Saturday, May 18, 2019

#2191: Lyssa Royal & Ron Holt

Lyssa Royal
Tom Rowles is, of course, British. Now, we are not entirely sure about Lyssa Royal and her husband Ron Holt, but they seem to be American. Holt and Royal (or Royal Holt) are the directors of the Seed of Life Institute LLC and the SOLi School, an organization “whose primary purpose is to assist individuals to understand the nature of consciousness.” That, of course, is not really what they offer. Instead, they claim to provide a “road map to the process of realizing the true Awareness beyond the human identity.” Royal is a channeler (a “trance channel”) and UFO abductee (pleiadians seem to be involved), who views channeling as “a tool for spiritual evolution,” and is apparently best known for “her in depth explorations of the nature of extraterrestrial consciousness and how it impacts human evolution.” Yes, it isa collection of words, none of which Royal would be able to define correctly if her life depended on it. According to Royal, “[c]hanneling is the process of accessing information or energy that isn’t normally available to the conscious mind.” It really isn’t.

She has written a number of books, including The Prism of LyraVisitors from WithinPreparing for Contact, and Millennium, as well as released the Galactic Heritage Cards, “a one-of-a-kind set of 108 inspirational cards based on the cosmology she introduces in her classic book The Prism of Lyra.” We are sure they are unique. Her husband Ronald Holt has his “expertise in the fields of sacred geometry, meditation, yoga and martial arts, and much more”, and when they combine their skills they constitute a true power house. Royal is “also a certified teacher of Taoist yoga.” We don’t know who certified her or why it would matter. 

The couple seems to have some kind of connection to legendary crank Drunvalo Melchizedek.

Diagnosis: Probably harmless fluff and imaginary cotton-candy, but good grief how silly it is. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

#2190:Robert J. Rowen

Robert J. Rowen is apparently an MD, but probably one you should stay clear. Rowen is also an “integrative physician”, and his probably most famous for his promotion of ozone therapy. Indeed, Rowen claims that ozone therapy even cures Ebola. He does seem to be a true believer rather than an outright fraud, however, since in 2014 he even went to Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola outbreak, together with fellow crank Howard Robins, to offer ozone therapy and ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy to Ebola patients. (He was not the only lunatic to go there; infected areas were also invaded by homeopaths trying to push worthless nonsense to people in desperate need of real healthcare – the most ridiculous suggestion being perhaps this.

Ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy is one of the most ridiculous forms of quackery out there, though ozone therapy comes close; in Rowan’s very much alternate reality, both are “oxidative therapies” that supposedly increase the oxygen content of the blood. There is no evidence that UV radiation does that; ozone therapy will, but not in any way that will make any beneficial difference insofar as it doesn’t increase the hemoglobin content, and the hemoglobin is usually maximally saturated anyways. Rowan not only thinks it works, but even issued a press release where he suggested he had actually managed to cure a patient with Ebola. Of course, there is no reason to think that the patient in question ever had Ebola, since he refused to be tested – the evidence being solely that the patient had possibly been exposed and was stressed out about having been exposed. It is striking that Rowan did not do his obvious professional duty and reported the case to the authorities to prevent others from being infected, however, though we suppose that duty would only apply if Rowan actually suspected that the patient might have contracted the disease. We leave readers to assess Rowan’s ethical standards here. If you do, you should also consider the fact that the press release was issued only eight days after the supposed exposure incident, that Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days, and that the patient was, as mentioned, never actually tested for the disease. Evidence, documentation and accountability: these people really do not know how any of that works, and people are all the more at risk for it.

I sure hope the people of the world will begin to stand up to the forces of disease-maintenance evil that has taken over the world to pharm us,” said Rowan, since the fact that Big Pharma is evil somehow vindicates his own type of quackery.  

Rowen is apparently recognized as one of the great experts on ozone therapy and related quackery in various pseudoscience circles (Edward Kondrot is a fan, for instance), and he gives talks and presentations at various cargo-cult conferences, such as World Oxygen and Ozone Congress, on the supposed benefits. But Rowen’s promotion of quackery doesn’t end with ozone therapy. Rowen is also an advisor of the American Board of Chelation Therapy which is a system created by chelation therapists (dangerous quackery) in order to be “board certified” in clinical metal toxicology without really knowing anything about the field. It is basically just a board set up by quacks to give themselves credentials and write capital letters behind their names. Rowen also recommends laetrile, no less, through something called the Cancer Control Society, a group whose website states that they do “not believe in the Traditional methods of Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer by doctors in California hospitals.

