Sunday, December 16, 2018

#2119: Joseph Pizzorno

Not as market-aggressive as Joe Mercola or as high-profile as Andrew Weil, Joseph Pizzorno is nevertheless one of the most influential pseudoscientists affiliated with the world of woo (and associated conspiracy mongering) working today. Pizzorno is the founding President and currently President Emeritus of Bastyr University, arguably the most influential “schools” of naturopathic “medicine” in North America, and is still involved in the institution where he, right from the beginning and until 2000, was running its day-to-day operations. Now, Pizzorno’s style is a far cry from the paranoia-driven delusions of someone like, say, Mike Adams – he did, for instance, recognize Hulda Clark’s quackery for what it was (not exactly a major cognitive feat, though) – but his own brand of naturopathy is hardly more evidence-based or health-promoting; it just sounds less deranged to the uninitiated. Bastyr embraces homeopathy without criticism, for instance; indeed, Bastyr’s students are required to study homeopathy together with all the other nonsense suggested to be beneficial by naturopaths, from myofascial analysis and vega testing to traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and even distant healing and germ theory denialism. Make no mistake; Pizzorno, his university, and naturopathy in general, are anti-science to the core.

Pizzorno is the co-author of the Textbook of Natural Medicine(with Michael T. Murray, who is also former faculty at Bastyr University and currently on its Board of Regents), which is widely used even in accredited education programs – despite being demonstrably a piece of unscientific junk. The book is described in some detail here. It is advertised as “the gold standard in natural medicine,” and as a scientific presentation that “includes the science behind concepts and treatments, and discusses Western medical treatments and how they can work with natural medicine in a comprehensive treatment plan;” more than “10,000 research literature citations show that the content is based on science rather than opinions or anecdotes.” It is interesting that they felt the need to point it out. Of course, as most critics would also point out, more important than what they included is what they did not include (i.e. all the well-designed tests, real scientific literature, and the parts of the texts they cited that do not support the conclusions they wish to draw); besides, the authors are fully prepared to drop any pretense of scientific support when it suits them, and the chapters on therapeutic modalitis baldly admits that “[a]lthough this textbook is strongly oriented to the scientific method and the use of the peer-review literature for documentation of the efficacy of a therapy, these modalities’ widespread clinical use and long history of patient satisfaction demand that they be given a place here even though the mechanisms of action of several have yet to be elicited.” Or in short: when scientific evidence shows that what they wish would work doesn’t work, disregard the science and rely on anecdotes and appeals to popularity or tradition instead. Among the most obvious and damning things that should strike anyone opening the book is naturopathy’s wholesale endorsement of medieval-style and thoroughly refuted vitalism; Pizzorno and Murray are unfazed by refutation, however, and claim against all evidence, knowledge and reality that homeostasis, entropy, and even evolution require vitalistic rather than mechanistic explanations. This is, of course, not simply false but a testament to the authors’ poor judgment and equally poor understanding of science. There is a good review of the second edition of the textbook here.

Pizzorno is also co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods and The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the Bible of Woo, in which more or less every piece of quackery is described as efficacious and studies that might seem to support those types of quackery if you don’t look closely enough to see the flaws, are carefully selected to provide a sheen of legitimacy while the many high-quality studies that don’t “fit the narrative” are just not mentioned. Like the textbook, the Encyclopedia (e.g.) recommends a range of questionable dietary measures, vitamins, minerals, and/or herbs for more than 70 health problems ranging from acne to AIDS – in many cases daily administration of ten or more products is recommended, often in dosages high enough to cause toxicity. 

Pizzorno is also the author of Total Wellness: Improve Your Health By Understanding Your Body’s Healing Systems, which even contains a chapter titled “Strengthen Your Immune System” arguing (assuming) that “immune suppression” as an underlying cause of most disease. Total Wellness book is also antivaccine, of course. “Quackery” simply isn’t strong enough to describe the nature of Pizzorno’s advice. And things are barely better in his How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine (with Murray, Tim Birdsall, and Paul Riley), one of many cancer quack books providing a whole “arsenal” of advice that range from the admittedly sensible to the useless, and since the latter is hard to distinguish from the former in the authors’ presentation, the book is one to avoid completely and with prejudice if you ever need information about cancer.

