Skepticism and the New Scientific Inquisition
It is my opinion that American emergency medicine is the finest in the world with the highest level of success of helping to save lives and improve conditions from stroke to heart attack as well as from operations, traumatic accidents and end stage diseases. I believe that the vast majority of physicians in the United States are honorable and decent and ethical. It is the system they’re forced to join and the rules of behavior that frequently compromise their decisions. Hence, it is the system that is corrupted.
The corporate and political capture of medicine that has been underway now for decades is reaching its peak. Writing back in 1976, Dr. Halstead Holman, the youngest professor to be chairman of Stanford University’s Department of Medicine at the age of 35, wrote, “the medical establishment is not primarily engaged in the disinterested pursuit of knowledge into medical practice; rather in significant part it is engaged in special interest advocacy, pursuing and preserving social power.” Holman called for a paradigm shift in medical laboratory research that would be innovative and support intellectual freedom and courage to tackle the many challenges and shortcomings clinical medical practice faced. The greatest obstacle Holman confronted within medicine’s culture was what he called “excellence deception,” which he defined as an “ideological justification” that rejects criticism and insulates itself from alternative medical theories and opinions. In effect, Holman was calling out the hubris that pervaded the higher echelons of the medical establishment.
A decade later, Dr. Robert Petersdorf, an internationally renowned expert in infectious disease, also worried over the direction modern medicine was headed. In 1989, Petersdorf stated, “We can no longer tolerate dishonesty, cheating, fraud and conflict of interest that have invaded science and medicine.” Holman’s and Petersdorf’s warnings may have as well been feathers floating down from a cliff. The paradigm shift has not occurred, and the medical profession has instead become increasing dogmatic, bureaucratic and oppressive.
Corruption is a high-stakes game played by the pharmaceutical complex, without which we might actually have a healthcare system that works and makes sincere efforts to improve the public’s health. Whether it be concealing or fudging prior knowledge about drugs’ adverse effects to maximize revenues, publishing junk clinical trials, buying off legislators, or engaging in devious retaliatory efforts to pressure and silence critics, these are only the costs of doing business to keep corporations’ and Wall Street’s coffers overflowing. Worse, our medical establishment, which the co-founder of the Cochrane Database Collaboration Dr. Peter Gotzsche likened to the mafia, has full approval from our government and federal health agencies. And the consequences, which are now clearly coming to light, is that higher tiers of modern medicine’s Citadel, a cartel of powerful bureaucrats who happen to have earned their white coats in medical school, are intent on instituting a corporate-sanctioned science-based Inquisition.
If anyone doubts that the Inquisition was only a dark anomaly in western history when the Church and superstitions reigned, and that our “enlightened” civilization would never fall back again into such tyranny or repeat the horrors of witch hunts and fundamentalist trials, you have not been paying attention. Monty Python got it correct, the Inquisition’s “chief weapon is surprise and fear… fear and surprise… and ruthless efficiency.”
For many years, Noam Chomsky has been pointing out the subtle censorship that emerges when propaganda is united with a control over the media. And today, the media is not distinguishable from Silicon Valley and those that rule over content on the internet, including Google, Facebook and Wikipedia. The architecture of a secular and naturalist Inquisition has been growing steadily for almost two decades. Tuomas Tahko, a professor of theoretical philosophy at the University of Helsinki, warns that the current rise in a “Scientific Inquisition” is an effort to “convert us all to naturalism [scientific skepticism] and to denounce the false gods of intuition, a priori reasoning and thought experiments.”
The Medical Inquisition’s greatest threat is “intellectual freedom,” even the freedom to carry out thought experiments outside of the parameters of the dominant scientific tradition. Galileo’s overturning the Aristotelian view of motion – that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects – was first a thought experiment. So were the first efforts of Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen to understand “the spooky action at a distance” in quantum entanglement. For the hardcore followers of modern Skepticism, particularly those in the biological and living sciences, even Einstein’s choice of words would have earned him the ridicule of being a quack and a deranged promoter of pseudoscience and woo. Nevertheless, we would have to wait another 29 years for John Bell to conduct real experiments to prove Einstein’s “spooky action.” Since then it has become a standard postulate in quantum theory. Since Skepticism holds to an extremely limited and a rather demented view of reality, which discards much of human experience such as intuition and creative flights of the imagination as subjective nonsense, there is no room for “thought experiments” in modern reductionist science. Hence, no investigations or research is warranted nor should be funded that reach outside the conventional box. To even consider that biomolecular health and disease may be understood from certain principles of quantum theory is anathema; yet, for quantum physicist Prof. Marc Henry at the University of Strasbourg, understanding the particle-signal quanta of cellular biology is exactly what medicine needs to start learning.
