Sunday, November 17, 2019

#2268: J.C. Smith

J.C. Smith (right) being interviewed.
The appreciation of science, evidence and medicine among chiropractors varies. Chiropractor J.C. Smith represents the non-appreciating faction. According to Smith, science and scientists, biased as they are toward truth, evidence and reality, are waging a war against chiropractors, especially those who, like Smith, find themselves on the more overtly pseudoscientific end of things, and in 2011 he (self-)published his magnum opus The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story from Persecution to Vindication detailing the battle in an exposé comparable, in his view, to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s exposé of slavery. According to Smith, the American Medical Association has waged a dirty war on perceived competition, and the motive is primarily money – though not only that: according to Smith, real MDs are apparently attacking chiropractic because it is based on a vitalistic philosophy, which doctors and scientists oppose because they are mostly atheists. The fight for the legitimacy of chiropractic is according a “religious war to keep the heretics out of the medical den of iniquity.” It is, apparently, also an attack on academic freedom and comparably to the bigotry in America before Civil Rights, when desegregation led to resentment and deadly attacks. The book-burning mindset of scientists and medical doctors will, as Smith sees it, go down in the annals of history alongside Joseph Goebbels’s book-burning policy. Indeed, Smith’s book contains a remarkable amount of references to Nazis and racial prejudice in addition to its more predictable half-truths, falsehood and general crackpottery. 

The general narrative of the book is approximately as follows: Before chiropractic licensure was approved chiropractors occasionally got themselves in legal trouble for practicing medicine without a license, and as Smith sees things, this was apparently a bogus charge, but one that forced noble chiropractors to hide like Anne Frank or escaped slaves; chiropractors persevered despite AMAs aggressive efforts to combat quackery, however, and finally got their long-awaited licensures. AMA is, throughout the book, compared to the KGB, Gestapo and CIA, and he even mentions the showers of Auschwitz; medical doctors are like storm troopers, and criticizing chiropractic is like making Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus. Suffice to say, the book probably did not do chiropractors who want to be taken seriously any service. There is a good and reasonably comprehensive critique of the book here.

His book. It is published
by Tate Publishing.
Apparently there is a sequel,
too: To Kill a Chiropractor:
The Media War against
Chiropractors. 
As for his claims on behalf of the efficacy of chiropactic, Smith decides to go all D.D. Palmer. Deep into subluxation woo, Smith is very concerned about the proper flow of nerve energy, claiming that spinal dysfunctions disrupt the flow and cause heart attacks and visceral disorders like dysmenorrhea, asthma, enuresis, and infantile colic. Indeed, spine dysfunctions can even cause brain damage and premature aging. And manipulation is, of course, effective for all these disorders. As evidence for his nonsense, Smith relies for instance on the 1979 New Zealand Chiropractic Report developed by a panel consisting of a barrister, a chemistry professor, and a retired headmistress of a girls’ school (and comprehensively discussed here); the NZ report relied primarily on selected testimonials, draws conclusions in direct conflict with all current evidence obtained by using actual scientific methods, and nevertheless concluded that chiropractors should be strictly monitored, not present themselves as doctors, not encourage patients to consult a chiropractor in preference to a medical doctor for any condition, and not mislead the public into believing that chiropractic is an alternative to medicine. To bolster his case, Smith has arguments from popularity and patient satisfaction, and even arguments from antiquity: according to Smith, Hippocrates and Imhotep wrote about chiropractic (they did not). He also quotes Gary Null and Dana Ullman, and dismisses critics as being in cahoots with the AMA.

Smith also runs a website called Chiropractors for Fair Journalism, where he attacks critics of woo for oppression and for engaging in mafia tactics (The Institute for Science in Medicine, for instance, is referred to as “The Medical GoodFellas”), and accuses anyone who points out the pseudoscience and quackery that underlie chiropractic of “bigotry”, like: “His [Morris Fishbein, MD] intolerant quasi-KKK attitude about all non-allopathic CAM professions set the tone for the Jim Crow, MD, bias we see in many members in the medical profession today.” Likewise, efforts to inform the public of medical science and medical evidence that Smith doesn’t like is “fear-mongering and slander”. The main problem, though, with organizations like the ISM, which offers medical information and criticize pseudoscience, is apparently that they seek to “alone determine[…] what qualifies one method as ‘pseudo-scientific practices’ and the others as ‘scientific’,” and that “it is not its role to act as watchdogs since this is a governmental issue within each state. No one has endowed ISM to act as such, but the AMA has never subjected its power to any governmental agency in its quest to remain the medical monopoly.” Not indicative of a particularly well-developed ability to draw obvious distinctions or avoid massive strawmen, is it? 

