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Skeptics are Not Everythingologists

by Daniel Loxton, May 14 2013

Here is a third excerpt drawn from Part Two of my two-chapter “Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?” (PDF), which follows my two previous posts: first (in their original order as they appear in the larger piece) “Modern Skepticism’s Unique Mandate” and then “‘Testable Claims’ is Not a ‘Religious Exemption.’” Today we’ll consider an issue which has been addressed in the past by Ray Hyman, Massimo Pigliucci, and other internal critics concerned with the quality and responsibility of skeptical efforts: the dangers of speaking beyond one’s expertise.

Skeptics are Not Everythingologists

Accepting that any and all “testable claims” are in principle within the scope of scientific skepticism—and that untestable claims are, for reasons of principle (though also practicality) outside that scope—does it follow that skeptics should take the initiative to wade into mainstream scientific or academic controversies? Certainly we have often explored controversial areas beyond the paranormal, provided that those areas made testable claims. “The Skeptics also believe that science and rational skepticism can and should be applied to certain claims in the social sciences,” affirmed Michael Shermer in 1992, “including testable statements made in such fields as psychology, sociology, economics, and political science.”1

But does this broad critical exploration have practical limits? Reading a blog post about the scope of skepticism, I once happened to notice this sentiment expressed in one commenter’s response: “the skeptical movement should strive to become the Snopes of all reality.” Of all reality? This caught my eye—not only because it seems a little ambitious, but because I have often heard similar sentiments in recent years. In 2006, for example, CSICOP co-founder Paul Kurtz attempted to reposition the venerable organization as standing for “science, reason, and free inquiry in every area of human interest.”2 Not to put too fine a point on it (and of course Kurtz understood this practical issue3) but there are a lot of areas of human interest. Even assuming the “limited” scope of testable claims (a scope some newer skeptics are loathe to accept) it’s worth asking what such a sprawling mandate—essentially, the critical study of every knowable fact—looks like in practical terms.

Cover of Pseudodoxia Epidemica

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

For centuries, skeptics have regarded it as a very bad sign when otherwise smart people weigh in on expert topics outside their own areas of expertise. In 1672, Pseudodoxia Epidemica [or,  Enquiries into Commonly Presumed Truths, also known as Vulgar Errors] author Thomas Browne included this among his many warnings about arguments from authority.

Again, a testimony is of small validity if deduced from men outside of their own profession; so if Lactantius affirm the figure of the Earth is plain, or Austin deny there are antipodes; though venerable Fathers of the Church, and ever to be honored, yet will not their Authorities prove sufficient to ground a belief thereon.4

Lactantius was a flat-Earth-believing Christian advisor to the Roman Emperor Constantine, singled out centuries later for a sharp rebuke by Copernicus. In 1543, Copernicus wrote that he would disregard sniping from “babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject,” and scathingly noted that “Lactantius, otherwise an illustrious writer but hardly an astronomer, speaks quite childishly about the earth’s shape, when he mocks those who declared that the earth has the form of a globe. Hence scholars need not be surprised if any such persons will likewise ridicule me. Astronomy is written for astronomers.”5

Modern skeptics are very familiar with outsider contrarianism, and with the mischief it can cause. Hardly a day goes by here at Skeptic magazine without our getting letters from non-experts who feel they have blown the lid off evolution, Relativity, or some other major scientific theory or branch of expert knowledge. In 2006, for example, we received a press release asking, “What if the next groundbreaking discovery that changes the way we view science and geology is spearheaded by someone outside the field?” The release promoted the idiosyncratic view of comic book artist Neal Adams, who believes “that the Earth was once smaller and somehow it grew. The surface, or crust, simply cracked apart, and the cracks opened up, producing new thin surface, a young surface. In this case the continents didn’t move at all. They stayed where they were and moved outward.”6 As an illustrator myself (and a comics fan) I can attest that Mr. Adams earned every bit of his luminous professional reputation—but his profession is illustration, not geology. Expertise in one field does not make us experts in other, unrelated fields. Similarly outside their fields are hydrologists who attempt to debunk evolution, actors who seek to overturn the conventional view of the 9/11 events, comedians who promote contrarian theories about alleged new side effects of vaccination, and even famous biologists who deny the existence of HIV without benefit of relevant specialization. In all such cases, the combination of contrarian opinions, high certainty, and insufficient domain specific expertise adds up to a major, screaming red flag. Paleontologist Donald Prothero has termed the phenomenon of respected scientists blundering beyond their field of knowledge “the Linus Pauling Effect”:

The great Linus Pauling may have won two Nobel Prizes, but his crazy idea that megadoses of Vitamin C would cure nearly everything seems to have died with him. William Shockley may have won a Nobel for his work on transistors, but his racist ideas about genetics (a field in which he had no expertise) should never have been taken seriously. Kary Mullis may have deserved his Nobel Prize for developing the polymerase chain reaction, but that gives him no qualifications to speak with authority on his unscientific ideas about AIDS denial and global warming and astrology….7

So where does that leave us? Are self-identified skeptics less likely to make fools of ourselves when commenting outside our personal areas of expertise—perhaps by virtue of our interest in “critical thinking”? Unfortunately, the opposite may be true. Critical thinking is not a substitute for expert knowledge, no matter how much skeptics, creationists, 9/11 Truthers, or deniers of climate science might wish that it were. Applying strong critical thinking skills to insufficient knowledge leads us to perceive patterns and problems that don’t really exist. Most pseudoscience arises from such feral critical thinking. “It would never be healthy for ‘skeptics’ to be more skeptical than the scientific community itself,” Kendrick Frazier cautioned.8 Skeptics who venture beyond the limits of our own expert knowledge are at least as vulnerable to becoming pseudoscientific cranks as anyone else. As Ray Hyman warned,

No one, especially in our times, can credibly claim to be an expert on all subjects. Whenever possible, you should consult appropriate experts. We, understandably, are highly critical of paranormal claimants who make assertions that are obviously beyond their competence. We should be just as demanding on ourselves. A critic’s worst sin is to go beyond the facts and the available evidence.9

Individually, skeptics are qualified for whatever we’re actually qualified for—and nothing more. Some individual skeptics, of course, are scientists or scholars with the expertise to offer professional contributions to the technical literature within their own fields, but most of us are mere science enthusiasts. Collectively, the skeptical community is a mixed population made up largely of scientific amateurs. For that reason (as I argued in a 2009 article, “What, If Anything, Can Skeptics Say About Science?”10) the skeptical movement has essentially no ability to contribute responsibly to the mainstream scientific literature, nor to resolve expert scientific controversies. The best we can hope to contribute in areas of genuine scientific knowledge is useful description. My children’s book Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be is such a descriptive project. What I aimed to do in the book was to describe what qualified scientists think. To do that, I had to seek out and describe the prevailing current of opinion, and then ask experts to check that I understood it correctly. That may not sound like much, but it took some doing. It’s important to understand that occupations which “merely” describe the goings on within “only” the empirical scope of science—such as science journalism, science education, and science communication—are themselves established fields, each with an expert literature, university degree programs, and so on. In those expert fields, most skeptics (myself included) are amateurs.

