Thursday, January 31, 2013

#402: Chris Ward

I have to confess to not being entirely certain who Christopher Ward actually is, but he seems to be a prominent figure in the Logoschristian movement, which is one of those churches that, well, cannot really be described in words (see Ward discuss “Michelle Obama in prophecy” here; it is not entirely non-creepy. Also see him tell you who the Andromenati are here (no, I have no idea, and neither do you)). In any case, he is an exorcist who is heavily involved in this site - a hardcore fundie, Biblical literalist UFO site (yes, you read that right). The main purpose of the site seems to be to find Biblical evidence for UFOs (there’s plenty of Nostradamus as well), and their heroes appear to be Richard Hoagland, Sid Roth and Chuck Missler (yes, the one of the peanut butter argument against evolution). They feature, among other things, a marvelous range of fonts, colors, random capitalization, as well as a section on “Testimonies of UFOs by famous Christians”. I am not confident all of the people featured in that section would agree that they were giving testimonies of UFO sightings.

In any case, as far as I can see, Ward seems to be running the site with one Bruce Widaman (of MUFON and his wife Rita). Their tenets appear to include:
- “We consider that the UFO, Alien, and Abduction phenomena is real”.
- “We consider that what our primitive society has observed as Aliens are in actuality the heavenly hosts, angels, fallen angels, watchers, wicked hosts in high places, rulers of the dark world, powers, and principalities stated in the Bible”.
- “We consider that they were here before and after the deluge according to the Book of Genesis” (apparently important).
- “We consider that they took the daughters of men and committed fornication (intercourse) with them and produced the Gebers as the Bible states in Genesis 6:4.”
- “We consider that the antichrist will be Satan's seed – a Nephilim/Gibborim […] This will probably include cloning and a hybrid.”
- “We also consider that the 'lie' is the major spin of the UFO phenomena. The UFO cults say that the aliens are the Elohim, that they are our gods, and that we came from star-seed, and that we are not created by God – This is THE 'lie'. See the movie "Mission to Mars [which, accordingly, seems to be almost as good as the Bible as a source of evidence] [...] We believe that a cult will clone a human being in this Century.” (They seem to be referring to this one)
- “We consider that the dead sea scrolls confirm the books of I Enoch, Jubilees, and the Book of the Twelve Patriarchs which all reported the fallen angels having sex with the daughters of men and produced the Nephilim/Gibborim.”

You see, they don't have to investigate any of their claims or apply any reasoning whatsoever, since the crazy is all there in the premises that they presuppose for any other investigative work.

They also seem to take a lot of pride in having photos displayed on Art Bell’s show and the fact that Ward has personally met Richard Hoagland. Ward has apparently also written a book on Internet exorcism. He has also written this one, though I’m not entirely sure what exactly it is (apart from critically insane).

Did you, by the way, wonder what country/organization the Book of Revelation refers to when it talks about Gog? No, it is not the EU, nor Jerusalem, nor even Russia, as we all thought: “The flag of Turkey was officially adopted on June 5, 1936. The white crescent and star, symbols of Islam, are placed slightly to the left on the red field, and that shade of red dates back to the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century (when they martyred 6 million Christians). Cresent Moon = Alat (female) the Moon goddess, or Allah (male); star = Baal or sign of the circumpunct. Red is Edom (Jordan and Arabia) and blood. Ezekiel 38:16 ‘And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.’” Yes, the end is obviously near. Soon, “Iran will attack Saudi Arabis and set all the oil fields on fire.” In the meantime you can buy Chris Ward’s Prayer Dashboard and learn to preach like a complete batshit lunatic.

According to Ward, he has been a lot on TV. He has for instance been interviewed on the Colbert report, Larry King Live, by Glenn Beck, and so on. Funny how google has overlooked such things. May we suggest … a conspiracy to wipe out Ward’s past?

