| David Grimes |
• “Conspiracy Theories”|
• Water Fluoridation
David Robert Grimes is a physicist and post-doctoral cancer researcher at the University of Oxford, though he does not have a faculty position there. He also writes for The Irish Times and The Guardian.  In 2013 he wrote an article in the Irish Times about water fluoridation entitled "Anti-fluoride lobby can’t get its teeth into the truth". In 2016 he published a paper on "conspiracy theories" which although both simplistic and flawed was widely reported by the commercially-controlled media, leading to speculation that he might be part of an organised effort to try to equate dissent with mental illness.
Paper on "Conspiracy Theories"
In 2016 David Grimes published a simplistic statistical model of conspiracies which he proposed "might be useful in counteracting the potentially deleterious consequences of bogus and anti-science narratives". This was given what one commentator referred to as "massive [corporate] media coverage", including the BBC. He assumed that each conspirator was equally well infformed about the conspiracy, and that each was equally likely to "expose" it, which would result in its instant "failure". He calibrated this model using three exposed conspiracies (or collusions), with no explanation of why he had chosen these three:
- The NSA/PRISM programme "exposed by" Edward Snowden;
- The Tuskegee syphilis experiment "exposed by" Peter Buxtun; and,
- The FBI Laboratory "exposed by" Dr Frederic Whitehurst.
Grimes' assumption that everyone in a conspiracy is equally well informed about it flies in the face of the hierarchical nature of organisations and what is known about conspiracies. The Manhattan Project involved over 100,000 workers, of whom a 1945 Life article estimated that the compartmentalisation was such that before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings "probably no more than a few dozen men in the entire country knew the full meaning of the Manhattan Project, and perhaps only a thousand others even were aware that work on atoms was involved." The magazine wrote that over 100,000 others employed on the project "worked like moles in the dark". If Life is to be believed, the assumption that all personnel are equally informed would appear in this case to out by 4-5 orders of magnitude, directly contradicting Grimes' finding that large conspiracies "quickly become untenable."
His cherry picking of examples to calibrate his model is self-fulfilling, and his conclusions are contradicted by the historical record. He concludes that "large conspiracies (≥1000 agents) quickly become untenable and prone to failure," contradicting the Manhattan Project (~129,000 people, unexposed after 6 years) or Operation Gladio (??,000 people, exposed by external investigation after ~36 years).
Canadian biologist Michael Pyshnov noted (in a quickly removed comment headed "D R Grimes scientific paper on conspiracy theories is a political fabrication") that Dr Grimes wanted the public to believe that a leak of information, the "exposure", would automatically result in a scandal:
I wrote my comment on the Grimes paper saying that the paper is wrong. I said, there is no such sure mechanism that will make “a leak” into a scandal, unless the commercially-controlled media decides to make that scandal. I said that corruption in mass media prevents scandals and I gave my experience with Nature magazine (posted at http://www.universitytorontofraud.com/nature.html). My comment lived only a few hours, and was removed. I received no email explaining the reasons. Moreover, my communications with the journal were electronically cut off, I cannot write to them either. Here is my comment, a screen shot.
Censorship of criticism
PLOS-One published another comment that echoed Michael Pyshnov's argument, but it too was removed early in February. Entitled "Between the exposure and the scandal stands the media declaring what we are expected to believe", Patrick Haseldine argued that the full extent of the FBI Laboratory scandal had never been exposed in the commercially-controlled media:
In the 2009 film Lockerbie Revisited (broadcast only in the Netherlands) Dr Whitehurst was interviewed and described the FBI Laboratory as a "crime scene", where his unqualified colleague Thomas Thurman would routinely alter Whitehurst's scientific reports over a five-year period. The film's researcher Ian Ferguson reported that the timer fragment - allegedly found in the Pan Am Flight 103 debris and which allegedly was part of the MEBO timer that triggered the Lockerbie bomb - had not been tested for explosives residue because of 'budgetary reasons'. Whitehurst did not accept that cost could be the reason since it would have taken him just a morning's work to have tested the timer fragment. In the film, Thurman confirmed that the fragment - the only real piece of evidence against Libya - had been brought over from the UK to the FBI Crime Lab, where he had personally identified it as coming from the circuit board of a MEBO MST-13 timer, only 20 of which had been made and all were supplied to Libya.
