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The great Lynn Margulis dies from a sudden stroke at 73

Lynn Margulis found a joyful fulfillment in following her own ideas in biology, and finally, the Medal of Science - but not quite universal recognition

Clearsighted critic of standard evolutionary mechanism tried to complete it

Classic struggle of heretic to move mountain of prejudicial inertia (“we are not clumps of bacteria”)

Teresi achieved fine Discover interview to cap her legacy, ignoring 9/11 embarrassment

One of the most forceful personalities and minds in science was suddenly taken from us by a stroke today (Tues Nov 22 2011). Lynn Margulis was an unusually strong character and for a biologist she had an unusually muscular mind, and her early marriage to Carl Sagan was the least of her accomplishments. She was very young when she began to demonstrate the lameness of the standard idea of how evolution works and the origin of species, ie that random tiny mutations are converted by Darwininian competition to emerge as dominant features if these are advantageous to survival, and can even give rise to new major forms or species if they are particularly helpful.

Margulis was one of the few scientists who immediately see that this theory is conceptually inadequate at the fundamental level and not much more than a silly biological version of modern capitalist thinking a la Ayn Raynd, where nature is wholly a jungle where only the strongest survive, and that evolution at the level of creating new species (which standard Darwinism still utterly fails to explain) was far more likely a cooperative venture of some kind.

From single cells to humans

This revisionism took shape in her ideas about symbiogenesis where at the most basic stratum of life in which single celled forms existed at the beginning, it was likely that such cells merged, and that explained the appearance of cells with a nucleus of which most larger life forms are now made up, including ourselves. From the Margulis point of view we are all essentially agglomerations of cooperating bacteria, and that explains also how new species can arise – from the merging of disparate cells which thus form new living entities with more powerful survival processes than either progenitor.

This obituary in the Times suggests that the details of her thinking are still obscure to the average Timesman and other non specialists, but it is very clear in giving her the credit she deserved after years in the trenches fighting for her truths. No less a fellow heretic than Richard Dawking famously complimented her highly on her determined resilience in the fact of the standard hostility and envy of lesser minds who occupied higher positions in the ruling system when she started out as a young woman of originality and superior sense.

Seasoned skeptic

In other words, Margulis was a heretic of great ability who could be counted on to guide lesser mortals as to other heretics in science who were or are bone fide future Nobelists and who are fueled by too much skepticism and imagination for common acceptance. In this respect she was one of the first to recognize the distinction of one of the most eminent naysayers in science, Peter Duesberg of Berkeley, who has been subjected to political attacks for a quarter century for pointing out from the beginning that as the putative cause of AIDS HIV is in fact a non starter, as every year that passes confirms.

Margulis saw immediately that Duesberg’s analysis was correct and that HIV/AIDS is a nonsense from every point of view, and she had no compunction in saying so. How rare is her kind of unrestrained seeking after better truths in science and how sorely we need more of it was never better shown than in her life of great achievement in the face of mass conformity and political resistance, the new world of institutionalized and now corporate science that has grown into an almost immovable pyramid since the Second World War.

Now we have lost one more rare voice of skeptical creativity.

Lynn Margulis, Evolution Theorist, Dies at 73
Published: November 24, 2011


Lynn Margulis, a biologist whose work on the origin of cells helped transform the study of evolution, died on Tuesday at her home in Amherst, Mass. She was 73.

She died five days after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, said Dorion Sagan, a son she had with her first husband, the cosmologist Carl Sagan.

Dr. Margulis had the title of distinguished university professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, since 1988. She drew upon earlier, ridiculed ideas when she first promulgated her theory, in the late 1960s, that cells with nuclei, which are known as eukaryotes and include all the cells in the human body, evolved as a result of symbiotic relationships among bacteria.

The hypothesis was a direct challenge to the prevailing neo-Darwinist belief that the primary evolutionary mechanism was random mutation.

Rather, Dr. Margulis argued that a more important mechanism was symbiosis; that is, evolution is a function of organisms that are mutually beneficial growing together to become one and reproducing. The theory undermined significant precepts of the study of evolution, underscoring the idea that evolution began at the level of micro-organisms long before it would be visible at the level of species.

“She talked a lot about the importance of micro-organisms,” said her daughter, Jennifer Margulis. “She called herself a spokesperson for the microcosm.”

The manuscript in which Dr. Margulis first presented her findings was rejected by 15 journals before being published in 1967 by the Journal of Theoretical Biology. An expanded version, with additional evidence to support the theory — which was known as the serial endosymbiotic theory — became her first book, “Origin of Eukaryotic Cells.”

A revised version, “Symbiosis in Cell Evolution,” followed in 1981, and though it challenged the presumptions of many prominent scientists, it has since become accepted evolutionary doctrine.

“Evolutionists have been preoccupied with the history of animal life in the last 500 million years,” Dr. Margulis wrote in 1995. “But we now know that life itself evolved much earlier than that. The fossil record begins nearly 4,000 million years ago! Until the 1960s, scientists ignored fossil evidence for the evolution of life, because it was uninterpretable.

“I work in evolutionary biology, but with cells and micro-organisms. Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Richard Lewontin, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould all come out of the zoological tradition, which suggests to me that, in the words of our colleague Simon Robson, they deal with a data set some three billion years out of date.”

Lynn Petra Alexander was born on March 5, 1938, in Chicago, where she grew up in a tough neighborhood on the South Side. Her father was a lawyer and a businessman. Precocious, she graduated at 18 from the University of Chicago, where she met Dr. Sagan as they passed each other on a stairway.

She earned a master’s degree in genetics and zoology from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the faculty at Massachusetts, she taught for 22 years at Boston University.

Dr. Margulis was also known, somewhat controversially, as a collaborator with and supporter of James E. Lovelock, whose Gaia theory states that Earth itself — its atmosphere, the geology and the organisms that inhabit it — is a self-regulating system, maintaining the conditions that allow its perpetuation. In other words, it is something of a living organism in and of itself.

Dr. Margulis’s marriage to Dr. Sagan ended in divorce, as did a marriage to Thomas N. Margulis, a chemist. Dr. Sagan died in 1996.

In addition to her daughter and her son Dorion, a science writer with whom she sometimes collaborated, she is survived by two other sons, Jeremy Sagan and Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma; three sisters, Joan Glashow, Sharon Kleitman and Diane Alexander; three half-brothers, Robert, Michael and Mark Alexander; a half-sister, Sara Alexander; and nine grandchildren.

“More than 99.99 percent of the species that have ever existed have become extinct,” Dr. Margulis and Dorion Sagan wrote in “Microcosmos,” a 1986 book that traced, in readable language, the history of evolution over four billion years, “but the planetary patina, with its army of cells, has continued for more than three billion years. And the basis of the patina, past, present and future, is the microcosm — trillions of communicating, evolving microbes.”

Humans are clumps of bacteria: Margulis’s ideas in a nutshell

Further reading: Dick Teresis (ex OMNI editor) talks to Margulis, a neighbor in:
Discover: April 2011 issue; published online June 17, 2011

lynnmargulisThe best brief guide to Margulis’ thinking in her own words came in April when her neighbor, ex-OMNI-editor Dick Teresi, captured an interview for Discover, almost the only mainstream outlet for material which even hints that the ideas of science heretics of stature like Margulis or Duesberg are worth considering (the other is Scientific American).

Anyone who wants to understand the direction in which smart evolutionary theory must go should read this:

Discover Interview:
Lynn Margulis Says She’s Not Controversial, She’s Right
It’s the neo-Darwinists, population geneticists, AIDS researchers, and English-speaking biologists as a whole who have it all wrong.
by Dick Teresi; photography by Bob O’Connor

A conversation with Lynn Margulis is an effective way to change the way you think about life. Not just your life. All life. Scientists today recognize five groups of life: bacteria, protoctists (amoebas, seaweed), fungi (yeast, mold, mushrooms), plants, and animals. Margulis, a self-described “evolutionist,” makes a convincing case that there are really just two groups, bacteria and everything else.
That distinction led to her career-making insight. In a 1967 paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, Margulis suggested that mitochondria and plastids—vital structures within animal and plant cells—evolved from bacteria hundreds of million of years ago, after bacterial cells started to collect in interactive communities and live symbiotically with one another. The resulting mergers yielded the compound cells known as eukaryotes, which in turn gave rise to all the rest—the protoctists, fungi, plants, and animals, including humans. The notion that we are all the children of bacteria seemed outlandish at the time, but it is now widely supported and accepted. “The evolution of the eukaryotic cells was the single most important event in the history of the organic world,” said Ernst Mayr, the leading evolutionary biologist of the last century. “Margulis’s contribution to our understanding the symbiotic factors was of enormous importance.”
Her subsequent ideas remain decidedly more controversial. Margulis came to view symbiosis as the central force behind the evolution of new species, an idea that has been dismissed by modern biologists. The dominant theory of evolution (often called neo-Darwinism) holds that new species arise through the gradual accumulation of random mutations, which are either favored or weeded out by natural selection. To Margulis, random mutation and natural selection are just cogs in the gears of evolution; the big leaps forward result from mergers between different kinds of organisms, what she calls symbiogenesis. Viewing life as one giant network of social connections has set Margulis against the mainstream in other high-profile ways as well. She disputes the current medical understanding of AIDS and considers every kind of life to be “conscious” in a sense.

