Great Moments in Science Censorship

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    • #451494
      alcina
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 977

      I’ll admit I’m not one of the more frequent participants here, so I’m not really surprised that I’ve managed to avoid much of the “misinformation” and the consequent “vitriol” stemming from the clash between the mis and the info sides of discussions. I also don’t make a habit of openly criticizing posts with which I disagree. Similarly, I generally skip over posts that I find foolish or inflammatory. Generally, but not always. But the recent decision to censor certain types of information — because those who hold the keys here have deemed them to be misinformation — hit a nerve; and after a few days of Thoughtful Deliberation, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on this. First, though, a little background.

      In the mid-1800s, the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis concluded that handwashing would greatly reduce infections during hospital births. Midwives were already aware of this and often counselled patients who needed to attend the hospital to do so only when Dr Semmelweis was on duty. But the “experts” (ie, other doctors) and “conventional wisdom” ridiculed this practice, mocked and alienated him, and eventually he died in an insane asylum. It took many decades after his death before handwashing was considered crucial to preventing infections.

      In 1972, Prof. John Yudkin published Pure, White and Deady, a book that discussed the dangers of refined sugar in the modern diet. His conclusion was based on decades of research into nutrition and health. He was attacked by the sugar industry, which employed another, more influential scientist — Ancel Keys, who was behind the demonisation of saturated fats in the US — to help discredit him. The “experts” attempted to prevent publication of his work, blocked funding for his research, and ultimately were able to exert enough influence that the University of London took away his research and teaching privileges, though still kept him on staff. Thirty years later, Dr Robert Lustig began talking about the dangers of sugar, and it is now widely accepted that excess sugar consumption leads to poor health outcomes.

      In the 1980s, researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren proposed that a bacterium, H. pylori, was the cause of stomach ulcers. The conventional wisdom at the time was that these ulcers were due to stress and diet, and treatment was based solely on this belief. Marshall and Warren’s research was dismissed and even blocked by the medical community for decades. But over 20 years later, they won the Nobel prize, and antibiotic treatment is now the standard of care for most stomach ulcers.

      The implication of these examples is probably obvious, but just in case it isn’t: I chose these three examples (though there are many others in history) because they show that medical experts and conventional wisdom can be wrong, and common knowledge can change over time. They further illustrate how people with revolutionary or new ideas are sometimes initially scorned or rejected, even though they are correct. And this ultimately delays adoption of new life-saving strategies.

      Now, I agree there are some seriously crackpot notions floating around — and not just about Covid — but I vehemently disagree with the belief that censoring those ideas is a valid solution. Censorship only serves to drive these viewpoints underground, where they proliferate without the benefit of counterbalancing opinions. It does not make these ideas go away. It only allows the censors to pretend they’ve gone away.

      I keep thinking of @nvwino’s statement about the new misinformation rule: “Our posters are smart. If there is a question about it, look for evidence one way or the other. Question it. Ask other posters if they are familiar with it. Think before you post.” I agree. It’s a valid statement. But I think it is more applicable to those whose vitriol is inflamed by such posts. If one of our smart posters believes someone else has shared misinformation, then that smart poster should be able to present the “correct” information to help enlighten the original poster. Seems to me, if you can’t defend your claim to true knowledge, then perhaps that knowledge isn’t as true as you thought.

      It’s interesting to see the debates about the vaccine from a Canadian perspective. It’s clear that when Americans refer to the vaccine, they usually mean the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. As of this month, WHO has approved 7 different Covid vaccines. (Really 6, but they count the Oxford/AstraZeneca and SII version of the AstraZeneca vaccines separately.) Other nations — presumably with their citizens’ best interests in mind — have approved nearly 20 others. There are currently 4 different types of vaccines being researched, with 200 vaccines in various stages of testing. Those currently approved have only “emergency” approval. In normal times, getting a new drug through research trials and ultimately approved by the FDA takes years. The compressed timeframe for developing and approving Covid vaccines — particularly those using new technologies — combined with the politicization of Covid and the outsize influence of the pharmaceutical industry, should give any thinking person pause in accepting the conventional wisdom.