Diagnosis: Heartily, clinically whacko. Not a trace of a connection to anything resembling reality. Probably completely harmless.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#401: Walter Wagner

A.k.a. Radiation Man

Walter Wagner, who has a BA with a minor in physics (he is a self-proclaimed “nuclear scientist”, but no – he is not a physicist but a former radiation safety officer), is the driving force behind Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider, an organization devoted to stopping the Large Hadron Collider because it is a doomsday machine that could easily mean the end of the world: “There is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet,” says Wagner. The claim is false, but at least it secured Wagner an honorable place among Foreign Policy’s “Ten Worst Predictions of 2008”. Due to the perceived danger of the LHC, Wagner (and one Luis Sancho) originally tried to use a lawsuit to stop the LHC from being activated. He filed that lawsuit in Hawaii. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the named US defendants weren't able to be sued because the statute of limitations had run out (funding was provided years before the project was started), and that the court had no jurisdiction over the project in Switzerland. Wagner had previously attempted to sue the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 2000 on the basis that the RHIC could create strangelets and black holes that would spawn the end of the world as well.

But why does he think there is a danger associated wth these Colliders? Well, Wagner’s grasp of physics and probability theory is pretty weak. Remember that the idea is that LHC could create a microscopic black hole which would swallow the entire earth. What, according to Wagner, is the probability of this happening (never mind that any serious scientist says it couldn’t – good non-technical explanation here)? He claims it is 50%. Why? Because either it could happen, or it couldn't – therefore, there's a 50% chance of it happening. Which is not how probabilities work. For some reason he shows up in the comments here to explain his position – and his presentation of his own credentials should raise some red flags on its own.

Wagner used to be at the forefront of the battle to save the world from uranium tiles, and fought a tireless, lonely battle with his Geiger counter in California, trying to stir up as much noise as possible (cute, sympathetic article here); hence his nickname, for he earned himself a solid reputation as the local crank even back then.

For a comprehensive archive on Wagner’s antics, go here.

Diagnosis: Delightfully cranky crackpot who should be thanked for responsibly assuming the position of resident crackpot of all LHC-related discussions. Harmless.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#400: Joe Vitale

A.k.a. Mr. Fire

Joe Vitale appeared in The Secret, and is in general a staunch defender of the existence and efficacy of the law of attraction, claiming that it is, indeed, an exceptionless physical law, just like gravity (though scientists don’t want you to know about it for somewhat unclear reasons). Just like gravity “[t]he people who say attraction is not a law cite examples such as, ‘I know gravity works. When I drop a book off a skyscraper, it will hit the ground. That's proof of the law of gravity.’ Agreed. They then go on to say, ‘When I try to attract something, sometimes I get it and sometimes I don't. So it isn't a law.’ Not agreed. Here's why. Saying you tried to attract something and failed is like saying you tried to drop a book from a skyscraper to hit a particular spot and you missed. Because you missed the spot, you say gravity doesn't exist.”

Convinced yet? It's just like starving children just aren't good enough at actually wanting food. Given the lawlikeness of the Law of Attraction it should be noted that it does not seem to work for Vitale himself (yes, the linked claims are some of the feeblest non-sequiturs and most insane arguments by assertion ever). Vitale’s favorite trick is the argument by analogy, and his attempts are well and truly beyond insane. And to drive the point home: “How does [the law of attraction] work? Nobody knows. Just like nobody knows how electricity works. I don't, do you?” (Despite his other actions being evidence, it is hard to believe that Vitale actually thinks this argument carries weight). Vitale has of course been backed by Oprah.

Vitale is, unless he is a fraud, an exceptionally tottyheaded loon (leaving open a small chance of just fucking around for fun). One reason to suspect fraud, however, is the fact that Vitale is a former Amway executive, though he may have been attracted to Amway because of his susceptibility to things like The Secret.

Vitale also provides health advice, particularly Frank Mangano’s “blood pressure miracle”, which claims to be able to reverse hypertension “naturally” without drugs. His area of expertise is self-help, however. Among other things, he’s written the book “Hypnotic Writing”. Hypnotic writing is apparently a form of waking hypnosis. When you learn hypnotic writing, you can actually hypnotize people with your advertising. That’s probably a useful skill.

Indeed Vitale usually titles himself as “Dr. Vitale”. His "doctorate" is from the University of Metaphysics, and his dissertation can be found here). He is married to Nerissa Oden, who thinks that “[e]ven stage 4 pancreatic cancer can be reversed with diet changes, taking targeted supplements and detoxing” and that “Kevin Trudeau is a major health and wellness advocate”. (Trudeau is apparently a buddy of Vitale’s).