Margulis herself is a highly social organism. Now 71, she is a well-known sight at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she is on the geosciences faculty, riding her bike in all weather and at all times of day. Interviewer Dick Teresi, a neighbor, almost ran her over when, dressed in a dark coat, she cycled in front of his car late at night. On the three occasions that they met for this interview, Teresi couldn’t help noticing that Margulis shared her home with numerous others: family, students, visiting scholars, friends, friends of friends, and anybody interesting who needed a place to stay.
Most scientists would say there is no controversy over evolution. Why do you disagree?
All scientists agree that evolution has occurred—that all life comes from a common ancestry, that there has been extinction, and that new taxa, new biological groups, have arisen. The question is, is natural selection enough to explain evolution? Is it the driver of evolution?
And you don’t believe that natural selection is the answer?
This is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: They teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in DNA, in a direction set by natural selection. If you want bigger eggs, you keep selecting the hens that are laying the biggest eggs, and you get bigger and bigger eggs. But you also get hens with defective feathers and wobbly legs. Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.
That seems like a fairly basic objection. How, then, do you think the neo-Darwinist perspective became so entrenched?
In the first half of the 20th century, neo-Darwinism became the name for the people who reconciled the type of gradual evolutionary change described by Charles Darwin with Gregor Mendel’s rules of heredity [which first gained widespread recognition around 1900], in which fixed traits are passed from one generation to the next. The problem was that the laws of genetics showed stasis, not change. If you have pure breeding red flowers and pure breeding white flowers, like carnations, you cross them and you get pink flowers. You back-cross them to the red parent and you could get three-quarters red, one-quarter white. Mendel showed that the grandparent flowers and the offspring flowers could be identical to each other. There was no change through time.
There’s no doubt that Mendel was correct. But Darwinism says that there has been change through time, since all life comes from a common ancestor—something that appeared to be supported when, early in the 20th century, scientists discovered that X-rays and specific chemicals caused mutations. But did the neo-Darwinists ever go out of their offices? Did they or their modern followers, the population geneticists, ever go look at what’s happening in nature the way Darwin did? Darwin was a fine naturalist. If you really want to study evolution, you’ve got go outside sometime, because you’ll see symbiosis everywhere!
So did Mendel miss something? Was Darwin wrong?
I’d say both are incomplete. The traits that follow Mendel’s laws are trivial. Do you have a widow’s peak or a straight hairline? Do you have hanging earlobes or attached earlobes? Are you female or male? Mendel found seven traits that followed his laws exactly. But neo-Darwinists say that new species emerge when mutations occur and modify an organism. I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change—led to new species. I believed it until I looked for evidence.
What kind of evidence turned you against neo-Darwinism?
What you’d like to see is a good case for gradual change from one species to another in the field, in the laboratory, or in the fossil record—and preferably in all three. Darwin’s big mystery was why there was no record at all before a specific point [dated to 542 million years ago by modern researchers], and then all of a sudden in the fossil record you get nearly all the major types of animals. The paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould studied lakes in East Africa and on Caribbean islands looking for Darwin’s gradual change from one species of trilobite or snail to another. What they found was lots of back-and-forth variation in the population and then—whoop—a whole new species. There is no gradualism in the fossil record.
Gould used the term “punctuated equilibrium” to describe what he interpreted as actual leaps in evolutionary change. Most biologists disagreed, suggesting a wealth of missing fossil evidence yet to be found. Where do you stand in the debate?
“Punctuated equilibrium” was invented to describe the discontinuity in the appearance of new species, and symbiogenesis supports the idea that these discontinuities are real. An example: Most clams live in deep, fairly dark waters. Among one group of clams is a species whose ancestors ingested algae—a typical food—but failed to digest them and kept the algae under their shells. The shell, with time, became translucent, allowing sunlight in. The clams fed off their captive algae and their habitat expanded into sunlit waters. So there’s a discontinuity between the dark-dwelling, food-gathering ancestor and the descendants that feed themselves photosynthetically.
What about the famous “beak of the finch” evolutionary studies of the 1970s? Didn’t they vindicate Darwin?
Peter and Rosemary Grant, two married evolutionary biologists, said, ‘To hell with all this theory; we want to get there and look at speciation happening.’ They measured the eggs, beaks, et cetera, of finches on Daphne Island, a small, hilly former volcano top in Ecuador’s Galápagos, year after year. They found that during floods or other times when there are no big seeds, the birds with big beaks can’t eat. The birds die of starvation and go extinct on that island.
Did the Grants document the emergence of new species?
They saw this big shift: the large-beaked birds going extinct, the small-beaked ones spreading all over the island and being selected for the kinds of seeds they eat. They saw lots of variation within a species, changes over time. But they never found any new species—ever. They would say that if they waited long enough they’d find a new species.
Some of your criticisms of natural selection sound a lot like those of Michael Behe, one of the most famous proponents of “intelligent design,” and yet you have debated Behe. What is the difference between your views?
The critics, including the creationist critics, are right about their criticism. It’s just that they’ve got nothing to offer but intelligent design or “God did it.” They have no alternatives that are scientific.
You claim that the primary mechanism of evolution is not mutation but symbiogenesis, in which new species emerge through the symbiotic relationship between two or more kinds of organisms. How does that work?
All visible organisms are products of symbiogenesis, without exception. The bacteria are the unit. The way I think about the whole world is that it’s like a pointillist painting. You get far away and it looks like Seurat’s famous painting of people in the park (jpg). Look closely: The points are living bodies—different distributions of bacteria. The living world thrived long before the origin of nucleated organisms [the eukaryotic cells, which have genetic material enclosed in well-defined membranes]. There were no animals, no plants, no fungi. It was an all-bacterial world—bacteria that have become very good at finding specialized niches. Symbiogenesis recognizes that every visible life-form is a combination or community of bacteria.
How could communities of bacteria have formed completely new, more complex levels of life?
Symbiogenesis recognizes that the mitochondria [the energy factories] in animal, plant, and fungal cells came from oxygen-respiring bacteria and that chloroplasts in plants and algae—which perform photosynthesis—came from cyanobacteria. These used to be called blue-green algae, and they produce the oxygen that all animals breathe.
Are you saying that a free-living bacterium became part of the cell of another organism? How could that have happened?
At some point an amoeba ate a bacterium but could not digest it. The bacterium produced oxygen or made vitamins, providing a survival advantage to both itself and the amoeba. Eventually the bacteria inside the amoeba became the mitochondria. The green dots you see in the cells of plants originated as cyanobacteria. This has been proved without a doubt.
And that kind of partnership drives major evolutionary change?
The point is that evolution goes in big jumps. That idea has been called macromutation, and I was denigrated in 1967 at Harvard for mentioning it. “You believe in macromutation? You believe in acquired characteristics?” the important professor Keith Porter asked me with a sneer. No, I believe in acquired genomes.
“You know what the index fossil of Homo sapiens in the recent fossil record is going to be? The squashed remains of the automobile. There will be a layer in the fossil record where you’re going to know people were here because of the automobiles. It will be a very thin layer.”
Can you give an example of symbiogenesis in action?

Look at this cover of Plant Physiology [a major journal in the field]. The animal is a juvenile slug. It has no photosynthesis ancestry. Then it feeds on algae and takes in chloroplasts. This photo is taken two weeks later. Same animal. The slug is completely green. It took in algae chloroplasts, and it became completely photosynthetic and lies out in the sun. At the end of September, these slugs turn red and yellow and look like dead leaves. When they lay eggs, those eggs contain the gene for photosynthesis inside. Or look at a cow. It is a 40-gallon fermentation tank on four legs. It cannot digest grass and needs a whole mess of symbiotic organisms in its overgrown esophagus to digest it. The difference between cows and related species like bison or musk ox should be traced, in part, to the different symbionts they maintain.
But if these symbiotic partnerships are so stable, how can they also drive evolutionary change?
Symbiosis is an ecological phenomenon where one kind of organism lives in physical contact with another. Long-term symbiosis leads to new intracellular structures, new organs and organ systems, and new species as one being incorporates another being that is already good at something else. This major mode of evolutionary innovation has been ignored by the so-called evolutionary biologists. They think they own evolution, but they’re basically anthropocentric zoologists. They’re playing the game while missing four out of five of the cards. The five are bacteria, protoctists, fungi, animals, and plants, and they’re playing with just animals—a fifth of the deck. The evolutionary biologists believe the evolutionary pattern is a tree. It’s not. The evolutionary pattern is a web—the branches fuse, like when algae and slugs come together and stay together.
In contrast, the symbiotic view of evolution has a long lineage in Russia, right?
From the very beginning the Russians said natural selection was a process of elimination and could not produce all the diversity we see. They understood that symbiogenesis was a major source of innovation, and they rejected Darwin. If the English-speaking world owns natural selection, the Russians own symbiogenesis. In 1924, this man Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky wrote a book called Symbiogenesis: A New Principle of Evolution, in which he reconciled Darwin’s natural selection as the eliminator and symbiogenesis as the innovator. Kozo-Polyansky looked at cilia—the wavy hairs that some microbes use to move—and said it is not beyond the realm of possibility that cilia, the tails of sperm cells, came from “flagellated cytodes,” by which he clearly meant swimming bacteria.
Has that idea ever been verified?
The sense organs of vertebrates have modified cilia: The rods and cone cells of the eye have cilia, and the balance organ in the inner ear is lined with sensory cilia. You tilt your head to one side and little calcium carbonate stones in your inner ear hit the cilia. This has been known since shortly after electron microscopy came in 1963. Sensory cilia did not come from random mutations. They came by acquiring a whole genome of a symbiotic bacterium that could already sense light or motion. Specifically, I think it was a spirochete [a corkscrew-shaped bacterium] that became the cilium.
Don’t spirochetes cause syphilis?
Yes, and Lyme disease. There are many kinds of spirochetes, and if I’m right, some of them are ancestors to the cilia in our cells. Spirochete bacteria are already optimized for sensitivity to motion, light, and chemicals. All eukaryotic cells have an internal transport system. If I’m right, the whole system—called the cytoskeletal system—came from the incorporation of ancestral spirochetes. Mitosis, or cell division, is a kind of internal motility system that came from these free-living, symbiotic, swimming bacteria. Here [she shows a video] we compare isolated swimming sperm tails to free-swimming spirochetes. Is that clear enough?