      So, given that there are hundreds of potential treatments for Covid currently being researched, I find it somewhat surprising that some here are claiming the ability to correctly identify misinformation. I understand that some people don’t want to see these posts, and thus the decision to censor. But you know what? There’s another way to avoid seeing these posts, one that I personally find quite effective: Just don’t read them. If there’s a person with whom you find yourself in constant disagreement, ignore them. There’s nothing requiring you to air your grievances just for the sake of doing so. Sure, share your evidence. I for one love learning new things. But mocking and ultimately ostracizing those whom you consider ill-informed, foolish, and possibly even dangerous, does nothing but increase the chasm between an arbitrary Us and Them. And if that’s where this board is heading, well, I’ll just say it’s not a journey I care to take.

      Sources:
      https://covid19.trackvaccines.org/agency/who/
      https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/there-are-four-types-covid-19-vaccines-heres-how-they-work
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_COVID-19_vaccine_authorizations
      https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=9877
      https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/ignaz-semmelweis-doctor-prescribed-hand-washing
      https://www.everydayhealth.com/h-pylori/history-what-we-dont-know/
      https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin
      https://jackpineradicals.com/boards/topic/new-rule-regarding-covid-and-misinformation/

      "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

    • #451500
      HassleCat
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 8,339

      As I understand it, the information subject to removal is that which intends to encourage people to do something that could harm others. That’s difficult because there is a persistent belief that everything (!) connected with medical orthodoxy is dangerous and must be resisted in favor of any (!) alternative. From there we move across a wide and blurry middle ground to arrive at the place where everything (!) proposed by medical orhodoxy is good and no (!) alternatives should be considered. The first extreme is more dangerous because it might result in people injecting their brains with Mongolian bat urine or some such thing. The second extreme is dangerous because it’s a gamble. It could result in passing up a miracle cure in favor of some more established or conservative approach. You can see where many posters think misinformation is anything that disagrees with what they believe.

      • #451507
        djean111
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 6,995

        Don’t know about anyone else, of course, but do you really think people here actually make personal medical decisions based on what other posters say?  That never once occurred to me.  I do think that the politicization of Covid has fucked things up beyond repair, really.   And now, of course, “misinformation” seems to be anything about Ivermectin or being vaccine hesitant.  With SV-level punishment.  All been interesting as fuck.

        America is not a country, it's just a business. (Brad Pitt, Killing Them Softly)

        Everything I post is just my opinion, and, honestly, I would love to be wrong.

        "black flag" is an inadvertent mash-up of black ops and false flag. . I think it is accurate, and I will keep it. Thanks to those who pointed it out!

        • #451513
          HassleCat
          Participant
          • Total Posts: 8,339

          I think most posters here have their minds made up, and would endure death by torture before they allowed anyone to change or even influence their positions. What we have is a crowd of people who consider themselves better at critical thinking than others, and they prove it by saying so. “I’m a critical thinker! There! I’ve run circles ’round you, logic-wise!” @djean111

          • #451520
            djean111
            Participant
            • Total Posts: 6,995

            I think I mostly just post about what I think, and don’t feel the need to change anyone else’s mind.  Something hilarious last week or so – people post regularly reveling in how the non-vaccinated are/will be turned away at stores and whatever.  The ONE post about a non-vaccinated person turning away the vaccinated  declared that This Has Gone Too Far!!!!!  Bwahahaha!  And, seriously, never mind!

            America is not a country, it's just a business. (Brad Pitt, Killing Them Softly)

            Everything I post is just my opinion, and, honestly, I would love to be wrong.

            "black flag" is an inadvertent mash-up of black ops and false flag. . I think it is accurate, and I will keep it. Thanks to those who pointed it out!

            • #451534
              HassleCat
              Participant
              • Total Posts: 8,339

              I feel everyone should feel free to post what they think and drop the stuff about who is smarter, better at critical thinking, victims of propaganda, etc. I often point out that some of the Ivermectin studes claiming miracle results appear too good to be true, but that is not the same accusing anybody of anything. We do see people whose tactics and motives are suspect and we should be free to say, “I think this guy is a scammer.” But, however, regardless, nevertheless, nobody should be censored for quoting the scammers and hucksters. Maybe I’m being too charitable, but I assume our posters feel there is something worth considering in what the hucksters are saying.

    • #451508
      djean111
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 6,995

      .

      America is not a country, it's just a business. (Brad Pitt, Killing Them Softly)

      Everything I post is just my opinion, and, honestly, I would love to be wrong.