Diagnosis: Vitale is either in possession of an exceptional lack of reasoning skills, perception and rationality, or he is a fraud. Or a mix. Either way, he belongs to the far end of the self-help bunch (the secular counterpart to the prosperity gospel), but cannot be completely written off as harmless.

#399: Mark Vicente

Originally from South Africa, Mark Vicente is an author and director most famous for the surreally garbled piece of nonsense What the Bleep Do We Know? (Critically assessed in four parts here, here, here, and here). To emphasize that What the Bleep wasn’t just a work accident, and that Vicente is truly and firmly rooted somewhere far away from reality, he also produced a cult-infomercial, or lecture from, Ramtha. Vicente is currently involved in Keith Raniere’s cult Nxivm, and part of its “educational branch”.

Diagnosis: Multicult-follower with an impressive ability to make his voice heard, and an important enabler for the wide distribution of nonsense. Completely detached from reality, but that is presumably an asset if you really want to market your crazy.

#398: Vivian Vetrano

Vivian Virginia Vetrano is allegedly a chiropractor with special skills and knowledge in holistic medicine and alternative medical treatment. For many years, she operated – together with her son-in-law and daughter Gregory and Tosca Haag – the Rest of Your Life (ROYL) Retreat in La Vernia, Texas, where they offered fasting and other “natural hygiene” approaches. Natural hygiene is an offshoot of naturopathy (described and assessed in detail here) based on fallacious appeals to nature, and which is in direct opposition to most medical treatments, advocating instead (a) eating a “raw food” diet of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, (b) periodic fasting, and (c) “food combining”, i.e. avoiding food combinations Vetrano et al. considers detrimental. That, of course, is a bad idea, and Vetrano has predictably enough been involved in lawsuits following the deaths of patients with curable conditions, such as this one. She is still a hero of the raw food movement, it seems.

Natural hygiene, founded by Herbert Shelton in the early twentieth century, seems to be a major force of evil in today’s society. It was developed in detail and brought up to date (i.e. incorporating the usual fads) in the 1980s by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond and their enormously popular books Fit for Life and Living Health (Harvey has a “Ph.D. in nutritional science” from the unaccredited American College of Health Science), as well as through The Beverly Hills Medical Diet by the recent Judy Mazel, and Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins.

Diagnosis: Influential crackpot who is still in the business of unsupported claims that are evidently not to the benefit of health and well-being. A good argument in favor of more substantial anti-quack laws.

Monday, January 28, 2013

#397: Wes Vernon

We’ve already covered several of the writers for RenewAmerica, and Wes Vernon may count as one of their most unhinged, rabidly delusional and ignorant denialists yet. Vernon is a thorough fan of Ann Coulter, and in particular Coulter’s approach to science. Thus, he has no time for (or understanding of) evolution, arguing that “[o]ne by one, so-called ‘proofs’ of evolution has melted under honest scrutiny” (which is wrong at more than one level). That claim is not particularly substantial either, so let us see if we can find something that displays Vernon’s profound understanding of the matter. This one is revealing: “The entire fossil record shows a very non-Darwinian progression, noticeably lacking the vast number of transitional species we ought to see.” Therefore, Vernon argues, schoolchildren should not be indoctrinated with Darwin. The screed in question is so entirely devoid of connection to reality and science and understanding that it touches on Ray Comfort territory; it is discussed here.

Vernon, as part of his global warming denialism, is also a central proponent of the weird Maurice Strong conspiracy theory. His take involves Gorbachev as well, though its content is, shall we say, garbled.

At least Vernon has had the guts to broach the thorny issue of how “communist liar” Howard Zinn has been “poisoning YOUR kids’ minds” (google it; I don’t link to RenewAmerica). You are also invited to read about Vernon’s discussion of the fact (which the government doesn’t want you to know) that the US is at war with Mexico. He has (of course) claimed that Obama is a communist and is, more interestingly, known as a staunch defender of McCarthyism.

Diagnosis: Nothing new here, really – just standard insanity from a clown who is unable to distinguish communism from reasonability and reality from paranoid imagination.