Skeptics are not everythingologists. The idea that skeptics can shed light on every area of human endeavor is a hubristic daydream. But that does not mean we can’t be experts on some things—even the best available experts. Which things, exactly?

How about, “Testable pseudoscientific and paranormal claims”?

For those interested in following these arguments in their original order, today’s piece is preceded by first “Modern Skepticism’s Unique Mandate” and then “‘Testable Claims’ is Not a ‘Religious Exemption.’” Together, these comprise the first three subsections from Part Two of “Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?” (PDF).

References

  1. Shermer, Michael. “The Scope of Skepticism.” Skeptic, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1992. pp. 10–11
  2. Kurtz, Paul. “New Directions for Skeptical Inquiry.” Csicop.org. December 4, 2006 http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/new_directions_for_skeptical_inquiry/ (Accessed July 28, 2011)
  3. Not surprisingly, Kurtz was aware of the practical limits. In 1999, he argued that while “Skeptical inquiry in principle should apply equally to economics, politics, ethics, and indeed to all fields of human interest,” in practice “we cannot possibly evaluate each and every claim to truth that arises.” Kurtz, Paul. “Should Skeptical Inquiry Be Applied to Religion?” Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 23, No. 4. July/Aug 1999. pp. 24–28
  4. Browne, Thomas. Pseudodoxia Epidemica: or Enquiries into Commonly Presumed Truths. 1672. (Benediction Classics: Oxford, 2009.) p. 36
  5. Copernicus quote from the Preface of his Revolutions. http://www.webexhibits.org/calendars/year-text-Copernicus.html (Accessed Aug 2, 2011)
  6. Press release from SSA Public Relations dated March 1, 2006. Emailed to Skeptic, April 4, 2006. The comment I’ve quoted from the release may be a paraphrase of Mr. Adams, but I believe that it accurately describes his views. For more, see http://www.nealadams.com/nmu.html or listen to his interview on Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast episode #51 http://media.libsyn.com/media/skepticsguide/skepticast2006-07-12.mp3 (Accessed August 2, 2011)
  7. Prothero, Donald. “The Linus Pauling Effect.” Skepticblog.org. April 13, 2011. http://skepticblog.org/2011/04/13/the-linus-pauling-effect/ (Accessed August 2, 2011)
  8. Frazier. (2001) Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 25, No. 4. p. 50
  9. Hyman, Ray. “Proper Criticism.” Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 25, No. 4. July / August 2001. pp. 53–55
  10. Loxton, Daniel. “What, If Anything, Can Skeptics Say About Science?” Skepticblog.org. Dec 22, 2009. http://skepticblog.org/2009/12/22/what-if-anything-can-skeptics-say-about-science/ (Accessed August 2, 2011)

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45 Responses to “Skeptics are Not Everythingologists”

  1. Claus Larsen says:

    That should be “Omniologists”. :-)

    • You’ve identified one of my near-infinite number of areas of non-expertise: Greek-derived scientific nomenclature!

      I’m amused to see that there already a “California Institute of Omniology”—fittingly, a creationist project dedicated to the view that “all theories of science are open to independent and unrestricted critical review by anyone in pursuit of truth and academic freedom.”

  2. Bob Blaskiewicz says:

    Nope. I’m digging in. I’m omniscient.

  3. MosesZD says:

    The other day I was reading on the Dunning-Krueger effect. The article, written by a psychologist in the field, pointed that highly educated people were more-likely to suffer from the extremes of this effect than average individuals. Seems that many people who are experts in one area, fail to recognize they’re ignorant in most areas as they, by virtue of their expertise, develop a false sense of competency in other areas.

    For example, you may have a PhD in Biology, or be an MD or even an engineer but that doesn’t make you competent to be a sociologist, tax accountant, trial lawyer, economist or any other skilled profession for which you have no training.

    And yet the pontificating from on high… It can be really laughable when you’re an expert in the field being pontificated at by someone who doesn’t have the first clue.

  4. paul hill says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. To be an ‘expert’ in cancer research is to be a molecular biologist only, and a Dawkinist at that. That leaves out endocrinology, hematology, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, and on and on. Add to this tunnel vision a lack of understanding of simple high school inorganic chemistry and a focus on one binding site on one protein in a signal transduction pathway, the one that one is going to design a drug to obstruct.

    To find such a researcher having trained in more than one discipline is rare. To be CELL biologist is to cover a huge field. An amateur BIOLOGIST, ie one who studies all fields because he doesn’t realize that he is not supposed to, is far more able to get much different and more accurate understanding of cancer and see the absurdity of Dawkinism.

  5. paul hill says:

    I would say the having a PhD IN CANCER RESEARCH IS A LIABILITY because it is a PhD in dogma. I don’t have one and I UNDERSTAND WHAT CANCER IS, BECAUSE I DON”T HAVE ONE. One would think that it is very important for the various disciplines to collaborate, molecular biology, biochemistry, endocrinology, hematology, general physiology, microbiology, etc. not to mention disciplines associated with various organ systems, gastroenterology, hepatology, urology, renology etc. researchers and clinicians as well, as cancer is a very complex disease involving many different types and locations.

    Well, not only is there no collaboration between disciplines, cancer research and cancer clinicians, cancer research is dominated almost exclusively by just one, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. I suggested to the convener of the Lorne (Vic Aust) Cancer conference, that an endocrinologist be present the following year to be told “Okay, Noddy an endocrinologist.” Next year, no endocrinologist. Just being patronizing. Cancer ‘research’ without endocrinology is not research, as cancers respond to various endocrine hormones as well as secreting them. That’s JUST endocrinology.

    A toxicologist told me one night at the dinner dance after he’d imbibed a few wines that he hadn’t studied chemistry of any kind. WHAT?? Yet toxicology involves inorganic, organic and biochemistry as it’s about various mutagens and the metabolic pathways that metabolize them, often activating them in the process.. I wanted to discuss the chemistry of a chemo drug I was interested in and was referred to an oncologist. He replied to me “Oh, I just leave that to the chemists.” WHAT bloody chemists?

    I tried to buttonhole Sir David Lane, discoverer of the p53 tumor repressor for which he was knighted, about the effect on the protein of hypoxia as I’d read in a Bio Essay that it folded differently with a shift in redox potential to become a tumor inducer, no mutations involved. He was squirming when I brought simple biochemistry into the discussion and was mightily relieved when his mobile rang. Thereafter he did everything he could to evade me.

    Yet he DISCOVERED p53.

    Paul Nurse, head of the Royal Society, says to keep crazy belief systems out of research. Then what the Hell is Dawkinism doing in it. That’s WHY there are only molecular biologists present at cancer conferences as cancer is supposed to be caused by a stuff up on a genetic level for which the only treatment can be a drug. NO lectures even on cut and burn. And it is this extraordinary xenophobia which prevent cancer being anything like understood.

