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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The surprisingly religious mentality of Nicholas D. Kristof

It’s probably unfair to pick on him, but Kristof’s column today (Sunday, May 8) is another example of how a critic of one fantasy stands on the trapdoor of another. Or, perhaps one should say, wields a club to knock over a skittle when both are made of the same wood of questionable belief.

Kristof’s column The Pope and AIDS attacks the Catholic Church for contributing to AIDS by withholding its blessing from condoms.

The question is, why does Kristof believe that condoms are a prophylactic that keeps AIDS at bay? Is he not exhibiting the same unquestioning, quasi-religious faith in a secular fantasy that the Catholic faithful share in a supernatural one??

As pointed out here before, whether or not one believes in HIV’s power to cause the immune collapse and death of “AIDS” (that label with which, currently, more than 30 ailments are renamed following a diagnosis of actual or supposed presence of HIV antibodies in the patient’s blood), there is no rational reason to suppose that condoms interfere with AIDS in any way, since the syndrome is by all evidence a non–infectious one.

There is no pattern of infectious disease in any of the AIDS hotspots in the world. In the US, there is absolutely no heterosexual epidemic and never has been, despite annual predictions early on by Anthony Fauci, Oprah Winfrey, the CDC and the New York Department of Health that soon there would be so many heterosexuals crowding hospital beds that they would be spilling out into the streets of New York and other major cities.

Meanwhile, prostitutes in countries round the world fail to register positive or come down with AIDS any faster than anyone else, it turns out. There are a slew of other indications that the great global heterosexual AIDS epidemic, marvelous fund raiser though it is for the AIDS drug companies, is more an artefact of spreading fantasy than it is of any epidemic of new disease.

Fo example, Rian Malan, the South African novelist, was asked by Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone to report on the disastrous-sounding South African epidemic a couple of years ago, and had to report back that he couldn’t find it. The coffin makers were asking him when all the new business was going to come to them, he said.

Indeed, when he checked the official population statistics, which were rising, he found that death rates showed no new bulge at all. Rolling Stone published the article (AIDS in Africa: In Search of the Truth, RollingStone Magazine, November 22, 2001) but as usual it sank like a stone in the lake of universal AIDS mythology that is US media coverage, though in South Africa, it was subjected to raucous criticism by AIDS activists.

(Later Rian returned to the mystery of what seemed to him to be an AIDS pandemic without bodies by exposing WHO statistics as invented out of whole cloth (see The Spectator UK (Back issue, 13 Dec 2003, subcription required) or Noseweek 52 December 2003 and comment at Les Jones), but that is another story, where his conclusion was also furiously trashed by the TAC (see Rian Malan Spreads Confusion about AIDS Statistics By Nathan Geffen (TAC National Manager)).

For anyone who knows how to check the scientific journals the lack of any actual spreading pandemic for Rick to find was not surprising at all. The best peer-reviewed, gold standard studies show that it is virtually impossible for heterosexual couples to transfer HIV positive status.

This part of the literature is summarized in Peter Duesberg’s Journal of Bioscience article in 2003, JOURNAL BIOSCIENCE, VOL 28, #4, June 2003, 383-412 (the pdf is on this page) and it shows that since it takes an average of 1000 heterosexual copulations to achieve transfer�if indeed it is possible at all (another study showed no transfer)�then each African infected would have to be a lover of the opposite sex of superhuman, multi-triathon level stamina to maintain the spread of the disease.

It’s just common sense, if 1000 engagements are needed to transfer the virus once, then for it to spread to say 100,000 people it would take 100 million bouts IF every one included an HIV positive partner. And of course, in the beginning very few would be positive, and even at 100,000, most Africans would be HIV negative. So the number of conquests needed to enable the epidemic would be inconcievably large, in fact. Certainly many times higher than even the most sexually insecure American could project onto the robust male and female Africans of his internal myth.

Well, it’s hard to blame Nicholas Kristof in his closed Times capsule for not being aware of all this, though some of the obvious inconsistencies of the official AIDS story would, you would think, strike the active mind of a columnist in two decades .

But the questionable statements that fill his column today as a result of his unquestioning obeisance to the ruling paradigm in AIDS add up to a kind of religious loyalty that is worse that the irrational Catholicism he is critiquing.

They include these statements, all of which depend on the idea that AIDS is heterosexually transferable:

.…the Vatican’s ban on condoms has cost many hundreds of thousands of lives from AIDS……

(historians (will) count its anti-condom campaign as among its most tragic mistakes in the first two millennia of its history….

“The Catholic Church helps increase AIDS in the world,” said Roseli Tardelli, a Catholic who is editor of the AIDS News Agency in Brazil. “That’s wrong. God doesn’t like it.”….

more than 20 million people worldwide have died of AIDS – a toll greater than three Holocausts ….

a 17-year-old Catholic girl in S�o Paulo named Thais Bispo dos Santos. She is H.I.V.-positive, (and) feels betrayed by the leaders of the church she loves….

(the church should support) the use of condoms, if not for contraception, then at least to fight AIDS….

Not. That is to say, all this is a heap of nonsense to anyone who has read the literature, as we have said.

But is it fair to criticize a busy, well meaning columnist whose heart is in the right place�in objecting to the blatant disregard by the Catholic Church of what he believes to be the facts of life with AIDS, in their enforcing an obdurate Papal dictate and actually causing human disease and death?

You can make up your own mind. We at least will cheer on Nicholas and his attempt to correct what he believes is a willingness on the part of the Catholic Church to sacrifice a few hundred thousands or millions of its subscribers to its ongoing attempt to fit its huge foot into the Cinderella shoe of modern reality.