It is, by the way, actually remarkable to look at the legal troubles various people affiliated with the American Board of Chelation Therapy have landed themselves in. Rowen himself, for instance, got in trouble while practicing in Alaska (before he moved to California): to avoid federal income tax, Rowen set up “asset protection” trusts and did not file returns for 1992 through 1997. In 1997, he pled guilty to a federal felony charge of “corrupt endeavor to impede” an agent of the IRS and was sentenced to 10 months of probation and ordered to pay $10,003.91 in restitution and a $2,000 fine; Rowen subsequently filed for bankruptcy but in 2003, the court ruled that this did not discharge his tax debt, and in April 2007, after appeals had been denied, the court issued an abstract of judgment for $1,124,800.90. Though not directly related to his medicine, of course, it’s just the kind of thing that might give one a bit of insight into Rowen’s attitudes toward honesty and accountability.

Rowen is predictably also one of the woo promoters who rushed to the defense of anti-vaccine apologist Bob Sears when the latter got in trouble with the California medical board. That itself doesn’t necessarily entail that Rowen himself harbors antivaccine sympathies, but might rather just mean that he doesn’t like the fact that authorities hold MDs accountable for their actions toward patients – Rowen is, after all, affiliated with the American Association of Health Freedom, an organization mostly lobbying for the removal of oversight and accountability for doctors who wish to sell quackery and unproven treatments; apparently, Rowen is, according at least to himself, known as “The Father of Medical Freedom” for “pioneering the nation’s first statutory protection for alternative medicine in 1990.”

Then again, Rowen also appeared on at least one list of vaccine-skeptical doctors circulated among antivaccine groups (somewhat parallel to the Discovery Institute’s laughable petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism – petition signing is a gambit apparently loved by everyone who doesn’t know how science works). And Rowen has at least basically stated that death is better than autism, which is stupid and strictly speaking also irrelevant to vaccine discussions since vaccines don’t cause autism in the first place (Rowen, of course, being a dangerous moron, seems to think otherwise; he also thinks that vaccine-preventable diseases are nothing to worry about.)

The very much familiar
development of most GMO
debates (Hat-tip: ?)
And just to demonstrate the powers of crank magnetism, Rowan has also contributed to anti-GMO conspiracy theories. In his article “Is GMO worse than nuclear radiation?” (remember Betteridge’s law of headlines; it appears that Rowen’s answer is that GMOs are worse since radioactive substances have a half-life whereas GMOs are forever, which doesn’t exactly suggest a deep understanding of radioactivity, or GMOs), Rowen argues – notice the complete lack of facts and evidence – by FUD that the US is in a conspiracy to empower Monsanto (the whyis left open, but apparently the claim sounds truthy to his intended audiences) and persecute free-thinking scientists, but is mostly a promotion of unhinged conspiracy screeds and books by Jeffery Smith, a former yogic flying instructor, who certainly has no scientific credentials or relevant scientific background whatsoever.

Diagnosis: The embodiment of post-truth activism, really. Little or nothing of what Rowen says is true, and none of the quackery he promotes will do anyone any good. But we’re less sure it is accurate to call him a “liar”; Rowen simply doesn’t seem to care. It’s been common to distinguish those who act against better knowledge when promoting the kinds of therapies Rowen promotes, on the one hand, and deluded true believers, on the other, but people like Rowen really force one to question how meaningful this distinction actually is.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#2189: Amy Rothenberg

I love being able to look at new approaches that may come along and to ask myself, ‘Is this within the bounds of the philosophy I so embrace?’ And if not, to let it go,” 
(We hope we don’t have to explain to readers why whether something fits my personal philosophy or religious creedis not how you determine which treatments or health measures are safe and effective or not.)

Amy Rothenberg is the former President of the Massachusetts Society of Naturopathic Doctors, board member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, occasional blogger for Huffington post and sometime editor of the journal New England Journal of Homeopathy, which is almost like a science journal except for the science part. She is, in other words, kind of a big name on the quackery scene, and despite being in complete denial about the difference between accountability and free use of fantasy, and utterly unable to recognize facts and evidence, she has been at the forefront of the naturopathic push for recognizing naturopaths as being qualified to help address the shortage of primary care physicians. They aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination – deeply committed as they are to medieval and prescientific medical principles such as vitalism, balancing of humors (or “energy) – including homeopathy – dressed up in sciency-sounding pseudojustifications and truthiness. Naturopaths love truthiness. Rothenberg herself advocates homeopathy, even as a treatment for autism. Facts and evidence and basic understanding of medicine, biology and physics be damned.