#396: Jesse Ventura

A.k.a. “The Body”
A.k.a. James Janos (given name)

Jesse Ventura, a former Navy SEAL and professional “wrestler”, probably reached the peak of his political career when he played a prominent role in the masterpiece “Predator” (with Schwarzenegger and Sonny Landham). He later went on to become governor of Minnesota, a role in which he was known as crazy but with a few, intermittent flashes of brilliance. Some of his outbursts were received with mixed feelings, however, such as “organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers” (Ventura has identified himself as an atheist) and “ [u]ntil you've hunted man, you haven't hunted yet.”

That was back then, when he still had the mental acumen necessary to manage to categorize Predator as fiction. Currently, Ventura is a batshit tinfoil addlepate conspiracy theorist who does his best to give Jeff Rense and Alex Jones runs for their money. He currently has his own TV show, Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, and despite what self-deluding fans may claim: Ventura does not just inquire into these matters to provide cheap entertainment for the masses. Ventura wears his tinfoil hat with pride.

He is particularly fond of 9/11 conspiracy theories, endorsing (on Alex Jones’s show, no less) the “controlled demolition” idea. Of course, he doesn’t explicitly endorse it – he is just JAQing off. Which means that he rather explicitly endorses it.

Ventura has also written a book, “Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me”, in which – according to his agent – Ventura reveals “why he left politics and discussing the disastrous war in Iraq, why he sees our two-party system as corrupt, and what Fidel Castro told him about who was really behind the assassination of President Kennedy.” A pity; he almost managed to stagger his way to the finishing line in that blurb.

Diagnosis: A sad case, really, of an otherwise once intermittently moderately intelligent person donning the tinfoil hat. I think the idea was to stare just a little into the abyss, but Ventura unfortunately didn’t really have the critical thinking skills needed to do this safely.

#395: Brandon Vallorani

Brandon Vallorani is the executive vice-president of The American Vision, whose mission is “Restoring America’s Biblical Foundation—From Genesis to Revelation (Psalm 11:3).” Yes, that’s Gary DeMar’s group. You can read more about them here. Jared, Brandon’s brother, is the Director of Outreach. Together with Eric Rauch and Kent Thelen they are part owners of Tolle Lege Press (run by Brandon and their father Raymond). Brandon is, with Thelen, Ira Moore, Richard Vest, and DeMar part members of Creation Books, LLC – in other words, the same people do – as so often with wingnut groups – behind the scenes in plenty of businesses and organizations, and they make substantial amounts of money from these projects.

Before joining American Vision, Brandon was the Vice President of Answers in Genesis (and seems currently to be part of Christian Worldview Communications) as – apparently – their resident movie critic (he had to leave after some debacle regarding the ongoing conflict between AiG and CMI) His general outlook may be discerned from his review of The Day after Tomorrow: “In addition to the hyper-environmentalist agenda, the movie also takes pot-shots at Christianity and is sprinkled with evolutionary ideas.” The illustrations are hilarious (though I don’t link to AiG; you’ll have to google it). You could try his review of Planet of the Apes, as well: “The most disturbing attributes of the movie were its anti-Christian overtones and references to evolution as scientific fact,” followed by “I was saddened that Hollywood is so successful at mocking God and the Bible. In reality, this anti-Christian movie is just a symptom of a deeper problem. It is the by-product of a nation and culture that has rejected its Creator.” He’s got some posts up here as well, which will give you the flavor.

Diagnosis: One might argue that the real loons are those who give these people money, though it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Vallorani’s type of people actually believe many of the claims they use to collect money as well. Vallorani is a not the most highly profiled figure in the anti-reason movement, but seems to wield some power and deserves exposure.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#394: Leslee Unruh

Leslee Unruh is a particularly unhinged pro-life activist (following her own abortion experience). She is also executive director of the campaign, founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, and a central lobbyist in favor of the Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act in South Dakota, the most restrictive pro-life law in the United States by March 2006. When it was overturned by the voters in a referendum, anti-abortion activists undauntedly amended the bill – which they view as a challenge to Roe vs. Wade – to include exceptions for rape, incest, and maternal health. Her “informed consent” law of 2005 requires South Dakota doctors to tell patients that abortion can cause depression and sterility, which is misleading at best, among other alleged side-effects. The law has circulated in the courts since then. Despite being a rather ardent activist, Unruh has no legislative or medical qualifications; she still got to draft a law governing the medical care of female patients in South Dakota. Her husband Alan Unruh, sits on the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortions, whose job is to evaluate medical evidence and make recommendations on the needs for additional legislation governing medical procedures. Alan is a chiropractor. South Dakota is not currently in particularly good hands. More here.

