Thursday, April 20, 2017

#1825: Rebecca Keller

Real Science-4-Kids imprint publishes student texts, teacher manuals, and student laboratory workbooks –ostensibly covering chemistry, biology and physics to serve kindergarten through ninth grade – specifically targeted at homeschoolers. The material does, of course, not primarily seek to introduce kids to science, but to religiously motivated science-denialism, including creationism, and Rebecca Keller, who runs the outfit, has realized that since creationists can’t challenge scientists on evidence, truth, accountability and research, they should focus on “educational” materials aimed at kids instead. This is of course the usualy ploy among denialists: there’s a reason the Intelligent Design movement has focused on getting Intelligent Design taught in public schools and not on doing research to establish Intelligent Design as a viable scientific alternative. Keller has frequently spoken at intelligent design conferences about and provided testimony for teaching the controversy and allowing students to “critically evaluate” all scientific data that support and/or oppose scientific conclusions, once again because the focus of Intelligent Design conferences tend to be outreach, not science.

She has also been directly involved in various attempts to get Intelligent Design creationism taught in public schools. For instance, in 2006 she was invited by Mike Fair to testify before the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee in favor of language to allow students to “critically evaluate” all scientific data. Like all such attempts, this one didn’t include any discussion of how students, with little or no prior knowledge or understanding of the field, its questions, or research, would be in a position to “critically evaluate” any of it.

Now, Keller herself is a former assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, where she did indeed work in molecular biology. Her rejection of evolution was not grounded in science, however, but in religious fundamentalism, though it provided her with the credentials needed to be a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. Keller herself is currently a home-schooling mom with no academic or research affiliation.

Her educational material is apparently extensively used, however, since many homeschoolers are religious fundamentalist science denialists.

Diagnosis: Anti-scientists. And that is of course precisely what makes her and her writings rather popular in certain quarters. Influential and dangerous.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#1824: Crockett Keller

Legendary crank magnet Jim Keith seems to have passed away. Crockett Keller, however, doesn’t deserve more than a brief note. Keller is a store-owner in Texas who in 2011 got some attention for an ad for his own courses on gun safety for people to receive their conceal/carry permits, where he stated thatif you are a socialist liberal and or voted for the current campaigner in chief, please do not take this class. You have already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as under the law” and “if you are a non-Christian Arab or Muslim, I will not teach you the class with no shame” because “the fact is if you are a devout Muslim then you cannot be a true American.” Keep in mind that this was supposed to be a gun safety class.

He later doubled down on his claims and equated giving Muslims handgun training with providing flight instruction to the hijackers responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks: “Why would I teach people who have sworn the annihilation of the United States and who can lie, cheat, steal and murder Americans in order to further Islam?” said Keller: “Why would I arm someone like that? Why would I enable them to carry a weapon legally? I don’t want to be a part of that.” No, he displays no hint of understanding what Islam is.

Diagnosis: I don’t think you should trust someone as deluded and crazy as Crockett Keller to give you gun safety advice in any case. Deplorable git.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

#1823: Merrill Keiser

Merrill Samuel “Sam” Keiser Jr. is an insane religious fundie nutter truck driver from Fremont, Ohio, who got a few minutes in the spotlight when he attempted to run as a candidate in the Democratic primary for Senate in 2006 against Sherrod Brown. Keiser ran on a platform of “traditional values”, including opposition to gay marriage, appointment of strict constructionist jurists on every level, “winning” the War on Terror (and the War on Drugs), teaching and encouraging school prayer, taxpayer-financed school vouchers, support for a strong military and using the US armed forces to “battle drugs and terrorism”, supporting US withdrawal from the UN, anti-abortion and a “Biblical” view of Israel. He was also opposed to embryonic stem cell research, saying that it “is a ploy of money-hungry academic researchers and blood-thirsty liberals and politicians who want to bring a culture of death to America and it part of their religion. It is just like the religions of old in which they used human infant sacrifice in idol worship.” Yeah, throw in a conspiracy theory for good measure. Of course, “money-hungry academic researchers” is sort of a contradiction; if you’re money-hungry, you’d stay as far away from academic research as you’d get. Keiser’s premise is really rather just the good’ol one that he doesn’t like or understand stem cell research, and everyone who disagrees with him is corrupt.

