Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#1533: Dan Delzell

Dan Delzell is pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska, and a regular contributor to The Christian Post, which he uses to share his delusional bigotry and lunatic fundie ravings (this one is typical) with the rest of us. Delzell is an uncompromising anti-gay activist, and, as so many others anti-gay activists, imagines his ways to moronic reasons for why sexual “immorality” in general, and homosexuality in particular, should be combatted. For instance, according to Delzell “the strong correlation between overspending and sexual immorality is beyond dispute”. It’s also incorrect, of course, but that’s not really what makes it indisputable to Delzell. Instead, he justifies the existence not only of a correlation but a causal relationship by invoking the Biblical parable of the prodigal son: “The prodigal son had it good at home. But he wanted more, and he wanted it immediately. His lust for money was fueled by his lust for sensual pleasure, and ‘vice’ versa.” So there you go. And given the quality of the reasoning, I conjecture that there is plenty little those of us who disagree can say to convince those who actually accept that argument.

Following the NAACP’s endorsement of marriage equality, Delzell was one of many who reacted negatively, pointing out that “homosexual acts become like a drug for those who give into this dangerous temptation” and that MLK probably didn’t dream of “little black boys and little white boys” marrying each other, and therefore that Obama is subverting what MLK fought for and is thus anti-Christian.

To get a better grasp of how Delzell views the world, this one is illuminating. Here he laments how Christianity has faded from public discourse (huh) and points out that true Christians should fight to get it back there, where it belongs. You see, according to Delzell you’re either influenced by Jesus or Satan – there’s no third option – so the fact that there are people in the US concerned with other things than (his interpretation of) the Bible is proof that Satan is becoming the dominant force over the majority of the population. And “Satan hates marriage between a man and a woman” … So there you have it: Either you support marriage equality, civil rights and the Constitution, in which case you’re a Muslim atheist, or you’re with Jesus.

Take science, for instance. According to Delzell, the world is currently the battlefield of two “kings”, “King Science” and “King Jesus”, and that’s why many people just accept science and denies the evidence for God (of which he mentions nothing). He doesn’t say it explicitly, but you all know who “King Science” is, don’t you? Apparently, Obama has been ensnared by the dark side: [I]t is ironic, and yes even tragic, that President Obama would choose to light the White House with a rainbow after the recent Supreme Court decision. It was his loud and proud way of celebrating the sin of same-sex marriage. Obviously, the president doesn’t seem to believe that the Old Testament stories of Noah’s Ark and Sodom and Gomorrah were actual events in history.”

Yes, Satan is everywhere. In a 2013 column Delzell was scared by a British magician who performed a levitation trick, whom Delzell thinks was actually levitating, with the help of demons: “Personally, I think it was legit. I believe this was a paranormal event and an authentic example of levitation. But it’s not like this sort of thing is completely unheard of today.” Kids today! Witchcraft and Harry Potter and rock’n-roll are a very dangerous combo.

Diagnosis: Yes, to Delzell the world really is simple, and everything really is black and white. Either you’re a commie, liberal, Muslim atheist, science-worshipping, gay loving anti-Christian – it’s all Satan’s work – or you’re with Jesus. The choice is yours, and it’s a package deal.

Monday, November 30, 2015

#1532: Barbara Delozier

A.k.a. Rev. Bee

We’ve talked about MUFON before. Barbara Delozier is the State Section Director Northwest of MUFON. I suppose it tells you a bit about MUFON that Delozier is also a Dolphyn Wisdom of the Ancient, Metaphysical Minister, and responsible for something called the My Psychic Friends network. She actually calls herself Dr. Barbara Delozier, Msc.D., Minister and Psychic Counselor”. It should be unnecessary to say that her education is not from an institution worth taking more seriously than your average spam mail, but at least her areas of expertise are [p]ositivity life coach, expert dream interpretation, psychic/sensitive, advisor, Ufology, ordained metaphysical minister” (it’s not “grammar”), and her “career focus” is “paranormal sensitive, psychic counselor, metaphysician, Ufologist, minister, speaker, author”. And as a Metaphysician” (no, she means “New age stream of consciousness fluff”, not metaphysics) she can help you ascend the ladder on which the physical aspect of our lives is merely the bottom rung […] by delving into the heretofore unknown’ of the psyche, the ethereal, interdimensional reality in which we also’ operate as Soul. Whether it be understanding the mystery of your dreams, asking the big’ question about God, or merely attempting to reach out and touch your Higher Self” (goodness knows what the quotation marks are for). And apparently her weekly Positive Affirmations are highly prized bits of wisdom from her Inner Guides that come through to the physical to help you.” How? Well, at least you should start by strik[ing] the words ‘I can’t’ and ‘I don’t know how’ from your vocabulary [no, those aren’t words, but whatever].” Well, realizing that Delozier will systematically refuse to admit that “I don’t know how” actually explains quite a bit of her behavior, doesn’t it? What do you do when you don’t have a clue? Make it up and fill in the gaps with whatever you fancy. Delozier is probably a stellar example of what can happen when you follow that rule and your mind is otherwise unfettered by the limits imposed by reality.

