of the world, nor that the incidence of little more than one half was hardly impressive proof of causation, nor that no retrovirus had ever been convincingly blamed for any health problem of any animal or human (that includes the one unconvincing exception, HTLV-I, supposedly causing leukemia), nor that understanding of the way retroviruses worked would indicate that it was impossible for a retrovirus to cause any harm to anybody, let alone kill any cell of any kind.

By the time Peter Duesberg pointed all this out when he published his extensive critique in the respected Cancer Research three years later, rejecting the idea as virtually worthless according to good science and entirely without valid lab or statistical (epidemiological) evidence (Duesberg, P.H. (1987) Retroviruses as Carcinogens and Pathogens: Expectations and Reality (Cancer Research 47: 1199-1220)), the new paradigm was bunkered against all critical review by bureaucratic and political power, federal money and the universal adoption. It was the only game in town, and if you didn’t play by this rule, you went nowhere in AIDS research.

Inevitably, even Peter Duesberg’s acknowledged status as the mosty respected man in the field – even by his old friendly colleague Bob Gallo – could not defend him adequately once he aimed his slingshot at the new Goliath.

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