Hat-tip: I f**ing hate pseudoscience

Due to her status in the world of pseudoscience, Rothenberg was a natural choice to include among those representing the side of lunacy at the FDA public hearings on homeopathy in 2015. Rothenberg said she believed that “FDA’s current regulatory approach to homeopathic products is working well,” which is hardly surprising, and provided – like most other homeopathy defenders at the show – an infomercial for naturopaths and homeopaths, emphasizing their “extensive” classroom and clinical training, exams, and the like (with less focus on what the students learned or what the exams tested them on). In addition to some personal anecdotes – and unlike the other participants – Rothenberg actually did attempt to explain homeopathy’s purported mechanism of action. According to Rothenberg, the mechanism is hormesis, a classic homeopathic piece of pseudoscience.

Rothenberg has been a pretty persistent lobbyist for naturopathy and the supplement industry in Massachusets for years, using arguments that are disingenuous at best, and she was instrumental in the quack movement’s successful campaign to gain licensure in Massachusets in 2017. Licensure, of course, gives naturopaths both a sheen of legitimacy, and enables them to protect their turfs against other quacks – indeed, Rothenberg herself emphasized that the bill would protect patients from inadequately trained naturopaths, which, given the “training” naturopaths actually get, means nothing. Rothenberg also emphasized “the unique role that naturopathic doctors can play in the state,” and claimed that naturopaths bring “expertise in both preventive medicine and natural integrative care” – the former (“expertise” in “preventive medicine”) is, of course, false; the second (“expertise” in “natural integrative care”) is not healthcare. It was not her first attempt, though; Rothenberg had been part of the effort at least since 2001; her claims were as divorced from evidence then as they are today.

Rothenberg’s own background story is fairly typical. At one point, Rothenberg had cancer, which was cured through conventional care: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But while undergoing real and effective treatment, she also subjected herself to a wide range of quackery that added nothing to her care, including intravenous vitamin infusions, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, and enzyme therapy. Since she did get well, however, she chose to attribute much of the success to the woo.  

Hat-tip: i f***ing hate pseudoscience

The American Council for Continuing Medical Education has on at least one occasion been duped into accepting that Rothenberg and people like her have something to offer modern healthcare.

Diagnosis: A central figure on the quackery & pseudoscience scene – confident, zealous, professional-sounding and lacking even the most cursory understanding of evidence, reality and accountability and why any of that matters when offering advice or treatments for people in need. Disgusting. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

#2188: Joseph Rossell

Joseph Rossell is Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer at and occasional blogger for Concerned Women for America. Rossell is particularly notable for his anti-environmentalism, claiming that environmental protection efforts represent “an incredibly evil set of values,” if not “the most dangerous agenda on earth.” Indeed, environmentalists back a “vile” and “highly dangerous ideology” that “may very well be the most anti-human, anti-life agenda on the planet.” As Rossell sees it, environmentalism is really a depopulation conspiracy. After all, many people have voiced concerns about overpopulation, and it therefore follows in Rossell’s deranged mind that these people believe it “necessary to dramatically reduce the number of people globally through brutal methods (including sterilization and abortion).” And the conspiracy goes deep: it is even “gaining ground in American school systems, thanks in part to initiatives like Common Core.” Ultimately, the foundation for environmentalism is hatred of Christianity. “Christ warns His followers, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15),” says Rossell, and points out that “[e]nvironmentalism is similarly deceptive, requiring us to employ spiritual discernment.” “Spiritual discernment” is apparently fundamentalist conspiracy theorists’ substitute for critical thinkingand evidence

As for the “false prophets” part, Rossell is of course a climate change denialist, claiming that “global warming remains a hotly debated topic among scientists. There is still no consensus about what might be causing it, much less how to fix it. Some question the extent to which temperatures are even increasing.” This is, of course, blatantly false. Rossell, however, is thinking of sources like fundamentalist theologian, dominionist and creationist E. Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance.

Diagnosis: Denialist, fundamentalist, conspiracy theorist. Pretty predictable stuff. Rossell is still a relatively minor figure, but we predict a bright future for him on the dominionist, denialist evil circus clown circuit.

