Saturday, August 18, 2018

#2057: Randy Neugebauer

Robert Randolph “Randy” Neugebauer was the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 19th district from 2003 to 2017, and was in 2011 named “the most conservative” member of the House. Neugebauer was a member of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, and his background there might perhaps help explain his proposed 2011 Congressional resolution, in response to a period of crazy weather, to pray for better weather conditions. In particular, the resolution resolved that “people in the United States should join together in prayer to humbly seek fair weather conditions, including calm skies in the South and lower Midwest where tornadoes have ravaged homes and uprooted families, and for rain where rain is most needed in the South and Southwest, where devastating drought and dangerous wildfires have destroyed homes, businesses, and lives.” 

The most important thing for Neugebauer, though, seems to have been to keep those darn scientistsout of the political discussion. Neugebauer is a climate change denialist, and certainly doesn’t trust scientists with published results. Yes, there is consensus among scientists that climate change is happening and largely caused by human activity, but as Neugebauer sees it, the reason it looks that way is because there is a conspiracy to keep climate change denying results away from broader dissemination: “The consensus has been for some time that global warming, climate change, continues because man is the perpetrator. Now we are beginning to learn that may not be true, that there is not a consensus that there is global warming or climate change. We now have heard about Climategate, where the expert scientists hid emails in England that disagreed with the so-called consensus that there is global warming and global climate change [this is, of course, not remotely what happened]. We have heard now new evidence that even NASA is involved in not revealing evidence that contradicts climate change.” The main evidence for the conspiracy, as Neugebauer sees it, is the absence of science denying climate change in serious journals, which conflicts with Neugebauer’s intuition on the matter and, presumably, the crazy rantings of Senator (and non-scientist) James Inhofe. Since the idea that he is wrong and has something to learn is beyond his cognitive capacity, the only possibly conclusion is conspiracy.

Neugebauer has also taken a bold and brave stance on the War on Christmas.

Diagnosis: A seriously deranged man, and at one point a serious danger to civilization. Since he retired his influence has of course diminished, but we are under no illusion that his replacement is much better.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#2056: Roger D. Nelson

Global consciousness (or “field consciousness”) is the idea that when groups of people focus their minds on the same thing, they can mentally influence physical reality. The idea is often associated with Dean Radin (though there are others working on something similar to the idea independently, too), who thinks that there ismay be (is) a “global mind” arising from the interconnections of individual minds. The idea is silly, and the evidence for it pretty shitty – primarily, proponents of the idea seek to confirm the hypothesis by collecting statistical evidence by comparing predicted random patterns from random event generators with actual measurements – if it were genuinely random, there should be no pattern: yet, say the proponents of the idea, there is. (Some discussion of why this kind of test is utterly nonsensical can be found here.)

Such “evidence” is currently being collected The Global Consciousness Project, an offshoot of PEAR, led by one of Radin’s associates, Roger D. Nelson, one of the grand old men of psi research. So far, Nelson’s studies has eluded publication in serious journals, but at least he got one – “Wishing for Good Weather” – in the somewhat questionable Journal for Scientific Exploration, where he argued that the desires for good weather among alumni, graduates, family and others at Princeton manage to keep bad weather away from their outdoor events. Suffice to say, the paper left some obvious questions unaddressed, such as questions about the poor effects of desperation in drought-affected areas around the world or, more obviously, the chance of false positives in large datasets, the absence of a clear and predefined notion of what actually constitutes an anomaly, and a striking lack of clarity concerning what sort of patterns global consciousness were supposed to cause and why. Another of Nelson’s examples: apparently the broadcasting of Princess Diana’s funeral had an effect on the Project’s random number generator (though they admitted that Mother Teresa’s funeral did not – Nelson predictably explained the difference as a function of a difference in global attention, though there are, shall we say, alternative explanations available).

Apparently, the patterns Nelson and his crew saw in the random event generator output occur in any undefined interval surrounding the significant event, often before the event, which suggests that not only is global consciousness affecting the number generator, but global precognition is affecting it, too. Absolutely marvelous, isn’t it? Falsifiability is for losers.

