Science is Broken

Gary Novak


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Peer Review 
Junk Science
What Science is
Superficial Science

Big Bang
Intelligent Design
Earth's Core
Windmill Efficiency


Descriptive Page

Prions and Junk Science

—the supposed cause of Mad Cow Disease, which some Britians acquired several years ago.

Prions are brain membrane proteins which supposedly cause disease by flipping into a wrong shape, and they spread the disease by bumping into other ones causing them to misshape.

All biological molecules bump into everything around them thousands of times per second. So what could be different about bumping into the prion protein? Bumping is never anything other than bumping.

This is as true in science as in baking or brick laying. You don't have to be a scientist to know what a fraud it is.

All membrane proteins have two shapes for moving molecules across membranes. One of their shapes is not a disease.

Prions supposedly do everything DNA does in causing a group of diseases. They do not have genetic material attached to them for creating their own evolution. When the genetic material is in the host, it's a genetic disease; but prion diseases are obviously not genetic diseases.

Diseases need a way of spreading. One person's brain protein cannot get into another person's brain. If it could get into the blood, the immune system would destroy it.

These proteins are attached to membranes, as most proteins are. So how does the disease spread? With the real disease, an organism causes over-production of the protein to form plaques, but this requires an influence over the DNA. A deformed brain protein cannot influence DNA.

Ever hear of "new variant CJD?" There cannot be such a thing as a new variant for a genetic disease. Evolution cannot work against the source of the DNA.

On This Page:

Point 1. There is zero probability that two mutations will support each other in creating genetic diseases. So there could not be any more than one mutation in the whole field of Scrapies-like diseases—across species and all.

Point 2. Nature has had 600 million years to iron out the flaws in brain membrane proteins. It is not still killing people over it. (Prion proteins are normal cell wall proteins of the brain which accumulate as a part of the disease lesion, not as a causative agent.)

Point 3. A protein that causes a similar protein to change does not cause the cells to produce more such proteins and destroy themselves doing so.

Point 4. Proteins are not indestructible; they are among the most fragile biological molecules. Genetic material is much closer to indestructible, because it needs to maintain information without error.

Point 5. There is no method of dissemination for a prion disease except eating brains, but sheep and animals in the wild spread the disease and acquire it like any other disease, while they never eat brains.

Here's the contradiction in the basic laws of genetics for prions. There has to be natural selection to create a significant disease. If natural selection picks out the most destructive proteins and promotes them, the problem is that the protein is limited by a primary structure which is coded by the host DNA. A particular primary structure cannot produce any number of different conformational alternatives for a protein. So the natural selection cannot be separated from the host DNA, and backwards evolution cannot act upon the host DNA making it more disease prone.

About 50 million years ago, mammals diverged in their evolution to form lines which separated the human line from the sheep line and cattle line. But at this instantaneous point in time, sheep, cattle and humans are having their brain chemistry fall apart, in exactly the same ways, creating defective brain proteins which deform when bumping into each other and kill the host. That's like three race cars in the Indy 500, where the valves burn out of all three within one fifth of a second of each other on the four hundredth mile. Why is it happening to three or more species at the same time, when they haven't had a relationship to each other in 50 million years?

There are hundreds of such mockeries of biology in claiming a protein without genetic material is doing what a disease organism does.

Natural selection prevents genetic diseases from going beyond one mutation.

A disease without genetic material (supposedly a prion protein) cannot have variants which change over time, and natural selection reduces genetic diseases over time preventing them from showing up in more than one species.

Without its own separate genetic material, a disease has to be a single, isolated and sporadic mutation in the host DNA. There cannot be any order, complexity, or evolution to such a genetic disease.

One reason for this biological principle is that the ratio of destructive mutations to constructive mutation is immense. The probability of two mutations aligning upon each other to enhance a genetic disease is functionally zero. It will never happen.

Another factor involved is that natural selection improves survivability of the host by reducing genetic diseases, not enhancing them.

The second mutation to worsen a genetic disease removes it from the gene pool through natural selection or survival of the fitest.

And to believe the prion theory we are supposed to assume that the Scrapies-like diseases are genetic diseases, because they supposedly are not caused by a microbe.

In other words, every point of complexity in prions must result from complex corruption of the host DNA, while DNA never corrupts itself in complex ways.

(Americans do not pronounce i as e, except to glorify junk science.)

Prions are proteins which supposedly cause Mad Cow Disease and variants such as Scrapies. The claim that a protein can do the same thing as infectious agents is in conflict with all scientific principles involved. There are better theories. Spiroplasma appears to be the likely cause of those diseases.