Unruh’s lobbyism gained South Dakota $200 million in federal funding for teaching abstinence outside of marriage to public school students. When confronted with the fact that the state abstinence programs demonstrably do not work, Unruh responded that state programs are not true abstinence programs because they talk about delaying sexual activity, but not specifically waiting until marriage. Indeed, she dismisses the evidence for the futility of abstinence-only education rather out of hand, arguing that comprehensive sex-ed programs, particularly those which include discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, are actually going to lead to the “self-destruction” of society and are “based on profound ignorance about human nature.” Identifying actual weaknesses with the studies she criticize apparently does not matter, for in Unruh’s mind “all the data” backs abstinence-only-until-marriage education. “Which data?” you may ask. And Unruh responds: “you know what, the church ladies are having the best sex.” Apparently “data” means “making up irrelevant shit on the spot.”

She is also the person behind the “Purity Balls” and the proud recipient of Randall Terry’s Operation Save America Malachi Award in 2006.

Diagnosis: Desperately blinded to anything resembling truth or fact by the tenets of her garbled crusade against sexuality, Unruh is quite effective at what she’s doing and must be considered dangerous.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

#393: Dana Ullman

A.k.a. The Energizer Bunny of Woo

Gregory Dana Ullman is perhaps the most ardent and significant advocates of homeopathy (or “nanopharmacology”, as he seems to prefer to call it) in the States. He holds a Master of Public Health degree from Berkeley. This is not a medical qualification, though Ullman and his fans appear to think so. In fact, Ullman has no scientific or medical qualifications. Hence, he has been arrested for practicing medicine without a license and is currently required to sign a contract with all his patients explaining to them that he is not a medical doctor. He is also a professional troller (check the comments in this otherwise excellent post on his book; he has a column at – where else – the Huffpo and has been featured on and endorsed by that promoter of all things stupid, Oprah. He is well-known for his tireless attempts at “correcting” critics or anyone skeptical of his claims, including some notorious and infamous brawls with Wikipedia, and for his particularly notorious cherry-picking and use of sources so obscure that they cannot easily be found and analyzed (he really doesn’t like, you know, actual evidence). Another favored tactic is a not particularly original form of PRATTing. Make the claim, have it refuted, wait a week, then repeat claim as if nothing has happened and no one remembers.

His claims range from the irrelevant to the dangerous. One of his favored pieces of evidence (irrelevant) for the efficacy of homeopathy is the fact that celebrities have used it (including a brood of popes) – he has even written a book called “The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy”). One of his dangerous pieces of advice is his advocacy of “drug vacations” (stop taking your recommended drugs for a while to avoid addiction). He has also argued that the triumph of science-based medicine over homeopathy was the result of a culture war (rather than, you know, the evident success of evidence and reducing investigator bias), and – in a true post-modernist manner – that science-based medicine is using its current position to oppress homeopathy (it's all about power struggles, not about evidence). According to Ullman, there is an ongoing nefarious disinformation campaign against homeopathy, and it is nefarious since – according to Ullmann – criticism of homeopathy by supporters of science-based medicine is not due to the fact that homeopathy is the promotion of demonstrably inert bullshit justified by references to medieval magic; criticism of homeopathy is purely ideological and part of a plot to crush a threat. Homeopathy, you see, is an “ongoing threat to the scientific, philosophical and economics of conventional medical care.” To boost his claims he – in addition to strawmen and falsehoods – emphasizes that he is not going to rely on ad hominem attacks, before launching – you guessed it – a series of ad hominem attacks to discredit his critics.

Ullman also advocates the extreme homeopathic idea of “suppression”: if a (non-homeopathic) drug cures a symptom, it is often because “the drug works by suppressing the disease, thereby creating a much more serious physical and/or mental disease […] Such suppression of the disease process may lead to increased chronic disease, immune dysfunction, and mental illness, all of which we are seeing together in epidemic proportions,” which is inaccurate on so many levels that it is hard to motivate oneself to pick them apart.

His lack of understanding of medicine is in general pretty profound, to the extent that he has even claimed that radiation therapy for cancer is homeopathic, and his ability to distinguish reasons from fallacies seems to be virtually non-existent. In fact, it has been pointed out that Ullman’s reasoning powers are homeopathic as well.