Prior to taking up the Global Consciousness Project, Nelson was associated with Robert Jahn’s PEAR project. Deepak Chopra is apparently a fan.

Diagnosis: Unlike many pseudoscientists, Nelson has the resources, background and apparent willingness to do real science. But what comes out is not. And due to its veneer of respectability, Nelson’s nonsense has been widely picked up by a range of New Age lunatics, woomeisters and con people as evidence somehow supporting their nonsense. As such, his work and its influence are not wholly benign.

Hat-tip: Skepdic

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

#2055: Richard William Nelson

Richard William Nelson is a young-earth creationist Internet troll and author. Nelson is of course not a scientist – some undergrad classes in biology really doesn’t make you one – but nevertheless doesn’t mind taking on the whole of science in his book Darwin, Then and Now, The Most Amazing Story in the History of Science (2009) [link is to a review]. Like many creationists, Nelson has been caught claiming to take no stance on the issue of evolution, but this is a marketing ploy, just like the several positive reviews of the book he has written and posted, under sockpuppet accounts, on various websites. As for the book itself, it consists to a large extent of quote-mining scientists about evolution, misrepresenting the quotes and even moving words around to make the “quotes” more effective for his purposes. The scientists quoted actually accept evolution, though you’d never guess from Nelson’s misrepresentations. The book also contains most of the familiar creationist PRATTs, including the thoroughly idiotic Piltdown man gambit and asserting there are no transitional fossils. According to Nelson “evolution is a dogma”, which he – without a hint of self-irony – rejects because it is inconsistent with a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Oh, and there is a conspiracy: the true goal of all those Darwinists is to remove God from science.

In addition to Internet trolling, Nelson has apparently been invited to give talks and lectures in various church and fundie fora.

Diagnosis: Pretty nondescript, perhaps, but the sheer dishonesty of it all is rather telling.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Monday, August 13, 2018

#2054: Linda Nelson

Altmed comes little more ridiculous than homeopathy, which is so desperately nonsensical that even hardened New Agers have occasionally been caught hesitating when hearing what it actually is and how it is actually supposed to work. But homeopathy also has the trappings of a cargo cult science, complete with its own educational institutions, degrees, terminology, journals and conferences – made to look as much like science as possible, but by people who wouldn’t be able to distinguish scientific methodology from a word document written in random wingdings characters if their lives depended on it, and it shows.

Linda Nelson is a homeopath, and true to the cargo cult-science trappings, she has a lot of letters to her name: “CHom, NCTMB, is a member of NASH, NCH, AMTA,” none of which ought to inspire confidence any more (but arguably slightly less) than random strings. Nelson “graduated from Homeopathy School of Colorado, which is now Homeopathy School International,” which also makes you slightly less prepared to deal with real suffering than nothing. Nelson is apparently a Classical Homeopathic Practitioner and also a “reiki master” – a degree that usually costs between $600 and $800 by mail but is anyways not a protected title – and is apparently currently affiliated with the Institute of Bioenergetic Medicine (where “bioenergetic” seems to refer to orgone energy, no less); she also teaches Spiritual Awareness classes at Yoga West and Crystal Books.

Among Nelson’s many areas of self-defined expertise is STD, or symptoms of STDs: “These symptoms may not be coming from you and your life experiences, they may be coming from your family history that no one wanted to talk about because it was too embarrassing. We also need to remember two things: Males rarely show symptoms of Chlamydia and Chlamydia is on the rise nationwide. One of the remedies that we have to look at is Chlamydium which is taken from a person who has Chlamydia. Why would we want to put such a horrible disease into our body? The body will kick out the disease that is vibrating at a lower vibration to help balance itself. This is the same theory as vaccinations.” It is not the same theory as vaccinations. What she refers to above – the family history part – is presumably homeopathy’s idea of miasms, which is roughly as silly as the ideas that your illness is caused by hereditary demonic homunculi, just vaguer. If you think a proposal to help you deal with diseases “vibrating at a lower vibration” sounds like a good idea, there is probably little we can do to help, however.