And yet these ideas are not generally accepted. Why?
Do you want to believe that your sperm tails come from some spirochetes? Most men, most evolutionary biologists, don’t. When they understand what I’m saying, they don’t like it.
We usually think of bacteria as strictly harmful. You disagree?
We couldn’t live without them. They maintain our ecological physiology. There are vitamins in bacteria that you could not live without. The movement of your gas and feces would never take place without bacteria. There are hundreds of ways your body wouldn’t work without bacteria. Between your toes is a jungle; under your arms is a jungle. There are bacteria in your mouth, lots of spirochetes, and other bacteria in your intestines. We take for granted their influence. Bacteria are our ancestors. One of my students years ago cut himself deeply with glass and accidentally inoculated himself with at least 10 million spirochetes. We were all scared but nothing happened. He didn’t even have an allergic reaction. This tells you that unless these microbes have a history with people, they’re harmless.

Are you saying that the only harmful bacteria are the ones that share an evolutionary history with us?
Right. Dangerous spirochetes, like the Treponema of syphilis or the Borrelia of Lyme disease, have long-standing symbiotic relationships with us. Probably they had relationships with the prehuman apes from which humans evolved. Treponema has lost four-fifths of its genes, because you’re doing four-fifths of the work for it. And yet people don’t want to understand that chronic spirochete infection is an example of symbiosis.
You have upset many medical researchers with the suggestion that corkscrew-shaped spirochetes turn into dormant “round bodies.” What’s that debate all about?
Spirochetes turn into round bodies in any unfavorable condition where they survive but cannot grow. The round body is a dormant stage that has all the genes and can start growing again, like a fungal spore. Lyme disease spirochetes become round bodies if you suspend them in distilled water. Then they come out and start to grow as soon as you put them in the proper food medium with serum in it. The common myth is that penicillin kills spirochetes and therefore syphilis is not a problem. But syphilis is a major problem because the spirochetes stay hidden as round bodies and become part of the person’s very chemistry, which they commandeer to reproduce themselves. Indeed, the set of symptoms, or syndrome, presented by syphilitics overlaps completely with another syndrome: AIDS.
Wait—you are suggesting that AIDS is really syphilis?
There is a vast body of literature on syphilis spanning from the 1500s until after World War II, when the disease was supposedly cured by penicillin. Yet the same symptoms now describe AIDS perfectly. It’s in our paper “Resurgence of the Great Imitator.” Our claim is that there’s no evidence that HIV is an infectious virus, or even an entity at all. There’s no scientific paper that proves the HIV virus causes AIDS. Kary Mullis [winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for DNA sequencing, and well known for his unconventional scientific views] said in an interview that he went looking for a reference substantiating that HIV causes AIDS and discovered, “There is no such document.”
“Do you want to believe that your sperm tails come from some spirochetes? Most men, most evolutionary biologists, don’t. When they understand what I’m saying, they don’t like it.”

Syphilis has been called “the great imitator” because patients show a whole range of symptoms in a given order. You have a genital chancre, your symptoms go away, then you have the pox, this skin problem, and then it’s chronic, and you get sicker and sicker. The idea that penicillin kills the cause of the disease is nuts. If you treat the painless chancre in the first few days of infection, you may stop the bacterium before the symbiosis develops, but if you really get syphilis, all you can do is live with the spirochete. The spirochete lives permanently as a symbiont in the patient. The infection cannot be killed because it becomes part of the patient’s genome and protein synthesis biochemistry. After syphilis establishes this symbiotic relationship with a person, it becomes dependent on human cells and is undetectable by any testing.
Is there a connection here between syphilis and Lyme disease, which is also caused by a spirochete and which is also said to be difficult to treat when diagnosed late?
Both the Treponema that cause syphilis and the Borrelia that cause Lyme disease contain only a fifth of the genes they need to live on their own. Related spirochetes that can live outside by themselves need 5,000 genes, whereas the spirochetes of those two diseases have only 1,000 in their bodies. The 4,000 missing gene products needed for bacterial growth can be supplied by wet, warm human tissue. This is why both the Lyme disease Borrelia and syphilis Treponema are symbionts—they require another body to survive. These Borrelia and Treponema have a long history inside people. Syphilis has been detected in skull abnormalities going back to the ancient Egyptians. But I’m interested in spirochetes only because of our ancestry. I’m not interested in the diseases.
When you talk about the evolutionary intelligence of bacteria, it almost sounds like you think of them as conscious beings.
I do think consciousness is a property of all living cells. All cells are bounded by a membrane of their own making. To sense chemicals—food or poisons—it takes a cell. To have a sense of smell takes a cell. To sense light, it takes a cell. You have to have a bounded entity with photoreceptors inside to sense light. Bacteria are conscious. These bacterial beings have been around since the origin of life and still are running the soil and the air and affecting water quality.
Your perspective is rather humbling.
The species of some of the protoctists are 542 million years old. Mammal species have a mean lifetime in the fossil record of about 3 million years. And humans. You know what the index fossil of Homo sapiens in the recent fossil record is going to be? The squashed remains of the automobile. There will be a layer in the fossil record where you’re going to know people were here because of the automobiles. It will be a very thin layer.
Do we overrate ourselves as a species?
Yes, but we can’t help it. Look, there are nearly 7,000 million people on earth today and there are 10,000 chimps, and the numbers are getting fewer every day because we’re destroying their habitat. Reg Morrison, who wrote a wonderful book called The Spirit in the Gene, says that although we’re 99 percent genetically in common with chimps, that 1 percent makes a huge difference. Why? Because it makes us believe that we’re the best on earth. But there is lots of evidence that we are “mammalian weeds.” Like many mammals, we overgrow our habitats and that leads to poverty, misery, and wars.
Why do you have a reputation as a heretic?
Anyone who is overtly critical of the foundations of his science is persona non grata. I am critical of evolutionary biology that is based on population genetics. I call it zoocentrism. Zoologists are taught that life starts with animals, and they block out four-fifths of the information in biology [by ignoring the other four major groups of life] and all of the information in geology.
You have attacked population genetics—the foundation of much current evolutionary research—as “numerology.” What do you mean by that term?
When evolutionary biologists use computer modeling to find out how many mutations you need to get from one species to another, it’s not mathematics—it’s numerology. They are limiting the field of study to something that’s manageable and ignoring what’s most important. They tend to know nothing about atmospheric chemistry and the influence it has on the organisms or the influence that the organisms have on the chemistry. They know nothing about biological systems like physiology, ecology, and biochemistry. Darwin was saying that changes accumulate through time, but population geneticists are describing mixtures that are temporary. Whatever is brought together by sex is broken up in the next generation by the same process. Evolutionary biology has been taken over by population geneticists. They are reductionists ad absurdum. Population geneticist Richard Lewontin gave a talk here at UMass Amherst about six years ago, and he mathematized all of it—changes in the population, random mutation, sexual selection, cost and benefit. At the end of his talk he said, “You know, we’ve tried to test these ideas in the field and the lab, and there are really no measurements that match the quantities I’ve told you about.” This just appalled me. So I said, “Richard Lewontin, you are a great lecturer to have the courage to say it’s gotten you nowhere. But then why do you continue to do this work?” And he looked around and said, “It’s the only thing I know how to do, and if I don’t do it I won’t get my grant money.” So he’s an honest man, and that’s an honest answer.
Do you ever get tired of being called controversial?
I don’t consider my ideas controversial. I consider them right.

Margulis’ solution to AIDS puzzle

Insofar as the so-called AIDS virus HIV has been shown by Nancy Padian to be utterly uninfectious, and yet HIV/AIDS researchers happily produce surveys and studies year after year which use infectiousness as a premise and seem to show it as a result, in changing rates of infection, Margulis is the only major HIV skeptic who has come up with a possibility in syphilis as a cause which accounts for this phenomenon, which otherwise has to be explained by the wide ranging cross reaction achieved by multiple versions of the HIV test.