Friday, May 10, 2019

#2187: Marvin Rosenthal

The Holy Land Experience is a theme park (or, as some visitor shave acutely observed, a series of gift shops) run by the Trinity Broadcasting Network with the purpose of showing people the historical Middle East as conceived of by US evangelical fundamentalists. The HLE was founded by Jewish-born Baptist minister Marvin (“Marv”) Rosenthal, and opened its gates in 2001; it was bought by TBN in 2007 after a period of financial difficulties. Rosenthal is also chief executive of Zion’s Hope, a ministry devoted (like previous entry’s Joel Rosenberg) to “reaching the Jewish people for the Messiah”. 

Among the HLE’s many attractions are several “ISRAELI HOLY SITES – Authentically Reproduced” (where “authentically” should course to be interpreted with the fundie’s usual eye for accuracy, accountability and factual basis), including the Garden of Eden, the Bethlehem Bus Loop, the Shepherd’s Field, the “Eyes of the Lord” & “Pieta”, The Jesus Boat, the Tiny Town of Bethlehem, the Birth Place of Jesus and the Bethlehem Bell Tower, all with a strikingly Monty Pythonesque atmosphere (review here) Insofar as a central goal of HLE is to convert Jewish people to Christianity, the park has received some criticism from Jewish organizations. Rosenthal’s response was that they weren’t exclusively targeting Jewish people.

The park is currently run by Paul and Jan Crouch. But what is Rosenthal up to these days? Well, beyond the HLE Rosenthal is known for his book The Prewrath Rapture of the Church from 1990, a notable exercise in deranged nonsense. And his ministry, Zion’s Fire, seems to be chugging along merrily and zealously working to convert Jewish people to Christianity before the End Times, which are imminent, as always. With regard to said End Times, Rosenthal has been pretty explicit about Islam’s role; as such, one of the aims of the HLE was apparently to encourage American opposition to any sort of peace in the Middle East, given the importance of war, death, tyranny and suffering in the Middle East in bringing about the end of the world that Rosenthal is looking for.

Diagnosis: Yes, he’s evil. He is also laughably ridiculous, but we recommend keeping a safe distance.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#2186: Joel Rosenberg

Joel C. Rosenberg is a fundie communications strategist, founder of The Joshua Fund, and author of the rather popular Last Jihad series. The latter details, in the form of novels, how Rosenberg, a Messianic Jew (or something similar), interprets terrorism in light of Bible prophecy. He also has written two ostensibly non-fiction books, Epicenter and Inside the Revolution, which also try to interpret current events in light of biblical prophecies. They are distinguished from his novels in terms of prose style and narrative structure, not by any grounding in facts or reality – here, for instance, is Rosenberg explaining how the war in Syria is obviously foretold in the Bible. It’s … a stretch, but Neil Cavuto on Fox apparently took it seriously. Here are (a commentary on) some other examples. Rosenberg is a former Rush Limbaugh research assistant, and used to share his thoughts with Glenn Beck.

Rosenberg currently lives in Israel, where he works to proselytize to Jews and convert them to Christianity; on his website, he states that “Jews are turning to Jesus in record numbers, and they are getting excited about His Second Coming.” This is important, as Rosenberg sees it, since we are currently living in the End Times (Rosenberg takes a dispensionalist view on these matters, for those interested) and headed into the rapture and the return of Jesus Christ brought about by an emerging Islamic caliphate. His novel The Twelfth Imam accordingly describes a near-futre where Iran has a nuclear weapon and “[m]illions of Muslims around the world are convinced their messiah – known as ‘the Twelfth Imam’ – has just arrived on earth.” He has also suggested that the only way Arabs and Israelis can reach a lasting peace is for “Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace – to change men's hearts and reign in our hearts,” but we’ll leave it to readers to figure out whether this is something he would want to see happen, given that the conflict is an integral part of the mechanisms ushering in the return of Jesus.

In general, Rosenberg is fond of linking stuff together, which is rather easy to do if you don’t focus on details or whether the relata are connected by anything other than your own vecordious imagination. During GodTV’s 9/11 Wake Up Call, Rosenberg claimed that God let the attacks on September 11, 2011 happen “to shake America, to get our attention, to wake us up,” later pointing to America’s abortion rate, financial debt and pornography industry as national sins that should be blamed and which are leading to the destruction of America (legal abortion is worse than the Holocaust, claimed Rosenberg, and will be punished accordingly). Apparently conflicts in the Middle East are a result of abortion being legal in the US. Also, “God is trying to shake us” through earthquakes and hurricanes, including hurricane Sandy, because “He is trying to get us to let go of anything else, any form of ideology, philosophy, political belief, religious belief, material position, anything or anyone that we are holding onto other than Jesus Christ.” Later, he emphasized that people like Jon Stewart of The Daily Show must share the blame for the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting (and in general for the, uh, fact that “demons of violence and lawlessness are on the loose all across America”) because they have waged a “cultural war against Jesus and Christmas.” and tried to “drive [God] out of our society.” If you think the causal connection is a bit unclear, Rosenberg explains: God did not stop the Newton massacre because God is a “gentleman”: “If a nation tells Him to leave, He will leave.” Or, more pithily: if you disagree with Rosenberg on religious issues, you are to blame for school shootings. He is a little bit back and forth on whether God has removed his hand of protection or will do so if we don’t repent. Not even Rosenberg himself can really tell the difference, can he?

