Thursday, December 8, 2022

#2597: JT Bridges

JT Bridges is “a professor of philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina” and Catholic fundamentalist who is also associated with the Discovery Institute, for whom he has for instance written the post “Hylomorphism as a Metaphysic for Intelligent Design Science”. In the post, Bridges attempts to use medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas to “give a philosophical justification for the conclusions arrived at scientifically by ID theorists” (emphasis in the original). That shouldn’t be too hard, given that Thomas, rooted in the teleological thinking of Aristotle, provided the (possibly) oldest and, given modern knowledge, dumbest design argument. The Thomistic tradition he initiated has, however, been extremely careful to emphasize the compatibility (indeed, integration) of science and faith, which makes it at least somewhat notable that Bridges tries to use it in a blatant attack on science – desperately asserting, against all fact and reason, that intelligent design creationism is “scientific” is a rather feeble attempt to sidestep the irony.


Otherwise, Bridges is very fascinated by the concept of information, the scientific use of which he, like creationists in general, doesn’t quite grasp. He is quite sure, however, thatthe Darwinian mechanism are [sic] not capable of building this type of information and the only known source is something like conscious activity”, despite the evident falsehood of that claim.


Bridges is also affiliated with Norm Geisler International Ministries.


Diagnosis: At least he doesn’t claim to be a scientist – though some religious groups strangely thinks he is. But he is anti-science, and has devoted ample time and effort to promote science denial and pseudoscience. Certainly not one of the good guys.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

#2596: Eric Braverman

Eric R. Braverman is the founder and director of PATH Medical, a clinic that ostensibly focuses on “brain health”, as well as founder and president of PATH Foundation NY and – at least formerly – Total Health Nutrients, LLC, a dietary supplements online shop and promoter. Though he is, indeed, an MD, Braverman is heavily into the branch of quackery known as orthomolecular medicine, and advocates dropping medicines in favor of untested nonsense he conveniently happens to sell, in particular large doses of nutrients for treating schizophrenia and other illnesses – Braverman has described himself as “one of the foremost experts on the integration of conventional and alternative medicine.” He is also a self-declared rabbi and “certified in anti-aging medicine” by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, which is not a serious medical board. Already back in 1987, Braverman co-authored a book, The Healing Nutrients Within, with quack legend Carl C. Pfeiffer, in which they advocated for what they called ‘Pfeiffer’s Law’: that “if a drug can be found to do the job of medical healing, a nutrient can be found to do the same job. When we understand how a drug works, we can imitate its action with one of the nutrients.” The claim is deranged bullshit. There is a good portrait of Braverman here.


PATH’s claims for itself are, shall we say, not exactly modest. Apparently, PATH “treat[s] causes, not symptoms,” a familiar quack phrase that should raise all the red flags there are. And the range of conditions they promise to cure include everything from Alzheimers through allergies, blurred vision, fat craving, insomnia, arthritis, dry cough, chest pains, hear issues and Parkinson’s, to cold/clammy hands, tinnitus and weight gain – all being “deficiency symptoms” that can be treated through “natural approaches (including supplements). It should be needless to say that the claims are bullshit and based on guesswork, useless diagnostic tests and pseudoscience. Their website does for instance offer a free “Brain Deficiency Quiz” claimed to relate common symptoms to neurotransmitter deficiencies that can ostensibly be corrected with supplements. They are understandably unclear about how this test has been validated. Though Braverman’s CV lists a number of papers, mostly in bottom-feeding journals, there is predictably a striking shortage of outcome studies on his “natural treatment approaches” to back up any of the ambitious health claims he is making.


Commercially, PATH Medical seems to be sustained largely through conducting expensive and scientifically unsupportable tests and assessments, including BEAM testing, head-to-toe ultrasounds, a neuromuscular-skeletal review, and they test more than 250 “medical and aging markers. We suspect that if you are already willing to shell out up to 100,000 dollars, Braverman and his team will find something wrong that they can ‘cure’. BEAM testing (or qEEG), for instance, has few medically accepted uses, and Braverman’s claim go far beyond uses that have even been suggested by mainstream researchers, much less by the evidence. But it’s fancy; we’ll grant him that.


Even the team at PATH should raise suspicions, as it features people like John Pillepich, a “Ph.D. in holistic nutrition” from Clayton College of Natural Medicine, a now-defunct unaccredited diploma mill, who also served as “chief science advisor” for Total Health Nutrients.


