Nobel disease

You can be extremely smart, you can be a genius and you can still fall into your arms seductive pseudoscience. The most dramatic examples, I think, are given to us by Nobel laureates. According to The Skeptic’s Dictionary, Nobel’s disease is “the suffering of Nobel laureates, which causes them to embrace strange or scientifically unfounded ideas, usually later in life.”

Here are some examples.

Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling has twice received the Nobel Prize (the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 for his studies of chemical bonds and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 for his campaigns against nuclear tests). His genius is unquestionable, and yet he fervently advocated the administration of massive doses of vitamin C, which could be effective against many diseases, from rheumatism to cancer. He also claimed that the same vitamin C, consumed in large doses, can improve students’ intellectual performance and could be used to treat schizophrenia.

In 1976 and 1978, Pauling published two studies in which he claimed that the life expectancy of terminally ill cancer patients. A re-evaluation of the two studies, conducted in 1982, indicated that the control group (the one receiving the placebo) and the one receiving vitamin C were not at all comparable. Those selected to receive vitamin C were much less ill at study entry than those in the control group. In fact, in Pauling’s two papers, it is not clear what is meant by “terminal stage.” Later, at Mayo Clinic, other clinical trials were performed in which high doses of vitamin C (10,000 mg) were administered. Tests have shown that vitamin C is no more effective than a placebo in treating cancer. Pauling did not accept the results obtained at the Mayo Clinic and accused the researchers of “fraud and misinterpretation of the results”. In 1985, the Mayo Clinic conducted a second series of clinical trials, reaching the same negative conclusion about the beneficial effect of vitamin C in treating cancer. Until the end of his life (Pauling died in 1994), despite the fact that no independent clinical study confirmed his hypothesis, he kept his attitude towards high doses of vitamin C.

James Watson

James Watson received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology, along with Francis Crick, in 1962, as a reward for discovering the structure of DNA. He could also receive a racism award. In a 2007 interview with the Sunday Times, he stated that he “sees the bleak future of Africa” ​​and went on to say that “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – while all tests show that this is not true. ” Also in this interview, he stated that “there are many people of color who are very talented” and that he hoped that all people are equal, but that “people who deal with employees of color realize that this not true”.

A strange thing happened in the same year. James Watson was one of the first people to have his DNA sequenced. The results showed that he has 16 times more genes of African origin than the average European. This would only be possible if one of his great-grandparents was African.

Brian Josephson

Brian Josephson received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 as a reward for the effect that bears his name. By the late 1960s, he was a follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the transcendental movement, who argued, among other things, that you could fly without the power of the mind alone. (The transcendental movement flourished among our intellectuals, but that’s a story for later.) In the early 1970s, Josephson launched the Mind-Matter Unification Project at Cambridge University, which aimed to explore the relationship between quantum mechanics and consciousness. . Josephson also stated in a pamphlet published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prizes that he was making every effort to keep the United Kingdom at the forefront of “telepathic research”. In addition, Josephson strongly argued for “water memory,” the supposed mechanism behind homeopathy, and the existence of cold fusion.

Nikolaase Tinkerberg

Nikolaase Tinkerberg was a Dutch ethologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology with Konrad Lorenz in 1973. The prize rewarded his research on animal behavior. In his speech at the Tinkerberg Awards ceremony, he mentioned his theory about the cause of autism in children, although he did not study the subject rigorously. His theory was based on the ethological theory that had just won the Nobel Prize. In 1985, Tinkerberg and his wife published a book on autism in which he recommended “hug therapy” as a treatment for autism. His technique was based on the idea that autism is triggered by a lack of attachment between mother and child. According to Tinbergen, in order to cure autism, parents must hold their children in their arms for long periods of time, while seeking to establish eye contact with them, even if they oppose it. At present, hug therapy is not empirically supported, and in some cases it has even been shown to be dangerous.

Kary Mullis

Kary Mullis, along with Michael Smith, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993 for inventing the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Mullis disagreed with the theory that HIV is caused by HIV. He strongly argued that this retrovirus is found in very small amounts in patients with AIDS. In his autobiography, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, he stated that “in the years to come, people who today accept the theory that HIV causes AIDS will be considered as stupid as the inquisitors who tried Galileo today.” .is as stupid as we find those who excommunicated Galileo. ” Mullis also questioned the human cause of climate change. On his website he wrote that “we have no reason to believe that we understand the climate. Making predictions about what’s next and involving our humble species in all this is more than bold, it’s pathetic. “

Even stranger to a Nobel laureate, Mullis noted in his autobiography that he had met some bright raccoons who had addressed him as a “doctor.” Mullis claimed that the raccoons in question were extraterrestrial beings who had come to visit him. He was also an ardent supporter of astrology: “How is it possible to give someone a doctorate in psychology if that person has not taken astrology classes?”

William Shockley

Shockley, along with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 for inventing the transistor. As a professor at Stanford University, Shockley’s interests began to shift to genetics. He began to argue that, for genetic reasons, blacks are less intelligent than whites. In a 1973 New Scientist article, he stated that “my research inevitably led me to believe that the main reason for the intellectual and social deficits of black Americans has a genetic and racial origin, and therefore they cannot be remedied by improving the conditions of the social environment. ” Shockley also introduced the phrase “retrogressive evolution” claiming that blacks have more children than whites, which will lead to a decrease in the average intelligence of the population. He also promoted all sorts of solutions to solve this problem, which he considered extremely serious. Among them, Shockley offered financial rewards to those in groups he considered to be genetically disadvantaged if they accepted sterilization. Shokley was an ardent supporter of polygraph testing and suggested that Nobel laureates be asked to answer the following question after being connected to a lie detector: “When you say there are no racial differences in intelligence, you think Is that really it? ”

Luc Montagnier

Montagnier received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008, together with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, for the discovery of the HIV virus that is responsible for AIDS. He also quickly became ill with Nobel disease. In the series House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic, he states that: “We can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected. Our immune system, if you have a good one, will get rid of the virus in a few weeks. “

In 2009, he published two articles in the journal Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences, which was founded and run by him, in which he claimed that he was able to detect electromagnetic DNA signals even in homeopathic dilutions. Montagnier also claimed that most neurological diseases are caused by electromagnetic waves emitted by viral or bacterial DNA. He also suggested that Pope John Paul II, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, take gels with fermented papaya, as they would have a strong antioxidant effect.

Montagnier was also a staunch fighter against vaccination. He believed that some vaccines could cause multiple sclerosis or hepatitis B. He argued that vaccines could cause autism and that autism could be successfully treated with antibiotics. During the SARS pandemic, Cov-2 Montagnier often made his voice heard, saying, for example, that vaccination exacerbates the pandemic, as it stimulates the emergence of new strains of the virus.


I could give other examples, but I’ll stop here. I just want you to remember what Sagan was saying: “In science, there are no authorities; there are at most experts ”. Not even Nobel laureates should be believed on the basis of their words, they can only be considered on the basis of the evidence they provide.

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