    Then of course there are the commercial interests which will only fund research from this perspective. I am a Larmarkist, and I am one because before I began attending these Cancer conferences, the first being a joint AACR (American Association of Cancer Research) Lorne I studied ALL of the various disciplines in biology BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO. ALL of the criterion of Larmarkist evolution are found in CANCER.

    Experts?

  6. Michael Bradish says:

    This is the first article I’ve read from the eSkeptic.

    What you failed to point out is that experts frequently have agenda and a willingness to massage the “facts” to suit their desired goals. Also, writers of books may project their beliefs by having them reviewed by hand-picked experts who may help them polish their bias.

    This may be common enough in discussions on this site as to go-without-saying, so I’ll reserve judgement.

    Enjoyed the article.

    • Of course it’s true that experts are people; they may fall prey to bias or have an agenda to push, just as anyone may. Very much to the point, this is also true of non-experts, who may have an agenda or bias in addition to insufficient understanding of the topic under discussion.

      There’s just no getting around it: knowledge and experience matter. Expertise is not a magic window onto truth, but the alternatives are worse.

    • paul hill says:

      This is missing the point entirely. To be an ‘expert’ is to be a specialist in one narrow field, as Ive said in the above posts, a molecular biologist in cancer. This skews ones vision hopelessly off balance. It’d be okay if there was REAL collaboration between the various disciplines of BIOLOGY, but there is NOT, to much jingoism, secrecy, patents, dumbing down of Uni courses, lack of govt funding etc. With the growth of individualism, itself a product of deregulation, the problem just gets progressively worse. Cancer research was VASTLY more holistic and better understood FORTY years ago. With specialisation (reductionism) one can say, “In my zeal to know more and more about less and less I finally know everything there is to know about NOTHING.”

  7. Terry says:

    “Critical thinking is not a substitute for expert knowledge, no matter how much skeptics, creationists, 9/11 Truthers, or deniers of climate science might wish that it were.”

    Including people who seriously question AGW in a list of quacks immediately undermines your entire argument, your capacity to judge skeptical thinking.

    As Richard Feynman said: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Apparently you would prefer not to question those experts. Shame on you!

    • Apparently you would prefer not to question those experts. Shame on you!

      The point of my article is that I am not qualified to offer meaningful contributions to climate science, let alone to overturn the entire field. If you feel you’re able to do so, I encourage you to have at it—but there’s little point in telling pop science audiences or artists like me about your position. What I as a layman think is beside the point. Write your evidence up for peer review, and convince the experts.

  8. klem says:

    “Skeptics are Not Everythingologists”

    I guess that’s true, however Believers are not Everythingologists either.

    • Yes. Skeptics are correct to point it out when fringe science proponents speak beyond their expertise. It’s because this is such a cardinal sin of pseudoscience that skeptics ought to take extreme care not to commit the same mistake ourselves.

      • paul hill says:

        I’d have to lump most pseudoscientists as creationists in with the mainstream. RD Laing said that all societies are basically schizophrenic, ie riddled with contradictions. Thus any science that arises within that context are themselves riddled with contradictions.

        A reasonable juxtaposition between two totally irreconcilable and incompatible positions, eg quantum mechanics, is the reasoning. Organic chemistry would be an exception as industrial processes wouldn’t work if it were not so. Simple maths and inorganic chemistry would also be exceptions. The rest, well crazy.

  9. Russ Dobler says:

    I never have a problem telling someone, “Well, I don’t know much about that” or, “I haven’t heard about that one.” I do think however, as you pointed out and I’d like to emphasize, it’s nice to be able to steer them in a helpful direction rather than just leaving it there.

    “I don’t know much about that, but you should check out what So-And-So has to say about it.” If it’s a contentious topic, I might add, “That-Other-Guy has a different view, for contrast.”

    • I think that’s a great approach. I often do this, even for core skeptical topics—sometimes even within my sub-specialty of cryptozoological claims. When I’m contacted by media, I’ll help if I feel well-acquainted with a particular topic, but I also frequently make referrals instead to colleagues who may be more knowledgable. The important thing is not that I get press, but that the public be provided with the most in-depth, nuanced, and accurate information available.

  10. Jon Richfield says:

    No one mentioned what St Augustine said:
    “It very often happens that there is some question as to the earth or the sky, or the other elements of this world — respecting which one who is not a Christian has knowledge derived from most certain reasoning or observation, and it is very disgraceful and mischievous and of all things to be carefully avoided, that a Christian speaking of such matters as being according to the Christian Scriptures, should be heard by an unbeliever talking such nonsense that the unbeliever perceiving him to be as wide of the mark as east from west, can hardly restrain himself from laughing.

    “And the real evil is not that a man is subjected to derision because of his error, but it is that to profane eyes, our authors (that is to say, the sacred authors) are regarded as having had such thoughts; and are also exposed to blame and scorn upon the score of ignorance, to the greatest possible misfortune of people whom we wish to save. For, in fine, these profane people happen upon a Christian busy in making mistakes on a subject which they know perfectly well; how, then, will they believe these holy books? How will they believe in the resurrection of the dead …”

    I have for example heard of a guy who on a (radio?) show argued as a skeptic for the effects of apparently implausible coincidence. He gave as an example the 50% probability of coincident birthdays among 23 or so people. The MC said: “Well there are more than 23 in this audience and my birthday is… is there another such in this room?” There wasn’t, and the skeptic “expert” was left with egg on face because he didn’t understand even so elementary an error. But the egg was on all our faces as well. What you might call the Augustine of Hippo effect!
    Remember that “Believers” flock together; they *want* to believe their own victories and forget their defeats. They *want* to see us trip up, and they remember, embroider and disseminate every report, however nth-hand. It is no good going back to them and saying: “It’s OK folks, I have found the error!” They don’t want to know. We need to be doubly careful, not just equally careful.

  11. Art Landy says:

    The comments/replies are for the most part, both interesting and stimulating as well as being enjoyable reads; for me, that is about as far as they go. I can see much of their apparent limitations, but isn’t that what critical thinking is all about?
    My own perspective incorporates the notion of belief as being a phenomenon which from the mind’s point of view is mainly a matter of probability which is open to revision over time. From a practical standpoint, I do accept certain beliefs not because I am convinced of their absolute truth but because I need to live in this world without the restraints imposed by constant doubt before I act.

  12. Un Tacons says:

    Daniel Loxton has nobly made the case for defending the absolute authority of mainstream thinking and its sanctity.

    • I’m afraid you exaggerate. The issue is not authority, but earned knowledge. Knowing what we’re talking about is useful; knowing less is typically less useful.

      • Un Tacons says:

        The canon was earned but is ever superseded, hopefully! No group is immune to ideological bias and the kinds of ideas that people are ready to articulate are often abridged by fears concerning reputation.