But though everything else she believed about HIV/AIDS was quite right according to our own research in the literature over a quarter decade, we never quite saw her point on syphilis as being the best answer as to what causes AIDS, since although it might be sufficient it wasn’t necessary, ie the symptoms of syphilis were not as far as we know common to all or even many AIDS patients. Nor has AIDS ever shown any sign of being infectious in the general population. Now at least we have her public answer to this objection, in this exchange.

We congratulate Teresi on making sense of her ideas in his interview, which we would have liked to do ourselves, and planned to do, but Alas found Margulis too preoccupied with her current work when she visited New York, research which was changing biological theory as she did it. She preferred talking enthusiastically about the subtleties of her advanced investigations and wasn’t particularly keen on expressing herself in lay terms, which was why her many good introductory books relied on the writing abilities of her son Dorion Sagan.

Further reading: John Horgan at Scientific American:
R.I.P. Lynn Margulis, Biological Rebel:

Toward the end of our interview, I asked Margulis if she minded always being referred to as a provocateur or gadfly, or someone who was “fruitfully wrong,” as one scientist put it. She pressed her lips together, brooding over the question. “It’s kind of dismissive, not serious,” she replied. “I mean, you wouldn’t do this to a serious scientist, would you?” She stared at me, and I finally realized her question was not rhetorical; she really wanted an answer. I agreed that the descriptions seemed somewhat condescending.

“Yeah, that’s right,” she mused. Such criticism did not bother her, she insisted. “Anyone who makes this kind of ad hominem criticism exposes himself, doesn’t he? I mean, if their argument is just based on provocative adjectives about me rather than the substance of the issue, then…” Her voice trailed off. Like other mavericks I have met, Margulis could not help but yearn, now and then, to be a respected member of the status quo, whose work merely confirmed the prevailing paradigm. But without courageous rebels like her, science would never achieve any progress.

Rebels are lonely hunters

This view of heretics yearning for acceptance beneath it all is a common note sounded by journalists and bloggers, who may like to think that the comfort they find in going along with social norms and common assumptions is evidence of common humanity.

But we like to think that the reason that top level heretics “yearn” to be accepted members of the “status quo” is because they deserve higher standing than most of the members of the pyramid they are trying to move, including most if not all the ones at the tip.

It must be one of the great burdens for any human being to drag through life, the disrespect and antagonism of the great mass of their fellows who should know better, but don’t. Especially when they contemplate who does as a rule gain power in society, and in their fields, especially nowadays, when the scientist of great integrity who follows the most elemental rule of good science, to question yourself, seems to be becoming almost extinct among those that the media likes to celebrate.

A fine remembrance of Margulis as a friend has been written by Celia Farber, the noted literary journalist and science reporter celebrated for her coverage of the HIV/AIDS scientific boondoggle, at her personal blog The Truth Barrier: Lynn Margulis In Memoriam.

Her 9/11 embarrassment

Did this man let his Saudi friends escape FBI grillings for unknown reasons?  Of course, outside her field of expertise Lynn was as vulnerable to superficially attractive skepticism (which on deeper inspection is probably flawed) as much as any other questioner in life who has learned how much of their own field is ill founded. We’d say that she was a prize specimen of this kind of slip in being overly impressed by 9/11 skeptic David Ray Griffin. There are unexplained anomalies in the 9/11 story, but none seem sufficient to justify an alternative to the core official story.

I arrive at this conclusion largely as the result of the research and clear writing by David Ray Griffin in his fabulous books about 9/11. I first met him when he was a speaker at a scholarly conference unrelated to 9/11. He immediately impressed me as a brilliant, outstanding philosopher – theologian – author, a Whiteheadian scholar motivated by an intense curiosity to know everything possible about the world.

Certainly we don’t agree with Margulis in saying “Certainly, 19 young Arab men and a man in a cave 7,000 miles away, no matter the level of their anger, could not have masterminded and carried out 9/11: the most effective television commercial in the history of Western civilization.” The low tech accessibility of the window the gang found into global attention was the key to their strategy, and they evidently did not expect such a catastrophic collapse of both towers.

Here is her written statement, and here is her video on the topic. Both suggest to us that her research on the topic was quite shallow and her judgment relied heavily on her personal impression of Griffin, a key figure in the field.

But this is understandable. The essential loneliness of heretics leads them to bond enthusiastically with any others they meet who are intellectually up to the mark, and thus they are quickly subject to exactly the same group psychology that glues together those who believe in conventional wisdom in the face of evidence that it flouts both common sense and scientific review.

Her main point seems to have been that Building 7 was brought down by explosives, but this lacks evidence as far as we know, though there were reports of police warning people to steer clear of it, standard procedure for a building which was threatening to collapse. For a list of 9/11 report omissions see Griffin’s list.

For a provocative list of early warnings of 9/11 see Did Some People Foretell the 9/11 Attack on America? at

12 Responses to “The great Lynn Margulis dies from a sudden stroke at 73”

  1. cervantes Says:

    Truthseeker, It is remarkable as you point out how ‘dissidents’ such as Lynn Margulis consider the 9/11 aircraft attacks as unattainable because 19 hijackers could not carry it off.

    But, here I disagree with Margulis; in fact it is BECAUSE the hijackers were such a small number, they could indeed take it all the way to their murderous goal. A small, completely dedicated team can do wonders – as opposed to, for example, the Bay of Pigs fiasco requiring large large numbers of participants, coordination by different CIA operatives, ships, aircraft, etc.

    I shall segue to a topic long ago briefly mentioned here, but strangely not on one of Science Guardian’s front burners. It is vaccines injected into American infants, and the presently acknowledged frequency of the autism “spectrum” at 1 in 90 occurring up to age 3, accompanied by catastrophic numbers of these kids now incurring permanent asthma, autoimmune, deadly allergies, Crohn’s disease, celiac disorders, other bowel inflammations, seizures, palsies, on and on, to the tune of over 25% of American kids.

    Below I present the Immunization Chart for aged 0 to 6 years for American infants and kids; I call it America’s Chart for Self-Mass Destruction. Summing up, by 6-7 months 26 doses of vaccines can be injected intramuscularly into babies; by 18 months 41+ doses are injected (I am counting the pregnant mother’s flu shot, and her newborn getting flu shots at 6 and 7 months per the CDC.

    What has been missing before on Science Guardian is the focus on mercury and thimerosal; BUT there are 5 to 7 other toxic ingredients in EVERY shot and always the profound risk of contaminants that cannot be tested for. Here it is, it speaks for itself:

    It is further worth noting Dr. Andrew Wakefield (and his 12 co-authors) in their 1998 Lancet paper were right – and the lynch-press of the last 2 years is dead wrong.

  2. cervantes Says:

    ps: Correction. My last paragraph before the Chart should have read: “What has been missing before on Science Guardian is OTHER than the focus on mercury/thimerosal as there are 5 to 7+ other toxic ingredients in every shot and always the additional profound risk of contaminants that cannot be tested for, Here it is, it speaks for itself:

  3. stevekj Says:

    It continues to baffle me that a sharp enquiring mind such as that possessed by the long-suffering blo’ host can accept at face value an official government conspiracy story like the 9/11 terrorists account. Since you are familiar, TS, with the propensity of authority figures and well-funded organizations such as corporations and governments to make things up to suit their own needs, it should not be considered a-priori ridiculous that they would do such a thing in this case too. Yet this appears to be your stance. Whether a group of 19 cave-dwellers could muster the skills to commandeer three planes and fly them into predesignated targets is not even the main issue. A much more important question is: how do steel-framed skyscrapers collapse? Into their own footprints? Other than the three WTC towers which are claimed to have collapsed from sheer structural failure, this has never been known to occur on any other occasion, including under the influence of earthquakes, fires, floods, aircraft impacts, or anything else, save controlled demolition. Indeed your statement that WTC 7 was in fact demolished in a controlled fashion in order to prevent an uncontrolled collapse is a new one to me, but even if that were the official story, it still implies that somebody had rigged that building to be demolished beforehand, which is categorically not part of the official story. A controlled demolition is not something you can set up and carry off in 5 minutes when you suddenly realize that the building has significant damage and might fall over (not the same as collapsing).

    So I would not categorize the estimable Dr. Margulis’ opinions on 9/11 as an embarrassment to her. Rather, I would categorize your dismissal of her opinions as a-priori unfounded, solely because they run counter to the establishment story (or even because they are based on the opinions of someone else who has done his research, rather than her having done her own), as an embarrassment to you.

    I would also second cervantes’ request to put in more coverage of vaccine scandals. You requested more facts from me after my last comment on this topic, and I have not put anything together in that regard as yet. However, there are several web sites that do cover this topic in great detail for interested readers. I would recommend starting with either VRAN ( or NVIC ( I would only point out here that calling on Dr. Paul Offitt as an authoritative voice on vaccine safety issues, as you did earlier, is exactly equivalent to calling on Anthony Fauci as an authority on the veracity of HIV and AIDS related statements. Each is in a position of authority in their respective fields, and each has very powerful reasons for defending the highly lucrative status quo. As we all know by now from our extensive truthseeking endeavours, that situation should set off lots of warning bells.

  4. cervantes Says:

    Stevekj – pleasantly surprised to hear you bring up VRAN and NVIC, and I endorse your mentioning Offit and Fauci both rowing their $billion dollar boats having hulls both constructed of countless webs of leaky half-truths, pro-Industry studies, while studiously ignoring the immense proof of the immense damage and death by drugs and vaccines they cheerfully champion.

