Tuesday, April 19, 2011

193: Nathaniel Jeanson

Jeanson is a relatively central figure in the Creation Science movement, since he has (in fact) a Medical PhD from Harvard. The fact that he apparently painstakingly obtained the degree in order to disregard every piece of knowledge obtained in the process soley for the purpose of lending an air of authority to anti-science makes his degree meaningless, of course, but the Creationist movement still tout it as evidence for their claims. This is, of course, further showcased by his young earth Creationist arguments, which are the same as the ones Gish used in the 60s and which reveal no grasp of the science. And it is, of course, showcased by the fact that Jeanson himself admits to obtaining the degree for window-dressing.

Diagnosis: This guy seems to virtually worship confirmation bias, and he seems pathologically unable to recognize the problem (though with sufficient zeal and confirmation bias the difference between dishonesty and ignorance does admittedly become murky). He is shown off as a circus freak by the Creationist movement, but seems to have made little impact beyond that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

192: Victoria Jackson

We have previously suggested that Ray Comfort is possibly the densest man on Earth. That was, of course, an exaggeration. The densest person on Earth is Victoria Jackson.

Victoria Jackson is a former semi-celebrity who is clinically unable to process information, distinguish an argument from a random string of letters (or none), reason, or string words together in a sentence expressing a coherent thought. For this reason she gets to write columns for Breitbart and the World Net Daily.

She is also an outspoken Glenn Beck groupie. Among the literary highlights of the lunacy movement must be counted Victoria Jackson’s report from the Glenn Beck rally. If you are only going to read one thing today, you will read this one (a selection with comments is here). She captures the mood perfectly:

“I wander the streets trying to catch a vibe. Is this our generation's Woodstock? I wish Bob Dylan would pop up and lead us in protest songs. He's got to "get it." I know lots of '60s hippies who have converted to Beckism. Social awareness is social awareness. No one comments on my Beck button. No pro or con. Maybe D.C. has gone Orwellian. Maybe they are actually afraid to think for themselves. They are afraid to have opinions. I start to feel like the Thought Police are following me.”

And for a taster of the deeply disturbed lunacy espoused by Jackson fluffy, feel-good, fire-and-brimstone fanatic conservatism:

“Glenn Beck is the only one telling us the truth. The media don't tell the truth. They didn't tell us that Obama was appointing communists like Van Jones and giving them positions of power. People we did not vote for. Strangely, Van Jones quietly disappeared when he was outed. The president is a communist! Communism hates Christianity.

[Jackson’s conversation partner] makes a patronizing face, "How do you know that?"

"His whole childhood was Marxism."

"Have you ever read Marx?" she says arrogantly.

"No. Oh, you're saying church people are stupid?"

"No..." The man with her looks embarrassed about our public quarrel.

"Communism doesn't work. It didn't work in Russia, or China, or Cuba ..."

"Marx had some good ideas. ..."

Her ignorance angers me. She is obviously one of the brainwashed 20-somethings who had liberalism shoved down their throats at university. The amount I've read of Marx is the amount she's read of the Bible. She is lost and very self-important about it.”

Even as a sitcom character, you wouldn’t have gotten away with Jackson’s level of fail. Watch her create a black hole in reason with Steve Doocy here. Until her 40s, however, her lack of intelligence prevented her from doing much harm: “I didn't vote for anyone. I didn't know how. I didn't know where to go. I never saw a sign that said, "Vote Here." I didn't know how to "register" or even that I had to register. I didn't know what the candidates stood for or how to find out. Word of mouth I guess, but no one I hung out with talked about politics, ever.”

She voted in 2000, though, and according to herself: “I voted Clinton out. My vote counted. Bush won.”

But the nice thing about Jackson is that whenever you think she has reached the peak of human stupidity, she delivers something that reaches a whole new level. You can also read her explain why Rahm Emanuel is the devil here. Or check out this rather revealing interview.