From the very founding of Bastyr, Pizzorno’s main concern seems to have been how to make naturopathic quackery look respectable. An important part of that process was of course to get their naturopathic program accredited, and to achieve this goal, Pizzorno helped write the CNME standards for naturopathic programs that would eventually be used to accredit Bastyr’s naturopathic program in 1987. Yes, accredidation is a mess; what Pizzorno and his allies achieved, was establishing a separate accrediting agency for naturopathic schools, effectively shielding them from effective oversight of their pseudoscience-filled curricula. Pizzorno is also on the board of AAFP’s Board on Functional Medicine; “functional medicine” being one of the ultimate misnomers in the world of woo.

Pizzorno has worked tirelessly to achieve more widespread acceptance of quackery through other venues as well, including offering courses for the American Council for Continuing Medical Education, where he for instance teaches about “Detoxification” and “Assessing Body Burden” – the latter presumably related to his Encyclopedia’s nonsensical claim that 25% of the US population suffers from heavy metal poisoning, which can ostensibly be assessed by provoked urine testing. That is a myth, of course, but tests almost ensuring false positives are useful for people pushing fraudulent detox regimes – you won’t have toxic levels of heavy metals in your body after completing the detox regimes, of course, and what more do you want? More on his efforts here.

As for his own background, Pizzorno has a B.S. in Chemistry and an N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine) degree in 1975 from National College of Naturopathic Medicine. He does, in other words, not have a background in medicine.

Diagnosis: Quackery galore. But Pizzorno isn’t just a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist with a website, and his efforts to give naturopathy a sheen of legitimacy – marketing is everything, since most people don’t have the resources or background knowledge to assess the contents – have proved scarily successful. Definitely one of the most dangerous loons alive today.

Friday, December 14, 2018

#2118: Larry Pittman

State assmeblies again. Larry G. Pittman is a preacher and member of the North Carolina General Assembly, representing the 82nd district. He is most famous for calling Abraham Lincoln a “tyrant like Adolf Hitler (Lincoln was “personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional”), and for being in general sympathetic to secessionist causes, such as co-sponsoring a bill that would allow the removal of the ban on North Carolina seceding from the Union ever again. 

What fuels Pittman’s anger with the union? Ah, yes: gay marriage, of course. In March 2017 Pittman also co-sponsored, with Carl Ford, bill HB760 to once again make gay marriages invalid and illegal in North Carolina (he was also a co-sponsor of NC’s infamous bathroom bill), citing the Bible and claiming that any supreme court decision that goes against “the decree of Almighty God” “exceeds the authority of the Court;” that claim, of course, makes you a “theocrat” by definition. Pittman emphasized that North Carolina should uphold traditional marriage “in spite of the opinion of a federal court that had no business interfering.” Though the effort was, of course, an embarrassment to everyone involved (not the least NC district 84 voters), the nullification movement seems to be more popular than those of us to tend to think of other people as default basically reasonable would think.

In 2012, Pittman argued for reintroducing public hangings, starting with “abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers”. He also expressed anger at the ostensibly easy life of death row inmates, arguing that appeals should be limited to one shot, and that making the executions public would cause more appropriate suffering. As a good Christian, he is apparently very annoyed that he is denied the emotional satisfaction of observing other humans being killed in painful ways.

Pittman is also a climate change denialist. In 2012, he issued a statement on the issue alleging that “[o]ur climate runs on a cycle. It goes up and it goes down and the Lord designed it that way. And the main thing that causes global warming is the Earth’s relationship to a big ball of gas that’s burning out there that we call the Sun [which, as everyone knew even by then, is demonstrably false]. And it is the height of hubris for human beings to think that we can have any effect on that.”