    What is irrefutable has been the U.S. taxpayers, via Congress line-budgets, has now been bilked for $350 Billion dollars for Fauci’s AIDS world, $28 Billion alone for 2012, an AIDS world that would instantly vanish and be solved if Fauci would do a legitimate ‘no treatment vs. treatment cohort’ study that truly left out ALL the antiretrovirals/etc. versus a true untreated group having a true saline (no drugs at all) placebo; this has not been done (because of Fauci) for 25 years.

    True U.S. studies of vaccine vs. no vaccine cohorts have also NEVER been done, because the ‘no vaccine’ cohort still is injected with the vaccine potions but only missing the antigens, yet all the other vaccine components ARE LEFT IN THE so-called placebo, such as aluminum salt adjuvants, other adjuvants, preservatives including with/witout mercury, antibiotics, processing chemicals, anti-foaming agents, foreign-tissue particles including aborted human baby tissue and animal tissue used to grow the vaccines, and yes, contaminants, etc.

    In addition to VRAN and NVIC there are other useful objective sources to go to including the web newspaper called Age of Autism started 5 years ago by a UPI Field Editor (long gone from UPI) Dan Olmsted. Among other stories Olmsted revealed the home-schooling world of 35,000 patients in the Chicago region treated by 6 collaborating doctors including Homefirst’s Dr. Mayer Eisentein on record (with a book also) that none of their babies and kids have ever been diagnosed with the autism spectrum. It is vital to note that their home schoolers in large part decide to homeschool their kids to avoid the horrific mandated vaccines required by School Authorities.

    What is critical to remember is before vaccines became ever-increasing starting in the 1940’s, the best authorities around the world cited but one case per 10,000. Now the U.S. (having the heaviest vaccine schedule) has been recently, grudgingly, acknowledged by the CDC to have autism in more than one in a hundred (or 100 per 10,000) kids by age 3 – and with every year now 750,000 American-born babies (out of 4 million) will incur lifelong disabilities (if not outright death by SIDS brought by two dozen injected vaccine doses by 6-7 months that I mentioned previously. (see previous Immunization Schedule). What has to be emphasized is almost all of these damaged infants/kids REGRESS (and the annual 5,000 infants who die as SIDS/SUID cases in their cribs or bedding) to their diagnoses immediately or soon after being vaccinated.

    Yet – CDC and NIH and FDA and AMA and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) say all these dire/deadly afflictions cannot not possibly be from babies getting these hundreds of toxic ingredients injected into them while they at an age that is merely a brief extension from their mothers’ wombs. I didn’t think medical stupidity and politics could ever surpass Gallo and Fauci’s AIDS world, but The Immunization Schedule is a 9-Richter Scale Earthquake-Tsunami compared to Gallo and Fauci’s doomed iatrogenic-fabricated AIDS fender-bender.

  5. Truthseeker Says:

    Rather impressive, gentlemen, though more impressive if accompanied by weighty journal and other published references, rather than websites. Regarding Lynn’s skepticism that a small group could accomplish a major catastrophe, I agree Cervantes, the opposite is true – they accomplished it because of their tiny size, rather than in spite of it.

    The grand irony we see in 9/11 is that small group or individual attack is precisely the strategy called for in wars of subnational level, where there is no defined battleground or front line. Instead of the US having the sense to pursue this line of offense, where good intelligence and the use of brainpower can enable a small group to penetrate through chinks in otherwise impenetrable military armor, or holes in the curtain that conceals secret groups and their leadership from armies and police, the strategy was adopted by Al Quaeda, and brilliantly succeeded.

    How remarkable that Vietnam taught the Americans nothing, as they became even more infatuated with the power of heavy arms and advanced technology, partly because it offered the way to escape casualties, and thus they suffered greater setbacks than ever before in 9/11 and Iraq and now soon in Afghanistan, and still horrendous causalties in death and even worse, crippling injury.

    Finally technology seems to be working, with drones able to kill individual terrorists from afar with sufficient though not perfect accuracy, based on sufficient though not perfect intelligence. But how much more could have been accomplished if the Pentagon and the State Department and the CIA had mastered the required infiltration and assassination techniques earlier, at a fraction of the cost of heavy equipment and its use, which can really only topple and take over national governments, at huge political expense.

    But of course, those in high position in government bureaucracy and the Pentagon and its lobbyists do not benefit from switching over to stripped down, lethal efficiency. They want their numbers and expenditures to grow, not diminish, regardless of the concomitant neglect of domestic priorities such as education, jobs and retraining, bridges and railways and other infrastructure, and so on.

    All this must be obvious to many inside government, so the real reason must be that self-serving s.o.b.s must have won the game inside the corridors of power, just as they tend to win out everywhere else, with a few splendid exceptions. Perhaps the WWW and its tendency to turn over the stone and expose the roaches to light will finally solve this problem, and we will live to see Tim Berners-Lee awarded the Nobel peace prize.

    Meanwhile, where are the references for what you believe in stating HIV/AIDS Federal expenditure of $28 billion this year, and that there are “catastrophic” numbers of American infants suffering all kinds of ailments as a result of overvaccination at too early an age, rather than having those ailments induced by household contaminants, say?

    What is your published reference for believing that Dr Offit is another Anthony Fauci, but in the area of vaccine justification?

    What is your reference for believing that Building 7 could not have collapsed of its own accord (my apparently incorrect belief that it was primed for demolition was based only on the report that the police were warning people to keep away, according to my casual source)?

    What is your reference for stating that no studies have truly been done comparing vaccinated infants with not vaccinated, because those in the latter group are still vaccinated with a lot of the carrier adulterates, and

    What is your reference in saying that nearly all the ones with problems regress immediately or immediately after they receive vaccinations (and wouldn’t that be expected if such problems typically appear at that age)?

    You make a good logical case for suspicion but what we need to know is what (supposedly) good science has found when it looked into the problem and (presumably) applied professional standards of evidence, both in the case of 9/11 and in the case of vaccinations. Has nothing been done in this regard? Nothing has been done in the case of HIV/AIDS, of course. Any funding proposals involving testing the evidence that HIV causes any illness itself have been rejected, at least in the case of Peter Duesberg, even when supported by the ex-editor of Science Daniel Koshland.

    A priori it is easy to credit suggestions that infants can be over vaccinated, especially when their immune system has hardly formed. But crediting 9/11 conspiracy theory a priori is difficult when all we have are the usual Kennedy assassination type cloud of small anomalies that surrounds every major event that conspiracy theorists start drilling into on the Web, where every kind of possibility however unlikely is surrounded by loose speculation and spurious association.

    What do we have that shows that 9/11 and the suspicion of vaccination are not just the usual matches applied to combustible ignorance? What are the unanswerable anomalies properly confirmed in published reports which are not easily discredited?

    What are the soundbites that in this modern media cacophony command attentive silence?

  6. cervantes Says:

    TS, References clearly implicating vaccines causing irreparable damage and death to infants are similarly abundant as Duesberg, Rasnick, Koehnlein references cited in their published 2003 “Chemical Bases — ” citing hundreds of refs documenting the bankruptcy of HIV/AIDS; their references were of course ignored by the Fauci-World and their media lapdogs. Nevertheless, let me lead you to some references on vaccine damage.

    Take NVIC. I’m surprised, for instance, you seem to make light of NVIC as a website when here on Science Guardian you have noted it is the World-wide web (and its sites) are the wherewithall to take on the $100 Billion Fauci/Pharma AIDS mainstream media machines.

    So, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) was founded in 1982 by Barbara Loe Fisher and her husband after their son was permanently stricken after a vaccination, and been active with bricks/mortar office soon thereafter, now located in Vienna, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.

    You would do well to thoroughly peruse their site, check their links to VAERS* (the Federal vaccine adverse events reporting system) and also call NVIC, ask for Barbara, and see what happens.

    *It is acknowledged by even the medical establishment that at most only 10% of adverse reactions actually make it onto VAERS.

    Vaccine ingredient dangers are easy to grasp for me, and you I hope, compared to molecular HIV-RNA (never truly authenticated by electron microscopes). Imagine an ADULT such as yourself (or me) getting in a brief 5 minutes eight injected doses of different vaccines with their all toxic ingredients, but at dose-amounts 20 TIMES the newborn gets two months from the womb. Critically and typically, an infant usually gets one-half (1/2) an adult dose!! – an adult who is 20 times larger!

    And these toxic injections are done repetitively the first 6-7 months! — see again The Schedule:

    German doctor Dr. Gerhard Buchwald (R.I.P) for the last 40 years of his life wrote and testified in court on vaccine damage to infants/kids. A major point he kept making was that every vaccine shot conferred some damage to every baby, but was impossible to measure because (of course) there was not a comparable cohort of one.

    An aside: Why is everything underlined? And pardon my typos. ((Sorry about that underlining, now corrected – an html tag was left unclosed in the heading.-Ed.))

  7. cervantes Says:

    TS, Here’s a current reference citing aluminum in vaccines as published by Age of Autism, a web source I mentioned before, and with contributors citing Studies you have to take the time to review for yourself.