As for an easy example of quote-mining, Ullman has taken Darwin as a supporter of homeopathy (documented here). When it was pointed out that Ullman had mangled Darwin’s explicit attack on homeopathy, his response was to point out that Darwin was to afraid to admit that he supported it. So regardless of what Darwin may have said, argued or thought, he must have been a fan of homeopathy.

There is much more here. For Ullman’s use of false analogies, see this.

Kimball Atwood has coined the Dull-man law: “In any discussion involving science or medicine, being Dana Ullman loses you the argument immediately … and gets you laughed out of the room.” (Justification and evidence here).

Diagnosis: A master of cognitive dissonance and memory bias, Ullman seems clinically unable to grasp the possibility that he may be wrong. Combined with a lack of understanding of science or medicine – and the possession of certain marketing skills – what we end up with is rather insidious. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

#392: Kevin Trudeau

Kevin Trudeau is an author, convicted felon – in fact, a repeatedly convicted felon – and hardcore woo-meister and conspiracy theorist In fact, he is recognized as the very nexus of stuff someone (government, media, the sane folk, science etc.) doesn’t want you to know. According to his numerous TV informercials , Trudeau’s got exactly what you need. If you just pay him, he’ll even tell you (well, gesture toward) what it is. He has even written a book named “Natural Cures ‘They’ Don't Want You to Know About”, which tells you basically how to send him money to obtain the information they don’t want you to have about how to cure every conceivable ailment you may suffer from.

The stuff that got him into trouble with the FTC was his promotion “Mega Memory”, (Canadian Robert Barefoot’s) Coral Calcium, and Hair Farming (you probably don’t want to know). What he got out of it was, of course, a tangible target for his conspiracy theories, namely … well, the FTC, of course, but they must surely be working for someone. Trudeau has also been involved in (among other things) Scientology, Amway, and Neo-Tech – all the tricks of a truly questionable trade, in other words, going all the way up to spamming. He is, in sum, rather hardcore at marketing the complete lack of content (even marketing his marketing). An interesting comparison can be found here.

Among his recommendations (a fuller list here) is
- Never to take a prescription drug of any kind.
- Avoid sunscreen when in the sun, since it causes cancer (the sun, on the other hand, is the source of all health)
- That acid reflux disease is a myth, but still treatable by drinking vinegar.
- Daily injection of HCG (for weight loss)
- That pork and shellfish are poison.
- Never use the microwave; in fact, ready-made foot is unhealthy because it isn’t imbued with the love-energy imbued by home cooking.
- Sungazing (staring directly at the sun) as a cure for a range of diseases
- Colonics; every other day.

He also claims (in “More Natural Cures Revealed” (review here) that animals in the wild never get sick, and that bacteria and viruses don’t cause disease – diseases are caused by imbalances of vital energy – and that medical sciences have completely failed to prevent or cure disease.

It is also worth mentioning that The New York state Consumer Protection Board warns those who follow Kevin Trudeau's advice to call a toll-free number for information that Trudeau is selling their name and contact information to telemarketers and junk mailers.

More here, and (updated) here.

Diagnosis: One of the most influential, uh, shall we say "promoters of health claims the correctness of which may be questioned" in the US and as such quite dangerous. He may actually be an extremely ignorant crackpot, but it is hard to judge that as particularly more probable than him being an exceptionally cynical fraud.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

#391: David Trosch

David C. Trosch is a former Roman Catholic priest from Alabama and proponent of justifiable homicide for abortion providers. His defense of the latter (notably explained in his defense of Paul Hill) cost him his job as the former. In fact, despite Trosch’s vigorous denial of having had any involvement with Hill, it was quickly shown that Trosch was bein less than ideally candid, and that they’d been in close contact.

Well. Trosch theological interests don’t limit themselves to abortion. You can look here for a sample of his writings and writings by people he apparently respects (including speculation that the former pope may have been the Antichrist for his positions on homosexuality). As a representative sample you can look at this little essay by Fr. Paul Trinchard (yup, random capitalization, a sign of acumen); a large (some would say “perverse”) proportion of it concerns matters related to sexuality. There is illuminating stuff on the freemasons and illuminati as well, such as a discussion of the origin of communism in these groups, their general Satanism, and their involvement with the anti-christ.

