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.
----------------------------------------------

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)

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

SARS’s disappearing magic act

Well, well. The once global plague-du-jour, SARS, has now vanished from the screens of our ever alert health watch dogs, and now there is not a single case of this dread killer extant, as far as the authorities know. According to a Times article today (Sun May 15), “it has disappeared, at least for the moment”, which is a “surprise.”

Skepticism carried too far becomes cynicism, of course, and we wouldn’t want that, not at least while we are in our present state, which we freely admit, of being completely ignorant as to the real facts of the matter. But it is hard not to wonder if SARS ever existed at all, and was not a number of cases of bad flu, say, rewritten.

Photos of a menacing looking coronavirus were produced as evidence of the culprit, but a test for SARS in humans was never developed, and now we have it doing a “surprise” disappearing act while the full resources of Western defenses against new Chinese-bred health threats are devoted to avian flu, now counted as a far greater potential catastrophe.

Our ignorance is shared by the Chinese it seems:

Health officials in China are also less alarmed, but they warn that SARS could still pose a threat. This caution partly reflects the lack of knowledge about the virus: What caused it to become so virulent in the initial outbreak? Where has it gone? Will it come back?

While the hope is that the virus has helpfully “mutated into oblivion”, we are warned that this may not be the case. Eternal vigilance is still necessary, as always.

“We’d be lucky to believe that, and that would be very nice, but there is no research to support that,” said Dr. Julie Hall, the SARS team leader at the Beijing office of the World Health Organization. “Just because we’ve not seen SARS anymore this year doesn’t mean it is not out in the wild this year.”

Well, whatever the truth about SARS—and we emphasize that we have no expert reasons to question the story, other than the outbreak of global skepticism we have caught after being exposed to the published and peer reviewed scientific literature rejecting HIV in AIDS—it must be upsetting for the civet cats which the Chinese like to dine on, since this culinary habit was interrupted by the SARS panic, but will now eventually resume, one supposes.

One thing we are left baffled by is the fact that the occurrence of SARS in civet cats is apparently easily mapped—

Dr. Zhong, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, said new tests of wild civets from northern China found that none had been exposed to SARS, but as the animals moved closer to the wildlife markets in Guangzhou, the ratio of those exposed to the illness climbed rapidly.

whereas, as we noted, no test was developed for humans.

Despite this grave handicap of not being able to test if SARS was there or not, containment efforts were successful, and we must chalk up a resounding success for WHO and the Chinese.

Dr. Kathryn V. Holmes (a professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver) credited the fact that SARS had “vanished” this year to the aggressive containment efforts by the World Health Organization and the Chinese government.

“The vanishing was a piece of outstanding coordination throughout the world,” she said. “They controlled the epidemic without having a good diagnostic test for the virus.”

This is the full Times story:

(show)

The New York Times

May 15, 2005

After Its Epidemic Arrival, SARS Vanishes

By JIM YARDLEY

BEIJING, May 14 – Two and a half years after a mysterious respiratory illness from southern China infected thousands of people around the world and brought dire predictions of recurring and deadly plague, the virus known as SARS has again provided a surprise.

It has disappeared, at least for the moment.

Not a single case of severe acute respiratory syndrome has been reported this year or in late 2004. It is the first winter without a case since the initial outbreak in late 2002.

In addition, the epidemic strain of SARS that caused at least 774 deaths worldwide by June of 2003 has not been seen outside a laboratory since then. SARS is not even the nastiest bug in its neighborhood, as health officials warn that avian influenza in Southeast Asia poses a far greater threat.

In cities like Guangzhou and Beijing, once under a state of alert because of SARS, public hysteria about the disease has long since given way to public nonchalance. “Very few people talk about it anymore,” said Cheng De, 22, as he walked through a subway tunnel last month in Guangzhou, the city at the center of the first two SARS outbreaks. “People think it is in the past.”

