I am still not well at all etc. as before - though it's a bit cooler
today - and so I keep it brief, with just two subjects, one a favourite
quotation, that should be helpful to many, as it is relevant in very many
1. XMRV blues
2. On Cant
1. XMRV blues
I have been reporting the discovery of, problems around, and confirmation
of XMRV in Nederlog e.g. here
The links give the reason to speak of "blues", becaus this too seems to
have been developing after the first report in Science, into
something like a tragi-comedy - with some exceptions, such as with many
patients with ME, who have great faith in in the Science study and
the scientists who did and reported the study, indeed for good reasons
Meanwhile, since I am not a biochemist, I have no really sound opinion on
the ins and outs of XMRV, and since I know a lot of methodology,
philosophy of science and probability, e.g. sufficient to know that the
McClure-Wessely report linked above was flimflam, my own position is this
(to quote myself from an e-mail of 5 days ago):
It's not yet clear whether [XMRV] is involved in
some causal role or as a passenger. Personally, I don't mind not knowing
(...) I simply wait and see and do not get nervous at all, except that I
am glad the Science study stands, because I think (i) XMRV is interesting
for medical science anyway and (ii) whatever the connection with ME, the
study of XMRV will shed some new light on it when properly investigated
while (iii) if indeed XMRV is causal for (a subgroup of) patients with
ME, or indeed a causal factor, there is hope existing HIV-medicines and
techniques may help fast.
And this still seems the rational position on the science of it - unless
you happen to know more about XMRV and biochemistry than I do, as
undoubtedly is quite possible.
Meanwhile, the rational position on politicking around XMRV is difficult
to state, as rather strange things have been happening, to which I first
provide some links, followed by a few comments:
The first is by Amy Dockser Markus, who also wrote
Further Evidence of an XMRV-Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Connection?
that I consider six days ago; the second is
by Mindy Kitei, who I wrote about i.a. here:
ME: Blood Feud and whose site gives a good if
journalistically written overview of much about and around ME.
There is considerably more on the internet, that I will not list, and
some concern, nervousness and anger with patients with ME, who tend to
believe this happened before, both with the De Freitas study that
concerned ME and may have discovered a retrovirus but was squelched, and
in the beginning with the studies about HIV and Aids.
An additional concern, and the ostensible reason - that is: the publicly
given reason - that both papers are on hold, after being peer reviewed
and accepted for publication, is that they are contradictory, the CDC
study being negative about XMRV, the FDA/NIH being positive is one
concern. As someone knowledgeable of science and XMRV put it on a
holding BOTH studies tells me they are really perplexed, so
now they want to review and make sure both studies represent
good science, before releasing them.
WRONG! The studies have already been peer-reviewed. Unless
government officials want to play Gods of peer-review. Are they
going to start judging the peer-reviewers now???!!! Un____
Indeed, the further concern is that both organizations are US
governmental organizations, while the CDC has played a very bad role in
regards of bio-medical research into ME/CFS, which they have tried to
block, pooh-pooh, deny or disregard for decades. Here is Mindy Kitei's
justified remark about the CDC-study:
If the CDC had found the retrovirus, it would have negated its 20-year
affair with CFS as a psychological problem.
On the other hand, the point of view of the people at FDA/NIH seems to be
along the lines that (1) XMRV exists (2) it is at least mildly contagious
(3) it may be transmitted by blood transfusion - and so the US government
has a clear and important health concern.
In this context, here is part of Dr. Yes's view today expressed on
Phoenix Rising - and Dr. Yes is a very sensible man:
It seems more likely to me that there is a political struggle going on
between the CDC and everyone else. The XMRV Taskforce is an
interagency effort; I never understood why the CDC sought to do its own
study... surely the higher-ups knew that such a separation of efforts
could lead to different findings. But there is no good scientific reason
to suspend the publication of conflicting results, and it is unethical to
interfere with the scientific process for political convenience when so
many sick people depend on the results of a pure scientific process.