Diagnosis: Bloodthirsty, sadistic and paranoid. Not a good combination for people in positions of power. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

#2117: Mark Amaru Pinkham

It is sometimes a bit unclear whether some of the pseudohistory concocted by the denizens of the more deranged corners of the Internet devoted to New Age stuff, UFOs, pastel fluff and unicorns, is intended as, well, alternative history or just intuition-based explorations of the authors’ own deranged minds, and the incoherent ramblings of Mark Amaru Pinkham certainly raise that question. Chakras, ley lines, ancient astronauts and orientalism are indiscriminately thrown into a blender and the results published both online and in weird books by obscure publishers. Pinkham, for instance, is the author of e.g. Sedona: City of Star People – Court of the King of the World, which, according to the introduction, is a “chronology of events that transpired in my life between February 1987 and May 2015.” That is an odd way to introduce what is ostensibly a history book, but apparently Pinkham came, during this period, to realize that Sedona “sits upon the foundations of a very ancient lost city of the Star People” and, moreover, that these star people from UFOs “taught the Hopis the mysteries of the cosmos and the rituals they continue to observe today.” The evidence all points to this conclusion once you reject the distinction between fantasy and reality, which seems to have been Pinkham’s primary methodological strategy. Chapters include “The one million year history of Sedona”, “Sedona, Root Chakra of Earth”, “The Sedona Grid and Chakra Points” and “The Yezidis know Masau’u as their Peacock Angel and visit his court in Sedona” (they most certainly do not).

Pinkham is currently Grand Prior of The International Order of Gnostic Templars (in fact, he is “Grand PriorSir Mark Amaru Pinkham” – our emphasis – though we suspect that the Queen was not involved in bestowing that title upon him), which is ostensibly “a modern day spiritual knight templar order dedicated to the revival of gnostic wisdom & the goddess tradition of the original templars” (those would not be identical to the people historians refer to by “knights templar”), which seems even less impressive once you see their website and the picture of Pinkham in his ceremonial garb (do check it out here). He is apparently also the founder and director – with his wife Andrea Mikana-Pinkham, a “reiki master” – of the Djedhi School of Ancient Wisdom, where you may enroll to “achieve Gnostic Wisdom and Mastery of the Force”. (Yes, it may very well be; who knows.) You will also “be given a blue robe to wear during ceremony.”

His other books include The Return of The Serpents of WisdomConversations with The GoddessThe Truth Behind the Christ MythGuardians of the Holy Grail: The Knights Templar, John the Baptist and the Water of Life, and World Gnosis: The Coming Gnostic Civilization. Apparently all of them “reveal startling information which, until now, has been concealed or has been taught solely to advanced spiritual seekers and mystery school students.” We admit to you probably didn’t learn this information in school or at the university. Pinkham is also “a professional Astrologer with over twenty-five years of experience.” Of course, “professional” means something slightly different in these circles.

Diagnosis: Yes, he is very spiritual, and probably rather harmless to the real world. We wonder if we ought to feel a bit bad about making fun of him.

Monday, December 10, 2018

#2116: Daniel Pinchbeck

Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (2002), 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (2006), and Notes from the Edge Times(2010), as well as co-founder of Reality Sandwich and founder of the think tank Center for Planetary Culture, which runs the Regenerative Society Wiki. Post-modernism and New Age nonsense, all rolled up nicely in pseudointellectual deepity, and fluffy, pink word salads, has established Pinchbeck as an important figure in the New Age Movement.