In the 15th century, the Dominican friar Tomas de Torquemada established the Holy Office of the Inquisition and became its grand master. Today the Grand Inquisitor is a loose consortium of power brokers running the CDC, FDA and HHS, the CEOs of Glaxo, Merck, Pfizer and other Big Pharma firms, Wall Street giants and billionaires such as Bill Gates and Koch Brothers who bankroll the censorship of medical evidence that threatens conventional healthcare and its advocates. Our politicians, through the lobbying efforts of pharmaceutical henchmen and radical Skeptics, now put pressure on internet firms to block, censor or blacklist dissident voices calling for public debate on health issues that directly impact all Americans. Yet an Inquisition cannot succeed in its strategies of terror without an army of fanatical fear mongers who take control of the public’s channels of communication by stealth and surprise. There are several identifiable entities that now serve as the subordinate accomplices to embed our new Inquisition into national policy:
- Silicon Valley, notably Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Microsoft
- Science Based Medicine
- Skepticism movement (e.g., Center for Inquiry, James Randi Foundation)
- American Medical Association and other professional medical institutions
- Corporate mainstream media
The Inquisition has only one command: play by our rules or be ostracized, persecuted, and ultimately have your reputation executed. Even brilliant scientists, respected throughout the international community, can find themselves on the Inquisition’s racks if they deviate from the norm.
One of the more tragic examples of a brilliant scientist who has been victimized by today’s Scientific Inquisition is Nobel laureate Dr. Luc Montagnier, who discovered the HIV virus. The exiling of Montagnier and now his condemnation that can be read throughout the websites and literature of Skeptics, Science Based Medicine and Wikipedia, was due to his entering the forbidden zone of research that may validate quantum properties that may explain homeopathy’s efficacy. This concerns what is known as DNA transportation, a field of exploration first conducted by the French immunologist Jacques Benvensite in the 1980s. Benveniste experimented with extremely high dilutions of anti-IgE antibody to induce a degranulation of human basophils, a type of white blood cell associated with inflammatory conditions. His research showed positive results and his research was scheduled for publication in Nature.
Yet to see how the Inquisition operates, external pressure from skeptic factions in the medical community demanded an investigation into Benveniste’s lab. Nature sent a team to investigate — or more accurately to interrogate — the scientist. What is notable is that celebrity Skeptic and a darling among the Science Based Medicine and Wikipedia editorial crowd, James Randi, a stage magician without any scientific background whatsoever, was among those who challenged Benveniste to replicate his study. Wikipedia’s entry about Jacques Benveniste and the retelling of the Nature’s Skeptical executioners is grossly misleading. The team in fact placed additional conditions on the study’s protocol that altered the study altogether. The media quickly discredited Benveniste — who would have likely been awarded a Nobel Prize — as a fraud and crack. He died in 2004 a broken man.
Dr. Montagnier has picked up on Benveniste’s work on DNA transportation, and more important by taking his thought experiment that water memory could be “digitalized, transmitted and reinserted into another sample of water, which would then contain the same active qualities as the first sample.” Montagnier has repeated this experiment numerous times now in multiple labs in countries other than France. Nevertheless, he has earned a scarlet letter rather than another Nobel which he properly deserves. What Montagnier is attempting to prove is a revolution in medicine that will change the dominant paradigm forever. But dogmatic modern medical science cannot permit such innovation.
Is it reasonable to ask the question how objective, how fair, how honest are some of these skeptics when they are not willing to enter into open and hopefully productive dialogue with those that they oppose? It is an odd psychological fact that a mental obsession can potentially produce its opposite. If an idol or dogma is revered intensely enough, it can eventually flip and confirm the antithesis. We witness this today in the paradox that riddles scientific Skepticism; the cockiness of reason morphs into rigid blind faith. Every fundamentalist faith, whether it be a religious belief (one faith versus every other faith), economic polarities (capitalism versus Marxism), a political persuasion (conservative versus liberal) or a dominant paradigm in any given science, generates a layer of unyielding cynicism and denial that becomes increasingly intolerant. Cult author and futurist Robert Anton Wilson called this phenomenon “a psychological scotoma” — a blind spot of vision in an otherwise unobstructed normal visual field.
Although skepticism (with a small “s”) is a very healthy attitude, it requires a willingness to present questions that might put our skepticism into doubt. Yes, evidence deserves to be evaluated critically; but also allow enough space for our skeptical biases to be proven wrong. The only escape from skepticism’s trap is to be skeptical towards one’s own cherished beliefs. Yet, the rise in Skepticism as coadjutors for the Scientific Inquisition is its self-deceptive illusion that its skepticism is a virtue. This is true of all dogmatic, militant, regressive religious beliefs in general that entertain hidden motives to persecute its perceived enemies.