  8. Truthseeker Says:

    Finally one (indirect) reference, otherwise websites. But the one you lead us to seem prima facie a clincher. The situation, it seems, is ripe for reassessment. Since virtually every one of the four million babes a year in this country are assaulted in such a “depraved” manner with aluminum adjuvant (added to maximize response and minimize the antigen, let’s note) and diagnosed autism rates are rising so steeply this does seem concern is warranted.

    Given the number of parents who now evade immunization (presumably substantial) there should be a cohort of unvaccinated infants to compare, surely, any time the defenders of the status quo like to fund such a review study. But I am surprised you haven’t made up a handy list of ten papers to throw at doubters. Why can’t you give us the ten papers you find most alarming, on a topic you are personally following closely?

    The topic does deserve to be moved to the front burner, along with the nine others jostling for a place. But the only way things can be challenged effectively is with a bushel of papers pointing to the problem which force respect for the skeptics. After all, vaccination itself works well, I presume you agree. What you seem to be questioning is over-vaccination, and the adulterants introduced, right? Even though the claim is that the autism rate has not been reduced now that thimerosol has been removed?

  9. cervantes Says:

    Au contraire TS, vaccination per se for foreign travel may have some justification for adults, yet the extreme dangers of vaccine reactions in my view outweigh possible benefit. Of course, all adult illnesses and deaths (via vaccine shots) are under the radar because of the present mindset there’s no danger from vaccines, so today’s mindset is don’t even go there.

    As to newborns and infants – have you completely ignored the Immunization Chart I have sent that dictates a Hepatitis B vaccine injection on the day of birth? And the injections at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months? – vaccination at any age less than one year of age is indeed medical manslaughter (ala SIDS).

    A “handy list” you ask that indicts vaccines? Surely you jest. There are hundreds, exemplified by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and the 12 other top doctors in their 1998 Lancet Paper, to indict the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shot.

    At a calmer moment, perhaps I shall compile the Top Ten Studies on vaccine-caused deaths/autism.

  10. cervantes Says:

    TS, you said “Vaccination itself works well, I presume you agree?”.

    I disagree. Our human condition/physiology developed in concert with “pathogens” now called mumps, measles, pertusis (whooping cough) chicken pox, polio, etc. These ‘pathogens’ are timeless, and wrongly now propagandized as deadly, whereas the treatments (antivirals such as Ribavirin I have cited before here on Science Guardian) given in hospitals to these kids actually cause their deaths.

    With mothers’ breast milk and further nutrition, babies and children all undergo exposure, mild “illness” (usually not even detected) to a further healthy adolescent, further life.

    Well-nourished babies are MEANT to undergo easily-tempered “trials by bacteria/virus” and to proceed on to an adult life. I ask, again, how injecting hundreds of toxin poisons into babies can not but result in catastrophe?

    Peter Duesberg cites hundreds, even thousands of published studies that buttress his conclusions. Yet, nobody excepting Science Guardian and a few others listen.

  11. cervantes Says:

    Truthseeker et al. – a long sigh. Listen up. Hearings by Senator Harkin on autism have been held since 2009, and Dr. Tom Insel of NIH testifies the 14-16 Studies he alludes to exonerate vaccinations as a cause.

    Insel’s testimony is directly opposed to parents at these Hearings who testify how immediately their kids regressed into horrific autistic and other permanent disabilities immediately or soon thereafter.

    Further testimony by Insel – he says it is “not ethical” to have a cohort of infants/kids not taking vaccinations per the Schedule (as they could incur the real course of dreaded diseases).

    However, as Senator Harkin’s panel-citizens said – there are already scores/hundreds of thousands of parents NOT letting their children be vaccinated. So, as they testify, there are ample numbers to do a ‘vax-non/vax’ Trial, asap.

    The Gold Standard – vaccinated vs. unvaccinated – and outcomes measuring all the consequences of any/all disease is a Standard is avoided at all costs by the Institutions committed to their immense power and profit.

    As I type this, I realize my thoughts reach a limited audience, and not your average family, but every parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle, and friends thereof, counts. Here is the Schedule again that mandates 26 injected doses of hundreds of toxic ingredients (and unknown contaminants) during an infant’s first 12 months.

  12. Truthseeker Says:

    Cervantes, your views demand respect, but they also demand laying out coherently in a post on SG. Why not simply write one and we shall put it up? Likewise with 9/11, if anyone among the skeptics has worked out a coherent critique. Send it to the, and it shall have pictures added and edited only for typos and spelling. This periodical was never intended to be an exclusive platform for a single scribe. Currently we are backlogged with AIDS, CERN, Jobs, Obama, 5 Tech items, 5 different cancers, dentistry, and other topics which cannot be specified till published, owing to their sensationally alarming nature. So write on!

    For connoisseurs of conspiracy theories, the latest one where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was caught in a plot to discredit him and ruin his chances for the presidency of France is a juicy fruit indeed. The basic details giving cause for suspicion are in the New York Review of Books account by Edward Jay Epstein, What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn?, and involve the notorious missing cellphone, still missing after three months, and known to have its GPS disarmed after its loss, the visit(s) to a nearby room that the maid (before and) after the event “forgot” to mention, the celebratory dance done by two individuals on security camera for which the reasons are still unknown, and the hours it took to deliver the maid to hospital for examination. All grist for the conspiracy mill, which has persuaded at least one political talk show host, John McLaughlin, that DSK was framed. However, the Epstein account is marred by a very obvious error, where the celebratory dance is said to have lasted three minutes, which should have been prima facie absurd, and has now been corrected by the NYRB editors to thirteen seconds, as the security camera showed and which is within the realm of possibility:

    May 14, 2011, was a horrendous day for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the International Monetary Fund and leading contender to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France in the April 2012 elections. Waking up in the presidential suite of the Sofitel New York hotel that morning, he was supposed to be soon enroute to Paris and then to Berlin where he had a meeting the following day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He could not have known that by late afternoon he would, instead, be imprisoned in New York on a charge of sexual assault. He would then be indicted by a grand jury on seven counts of attempted rape, sexual assault, and unlawful imprisonment, placed under house arrest for over a month, and, two weeks before all the charges were dismissed by the prosecutor on August 23, 2011, sued for sexual abuse by the alleged victim.

    He knew he had a serious problem with one of his BlackBerry cell phones—which he called his IMF BlackBerry. This was the phone he used to send and receive texts and e-mails—including for both personal and IMF business. According to several sources who are close to DSK, he had received a text message that morning from Paris from a woman friend temporarily working as a researcher at the Paris offices of the UMP, Sarkozy’s center-right political party. She warned DSK, who was then pulling ahead of Sarkozy in the polls, that at least one private e-mail he had recently sent from his BlackBerry to his wife, Anne Sinclair, had been read at the UMP offices in Paris.1 It is unclear how the UMP offices might have received this e-mail, but if it had come from his IMF BlackBerry, he had reason to suspect he might be under electronic surveillance in New York. He had already been warned by a friend in the French diplomatic corps that an effort would be made to embarrass him with a scandal. The warning that his BlackBerry might have been hacked was therefore all the more alarming.

    At 10:07 AM he called his wife in Paris on his IMF BlackBerry, and in a conversation that lasted about six minutes told her he had a big problem. He asked her to contact a friend, Stéphane Fouks, who could come to his home on the Place des Vosges and who could arrange to have both his BlackBerry and iPad examined by an expert in such matters. He had no time to do anything about it that morning. He had scheduled an early lunch with his twenty-six-year-old daughter Camille, a graduate student at Columbia, who wanted to introduce him to her new boyfriend. After that, he had to get to JFK Airport in time to catch his 4:40 PM flight to Paris.

    He had finished packing his suitcase just before noon, according to his own account, and then took a shower in the bathroom, which is connected to the bed in the suite by an interior corridor. According to the hotel’s electronic key records, which were provided to DSK’s lawyers, Nafissatou Diallo, a maid, had entered the presidential suite (room 2806) between 12:06 and 12:07 PM (such records are only accurate to the nearest minute).2 Ordinarily, cleaning personnel do not enter a room to clean when a guest is still in it. According to DSK’s account, his bags were visible in the foyer when he emerged naked from the bathroom into the interior corridor. At this point, according to his account, he encountered the maid in the corridor by the bathroom. (The maid, for her part, says she encountered him coming out of the bedroom.) Phone records show that by 12:13 PM he was speaking to his daughter Camille on his BlackBerry. The call lasted for forty seconds.

    What took place between DSK and the maid in those six to seven intervening minutes is a matter of dispute. DNA evidence found outside the bathroom door showed her saliva mixed with his semen. The New York prosecutor concluded that a “hurried sexual encounter” took place and DSK’s lawyers have admitted as much, while claiming that what happened was consensual. The maid has brought a civil suit claiming he used force. It is not clear when she left the room since key card records do not show times of exit. What is known is that DSK called his daughter on his IMF BlackBerry at 12:13 to tell her he would be late.

    After DSK completed his call, he dressed and put on his light black topcoat. He carried with him only one small overnight bag and a briefcase (which contained his iPad and several spare phones) and took the elevator to the lobby. At 12:28 PM the hotel security cameras show him departing. He had to go eight blocks to the McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant on Sixth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Street. He was delayed by heavy traffic on Sixth Avenue. The restaurant camera shows that he arrived at 12:54.