Diagnosis: Ok, so this is not a big fish by any means, but Nelson’s karmic vibrations were apparently vibrating at some unfortunate vibrations today, so she ended up in our Encyclopedia nonetheless. Nothing we can do about that. Blame the miasms.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

#2053: Bradley Nelson

Chiropractic is still a kind of gateway woo. For Bradley Nelson, a chiropractor and craniopath and “renowned holistic physician and lecturer” it has led to something he calls “the Emotion Code” and “the Body code”, special, trademark healing secrets combining an impressive array of nonsense, from energy healing to Kirlian photography, applied kinesiology, magnet therapy, and the ancient myth that your unconsciousness records everything you experience (which can then supposedly be utilized for healing) – indeed through our unconsciousness we even inherit trapped emotions from parents and ancestors, as Nelson sees it.

Of course, like so many other crackpots, Nelson subscribes to the One Cause illusion about illness: there is one cause, and thus one cure, for all illnesses – and of course he’s in possession of that (trademarked) cure. Nelson, whose own powers of healing ostensibly stem from a “higher power” (granted to him through prayer), claims to heal everything – including relationships – by using his quick and effective system, and the healing also works at a distance. The Body Code consists mostly of fluffy feel-good nonsense (“Learn the hottest techniques to tap into your own internal computer!”), but will also allow you to “[d]iscover the unseen causes of illness most doctors aren’t aware of” and “[l]earn to communicate with and heal your animals and pets!

Meanwhile, realdoctors will only prescribe you drugs and thus kill you. At least Nelson’s website includes a Quack Miranda warning is a brief discussion with a satisfied customer.

Diagnosis: Oh, the bullshit. Nelson is, of course, just one of many crackpots with entirely personal and only arguably coherent ideas about the causes, nature and cures for illness and who therefore apparently possess some power over the weak of critical reasoning skills. Probably small fish, but whatever influence he has is certainly not doing much good for humanity.

Hat-tip: Skepdic

Thursday, August 9, 2018

#2052: Daniel Neiman

Daniel John Neiman is the owner of the paranormal website “Anomalous Experience” and pretty much a crank of all trades – he is, for instance, a creationist and parapsychology proponent, and fills out his creationist and parapsychologist views with an impressive array of pseudoscience and New Age nonsense. Neiman seems to be currently residing in South Korea, but he’s American enough to qualify for an entry here. 

Neiman’s proclaimed area of specialization seems to be altered states of consciousness, and he has written numerous articles on this (and creationism) for the New Dawnmagazine and for The Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. Not exactly Nature, these outlets let him publish tripe like “Intelligent Design: Scientific Facts Point Us in a New Direction,” which consists mostly of old creationist PRATTS and preciously little by way of facts or science. In general, his writings exhibit the stylistic characteristics of his chosen genre: deepity, technobabble, Deepak Chopra-style nonsense, mind-body woo and fluff-and-sugary handwavings about energy, with an admittedly personal strain of weapons-grade, fundie-style denialism thrown in.

His magnum opus is probably the book Enter the Light(2012), which seeks to connect all manners of pseudoscience, from intelligent design creationism to alien abductions and out-of-body experiences. (“It covers the groundbreaking science in intelligent design and the placebo effect, as well as paranormal phenomena that suggest our reality is grounded in a supreme conscious intelligence which we are all part of;” none of this is, despite Neiman’s assertions, even remotely related to science, of course.) Apparently out-of-body experiences prove the existence of a “multi-dimensional reality”. It really does not, and Neiman does – like most New Age promoters – evidently not quite grasp what “dimension” (or “prove”) could possibly mean. Another, unsurprising crackpot trademark is his complete ignorance of any actual scientific literature concerning the topics he takes up. 

Neiman has also been caught trolling various blogs and forums claiming that the medium Daniel Dunglas Home was never caught in fraud, which is rather easily shown to be false. But then, Neiman seems to think everymedium is genuine, even those who actually admitted to be frauds. (That’s just part of the conspiracy, you know.)