During his campaign Keiser called creationism “true” and endorsed the position that creationism, not evolution, should be taught in public schools (since “if you teach kids that they’re here by accident rather than purposely by somebody putting them here, their self-worth won’t be more than any other animal,” an argument famously championed by Jack Chick). School children should be “taught to pray,” and “liberals” have spent too long worshipping the “god of Reason.” Yeah, that bloody hallmark of heathen perversion, reason. As Mark Rushdoony says, “we must base our laws on faith, not reason.”

In May 2006 Keiser called for homosexuality to be punishable by death: “Just as we have laws against taking drugs, we should have laws against immoral behavior,” said Keiser. He has later apparently modified the position, claiming that although he would not oppose making homosexuality a crime punishable by death for the overall spiritual and moral health of society, he himself, would not introduce such legislation In March 2006, Keiser suggested that Elton John should be killed (“worthy of death”), as should Mary Cheney (daughter of Dick Cheney), for being homosexual.

Diagnosis: One of many raging about the evils of radical Islam while themselves favoring a society governed by principles somewhere to the extreme right of the Taliban. Deranged fundie bigot, and apparently his votes in the 2006 primary exceeded what can be explained by ballot-marking errors, which is scary. Then people elected Trump.

Monday, April 10, 2017

#1822: Webster Kehr

Webster Kehr is a legendary crackpot and crank magnet. Kehr is a religious fundamentalist (Mormon) creationist and conspiracy theorist, notable for promoting free energy suppression conspiracies and denying the existence of photons (and thus the technology required for the screen on which you are reading). Kehr writes for the website, CancerTutor, which promotes a range of fake, unproven and utterly ridiculous alternative cancer treatments. CancerTutor is formally the website of the organization “Independent Cancer Research Foundation, Inc.” (ICRF), though Kehr and his gang wouldn’t know the difference between research and making up lunatic conspiracy theories on the spot. Nonetheless, the website actually seems to be somewhat popular, and is among the top hits if you search for “natural cancer cure” (which you have no reason to do: go here instead). Kehr apparently retired in 2015, whereupon he received some kind of lifetime achievement award from Ty Bollinger; yeah, that kind of stuff – Kehr wrote the foreword to Bollinger’s book Cancer – Step Outside the Box.

According to Mr. Kehr “cancer is caused by microbes inside the cancer cells.” This is not true, but shows that Kehr probably doesn’t even care whether he got it right. He seems to have gotten the idea from legendary crackpot Royal Rife, who in the 1930s described unknown, non-existent bacteria he thought, without much evidence, were the cause of cancer, the “Bacillus-X”. The main treatment pushed by the CancerTutor webpage is accordingly the BX Protocol, which is advertised to help not only with cancer but, for good measure (remember: the broader the range of application, the greater the income base) “most diseases”, including Alzheimer’s, autism, asthma, autoimmune diseases, blood disorders, cancer, COPD, diabetes (type I and II), epilepsy, heart disease, lupus, Lyme disease, malaria, neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s, respiratory infections, tuberculosis, and “most bacterial and viral conditions”. (The “inventor” of BX protocol is “Dr” Dewayne Lee Smith, who runs the Delta Institute and claims to have a Ph.D. in “biological sciences” from “University of Canterbury” or “Canterbury University” – he seems unsure; The University of Canterbury is a real university in New Zealand, but “Canterbury University” a Seychelles-based diploma mill). What the BX Protocol actually is, is a bit unclear, and it is hard to make sense of Delta Institute’s “explanation”, except that it is supposed to be a “new paradigm” and that Western medicine is flawed because it is merely “treatment of symptoms, and not causation” – and for the BX people there really is the cause of disease: A mythical and undefined “mitochondrial dysfunction” involving undetectable “stealth pathogens”. The protocol involves what is basically homeopathy, an “energized non-toxic biomolecule created from pure crystalline fructose” (i.e. sugar-water) that is potentiated through some unspecified magic ritual involving light(?), and which will “seek out and bond with toxic structures” and “dismantles” the toxins with an “electric field”. Indeed.

The CancerTutor website apparently makes money by referring readers to various quackery and crankery sellers, especially the BX Protocol cure-all (data leaked from Delta Institute show that CancerTutor/Webster Kehr received 15% commission on fourteen sales of BX Protocol.) The current retail-price of BX Protocol is $16,995. Kehr suggests to his readers that they may for instance sell their life-insurance for half its value to a broker he knows personally to pay for the BX Protocol.

