My Photo

Bulletin Board

December 2008

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      


  • The NIH Keeps Up With The Times: 1, 2, 3. David Baltimore Has A Flashback: ***. The NY Times Keeps Up With Times: ***. The Faith of Anthony Fauci: ***. Anthony Fauci Explains How HIV Causes AIDS: ***. Robert Gallo on The Force of Ejaculation: ***, on HIV Theory: ***, Lectures in Marseilles: ***. David Ho Does The Math: ***. John Mellors Sets the Record Straight: ***. Bono, el Magnifico, Holds (Another) Press Conference: ***. Anthony Fauci Explains Journalism in the Age of AIDS: ***. Anthony Fauci and David Ho Disprove an Old Adage: ***. Anthony Fauci Explains ICL and AIDS: *** The CDC Can't Keep Up With The Times:*** The Method of the "Small Inquisitor" Moore:*** The Co-Discovery of a Nobel-Worthy Enzymatic Activity:*** The Revenge of the "Very" Minor Moriarty:*** Julie Gerberding and Anthony Fauci Learn Arithmetic:*** Osama Obama Has a Message for Africa:***

Bad Manners and Good Gossip

« The Travesty of Canadian Justice and the Trial of Trevis Smith, Part II | Main | Celia Farber on the Spirit of Christmas »

December 20, 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Claus Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claus, with a View from the Mysterious Eastern Front.

Henry Bauer

Re Scalise and pseudo-science:

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

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

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

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

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

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


It was interesting taking a moment to read the course description of the class in question, and, in particular, Scalisi's CV.

It's troubling a recently minted academic "product" is so myopically trained he is willing to hold himself up as a scientific authority on matters of science and law over which he has little to no expertise.

It's hard to tell where the Hubris ends and the malignant narcissism begins.

Only one thing seems certain. Scalisi has little academic basis to mediate controversial issues in the biological and medical sciences. For him to engage the public as an authority regarding same is to practice the very charlitanism he pretends to war against.


As a "colleague" of the unmasked professor Scalise (or "Randy" as he is known around the department) who can be glimpsed in one of the silly photographs at his website, allow me to add that the expression "hoisted on one's own petard" takes on new heights thanks to he of the "glowing pickle" enlightenment.

Richard Strohman

As someone who knew Max Delbruck ever so slightly personally, but I always felt extremely well through our long time, mutual friend Gunther Stent: Allow me to wonder if the Delbruck who so admired Samuel Beckett, and was widely known as THE gadfly par excellence of molecular biology, would have even accorded the honorific of "physicist" to the likes of Scalise.


Greetings and good wishes from The Motherland on the eve of the new year.

All "Anons" are not necessarily the same, but there is only one Anon II

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • Comments are regarded as letters to the editor. They are subject to the same policies as the NY Times and Nature, and are not published until after editorial review.
Blog powered by Typepad