Diagnosis: Another prolific producer of wooey word-salads to pollute the Internet, Neiman’s brand of bullshit has its followers, though he is probably a minor figure in the grand scheme of things. 

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

#2051: Penny Nance

Penny Nance is the current president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), the fundamentalist, wingnut activist hate group founded by Beverly LaHaye – they call themselves an amalgam of “policy experts and ... activists[s]” who take an explicitly anti-feminist approach to politics as a means to “protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens.” The CWA opposes any efforts that “intervene with natural human life,” including secular education, stem cell research, divorce, UN conferences and treaties, publicly funded HIV screenings or STD treatment programs, voluntary childlessness, pornography (mostly because the proliferation of and lack of regulation for pornography somehow promotes gay rights and premarital sex), sex ed, gambling, and gay marriage. As for what they support, the CWA emphasizes “traditional families” and the woman's place being within the home (with exceptions for themselves (and Michele Bachmann), of course, who do importantwork). They also support teaching intelligent design creationism in public schools, advocate school prayer, and claim that it is unconstitutional for public schools to require reading material that conflicts with the religious values of parents (not that they otherwise care much for the Constitution). Nance was previously a Federal Communications Commission advisor on children’s social and media concerns. 

Anti-feminism
According to CWA, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is part of “the war on women”. Of course, the year before claiming this Nance had claimed that the phrase “war on women” is a piece of “phony, focus-grouped rhetoric” geared to “raise money and hackles”, but measures to protect women from violence is a different enemy indeed (Nance has subsequently had a series of bizarre views about what the “real war on women” might be). In particular, according to Nance, VAWA “hurts sex-trafficking victims,” since a non-tortured connection between premises and conclusions is unimportant when Talking Points. It is also a bit unclear how much she really cares for victims of trafficking.

Meanwhile, anti-men conspiracies are everywhere, especially in Hollywood. The movie Frozen, for instance, is emasculating men by having female protagonists that don’t end up marrying as the culmination of the narrative. After criticizing Frozen, Nance and Steve Doocy went on to lament the absence of male heroes in Hollywood movies.

Among CWA’s perceived main enemies is the “nefarious” Planned Parenthood. At present, Nance is hopeful that the Department of Justice will go after them for a variety of issues that she falsely thinks they are guilty of after visiting a variety of conspiracy outlets. Now, she may of course be somewhat justified in that hope given the current administration; Nance is aware of this, of course, and has expressed her deepest gratitude for the election of the Trump: “our nation just received a second chance, a chance we never could have earned or deserved. Millions of people like you and me fought hard on our knees, praying earnestly and asking God to heal our land. He heard, and he showed us great mercy.” (She came around pretty quickly to that conclusion after starting out rather skeptical – but then, political expediency trumps ethics every time for these people; morality is relative except when it is not.)

Due to her views and reasoning skills, Nance was for a while among Trump’s candidates for ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. In 2014, she also wanted to be chairman of the board of the new National Women’s History Museum, which she opposed because she claimed it would “indoctrinate” visitors with feminism.

Reason
When Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx proposed a “Day of Reason” alongside a “Day of Prayer”, Nance objected. Why? Apparently reasonand thinkingand education leads to genocide. “You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism [this is … not correct]. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust [this is … not correct, either – quite the opposite, in fact] ... Dark periods of history is what we arrive at when we leave God out of the equation,” said Nance. Yes, advancing science, opposition to the monarchy, and focusing on education, personal freedom and the separation of church and state lead to Hitler. Nance does not like reason. At least she makes sure she walks her talk and makes no attempt to use it herself. And the claim that reasoncaused Hitler is pretty out there, even as far as rightwing Godwins go.

She followed up by doubling down on her claims.