  13. paul hill says:

    ALL of the experts in the biological sciences rest on the premise of Darwinism, Dawkins being it’s most voracious advocate. Yet how many know the Darwin, before he died became more Larmarkist than Larmark.

    This is presumably because his excursions into geology and paleontology presented him with a huge dilemma,how to explain the huge explosion of life forms in the Cambrian layer in just 10 million years. Darwinian gradualism just CANNOT anywhere near explain this fact.

    In his last book Darwin talks about the foal of a racehorse running faster that normal due to the mothers training, the son of a blacksmith having bigger arm muscles due to the father pounding the anvil. But the clincher is him stating that little ‘gemmules’ migrate to the germ plasma from the soma, ie fully differentiated cells, carrying a memory of the cells’ experience. Not it jist don’t come no more Larmarkist than that, EH.

    If Dawkins knows this, and I can’t see how he can’t know it, then he is being downright bloody deceptive in not admitting it. So the premise that all of the biological sciences ‘experts’ rest on is plain WRONG.

  14. Carl says:

    Creationist? See, actual scientists (or real scholars of any kind) wouldn’t refer to “Darwinists” in this context. Biologists do not think Darwin was some infallible prophet. He was a very smart man who had important ideas, but even his greatest admirers (e.g. Stephen Jay Gould) never thought he was infallible. He was wrong about many things, and that’s why the current model of evolution is NOT identical to Charles Darwin’s. You can respect someone without worshipping him. Or at least scientists can.

    • paul hill says:

      Yes but there is one fundamental premise upon EVERY form of Darwinism rests. It is that purely spontaneous mutations occur in the germ plasma from time to time and if they confer an advantage in the environment, eg longer hair with an approaching ice age, then that animal lives and those without the mutation die.

      Larmarkism on the other hand says that mutations arise in the soma, or fully differentiated cells, by direct interaction with the environment, ie guided mutations, to produce new genes and that these genes are transferred back to the germ plasma to be passed on to the organisms progeny. So much faster change.

      Thus there is a TOTALLY fundamental QUALITATIVE difference between the two forms of evolution and Dawkins full well knows the difference as he spends plenty of time lampooning Larmark.

    • paul hill says:

      Stephen Jay Gould may have been closer to Darwin’s Larmarkism than his Darwinism. He got RIGHT up Dawkin’s nose when he postulated ‘punctuated equilibrium’. As a paleontologist he saw long long periods of stasis or little change of body plans in the fossil record. Then there was an explosion of change which coincided with the aftermath of an asteroid impact, as evidenced by a lot of iridium in the strata.

      This meant that environment was influencing the rate of mutation, not a steady state according to Dickie Dawkins. The thin edge of the wedge, quasi Larmarkism. Gould DID say that cultural evolution was Larmarkist but didn’t go as far as saying that biological evolution was too, but doubtless he was toying with the idea, but didn’t fancy Coventry. HERESY, BLASPHEMY said the Pope of evolution Dawkins, flying into a rage. Stuff Dawkins.

  15. Tim says:

    William Shockley may not have been an expert in the genetic basis of racial differences in IQ, but James Watson certainly was, and he was also roundly condemned in spite of (or perhaps because of) his expertise on the subject.

  16. paul hill says:

    What about two more ‘experts’. Lawyers and psychiatrists. The lawyer says that the law is necessary to stop people behaving in an anti social way, as if such behavior is genetically predetermined, ie we are born bad and need social repression to pull us into line.

    The psychiatrist claims that something like schizophrenia is genetically predetermined therefore intervention with antipsychotics and ECT is necessary.

    Well here is an example of a social fossil that PROVES that both are wrong.

    ZANSAAR.
    About 30 years ago a doco was shown on an Australian Broadcasting Commission called ‘The Peoples of Zansaar.’ 5 remote Buddhist communities 11,000 ft up in the Himalayas in which there had never been a murder in recorded history, no theft, whilst psychiatric disorders were completely unknown. Equality was almost total as there was no money, barter being the method of exchange. Not only was there equality there was self sufficiency. Each town had a King, however the King had no more wealth than anyone else, wore the same clothes and lived in a house no different. His sole function in society was to arbitrate disputes and he had to be fair in order to avoid socially destructive resentment on one side. When someone died they left their land to the King and as it was of no value to him, he gave it to a poor person who didn’t have land. Thus he redistributed wealth DOWN to maintain social unity.

    There was NO form of social repression in these towns, no police, no courts, no shrinks and no bins. If there was resentment it had to be sorted out BEFORE it became unresolvable. The fundamental distinction in these communities from probably every other society on Earth was that if someone committed an act of anti-social behaviour they said WHERE DID WE GO WRONG? WE, WE, WE, a fundamental recognition that each one of us is a precise product of our social environment. Then they’d fix the problem. An example shown was a man who had disappeared from among them and realising that he was probably on a bender as his wife had recently died, several people went around to his place and, sure enough, place and him in a mess. So they cleaned the place up, supported him in a number of ways and he pulled out of the horrors. This reaction is the precise OPPOSITE to that of just about every other society, which shuns the alcoholic as I know all to well from personal experience up until 1972 when I found my own way out.

    Kids were shown playing, boys and girls together, UNSEGREGATED into their teens and beyond. In Western society they begin to segregate at about 3 ½ tears old. Boys playing competitive games, pushing and shoving each other, girls playing more cooperative games, one setting the doll’s table, one setting out the cutlery, one putting the dolls on their chairs etc.

    Unfortunately Zansaar society was just beginning to fall to bits in the doco as outside society began to encroach. It had been extremely inaccessible, about a 10 day donkey ride in on a narrow mountain pass. Not to be put off, Elizabeth Taylor, seeking salvation from her neurosis, had herself flown in by chopper. On alighting she handed out bribes in the form of little transistor radios to kids milling around the chopper and they started to squabble over them as there wasn’t enough to go round. So instead of her finding salvation she gave the Zansaaries her neurosis. Money was being introduced and a bank was shown that didn’t even have a padlock on it. The Indian government was starting to build a highway up into Zansaar, something bitterly opposed by the inhabitants. So the most PRICELESS, UNIQUE social fossil on Earth was being destroyed.

    Okay, now the cynic might argue that it’s religious repression that keeps these people in line, the fear of being reincarnated as a cockroach for misbehaving then being trodden on. Well the fear of Hellfire doesn’t seem to keep people in other religions in line. For example, the Catholic that knows that he or she can can ‘sin’ then be go to confession, or the Baptist that believes once saved always saved, and can pray for forgiveness anyway.

    The thing is, there was absolutely no REASON for anyone to feel resentful in Zansaar. I know that this is an affront to anyone who desperately wants to believe in SIN, as I used to myself. However, the Japanese anthropologists that made this doco were meticulous in their analysis of this society and were blown away by it’s QUALITATIVE difference. It was made by M.A.N a Japanese Doco maker.