Among her many gems and insights, however, this may just be the pinnacle. This is where you find the gem: “I took my beautiful fake nails out to my car and drove to the car wash. Hard working, friendly Mexicans made it shiny. I don't know if they were legal or illegal. I love everyone, but I think rules should be followed. Why can't they be legal? Is it difficult?” But do read the whole thing.

Quite simply breathtaking.

Diagnosis: Victoria Jackson’s lack of intellect must violate some law of nature. It just cannot be humanly possible to reach this level of clinical moronity. If she were actually to become influential, it wouldn't make much difference – in that case the world would have been irrevocably lost long ago anyway.

191: Charles Jackson

Charles Jackson is another one. A summary of Jackson goes as follows: Charles Jackson knew nothing, then he heard a presentation on a scientific topic that he didn’t understand. Currently he knows nothing, but fancies himself an expert. See him take on ERV here. In retrospect, one can virtually hear the levers and pulleys of confirmation bias take in the information, sieve it through to whatever favorite filter of evidence he is operating with, and churn out some garbage at the other end.

Charles Jackson is a young earth creationist who is barely able to pass the Turing test, and has been known to fail such tests in actual debates (see Jackson portray a Chinese Room here). In fact, Dr. Jackson is the “scientist” for the Creation Truth Foundation, and he has a strong reputation with respect to debate skills (mostly because he masters the Gish gallop and the Ham hightail – he isn’t fully able to see that science is determined by evidence rather than rhetoric).

Diagnosis: Professional zombie; crackpot and godbotter who has honed his rhetorical techniques to cover up his complete ignorance of the subject matters he likes to debate. Impact uncertain, but he’s pretty zealous.

Monday, April 11, 2011

190: James Inhofe

If not the densest, Oklahoma senator James Inhofe is at least among the most ignorant and dangerous US Senators, primarily for being perhaps the most vocal (and dishonest) global warming skeptic in the US Congress (he also supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage – and he campaigned for his Senate seat in 1994 using the phrase "God, guns, and gays"; see also this). Inhofe's statements on AGW have been reputiated even by the handful of contrarian scientists Inhofe constantly cites.

In his own words, climate science "kind of reminds ... I could use the Third Reich, the Big Lie ...” He has also pulled a Delay and compared the United States Environmental Agency to the Gestapo and compared EPA Administrator Carol Browner to Tokyo Rose. I think this quote is revealing: According to Inhofe AGW is "the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state." In fact, the UN cooked it up to destroy America. His evidence? The Oregon Petition, at least.

He is constantly caught lying, but persists in saying that there is a scientific consensus that climate is getting cooler. In general, he has pretty much declared war on science, although he doesn’t seem to have a clue to what it is. His most famous stunt was compiling a list of “high-profile scientists” (such as Chris Allen) who oppose AGW, a list overlapping with the Discovery Institute rooster and known HIV denialists, plus several climate scientists who explicitly accept AGW (here, here, and here; the point doesn’t seem to have been honesty anyway). After massive criticism Inhofe changed the list to “scientists whose research undermines AGW” – despite the complaints from the scientists that their research did no such thing.

His stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict is firm, and he appears to think that the only legitimate guideline is – the Bible (more here, and some curious tidbits here).

If you are wondering where people like Inhofe are coming from (apart from Oklahoma), you may look at this rather disconcerting discussion.

Diagnosis: Confirmation bias incarnate; blindly flailing fanatic who is unable to separate facts from political opinions or evidence from Stalin-strength ideology. Extremely dangerous.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

189: Thomas Ice

Thomas Ice is the Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center in Washington, D.C. The Research Center was founded a few years ago by Tim LaHaye and Mr. Ice to research, teach, proclaim, and defend pretribulationism. He has also written and co-written over 20 books and articles on the Rapture, and serves as an Associate Professor of Religion at Liberty University. A collection of his contributions to this important area of research can be found here.

