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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Times conveys HIV superstition as reality in Vietnam

Visibly healthy mother under “death sentence”, according to the world’s most responsible HIV?AIDS daily

Anyone fully informed about the Grand Canyon now opened between conventional wisdom and scientific reality in HIV?AIDS must be sickened by the New York Times’ record in this affair, the worst tendencies of which are encapsulated in the page three story today (Sun May 28), Shunned, Women With H.I.V. Join Forces in Vietnam, concerning the hapless women “with HIV” in Vietnam.

Given that the Times has access to the highest sources of any kind, and employs the most intelligent and worldly reporters, there is no excuse left for profoundly misleading its readers on a major health policy topic, which is a matter of life and death for many.

Look at this photo, and consider how healthy the beautiful young mother and child “with HIV” evidently are, and how the Times’ reporting reflects nothing of the mainstream science of the last few years (that scotches any possibility that HIV is conveyed by husbands to wives), let alone the twenty years of authoritative, credentialed, unremitting, unanswered, massively referenced, peer reviewed, elite rejection of this irrational and incredible paradigm.

Ms. Hue, 26, who was infected by her husband, a drug addict, was one of the first to speak out publicly on television “to show that we are people, too.” The support group she founded three years ago — called Haiphong Red Flamboyant, for the name of a flower — is expanding in this city and is a model for similar groups around the country.

What the women rarely talk about, except when they are joking, is the near-certainty that in time they, too, will fall ill and that they will be feeding, bathing and consoling one another, and caring for one another’s children, as one by one they die.

With the science desk in thrall to the NIH, and the general news reporters guided by the science desk, and the foreign reporters in the hands of UNAIDS as here, the appalling record of the Times over the last two decades looks likely to continue forever, until something happens outside its walls to change its mantra from “HIV the virus that causes AIDS” to at the very least, “HIV, the virus believed to cause AIDS”.

Anything less than that and the newspaper will have to take blame for many more deaths as it continues to purvey the conventional wisdom as if it was validated by the literature, when it is in fact thoroughly debunked in major respects even in mainstream papers now.


The New York Times

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May 28, 2006

Shunned, Women With H.I.V. Join Forces in Vietnam



HAIPHONG, Vietnam — The neighbors know what is going on when they hear peals of laughter coming from the house of Pham Thi Hue. The dying women have gotten together again.

Crammed onto a couch and little chairs, the women shout and clap as they talk about the city’s shortage of shrouds or about the dying man with the bloated stomach who slept under a bridge.

They are members of a support group for people infected with H.I.V. in a society where they are widely shunned, where drugs are scarce and treatment is expensive and where a diagnosis of infection is still, for most people, a sentence of death.

They gathered on a recent Saturday in this big port city near Hanoi, 15 women — many of whom had not told their families they were infected — sharing companionship and the relief of laughter from lives of poverty, illness and dread.

In the face of discrimination and in the absence of adequate health care, they are for the most part one another’s only support.

This is a country teetering on the brink of a nationwide epidemic, with more than 250,000 people infected with the virus that causes AIDS and with only 10 percent of those who fall ill receiving the treatment they need, according to Unaids, the United Nations agency.

The country’s health care system is well organized, but the disease has until now been concentrated among intravenous drug users and has not been treated as a priority. Experts say it is beginning to spread quickly into the broader population, and one of the chief barriers to prevention and treatment is the stigma that makes outcasts of those who carry the virus.

Ms. Hue, 26, who was infected by her husband, a drug addict, was one of the first to speak out publicly on television “to show that we are people, too.” The support group she founded three years ago — called Haiphong Red Flamboyant, for the name of a flower — is expanding in this city and is a model for similar groups around the country.

What the women rarely talk about, except when they are joking, is the near-certainty that in time they, too, will fall ill and that they will be feeding, bathing and consoling one another, and caring for one another’s children, as one by one they die.

“The meaning of the group,” said Nguyen Thi Sau, 29, whose husband has already died from AIDS complications, “is so that when you die you are less lonely.”

In what they say is a form of therapy, the women have chosen to look directly into the face of the suffering that lies ahead, nursing, cleaning and feeding the sick, collecting the bodies of people who die alone in hospitals or on the streets and attending the funerals of those whose families have turned their backs.

“Some days I have to take care of four people who have died in the hospital,” said Ms. Sau, who worked at a shoe factory until she was fired. A number of the patients, she said, are prisoners who have been sent to the hospital to die, covered in their own filth and still chained to their cots.

“I’m the one who has to close their eyes when they die,” she said. “After that I can’t sleep at night.”

Over the past three years scores of women have been members of Red Flamboyant. Many have died, but the group has only grown — and spawned new groups — as more infected women step from the shadows and join.

Most of the women gathered that Saturday said they had been infected by their husbands here in a city where drug addiction is widespread, and most said their husbands had already died. All had lost their jobs when their employers discovered that they were infected.

Ms. Hue’s husband is now in the late stages of the disease in a drug-rehabilitation center. She lost her work as a tailor and he lost his job as a cook in a hotel when their infections became known.

She now works with the local Communist Party women’s union to expand support groups through the city, and she receives small grants from foreign aid organizations. The money is used to help members with emergencies and to distribute rice to people who have fallen ill and no longer have an income.

Support groups like this are an important part of the government’s strategy to combat the disease, said Nancy Fee, the country coordinator for Unaids.

The government is preparing new legislation now to combat the epidemic, some $50 million in assistance is arriving from abroad, and more drugs are becoming available, Ms. Fee said.

“But they still have to train a lot of health workers and set up the systems and protocols and they need a public information campaign,” she said. “That work is happening and it does need to speed up, it does need more of a sense of urgency.”

When the husband of Nguyen Thi Kim Van, 36, fell ill, Red Flamboyant bought him a small bed so he could sleep separately from his family, which was crowded together in his parents’ tiny home.

When he died, his parents evicted Ms. Van, and she took her three children to live in her mother’s even tinier home, where all five of them now sleep on one bed.

Ms. Van, who is H.I.V.-positive, tries to support her family by selling small cups of tea on the sidewalk; Red Flamboyant gives her rice and money to send her oldest son to school.

At the same time, she has become an active member of the group, and it was she who crawled under the bridge to try to help the man with the bloated stomach. He was aggressive and frightening, she said, miming the scene, and she just jumped up and ran away.

“Did you touch his belly?” her friends shouted, laughing. “You were trying to take advantage of him, weren’t you!”

Not long after her visit to the bridge, someone took a photograph of the man, but his face is not visible in the picture. He is lying on the ground covered with a shroud, one of the bodies the group has collected for burial.

On this Saturday, the photograph lay forgotten among the teacups on a small table. Ms. Hue’s 5-year-old son, Ha Minh Hieu, who is not infected, spent some time examining it.

As the afternoon passed, Ms. Sau, who had spent the morning cleaning and feeding an AIDS patient, leaned her head on the shoulder of a friend, Doan Thi Khuyen, 23, and they sang quietly together.

Ms. Khuyen, a former secretary, was dressed in a crisp white blouse with careful makeup and stylish hair, as if she were heading to the office.

But she was fired from her job months ago because of her illness, and she now sells lottery tickets on the street to support herself and her small child, who is also infected.

“I wanted to be a shoeshine girl, but all they have is shoeshine boys,” she moaned, and everyone laughed.

“Well,” said Ms. Hue, “at least you’re alive. You’re not dead yet.”

That seemed to strike the women as funny too, and they laughed again.

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