Mad Cow Disease has the appearance of being genetically engineered, since it lost its usual degree of species specificity. In other words, it jumped species from sheep to cattle and from cattle to humans. However, this property may have resulted from speeded up evolution due to recycling of carcasses as livestock feed.

Scrapies is a disease that destroys the brains of sheep but does not normally affect humans. The causative agent was looked for but not originally found.

In 1957, a variant of Scrapies was found to affect some human cannibals in New Guinea. The persons who ate the brains of their ancestors acquired the disease; others did not. So the disease was apparently promoted by eating brains.

The human form is now called Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (CJD). The group of related diseases is called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). The Mad Cow form is called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

A few years ago, cattle in England acquired the BSE variant of the disease. The precipitating factor was assumed to be the feeding of dead livestock back to livestock.

Soon, a few humans started acquiring the disease presumably from eating the meat of diseased cows. At that point, all cattle in England were slaughtered to protect the humans. There was said to be no evidence of it spreading to USA

Therefore, it was incumbent upon the scientists to explain the cause. No virus could be found, but a protein was being produced in large quantity creating plaques in the brains of the victims. So the protein was said to be the cause of the disease; and it was called a prion.

The protein in question is normally located in the cell membrane, presumably to assist transfer of molecules in or out. Such proteins alternate between two configurations. Over-producing that molecule appears to be how the disease progresses. The resulting brain damage alters behavior resulting in drooling, which is probably a method of spreading the disease.

Supposedly, the prion protein flips to the wrong configuration, while its primary structure (which means the sequence of amino acids in the chain) stays the same. But it can only flip when another one which has flipped influences it. So once the flipping gets started, it keeps going; but it can only be started (usually) from a previously flipped protein, which acts like the causative agent of the disease. Strangely, it is supposed to stay in the flipped configuration while it spreads from animal to animal.

Of course, every respectable scientist initially said that the such a theory was absurd. Eventually, the opposition was neutralized, and the absurd became fact. Recently, one of them (Stanley B. Prusiner) got the Nobel Prize for the theory.

In terms of evolution, prions defy all of the principles. Since the prion is a protein which is coded by the DNA of the victim, it means that the disease is supposedly a product of the evolution of the victim.

Evolution does not work that way. It can only progress toward improvements, not self destruction. There are problems along the way, but they are not promoted by the evolution. Therefore, prions require a new concept which says a disease results from the chance characteristics of a protein, while no evolution is involved in the disease elements of the protein's existence. Yet the chance disease has characteristics similar to other diseases including its ability to destroy the victim and the ability to be transmitted through the environment.

Another problem with the prion etiology is that proteins are not that way. They do not have accidental characteristics; and they do not perform complex functions without necessity and some very demanding evolution. Proteins do not change the configurations of proteins by accident. On top of that, the probability of a changed configuration having just the right characteristics to perform any function is zero. And on top of that, if it could perform a function at all, the probability of that function creating itself is zero. All of those chance probabilities add up to zero times zero, while there is no evolution to improve the odds.

The over-all concept of a protein performing the numerous and complex functions of an organism is not credible. Proteins cannot contain complex information about anything other than their own structure and motion. They also have no means of expressing information through metabolism or physiology. Only DNA can handle such complexities.

There are other theories for the cause of TSEs. It could be a variant of the rabies virus devoid of a protein coat (a viroid), which is stabilized by wrapping around a small protein.

There is good evidence that the cause of TSEs is spiroplasma. It's a variant of mycoplasma. The evidence is summarized on this webpage:

    Spiroplasma Theory
Junk Science.

Here's how junk science works. It's analogous to Joe and Sam growing potatoes. Joe wears brown shoes, and Sam black shoes. Joe gets five kilograms per square meter, and Sam gets six. Therefore, wearing black shoes will produce a better yield than wearing brown shoes.

Modern science is deteriorating into junk science. The main reason is because high technology increases vagaries pushing objectivity and standards farther out of the reach of practical considerations.

At the same time, high tech is glitzy and exploitable. Therefore, the scientists who have the lowest standards jump on it and use it most uninhibitedly.

On top of that, the bureaucrats promote high tech and glitzy science at the expense of better quality science. To a large extent, they don't know any better. They think glitz is quality in science. There is also a lot of money and power in high technology. You can guess what they do to bureaucracies.

Prions supposedly creating Scrapies-like diseases demonstrates junk science at its highest development. The prion theory is like proving that one and one equals three.