Health officials in China are also less alarmed, but they warn that SARS could still pose a threat. This caution partly reflects the lack of knowledge about the virus: What caused it to become so virulent in the initial outbreak? Where has it gone? Will it come back?

Most researchers and health officials are not counting on the rosiest scenario – that SARS has simply mutated into oblivion.

“We’d be lucky to believe that, and that would be very nice, but there is no research to support that,” said Dr. Julie Hall, the SARS team leader at the Beijing office of the World Health Organization. “Just because we’ve not seen SARS anymore this year doesn’t mean it is not out in the wild this year.”

Health officials in China are also less alarmed, but they warn that SARS could still pose a threat. This caution partly reflects the lack of knowledge about the virus: What caused it to become so virulent in the initial outbreak? Where has it gone? Will it come back?

Health officials have categorized SARS into three known outbreaks: the worldwide epidemic of more than 8,000 cases that began in November 2002 and ended in June 2003; the second outbreak from December 2003 through January 2004 that involved a milder strain of the virus and caused only four cases; and the nine cases traced to laboratory accidents in China, Taiwan and Singapore between March and May of last year.

Scientists agree that SARS jumped from animals to humans, probably in wildlife markets in the region around Guangzhou, where workers live near the animals they slaughter and sell. In January 2004, Chinese officials ordered a nationwide culling of civet cats from restaurants and wildlife markets after Chinese scientists concluded that the animal was the primary source of the outbreaks. The small, weasel-like animal is considered a delicacy in southern China.

“This year nothing happened because we have very, very strong rules now controlling the wildlife markets,” said Dr. Zhong Nanshan, China’s leading SARS expert, who advocated the cull of civets.

Dr. Zhong, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, said new tests of wild civets from northern China found that none had been exposed to SARS, but as the animals moved closer to the wildlife markets in Guangzhou, the ratio of those exposed to the illness climbed rapidly.

“There must be something happening in the transportation of civets from the north to the markets in Guangzhou,” Dr. Zhong said.

He said his researchers were still trying to determine why civets were so susceptible to the disease and how, specifically, it jumped to humans. It is also unclear what other animals, if any, are carriers of the disease. Rats were initially suspected in the 2003 outbreak in Hong Kong. Ultimately, SARS had a fatality rate of 10 percent, though for people 60 and older the death rate rose to 50 percent.

This year, Dr. Kathryn V. Holmes, a prominent microbiologist who has studied coronaviruses like SARS for more than 20 years, caused an immediate stir in China after giving a speech at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. News media reports in China quoted Dr. Holmes as saying that SARS no longer existed in the wild and that the virus no longer presented a serious health threat to the world.

In a telephone interview recently, Dr. Holmes, a professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, said her comments should never have been interpreted to mean that SARS no longer existed in nature. Instead, she said she was referring to recent research showing that the epidemic strain of SARS that passed from person to person during the initial worldwide outbreak had not been seen since June 2003. This strain mutated after passing from animals to humans in a way that caused it to spread rapidly and become more virulent.

“People are trying to understand which of those mutations was responsible for human-to-human transmission and high virulence in humans,” Dr. Holmes said of one of the fundamental unanswered questions about SARS.

Dr. Holmes credited the fact that SARS had “vanished” this year to the aggressive containment efforts by the World Health Organization and the Chinese government.

“The vanishing was a piece of outstanding coordination throughout the world,” she said. “They controlled the epidemic without having a good diagnostic test for the virus.”

Research on different SARS vaccines is under way at several laboratories in China and elsewhere. Dr. Hall, the World Health Organization expert in Beijing, said the most reassuring discovery about SARS was that it could be contained. But, she noted, the fact that the disease spread quickly throughout the world also showed the potential for more serious diseases like avian flu to cause an epidemic.

“One thing that has come out of SARS is the need to strengthen public health surveillance,” Dr. Hall said. “If SARS revealed the gaps in the system, then avian influenza has increased the urgency to fill those gaps.”

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Bad Behavior has blocked 386 access attempts in the last 7 days.