    Camille was with her new boyfriend. They had a quick meal, and at 2:15 PM, according to the restaurant’s surveillance cameras, DSK got in another taxi to go to the airport. Almost immediately, he discovered that his IMF BlackBerry was missing. It was the phone he had arranged to have examined for bugs in Paris and it was the phone that contained the earlier text message warning him about the interception of his messages. At 2:16 PM he called Camille, who had also just left the restaurant, on his spare BlackBerry and had her go back to the restaurant to search for it. Camera footage at the restaurant shows her crawling under the table. At 2:28 PM she sent him a text message saying that she could not find it. So DSK continued on to the airport.

    Back at the Sofitel, meanwhile, Nafissatou Diallo, the maid he had encountered in the presidential suite, had told hotel security that she had been sexually assaulted by a client in that suite. A thirty-two-year-old immigrant from Guinea, she had been working at the Sofitel for three years. At 2:30 PM she was shown a photograph of DSK by the hotel’s security people. According to the official bill of particulars—the statement of the basic facts of the case filed by the prosecutors—the police had apparently not yet fully taken over the case, even though the encounter between DSK and Diallo had occurred over two hours earlier.

    (Mike King
    A schematic drawing of the twenty-eighth floor of the Sofitel New York, with the presidential suite, room 2806, that was occupied by Dominique Strauss-Kahn on May 13 and 14. The nearby room 2820 was entered at least three times on May 14 by the Sofitel maid Nafissatou Diallo.)

    Part of the delay in bringing in the police may have been the result of Diallo’s not immediately voicing her complaint. After she had left DSK in the presidential suite around 12:13 PM—the time of his call to Camille—she remained on the VIP floor. The hotel’s electronic key records indicate that at 12:26 PM she entered 2820, another VIP suite on the same floor that she had already entered several times earlier that morning. Then, one to two minutes later, she went back to the now empty presidential suite. A few minutes after that, she encountered another housekeeper, her supervisor, in the corridor. In the course of their conversation, Diallo asked the supervisor what would happen if a hotel guest took advantage of a hotel employee. Initially, Diallo told her that this was only a hypothetical question; but then, when pressed further, she said that she had been assaulted by the guest in the presidential suite. The supervisor then brought her to the head of housekeeping, Renata Markozani, who reentered the presidential suite with Diallo at 12:42, according to the key records, and notified the hotel’s security and management personnel. At 12:52 PM, Diallo is seen arriving at the hotel’s security office on the ground floor, located near the 45th Street entrance. She is wearing a beige uniform, and is accompanied by Renata Markozani, whom she towers over. (She is five feet ten inches tall.)

    Shortly thereafter the hotel’s own security team was augmented by John Sheehan, a security expert who is identified on LinkedIn as “director of safety and security” at Accor, a part of the French-based Accor Group, which owns the Sofitel. Sheehan, who was at home in Washingtonville, New York, that morning, received a call from the Sofitel at 1:03 PM. He then rushed to the hotel. While en route, according to his cell phone records, he called a number with a 646 prefix in the United States. But from these records neither the name nor the location of the person he called can be determined. When I called the number a man with a heavy French accent answered and asked whom I wanted to speak with at Accor.3

    The man I asked to talk to—and to whom I was not put through—was René-Georges Querry, Sheehan’s ultimate superior at Accor and a well-connected former chief of the French anti-gang brigades, who was now head of security for the Accor Group. Before joining Accor Group in 2003, he had worked closely in the police with Ange Mancini, who is now coordinator for intelligence for President Sarkozy. Querry, at the time that Sheehan was making his call to the 646 number, was arriving at a soccer match in Paris where he would be seated in the box of President Sarkozy. Querry denies receiving any information about the unfolding drama at the Sofitel until after DSK was taken into custody about four hours later.

    Another person at the Accor Group whom Sheehan might have alerted was Xavier Graff, the duty officer at the Accor Group in Paris. Graff was responsible that weekend for handling emergencies at Accor Group hotels, including the Sofitel in New York. His name only emerged five weeks later when he sent a bizarre e-mail to his friend Colonel Thierry Bourret, the head of an environment and public health agency, claiming credit for “bringing down” DSK. After the e-mail was leaked to Le Figaro, Graff described it as a joke (it resulted, however, in his suspension as director of emergencies by the Accor Group). Even jokes can have a basis. In this case the joke was made by the person who was directly responsible for passing on information to his superiors, including the head of security at Accor, René-Georges Querry—information that, if acted on by informing the American authorities, could have helped destroy DSK’s career. But like Querry, Graff denied receiving any calls or messages from New York until later that evening, telling a French newspaper that the failure to inform him was an “incredible miss” (“loupé”).

    By the time Sheehan was called by the hotel at 1:03 PM, Diallo was seated on a bench in the hotel’s ground floor service area, just off the service entrance on 45th Street. Behind her was a “Dutch door,” with the upper half opened, that led to the hotel’s security office. Surveillance camera footage shows her entering the area with a tall unidentified man at 12:52 PM. She remains there until 2:05 PM. At 12:56, she is joined there by Brian Yearwood, the large, heavy-set man who is the hotel’s chief engineer. Yearwood had just come down from the presidential suite on the twenty-eighth floor, which he had entered at 12:51, according to the key records. Yearwood remained close to Diallo as she spoke to Adrian Branch, the security chief for the hotel, who remained behind the half-shut door of the security office. She can be seen gesturing with her hands for about four minutes, pointing to different parts of her body over and over again, suggesting she was telling and retelling her story.

    At 1:28, Sheehan, still on the way to the hotel, sent a text message to Yearwood. And then another text message to an unidentified recipient at 1:30. At 1:31—one hour after Diallo had first told a supervisor that she had been assaulted by the client in the presidential suite—Adrian Branch placed a 911 call to the police. Less than two minutes later, the footage from the two surveillance cameras shows Yearwood and an unidentified man walking from the security office to an adjacent area. This is the same unidentified man who had accompanied Diallo to the security office at 12:52 PM. There, the two men high-five each other, clap their hands, and do what looks like an extraordinary dance of celebration that lasts for three minutes.* They are then shown standing by the service door leading to 45th Street—apparently waiting for the police to arrive—where they are joined at 2:04 PM by Florian Schutz, the hotel manager.

    (Mike King
    A schematic drawing of the first floor of the Sofitel New York, based on plans registered with the New York City Department of Buildings)

    A minute later, at 2:05 PM, the footage shows two uniformed police officers arriving and then accompanying Diallo to an adjoining office. It is unclear if the police officially took over the case at this time or later. There is so far no explanation for why the security staff had delayed the call to the NYPD that would lead to a scandal involving the possible future president of France. What is clear is that they did so just three minutes after receiving a message from Sheehan. Nor is it clear why the two men were celebrating.

    The police arrived, according to the hotel’s security camera footage, at 2:05 PM. They then can be seen escorting Diallo to a room across from the security office. There is an unexplained discrepancy here concerning the information in the bill of particulars, which says that at approximately 2:30 PM, “a photograph of the defendant was shown to the witness [i.e., Diallo] by hotel security without police involvement.” If so, even after leaving the bench (and video surveillance) and going to a room with the police, she remained in the custody of Sofitel security. I asked both Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne and Deputy Inspector Kim Royster why, according to the bill of particulars, the police were not officially involved at this point, but they declined to comment.

    More than an hour later, at 3:28 PM, the police took her to St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was medically examined and they then formally interviewed her. She described to them a brutal and sustained sexual attack in which DSK locked the suite door, dragged her into the bedroom, and then dragged her down the inner corridor to a spot close to the bathroom door—a distance of about forty feet—and, after attempting to assault her both anally and vaginally, forced her twice to perform fellatio. After that, she fled the suite. As has been seen, according to the electronic key information, and to the record of DSK’s call to his daughter showing him speaking to her at 12:13, we can reasonably conclude that any such actions could have taken place only within a period of six or seven minutes, between 12:06–07 and 12:13, when he called his daughter.

    At 3:01 PM, as DSK was approaching the airport, he was still attempting to find his missing phone. He attempted to call it from his spare but received no answer. What he did not know was that at 12:51, according to the records of the BlackBerry company, it had been somehow disabled. At 3:29 PM, evidently unaware of what was happening at the Sofitel, he called the hotel from the taxi, saying, according to the police transcript, “I am Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I was a guest. I left my phone behind.” He then said he was in room “2806.” He was asked to give a phone number, so that he could be called back, after 2806 was searched for his phone.

    When he was called back thirteen minutes later, he spoke to a hotel employee who was in the presence of police detective John Mongiello. The hotel employee falsely told him that his phone had been found and asked where it could be delivered. DSK told him that he was at JFK Airport and that “I have a problem because my flight leaves at 4:26 PM.” He was reassured that someone could bring it to the airport in time. “OK, I am at the Air France Terminal, Gate 4, Flight 23,” DSK responded. So the police rushed to the airport. At 4:45 PM, police called DSK off the plane and took him into custody.

    DSK was then jailed and indicted by a grand jury on seven counts, including attempted rape, sexual abuse, and unlawful imprisonment. The court eventually dropped all the charges against him because the prosecutors found that the complainant, Diallo, had proven to be an untruthful witness. They wrote in the motion for dismissal that “the nature and number of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt.” They said that she “has given irreconcilable accounts of what happened,” and had lied not only to the prosecutors but under oath to the grand jury about her whereabouts after the encounter. She stated that she had hid in the hall after leaving the presidential suite, and entered no other room on the twenty-eighth floor until she told another maid about the attack (which was approximately fifteen minutes later).