In Breaking Open the Head, he goes through various shamanistic practices and their use of psychedelics and how using psychedelics is a road to insight, which he mixes with the lunatic ramblings of Rudolf Steiner. The central idea is apparently that shamanic and mystical views of reality, the ones you can access by using psychedelics, provide genuine insights into Truths because wishful thinking, and that the dull and grey reality described by those in “pursuit of rational materialism” under the curse of Enlightenment restrictions like evidence and reason forfeits understanding of intuitive aspects of being. The follow-up, 2012, was (presumably deliberately) even less constrained by reality, reason, accuracy or evidence; basically, Pinchbeck starts off from Hopi and Mayan prophecies and follows his intuitions. Everything is heavily indebted to Terence McKenna’s claim that humanity is experiencing an accelerated process of global consciousness transformation (a metaphor, of course, and one that is predictably never cashed out) and the laughable psi research of Dean Radin, crop circles and the work of calendar reform advocate José Argüelles. Apparently it all supports the prophetic visions Pinchbeck has received from Quetzalcoatl, which has something to do with 2012, so there. Apparently Quetzalcoatl began speaking to Pinchbeck during a 2004 trip to the Amazon in Brazil featuring plenty of psychedelics. 2012, meanwhile, came and passed without ushering in the New Age.

In fact, Pinchbeck must be held partially responsible for popularizing 2012 nonsense in the New Age movement, where the rambling attempts at connecting crop circles, alien abduction and drug-use-as-a-means-to-channel-gods-that-non-drug-users-couldn’t-possibly-achieve-or-understand was guaranteed a receptive audience.

His How Soon Is Now?(2017) argues that ecological crises are rites of passage or initiation for humanity collectively, and appropriately addressed by reaching “the next level of our consciousness” as a species, which is a dumb suggestion. Later the same year the metoo movement finally caught up with him (he promptly blamed his predatory behavior on women; “I was never breastfed and believe that left me feeling lacking and desperately craving some essential connection to women,” said Pinchbeck), but it really oughtn’t have been necessary to marginalize his nonsense.

Diagnosis: It is worth emphasizing the sheer arrogance and narcissism of those who think their intuitions, wishful thinking and explorations of their imaginations are guides to truth and sufficient reason to dismiss the work of the generations on whose shoulders privileged nincompoops like Pinchbeck stand. Hopefully neutralized, but we realize that his audience will probably just move on to the next peddler of inane nonsense to pop up.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

#2115: Buddy Pilgrim

Buddy Pilgrim (real name?) is a Biblical business consultant (Integriy Leadership) who “teaches Biblical principles of leadership, business management and financial success applicable to every Christian in the workplace.” Note the absence of a statement about what applying these principles are supposed to achieve. In any case, in an interview with James Robison Pilgrim emphasized that business is God’s system and complained about how wealth and profit are apparently being demonized these days. He also offered a dire warning about how a “dangerous” spirit of volunteerism (that is, collectivism) is taking hold in America today. Demons, you know. But as long as you turn to God and let the Bible guide your business, you’ll apparently achieve prosperity (and if you don’t, you just didn’t have sufficient faith). Apparently Kenneth Copeland is a fan.

Diagnosis: Nope, not a chance. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

#2114: Anna L. Pierre

Ok, so this one is pretty minor. Anna L. Pierre is a citizen of North Miami, who in 2013 ran for mayor with a campaign touting that she was endorsed by Jesus Christ. Earlier in her campaign she complained that voodoo was being used against her. Pierre was unfazed, however: “They can put all the voodoo they want,” she said. “I’m a Christian woman. I’m not scared.” She did, however, reassure her potential voters that “I’m not nuts.” By 2013 most of us would have thought that having to reassure your potential voters that you are sane would suggest that you faced an uphill battle in the election; recent events have made us careful to generalize. Pierre, who also went by “Princess Anna Pierre”, however, ended up with less than 1% of the vote. Some voters were admittedly undeterred: “Well, I thought ‘I wonder if I ought to vote for this person to maintain the cosmic balance,’” said local resident Grover Rawlings, for instance. “I mean, I want to stay on the good side, it’s a pretty powerful endorsement if it’s true.”

Diagnosis: Probably harmless. At least she seems to have taken the defeat with more grace and dignity than Richard Sheridan.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#2113: Stephen Pidgeon

Stephen Pidgeon is a Washington attorney and former candidate for State Attorney General (he lost the primaries), anti-gay activist and general rightwing conspiracy theorist. There’s a decent profile of him here.