Trosch’s position on homosexuality can be summed up by this quote: “Sodomy is a graver sin than murder. Unless there is life there can be no murder.”

Diagnosis: Ravingly insane American Taliban fundie who howls and screams incoherently at all the people who are out to get him (primarily the Antichrist). Needs extensive and serious help.

Update: Trosch did in fact pass away in October 2012.

#390: John Travolta

John Travolta is a scientologist most notable (if not most famous) for starring in the legendary movie “Battlefield Earth” – a movie adaption of L. Ron Hubbard’s work – and for his involvement in scientologist humanitarian efforts.

Travolta’s leadership of the scientology effort in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake deserves particular mention. First, scientology runs its own corps of whackers, the Scientology Volunteer Ministry (SVM). SVM’s job is to make the Church's good humanitarian works visible to the media at any opportunity, but even the media has had a tendency to notice that they are epically incompetent at providing the humanitarian services they purport to provide. For instance, the SVM notoriously got in the way at 9/11 and the Haiti earthquake – as whackers are wont to do. A marvelous description of their Haiti effort is provided here, the purpose of which was to provide scientology’s own version of faith healing. Another newspaper article that subtly hints at Travolta’s lack of awareness is here. In fairness it should be mentioned that Travolta flew in real doctors and medicine as well.

Travolta has generally been a more lowkey scientologist than Tom Cruise, but secured an entry in our Encyclopedia when he blamed the Virgina Tech shootings not on the lack of mental healthcare, but on the mental healthcare itself, i.e. psychiatric drugs.

This one is also illuminating (if not sufficiently backed up to be regarded as fact).

Diagnosis: More a nuisance than an actual danger, Travolta’s misguided efforts on behalf of scientology at least qualify him as a serious loon. Scientology faith healing is no more silly than reiki or other kinds of faith healing, but that would still make it awfully silly.

#389: Skip Tilton

Skip Tilton served in the US Navy for six years as a sonar technician on board a nuclear submarine. He graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.A. in Bible and a minor in Pulpit Speech, and later earned a Master of Ministry degree. As you see, his credentials as a master of evolutionary biology are impeccable. They should be, for Tilton travels around giving speeches on how Darwin was wrong (such as introducing this one).

Tilton is a prominent member of Answers in Genesis (AiG) and Creation Ministries International, and he played a pivotal role in the construction of the AiG Creation Museum. You can download or listen to a talk about the creation of the “museum” here. I don’t necessarily recommend it, though.

Diagnosis: A minor cogwheel in the big, bizarre engine of denialism, Tilton seems to be dutifully doing his part without a hint of rationality, knowledge or connection to reality behind it. His personal impact is probably modest, but the organization he represents is a threat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

#388: William A. Tiller

William A. Tiller is professor emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University, and famous for his appearance in “What the Bleep Do We Know!?”. His application for the movie is given in his 1997 book “Science and Human Transformation”, which postulates the existence of subtle energies, beyond the four fundamental forces, which act in concert with human consciousness (shades of Dr. Emoto). Yes, it is completely outside his area of expertise; yes, it is woo; and no, the evidence does not venture beyond wishful thinking, confirmation bias and the Galileo gambit.

Tiller claims to have discovered a new class of natural phenomena generated via these “subtle energies”, namely energies that manifest themselves in the practices of healers and other practitioners of the paranormal (it is basically chi). “Psychoenergetics” is Tiller’s term for the study of these energies in relation to the application of human consciousness, and he postulates a connection between both physical and nonphysical consciousness (yes, this is a metaphysical claim, and no, he did not engage with the literature) and natural phenomena. It is pure quantum woo, of course, without a shred of coherent evidence, and Tiller even mixes “information” into it.

Of course, the point is to find ways to heal you. Tiller claims (few traces of any knowledge of material sciences in here) to be able to increase or decrease the pH of water by a full pH unit by “intent”, and although he does apply chemical formulas in his papers I doubt people with basic knowledge of chemistry will be able to recognize what’s going on (he doesn’t always use chemical terminology with standard meaning, to put it mildly). The idea is discussed here. Tiller proposes: “A higher-dimensional-level substance, labeled deltrons, falling outside the constraints of relativity theory and able to move at velocities [faster than the speed of light and that acts as] a coupling agent between the electric monopole types of substances and the magnetic monopole types of substances to produce both electromagnetic (EM) and magnetoelectric (ME) types of mediator fields exhibiting a special type of ‘mirror principle’ relationship between them.” Words fail. Literally.