Diagnosis: A shining illustration of the all-too common failure to distinguish criticism from oppression and facts from opinion. At least his efforts are probably unlikely to do quacks any favors.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

#2267: E. Norbert Smith

One of Smith's books labelled
"non-fiction". Smith does of
course not want you to
consider the evidence - he
wants you to consider the
fragments of evidence
he carefully selects and
interprets for you.
A.k.a. Doc Gator

E. Norbert Smith is a near-infamous mainstay of creationist organizations and fundie anti-science efforts. The reason is, of course, that Smith is one of those rare specimens among creationists who does indeed possess a Ph.D. in Zoology, from Texas Tech University. Smith is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s idiotic petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism (his dissent being not even remotely scientific, of course), as well as the CMI list of scientists alive today who accept the biblical account of creation. He seems to be currently affiliated with the website Creation.com (previously with godofcreation.com), and was formerly on the board of directors for the Creation Research Society. He has also taught courses for various fundie extremist mockeries of educational institutions, including a “graduate course” for the Institute for Creation Research as well as an online course in Creation for Liberty University.

Now, Smith might, in fact, have written some real research articles back in the 70s and 80s. For the last 30 years or so, however, he has focused on writing articles for the Journal of Creation, children’s books (of course: this was never about science, truth or evidence, but cult recruitment) – including a number of books about Al-the-gator under the pseudonym Doc Gator – and various anti-science books with titles like Evolution Has Failed and Battleground University. In the latter his main complaint seems to be that universities teach critical thinking to students, something that often gets in the way of accepting his denialist talking points on pure faith. Smith does not appear to have any current academic affiliation, however, and is surely not a working scientist by any stretch of the imagination.

And if you ever wondered whether his creationist research had any scientific merit, you can read about his pitiful forays into creation hydrology here. The measures taken to avoid actually testing the core hypothesis are rather striking.  

Diagnosis: A mainstay of creation science, which stands to science like pretend gold stands to gold. We cannot let real scientific testing or evidence get in the way of good dogma, can we?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

#2266: David E. Smith

The Illinois Family Institute, a state affiliate of the American Family Association, is, not surprisingly, an anti-marriage-equality organization and its executive director, David E. Smith, a fundamentalist bigot (Smith succeeded Peter LaBarbera in the position; Laurie Higgins is their director of school advocacy). The IFI is also a vociferous opponent of abortion, the separation of church and state, “activist judges”, gambling and drugs, and was correctly designated a hate group by the SPLC.

In spring 2013, when a law legalizing same-sex marriage was postponed by the Illinois legislature, Smith was ready to explain why: “The Body of Christ here in Illinois has risen up and has really made a noise and made a really concerted effort to make sure that our state lawmakers know without a doubt that we object to the idea of them redefining marriage,” Smith said: “They do not have the moral authority to redefine marriage as God created it.” This was not the reason for postponement. Moreover, neither Smith nor his fellows at the Illionis Family Institute have the power to raise zombie Jesus, even though they probably wouldn’t be prevented from doing so by alignment restrictions. 

Later Smith sent out a fundraising appeal where he warned that if activists failed to stop marriage equality legislation in Illinois, “America will collapse” like Sodom and Gomorrah, and compared his fight against the evil agenda” of gay rights to that of American soldiers in WW2: “We should be inspired to defend marriage with the same courage, conviction, tenacity, and sacrifice that the greatest generation fought to defend American principles and to honor their fallen. If we don’t stop the enemy from achieving his goal of destroying the family, there won’t be any monuments to visit.” Yes, it’s always the end of everything; only apostates would ask for evidence or reasons.