Among Ice’s research is globalization. The thing is that globalization is, rather obviously, a reversal of God’s decision to disperse the people of the world after the tower of Babel. Hence, globalization is strong evidence for the imminence of the Rapture. The U.N. is unbiblical for the very same reason. Ice is no consequentialist. Add to globalization the existence of Israel (“No doubt that Israel is God’s super sign of the end-times”), and we have something close to a proof.

Good thing Ice is here to dispel the myths of the Rapture for us (together with one R.A. Huebner). He also rightfully dismisses the Christian reconstructionist Gary North as “Scary Gary” (for his Y2K babble: ) – apparently North was only out to scare us.

A better example of the rigorous scholarship and erudition of the participants in the Rapture debates would perhaps be Ice’s debate with Robert Gundry, recounted here. And surely an article called “Dispensational hermeneutics” must be convincing – not to mention his discussion of God’s hailstones.

Diagnosis: A living, breathing, self-unaware parody of scholarship, Ice seems to be completely detached from reality and sanity. The combination of post-modernist techniques and fanatic Biblical literalism is fascinatingly bizarre, although I guess his impact should not be overestimated.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

188: Fred Hutchison

An associate of Alan Keyes (writing on his website) Hutchison is the kind of guy who insists that he masters all sorts of sciences, but whose positions roughly correlates with that of the European church in the 15th century. A sample:

- He rejects Einstein, because the theory of relativity offers “no explanation of why an apple falling from a tree moves straight down” (as opposed to Newton). Of course Hutchison knows nothing about physics – he has managed to misunderstand some popular scientific presentation of Einstein.

- He rejects global warming because we have no “explanation of how CO2 differs from nitrogen and oxygen in its influence on the greenhouse effect”. He denies that gases can affect atmospheric temperature.

- He rejects the theory of evolution because, well, he doesn’t have any clue whatsoever how it is supposed to work.

- He believes he has decisively shown that Terri Schiavo must have been conscious, simply because “Consciousness must subsist in the incorporeal spirit”.

And of course, there is the usual anti-gay and anti-abortion stuff – you know how it goes.

Interestingly, he brags about how he debated two scientists in an e-mail exchange and won hands down – he doesn’t quote them, only provides some of the usual garbled nonsense about evolution and global warming, and then declares himself the victor.

Diagnosis: The living embodiment of Dunning-Kruger, Hutchison’s gloating confidence that he’s won combined with his total ignorance about the field of discussion in which he was “participating”, is disconcertingly common. His influence may be slim, but the Dunning-Kruger effect is the very thing that sustains manufactroversies.

187: George Hutchins

George Hutchins ran for congress (to represent North Carolina) in 2008, and again in 2010. Here is his website. If this one doesn’t awe you, I guess nothing will. Look at the color scheme, or the exquisite use of capitalization, or the tantalizing combination of font styles (do such considerations make yours truly gay, I wonder?)

He didn’t get elected, but he promises to return in 2012 and 2014. He is a theocrat who is basically against everything sane and in favor of every idea of which you've ever thought “that’s kinda strange” or “batshit insane” (and a lot you wouldn’t have thought about).

He is particularly opposed to gay rights, since gays are after all what is bringing America down, and homosexuality is what has brought an end to all great civilizations in the past (including California, apparently, according to Hutchins). His basic argument seems to be argument by caps lock, which is generally not considered a valid inference rule. Read it in all its glory here. He also wants to bring Hollywood to North Carolina. This also seems to be the main bulk of his economic plan.

His plan for prison reform is kinda scary; he wants to use inmates for all tasks currently performed by immigrant labor (thus ending that problem), and crank up the use of the death penalty ("IF INNOCENCE cannot be proven after conviction, within ONE YEAR, this convicted person is obviously, very Guilty of Murder, based upon Modern Crime Investigation Science").

Diagnosis: Arguably mentally ill maniac and paranoid wingnut who truly needs professional care (and some derision). Unlike Huckabee, this guy is actually most likely unelectable (if nothing else, than for the color scheme of his website, which is almost as nice as Borat’s).