The proponents of the prion theory are rationalizers. They supposedly have every angle covered - establishing this, and establishing that. To nonscientists, they might appear to have everything nailed down. But it's all a bunch of muddle. The research skips from point to point failing to develop any point well enough to get at the truth. Every test is portrayed as if it produced some objective fact. But objective fact is extremely illusive with high tech science.

The problem with high tech science is that the more complex and demanding the test is, the more difficult accounting for and measuring all of the factors which influence the result is. Therefore, numerous assumptions and guesses have to replace measured results.

For example, if a mutation or altered gene is created through insertion, a test might indicate whether the mutation exists, with various degrees of certainty, but tests cannot determine how many other alterations occurred with it, because there are too many genes to test at too great of an expense.

If a lot of time and money is focused on a subject, and a lot of low tech is included, then high tech can add something to science. But modern science is more of a hit and run procedure. Seldom is there enough time, money or commitment to develop a subject well.
As the vagaries have been increasing in science, the standards have been decreasing. The use of statistics is an example. Fifty years ago, statistics would only be allowed in science under the most strict conditions, because there are so many unaccounted-for factors involved. Nowdays, statistics are usually required with all quantitation in spite of the standards being defied. The sample size is almost always inadequate.

One of the products of statistics is "confidence limit." Usually, a 95% confidence limit is supposed to make a number fact. However, a confidence limit does not mean a number is fact; it represents the probability that the sequence of data points was arranged properly.

For example, there could be a 95% confidence result indicating that trees drive automobiles, which supposedly makes it a fact. But what it really means is that there was a 95% probability that trees were properly placed above rocks or oceans in driving automobiles—that is, relative to the spacing distance between the data points. In other words, a large spacing between data points shows a high confidence limit regardless of how worthless the data or how stupid the questions. (outside link on junk statistics)

This criticism may appear to be so much contention, but prions show what it all adds up to, because they are a scientific impossibility which is supposedly established as fact, atleast in the minds of some persons.

One reason why the prion etiology is an impossibility is because evolution cannot create a contagious disease from the host's genetic material, and there are way too many complexities and incredibilities for random results. Therefore, there must be genetic material with the causative agent.

Another reason, which is well recognized, is that there are strains with the supposed prion diseases, and no credible theory exists as to how there can be strains without genetic material.

The pretense is that truth is stranger than fiction; and eventually, explanations will be found for the contradictions. The explanations, however, are plenty visible already. Junk science created the contradictions.

Another area where junk science has become developed is phylogenetics. It means taxonomy which is studied through molecules, usually DNA. A section of DNA is compared for several species, and then their evolutionary relationships are guessed at based on similarities and differences in patterns.

The results of such phylogenetic studies vary greatly from traditional taxonomy. But instead of saying phylogenetics is not precise, traditional taxonomy is being shoved aside and replaced with the phylogenetic results.

The problem with phylogenetics is that a small segment of DNA does not tell enough about an organism. It's like buying a house by looking at a photograph of one square inch of surface. The DNA segments have a lot of random and spurious variations in them which are not understood. So they are a crude indication of evolutionary history.

If a large number of studies were conducted to compare the DNA of species, some important information could be gleaned. But phylogenetics is too superficial for the conclusions that it is used for. [DNA technology is rapidly improving providing a lot more useful information, but the willingness of scientists to use it to prove themselves wrong in the past (as with the morel mushroom) is a problem.]

It's important to realize that junk science is not peripheral. The progress that was once being made in the traditional studies of the Scrapies-like diseases was suppressed by bureaucrats, while funding was redirected to prions. And this is for a disease which could spread through the population through food for several years before any evidence is detected.
The Reason Why it Matters.

In processing questionable meat, the brain and spinal cord are removed to supposedly protect against humans getting Mad Cow Disease. The theory is that the prion protein is located there, since it originates in the cell wall of nerve cells. Supposedly, there is no natural transmission route, since the disease is accidental instead of evolved.

But the truth is that disease causing microbes all have evolved transmission routes, and there is no route of dissemination through brain tissue. The causative agent for Mad Cow Disease alters nerve cell walls to create modified behavior as a method of dissemination. Dissemination is actually through body fluids including saliva, urine and feces, as some evidence indicates. To disseminate, the microbe must be in the blood, not just the nerve tissue. In other words, false science produces false security.

Spiroplasma Theory

Outside Links
A nontechnical book.
Numerous technical web links.
Ed Gehrman on Spiroplasma
A scientific page
Sloppy Statistics

Descriptive Page