Measles-virus denialist issues 100K Euro challenge to prove viral causation, scientist wins the dough after court hearing

March 13, 2015 • 1:18 pm

I’ve never heard of woomeisters or denialists who solicit “scientific” challenges to their woo—and this happens occasionally when a creationist offers big bucks to anyone who can “prove” evolution—ever paying off. But this time it happened—after the courts intervened.

According to the BBC News, the Guardian, and the English language The, which provides news about Germany, Stefan Lanka, a German biologist who believes that measles is a psychosomatic disease caused by “traumatic separations”, offered €100,000 to anyone who could prove that the disease was caused by a virus.  This offer was made five years ago in an online advertisement. The original ad said this:

Because we know that the “measles virus” doesn’t exist, and according to biology and medical science can’t exist, and because we know the real cause of measles, we want the reward to get people to enlighten themselves, for the enlightened to help the less enlightened and for the enlightened to influence those in power.

Big mistake, for Lanka was going up against established science.

So Dr. David Bardens, also German, took up the offer, sending to Lanka six scientific papers establishing that measles was in fact caused by a virus. You know what happened next. Lanka refused to pay up, which is what always happens. But this time the persistent Dr. Bardens took Lanka to court. And the court, in Ravensburg, Germany, ruled in Barden’s favor. After hearing several hours of testimony by expert witnesses and arguments by both sides, they issued a statement that “The court had no doubt about the existence of the measles virus.”

Lanka, of course, will appeal. And he’ll lose, and he’ll be humiliated.

After this, I’m tempted to submit Why Evolution is True to those creationists offering big money to anyone “proving” evolution.  If I lose, I could then go to court as well, though I’d be a bit worried about American judges deciding whether evolution was a well-established scientific fact!  But at least the public is more “enlightened” about measles, though the enlightenment isn’t of the sort that Lanka wanted.

Here are the principals. First, the elated Dr. Bardens, post-verdict (from The Local, photo by DPA):


And the crank, Dr. Lanka, who looks a bit like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” (photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa/Corbis from the Guardian):

Legal dispute over measles viruses
How is this guy even a doctor?

h/t: Grania


44 thoughts on “Measles-virus denialist issues 100K Euro challenge to prove viral causation, scientist wins the dough after court hearing

  1. Amazing. How does a German biologist come by this stupidity? Hopefully he lost the money and had to pay court cost.

    If you decide to do something on the evolution you might want to consider Germany.

  2. “though the enlightenment isn’t of the sort that Lanka wanted.”

    Which is to say wallet enlightenment.

  3. This is thanks to another German, the great microbiologist Robert Koch who developed what is known as Koch’s postulates. Science works, b*tches.

  4. This reminds me of an article from Scientific American back in January. It was about how Alfred Russel Wallace took up a similar challenge from a man who was asking people to prove that the Earth wasn’t flat.

    Wallace initially won the bet, but he was later forced to give the money back. He was hounded for years by flat earthers, and went on to say.

    The next matter was a much more serious one, and cost me fifteen years of continued worry, litigation, and persecution, with the final loss of several hundred pounds. And it was all brought upon me by my own ignorance and my own fault—ignorance of the fact so well shown by the late Professor de Morgan—that “paradoxers,” as he termed them, can never be convinced, and my fault in wishing to get money by any kind of wager. It constitutes, therefore, the most regrettable incident in my life.

    1. I will remember the word ‘paradoxers’ as an alternative for ‘denialists’. Or perhaps even better: ‘controversialists’, those creating controversy just for the sake of.

      Because I often think that people like Lanka create controversy for the sake of drawing attention, more than from sincere conviction.

  5. I’ve heard of Stefan Lanka before in Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science. He doesn’t just doubt the existence of the measles virus, he doubts the existence of many, especially HIV. Here’s a fascinating interview posted on the virus-myth website. This interview is from 1998, he could have learned something since them and may not agree with his quote.

    Stefan Lanka:”So for a long time I studied virology, from the end to the beginning, from the beginning to the end, to be absolutely sure that there was no such thing as HIV. And it was easy for me to be sure about this because I realized that the whole group of viruses to which HIV is said to belong, the retroviruses — as well as other viruses which are claimed to be very dangerous — in fact do not exist at all.”

    1. I wonder if he’d be willing to put his life where his mouth is and actually shoot a syringe filled with live viruses (whether HIV or measles) into his bloodstream.

      1. he is most likely already immunized to measles and HIV tales 6 months to a year to show symptoms. I suggest he quarantine himself and inject himself with the live ebola virus. we can observe whether he is right or not in short order.

    2. From the beginning of the article:

      A German researcher, Dr. Lanka is usually referred to as a virologist. But that hardly begins to describe his wide-ranging fields of study. Based on experiences in marine biology, biochemistry, evolutionary biology and virology, he’s worked out a whole new view of HIV and AIDS.

      Uh oh.

      Gosh, he’s an expert in everything. No way this guy can be a crank.

    1. From dutch blog

      Enders JF, Peebles TC. Propagation in tissue cultures of cytopathogenic agents from patients with measles. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1954 Jun;86(2):277–286.

      Bech V, Magnus Pv. Studies on measles virus in monkey kidney tissue cultures. Acta Pathol Microbiol Scand. 1959; 42(1): 75–85

      Horikami SM, Moyer SA. Structure,
      Transcription, and Replication of Measles Virus. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 1995; 191: 35–50.

      Nakai M, Imagawa DT. Electron microscopy of measels virus replication. J Virol. 1969 Feb; 3(2): 187–97.

