Saturday, March 16, 2013

#470: Keith Barr

Another relatively small fish, Keith Barr is a faith healer (i.e. practitioner of the Judeo-Christian brand of reiki) located in Clarkston, Michigan, who practices exactly the kind of faith healing that James Randi takes up in The Faith Healers. Barr is perhaps most notable for having a substantial Youtube presence, where you can see him promote his services backed up by claims to have healed hundreds of people of ”cancer, blindness, even the effects of Agent Orange” (apparently Comcast refused to run a cable ad in which he claimed to bring sight to the blind).

”Jesus said, you have to pray and have no doubt. It requires a tremendous amount of faith,” says Barr, though in reality it probably requires exactly enough to get the effects of confirmation bias and wishful thinking going. Regression to themean probably does the rest, though the blindness thing may admittedly require something more. Fortunately, there is always the faith healer escape hatch when the healing doesn't work – you just didn’t have enough faith. Barr is briefly discussed here.

He is also a promoter of Intelligent Design Creationism: ”We should not allow the howls and protest of those fearful of a scientific study of creationism and intelligent design to stop scientific progress. They are fearful of their bias and materialistic world view being challenged,” says Barr. And he has produced a DVD titled ”Amazing Scientific Secrets of the Bible”. It might have helped if Barr had the first clue about science, but then again, perhaps not.

Diagnosis: Hardcore fundie and tireless opponent of critical thinking skills. Given his healing practice he is actually moderately dangerous even though his influence is probably not very widespread.

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