Pidgeon is a birther, and in 2008 he led a Lawsuit Challenging Obama’s Presidential Eligibility (supported by the WND, of course), which was promptly dismissed by the courts because it “clearly lacked merit”, and in 2009 he filed a petition in federal court in D.C. seeking a grand jury investigation of those claims, which was equally quickly dismissed. In 2011, Pidgeon therefore self-published a book, The Obama Error, promoting his theories and accusing Obama of committing several federal crimes for the purpose of concealing information about his birth; chapters include “The unlawful birth of Barack Obama” and “Is Obama and Agent of a Foreign Principal?”. With regard to Obama’s long-form birth certificate, Pidgeon claims that there has “been several – well there’s been, I would say probably twenty five forensic analyses of the long-form birth certificate, all which indicate the thing is completely fraudulent, from the fact is has [inaudible], from the fact that there’s page slants on the original form and not on the [inaudible] documentation. It’s just a complete fraud.” “Forensic analysis” apparently means rants on conspiracy blogs. He also claimed to have shown that Obama legally changed his name from “Barak Mounir Ubayd” to “Barack Hussein Obama” in British Columbia in 1982, a claim that even fellow birthers have been hesitant to accept. Indeed, according to Pidgeon, “I believe Malcolm X is the true father,” and that Obama “was born in Seattle” in 1961, which would sort of undercut some of the ineligibility claims of most birthers, but to Pidgeon makes him doubly ineligible since it makes Obama “not only a communist, but a communist Muslim.” Apparently, Obama, who by 2010 was killing off his relatives to conceal information about his birth, is also “a British subject and has no business holding the office of POTUS.” We haven’t tried to figure out how that claim is supposed to fit in Pidgeon’s big picture. In 2009, he also alleged that he was being “shadowed all day by officers from the Department of Homeland Security because of his work investigating Obama’s birth certificate.

Credit: don't remember (tell
us if it's you). Comparing a
deranged monster like
Pidgeon to a petulant child
might be misleading.
The Obama Erroris not Pidgeon’s only self-published book about Obama, however. In 2010, Pidgeon self-published Behold! A White Horse!, an entire book comparing President Obama to the anti-Christ, as per predictions in Revelations. Mostly, however, Pidgeon thinks that Obama is a Muslim whose “ultimate objective is to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate with him as caliph, declaring himself to be God in the temple of God that will be constructed in Jerusalem on the temple mount. That’s what he intends. That’s who he thinks he is.” Moreover, “do not think that he is not a Nazi. He is an Islamic Nazi. He is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He is engaged in economic jihad in the United States for the ultimate overthrow of this country,” since Nazis, communists, muslims and atheists are all the same. “We’re in the middle of a revolution,” asserted Pidgeon in 2011, and “Obama’s Inauguration. .. was the death knell for the Constitutional Republic.” (Most of these claims are from interviews with Rick Wiles, which we won’t link to.)

Of course the Democrats are in on the plot; liberals in general are “socialist, totalitarian, God-hating marxists” who are not only wrong but part of a deliberate conspiracy to overthrow the republic. The Democrats’ social security solution, for instance, is to “kill the elderly” and “destroy the unborn.” In 2016, before the election, Pidgeon and Alex Jones together painted a frightening picture of the country’s future, which included internment camps (“it’s gun control today and internment camps tomorrow”), martial law and dictatorship. According to Pidgeon, the Affordable Care Act and Obama’s executive actions on gun reform are both “policies that were originated in the Third Reich,” and part of Obama’s plot to “completely disarm the American public while he imports hundreds of thousands of Muslim terrorists and other paid mercenaries who come into the country unarmed to find mosques that are essentially armories.” Meanwhile, Obama is using taxpayer dollars to aid terrorist groups including “Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Liberation Army [sic], Islamic jihad,” as well as ISIS, of course. “The theory,” he said, which was ostensibly “proposed initially by Adolf Hitler,” is that “National Socialism works better in a Muslim society than it does in a Christian society, so the concept within the New World Order is to Islamify all of Western society so that the dictatorship will flow more easily and that the population will be more easily controlled.” Why, you might ask? Well, the liberal elite consists of “power-hungry people and they go to bed at night thinking about how they are going to kill 5 billion human beings,” said Pidgeon.