  17. paul hill says:

    Now to another group of ‘experts’, economists, Milton Friedman in particular, Chicago School of Economics, darling of the Chicago Futures exchange one of the great casinos of the planet. Said that deregulation was the go, open up world trade, create a fairer distribution of wealth. This is despite the fact that deregulation in the US, beginning in 1920, was the main factor in the Crash of ’29 that lead to the Great Depression. Reagan and Thatcher took his ‘wisdom’ on board and the rest of the world slavishly followed.

    Well check out the result of his ‘wisdom’, a world drowning in DEBT, MASSIVE inequality and unemployment, derivatives now ‘worth’ a thousand timed the real economy and on and on and on. For a more reasoned approach from an amateur economist SAYS LAW.

    SAYS LAW.
    Say was a French economist who proposed a Law which is so simple it almost beggars belief. Get a pencil and draw two equal sized rectangles spaced a bit apart from each other, write in one CONSUMER and in the other one PRODUCER. Now draw an arrow from the consumer box to the producer box and write above it CONSUMPTION and one the other way from the producer to the consumer and call it WAGES. The consumer works for the producer, gets wages from the producer, with which he or she purchases the goods made by the producer.

    Now let’s assume that every country in the world lowers tariffs in the name of free markets and its obvious that the country that can produce those goods the cheapest (China and now India) will have the advantage and out compete everybody else. China does it because it has such a low wage rate, thereby forcing other countries to lower their wages to compete. Okay now draw a smaller box in the consumer box and its evident that in lowering the aggregate global wages bill there there is not enough money to purchase the global aggregate industrial output of goods and services. Now shade in the space between the little box and the big box and call it credit or better still debt.

    You get the picture The only way you can lower wages to compete on export markets whilst maintaining local consumer demand is to allow the consumer to go deeper and deeper into debt. Austerities as the answer? Then take away payment for overtime. Lower wages plus force workers into deeper debt that becomes impossible to pay off and you have a very stressed out and belligerent workforce. If you lower wages lower than they already are, whilst making savage cuts to the public sector workforce, cut pensions, etc. you simply further depress an economy and reduce further it’s chances of growing and paying of its debt. It cannot work, it’s impossible and a perfect formula for a breakdown in law and order and eventually civil war EVEN in the US.

    SPECULATION.
    Speculation produces no real wealth. It merely redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich via the Hood Robin effect, i.e. the crumbs jump up off the floor onto the table, thereby starving the dogs down below. The little speculator loses out to the big one, the small taxpayer increasingly subsidises the rich, wages go down whilst ceo’s remuneration goes up. So to keep it simple for now the only way out is that the rich have to pour money into that shaded area in the CONSUMERS box or else the entire banking system goes down and the rich go down with it. A bad run on a big bank starts a chain reaction?

  18. paul hill says:

    Cant leave another group of ‘experts’ out. Biochemists.

    I was told at the last Lorne Cancer and Genome conferences I attended about 6 years ago that biochemists no longer study metabolism, ie the plethora of metabolic pathways in a cell. That’s a bit like saying that undertakers no longer study dead bodies any longer. I’d reckon that metabolism must comprise about 80% of biochemistry. I think that the idea is, why stuff all of this stuff into your cranium when you can just go online and look at the particular pathway you need to do an experiment and that’s fine.

    WELL IT AINT FINE. When I studied biochemistry the web wasn’t even thought of and I stared at all of those pathways for hundreds of hours until I got to see how they all fitted together, positive and negative feedback loops, side branches and so on. Miss just one important mechanism and one’s entire understanding is hopelessly distorted. You’ve got a problem and something whizzes round in your head between all of the different pathways and presto! Eureka.

    Not just all of the metabolic pathways into one cranium but all of the disciplines too. When it comes to food there is plant physiology, soil ecology and microbiology. When I studied this stuff I, in my complete ignorance, believed that there was only one subject, BIOLOGY or better still the UNIVERSE. I mean why think any different. Better to be a Jack of all trades than Master of NONE.

    I was an electronic technician that got into biofeedback, so I had to study neurology to understand what was going on in the brain. But the brain is connected to everything else so this morphed into endocrinology and biochemistry which weren’t really separate disciplines then, 40 years ago. And on and on.

    Then about 16 years ago I went to my first Lorne Cancer Conference. It was a joint AACR (American Association of Cancer Research) Ludwick Association. NOW I’m gonna have people to talk to I thought!

    Imagine my shock and horror to find that the majority of the delegates, were just MOLECULAR BIOLOGISTS only, most of whom did not even know simple high school inorganic chemistry. This is CANCER and the AACR is the biggest cancer research organisation in the world. Genes and drugs. Ph.D’s EVERYWHERE. SCIENCE NOWHERE.

  19. paul hill says:

    What about the bloody astrophysicist as another ‘expert’. Now I might be a bit out of my depth here but I’ll have a bash.

    Nothing is guaranteed to fill one with a sense of despair more than the idea of a Universe that, once born, then proceeds to expand forever finally filled with the burned out hulks of stars and cold planets.  THAT is counter intuitive.

    I reckon that the science of Quantum Mechanics lies at the religious end of the spectrum, ie the more counter intuitive and irrational it is the more likely it is to be correct. Faith not reason. For instance the Universe is supposed to be filling up with invisible ‘dark energy’ which is essentially space. So space is not empty but filled with dark energy, IS dark energy.

    Yet no less a luminary than Paul Davies says that the Universe has to expand to accommodate the HEAT generated by the formation of stars, a ‘heatsink’. It’s the same with photosynthesis. Unless there is water transpiration to cool one side of the reaction ie absorb the heat then photosynthesis couldn’t work. Peltier chips, steam engines. Etc.

    When air is compressed in an air compressor it’s temperature increases, ie when X amounts of heat energy is put into a smaller volume it get hotter. Therefore if it put into a larger volume it’s temperature must decrease. (Yes I know that there is no air in space.) As there is no limitation the expansion of the Universe more heat generated by an increase in star formation must simply mean an expanding Universe to maintain a uniform average temperature. More stars means more photons of light/heat of different wavelength that need more space for their transmission from the stars that generate them otherwise no stars.

    Therefore the beginning of the ACCELERATION of the expansion of the Universe around 7 billion years ago must theoretically coincide with an acceleration in the formation of stars. When a large star runs out of fuel so no more thermonuclear reactions are taking place in it’s core, it implodes in on itself because there is no more pressure outward to counterbalance the gravitation field pressing inward and blasts off the OUTER layers in a supernova. A neutron star is born and if it’s big enough or two neutrons stars combine it becomes a black hole around which forms a galaxy (from the matter thrown off? plus gas and dust in its proximity) .

    Now despite it being composed of densely packed neutrons, with a massive gravitational field IT MUST BE COLD, (absolute zero?) because there are no thermonuclear reactions taking place within it. If it is a black hole big enough to gobble a star which strays into its ‘event horizon’ it’s not that the heat and light of that star, once consumed, cannot get out because the massive gravitational field of the black hole prevents same, the heat and light of the star are EXTINGUISHED because all of its protons and electrons are crushed into each other to form NEUTRONS to add to the neutrons already in the nuclei of its atoms (except hydrogen).

