Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#1347: Carol Barnes

We’ve encountered the proponents of magic melanin before, and Carol Barnes is another one. The idea, if you need a reminder, is that high levels of the pigment melanin lower your THAC0 and AC, open your chakras, are “the chemical basis of the soul” and gives you a multitude of special magical abilities; and consequently, people with lower levels of melanin are considered degenerate, albino mutants. Of course, since white people are at least subconsciously aware of their deficiencies, they have instigated all sorts of nefarious conspiracies to subjugate people with higher melanin levels. As Carol Barnes puts it: “Melanin is responsible for the existence of civilization, philosophy, religion, truth, justice, and righteousness. Individuals (whites) containing low levels of Melanin will behave in a barbaric manner.”

Barnes puts the claims forward in Melanin: The Chemical Key to Black Greatness, which, according to the blurb, “is designed to familiarize the Black Human with Melanin and its importance to life, memory processes, ancient African history, sunlight, music, dancing, anti-aging, anti-cancer, religion, electromagnetism, and any other scientific and cultural parameter.” According to one Amazon reviewer, it is “a must have for any Nubians,” since “carol made it clear why being black or reddish brown, to be correct, is the resplendent and etheral and supernal force in the known universe, whenever you see black you see god, melanin is the key to unlock the secrects of the known and unknown universe, a must have for your shelf,hotep,wadu.”

Otherwise, Barnes is best known for his (yes, I’m pretty sure it is a guy) claim that cocaine is part of the racist plot because melanin and cocaine are both alkaloids and have a high affinity for each other. Barnes also claims that blacks can test positive for cocaine up to a year after use, because cocaine co-polymerizes into melanin. However, melanin is not an alkaloid and does not co-polymerize with cocaine in vivo, but hey – that’s reality, and reality is a conspiracy, apparently.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientific rubbish. Promoting such bullshit is hardly going to help achieve equality for historically oppressed groups, and Barnes must hence be considered a moderate threat to humanity.

Monday, April 20, 2015

#1346: Ralph Barker

Ralph Barker is part of the The Christian Worldview Network and a UFO enthusiast (one wonders whether he is also the author of the obscure 1968 book Great Mysteries of the Air). Irreconcilable views of reality, you think? Well, no (disregarding the fact that UFO beliefs tend to be irreconcilable with reality), not to Ralph Barker. In his two-part series “UFOs and the Gospel of Christ” for the Worldview Weekend, he claims that although UFOs exist, various New Agers and similar people use them “to routinely attack, ridicule, or undermine Christianity. The aliens don’t seem to be threatened by Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other ism. They focus their attacks on Christianity. Could this be because Christianity is the only true religion? This would be my bet.” In other words, there is a conspiracy to use UFO sightings to make Christians sound silly. Methinks Ralph Barker may have got his defense of religious fundamentalism off on the wrong foot.

Given that the existence of extraterrestrials sits poorly with the kind of literal, Biblical fundamentalism Barker espouses, who are running the UFOs? Well, “If we do allow for alien life then certain questions must follow at least from a Christian standpoint. For example, are aliens fallen beings? Do they need redemption? Did Jesus die for them? Did Jesus die for all beings, earthling and alien? Did He die just once here on earth or did He have to visit and die on each planet? All good questions.” So, not aliens: “Personally, I think they are something else. In my youth I held to the idea that they were truly alien visitors. Today, I still think they are alien visitors but not visitors from another planet. I am convinced they are visitors from another dimension, a spiritual dimension. I believe they are demons. Just think about it.” I don’t think the piece of advice at the end would make any minimally rational person arrive at the conclusion Barker wants them to arrive at.

Apparently he once broached the question of whether there was extraterrestrial life to a congregation in Texas: “As we were discussing this, a local magistrate in the congregation had a question. His question definitely caught me off guard. He wanted to know if aliens did exist, could we eat them. I think he was a hunter. What do you think? Can we eat them?