He has also explained that whereas “Existing orthodox science provides the technical underpinnings and mindset for today's orthodox medicine[,] Psycho-energetic science will provide the technical underpinnings and mindset for CAM.” Because CAM cannot be measured or justified by existing science. Or in short: science shows that my theories are ridiculous and unjustified. I deal with this by inventing a new "science" and accusing my critics of being close-minded.

The blooming field of tachyon energy healing, such as (the British) Nicola Quinn here, or Gene Latimer here, has apparently been profoundly influenced by Tiller’s work (e.g. here), though it usually adds some Tesla and more scientific illiteracy to the mix (after all, suckers who buy into Tiller will buy into anything). Tiller’s “research” has also been invoked in the explanation of the Q-link, and antivaxxer and homeopath Julianne Adams has presented offshoots of his musings at various antivaxx gatherings.

Tiller is currently Chairman and Chief Scientist of the William A. Tiller Foundation, devoted to his research on Psychoenergetic Science and Subtle Energies as well as being a retailer of his books and DVDs.

Diagnosis: Ultracrackpot and completely delusional woo-sponge, to the level where ordinary people might start to suspect fraud. But Tiller seems merely to lack any connection to reality whatsoever. People do listen to him, but it seems that those who do are pretty much lost to reality already, so it is debatable how much harm he actually does.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#387: Rusty Lee Thomas

Rusty Lee Thomas (from Waco, Texas) is a proponent of militant Christianity affiliated with Elijah Ministries and the Constitution Party, and one of those people who are organizing and training young Christians to be soldiers for Christ and go out there to engage in spiritual warfare against the evils of the modern world (science, secularism, universal human rights, and so on). It’s not obviously supposed to be purely spiritual either: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” He has even written a manual for young warriors. Among the main enemies identified in this manual is … well, this quote gives you the idea: “Feminists charge that Christianity promotes a patriarchal religion, which oppresses women and steals their potential. Although it is true that Christianity is patriarchal, the function of true patriarchy is to protect, provide, and care for women and children. Biblical patriarchy is expressed as chivalry […] A woman can manipulate, dominate and control a man to the point that his manhood is slowly eaten away like a cancer […] Too many women seek value by trying to become men, lead as men, and be aggressive as men.” The ideas are discussed here. Clearly Thomas is the real feminist in the culture wars.

The following is from one of his “reports”: “I've been on a forty day fast. Today is the 19th day. The purpose was to end the American holocaust (abortion) and usher in a heaven-sent revival. Little did we know that at the beginning of this consecrated time that the homosexuals in San Francisco would blaspheme the Lord in the most despicable manner. They held a mock Last Supper advertisement to promote their ‘gay pride’ and perverted orgies in the streets of their city. […] I asked God for the message and for the method to warn that wicked city that they have crossed the line and are in deep trouble with the Almighty. 3 days later the Lord gave me the Word and the method. It is called God's Eviction Notice. Tomorrow morning this message will be sent to all major news outlets in America. […]” The Eviction notice in question? “[Insert garbled, hysterical theological ramblings and Biblebotting here] … The Lord God of heaven and earth, the Triune God of the Bible, God the Father, God the Son, (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit has a charge to bring against this wicked city and the inhabitants thereof. […] His patience with these abominations has ceased. […] God has weighed San Francisco in the balance and your city has been found wanting. Your many transgressions reveal not just the revelry of sexual immorality and lusting after strange flesh, but a God-mocking, God-hating spirit that is Anti-Christ to its core […] The tragedy of New York and the disaster of New Orleans are merely first fruits of the many woes that will devastate San Francisco and send shockwaves throughout California, America, and the world. God stands poised with his flaming sword ready to strike your city [and so on …] You must stuff these abominations back in the closet of illegality and punish these criminal acts as God prescribes or your entire house (city) will collapse upon your wicked heads. With all diligence, take heed to this warning, repent or perish, Christ or chaos.”

Diagnosis: Charming fellow.