And of course, Pidgeon is a global warming denialist. In his – you guessed it – self-published book Behold! A Pale Green Horse!he argues at length that “man-made global warming is a lie used to justify an international totalitarian order.” The book, which is not particularly concerned with the science, is full of conspiracy theories about nefarious shadow agencies; “[s]imply put,” says Pidgeon, “the hypothesis that man’s output of CO2 is causing the earth to warm is a lie, and it is a lie that has been raised intentionall by a group of international fascists seeking to create and control an international totalitarian order and to pocket a cool fortune while doing so. They have an agenda – a green fascist agenda.” (Chapters include “Architects in the Global Warming Fraud,” “The Campaign To Destroy America’s Future,” and “The International Conspiracy,” all arguing that environmentalism is just a cover for attempts to institute totalitarianism, fascism and even “genocide”).

Pidgeon is, however, probably best known as an anti-gay activist. He was long part of Protect Marriage Washington, an anti-gay marriage group, seeking to block the release of signatures on the unsuccessful Referendum 71 campaign, and spokesman for the anti-gay Initiative 1192 in 2012, which “reaffirms the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.” As he sees things, judges in America (i.e. the Constitution) are creating “a form of totalitarianism” that “violates the fundamental freedoms of what it means to be an Americanin order to “impose” same-sex marriage on him. Which is really bad since marriage equality creates an “order of death”; when “you come in and you introduce the concept of same-sex marriage or secular marriage, or any of the other rituals that have been formed by the state – and what you do is disestablish the godly order in favor of an order of death. And governments become more and more deadly when their adversary, the family, is destroyed.” That the purpose of legal protections of marriage is, by the Constitution, necessarily not to protect the order of God, seems to have escaped him. Elsewhere he has argued that “homosexual rights are about population control,” and it is effective because when you take away obstacles to living in homosexual relationships, people like Pidgeon will immediately be tempted to leave their heterosexual lives behind and jump on the gay train like they’ve always really wanted anywas. 

Of course, gay marriage is not really aboutmarriage; rather, as Pidgeon sees it, same-sex marriage is a form of “worship to the demons of Olympus.” In addition marriage equality is “moral fascism,” and an “act of war against the family,” and it will even “lower the status of women in society” because “women only achieve equality in a society that provides for monogamy in a one man, one woman marriage. Period. Every other society that has abandoned that standard – which is a Christian standard I might add [it is obviously not] – when you abandon that standard, guess what, women lose status.” He was understandably a bit short on the whys and hows.

Not the least, Pidgeon has actually written and self-published his own, strikingly bizarre version of the Bible containing a “lost” chapter of Acts, thus bringing the Bible more in line with what Pidgeon wants it to say. In particular, in addition to some judicious corrections (Pidgeon claims to have “limited working proficiency” in Hebrew and no Greek), Pidgeon has relied on the “Suninni Manuscript”, which is actually the “Sonnini Manuscript”, an obscure nineteenth century forgery created to promote British-Israelism by saying that Paul traveled to the UK to preach to lost Israelites. The effort was, of course, promoted by the WND.

Diagnosis: As always, coherence, evidence, accountability, truth and accuracy are liberal conspiracies. Pidgeon is the kind of insane wingnut conspiracy theorist that might make even James Dobson blush. We probably gave him a bit more attention than he deserves, but he does apparently have an audience.