Thurman was not required to testify as a witness at either trial for the Pan Am Flight 103 or UTA Flight 772 bombings even though the main incriminatory evidence in both cases was a tiny fragment of PCB that he had discovered. On 31 January 2001, the Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and, in 1999, six Libyans were convicted in absentia of the UTA bombing. If that FBI Crime Lab scandal has really been exposed, as Dr Grimes claims, why haven't the convictions of those seven Libyans been overturned by now?
- "It is striking to note the similarity of the 'scientific' evidence discovered by the FBI's Tom Thurman in both the Lockerbie and UTA cases. Of the tens of thousands of pieces of debris collected at each disaster site, one lone piece of printed circuit board was found and, miracle of miracles, in each case the fragment bore markings that allowed for positive identification: MEBO in the Lockerbie case and TY in the case of UTA Flight 772. Despite the common findings of the DCPJ, the DST and the Prefecture of Police crime laboratory, Juge Bruguière chose to believe Thurman, the expert in fabricating evidence."
While it is good to see both the author (Dr Grimes) and the handling editor (Chris Bauch) responding here, I am surprised by their apparent insouciance about this error.
Beyond that my principal concern is how this paper could ever have passed peer review. A non-monotonic cdf is such a fundamental error (it implies an underlying pdf with negative components, that is negative probabilities) that it should have been immediately obvious to any competent reviewer that the paper could not possibly be correct. The error is not hidden: the author quite openly discusses the non-monotonic behaviour and its supposed significance, and depicts non-monotonic cdf curves in figures 1 and 4.When a journal publishes a paper containing a trivial, obvious and fundamental error then legitimate questions can and should be raised about how this happened.
The PLOS journal has a high acceptance rate (70%). On 29 January 2016, Michael Pyshnov wrote an article entitled "PLOS journal scam" on his own website explaining how "bizarre science politics" and "crooked journals" are destroying published science:
This scam reminds me of the old and forgotten stories from Balkan countries about the tricks of the gypsies or jewish prostitutes. Only this now is a multi-million dollars operation. Interestingly, the PLOS journal was founded by some members of the London based charity – COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics), of which I wrote several years ago (http://www.universitytorontofraud.com/committee.htm). The COPE style was also shockingly deceitful and unprofessional, but for some reason this charitable organisation gained control over 5000 of scientific journals, issuing their Code on publication ethics and collecting the fees from these journals for COPE services. This was when they had no scientists on their board. How serious is all this? I don’t think it is serious at all. True, money changed hands, the world received a new “proof” that conspiracy theories are wrong which can be exploited by those who wish to exploit it. Science made a small step farther down the drain. And the gypsies are ready for their new adventures.
- "David Robert Grimes", theguardian.com. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
- "David Robert Grimes", irishtimes.com. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
- Document:Elites Link Anti-Government Thought to Mental Illness
- "On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs"
- Wickware, Francis Sill (20 August 1945). "Manhattan Project: Its Scientists Have Harnessed Nature's Basic Force". Life. p. 91. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "The Secret City / Calutron operators at their panels, in the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II.". The Atlantic. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- "D R Grimes scientific paper on conspiracy theories is a political fabrication" comment removed
- "D R Grimes scientific paper on conspiracy theories is a political fabrication" screen shot
- "Between the exposure and the scandal stands the media declaring what we are expected to believe"
- "TIME TO EXPOSE A CONSPIRACY/SCANDAL"
- "Basic mathematical flaw in the methods section" by Professor Jonathan Jones of Oxford University
- "PLOS journal scam"
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