However, if he really is keen on saving the lives of the faithful or anybody else, wouldn’t he set a good example by examining the received wisdom his secular society accepts with a blind faith almost equal to that of Pope’s flock?

It’s not as if no columnist on the Times has ever questioned the scientific misinformation purveyed by the AIDS officials and workers of America. The inimitable Bob Herbert, who makes a habit of writing accounts of the oppression of the poor and ignorant by the rest of us, has written at least one complaint about the amazing absence of AIDS in heterosexuals, if memory serves. (Note: This column in the Metro section may not have been by Herbert, since we have mislaid the physical clip and are going on memory, the shamefully bad Times Search being unable to come up with it.)

Unfortunately, like Fumento and others who have noticed the same thing, Herbert after this blip of illumination continued to buy into the main ideology without checking the science, and to write many columns backing alarm about black men and women about to be decimated with AIDS.

Let’s just say that Kristof appears to be a fixture on the Times, and we are glad of that, for his stand against the unrealistic ideology purveyed by the Vatican sets the right example. But let’s face it, he gets paid enough to stay a little more alert as to the validity of secular fantasy, as well as the obvious flaws in the reasoning of Catholics.

If a Loving God is watching over us all�a belief that science has so far found no measurable evidence for, and which the logic of philosophy firmly denies�then one wonders what He or She must think of this particular debate about condoms, AIDS, and the sanctity of life.

Perhaps the rumble of thunder overhead sometimes is the expression of a divine dissatisfaction with humans so little interested in using the faculty of reason that suppposedly distinguishes them from their fellow animals.

The irony is that any scientist would have to agree.

Here’s the full editorial


The New York Times

May 8, 2005

The Pope and AIDS


S�O PAULO, Brazil

Let’s hope that Pope Benedict XVI quickly realizes that the worst sex scandal in the Catholic Church doesn’t involve predatory priests. Rather, it involves the Vatican’s hostility to condoms, which is creating more AIDS orphans every day.

Nobody does nobler work throughout the developing world than the Catholic Church. You find priests and nuns in the most remote spots of Latin America and Africa, curing the sick and feeding the hungry, and Catholic Relief Services is a model of compassion.

But at the same time, the Vatican’s ban on condoms has cost many hundreds of thousands of lives from AIDS. So when historians look back at the Catholic Church in this era, they’ll give it credit for having fought Communism and helped millions of the poor around the world. But they’ll also count its anti-condom campaign as among its most tragic mistakes in the first two millennia of its history.

“The Catholic Church helps increase AIDS in the world,” said Roseli Tardelli, a Catholic who is editor of the AIDS News Agency in Brazil. She added: “That’s wrong. God doesn’t like it.”

Now that more than 20 million people worldwide have died of AIDS – a toll greater than three Holocausts – there is growing pressure within the church to reconsider its position on condoms.

“If I were pope, I would start a condom factory right in the Vatican,” one Brazilian priest told me. “What’s the point of sending food and medicine when we let people get infected with AIDS and die?”

In his office, that priest keeps a small framed condom behind glass, with a sign: “In case of emergency, break the glass.”

Rosana Soares Ribeiro, the coordinator of a Catholic-run AIDS orphanage in S�o Paulo, says she feels that it’s more important to save lives than to obey church rules. So she tells the H.I.V.-positive teenagers in her care to use condoms when they have sexual relationships.

“My life belongs to God, and God would not want me to allow somebody to be infected with the virus,” she said. “So God will forgive my violation of church rules.”

The countries that have been most successful in controlling AIDS, such as Thailand, Brazil, Uganda and Cambodia, have all relied in part on condoms to reduce transmission.

The Vatican has horribly undercut the war against AIDS in two ways. First, it has tried to prevent Catholic clinics, charities and churches from giving out condoms or encouraging their use. Second, it argues loudly that condoms don’t protect against H.I.V., thus discouraging their use.

In El Salvador, the church helped push through a law requiring condom packages to carry a warning label that they do not protect against AIDS. Since fewer than 4 percent of Salvadoran couples use condoms the first time they have sex, the result will be more funerals.

Fortunately, the Vatican’s policies are routinely breached by those charged with carrying them out. In rural Guatemala, I’ve met Maryknoll sisters who counsel prostitutes to use condoms. In El Salvador, I talked to doctors in a Catholic clinic who explain to patients how condoms can protect against AIDS. In Zimbabwe, I visited a Catholic charity that gave out condoms – until the bishop found out.

“What would Jesus do?” said Didier Francisco Pelaez, a seminarian in S�o Paulo. “He would save lives. If condoms will save lives, then he would encourage their use.”

Even some senior Vatican officials are catching up with reality. One step came when Cardinal Javier Lozano Barr�gan, the Vatican’s top health official, said last year that condoms might be permissible if a husband had H.I.V. and his wife did not.

I wish the cardinals could meet a 17-year-old Catholic girl in S�o Paulo named Thais Bispo dos Santos. She is H.I.V.-positive, goes to Mass each Sunday, wants to have an intimate relationship and marry, and feels betrayed by the leaders of the church she loves.

“Because of their age, they should be wiser,” she said of the cardinals, adding: “I resent that they don’t think of people like me, teenagers with AIDS or H.I.V.”

So if Pope Benedict wants to ease human suffering, then there’s one simple step he could take that would save vast numbers of lives. He could encourage the use of condoms, if not for contraception, then at least to fight AIDS. That choice between obeying tradition and saving lives is stark, and let’s all pray he’ll make the courageous choice.

E-mail: nicholas@nytimes.com

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