    So no more thermonuclear reactions can take place, no more evolution of the element up unto the heaviest uranium, because the entire layered structure of the star has been destroyed along with the star itself, no more information of ‘starness’. It just adds more neutrons to the black hole. Then I’m told online that once a black hole becomes big enough even it’s neutrons disappear leaving WHAT. It’s not space; is it a HOLE in matter, a hole that can only exist a long as there is matter to have a hole in. The black holes expand in size accordingly to gobble up ever more stars and eventually presumably entire galaxies and the photons emanating from them. What about gamma rays and X rays etc. as well.

    As this process takes place the Universe must therefore cool down and contract. Finally with no more galaxies to keep their super massive black holes apart they get drawn into one giant black hole which implodes in on itself to form NOTHING. Or infinite energy in zero volume. Then comes the BANG RESULTING from the crunch. No bang no crunch, no crunch no bang. Life and death. Yin and Yang. Just substitute heat for the highly speculative ‘dark energy’ and it all becomes simple, TOO simple for the priests of Quantum Mechanics (maybe?  maybe I’m mad.)

  20. Frank Jaroneff says:

    “Skeptics are not everythingologists”

    I guess you hold a degree in epistemology, since your claim is an epistemological one. The thing is that people can be experts on matters they don’t hold a degree in and furthermore people that aren’t experts on a specific subject can and do pose relevant questions.

    To think that degrees allow one to have the last word on a subject is a lack of critical thinking since it is an argument from authority. Sure, a degree to a certain extent is indicative of one’s knowledge about a subject. But it is no guarantee that one is right about every fact stated or claim made on the subject. And don’t forget that theology is a discipline you can get an acadmic degree in. The only thing that’s relevant is whether the content of the statements made is right, not who is making the claim.

    On close inspection degrees can indeed turn out quite misleading. Is a scientist an expert on science? Well, the average scientist is no expert in scientific methodology or even epistemological interpretation of the results of science. Some scientists in the field of quantum mechanics arguably gave rise themself to new age interpretations of quantum mechanics, leading to quantum flapdoodle of the kind Deepak Chopra embraces.

    So what is the expertise of a skeptic? I say a good skeptic is an expert in exposing gaps between extroardinary claims and evidence, thereby using facts, expertise and critical thinking. And a skeptic is able to present his findings in a clear coherent and accessible way. Indeed that are capabilities you might want for a good journalist. And that should be no surprise. What do you find in skeptic magazines and books? Skeptical journalism. Big deal. Of course that’s what you’ll find, not peer reviewed science stuff. A confrontation of reason and pseudobabble put in context. A good scientist does not necessarily make a good science writer, nor is a scientist necessarily the best choice to put things in context from a wide angle perspective in which alternative claims compete in “epistemological phasespace”. It also means the skeptic himself is not neccesarily an expert with a degree on the subject. But he should be able to tell when the expert is needed in which case he indeed should involve experts. And question those experts. Don’t forget that part, otherwise you’ll be subject to the Linus Pauling effect.

    In the end, just doubt everything, scientist not exempted, most of all doubt skeptics who claim to know what skepticism is and how it is done. For rabbit’s sake, doubt me. But if you grant me just one advice than it is to educate yourself on the philosophical and historical context of skepticism. Otherwise you will be prey to the whim of certified experts and absolute truth claimers. Skepticism is not a discipline or something to get a degree in. It’s a way of life.

    • paul hill says:

      My point is that for cancer researchers to be molecular biologists ONLY, which they are, their perception is just SO distorted as to get it completely and utter wrong. They see only chaos, anarchy in cancer. Whereas the amateur who can study all of the other disciplines involved, especially biochemistry, endocrinology and hematology sees ORDER, extraordinary order. So the treatment recommended by the PhD is absolutely and totally wrong, yet he gets kudos. The amateur on the other hand is told he is insane and can wind up in a mental hospital, homeless, alienated as his reward for his insights. STATUS vs REALITY.

    • paul hill says:

      Of course once having been put in the bloody bin, to go on claiming greater insight than all all of the ‘experts’ in the entire world with all of their damned instruments, is a guarantee of further incarceration and even more stigma. Then to claim that he is an expert in stigma is a guarantee of 13 years in the forest all by himself, jabbering away to himself like a deranged monkey as there is noone else to jabber away to, an ABSOLUTE sign of madness, irrefutable PROOF. I rest my case.

  21. paul hill says:

    Not to another group of ‘experts’, doctors, neurologists, OLIVER SACKS in particular. In his book ‘Migraine’ he says that HE gets migraine. He claims that migraine is caused by completely ‘spontaneous vasospasm’. Right out of the blue blood vessels supplying the brain constrict and then dilate excessively, the cause of the migraine.

    Well it ain’t spontaneous at all. It results from abnormal swings in blood sugar caused by eating refined sugar combined with liver pathology. Does SACKS mention sugar in his book. NOT ONCE. You see you have to study a helluva lot more than neurology to work it out. I DID.

    After my bankruptcy and now on an invalid pension, I got a little flat and set up shelves for my medical books which survives the bankruptcy. After reading a book on Reactive Hypoglycaemia, I now turned to doing 5 hr GTT’s (Glucose Tolerance Tests) on myself and friends. Being an electronic tech I added a range of instruments to the test, skin conductance, blood pressure, heart rate and finger temperature. The finger temperature was very revealing as 2 of my subjects had a FALL OF 3 DEGREES on the fall in their BG. Panic attacks caused by the release of noradrenalin.

    I had discovered something VERY important.

    After reading a naturopath’s book on the subject I turned to MIGRAINE CAUSED BY EATING REFINED SUGAR and worked out the endocrinology, hematology & biochemistry as revealed by my instruments, which were unique. I wrote a booklet on the subject and sold them out on the street. To my astonishment this was an enormous success, eg. one woman stopped having migraine completely after 28 years of trying everything, different drugs and specialists, even going to a shrink when told that it was psychosomatic. She remarked rather bitterly that she had suffered all this time when all she had to do was cut out refined sugar. There were others including stories of enormous incompetence by the medical profession.

    A friend of mine who is an organic chemist gave the booklet to his secretary and she stopped having migraines after taking it’s advice. I had a flash. BARRY JONES was the Federal Minister for Science at the time and had just published his book “Sleepers Awake”. So I thought why not send him the booklet hoping that he might give it to someone he knew who suffered migraines and be sore amazed when told they had stopped.

    So I took the economic approach in the letter I wrote him. 10% of the Australian population suffer migraine. The new ‘wonder’ drug at the time was Sumatriptan at a mere $30 a cap. Like all drugs to ‘treat’ migraine can do an enormous amount of damage to both brain and wallet. . I worked it out very roughly that the saving to Medibank would be $2 billion if they all stopped having migraine. Perfect. Minister for Science, Sleepers Awake, massive saving to Federal budget. Couldn’t go wrong. I was desperate for credibility at the time (and still am) so I eagerly waited for his reply.