In 2012, IFI called for parents to remove their children from classrooms led by teachers who support LGBT-related instruction; in particular, in their document “Challenge Teachers, Not Books” they encouraged parents to “object to teachers rather than texts”, and offered suggestions for parents who are “fed up with the subtle and not so subtle messages that activist teachers of a liberal bent work into their classroom teaching through their classroom comments, curricular materials ... and even their desks and classroom displays.” The IFI has also for a long time advocated teaching creationism in public schools, ostensibly as a way to present “both sides of an argument” (they aren’t really interested in both sides, even if there were two sides, which there aren’t), and have made recommendations to Illinois educators to keep explicit references to evolution out of public school classrooms in Illinois.

Diagnosis: Fundie loons, and though they have probably lost the war people like Smith are still trying their best to cause as much harm as possible. A real, if relatively minor, threat to civilization.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

#2265: Daniel Smith

Alternative medicine isn’t medicine, but at least most woo is in itself probably as harmless as it is useless (the conspiracy theories and falsehoods involved in marketing them less so). MMS, or Miracle Mineral Supplement, is different. MMS an aqueous solution of 28% sodium chlorite, an industrial chemical that, when prepared in a citric acid solution, forms chlorine dioxide. Yes, we are talking industrial-strength bleach, and its effects on the body are what you’d expect from that. MMS is nevertheless promoted as a cure for HIV, malaria, viral hepatitis, the H1N1 flu virus, common colds, acne, cancer and much more. Its inventor, Jim Humble, has no evidence for any of his medical claims, of course; instead, he claims to be a billion-year-old God from the Andromeda galaxy. 

In recent years, MMS has in particular been promoted as a “cure” for autistic children, in particular by deranged lunatic Kerri Rivera. But there are several other promoters of MMS around as well. Louis Daniel Smith is hopefully not anymore, though: In 2015 he was found guilty of selling industrial bleach as a miracle cure for numerous diseases and illnesses, including cancer, AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, lyme disease, asthma and the common cold through a business called “Project GreenLife”, and sentenced to 51 months in prison. In particular, the jury convicted him of one count of conspiracy to commit multiple crimes, three counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and one count of fraudulently smuggling merchandise into the United States. Before the trial, three of Smith’s alleged co-conspirators – Chris Olson, Tammy Olson and Karis DeLong, Smith’s wife – pleaded guilty to introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. The most scary part, however, is that Smith was part of a network of at least 1,700 people selling MMR around the world; stopping him was, in other words, likely to make only minimal difference to the worldwide distribution of MMS. Smith’s numerous fans and followers were of course quick to yell “conspiracy” and “oppression” and “health freedom”.

According to the instructions for use that Smith provided, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting were all signs that the miracle cure was working, and, despite a risk of possible brain damage, they suggested that the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women or infants who were seriously ill. Officially, however, the sodium chlorite was imported for use in wastewater treatment facilities, conveniently sold in 4-ounce bottles for $20 apiece. It is, in that light, only a remarkable coincidene that Project GreenLife also happened to sell citric acid, the other component of MMS, and provided information about use “for your safety and convenience”.

There is a good discussion of MMS here.

Diagnosis: We don’t generally cover ordinary criminals, but have to make an exception here. Hopefully he learned a lesson, but we are not really very optimistic, and there are many more like him. An extremely dangerous fellow – crazy, stupid and completely without scruples – so we recommend maintaining a safe distance.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Friday, November 8, 2019

#2264: Brad Smith et al.

In 2013 a group of pagans planned and arranged a festival to celebrate the summer solstice in Pahokee, Florida. It is probably little surprise that the event was not exactly welcomed by the area’s resident Talibanists, who packed a city commission meeting and demanded that the city prevent the festival from taking place because pagans, devil worshippers. We suspect many of them would be firm defenders of religious freedom but also be baffled if told that religious freedom means that people who hold religious views different from yours also have the right to have and express them. 