Diagnosis: “In conclusion I submit that the evidence or lack thereof points to a satanic deception and it is working,” says Barker. But the evidence incontrovertibly points toward poor reasoning skills and a tenuous grasp on reality. Where do they find these people?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

#1345: Toni Bark

Toni Bark was once trained as an MD, but currently she practices Classic Homeopathy (which, in case you need a reminder, is premised on the falsity of all of modern science and has also been demonstrated beyond reasonable and unreasonable doubt not to have any beneficial health effects). Anything science-based she has left behind long, long ago. Bark does, however, run something called the Center for Disease Prevention and Reversal (uh huh), and through her web site she peddles a variety of crap including Essential Living Foods. She also appears to be a sometimes partner of “holistic women’s health psychiatrist” Kelly Brogan, one of the rising stars of pseudoscientific nonsense and health-related conspiracy theories at present (just chew on the phrase “holistic women’s health psychiatry” and let it feed your stereotypes).

Bark is the narrator for much of the movie “Bought” (by Jeff Hays), an insane conspiracy flick crammed with an impressive amount of misinformation and appeals to imagined persecution. Its main claim is that vaccines are ineffective and can cause autism, an idea so thoroughly debunked that it presently makes its promoters seem like gravity denialists. The movie also combines vaccine denialism with GMO paranoia, but fails – predictably – to cite a single source for this discredited line of ideas either.

Diagnosis: So that’s Toni Bark for you – an anti-rational critical thinking denialist who appears to systematically go in the opposite direction of the evidence. And she’s not alone, which really is exasperating.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#1344: Clarence Barinowski

Certain parts of the US are crammed with these kind of people, but we’ll endeavor to cover at least a few of them. So, Clarence Barinowski is the President and founder of the Good News Network, which is “comprised of 12 radio stations and 13 radio translators/repeaters that extend throughout the southeast, covering communities in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and now, Alabama and Mississippi.” Well, Barinowski is at least a hardcore creationist. According to Barinowski “I think it is safe to say Republicans don’t have a problem with science,” by which he means that many wingnuts reject evolution. “[T]he reality is that greater and greater ‘faith’ is required in evolution to believe in its ability to accomplish what it is credited with doing,” and in Barinowski’s imagination “[t]he whole evolutionary concept of junk DNA has been wiped away by the research called ‘the ENCODE Project’.” Indeed, Barinowski seems to think that evolution is largely based on the movie Jurassic Park  (whereas he himself evidently gets his information from creationist blogs), and hence that “the fact that more people are questioning evolution indicates that more people are actually reading and learning what’s happening in modern scientific research these days, instead of getting their science education from movies,” which is a … rather novel claim. And to back it up he refers to … the Discovery Institute’s pitiful petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. Perfect.

Diagnosis: Minor fish, but still a stellar and brilliant, walking and talking illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect

Friday, April 17, 2015

#1343: Matthew Baral

Matthew Baral is an ND (a “naturopathic pediatrician”, in fact) and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, as well as a “certified” Defeat Autism Now! practitioner. DAN! practitioners are a diverse group of people encompassing homeopaths and naturopaths and what have you, and their goal is to defeat autism using the DAN! protocol, a set of “autism biomed” quackery notable for frequent occurrences of “this is not medical advice” for legal purposes in the information material, even though what they suggest are definitely medical advice. DAN! practitioners accordingly apply apparently every non-working, dangerous and idiotic tool available, from ayurvedic medicine to chelation and polarity therapy (which works with “the Human Energy Field”).

Though Baral isn’t exactly the loudest or most aggressive proponent of woo out there, he is, as mentioned, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and thus at least partially responsible for quite a bit of naturopathy being administered to children. His research concerns “the correlation between heavy metal toxicity, chelation, and autism” – which is none, of course, but Baral’s “research” suggests otherwise; apparently he has published three papers on the issue, but doesn’t say where. He is also the author of the textbooks Fundamentals of Naturopathic Pediatrics (with Jared Skowron), Integrative Medicine for Children (with May Loo) and Integrative Pediatrics (with Timothy Culbert). Even more insidiously he serves as the medical director of the Hamilton Elementary School Clinic, a free pediatric clinic that provides care to the students of one of the poorest school districts in Phoenix. Since everyone knows that what poor kids deserve is snake oil and woo.

Baral is also a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Here is a discussion of their 25th Anniversary Convention.

Diagnosis: No, Matt Baral is not a flaming internet kook with a poorly designed webpage, and hasn’t, as far as we know, made any grand, silly claims in public. But as a promoter of pseudoscientific bullshit he is definitely in a position where he would be able to exert notable, harmful influence on the world, much more so than most all-caps internet kooks.