    THE REPLY DIDN’T come. Couldn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge that he had received my letter and the booklet. Blabbermouth Jones, all piss and wind.

    I was now desperate for credibility as I was about to be evicted from my flat as it was going to be pulled down and I had no alternative accommodation. No help from any one of my so called ‘friends’ So in desperation I packed some camping gear and went bush and VANISHED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH, hoping that my disappearance would attract media attention. It would all come out and I’d be saved.

    Forty five days later I was discovered by park rangers and put into a mental hospital as a way of getting me out of the park without a court case. The female shrink who came into the park with a couple of rangers to asses me said that I’d HAVE to be paranoid living by myself So instead of getting desperately needed CREDIBILITY I got STIGMA instead that lives with me 20 odd years later..

    A doctor or migraine researcher would win a prize for what I’d discovered, maybe even a Nobel, and heaps of kudos. What do I get as an amateur scientist, TOTAL DEVASTATION.

    http://ehealthforum.com/health/migraine-caused-by-refined-sugar-t338892.html

    • Paul Hill, I appreciate that you’re trying to engage generally with the topic of expertise, but my feeling is that you’re getting a little carried away with these very long and wide-ranging comments. These seem to me like they would be more appropriate to another venue—your own blog, perhaps.

      • paul hill says:

        Daniel,
        What on earth are you coming at. You claim that a University education, preferably with a PhD is mandatory to being an expert, something no amateur can achieve, especially being an Everythingologist. I’m not only refuting that claim but stating quite clearly that specialisation is merely narrow minder reductionism, something I see at Cancer Conferences with one researcher concentrating for months at a time on one binding site on ONE protein, to the exclusion of every thing else. If you want to find out about another binding site on the SAME PROTEIN you are referred to someone else. This because each researcher is looking for a target in a signal transduction pathway to oncogenes for a drug to BLOCK the pathway. How the hell can anyone understand Cancer with this deranged reductionism.

        Then you state that I’m into wide ranging subjects. ISN’T THAT WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. I’m simply proving that an amateur CAN be an Everythingologist, indeed has more chance of being one than a professional You are DRIVEN to understand as much as you can to overcome the stigma of being an amateur, especially with a prior history of alcoholism, drug abuse and mental illness, not that I see these as liabilities but as attributes, the gutter my University.

        As to my long dissertations. I have to explain my case in detail as I don’t have the status of being a Sir so and so who can pontificate to a grovelling audience, saying this is this and that is that, and they, in their appalling ignorance, lap up every word as being kosher because of his title and PhD.

        As to my getting my own blog that is generally the line when I am becoming an embarrassment to all of the professionals. I become very suspicious that I have been set up for a hatchet job and when this backfires there is a desperate attempt to get rid of me. Why SHOULD I move. I’m having so much fun right here taking the piss out of the most prestigious professionals on Earth. Surely SKEPTIC wouldn’t block my posts or remove them. Now THAT would look bad. Oh incidentally how come there is no link to this page from the HOME page.

        Our host told me in an email that because I don’t write scientific stuff in a pedantic, dogmatic, pretentious style and use slang and take the piss out that I know NO science whatsoever. THAT insult galvanised me into action because it was just so bloody pompous. It also made me very suspicious. I have one more comment to make which demonstrates that ONE amateur can know something that ALL of the world’s professionals DON’T. Meanwhile check out theses links for a set up. Orac, New York breast cancer surgeon tried every trick in the book to get rid of me.

        http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/04/09/medicine-and-evolution-part-13/#comment-188076

        http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/06/15/more-on-integrating-pseudoscience-with-science/

        http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/07/10/an-inflated-view-of-ones-importance/

      • Max says:

        You sound like the exact kind of crank that Daniel is talking about.

  22. Mal Adapted says:

    Plato is credited with something like “A wise man speaks when he has something to say, a fool gets his own blog.”

    • paul hill says:

      I don’t know how to take this. Am I the wise man or the fool, or perhaps BOTH or NEITHER at the same time.

      • Mal Adapted says:

        Maybe the full quotation will help:

        “A wise man speaks when he has something to say, a fool, when he has to say something.”

        Now, which one are you?

      • paul hill says:

        Plato, yet another bloody ‘expert’ that mere mortals pay homage to. Just because he lived 2,500 years ago he’s got to be a super guru for people to revere, grovel to, quote to impress people etc. What if he was all piss and wind. He had to be to come up with a ridiculous statement like that. What if a person has got something extremely important to say for the betterment of personkind (deference to the dykes) and HAS to say it to save his bloody bacon. I can’t see that Plato was ever down on his luck so bad he was hanging on the edge of a cliff and had to scream “HELP, I’ve got something important to say and if you don’t listen you’ll all be up shit creek (just to be vindictive).”

        I AM up shit creek (actually it’s called the Elliot River.) I’ve got a paddle but it’s just about buggered. In 1988 I was forcibly bankrupted and lost my home, car, workshops, professional abalone licence, boat etc. because I got caught in a tax trap due to rapid changes in the taxation system and because I was a whistle blower twice over. I also lost two boats in 1970 with the death of my deckhand on each occasions. Since then another deckie that USED to work for me died in an accident on another diver’s boat, and 3 deckies that have worked for me subsequently committed suicide. That’s SIX dead deckies. No I’m NOT making this up. I have NOT been able to get a police inquiry and believe that the police are complicit in covering up heroine trafficking from the shipping lanes by an abalone diver one or more of them was colluding with. This bloke was the only other diver out when I lost both boats and both his deckies, who subsequently worked for me, committed suicide. I believe he deliberately abandoned me to die, hence their suicide as they couldn’t live with themselves.

        Since my bankruptcy I have been thrown out of 7 places, my life threatened twice if I didn’t leave IMMEDIATELY, had 5 lots of property stolen including all of my hundreds of medical books that were thrown into a rubbish tip, been in jail twice, once for contempt of court when I kept breaking back into MY house, and once for non payment of a fine. Put into a mental hospital twice, once by the Park rangers when they found my camp and I put myself in once to try to get some sort of inquiry set up in the bin, but to no avail. A camp in the National Park I had been living in for 2 ½ years, when there was nowhere on Earth for me to live, was set upon by 20 odd rangers, accompanied by two cops and a psyche nurse and totally demolished, with all of my camping gear stolen by the rangers and never returned.

        About eighteen months later after being booted out of the local Sisters of ‘Mercy’ convent where I had emergency accommodation and after landscaping the entire place, I went back into the National park where I now live, a mile from the nearest road. I have been here for THIRTEEN years, all by myself, getting one visitor each week for a couple of hours. The building that I am in is almost completely rotted away and close to collapse. I am building a new place but am a fair way off moving in. Meanwhile I have been online for eighteen months, blog after blog, forum after forum, getting booted of most of them and getting exactly nowhere. Hence coming to Skeptic to try to author a piece on Larmarkian evolution, to get desperately needed credibility.