Among the protestors were Brad Smith, a funeral director and apparently the Florida Director of Kids for Christ, who called the event “an abomination”; “I just found out about this today. I am disappointed in the city of Pahokee for allowing this group to come,” he said, under the delusion that the city has the power to deny groups that Smith doesn’t like the ability to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights. Evangelist Lillian Brown, of Saints on the Move, pointed out that “God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community,” which is a fine example of fractal wrongness. At least if you ever wondered how witch burnings could go on for centuries back in the days despite the patent ridiculousness of the charges, people like Lillian Brown should give you some indication. Rev. Raul Rodriguez, of Church of God Door of Jesus Christ, just pointed out that “we don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever”, even though whether Raul Rodriguez needs the event or not seems to be strikingly irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Daniel Mondragon, however, warned that by hosting the event “we are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells;” belly dancing and magic spells are almost equally bad, and the former could potentially even take place: “We do not welcome these things. This is the first annual event, and it should be the last.” Dire warnings also from Bishop Jared Hines of New Destiny Community Church: “This event is not only detrimental to our city but to our county. What goes on at that lake will affect us all; it will move from the dike and into our homes.” Pastor Eugene Babb of Harlem Church of God, meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to top the others, asserted that “we cannot expect our city to survive and prosper if we allow these things.”

When their attempts to prevent the event from taking place by legal means failed, they resorted to their most powerful weapon: prayer. Pastor Jorge Chivara of the Hispanic Nazarene Church led the effort: “We want to begin praying about what’s taking place before the event, during the event, and after the event,” Chivara said.

Diagnosis: Yes, they are theocrats, plain and simple. It is a very telling illustration of what many fundies think religious freedom amounts to, at least. Though the delusional nitwits described here – they really give Sir Bedivere’s audience a run for their money – are local nitwits with negligible influence on civilization considered individually, their actions and responses also seem to be pretty standard fare many places in the US.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

#2263: Patricia Slusher

Chronic Lyme disease is (almost certainly) a non-existent condition, but the diagnosis remains popular in woo-minded and (largely overlapping) conspiracy-minded groups. There is, accordingly, a thriving market for people who “diagnose” and “treat” chronic lyme disease, and they are often termed LLMDs, or “Lyme Literate” doctors. Some of these are spineless or deluded MDs; many are not. Patricia Slusher is not. Slusher is an “ND” – a naturopath, or not a doctor – and a “CN”, i.e. “certified nutritionist”. That certification means nothing, of course: Ben Goldacre once got his cat, which had been dead for years, registered as a certified member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants – Slusher presumably got her certification from something called the American Health Science University, which you can read about here. She is, however, treating patients for “chronic Lyme disease”.

According to one of her patients, “[f]or the first 3 weeks my Lyme protocol consist of taking 3 supplements from Percision [sic] Herbs, LLC; LYX, Spirex and Puricell and spending 30 minutes 2X a week getting a Quad Zapper treatment.” The Quad zapper is a Hulda Clark device, no less. So, Slusher treats her patients with Hulda Clark devices and worthless supplements, as well as with homeopathy. It’s fortunate that chronic lyme is not a real disease. That, however, doesn’t clear Slusher of wrongdoing – her patients are clearly suffering, and taking their money is not likely to make things better. 

Consultations with Slusher start out with “Quantum Reflex Analysis”, which is applied kinesiology with “quantum” added on (Slusher likes quantum mumbo jumbo), and an examination of the patient’s tongue, nails, and face. Then you can sign up for:

-       The Zyto Biocommunication Health Evaluation, a bogus electrodermal diagnostic process using a biofeedback machine hooked up to a computer.
-       Avalon Photonic Light Therapy (equally nonsensical).
-       Distance Consultation and Testing: you don’t actually need to come to her office; sending a photo or handwriting sample will do. 
-       Saliva Hormone Testing. Yeah; no.
-       “Detoxification” treatments with ionic foot baths, no less.
-       Chromatherapy Light Goggles, because “God designed people to be exposed to full spectrum sunlight several hours a day”, with color pairings for various organ systems.
-       Electronic acupressure
-       A chi modulator.
-       Meridian therapy.

