Friday, March 27, 2015

#1328: John Assaraf


John Assaraf is, according to himself, a serial entrepreneur, brain researcher, and CEO of PraxisNow, a brain-research company that creates some of the most powerful evidence-based brain retraining tools and programs in the world. Sounds impressive? (no, he doesn’t provide any evidence – he has anecdotes, though; his target group probably won’t know the differece). Today, John researches, writes and lectures extensively around the world on the neuroscience of success and achieving maximum performance,” might lead you to suspect that scientific research isn’t really the main goal here. And it does not appear that Assaraf has any education even remotely related to neuroscience or consciousness studies. But he is sure interested in ”brain research, quantum physics, spiritual growth, health, exercise, travel, cooking, family, great food, friends and philanthropy.”

Did the word “quantum” just pop up in there? Oh, yes, it did. And now you probably have an idea about what kind of “neuroscience research” Assaraf promotes. Here is Assaraf on quantum physics: “They have proven that thoughts are what put together and hold together this ever-changing energy field into the ‘objects’ that we see,” says Assaraf. Our perceptions of objects in our environment are just interpretations “solely based on the ‘internal map’ of reality that we have, and not the real truth. Our ‘map’ is a result of our personal life’s collective experiences.” Change that map, and you can get rich: “Your life becomes what you have imagined and believed in most. The world is literally your mirror, enabling you to experience in the physical plane what you hold as your truth … until you change it.”

Yes, it’s the Law of Attraction, mixed with something resembling neurolinguistic programming. (And no, science has not shown what Assaraf thinks; his claims constitue an unsophisticated, bastardized form of Berkeley-style empiricism with conceptual schemes, with the incoherent thought that you can change your scheme at will; it’s not science, it’s badly misunderstood intro-level philosophy). You can nevertheless learn about it in his videos “Money2 The Neuroscience of Financial Success,” the sequel to “How to Earn $1 million.” Assaraf was even featured in the movie adaptation of The Secret. No, Assaraf’s interest in the science here isn’t particularly profound. But he does produce self-help books, of the most vapid, fluffy kind, backed up with vague tales of wonder and sheer woo.

Diagnosis: It’s really, really hard to believe that Assaraf is acting in good faith. But if he is … well, entrepeneurs may hail him as a success story, but his claims to care about science don’t even survive the most superficial scrutiny. Loon.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#1327: Ed Asner


Ed Asner is television, stage, and voice actor of some fame, and a former president of the Screen Actors Guild. He has been engaged in various work that I suppose many readers will be sympathetic to, and seems in most respects to be a good guy.

However, he is also a loon. Most significantly, Ed Asner is a 9/11 truther and one of the signatories to the organization 9/11 Truth’s 2004 statement calling for a new investigation into the September 11 attacks, a support he has later repeated. He also narrated the documentary film The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror. And as spokesman for 2004 Racism Watch, he wrote an open letter to “peace and justice leaders” encouraging them to demand “full 9-11 truth” through the organization 9-11 Visibility Project. Of course, Asner is not the only celebrity truther, and it there are apparently plans for him to appear in a movie September Morn with other truthers such as Martin Sheen and Woody Harrelson. And no, Asner isn’t one of those who “have a lot of questions;” Ed Asner is a “controlled demolition” promoter. It doesn’t matter what science or evidence says, since those scientists and evidentists are probably part of the conspiracy anyways.

Diagnosis: Doddering, confused fool. Probably not particularly harmful on his own, but he sure does his best to lend credibility to the batshit crazy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#1326: Cindy Asmussen


Cindy Asmussen is the Central Texas Area Director for the wingnut organization Concerned Women for America. They apparently have chapters all over the place, each of which apparently contains at least a few people like Asmussen (the south Texas area director, Pat Hanson, has for instance been involved in fighting the teaching of evolution and global warming in Texas public schools) – we won’t be able to cover them all, of course, but Asmussen can stand as an illustrative example .

So Asmussen doesn’t fancy gays. In 2011, for instance, she received some attention for her plea to boycott Macy’s over the company’s LGBT rights policy. In fact, Asmussen wasn’t just concerned about “the lesbian, ‘gay,’ bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) agenda in our nation;” she also complained against the Obama administration’s efforts to fight both legal and social discrimination against LGBT people around the world. Such efforts, said Asmussen, infringes on the rights of people who don’t support LGBT rights and undercut ‘ex-gay’ reparative therapy. And that, Asmussen, is the kind of claim that will land you an entry in our Encyclopedia.

Of course, Asmussen has deluded herself into believing that she is the victim: “LGBT activists want to alter OUR lifestyles by intimidating us into accepting what we know is not of God, by trying to inhibit our free speech rights and abilities to speak out against it, and by forcing us to use the same dressing rooms.” Yes, people like Asmussen say things like that, even though it is so ridiculous that no minimally reasonable person could actually consciously believe it is true. We are hence forced to conclude that Asmussen is repeating it without actually thinking about what she is saying. In other words, she is bigotbotting.

Diagnosis: Bigotbot.     

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#1325: Eugene C. Ashby


Eugene C. Ashby is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Georgia Institute of Technology, and a hardcore intelligent design creationist. As a creationist, Ashby has apparently made a zealous effort to perpetuate all the standard misunderstandings and untruths concerning evolution associated with creationism, many of which he published in his book (tract, really) Understanding the Creation/Evolution Controversy, in which he amply demonstrated that he does not understand the Creation/Evolution “controversy”. Oh yes, you will find the creationist distinction between macro- and microevolution, Haeckel’s embryos, and peppered moths, and that’s just the beginning. It’s really all there.

Ashby also supported the infamous disclaimer stickers in Cobb County, GA, put on biology textbooks proclaiming that evolution is “a theory, not a fact”. And, since he does indeed possess a legitimate degree (contrary to what you’d be led to expect from his support for the aforementioned sticker), a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist. Ashby has a real degree, but his education does not seem to have given him much grasp of science.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#1324: Inanna Arthen


Inanna Arthen is, according to her bio, a “trained psychic and professional Tarot reader, Inanna has taught classes in psychic development, meditation and ‘practical magick working,’ and has extensive knowledge and experience of every branch of paranormal phenomena.” That’s not a good start for making inquiries into anything having to do with reality, and Arthen’s attempts to carry out such inquiries are … well, in fact, somewhat novel.

Arthen is most famous for her claims that vampires are real, a claim that initially brought her some underground fame through this article in 1987. Vampires are beings who “appear on the surface to be somewhat eccentric members of society, yet their outward idiosyncrasies only hint at how different they are from those around them.” In fact, “[a] vampire is a person born with an extraordinary capacity to absorb, channel, transform, and manipulate ‘pranic energy’ or life force.” For the most part, then, vampires feed off of your life energy, though they sometimes drink blood as well: “Only real vampires can directly absorb the pranic energy in fresh blood, and for this reason some real vampires are attracted to blood and find different means of obtaining it.” You identify them “by a certain quality to the energy,” and by the fact that they are night people: they have excellent night vision, but are sensitive to sunlight and frequently experience digestive trouble.

Unfortunately, most vampires are unaware of their own true natures. “Evolved” vampires may, however, “become extraordinary magicians and healers,” and according to Arthen pagan magickal people like herself should work to identify vampires and help them evolve. So there you go.

Diagnosis: Her career seems to be primarily based on writing fiction. Some of it she apparently – rather randomly – designates as “non-fiction” because she is a loon.