      "black flag" is an inadvertent mash-up of black ops and false flag. . I think it is accurate, and I will keep it. Thanks to those who pointed it out!

      • #451515
        kelly
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 435

        This is Stubborn Central.  Lousy pickings.

        It’s not about preserving the integrity of Covid treatment information, although people believe a lot of things.

        I believe it is (in a familiar manner) about

        protecting a suspect narrative amid a disaster the way they have done with other major events over the last lifetime.

        it’s all in the denial.

         

      • #451624
        alcina
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 977

        @djean111

        I appreciate your opinion, especially when it reflects well on mine. 😉 (But seriously, I always appreciate what you have to say.)

        "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

    • #451511
      snot
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,379

      for the traditional exceptions, such as child porn and yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  And no, spreading disinfo on facebook is not the same as yelling fire in a crowded theater.

      The problem isn’t disinfo, it’s a combination of other things.  Two of the main ones:

      (1) The institutions that we used to trust and that might have been in a position to authoritatively discredit disinfo have become known to have repeatedly betrayed our trust.  This is partly because they are in fact less trustworthy and partly because the internet has made it easier to catch them in their lies.

      (2) Public education has deteriorated to the point that few people are capable of critical evaluation and logical thought.

      The proper fix for disinfo is to restore the regulations that used to ensure a healthy media ecology (restrictions on ownership consolidation, Fairness Doctrine, governmental support for public media), strengthen public education, etc.  Obviously these are difficult, but censorship powers once granted are usually co-opted by the most corrupt and used to silence would-be reformers; and even censors with the best of intentions are not omniscient and are going to make mistakes.

      Censorship may look like a quick cure, it’s poison in the not-much-longer term.  I don’t want to see it here or in any other venue where meaningful public discussion should normally be found.

      Destruction is easy; creation is hard, but more interesting.

      • #451586
        Voltairine
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 2,310

        “orthodoxy” resorts to censorship, destruction of careers etc. aggressive forms of authoritarianism, it’s as good as admitting that it can’t win an open and honest debate.

        We can spend lifetimes digging deeper and deeper in all the intricate complexities, or just accept the gargantuan common sense tell: look at which side is trying to censor etc. prevent honest and open discussion.

        Aloha!

      • #451623
        alcina
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 977

        @snot

        While fleshing out my rant, I ran it past my partner for a reality check; and he asked me a few questions, the answers to which were almost identical to yours. Great minds, eh? 😉

        Regarding education: Here in Ontario — and pretty much everywhere else in north America, as far as I can tell — there’s been a significant downward trend in the quality of public education, largely due to funding cuts. Of course, the funding cuts are a result of the capitalist ideology embraced by our major parties. Over the years, our schools have seen increased class sizes, mainstreaming of students with special needs, cancellation of extracurricular activities and “luxury” classes (eg, art, music, civics), reduction in support services, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations based on the results of those standardized tests. As a result, teachers scramble to get large disparate groups of students to learn enough to do well on these tests, iow, teaching to the tests. So instead of learning critical thinking skills, kids are largely learning how to ace tests, which many do quite well. You can see this in the SAT scores of the past decade. When I was in school way back when, no one ever got a near-perfect score on the SAT. Now it’s almost common among those who can afford to take the SAT training classes. But from what I hear from friends who have taught at universities in the last decade, many of these A+ students have very limited reasoning skills. Yet because they did well in the teach-to-the-test education system, they are convinced of their own intelligence and thus unwilling to consider the possibility that there’s more to learn. To make matters worse, the institutions in which my friends teach pressure the instructors to go easy on these students because they don’t want to lose the tuition. I personally know 5 instructors at 5 different institutions who have been told exactly that; and they say they have many colleagues who have been told the same.

        Regarding the obvious candidates for censorship: Those were the same 2 exceptions I provided for my partner, for what should be obvious reasons. But then he asked me about hate speech. Shouldn’t that be censored? Well. Canada has had laws against hate speech for several decades. People have been prosecuted, fined, and jailed for publishing or promoting what is considered hate speech (usually white supremacist or Holocaust-denial propaganda). And yet, this hasn’t stopped people from expressing these views. In fact, hate speech and hate crimes have been on the rise. If censorship were the solution, we wouldn’t be seeing this increase.