The Joshua Fund, where Rosenberg is the founder and president, is a not-for-profit charity that seeks to “Bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.”

Diagnosis: Fanatic, zealous, angry and hateful rubbish, all of it. Yet Rosenberg seems to have the ear of plenty of people in power, and can definitely not be dismissed as rapidly and decisively as the contents of his claims. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

#2185: Lawrence Rosen

Lawrence Rosen is an “integrative” pediatrician and chair-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at UMDNJ/New Jersey Medical School, and Chief of Pediatric Integrative Medicine at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, medical advisor to the antivaccine organization the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center, and blogger for  The Whole Child blog. He is, in other words, not a nobody, but he is a crank and pseudoscientist through and through. Rosen is at least an antivaccine sympathizer, who opposes vaccine mandates (in particular mandates for the flu vaccine and Gardasil), and seems to think that thimerosal causes autism (though chooses to remain carefully vague about it) despite the fact that the hypothesis that it does is falsified beyond any vestige of doubt – which is, of course, a hallmark of pseudoscientific practice. He is also a speaker at anti-vaccine conferences, and was one of the “experts” who “vetted” the conspiracy theory flick “The Greater Good”, something that ought to prevent anyone even minimally reasonable from ever listening to his advice on anything ever again. He is also on the advisory board for the zealously delusional Holistic Moms Network.

Rosen has managed to establish himself as one of the leading promoters and advocates of woo in the US, and he promotes woo and pseudoscience in familiar ways: “Conventional Western medicine is about fixing disease, mainly acute illnesses. It’s oriented around disease labeling and treatment,” says Rosen, which is blatantly false, but rhetorically useful in promoting himself as a Brave Maverick Doctor who has seen the light and gone his own ways. And Rosen promotes the whole gamut of ineffectual nonsense regimes and treatments, backed up with fluff and appeals to nature, including homeopathyaromatherapy, herbal medicine, and guided imagery, “operated according to the principles of ecologically sustainable medicine” (which he is free define any way he likes, of course). Indeed, Rosen promotes oscillococcinum, no less, stating – with an apparently straight face – that: “Oscillococcinum has been found to be a good homeopathic treatment for children and adults with flu-like symptoms.” It is hard to imagine that he made the claim in good faith.

Now, Rosen targets his quackery at children in particular. His Whole Child Center practices “integrative medicine,” based “on a practitioner-client partnerships in which both conventional and alternative modalities are used to stimulate the body’s natural healing potential.” Their website does feature a quack Miranda warning, at least. They also feature Bob Sears’s vaccine book, a large tome of scare tactics and anecdotes of children experiencing problems after receiving vaccines, apparently straight from the VAERS database. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article criticizing Sears’ callous and unprofessional conspiracy mongering, crackpottery, lies and general dimwittedness.

And critics? Rosen is nothing if not fond of the pharma shill gambit. It is very effective with certain audiences.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist, crackpot and quack, but of the charismatic and trust-inspiring kind; what he promotes, however, isn’t better grounded in reality or evidence than the stuff promoted by incoherent, raging lunatics in weird color schemes and random capitalization over at Maintain a safe distance.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

#2184: Ray Rooney, jr.

The digital media editor for the American Family Association, Ray Rooney, Jr., is the kind of person who goes out of his way to warn us that “we’re surrounded by venomous LGBT activists, antagonistic atheists, vitriolic academics, Christian bashers, God haters, Muslim sympathizers, BlackLivesMatter hate groups, and government officials who are hell bent on stripping away every last vestige of Christian heritage and religious freedom from us;” that is, people who disagree with Rooney and may even criticize his views. They shouldn’t do that, since doing so is a threat to his religious freedom.