Hat-tip: Equalitymatters

Monday, December 3, 2018

#2112: David Pickup

Conversion therapy is, as we’ve had the opportunity to emphasize numerous times before, dangerous pseudoscience. It is nevertheless of course forcefully championed by various anti-gay groups. David Pickup is currently one of the most vocal defenders – and practitioners – of conversion therapy. According to himself, he is “a poster child for the emotional and sexual abuse that leads to homosexuality,” with “extensive expertise in reparative therapy”, as well as a board member of NARTH and close associate of groups like Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays and Christopher Doyle’s NTFTE (which he co-founded). He is also a signatory to the “Dear Legislator 2018” letter urging lawmakers to oppose efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. As he tells his own story, Pickup used to be gay, but rid himself of his same-sex attractions after undergoing conversion therapy.

Pickup, who falsely claims that “there is no proof of harm” when it comes to conversion therapy on minors, has made numerous media appearances for instance opposing bills that would protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. He was also involved in the film “Voices of the Silenced,” which compares those who advocate “ex-gay” therapy and their allies in other fields to enslaved Jewish people in the first century.

Diagnosis: Yes, he’s evil and dumb. But his actions have caused and do cause real harm to real people, and no matter how weary about this kind of trite nonsense we may be, we really shouldn’t forget that.

Hat-tip: Mediamatters

Saturday, December 1, 2018

#2111: Doug Phillips

We’ve covered some deranged fundies over the years, but Doug Phillips has something of a special position among them. Phillips is the kind of guy that conjures up the image of someone shedding tears of elation over the sheer beauty in the justice in seeing heretics tortured and people in general suffer for the glory of God, the kind who views the Republic of Gilead as inspirational and the 11thcentury as already dangerously mired in wayward progressive enlightenment ideas about science, liberty and autonomy. Phillips main concern is women– the fairer and weaker and less rational sex – and how to save women from unbiblical horrors like independence, freedom and having to make decisions for themselves.

Phillips used promoted his views through the Vision Forum until he admitted to having an extramarital affair (though not the abusive details of that affair, more here), which turned out to be somewhat awkward given Vision Forum’s, well, vision, and the Forum was closed down. There is a splendid resource on the Vision Forum and its work here. Before closing, however, the Forum was pretty influential in Christian homeschooling circles, and used to have booths and speakers at every major convention, as well as networks across the Christian homeschooling scene (it’s probably notable that the other proponent of the Biblical Patriarchy model for homeschooling, Bill Gothard, suffered the same fate as Phillips). Phillips was also a central figure in the quiverfull movement.

A vehemently theocratic group, the central pillar of Vision Forum’s mission was Biblical Patriarchy – complementarianism with an emphasis on the fact that man was created first and woman’s creation was secondary. Patriarchy is accordingly the divine family order ordained by God, where the husband and father is the head of the household and the wife and mother created to be his helper and bearer of children. Moreover, children are to marry through a process of courtship guided at every step by their parents, and unmarried adult daughters are to remain under their fathers’ authority and in their fathers’ homes; illuminating detail here). (Choice Phillips quote: “Daughters aren’t to be independent. They’re not to act outside the scopeof their father. As long as they’re under the authority of their fathers, fathers have the ability to nullify or not the oaths and the vows. Daughters can’t just go out independently and say, ‘I’m going to marry whoever I want.’ No. The father has the ability to say, ‘No, I’m sorry, that has to be approved by me.’”) You know the deal (and note: the movement is actively encouraging people to deny their daughters contact with the outside world – this is not just some abstract ideal), though we suspect the Forum associates would be quick to try to explain how the idea is different from the ideas imposed by … well, people they wouldn’t otherwise want to be associated with in other parts of the world. In any case, this organization of society is apparently crucial to bringing about the coming kingdom of God on Earth. 

So yes, the Vision Forum subscribes to dominionism, the idea that God has called Christians to take over society, mass culture, and government, bringing them into line with God’s law to establish a theocratic, hierarchical and ordered society – and the explicit goal of homeschooling, then, is to groom children to be soldiers for spiritual warfare. Even Michael Farris has distanced himself from the Vision Forum ideology. The Duggars, however, are apparently fans.

