Tuesday, December 29, 2015

#1556: William Campbell Douglass

Fundies do say the darndest things, but the whereabouts of the “Lee Douglas” supposedly associated with the Christian Coalition and described here cannot be determined and he probably doesn’t exist.

William Campbell Douglass II unfortunately does. Douglass is a doctor, woo peddler, hardcore conspiracy theorist and president of the Douglass Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine. In particular, Douglass believes that the WHO developed AIDS as a strategic element in their evil plan to usher in the New World Order by depopulating the Earth.

As for woo, well, Douglass has quite a number of … unusual ideas. He has been caught claiming that a little bit of tobacco smoking is good for you – in fact, he has written a book about that: The Health Benefits of Tobacco (I suppose “editor and researcher Tracy T. Douglass” is a relative), which seeks to rebut all those studies linking smoking to negative health effects and concluding that it’s a conspiracy. Probably by the government. The purpose of the conspiracy is left unclear. The quality of the rebuttals are well exemplified by his observation that even according to CDC studies, only 0.5% of the smoking population died at ages less than 35 – but 8% of the general population is dead before age 35; which prompts him to ask “does smoking prevent death in the relatively young – from murder, automobile and other accidents, infection or boredom?” No prize for spotting the rather obvious flaw in the reasoning (I haven’t even doublechecked the number).

Apart from his defense of smoking, Douglass has argued that exercise is overrated and that vegetarianism is bad. He has moreover promoted the idiotic raw milk fad (he is the author of The Milk of Human Kindness-Is Not Pasteurized – the title gives you a glimpse of the mind of W.C. Douglass methinks). Fluoride, however, is really bad and water fluoridation is yet another element in a grand conspiracy, as is aspartame. And sunlight, according to Douglass, prevents melanoma. Gary Null apparently really liked that claim.

Douglass has been most widely noticed, perhaps, for his anti-vaccine views. Vaccines don’t really prevent anything, according to Douglass (and the diseases they are meant to prevent aren’t really big deals anyways). Instead, vaccines are – you guessed it – a conspiracy. For instance, in his article “Pandemic Panic Hits World Health Organization”, published in the positively deranged pseudojournal Medical Voices (it’s actually a somewhat useful journal – anyone who has published anything in that journal can be safely dismissed as an insane crank), he claimed the H1N1 flu epidemic was faked by the WHO to sell drugs and vaccines. After all, according to Douglass the epidemic was “no more than a sniffle”, killing only a from a World War I battle commander standpoint insignificant number of people.

His relationship to critical thinking and evidence is, in other words, a matter of pick-and-choose. For instance, Douglass is – unusually for woo promoters – critical of the use of anecdotes in assessing a hypothesis. Of course, to Douglass, “anecdotal evidence” means any well-controlled, large study that yields results he don’t like. Personal anecdotes are, however, really valuable when they support his own, science-contrary beliefs.

Unsurprisingly, Douglass also runs a webstore that sells his special brand of supplements, and pushes at least two “periodicals” that have succeeded in making this list, Real Health and Second Opinion.

Diagnosis: A critical-thinking disaster that makes Mercola look positively wise (ok, so that’s an exaggeration). And though Douglass doesn’t quite enjoy Mercola’s level of influence, he is far from negligible.

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