No, Rooney doesn’t fancy gay people. Homosexuality, according to Rooney, is “unhealthy” and “unrighteous,” “unfruitful and unnatural” (source: his common sense). The real reason homosexuality is wrong, however, as detailed in his column “The Real Problem With Homosexuality”, is that unlike “normal people”, who never disclose that they have sex with someone of the opposite sex, gays just want to “broadcast to the world the details of their sex lives”; because being in a homosexual relationship is all about broadcasting “sex” whereas being in a heterosexual relationship is not, obviously, or put differently: “gay” makes Rooney immediately think about sex, whereas “heterosexuality” does not. Complains Rooney: “I am fed up with the gay community,” andjust sick of hearing about how one group of people demand that everyone in the world accept who they have sex with!” The real problem with homosexuality, in other words, is that it is homosexuality.

Rooney is, of course, also a creationist, and has ardently complained about how evolution together with “pluralism, progressivism, abortion, and pornography” have “all come and established themselves in the culture with barely a collective stir from the people of God.” Except for all the persistent, loud, deranged and deeply confused rage from fundamentalists, of course.

Diagnosis: Dolt.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

#2183: Aviva Romm

Aviva Romm is an integrative physician (she actually does, in fact, have a real medical degree), midwife, and herbalist, defender of Goop and its practices, and contributor to the astonishingly insane misinformation on the Goop website. Her association with Goop should give you a sense of the relevant level of trustworthiness Romm is aiming for. Romm’s primary victims targets are pregnant women, busy women, and parents, to whom she peddles her very own line of herbal supplements, books and online courses (herbal medicine for womenadrenal thyroid pro training), such as Healthiest Kids University: Natural Medicine for Children – unsurprisingly, Romm’s main marketing ploy is fallacious appeals to nature. There is a good discussion of herbal supplements here – they are mostly polluted drugs in unknown dosages with unknown effectiveness and potentially dangerous side-effects – and a decent list of questionable “nutritionists” here.

Though she has been part of the Goop defense team to be deployed against science-based criticisms through well-honed and precise marketing techniques and appeals to empowerment – conspicuously and completely avoiding the substance of the criticism – Romm did at one point actually seem to distance herself a bit from Goop, admitting that not everything on the site is effective or evidence-based. “I’m not one of these integrative doctors who basically just because it’s alternative thinks it’s safe and good. I try to keep my doctor thinking cap on as well,” said Romm. She doesn’t, of course, but it is at least interesting to see her admit the difference between thinking as a doctor and thinking as an altmed huckster and more than suggesting that the latter role doesn’t involve much sensitivity to evidence, critical thinking or the significance of accountability. Romm also pointed out that “those drug company commercials are making lots of people millions. So it’s not just one isolated situation with Goop;” a tu quoque is of course always best when presented in the context of a false equivalence. Romm is fond of false equivalences.

Toxins feature prominently in Romm’s fearmongering, and she will readily tell us that “many health conditions that are adversely affecting children today can be traced back to environmental toxin exposure.” She is less sanguine about identifying these alleged toxins, of course, or trying to explain how they work or how the bullshit products she sells would help people deal with them. 

Hat-tip Refutations of Antivaccine Memes
She does, however, advise women to refuse glucola (a standard diabetes screening drink), claiming it is a “toxic cocktail”, and credits the Food Babe and the Food Babe’s chemophobia for alerting her to said toxins. Perhaps needless to say, glucola is not what’s toxic here. To attack glucola, Romm invokes conspiracy theories: don’t trust obstetricians or experts who actually work with patients; trust instead her, who don’t and therefore doesn’t need to take any responsibility for her advice (but is rather trying to sell you expensive quackery): the experts are actively conspiring to harm you, as Romm sees it, since nothing sells products better than sowing fear. There is a good takedown of Romm’s FUD tactics and rank dishonesty here.

Should you detoxify before getting pregnant?” asks Romm rhetorically, and continues “[a]s a midwife and functional medicine doctor specializing in women’s health, I get this question often. And if I had gotten this question ten years ago, I might have said no.” “No” is of course the correct answer, but these days Romm’s got products to sell and has changed her advice accordingly. Romm’s blog is full of fashionable detox recommendations (“How to Detox Every Day: Top Ten Foods & Herbs”, “Detox Immunity”, “The Easiest, Most Effective Spring Detox Ever”, “Detoxing Before Pregnancy”), none of them based on evidence, but many based on demonstrable quackery and pseudoscience, like the idea of autointoxication, which was somewhat popular around 1900 but abandoned in the 1930s since no evidence for it was ever found nor plausible mechanism ever suggested.