Gay marriage
Most of what is bad in the world is, as Nance sees it, connected to the marriage equality issue. Same-sex marriage is, according to Nance, like “counterfeit money” that “takes at something that’s the real deal and diminishes it,” and will accordingly “hurt everyone”. Meanwhile, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is engaging in treason, no less, for officiating at a gay wedding, mostly since words means whatever Nance wants them to mean to serve her rhetoric.

In particular, legalizing gay marriage means that opponents of gay marriage activists should get ready for “persecution”. It will also lead to the end of America: equal treatment for same-sex couples would eviscerate religious freedom, and “in losing religious freedom, we lose America,” said Nance. And of course there is a conspiracy here: Zeh gays are plotting to take your children! “The Day of Silence” is an excellent example: As Nance sees it the Day of Silence is an effort by “LGBTQ activists” to “infiltrate schools” and “get to your children.” In particular, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network – which is a tool for LGBT activists who “are going around you to get to your children” – is “working tirelessly to infiltrate schools and influence children across the country” and “taunting and bullying kids in public school and shaming them regarding their religious beliefs that favor traditional marriage.”

And not the least, the Girl Scouts of America’s policy to accept transgender young people “on a case-by-case basis” is “just one more slap in the face to Christian parents,” since not acting in accordance with fundie wingnuts’ hatred of other people is oppression. Also, gay leaders will “dismantle” the Boy Scouts and put “our young sons at risk”.

There is a good Penny Nance resource here.

Diagnosis: Pretty indistinguishable from a range of moronic bigots we’ve already covered, but yeah: delusional, moronic, bigoted conspiracy theorist. Nance is also a pretty influential figure still, and should not be underestimated as a force of evil, hate and harm. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

#2050: John Nail

We don’t know much about John Nail, but at least Nail is a creationist – and apparently a teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Sedalia, which is what makes us take note since his position gives him an opportunity to fill students’ heads with his deranged ideas. In 2013 he laid some of those ideas out in a response, in a Missouri newspaper, to an op-ed about how teaching creationism makes us dumber, unintentionally determined to show that the op-ed’s conclusion was entirely accurate. The letter, with critical annotations, is here. Apart from some strikingly idiotic, but common, creationist gambits (the lunar dust argument; although the influenza virus adapts to the environment it won’t turn into anything else), Nail does have some novel insights to contribute: “The word dinosaur means ‘large lizard’ [that’s false] – Ms. Dupuy [author of the op-ed], we still have large lizards.” That is apparently supposed to be some kind of gotcha point. Continues Nail: “In fact, large lizards were small when they were young. Noah could have easily had immature ‘dinosaurs’ on the Ark.” And of course, there is a conspiracy: “Natural Science museums do not show the rabbits, squirrels and other currently known animals whose bones were found with the dinosaur bones.” Well, they do indeed not, but not for the reason Nail thinks. Also, all the early hominid fossils are apparently hoaxes. Evidence? Yeah, right: evidence is a ploy of “scientists”, and no way Nail is gonna fall for that devious trick. “I could list many scientific reasons that macro-evolution makes no sense but we believe what we want to believe,” concludes Nail instead, who certainly chooses to believe whatever he wants to believe, regardless of facts, evidence or reason.

And to cap it off, Nail calls for teaching both sides and claiming that no one can know how the universe began since no one was there to see it, which is a spectacular display of ignorance about what science is and how it works*.

Diagnosis: Deranged nitwit, whose ignorance about the most basic facts of science, nature, reason and evidence is breathtaking even by young-earth creationist standards. That he is allowed to teach anythingto children is nothing short of a disaster.

*Look: Science is about the unobservable. That’s the point. Studying the observableis book-keeping. Science, on the other hand, is about testing hypotheses about the unobservable by investigating the observable consequencesof those hypotheses. That is, you derive currently available observationsfrom hypotheses about the not-directly observable, and then check whether those observations hold, thereby supporting or falsifying that hypothesis. And this you can do both for Big Bang and the theory of evolution. You can also do it for the idea that the universe was created in six days, but that claim is, as a scientific hypothesis, of course thoroughly refuted by the available observations.