        Of course, it’s in the best interest of the oligarchy (or whoever is running the planet) to keep the 95% dumb and divided. In a more just and sensible world, teacher pay would reflect the critical role teachers play in creating our society. I mean, seriously, dogwalkers make more than some teachers. We pay petsitters more than babysitters. And the result is poorly educated students who grow up to be ignorant and insecure adults. Ugh. Our society is so fucked up.

        "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

        • #451641
          Voltairine
          Participant
          • Total Posts: 2,310

          to try to make people stupid. And though there are times when I despair, I don’t think they are winning that fight…

          Aloha!

          • #451700
            alcina
            Participant
            • Total Posts: 977

            @voltairine

            You are more optimistic than I.

            I think perhaps, in the past, it was more onerous to keep the masses ignorant; but I no longer believe that. The fact is, fear and anxiety have a significant negative impact on learning.* And pretty much since the birth of the nation, Americans have lived in fear. First of the British, then the injuns, then the freed slaves, then the Mexicans/Spanish/Russians. Eventually it was the Irish, the Chinese, the Italians, the Mexicans, then the Russians again, and the entire country of China.

            Americans are raised to believe everyone is jealous of who they are and what they have. And what do jealous people do? They destroy those of whom they’re jealous. And so Americans need to be on constant alert, always ready to defend against the latest enemy — real or imagined — who is hell-bent on destroying them. That level of fear and anxiety doesn’t leave a lot of psychological room for much else.

            *There are so many articles about this, I’m not going to cherrypick a few for this response. Those interested can search “effects of fear on learning” or some variant of that.

            "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

    • #451652
      snot
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,379

      @alcina et al.!

      A quotation I like:

      “A modern economic system demands mass production of students who are not educated and have been rendered incapable of thinking.”
      – U.N.E.F. Strasbourg, On the Poverty of Student Life (1966).

      Destruction is easy; creation is hard, but more interesting.

      • #451987
        alcina
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 977

        @snot

        That is a great quote. I’d not heard of UNEF, but searching for it led me to the entire article on the Anarchist Library. Thank you.

        "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

    • #451679
      salemcourt
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 3,119

      Science or psuedo-science does not matter, it is what the oligarchs want you to beleive.

    • #451690
      sadoldgirl
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,511

      This is a good rant.@alcina

      Decline in teaching critical thinking as well as in debates is a

      very important point. If you don’t mind I’ll add another:

      Propaganda and the use of it for political or economic purposes.

      In that regard I mention Roundup as a dangerous treatment of

      weeds. Its use is forbidden in Europe, but here the MSM don’t

      mention the fact.

    • #451947
      MackMarkstein
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 386

      This was a lovely thread.  What resonated with me is the thread opener by @alcina, and thoughts by @snot and @voltairine, and really everybody.  Not many words wasted.

      Scientists can be tribal, prejudiced, can proudly fail to accept something that doesn’t fit in with the paradigm, can try to doom the opposition to the Funny Farm.  Can throw out the baby with the bathwater.  This seems to be human nature as expressed by the scientific establishment, probably for at least a few hundred, if not thousands of years.  And I say this not as anti-scientist, or I’d sorta have to be anti-myself.  I have everlasting respect for the scientific method and some ejumication, and a (very very humble) credential.

      Seems what we have with this Covid information war is partly the same-as-it-ever-was  battle between scientists/doctors who have congealed as the establishment side, versus scientists/docs who won’t have possibly-valid information or research directions suppressed.   But in the case of the Covid wars, there’s something a lot darker than that.  We have a combination of _1984 and something that feels completely amoral regarding “adverse reactions.”  I think it’s beyond greed but that kind of mood is for a different thread maybe.  And another thread could go into for example, the NYU professor’s hour long not-You-Tube talk, one highlight of which was his saying:  Just look at what the Covid information wars are doing to the professions:  Like journalism, academia, medicine.  True and significant.

      Back to the topic of the thread-opener:  Science instinctively discrediting possible discoveries because the possible discoverer isn’t in the club and they are talking about something too far out.  But in many cases the whole story, over time, says more about the Establishment.  Also we know that science is a ball of confusion during the actual unfolding of it.  Made 10 times worse when the data is suppressed, distorted, cherry-picked:  I think more going on with Covid wars than with almost any historical thing of this sort.