Needless to say, Braverman and PATH has had some conflicts with medical boards, as well as with the New York Attorney General for their marketing and billing practices (especially misleading patients into thinking that their nonsense woo would be covered by insurance).


His books include The Amazing Way to Reverse Heart Disease Naturally: Beyond the Hypertension Hype: Why Drugs Are Not the Answer (with Dasha Braverman) and a big pile of garbage on how to reverse aging.


Diagnosis: Yet another one, and Braverman is glitzier and fancier and more professional-looking than most. Given that people are understandably concerned about health, his nonsense will surely continue to ensnare a significant number victims, and we are sure that many of them will sing PATH’s praises afterwards – after all, when you’ve spent 10,000 dollars to cure something that the people offering you the cure convinced you that you were suffering from, you are not going to want to find out that you got conned.


Hat-tip: Quackwatch

Friday, December 2, 2022

#2595: Michelle Brannick

Chiropractor Nicholas LeRoy used escharotics to treat a woman’s cervical dysplasia after he lost his license. The consequence was that a woman lost her uterus. Escharotics is idiotic and dangerous pseudoscience but nevertheless popular among alternative medicine practitioners.


LeRoy did suffer some blowback for lying to his patients and treating them with dangerous quackery without a license, but that didn’t really stop him: Instead, he sold his practice to Michelle Brannick, whom he has been teaching everything he thinks he knows about treating dysplasia. LeRoy also continued to consult with Brannick on all cases until she was able to do everything the way LeRoy would have done them. And more women will suffer grievous injuries at their hands.


And Brannick is a quack’s quack. (We will cover LeRoy at a later stage.) Brannick is a licensed “Naturopathic and Chiropractic Physicianmis-educated at the pseudo-educational institution Bastyr, and she offers and recommends a range of nonsense and quackery. She is anti-vaccine, of course, and a fundamentalist conspiracy theorist: Her website contains numerous links to familiar conspiracy websites and resources, including Gary Null (Brannick apparently agrees with Null that all conventional medicine is a conspiracy to keep people sick) and the website Notmilk, which claims that Swiss cheese causes Alzheimer’s and milk protein is causes autism (as well as every other illness from cancers to colds). And of course she touts homeopathy, even claiming that homeopathic arnica 30C should be available in every household.


Diagnosis: Utterly deranged, and genuinely dangerous. Avoid at all costs.


Hat-tip: Harriet Hall @ Sciencebasedmedicine

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

#2594: John Brandt

John Brandt is a New London-based preacher, fundamentalist and young-earth creationist. And Brandt has the evidence for the age of the Earth on his side: “I have written evidence, and he [someone who subscribes to scientific consensus] has theoretical evidence, all of which is only assumption. It all depends on what you are willing to believe. Consider that only documented evidence counts.” And that means Brandt wins, for “The only written document with such information is the Bible. We Bible-believers have written proof of what we believe and teach. The Bible has no less than Jesus’ witness, In six days God created the heavens and the earth.’” It might be instructive, but probably isn’t, to know Brandt’s definition of ‘evidence’. At least, according to Brandt, science has none of it, and “without empirical evidence, science must ‘create’ time, with no beginning, just an accident. And in the process, imagine a beginning, like, ‘Wow! That was a big bang!’”. We suspect Brandt hasn’t actually read the relevant scientific publications on the topic, but why would he? “All the information we need is in the Bible, but not the details.” One is left to wonder why science still sticks to the Big Bang hypothesis – surely there must be demons involved.


Diagnosis: Minor – we don’t know anything else about Brandt than his rantings on the age of the Earth – but apparently relatively representative for how a large number of Americans view science and religion.


Hat-tip: Sensuous Curmudgeon

Sunday, November 27, 2022

#2593: John E. Brandenburg

a.k.a. Victor Norgarde (author alias)


John E. Brandenburg is a (legit) plasma physicist who went bonkers sometime in or before 2012, when he started ranting about aliens and ancient astronomy nonsense, including what he deemed to be evidence of a thermonuclear war on Mars in the distant past. His books (e.g. Life and Death on Mars: The New Mars Synthesis) quickly became popular in various New Age and woo groups. Brandenburg’s primary evidence for his claims is certain ratios between Xenon isotopes in Mars’s atmosphere, which he claims can only be due to nuclear weapons. That is not the case. His claim is dumb. Brandenburg’s findings have yet to pass peer review (pseudojournals like J. Cosmology don’t count). The ideas have provided him with ample space on various pseudoscience and conspiracy theory fora such as Coast to Coast AM, however.