You can also join her “Miss Peg [apparently Peggi “Don’t allow your human intelligence to overrule your spiritual needs” Torbert] and Astoria [Brown]” for “Trinity Psychics Quantum Metaphysics and Psychic Chat” on Blog Talk Radio every Saturday night. She is also “a gifted paranormal sensitive who explores and photographs energy beings, interdimensional beings and extraterrestrial travelers.” Like “quantum”, “energy” and “dimension” are apparently words that can mean whatever she wants them to mean at any time (and usually means nothing whatsoever).

Delozier runs several webpages, and we found the webpage “Dolphinpsychic” (with one Michelle Caporale) to be perhaps particularly interesting. It features testimonies of Delozier’s powers by … one “Psychic Norbert”. She is also involved with the “Empower U Metaphysical Academy”, which is apparently a (poorly designed) webpage where you can download “home study courses and attunements blessed crystals for healing”. As for their crystal healing course, “[i]t is now possible to give a powerful crystal healing, without crystals. Through attunement you will gain access to the energy of specific crystals and be able to channel it by intention. These ethereal crystals are much stronger than those found within the Earth. You can place them on the body, just by pointing at a certain area and thinking the stone’s name. The stone will disappear when the energy is no longer needed.” I have to admit that it was almost tempting to flesh out $12 for that course package. Same thing with the “Full Spectrum Course”: “Tachyon is the source of all frequencies. Full Sprectum Healing IS all frequencies. This makes FSH much more direct and targeted than Tachyon.” Try to falsify that claim with a well-designed test, you darn skeptics.

Diagnosis: Woo! WOOOO-O-O-O! And there is not a thing Delozier cannot do after she learned how to transcend coherence and sense and any sort of grounding in reality. Probably pretty harmless.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

#1531: Gayle DeLong

Age of Autism is an antivaccine cesspool if there ever was one, and Gayle DeLong is zealous. DeLong is among those who refuse to let go of that most cherished and thoroughly refuted piece of nonsense, that vaccines are causally linked to autism. Originally, the idea was that mercury in vaccines was the culprit. The fact that thimerosal is safe, has been removed from all childhood vaccines since the conspiracy was first launched, and was never in the MMR vaccine anyways is not going to deter DeLong, for “although mercury has been removed from many vaccines, the remaining mercury as well as other culprits such as aluminum and live viruses may link vaccines to autism.” Heck, she has even published a study suggesting such a link in a low-tier journal. DeLong is not a scientist but a faculty member in the Department of Economics and Finance in the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College/City University of New York. Nor does she know much about science, and the study design of the study in question suggests complete incompetence – or perhaps an attempt to avoid a rigorous design out of a suspicion that a good study design would fail to give her the results she wanted (details here and here). That the referees for the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health failed to notice is good evidence that the journal is one you should not put a lot of trust in. One Margaret Dunkle nevertheless took the bait and used DeLong’s article as part of a hysterically idiotic antivaxx article for the Baltimore Sun.

Apparently DeLong also managed to get a commentary in some journal called Accountability in Research entitled “Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Safety Research”. Oh, yes, there is a conspiracy, no less. Doctors who fail to find an association between vaccines and autism are scientists at research institution who know their stuff in the pocket of science Big Pharma – as opposed to Andrew Wakefield and concerned parents who torture data into arguing for such a link based on no understanding of the science whatsoever. She cannot cite a single instance of distortion of the data in the science she rejects, of course, but she blithely asserts that FDA is in on the game. The evidence is apparently that they deny a vaccine-autism connection, and since she thinks there is one there must be a cover-up. What other possible explanation could there be?

The important point, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what science or evidence says – DeLong and her merry band of antivaccinationists don’t need to try to engage with any of that, since all those scientists are tainted by conflicts of interests and collusions with BigPharma. Their theory is thus unfalsifiable. Therefore they must be correct.

DeLong does, however, have two daughters with autism; both “have benefited greatly from supplements, diet, chelation, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.” Right. She is also a former member of SafeMind’s research committee and has participated in various antivaxx rallies.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which is, to emphasize, something we don’t wish on anyone. We still need to mention that she, rather tastelessly, referred to her condition as “autism-induced breast cancer”. You see, she blames it on having to deal with her autistic kids (and hence, ultimately, on vaccines). “There is virtually no cancer in my family, I eat organically, I exercise, I’m a good weight.” So, caring for children with autism is the only remaining possibility. Yes, even yours truly is left somewhat speechless both by the inference and the premises. But the core idea is actually pretty typical of pseudoscience: As long as you stay healthy and have the right attitude, you avoid cancer; so if you get cancer … well, never mind that the association between stress and cancer is at best “weak”. She also used the diagnosis to launch a pseudoscientific tirade against chemotherapy.