186: Lawrence Huntoon (and the AAPS)

Former president of the rightwing and aggressively woo-friendly
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which is listed by Quackwatch and well-known to be highly political and largely insane (they use Andy Schlafly as legal counsel). Its members include Ron and Rand Paul, and Russell Blaylock. The association has fought to ban the morning-after pill, mandatory vaccinationsocialized healthcare, and the shaken baby syndrome (it’s rather the vaccines that kill children). Its journal, the ‘Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons’ (JPANDS), is not considered a scientifically valid, peer-reviewed journal for inclusion in major scientific databases, and has been listed by Quackwatch as "Fundamentally Flawed". Among articles printed are justifications for petitions against global warming, papers by the Geiers, papers on HIV denialism and the original bizarre and discredited idea (the methodology was ridiculous) of linking abortion to breast cancer, by one Patrick S. Carrol. The organization and journal is superbly described here, and ripped apart here.

Dr. Huntoon describes peer review boards which review complaints against doctors as “an insidious and spreading evil which threatens to destroy not only the integrity of the medical profession but quality care for all patients”. He is also quoted as claiming that “Inescapably, the herd is a force to be reckoned with in all of our professional lives. We must be prepared to travel with it or alongside it, to one degree or another, without being trampled or singled out for extermination. And, for those few physicians who still believe in individual-based medicine practiced according to the principles of Hippocrates, and in watching out for one another when one of our own is attacked, fortunately we have the AAPS. We are a fellowship of "different doctors," and the distinction is apparent.”

Indeed. And Huntoon, predictably, follows it up immediately with the Galileo gambit.

Diagnosis: Paranoid wingnut and crackpot. The organization is also involved in the promotion of serious woo and dangerous treatments, and must be considered quite dangerous, regardless of the impact they may or may not have.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#185: Russell Humphreys

Russell Humphreys may look a little like Santa, but he is in reality a hardcore young earth creationist affiliated with the Institute for Creation Research, and their scientific alibi – Russell is a physicist, and a genuinie one, with a decent CV. But nothing on the CV is at all related to his main area of study at the ICR, which is reconciling reality with young earth creationism (not hard to guess which of them (according to Russell) has to go when tensions arise).

His main topic is reconciling the distance of the stars (the distance they have to travel), the speed of light and a young earth. You may sense some serious crackpottery coming up, and sure enough – Russell delivers: “White hole cosmology”. Short story: the Earth was created within a black hole, with the associated gravity induced time dilation effects, thus Earth's time runs at a different rate than the rest of the universe. It is generally not considered scientifically viable. More fascinatingly desperate reconciliationism here.

At least it is slightly more sophisticated than the Omphalos hypothesis. You can explore the topic of creationist geophysics further here. But maybe Russell and other physicists just started with different and equally valid presuppositions?

Diagnosis: A virtually unblemished illustration of the very idea of crackpottery, Humphreys is another good example of the compartmentalizing abilities that follow in the wake of rabid religious fundamentalism. His impact is unknown, though he is cited a lot by Answers in Genesis.

Friday, April 1, 2011

#184: Brit Hume

Brit Hume is an American commentator and television journalist. Since 2008, he has been a senior political analyst for Fox News and a regular panelist on Fox News Sunday. He is an ardent conservative even though he himself maintains that he is fair and balanced (which is, of course, fair enough). His main claim to an entry in the Encyclopedia concerns his advice to Tiger Woods In the wake of the revelation of Tiger Woods' habitual adultery, Hume stated:

“Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question […] the extent to which he can recover […] seems to me to depend on his faith. He's said to be a Buddhist; I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.'”

What nails his application is his stance on global warming – which is based on … the Oregon petition. Also check out the predictable dishonesty here.

Diagnosis: Not exactly a match for his great namesake, Brit Hume is really your traditional, fanatically religious denialist. A common condition, but one that qualifies for lunacy. Impact unclear, but conjectured to be moderately dangerous.