        As our esteemed host probably moderates these posts I figured that it was a chance to add more material to what I have already sent him. I am more than DESPERATE. I cannot take any more of the isolation and the prejudice of being perceived as a SERIAL KILLER. I am judged thus, not to my face just in case it’s true, yet cannot get an inquiry to clear my name. THAT is why I KNOW that SOCIETY is INSANE and MERCILESS, not me. Nobody gives a rats arse about anyone else. I trust NOONE. Not ONCE in all the years that I have been copping this abuse has ANYONE lifted a finger to stop it, simply by making a phone call or a letter. A lot of my property has been stolen by ‘friends’.

        Yet I am totally non violent, and when I am abused online I don’t respond in kind but just take the piss out of who’s bucketing shit on me. I have only just touched on the abuse in this reply.

      • Max says:

        Good to hear you’re nonviolent, as this reads like a manifesto.

      • Paul Hill,

        I’m sorry to hear about your circumstances, and wish you well. Thank you for sharing your views. Nonetheless, this is as you mention a moderated area for discussion of the articles, not an open forum. I’m sorry, but I have moved you to the block list. If I have set things correctly, your several existing comments will remain visible for those who may be interested in your arguments or wish to pursue them further in another venue.

        As it would unfair to allow others to comment upon Mr Hill’s arguments without also allowing Mr Hill to respond, I will now close comments for this post.

  23. Art Landy says:

    I believe it was Voltaire who said that it is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. The chains I see on this blog are the cherished beliefs that various people believe in and appear committed to defend. Most, if not all beliefs have validity within the right context but become invalid in a different context. But people, it seems, love to argue.

  24. paul hill says:

    HYPOXIA in CANCER.
    The first Cancer conference I attended about 20 years ago was a joint Lorne (Vic Aust) AACR (American Association of Cancer Research) conference. A lecture on the second day was about a bowel cancer in which the number one tumor repressor p53 was mutated, presumably the reason for the tumor, and it secreted a prostaglandin PGF2. Now I knew that PGF2 constricted or narrowed blood vessels supplying the gastrointestinal tract and suddenly I had a different spin on the sequence of events. At question time I suggested that hypoxia or oxygen starvation was the cause of the bowel cancer, not the mutations in the p53 tumor repressor. I suggested that the mutations in the p53 were a RESULT of the hypoxia. As I said this tumor secreted a prostaglandin PGF2 which is a vasoconstrictor. Adrenalin activates PGF2 in the gastro-intestinal tract in response to ‘fight or flight’, stress in other words. My theory went like this. Stress>adrenalin>PGF2>vasoconstriction>HYPOXIA>p53 mutation>CANCER.

    At the end of the symposium a chap approached me and suggested that this was a very interesting idea as he was working on the same cells. It turned out that he was the AACR convenor. I saw him later and explained to him what is called the RAS pathway by which adrenalin works. He said, “You must be a very good biochemist” I was nonplussed by this as I didn’t thing my suggestion was anything extraordinary and I replied that “I’m not a biochemist, I’m an electronic technician, this is just a hobby for me. He looked dumbfounded as if I was taking the Mickey out of him and didn’t say anything, then took off. I didn’t run into him again for the rest of the Conference.

    The following year when I went to pay the Conference secretary for everything, registration, all meals and accommodation she whispered as she handed me my bag, “Don’t worry Noddy, it all been taken care off” ($750}. I was gobsmacked as there was no explanation as to why. The same thing happened for the following two years the gradually tapered off. I know now. You see my answer that day involved endocrinology, biochemistry, haematology, oncology, molecular biology etc. all of which I had studied BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW THAT I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO.

    All of the delegates are molecular biologist looking for GENES to blame, then design the appropriate drug. It is pure commerce and that blinds totally. These conferences would not be possible without large scale funding from lab suppliers, pharmaceutical companies etc. This, plus Dawkinist dogma, makes it IMPOSSIBLE to understand cancer, let alone find a cure. How could the delegates POSSIBLY admit that an amateur scientist had worked something out that the entire global community of cancer researchers couldn’t. Yet taking the multidisciplinary approach made it easy, hence my amazement at the response to my suggestion.

    THE WARBURG EFFECT.
    The Warburg effect refers to a characteristic in which cancer cells use less and less oxygen as they become more malignant. Cancer researchers use the term but it has fallen into misuse as cancer is seem more and more as simply a stuff up. I use a LOT as it is pivotal to my theories on cancer. The other night I decided to check the history of what Warburg did to arrive at his conclusion. I ALMOST FELL OFF THE CHAIR AT WHAT I READ. Fifty years ago Otto Warburg discovered that when normal cells in a Petri dish were deprived of oxygen they transformed into cancer cells. That’s it, nothing else, just deprived of oxygen, no carcinogens, no promoters.

    So this has been known for FIFTY years yet all of those 500 delegates at my first Cancer conference, half from the biggest cancer research organization in the world, didn’t know about. If I had known that day I would NOT have suggested it and the genes might not have been found. But then it’s not my job to know. HYPOXIA can be caused by a number of things, primarily vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction to the gastro intestinal tract, resulting from persistent stress, means malabsorption of nutrients such as IRON needed for red blood cells to transport OXYGEN. Now add gunked up blood vessels (arteriosclerosis) due to glucose and cholesterol forming plaques and thus even worse hypoxia.

    BLOOD PRESSURE.
    Blood vessels have carbon dioxide detector nodes along them, so that if CO2 builds up in the bloodstream, meaning reduced oxygen, then the heart increases its output, the result being higher blood pressure. Now gunked up blood vessels inhibit the flow of blood through them so the heart has to increase it’s output to compensate, meaning higher blood pressure and risk of stroke. So you take blood pressure controls e.g. beta blockers and you lower your blood pressure but increase your RISK OF CANCER by definition, the Warburg effect.

    HIFs IN CANCER PROGRESSION. (Semenza PDF.)
    HIFs play key roles in many crucial aspects of cancer biology including angiogenesis, (the growth of blood vessels to accommodate the growth of a tumour) stem cell maintenance, (preventing the cell from fully differentiating to a mature cell) metabolic reprogramming (from oxidative metabolism to non oxidative fermentation), autocrine growth factor signaling (self signalling rather than paracrine {next door}, juxtacrine {close by}, or endocrine {distant} signalling, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (not limited to a single or monolayer of cells), invasion (of surrounding tissue), metastasis (cells moving to nearby bloodvessels, circulating to set up a secondary tumor at a a distant site), and resistance to radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

    ALL attributes of CANCER, built into every cell in response to HYPOXIA. Amazing. WHY? Why don’t cancer researchers ask this question. This and a lot of other factors suggest ‘wild type’ cancer. Ok.