Now, Brandenburg initially presented some rather mainstream – well-backed scientific – ideas about natural nuclear reactors on Mars (like there are on Earth). His take changed at some point around 2012, however – not only was Mars was the target of “an ancient planetary nuclear massacre” but the attacks “were targeted on sites of previously reported artifacts”. ‘Wait, what artefacts?’ you may ask. Oh, yes – it’s the fabulously silly Face on Mars claim – yes, that one: the go-to example of silly pareidolia for critical thinking teachers everywhere: yes, due to the human brain’s natural tendency to interpret things as faces, an eroded hill did, in fact, look somewhat face-like in low-resolution images – the illusion goes away at clearer images of higher resolution, but Brandenburg and his ilk don’t want to look at those. This is Richard Hoagland territory, and it pretty much entails widespread conspiracies about UFOS and government coverups. So Brandenburg endorses those, too. His defense of the Face of Mars hypothesis is absolutely wildly hilariously inept.


In later revolutions in Brandenburg’s descent down the rabbit hole, his ‘evidence’ suggests that there is a hostile alien civilization out there with plans to kill us all. He has apparently discovered a number of other alien artifact in NASA photos, too, including what he takes to bean ancient drone abandoned” on Mars’s surface.


Although the Mars nuclear war idea is Brandenburg’s most famous, he has written about other stuff, too. His 2014 book Cosmic Jesus: The Metaphysics of How the God of Israel Became the God of the Cosmos, for instance, discusses among other things “the relationship between GEM theory (Gravity-Electricity-Magnetism) and Gematria” (oh yes, it does) and how the Bible, through a “sophisticated mathematical allegory”, shows Jesus as the repairer of the effects of the collapse of the fifth dimension to subatomic size.”


Diagnosis: We suspect that since many people initially leaned toward the hypothesis, Brandenburg just decided “what the heck, I’ll just run with it” for fame and fun, though given his subsequent efforts it is hard to avoid concluding that he has, indeed, gone completely off the rails. Probably harmless, though.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki; Pharyngula

Thursday, November 24, 2022

#2592: Mario Bramnick

Mario Bramnick is an incoherently deranged wingnut, hardcore dominionist, self-declared ‘prophet’ and president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC). Partially through that position, Bramnick seems to have become a rather important person in the dominionist movement’s attempts to bring their Taliban-style fundamentalism abroad (that said, he is vigorously opposed to globalism – or, as he puts it, ‘every globalist spirit’, since globalism is a manifestation of the Antichrist.) Indeed, Bramnick seems to have got some serious clout.


Together with Jim Garlow and Eric Metaxas, Bramnick is also affiliated with the World Prayer Network, an outgrowth of a prayer movement initiated in 2020 to frequently gather and pray for God to intervene and overturn the 2020 US election results – in December 2020, for instance, Bramnick thanked God in advance for giving Trump victory, declaring that “Father, President Trump won in the natural, and Father, we decree that he will be seated as the president for another four years, Father. We bring that down on the Earth realm. We decree it” (the reference of ‘we’ is somewhat unclear; it seems that Bramnick sometimes loses track of the distinction between himself and God). Later the same month, he prophesied that the electors would come to their senses on December 14 when they voted to certify the results:  We decree and declare that the hammer of God would come to expose what Satan’s dominion is trying to take over,” said Bramnick:Satan’s hammer is no match for the Maccabee of God, for the hammer of God. And I decree by December 14, we will be victorious exposing the fraud and that President Trump will be declared our president for another four more years.” Fortunately for Bramnick, his followers tend to bracket their Biblical literalism when it comes to dealing with false prophets. It is worth pointing out, however, that according to Bramnick, Trump is anointed by God – “our Cyrus for this hour” – both for spiritual and political purposes, and he is deeply grateful to God for giving “us a man after your heart” and for equipping Trump “supernatural wisdom” for the protection of the American people (especially, apparently, when it comes to immigration policy).


Currently, their biweekly prayer calls, featuring guests like Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, are focused on asking God to thwart President Biden’s plans; Bramnick himself has called on God to shake the Senate” to prevent Democrats from enacting their agenda – said agenda might superficially look like it concerns infrastructure or economy or healthcare, but they don’t fool Bramnick: it is all a series of attempts at “scheming and plotting against the Lord and his anointed one.” The media, too, according to Bramnick: the media is run by demons that seek to “incite anger, fear, despair” – unlike himself, apparently –“under the prince of the power of the air, Leviathan, twisting spirits.”