Either there has been a great deal of incompetency/ lack of oversight
until this late stage by various officials, or there is a power struggle
The danger with allowing government agencies to work this out behind
closed doors is that the CDC or their higher-ups could pressure the other
group into editing (or, far less likely, even pulling) the positive
study. To believe that government scientists are immune to pressure by
the government is naive. It would be a mistake for us to relax and trust
the government to do the right thing when experience tells us they are
more likely to do the opposite.
From the same place another quote, indeed a quoted quote, namely from the
late best-seller writer and M.D. Michael Crichton:
"Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with
consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the
contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which
means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the
"In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible
results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because
they broke with the consensus." (*)
It'll be curious to see what happens, and my own guess is that an
internal dispute is going on between various US governmental
My own take is as I said: The US government has a clear and important
health concern, and so it certainly - whatever today's situation, and
the curious publication stop on both papers - is more likely that the
truth about XMRV and its relation to various diseases and its dangers for
the general public will be found, and indeed quite soon, given
e.g. justified worries about blood transfusions if these have a good
chance of containing XMRV with attended dangerous consequences.
2. On Cant
Here is a favourite quotation of mine, by a true conversational genius
the like of which in this talking age does not exist, from Christopher
Hibbert's excellent "The Personal History of Samuel Johnson"
(**) - and the link to "cant" is to my entry in my
Philosophical Dictionary, and the others to the Wikipedia:
Johnson found it equally exasperating when people talked cant about their
being distressed concerning public affairs. When Boswell mentioned his
desire to enter parliament, but said he would be vexed if things went
wrong, this conversation ensued, with the real meat at the end:
JOHNSON 'That's cant, Sir. It would not vex you more in the house
than in the gallery: public affairs vex no man.'
BOSWELL 'Have not they vexed yourself a little, Sir? Have you not
been vexed by all the turbulence of this reign,. and by that absurd vote
to the House of Commons, "That the influence of the Crown has increased,
is increasing, and ought to be diminished?" ' (***)
JOHNSON 'Sir, I never slept an hour less, nor eat an ounce less
meat. I would have knocked the factious dogs on the head, to be sure; but
I was not vexed.
BOSWELL I declare, Sir, upon my honour, I did imagine I was vexed,
and took a pride in it; but it was, perhaps, cant; for I own I
neither eat less, not slept less.
JOHNSON 'My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may
talk as other people do: you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most
humble servant." You are not his most humble servant. You may say,
"These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such
times." You don't mind the times. You tell a man, "I am sorry you had
such bad weather on the last day of your journey, and were so much wet."
You don't care sixpence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in
this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society; but don't think
In fact, Dr. Johnson could get vexed about the times in which he lived,
especially about the reprehensible Whigs, but then he gave a clear
practical criterion for deciding whether one is really vexed or not, or
merely deluded oneself with common opinions and popular emotions. The
crux of the matter is, with stresses and all:
'My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as
other people do: you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most humble
servant." (...) You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of
talking in Society; but don't think foolishly.
P.S. Quite a lot more could be said about the politicking
surrounding ME/CFS since decades, but in view of the warm weather, my
bad health, and the abovesketched position (in brief: it is likely
there will be clarity soon), this is not the time and the place to do
so. And see
M.E. / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (video) for a fair summary of
the situation and the disease dating from 2007.
P.P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while.
The reason is that I am physically not well at all, and it seems a
heath-wave is coming, which is the type of weather I can't handle
well. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know
A good example is the existence of atoms, first hypothetically posited around
600 B.C. by Democritos and Leucippos, and finally having become part of
accepted physics and chemistry since Mendelev's periodic tables got confirmed,
and in the 20th Century at long last, using nano-technology, something like
images of atoms could be made - that meanwhile, contrary to Democritos and
Leucippos idea of atoms, had acquired sub-atomic particles.
After due investigation, some scientifically established facts simply are
vastly more probable than their denials, and to suggest otherwise is ...
Incidentally, there is a purported Einstein-quote, probably Crichton's
inspiration, that is much better: