Sunday, April 20, 2014

#1004: Tim O'Shea

A.k.a. The Doctor Within

Tim O’Shea might not be among the most famous altmed practitioners in the US, but he is surely one of the most consistently delusionally wrong (and has been awarded with a substantial presence at for his efforts). O’Shea is into, well, pretty much everything and anything. He is for instance a germ theory denialist. That’s right. Bacteria and viruses don’t cause disease. Evidence? We still get sick, and there are companies that earn money off of antibiotics – and, to make sure no one would think of him as anything but a loon, O’Shea also claims that Pasteur recanted his theory on his deathbed, and then Deepak Chopra has, according to O’Shea, also shown that there is little association between germs and disease. Actually conducting research couldn’t fit worse with O’Shea’s agenda, so you get none of that, of course.

Primarily, O’Shea is an anti-vaccinationist, Director of the World Association for Vaccine Education (WAVE), and author of Vaccination is Not Immunization (praised by David Ayoub). As you’d expect O’Shea holds vaccines responsible for all sorts of ills, from autism to peanut allergy (as well as measles), and as you’d also expect, he doesn’t have much idea about how to find or use evidence or research. Primarily, his “evidence” is his own use of his good common sense (that sense that also led him to germ theory denial), and various appeals to perceived but undocumented correlations.

The board of directors for WAVE – which is a significant player in the antivaxx movement – includes Boyd Haley, Sherri Tenpenny, HIV denialist Andrew Maniotis, Marc Girard (another mainstay), Dan N. Schultz, Eileen Nicole Simon, KP Stoller, and Mary Tocco (yet another hero).

Diagnosis: Absolutely astonishing madman, who is fully unable to distinguish evidence from his own powers of intuition – which seem to be calibrated toward giving him idiotic results.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

#1003: Alex Ortner

Food fads are a great source of woo, and among the stupider ones you’ll find rawfoodism. Alex Ortner is the executive producer of the “documentary” Simply Raw (primarily an infomercial for Doctor of Divinity Gabriel Cousens), and Chief Operating Officer for the Simply Raw website. The guiding idea is that the way to the light is through a raw vegan diet, and the main claim of the movie is that raw veganism can cure diabetes (indeed, the movie’s subtitle is “Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days”). The methodology is to interview six diabetes patients about their experiences at Cousens’s clinic (needless to say the long-term effects are left a bit in the dark). The anecdotes are then augmented with claims by what they judge to be qualified experts (including such luminaries as Michael Beckwith, Gary Null and Julian Whitaker).

If you watch the movie (which I hope you won’t) you’ll also encounter one Dr. Joel Fuhrman claiming that cooking somehow destroys living antioxidants, phytochemicals, and a variety of other compounds, without which the body can’t be healthy and “must break down.” Fuhrman describes processed food as “foods whose life has been taken out of them,” and makes the claim that, without these micronutrients cells accumulate “toxins” that need to be “detoxified,” while touting broccoli and various vegetables as having “incredible medicinal power.” Yes, it’s as complete bullshit as it sounds. Add to that Cousens talking about live cell analysis and Super Size Me star and delusional crackpot Morgan Spurlock failing desperately in an attempt to assess evidence, and you have a good mix of woo and silly.

The movie might not seem to be as crammed with woo as you’d expect (although it provides absolutely no evidence for any of its claims). If you go to the website, however, you’re in for something different. In his mailing list about the movie Ortner promotes “super immunity,” which is longevity and “detoxification” pseudoscience featuring Joe Mercola and David Wolfe; the tapping solution, allegedly a form of “meridian tapping;” or a variety of emotional freedom techniques
and “thought field therapy” – utter quackery claiming that finger tapping along meridians “releases the body’s energy flow” – and not the least Dr. Joe Vitale’s “blood pressure miracle,” which claims to be able to reverse hypertension “naturally” without drugs. Then there is the “seven day back pain cure,” which promises to cure your back pain without drugs, surgery, or much of anything else; and promotion of “holistic” doctor and homeopath Mark Stenger, who is push a method to “balance your hormones”, all naturally.

Diagnosis: Complete and utter bullshit, promoted with zeal and ignorance. As usual. Dangerous.

#1002: Ariel Torres Ortega

Another day, another delusionally insane gay marriage opponent. Rev. Ariel Torres Ortega is apparently involved in Radio VisiĆ³n Cristiana. When New York started suggesting legalization of gay marriage in 2011, Ortega told the participants at an anti-gay rally in Bronx that those who practice anything but heterosexual sex within the confines of marriage “are worthy to death. […] God bless this earth. That is the word of God.” The focus of the rally was apparently the Christian message of “love”.

Diagnosis: Another moron who is blaming God for his own hatred and bigotry. Probably relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but deserves to be called out nonetheless.

Friday, April 18, 2014

#1001: Leonard Orr & Sondra Ray

Leonard Dietrich Orr is a spiritual writer known for developing Rebirthing-Breathwork, a system or technique of breathing that allegedly helps one to overcome the “trauma” of being born. Apparently he learned some of his stuff from the twelve immortal yogis he claims to have met (the one he names, Haidakhan Babaji, died in 1984). Orr’s claims that humans are not only immortal, but physically immortal, has thus far not gained widespread recognition.