Together with Harry Jackson, Bramnick also arranged a 2018 election-themed prayer event “Rise Up 2018” at which they blessed and deputized various Trump officials on behalf of Christ so that they could help Trump’s fight against the forces of darkness in the spiritual battle against demonic liberal forces that the US is currently embroiled in. Apparently Bramnick and Jackson had the authority to deputize on behalf of God: “God has given us authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the devil.” Jackson, meanwhile, called the event ‘bipartisan’, which is sort of illustrative. 


Diagnosis: Completely deluded and completely insane – yet Bramnick wields a scary amount of power and influence, also, apparently, outside the US. You should, unfortunately, be afraid.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

#2591: Tom Brady

Tom Brady is a spineless hack who has milked his celebrity status for all it is worth to hawk useless junk, pseudoscience and fraudulent products under his TB12 brand. The brand started as a fad diet and merch shop, focusing on snacks that could be savvily marketed as being in line with whatever diet fad would be in vogue at any given time, including utter bullshit like alkaline water.


Brady’s book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance was a bestseller – apparently lots of people must have been under the strange impression that Brady’s anonymous ghostwriter would have something knowledgeable and worthwhile to say about the issues. The book – or really: infomercial (there are products to sell with every piece of advice) – promotes the pseudoscientific fad generally known as alkaline diets, in particular Brady’s own bonkers nonsense “80/20 diet”, which supposedly means 80% alkaline and 20% acidic – though ‘alkaline’ and ‘acidic’ should not be associated with the chemical interpretation of those words but rather some tarot-based nonsense categorization mostly made up as you go along: his book is all about “alkalizing” foods (which is apparently meant to decrease inflammation in your body – whatever that means – and prevent fractions, which is profoundly idiotic and easily debunked). The label doesn’t mean that the foods are alkaline, or that they make your body – or anything in it – more alkaline (that would of course be really bad). Brady’s health regimen also incorporates harmless stuff like transcendental meditation and harmless pseudoscience like neuroplasticity training. (And for those who wonder: the reason Brady has managed to stay fit for so long is not because of his dietary advice, but because he can afford a personal chef.) Apparently the TB12™ Nutrition Manual, which retailed for $200, quickly sold out.


I'm very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation,” says Brady, who also avoids peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants “because they're not anti-inflammatory”. None of those labels have anything to do with what those words mean, of course; Brady just applies them according to some kind of pseudoreligious scheme based on free association. He also recommends drinking a lot of water, crediting it with protecting him from sunburns. It does not (though one would think it subverted his alkalizing project … never mind). Water, though, isn’t enough; Brady’s water is supplemented with electrolytes, which is utter bullshit but does make it expensive and hence exclusive, which is surely good. Again, he is just making it up as he goes along, just like he does with his claim that “the regimen I follow is a mix of Eastern and Western philosophies” … yeah, it sounds marketing savvy; it sounds informed and broad-minded – as long as you don’t ask him for details about what, precisely, the ‘philosophical’ basis for any of his health claims could possibly be. Brady did not provide such details.


In the book, Brady claims his durability is a result of “muscle pliability, a pseudoscientific idea cooked up by his “body coachand business partner Alex Guerrero. Guerrero is himself an interesting character, by the way, having a decent rap sheet with the Federal Trade Commission, in particular for his attempt in 2005 to falsely pass himself off as a doctor able to cure cancer, Aids, MS and Parkinson’s disease with dietary supplements, but also for marketing the sports drink Neurosafe, which he claimed could prevent concussions. Brady endorses Neurosafe.


Many of the products pushed as part of the TB12 protocols are of course intended to boost your immune system, and it is not all harmless nonsense: at least Brady managed to attract some negative attention with the marketing of the nonsense product Protect (an “immunity blend” which promises to “activate your immune system and counter stress-induced immune suppression”) strongly implied that it would help protect against COVID-19. And yes: it did come with a Quack Miranda Warning to ward off the possibilitiy of the dishonesty getting him in legal troubles.


There is a brief but decent takedown of Brady’s bullshit here.


Diagnosis: The sports interested guy’s counterpart to Gwyneth Paltrow, we suppose. And he’s had staggering – Paltrow-comparable – success with his utter bollocks and bullshit. And it is, like Goop’s, not all harmless.


Hat-tip: Bryan Armen Graham @The Guardian