How does Kehr know that his advice is good? Well, he’s got anecdotes! He even admits that “[w]e depend on cancer patients to contact us if the [treatment] protocol is not working.” Given that their treatments are often aimed at the terminally ill (or at least people who would die without proper treatment), you can perhaps discern a potential problem with this way of testing the efficacy of the advice you are giving.

It’s not the only cancer cure pushed on CancerTutor, though. Kehr says that there are more than 20 ways to turn cancer cells into normal cells (even though he is demonstrable unable to distinguish a cancer cell from a bacterial infection), and these are “[i]nexpensive, safe and gentle cancer treatments (with 90% cure rates) have existed for decades, but very, very few people know these treatments even exist.” For instance, CancerTutor also advocates biological dentistry and dentists trained by Hal Huggins. Why do few people know about these cures, you think? Ah, you didn’t need to ask: “The reason the media blacklists the truth about the 90% cure rate treatments is that the media is owned by multi-billionaires and the treatments that have 90% cure rates are not profitable enough to satisfy their lust for profits.” Those multi-billionaires also die of cancer, but apparently the profit margin is more important. Why the media and its owners have an economic stake in hiding cancer cures is less clear.

The CancerTutor website is currently run by Kehr’s associate, “acupuncturist /naturopath” Gary Edward Teal. Teal is most notable for his expertise on and promotion of Rife machines, which Teal thinks cure both cancer and infectious diseases (though he is for legal reasons forced to admit that the devices “are sold as electronic test instruments. No suitability or claims for any other purpose is stated or implied … We make absolutely no claims of any cure for any disease”).

As for Kehr, his pseudoscience is – as we mentioned at the outset – not limited to cancer quackery. Kehr is also a creationist and thinks “evolution is the most absurd scientific theory in the history of science!!” He has even written a couple of books about that. The main claim in The Evolution of Evolution is, according to himself, “that human DNA cannot contain enough information to ‘morph’ a fertilized egg (e.g. of a human) into a newborn baby.” So his main beef is apparently not with evolution but with genetics altogether. And in Introduction to the Mathematics of Evolution, his main beef is apparently with Cantor, insofar as he thinks that the set of naturals and the set of reals are the same size (he might not realize precisely what he’s claiming); he admits there is no bijection between them, though, which makes it rather obvious that he doesn’t have the faintest idea what he is talking about – yes, he describes himself as the author of many mathematical papers; MathSciNet doesn’t list a single one, however. (Otherwise the book seems apparently mostly to confuse evolution with abiogenesis and standard PRATTs such as “evolution by mutations cannot add new information” and “random chance cannot produce a human”. Anyone who thinks that line of reasoning is relevant has emphatically not remotely understood the basic principles of the theory of evolution.) Kehr also rejects Einstein’s theory of relativity and, as mentioned, photons.

Diagnosis: One of the most impressive crank magnets on the Internet. If you have a stupid theory or idea, Kehr is apparently willing to adopt it, especially if you cannot procure evidence or reason for it, since the fact that you can’t demonstrates that there is a conspiracy to suppress it. Raging lunatic.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

#1821: Michael N. Keas

Michael Keas is a Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the College at Southwestern (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), or possibly (currently) adjunct faculty at Biola University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the radical anti-science organization the Discovery Institute, and a creationist. And although he is not a scientist, I guess the creationist horde considers him to be “close enough”; at least Keas is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. He is also the primary author of the auxiliary materials for the Discovery Institute’s “textbook”, Explore Evolution.

Despite not being a scientist, Keas apparently “leads workshops for science teachers on how to teach about controversial subjects such as Darwinism.” He has even taught an Intelligent Design course, “Unified Studies: Introduction to Biology”, at the Oklahoma Baptist University, which is one of very few such courses that have been taught for credit at an accredited institution (though OBU, where “the general science, education and chemistry programs … take a strong Intelligent Design advocacy position” is hardly a real university in the ordinary sense of “real university”).

Diagnosis: Not among the loudest Intelligent Design anti-scientists, Keas seems nevertheless to wield rather significant influence in the movement. Dangerous.