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December 20, 2006

Bialy Corresponds with a "Moore-ish" Physicist

Bialystockerall_finite_rotational_symmet The other day I received an email forward from my friend Peter Duesberg that I could not help adding my two centivos to. And seeing as how Peter's letter was so academically pristine and clearly a case of pearls before swine, I decided to write the physics prof at SMU, to whom it was addressed, what I was sure would elicit a reply, and a determinative one as well regarding the 'pearls before swine' proposition.

The forwarded string concerned a course in "Debunking Pseudoscience", offered by a prof. Scalise at SMU, which includes objecting to the questioning of the HIV=AIDS=Death equation by Peter Duesberg and others. Its content can be examined at the professor's website.

Peter had been very recently alerted to the site, and because his wife and 10 year old son have left him a soltero while they holiday in Germany, he had some spare time to examine it. [He could not go with Siggi and Max as there is no one else to feed and otherwise care for the hundreds of culture dishes with their precisely indexed cells that represent his latest experimental tests of predictions of the numerical chromosome imbalance (aneuploidy) theory of cancer initiation and progression.]

He wrote prof. Scalise as follows:

"Dear colleague Randall Scalise,

You may be surprised to hear from me that we have one thing in common:  We both defend classical scientific standards against pseudo-scientists.

In view of this may I make a suggestion to you?  I would recommend to be a little more tolerant and forgiving or even courteous to current scientific minorities.

After all, all scientific innovation came from minorities, eg. Galileo, Planck, Einstein, who used to say 'The important thing is not to stop questioning'.

So as a professor myself, I encourage my students to "dissent", but ask them to be prepared for "questions".

A penny for your thoughts or questions,  Peter Duesberg"

I was already familiar with this sibling site of AIDSTruthiness, and I quickly wrote him this:

"Dear "colleague" Scalise,

Since you do profess to teach, and I am quite certain you have never even looked at the Amazon reviews of my biography of Prof. Duesberg, a copy of this email to the Ms. Boyd in the cc field with your mailing address will quickly get a free, review copy to you.

Of course you do not have to review it, but I would expect that somebody  with your CV would at least make an attempt to read it. Others with little or no formal education in biology have, as well as a host of those with the most advanced degrees and impeccable scientific credentials possible, as can be easily found by typing some code words into a Google or similar engine [hint for the cyber-challenged: "Harvey Bialy, AIDS Wiki"]. --  bialy"

And as I knew it would, the expected reply arrived the next day. It was even better than I might have imagined. But by now, nothing these pods do should really surprise anyone.

"Dear "colleague" Bialy,

100pxoaaids_2_1Here is the address to which Ms. Boyd can send a copy of "Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg": [Physics Dept., SMU]

I did read the Amazon Reviews just now.  Here is my favorite:

Mr. Bialy's opus. Science fiction at its worst.
July 19, 2006
Reviewer: Manny Kimmel (Ohio)

Mr. Bialy's journeyman's prose never fails to bore. He creates a parallel universe in which the modern-day plague of AIDS is a fiction created by greedy and ambitious scientists, politicians, activists, Pharma executivies, and other assorted henchmen.

Against this backdrop of evil, we are given a Christ figure, played by a scientist at a California university who would save the world from the great lie that is AIDS.

Oddly, Mr. Bialy's descriptions of our hero smacks of a schoolgirl crush. Would that we had learned whether this curious realtionship was ever consummated.

Mr. Bialy takes a halfway good science fiction story idea (what if HIV were harmless??) and beats it to death with excrutiating, ham-handed detail.

Life is too short for this kind of drivel. Shame on me for wasting several hours of my life on this nonsense. Shame on YOU if you repeat my mistake.

Have an enlightened day, -- Randall J. Scalise" 

I replied (in lc) that his choice of favorite review said all I needed to know about him. As of now, Peter has not yet received a reply to his own missive, although he, and a raft of others were copied on Randall's email to me in which he flaunts his idiocy. I know that some of his past and present students will shortly be reading this, and I hope that a good many potential future ones also do, as a warning.  [Note for the truly devious: On my sainted mother's ashes, I am not Manny Kimmel.] 

Me_and_attila_4_1 Harvey Bialy is a resident scholar of the Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, and the author of Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: A Scientific Life & Times of Peter H. Duesberg.


Once, after having listened to a boring talk on our democratic system of governance, I approached the professor and asked if he would care to say something about the intrinsic nature of democracy itself, and perhaps use real world governments as illuminating examples by discussing to which extent they are democratic or undemocratic according to the philosophical definitions.

The venerable prof. looked at me with incomprehension, then irritation before he said : "I'm bald and you're not, as long as I know that, why would I need to worry about at what point of progressive hairloss I can be defined as bald, or exactly how bald I currently am?"

The professor's answer made a certain philosophical point about knowledge and definitions, but it made an even more emphatic point about his unwillingness to consider the world a place where general categories don't always fit neatly. This was revealed by the last part of his answer referring to an example he'd given in his talk: "America is a democracy and the Soviet Union is not; if we can agree on that there is no point in discussing to which degree they are democratic and non-democratic".

Faced with this choice I could only agree with the professor and leave it at that, since his was an attitude that prohibits introspection and admits to no crisis in that with which one identifies oneself. People with this attitude never have anything interesting to say anyway.

Prof. Scalisi reveals a similar psychology. A glance at his course syllabus shows that to him there's science, such as biology, physics etc., and there's 'pseudo-science', illustrated by easily recognized examples such as astrology and parapsychology. By choosing his examples of unscientific methods among topics covered almost exclusively in disciplines that are defined as 'alternative' and are known to attract nuts, the professor of physics creates a neat little world where 'alternative' views are all bald and unscientific, and mainstream science has long, shiny model hair.

But there are no disciplines that are scientific or unscientific per definition. In each individual case it is a question of the method applied. Scalisi's motive for confining himself to these easily targeted alternative views, therefore, is to avoid shining a torch on his favored conventional theories. He avoids, in other words, the most scientific process of all: the crisis within.

Prof. Duesberg, in his original cancer research, in his rebellious critique of 'HIV science' and, I'm told, by his personality represents the crisis within that is the sine qua non of science. According to Kary Mullis, Duesberg is unique in that he resolved such a crisis within by overcoming himself and changing the direction of the cancer research he had pioneered.

I need not consult the stars to know that people of Prof. Scalisi's caliber would prefer to have Prof. Duesberg excommunicated along with all other "minorities" in the scientific game of innovation.

Claus, with a View from the Mysterious Eastern Front.

Re Scalise and pseudo-science:

My central scholarly concern has been the issue of distinguishing science from pseudo-science. Scalise's course and web-links illustrate that he belongs to the group of self-styled "skeptics" who become enraged at any questioning of any contemporary scientific consensus. They don't realize that all advances in science have come through showing that the entrenched interpretational consensus is always useful in the short term but wrong in the long term--otherwise we would still think atoms are indivisible, combustion releases phlogiston, etc. etc.
For detailed discussions and case studies re distinguishing science from pseudo-science, see my books:

Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies,
University of Illinois Press 2001; paperback ed. 2004

Fatal Attractions: The Troubles with Science
New York: Paraview Press 2001

Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press 1992; 2nd printing 1992, paperback 1994; in Cassette Book format, RC 35437, 1992; returned to print, 2005

The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery, University of Illinois Press 1986, 2nd printing 1987, paperback ed. with revisions, 1988; U.K. edition, Johnston & Bacon 1991; in Cassette Book format, RC 25592, narrated by Richard Dorf, 1988

Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy, University of Illinois Press 1984;
paperback ed. 1999

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