An illustrative example of their work was their Beautiful Girlhood Collection, built on what is ostensibly a Biblical vision of femininity and promoting a vision of girls’ childhoods centered on the idea that servility is beauty: girls play with dolls and cook and clean. There is a brief but apt description here. They even have a “science” section. We’ll pass that one over in silence. The Vision Forum is also opposed to women’s suffrage, having produced an alleged civics study guide “Law and Government: An Introductory Study Course” where it is argued that women should not be allowed to run for office or vote. The “study guide” included contributions from e.g. Roy Moore.

At the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic disaster, Phillips took the opportunity to declare that Titanic was evidence of the goodness of Christianity while the sinking of a French ship La Bourgogne a few years before demonstrates the evils of evolution: “People that were on board the deck of the Titanic at that time were individuals that grew up in a culture which was distinctively Christian in its perspective of the role of men and women; [by comparison, when the La Bourgogne] sunk the sailors and the officers literally threw women and children into the water, beat them over the head, and the men lived and the women died. [,,, ] And in trying to understand why that happened, the commentary was, they grew up in a culture that embraced evolution, it was the struggle of the survival of the fittest, they grew up in the culture of the French Revolution which had rejected biblical Christianity and embraced paganism and the consequences were that men treat women horrifically.” Needless to say, Phillips didn’t quite get the historical details about the two events quite correct (mild criticism here), but of course, his point was not accuracy: “flash forward to the year 2012 and this year our president has finally taken us over the abyss and we have full-fledged commitment to women in the frontlines of combat in overseas battles.” As for evolution, Phillips elaborated: “Evolution says the struggle of the survival of the fittest, there are no differences between men and women, there is no charity, there is no deference, and in an evolutionary world feminism reaches its height and we see no distinctions. The result is babies are killed en masse, women are treated like chattel and men no longer take on their masculine role as defenders.” It is little surprise that a fundie creationist fail to grasp the rather basic and easy distinction between a descriptive, scientific claim about biological reality (not that Phillips is remotely on track here either) and a value system, but it is equally facepalm-inducing every time.

It is certainly not Phillips’s only forays into anti-evolution rants. The Vision Forum even produced a “documentary” (promoted by the WND) called “Mysterious Islands: A Surprising Journey to Darwin’s Eden,” which “debunks the conclusions Charles Darwin reached during his storied trip to the Galapagos Islands.” Apparently they took a group of Christian “scientists” to the Galapagos Islands to determine whether the islands “are a laboratory for evolution as Darwin believed – or a truly magnificent showcase of God’s creation,” which suggests some rather basic (but predictable) lack of understanding of how data and evidence work in hypothesis testing. Phillips, however, have more arguments: Darwin “said we would see fossil examples of animals going from one kind to another,” said Phillips (this is not quite what Darwin said), but it is “our contention that not one transitional form has ever been found.” Yes, we are aware that this is your contention, and that the fact that you are demonstrably wrong is not going to change your mind. “Today people look to the Galapagos, and evolutionists and Darwinists see it in the same way that Christians look to Jerusalem and Muslims look to Mecca,” Phillips said, which is not only a ridiculous thing to say but tells you quite a bit about Phillips’s somewhat cursory understanding of science, scientists and scientific practice. But given this false assumption, it is a short step to Phillips’s conclusion: “They [evolutionists] really embrace the evolutionary faith. In our film, we insist that evolution is, in fact, a faith. It’s a worldview based on unprovable assumptions that are accepted by faith.” We don’t for a second doubt that Phillips is confounded by the lack of impact his contributions have on science, but we are fairly confident that he’ll blame it on heretics and demons.

Phillips is also the founder of the Christian Filmmakers’ Academy and a close associate of Kirk Cameron. He was also featured in Colin Gunn’s IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America, which explicitly advocated that the Bible should be the model and core of all public education.

Diagnosis: One of the most disgusting, vile pieces of evil, hateful garbage to ever walk the face of the Earth, and as delusionally insane as he is morally corrupt. Hopefully somewhat neutralized, but his ideology certainly lives on.