      Anyway, charming stories of past controversies:

      Two examples from physical science (but I love alcina’s knowledge of similar in medical science:  I just know the physical side better): Everybody knows this one:

       

      –   Galileo.  If you think you remember his story, how do you remember the ending?  I think some may remember him being executed for his beliefs…not quite.  Though I think Bruno may have been.  Good refresher of Galileo at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

      It was not just heliocentricity (the claim that the Earth revolves around the Sun rather than vice versa) that Galileo latched onto.  He was a compulsive discoverer.  There was heavy controversy about the helio-  topic though, with new data coming in rather fast, fairly new instruments being around, and most of that data was interpreted the accepted way;  as geocentric or with one famous astronomer,  hedging and saying maybe some data that could support some movement of the Earth, not total revolution around the Sun mind you!  Galileo would have none of this, interpreted the data as he would, would not try to contort it into some framework his mind couldn’t honestly fit it into.  That topic and practice eventually got him in trouble.  Some of these terms have become generalized but in that century it was quite literal:  He was speaking and publishing against the dogma.  The literal dogma, the allowed framework for science, which the rulers (the Catholic Church) defined as a suburb of religion.  Textbook of the dogma:  The Bible.  Heliocentrism full-on:  Was said to violate some Biblical passages.  To speak out against it:  Heresy.  Literally.  Punishable by death.  He was tried by the representatives of the Inquisition:  literally.  Probably notables about the man:  Had major, major scientific aptitude *and* major cojones–notable that he continued to speak and publish as he believed,  even after challenged by pretty high officials–recanted a few times, but signaled he didn’t mean it.  Being willing to die,  he didn’t.  The Inquisition found a compromise, ie. on their initiative they stopped short of execution.  Condemned him or something rather than convicting:  If they convicted they’d have to, by law, execute.  He was under house arrest the remainder of his life.   Yes, this was around 450 years ago but:  Some of the elements still are chilling to me.  Part of his sentence was that he was banned from publishing anything, about anything,   Reprinting of his previously published works was banned.  However, he did find underground channels and a little was published in Holland.

      -Second example:  Alfred Wegener.   Now remembered as a key geologist who first conceived of continental drift.  But at the time, he was mocked and scorned for such shameless crackpottery:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Wegener

      Compared to Galileo, AW did not have a large collection of fairly complete conceptions that were legacy to science as it progressed.  And AW did get some details wrong, but this (history of the continents, continental shelves, all that) was large and data collection (tools, methods) was not all there yet.

      By the 1950’s, about 40 years later, paleomagnetism could be mapped out and interpreted and those data actually–surprise!–made the most sense in the context of Old Wegener’s framework.  He had died in 1930 though.   During the time he was advocating for continental drift, he did have some allies.  And there got to be vicious disputes between this collection of obvious charlatans, and the establishment.  They would argue on the basis of the hardness of the ocean floor, etc….even as Galileo and his opposition would have intractable disputes about why some objects didn’t show more parallax than they do.

      Also in the case of Wegener there are details that remind me of any information war:

      “…the American Association of Petroleum Geologists organized a symposium specifically in opposition to the continental drift hypothesis.”

      Well, that should settle that.  The group of real scientists agreed to publicly and officially agree that those outsiders were opposed.

      Though there are serious overtones in this thread and even in this post, I can’t think of this scientific-dogma topic without thinking of a quote I really like.  Can’t really say which scientist said it;  I’d have to dig through my magazines from the 1970’s:  It was on the back of one of them.  Spoken by a credentialed scientist, not a famous one like Salk or Crick or Watson.  Here’s roughly how I remember it:

      “We scientists do have open minds.  But remember, with most of us, it’s a very small opening.”

       

       

       

       

      • #452013
        alcina
        Participant
        • Total Posts: 977

        @mackmarkstein

        Yes, sadly, there are far too many of these incidents. Your geology example reminds me of something my uncle brings up frequently. My uncle is a long-retired exploration geologist and he loves to tell anyone who will listen that Leonardo da Vinci was the first geologist. But what da Vinci discovered in his geological investigations contradicted the creation story and put him in disfavour with the Church, which prohibited him from openly discussing these ideas.

        "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

    • #451995
      lownslow
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,103

      Thank you, alcina, and others for a expansive, thoughtful thread. Im searching for a more open place to share thoughts and info, just havent found anything better yet. 😉

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