Orr is also one of the earlier proponents of “prosperity consciousness” the idea – most famously promoted by The Secret – that your beliefs about yourself are a key factor in magically pulling more money to you. Apparently your magical abilities may be undermined by what Orr calls “emotional energy pollution,” however. So if you experience, say, financial troubles in your life, it is because you have the wrong attitude.

According to his bio Orr spent a large part of his early career in the bathtub –  literally hours every day – where he had frequent flashes of memories of being in the womb or being born, and he subsequently founded “Theta House”, a Rebirthing Center where enthusiastic Rebirthers would be breathing with a snorkel in a hot-tub while floating face down to stimulate womb memories. Orr noticed – rigorous science here – that a certain breathing rhythm would occur, which subsequently led him and co-enthusiast Sondra Ray to develop the Rebirthing-Breathwork technique, a therapeutic technique that can heal suppressed emotions regardless of at what point in one’s life they became suppressed (that is, induce these emotions, though Orr and Ray don’t put it quite like that). Indeed, according to Orr, if you learn how to breathe energy well, you can breathe away diseases and physical or emotional pain. As expected, Orr’s and Ray’s writings on the subject mixes most forms of woo, New Age beliefs and religious fundamentalism into a highly delusional mass of gibberish. Their book Rebirthing in the New Age barely, according to critics, “edges out The Miracle of Psycho-Command Power as the most ludicrous piece of shite ever to come out of the whole self-help/new age mess. Claims you can achieve physical immortality.” (Rebirthing in general is discussed here, with a focus on the work of James S. Gordon. Rebirthing also has an entry here).

Sondra Ray is also the author of Essays on Creating Sacred Relationships: The Next Step to a New Paradigm, which apparently helps you create your own paradigm – some serious misunderstanding of Kuhn’s writings going on here, in other words.

Rebirthing has apparently gained some popularity. You can for instance have a rather overwhelming experience of poorly matching colors if you visit the rebirthing promoting website of Petrene Soames here. Rebirthing practices have also caused some serious real harm, but that can, once again, probably be blamed on the victims.

Diagnosis: Astonishing bullshit. Orr and Ray are among the most delusional people on the planet, but have a knack for fluffy terminology that makes a certain segment of the population pay not only attention to them, but money to undergo treatments based on their bullshit at their centers. It should beggar belief, but it doesn’t anymore.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#1000: Jane Orient

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a relatively small but notoriously loud group of “conservative” cranks and batshit crazy fundies who wail against, in particular, abortion, vaccination, the idea of universal health care coverage, and the fact that evidence- and science-based medicine as placing unacceptable limits on physician autonomy (it is obviously listed by Quackwatch). Jane Orient is the executive director. The physical address of the organization in Tucson (a suite in a medical center) is also the address for the equally insane Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, the American Health Legal Foundation, the AAPS Educational Foundation, Physicians for Civil Defense, the Southwestern Institute of Science, and the Southern Arizona Association for Play Therapy. Jane Orient is also listed as contact for the majority of these other organizations. Common to all is that they defend all the extreme religious right positions (usually denial) related to any topic in science and medicine, and various forms of woo and anti-vaccine propaganda. In short, Jane Orient may hence be one of the most comprehensive crackpots in our Encyclopedia thus far. You can read about her arguments against vaccines, citing the Geiers, here. Her claims have been cited by various anti-vaccine organizations, who wouldn’t recognize a crank if they ate one.

The AAPS also has its house journal, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPANDS). The journal is not considered a valid, peer-reviewed journal for inclusion in major scientific databases, for obvious reasons, and has been listed by Quackwatch as “Fundamentally Flawed” (There is a meticulous analysis of the journal here). JPANDS has for instance published (this is a short list) a rather famous and extensively debunked article on the supposed link between breast cancer and abortion, and between oral contraceptives and cancer (the AAPS has filed a lawsuit against FDA to overturn approval of ‘Plan B; morning after pill’ for over the counter use by women over 18 – the “study” linking them to cancer appeared after that lawsuit was unsuccessful), various defenses of Lupron therapy by the Geiers, articles defending HIV denialism (a mainstay with the AAPS), articles denouncing randomized controlled trials in favor of single case studies (by Donald & Clifford Miller), articles defending hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat multiple sclerosis, articles (infomercials, really) pushing nutritional treatments for ADHD and herpes; an article (from late 2008) claiming that Barack Obama uses neuro-linguistic programming to exercise mind control over people at his rallies, and articles used to justify the importance and significance of the Oregon petition as evidence against global warming.

There is an obvious reason for publishing that last one. Orient is a faculty member at Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine, a denialist think tank run by Arthur Robinson, and – of course – the institution behind said petition. And yes, Orient is, of course, also a vehement global warming denialist. To make sure she has maxed out her commitment to denialism and hatred of science, Orient is also a creationist and signatory to the sadly silly Discovery Institute initiated petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

But the thing is: the organization is actually influential and has a significant say in policy decisions. Members include Ron & Rand Paul, Paul Broun and former Louisiana congressman John Cooksey, as well as Joe Mercola and Russell Blaylock, which is an impressive and rather frightening lineup.

Diagnosis: A brilliant example of crank magnetism, Orient seems determined to reject absolutely anything that has to do with reason, truth or evidence. She is pretty active and pretty zealous about it, and her various organizations have done quite a bit of damage to civilization already.