Friday, August 3, 2018

#2049: John Nacco & Bob Pearson

We haven’t really dealt sufficiently with technowoo (like this), and probably ought to remedy the situation somewhat. There is, for instance, a multitude of fuel-saving devices on the market – products and techniques that purportedly help your car save energy by, well, customers not knowing much about physics or chemistry, and one such item is the inset fuel stabilizer (IFS), invented by one Bob Pearson. The IFS putatively aligns fuel and air molecules “in an energy field” so that they completely burn inside the Stabilizer (some discussion here) thereby improving economy. The device was marketed by something called Inset Industries, of which we have been able to locate little information, but John Nacco is – or was – one of their spokespeople and Executive Vice President. 

So, how exactly does IFS create the energy field? Well, according to Nacco the molecules that make up hydrocarbon fuels are surrounded by a positive charge, which will attract other fuel molecules, and removing the positive charge will make the molecules repel each other, thereby allowing oxygen molecules to attach themselves to individual fuel molecules instead of having to bond to clusters of fuel molecules. The increased level of oxygen in the mix will then produce a more even burn and result in close to 100 percent combustion of the fuel molecules. How positively charged molecules attract each other, how negatively charged ones repel rather than attract positively charged ones, or how oxygen molecules, which are neither positively nor negatively charged, get attracted to the negatively charged fuel “molecules” is not really explained, but if you ask those questions you are probably not in the target audience for IFS anyways. (You should probably not ask for evidence of near 100 percent combustion of fuel molecules or his claim that the fuel stabilizer lower the emissions readings become. This is not about evidence. This is about balancing chakras and monetary sacrifices to appease the fuel gods.) Inset Industries also has some testimonials, mostly from unnamed sources, and some indecipherable charts.

NASCAR racer Dean Gullik actually used the device and reported that he felt that his race car got more power. A test of horsepower with and without the IFS revealed no difference, so Gullik and Nacco claimed instead that the increased power wasn’t from increased horsepower but due to a change in “the torque curve.” Meanwhile, NASCAR allowed Gullik to continue to use the device because it obviously had no positive effect on performance.

Diagnosis: We have no information of the current whereabouts of Mr. Nacco or Mr. Pearson– Inset Industries may be defunct at present – and they seem to be relatively minor characters. Nor are we really completely convinced they must necessarily have believed the claims he made on behalf of IFS. Still, technowoo is widespread, often strikingly similar to medical woo, and deserving of exposure and as much ridicule as it can get.

Hat tip: Skepdic

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

#2048: Sue Myrick

For a long time – 1995 to 2013 – Congress was plagued by Sue Myrick, representing North Carolina’s 9th congressional district. Myrick was the kind of representative who was concerned that Muslim terrorists – Hezbollah, in particular – may be learning Spanish and disguising themselves as illegal immigrants in order to get into the US. Her main piece of evidence for the claim was that some imprisoned gang members in the Southwest have tattoos in Farsi, since terrorists are best poised to achieve their goals if they tattoo their intent on their bodies and then join criminal gangs. You may be excused for speculating about what she really thought was the evidence (if terrorists with Middle Eastern bacground were stopped at the border they may just say “Well, I’m Mexican or Spanish,” Myrick pointed out, and no one would ostensibly be able to tell). She also sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding it investigate the extent of Hezbollah’s presence along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Myrick has also claimed (with e.g. Paul Broun and Trent Franks) that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), tried to plant terrorist “spies” within key national security committees to shape legislative policy in its favor, citing the book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize Americaby insane green-ink conspiracy theorists Dave Gaubatz & Paul Sperry (with a foreword by Myrick, no less). Myrick has also, with regard to domestic security threats, remarked: “Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.”

She is also a climate change denialist, which is par for the course among solid wingnuts like Myrick, we guess, but no less lunatic for that.

On the positive side, Myrick did introduce a resolution in Congress encouraging states to outlaw rebirthing therapy.

Diagnosis: Wingnut idiot. Hopefully neutralized, but we have little hope that those who replace her are much better. Worth mentioning nonetheless.