Romm’s products
Romm’s products are roughly as worthless as her medical advice. Her dispensary contains an impressive range of expensive supplements sorted by categories like  “Natural Detox Support” and “Adrenal and Thyroid Support”. They are associated with a wide variety of nonsensical health claims like “replenish adrenals”, “detox”, “rejuvenate liver function” and “boost immunity” – needless to say, her products do no such thing, which is ultimately actually fortunate for her victims customers clients.

Much of her stuff addresses prevention of and remedies for adrenal fatigue, a bogus condition, and promises to “replenish and restore the adrenals and counteract the effects of an overwhelmed stress response system.” Given that the condition is bogus, at least you will never be in a position to claim that the products didn’t work as intended. They won’t do anything else either, except possibly hurt your wallet. Several of her supplements are targeted at children – or rather their gullible parents – and her “Natural Children’s remedies” section lists plenty of questionable supplements, including “Calm Child”, which is designed to “support calm, focuses attention in children.” She also has a “Super-Charge Your Children’s Health and Immunity with Natural Remedies” online lesson material includes, which discusses “toxins in vaccinations”, and herbal medicines. 

Oh yes, Romm is at best deeply sympathetic to the anti-vaccine movement, having even written a book claiming to “offer a sensible, balanced discussion of the pros and cons of each routine childhood vaccination,” presenting “the full spectrum of options available to parents: full vaccination on a standardized or individualized schedule, selective vaccination, or no vaccinations at all,” and offering advice on how to use  herbs to provide “natural immunity”.

Hat-tip: Mr. Wrong
Among her top recommended supplements is curcumin (found in turmeric, good summary here), which is recommended for “leaky gut” (another bogus condition) and “detoxification from environmental chemicals” (another – you guessed it – nonsense claim). Curcumin supplements are of course demonstrably not going to do anything for anything either

Romm claims to offer “evidence-based alternatives” of the kind that empowered women are apparently seeking. She wouldn’t know what “evidence-based” means, of course, but neither, we presume, does her target audience.

Diagnosis: A disgusting excuse for a person. It is hard to imagine that she is unaware that the advice she peddles is bullshit, and her marketing and FUD tactics are so well-honed and appear so deliberate that it is difficult to believe she isn’t completely aware of what she is doing. 

Hat-tip: Sheila Kealey

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

#2182: Stan Romanek (?)

A veritable legend in New Age ufology circles, Stanley Tiger Romanek is a self-proclaimed alien abductee and starseed, who has built a substantial collection of “evidence” supposedly “proving” the existence of aliens. His evidence base contains plenty of photos and videos of precisely the type you’d expect, audio recordings, drawings and math equations he claims that he should not be able to know but has nevertheless written down, so the only explanation for knowing them is that he has been given the information from extraterrestrials. He is most famous, however, for the so-called “Boo Video” (with Jeff Peckman), which allegedly captures an alien that is looking in through Romanek’s window, and the documentary (or uncritical paean) Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story, released on Netflix. 

Why are the aliens so interested in him, in particular? Well, Romanek does claim to be a very important person – almost a messiah of sorts – and that aliens picked him specifically to bring their message to the people of Earth. And yes: we would recommend empathy were we able to shake a few nagging doubts about certain details. Apparently he gets to ride with these aliens in their spaceships quite often, though, and has been implanted with an alien artifact (he cited this as physical evidence for his alien contacts but when a medical test for the implant was requested, he said it had disappeared), sustained mysterious injuries inflicted by them, experienced telepathic communications with aliens, and apparently even been dressed in women’s clothing by aliens. Indeed, he Romanek has even got himself another family of seven alien/human hybrid children; his earthly wife Lisa was apparently initially surprised to hear about this other family, but it seemed to have sorted itself out at least until Stan suddenly met his space wife, a younger human woman, at an Earth convention; apparently he managed to convince Lisa to accept his space wife into the family in the end as well, though. Romanek has also, entirely according to himself, been accosted by “obviously para-military” men who have attempted to intimidate him into silence, but he managed to drive them away with his martial arts skills. 

The Boo Video and Extraordinary
The infamous Boo Video catapulted Romanek to stardom when it was shown on Larry King live. The alien in question looks sufficiently fake, however, that even convinced ufologists tend to distance themselves from Romanek because he makes them look bad (you can watch it yourself here; you can watch some parodies here). Romanek also filmed a follow-up video of an alien looking into his house from a sliding door, which has, shall we say, not managed to win many new converts to his cause among those not already convinced by his first video. His other evidence really isn’t more convincing either. In fact, much of it is so obviously fake that we cannot honestly shake the strong suspicion that Romanek isn’t a loon at all.