Slusher, who describes herself as an energy medicine “doctor”, obtained her naturopathic “degree” from the Trinity College of Natural Health; now, accreditations by the official naturopathic college organization, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Colleges, really shouldn’t convey any sort of authority either, but it is worth pointing out that even they don’t recognize Trinity.

Diagnosis: You probably have to be stupid or desperate to fall for any of this, but those are precisely the characteristics of the victims Slusher targets. Complete and utter bollocks.


Hat-tip: Harriet Hall @ Sciencebased medicine

Monday, November 4, 2019

#2262: Sharon Slater

Family Watch International (FWI) is a hate organization that lobbies the United Nations for pro-life and anti-gay causes, including the imprisonment of gay people around the world. Sharon Slater, its president, is apparently opposed to the death penalty for gay people, but she is fine with imprisonment. The FWI for instance arranges an annual, invitation-only global policy forum for UN delegates to promote their policy objectives, where Slater has particularly emphasized ex-gay messages, including “the personal testimony of a patient who is successfully reorienting from homosexuality to heterosexuality” and a speech from an alleged expert Slater conspicuously refused to name. According to FWI literature, “so-called ‘homosexual rights’ are driving much of the current worldwide assault on marriage, the family and family related issues.” There is a good, if old, portrait of Slater, the FWI, and their efforts here.

Like many anti-gay groups, Slater and the FWI focus much of their attention on Africa. After all, their ideas for how to treat gay people probably won’t fly in the US anymore (not that they’ve entirely stopped trying), but fanatic bigots still have some clout in certain African nations that makes it possible to turn their bigotry into policy; by claiming that the West is imposing its corrupt, “anti-family” values on the rest of the world, and that the “developing world” is the last holdout against the “homosexual agenda” (Slater is no stranger to lying, of course), these groups often do find favor with people who otherwise find themselves struggling under the weight of a global economy designed to exploit and indebt. 

And as long as gay people get to suffer, these organizations – FWI included – are not above creating alliances e.g. with Islamist extremists, for instance in developing a UN “Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families”, which is basically an anti-marriage-equality statement: It calls upon the UN to recognize a “family with a married mother and father” as the preferred family organization, and “call upon States Parties and the United Nations system to discourage sexual relations and childbearing outside of the marital bond”. The effort was at least in part set in motion by Slater’s and the FWI’s “Protect the Family” petition, which is not really about protecting families but attacking families organized in ways different from the one Slater fancies (i.e. those led by grandparents, single parents, same-sex parents, and countless other configurations of people caring for people – Slater is, in fact, explicit about this goal – family values™ are not about family values). Slater is also a frequent participant and keynote speaker at the World Congress of Families, which is not about families either.

FWI has been deeply involved in promoting abstinence-and fidelity-only initiatives in Uganda, and has praised Nigeria – where same-sex couples can face up to 14 years in prison or stoning at the hands of Sharia courts – as “a strong role model” for other regional governments “on how to hold on to their family values despite intense international pressure.”

As mentioned, Slater and the FWI are also opposed to sex education: “It’s destructive. It’s pornographic. It’s designed to change all the sexual and gender norms of society by sexualizing children everywhere. It’s probably one of the most insidious attacks on the health and innocence of children ever imagined,” says Slater. In a radio interview, she also said that sex education is a plot by Planned Parenthood to turn your kids into sexual deviants so they can make more money on condoms, STD tests and abortions. There is, Slater asserted, “an intentional, targeted effort to get to your children and change the way they think about sexuality, to encourage them to engage in sexual activity, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual or self-stimulation, because if they can recruit children into this worldview and this sexual ideology, then they’ll have the future, if they can train up the next generation in all these radical ideas. And that’s what they’re after. In fact, even Hitler said, ‘He who owns the minds of the children owns the future.’” Because whenever organizations or people disagree with you, it is always because they are in a greed-motivated nefarious conspiracy against you, the US and Jesus.

Diagnosis: Deranged bigot. But Slater and her organization are not mere fringe lunatics with Internet access – their power and influence is frighteningly real, if mostly realized abroad: Slater is genuinely knowledgeable of the workings of the UN, and possesses enough political skills to exploit that knowledge; few loons covered in our Encyclopedia rival Slater and her organization for harm and suffering caused.