Diagnosis: A truly horrible person, unfortunately. We’re sure she means well, but it really doesn’t matter much when your premises are so detached from reality as DeLong’s pseudoscientific nonsense in fact is.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

#1530: Rick DeLano

Like intelligent design creationists there are plenty of groups of weird kooks on the Internet who lament the fact that their particular brand of alternatives to mainstream science (i.e. anti-science) isn’t taken seriously or e.g. given equal time in public schools. “Teach the controversy,” is the common battle cry, and for Rick DeLano, the really controversial idea is heliocentrism, which he rejects. He has even produced a documentary on the subject, “The Principle”, in which he interviewed several real scientists and clipped it to make it appear as if modern cosmology is in trouble and that his completely ridiculous delusion is somehow respectable and taken seriously even by people like Lawrence Krauss, who was interviewed but, uh, expressed dissatisfaction with the editing. DeLano also, famously, got Kate Mulgrew to narrate it, though according to her he was not particularly forthcoming with what claim the documentary was going to promote.

The documentary is based on the views of Robert Sungenis, and DeLano proudly admits to never having finished high school or had any relevant education – so he is certainly not corrupted by the status quo. Like all anti-science fanatics, DeLano readily admits that “I have great respect for science.” However, “[w]here I become offended is when people ignore the evidence,” which is an interesting statement given the approach he takes in his documentary. “They haven’t proven that something can come from nothing,” argues DeLano, which … isn’t particularly relevant to anything whatsoever. And science refuses to consider the evidence because science is an atheistic conspiracy to undermine the Bible. So much for loving it.

Some examples of DeLano’s understanding of science can be found here. NASA, by the way, has conspicuously removed material from their website that suggest geocentrism, it seems, so neither DeLano nor you will find any such material there – which is apparently evidence that there must be a conspiracy and that geocentrism is correct.

The WND promoted the “documentary”, of course (their review by Drew Zahn, who knows as little about science as DeLano, is discussed here).

Diagnosis: Village idiot. Even committed creationists seem very reluctant to take DeLano seriously (which tells you a bit about how radically fringe-idiotic the WND is, if you didn’t already know). Probably pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things.

Friday, November 27, 2015

#1529: Harold Delaney, Michael Kent & David Keller

Delaney (not a very good picture)
Though rare, there exist creationists with real positions at real universitites, and who make real efforts to save their students from reality and science. Harold Delaney is a Professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico and a signatory to A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. Unlike many of those signatories, Delaney is a real scientist, but like almost all of them he has no background in the relevant fields. He did, however, receive a grant from the religious, anti-science Templeton Foundation in the 2000s, when the Foundation was still throwing money at creationists who also happened to be scientists (yes, the Templeton Foundation is anti-science; they have, at present, dropped the explicit anti-science part from their American projects in favor of just promoting religion, but look at what projects they are funding abroad!). Delaney is particularly notable for having taught an honors seminar in 2003 and 2004 on “Origins: Science, Faith and Philosophy” at his university, where he “presented both sides” of the evolution–creationism “debate”. Otherwise Delaney seems to think that creationism is an academic freedom issue, and that rejecting all the science should not be a matter given any weight when determining whether someone can get an academic position in biology. Oh, yes, academic freedom. Delaney’s course was originally classified as a science course, but when the university learned about its contents it was reclassified as a humanities course. Delaney claimed that this reclassification was a violation of his academic freedom.

The aforementioned course was co-taught with Michael Kent, a scientist affiliated with Sandia Laboratories. Kent is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute list. Kent’s PhD is in materials science, and he has accordingly no background in any relevant field. Funny that. Kent does, however, have a background in the New Mexico chapter of ID-net, and is on record trying to claim that the ID side has won the debate over the science standards in New Mexico public schools (absolutely, laughably false but effective as a PR stunt to make the creationist “strengths and weaknesses” strategy look reasonable).

Perhaps it was Delaney’s and Kent’s awareness of their lack of expertise in the fields in which they were misleading students that prompted them to invite David Keller to give a guest lecture. Keller is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of New Mexico. Why on earth would they invite a chemist rather than, you know, an expert in the field? You didn’t need to ask, did you? Keller is perhaps the most vocal creationist among the faculty at the University of New Mexico, and that, of course, was the qualification Delaney and Kent were looking for. Keller is on the editorial team of Bio-Complexity, the Discotute’s sad, creationist pseudojournal, and contributed an article (w. Jed Macosko) to the creationist anthology Darwin’s Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement”.

Diagnosis: Oh, the creationists and their blatantly subversive tactics for, well, leading young people to Jesus by whatever means necessary, including lies and subversion. But though their efforts may look merely pathetic to the rest of us who know a bit about the science (and the workings of the denialists), these people are actually dangerous.