      Lund GA, Tyrell, DL, Bradley RD, Scraba DG. The molecular length of measles virus RNA and the structural organization of measles nucleocapsids. J Gen Virol. 1984 Sep;65 (Pt 9):1535–42.

      Daikoku E, Morita C, Kohno T, Sano K. Analysis of Morphology and Infectivity of Measles Virus Particles. Bulletin of the Osaka Medical College. 2007; 53(2): 107–14.

  6. The ‘here’s Johnny’ resemblance is indeed striking!

    Why exactly does he think the measles virus “cannot exist”?

  7. Lanka is mad as a hatter. And he also denies that competition plays a role in evolution — it’s all harmonious natural cooperation.
    (in German)

    And he’s a follower of a thing called “Germanische neue Medizin”, which has the added advantages of not only being insanely stupid and highly dangerous cancer quackery, but also having racist, white supremacist and anti-semitic overtones.

    It teaches that (Germanic) children get caries because of the disturbing presence of migrant children in schools, and other much, much stupider things.

    1. Ah, German New Medicine was my first thought when I read this:

      … who believes that measles is a psychosomatic disease caused by “traumatic separations”

      From what I understand German New Medicine is a form of alternative medicine which holds that all disease is ultimately caused by emotional trauma, which can iirc include being upset over things which happened during birth or even when still in the womb. My altie friends like it because of its connection to New Thought spirituality.

      I hadn’t been aware of any ‘racist, white supremacist, and anti-semitic overtones” and suspect they aren’t either. They wouldn’t approve. Still, it’s all “take what you need and leave the rest.”

      They wouldn’t approve of an alt med advocate “challenging” skeptics, either. That’s bad mental ju-ju from the Egoic Mind. Lanka should have just believed in himself and what he knows to be true and left it at that.

      Major rule: seek only to convince the “open-minded.”

      1. The founder of Germanische neue Medizin states that mainstream medicine is by its nature “Jewish”, and that doctors are forced to practice it jewishly. That’s the best I can do of translating it. It makes absolutely no sense in German either.

        The term “jüdische Schulmedizin” was also used by Rudolf Hess when he was hoping to replace it with homeopathy. The term “germanisch” also has very strong Nazi overtones in German.

        All the oncologists in Germany are Jews, and “no Jew ever gets chemotherapy”, he explains.

        In any case, cancer is part of the “natural healing cycle”, where the body uses cancer tumors to begin to heal a shock. Of course he has his own cancer healing story, just like Louise Hay. He got cancer of the scrotum as a reaction to the shock of his son being shot dead. I guess we can all intuitively grasp the profound mystical connection between a father’s scrotum and his son…

        There are MUCH sillier things too, but I think I will stop.

  8. That woomeister got pwned! This is a good story illustrating the way Dunning-Kruger can sting!

    1. Aye, the snares of Dunning-Kruger…

      IT BURNS! IT BURNS US! It freezes! Nasty Scientist twisted it. TAKE IT OFF US!

    1. Funny, my initial thought was this dude looks like a cross between Jack Nicholson and Rush Limbaugh.

      Maybe we can start meme like that dress one. Does this guy look like Jack Nicholson or Rush Limbaugh?

  9. How did Lanka get a degree in biology?

    Where did he study? It is difficult to find out on line

    He must be a friend of Michael Behe

    1. He studied viruses of brown algae (Ectocarpus siliculosus virus). He has three papers during his total career as a scientist. For comparison, Prof. Ceiling Cat has more than 90.

  10. Nice! 😄
    The regional court is in my hometown. Applause that the denialist has to pay. But of course, he will appeal the verdict.

  11. I think measles was obviously a losing fight and the guy got what was coming.

    The actual process of evolution we tend to imagine (Dawkins’ blind watchmaker hypothesis, etc,) probably isn’t as simple as DNA replicating in a kind of free-market struggle for resources. This is probably just the best metaphor we have from our own anthropomorphic store of metaphors. We do have long term evidence of dinosaurs becoming mammals and so on, but we don’t have evidence of gradual evolution. Indeed we have a lot of contrary evidence of sudden shifts where all the species switch very fast, like the Cambrian explosion which don’t fit the gradual theory at all.

    The recent hypothesis from Lynn Margulis, that most of our bodies are made of bacteria throws the Selfish Gene stuff out the window and we really need a new model for how evolution happens.

    1. I’m sorry but you don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about. You’re just babbling about stuff you don’t understand, and I’ll post this one comment as a lesson on what someone who’s ignorant about microevolution, about the fossil record,and even about Lynn Margulis can spew into the blogosphere. I urge Dominic Berry to spend his time on the Uncommon Descent site, where he clearly belongs.

    2. So much fail in one post but the one that drives me most crazy is that the Cambrian Explosion discredits the “gradual theory” (whatever that is). It happened over millions of years not decades, for crying out loud.

  12. Lanka is also an AIDS Denialist. I love that you said Lanka will appeal and “be humiliated.” I was recently sued by AIDS Denialist Clark Baker in Federal Court in Texas. The district court dismissed the suit but Baker appealed. A few days ago the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower courts dismissal and humiliated Baker in the process. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I’m pretty proud.

  13. Oh dear, so Lanka thought he’d make a dramatic gesture and I’ll bet he never thought anyone would seriously take him up on it or that a court would enforce it.

    He probably read of Randi’s challenge and thought he could do it too. However what he neglected was, if you’re making this sort of wager, it’s a little bit essential to be right.

  14. What a wonderful outcome!

    I just wish there were some German word I could use to express my joy at seeing the epic failure of a crank like that…

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