    Bryan Smith/ZUMA Press/Corbis
    The Sofitel hotel, West 44th Street, New York, May 2011

    When asked why she had not used her pass key to go into another room, she said they all had “Do Not Disturb” signs on the door. After her grand jury testimony, prosecutors discovered that this was false when the hotel belatedly provided them with the electronic key records showing that Diallo had entered room 2820 at 12:26 PM, after her encounter with DSK. The same record showed that she had also entered room 2820 prior to her encounter with DSK at a time when the occupant had not checked out and may have been in the room. Why she concealed visiting 2820 was “inexplicable” to the prosecutors, who noted in their motion for dismissal that if she had mentioned her visits to 2820, it would have been declared part of the crime scene and searched by the police. But she did not do so.

    Nor were DSK’s lawyers able to find an explanation. When they attempted to learn the identity of the occupant of 2820, Sofitel refused to release it on grounds of privacy. Given Diallo’s conflicting accounts, all that we really know about what happened in the nearby room 2820 is that Diallo went there both before and after her encounter with DSK and then omitted the latter visit from her sworn testimony to the grand jury. We still do not know if there was anyone in 2820 when she entered it again following the encounter with DSK or if, prior to the police arriving, anyone influenced her to omit mention of room 2820.

    The Sofitel electronic key record, which the hotel did not turn over to the prosecutors until the next week, contained another unexplained anomaly. Two individuals, not one, entered DSK’s suite between 12:05 and 12:06 PM while he was showering. Each used a different key card entry. The key card used at 12:06 belonged to Diallo; the key card used at 12:05 belonged to Syed Haque, a room service employee who, according to his account, came to pick up the breakfast dishes. If he did so, he would have turned left and gone to the dining room. But Haque has refused to be interviewed by DSK’s lawyers, so his precise movements have not been made public. Since the key cards do not register the time of exit, it cannot be determined from them if both parties were in the room at the same time or, for that matter, at the time of Diallo’s encounter with DSK.

    DSK’s BlackBerry, with its messages, is still missing. Investigations by both the police and private investigators retained by DSK’s lawyers failed to find it. While DSK believed he had left it in the Sofitel, the records obtained from BlackBerry show that the missing phone’s GPS circuitry was disabled at 12:51. This stopped the phone from sending out signals identifying its location. Apart from the possibility of an accident, for a phone to be disabled in this way, according to a forensic expert, required technical knowledge about how the BlackBerry worked.

    From electronic information that became available to investigators in November 2011, it appears the phone never left the Sofitel. If it was innocently lost, whoever found it never used it, raising the question of by whom and why it was disabled at 12:51. In any case, its absence made it impossible for DSK to check—as he had planned to do—to see if it had been compromised. Nor was it possible to verify from the phone itself the report he received on May 14 that his messages were being intercepted. So we cannot confirm the warning to DSK that he was under surveillance on that disastrous day.

    One vexing mystery concerns the one-hour time gap in reporting the alleged attack on Diallo. After she said that she had been the victim of a brutal and sustained sexual assault, it is hard to understand how the security staff would have ruled out that she might require immediate medical attention. But as has been seen, until 1:31, several minutes after receiving a message from Sheehan, the security staff did not make the 911 call. She did not arrive at St. Luke’s Hospital until 3:57 PM, nearly four hours after the alleged attack. We do not know what decisions were made during that one-hour interval or how they influenced what was to later unfold with such dramatic impact.

    By the time the 911 call was finally made, the hotel’s management was presumably aware of the political explosion and scandal DSK’s arrest would cause. DSK could no longer be a challenger to Sarkozy. Such considerations, and the opportunities they presented, may have had no part whatever in the hotel’s handling of the situation, but without knowing the content of any messages between the hotel managers in New York and the security staffs in New York or Paris, among others, we cannot be sure. Meanwhile, several mysteries remain. Was there anyone in room 2820 besides Diallo during and after the encounter with DSK? If so, who were they and what were they doing there; and why, in any case, did Diallo deny that she’d gone to the room? Because she denied it, the police, according to the prosecutor’s recommendation for dismissal, did not search 2820 or declare it a crime scene. And where, if it still exists, is the BlackBerry that DSK lost and feared was hacked?

    All we know for sure is that someone, or possibly an accident, abruptly disabled it from signaling its location at 12:51 PM. DSK himself has not explained why he was so concerned about the possible interception of his messages on this BlackBerry and its disappearance. According to stories in Libération and other French journals on November 11, 2011, DSK sent text messages on a borrowed cell phone to at least one person named in the still-unfolding affair involving the Carlton Hotel in Lille, a scandal in which corporations allegedly provided high-class escort women to government officials. (DSK denies that he was connected to the prostitution ring.) If DSK sent these messages, may he also have received embarrassing messages back on his own BlackBerry that could have been damaging to his reputation and political ambitions? Or his concern could also have proceeded from other matters, such as the sensitive negotiations he was conducting for the IMF to stave off the euro crises. Whatever happened to his phone, and the content on it, his political prospects were effectively ended by the events of that day.

    Editors’ note: The article entitled “What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn,” by Edward Jay Epstein, which appeared in our December 22, 2011, issue, contained a description of what “looked like” a “dance of celebration” by two employees of the Hotel Sofitel in New York City at approximately 1:35 PM on the day that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault. Security camera recordings have established that the episode, as described, lasted approximately thirteen seconds, not the three minutes mentioned in the article. ?

    These statements, along with others in this article, were confirmed by sources who prefer to remain anonymous but are known to the author, who has shared his information with the editors. ?

    For this article, along with court and other legal documents, I had access to Sofitel electronic key swipe records, time-stamped security camera videotapes, and records for a cell phone used on the day of May 14 by John Sheehan, a security employee of Accor, the company that owns the Sofitel hotel. ?

    I had access to the record of only one cell phone used by the Accor Group’s security man, John Sheehan. Neither Sheehan nor the hotel’s security director, Adrian Branch, returned my calls. Through an assistant Brian Yearwood, the hotel’s chief engineer, said he had no comment. ?

    On the Strauss-Kahn Case January 12, 2012

    Epstein wrote a letter to the NYRB explaining his glaring error stating the celebratory dance lasted three minutes:

    To the Editors:

    Readers who are interested in my recent article on Dominique Strauss-Kahn will find a further discussion of the case on my website, listed below. As the editors note, I made an error in describing the time length (but not the movement) of two employees’ “dance of celebration.” The dance, as will be seen from the security camera records on my site, occurred approximately three minutes after a 911 call was made from the hotel to the New York City emergency services.

    Edward Jay Epstein
    New York City

    The page has a picture of the two men embraced in the dance and two YouTube videos of individuals’ movements in the hotel and the dance with explanatory text superimposed, with Epstein noting:

    A spokesman for the Accor Group in Paris, which owns the Sofitel in New York, told Le Monde that the two men who participated in the victory can longer recall what they were celebrating in the loading dock of the Sofitel on May 14, 2001. So we have a memory gap.

    The dance occurred between 1:34 and 1:35 pm, just a minute or so after the 911 call to the police was completed. One explanation offered in the media is that these two men, both New Yorkers, may have been celebrating the previous night’s New York Yankee baseball game. As it turns out, the New York Yankees lost that game to the Boston Red Sox, their third loss in a row. So the two men would have been celebrating a loss.

    The problem with even this explanation is that it suggests that 1:34 p.m. was the first time that these two men were able to go off together to the loading dock to hold their celebration dance. In fact, as yet another surveillance CCTV shows, both men were together in a room off the Reception desk at approximately 12:55 for nearly 4 minutes. In tape D, we see the well-dressed man emerge from the elevator at 12:53. (Two minutes earlier he had entered the Presidential suite on the 28th floor for the second tine, according to the electronic key records.) We see him pass through the lobby. stop in security area, return to the lobby where at 12:55, he is joined by the other dancer. Both men then go into a small room on side of reception desk.

    Lanny Davis, a well-regarded Washington crisis manager, who the Accord group retained to handle this matter, offered a far more plausible explanation of the victory dance on the NBC Today Show. Although acknowledging the men had a memory gap, he suggested that it was possible that they were celebrating that the housekeeper had just agreed “to allow the hotel to call 911.” Davis’ conjecture here raises, however, the issue of what impediment had caused the hour long delay in the decision to call in the police. The prosecution summary of the case states that her outcry was reported to hotel security which then called 911. It does not say that she delayed the decision to call in the police for an hour.

    There is also the tape of the 911 call the hotel made.

    NEXT QUESTION: Who was in charge of the security apparatus?


    But there is something that gives one pause in trusting an analyst who does not see after writing that the unexplained celebratory dance took three minutes that this is prima facie absurd.

    Epstein also makes much of the “hour long” delay in calling 911, though the caller Adrian Branch states that the incident happened “35-40 minutes ago.” The slow pace of the 911 operator in taking the details is striking, however, and the sheer illiteracy of the caller is notable when he spells Sofitel “Softiel” for her. Things take a very long time at this level for those very reasons.

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