The 2013 documentary Extraordinary is a rather feeble attempt to present Romanek as the messianic figure he claims to be, and unintentionally portrays him, his family and supporters as a frighteningly cultlike affair. Some highlights are described here. In his 2009 book Messages Romanek claimed to relay communications from his extraterrestrial informant, and that an (unnamed) astronomer interpreted the drawings he made of planetary alignments supposedly under hypnosis as pointing to September 21, 2012, a date Romanek suggested would be the one on which the aliens would make themselves known to humanity, or perhaps when the natural disasters he saw in other visions would take place.

Romanek’s career hit an abrupt and serious snag in 2017. As expected, both Romanek and some of his supporters appealed to conspiracy.

Diagnosis: Obviously an intrepid hoaxer – he has even admitted as much himself. The relevant question with regard to whether he deserves inclusion here, is whether he really believes his claims about alien visitations and his own role in them, which is not really inconsistent with being an unrepentant hoaxer. We’ll give him the benefit (or disadvantage, we suppose) of doubt, and give him an entry.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Monday, April 29, 2019

#2181: Sam Rohrer

Sam Rohrer is the president of the Pennsylvania Pastors’ Network, a branch of Let Freedom Ring, Inc., and former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (128th District, 1993–2010). Rohrer is an alumnus of Bob Jones University, South Carolina’s attempt to out-madrassa the Taliban, and it shows. Indeed, Rohrer was awarded the 2013 “Alumnus of the Year” at the annual Bob Jones University Bible Conference, which he probably richly deserved. 

Rohrer is the kind of person who tries to argue that a literal reading of the Bible reveals that gun rights come directly from God, and that Jesus’ teachings on non-violence should not be taken literally; it’s apparently the only part of the Bible that shouldn’t. Meanwhile, gun control is part of an Agenda 21 depopulation plot that the government – at least Obama’s government – tried to set in motion. Indeed, Rohrer is heavily into Agenda 21 conspiracies, and thinks that the nonbinding framework for sustainable development “is a control of our property, it’s a control of our legal system to the local level” (the hows matter less than the grand, paranoid narrative, apparently). 

It is also a sin for the government to be compassionate, says Sam Rohrer.

Politically, Rohrer is a full-blown theocrat who claims that “God’s law must always reign supreme” over man’s law. “No court has the authority to overturn what God says and what God defines to be a matter of marriage in this case, so that’s the clearest example where man’s law counters what God has said is what something ought to be.” Purely for political reasons, he also claims to love the Constitution, of course. To back up his claims, Rohrer asserts that if you don’t do as Rohrer thinks God says (i.e. that Rohrer says) that you should do, then the nation will fall under God’s judgment, in which case  “you go nowhere but down.Accordingly “politicians and everyone who serves in any capacity in any level of civil government is automatically also a minister of God,” and should recognize this obligation. Apparently it’s all about liberty. People like the sound of “freedom”, “liberty” and “the Constitution”, but Rohrer’s fans don’t seem to have the faintest idea what those words could possibly mean (which is why Rohrer ends up, in all earnestness, saying things like “if you put somebody in office who is an enemy of freedom, who is a practicing Muslim, as an example, or a Communist, as an example, an atheist, they will act on what they think is right, but it’s not going to be what agrees with biblical correction.”) Rohrer is apparently a fan of David Barton, whom Rohrer explicitly thinks is a pillar of honesty, which to him then means that the extensively documented dishonesty in Barton’s works can easily be dismissed as a malicious conspiracy.

Threats to his vision I: Immigrants
There are ample threats to Rohrer’s vision for America, though. Islam, for instance. Rohrer was quite shocked by the 2018 elections, when two “devout Muslim women who hold to a view of God and law and morality that is completely opposite to our Constitution” were elected. The lack of self-awareness is pretty intense, even by fundie theocrat standards. At least his stance on immigration follows the same lines of lack of reasoning; as Rohrer sees it, America has “changed the historic biblical rules” (?) regarding immigration, and “this is a reason why God must discipline our country.” As a consequence, we have now “millions of people” who “have no respect for our God, they serve primarily the god of Allah and they embrace Sharia law,” which permits them to engage in terrorism. Until the US endorses the letter and spirit of the First Amendment and realizes that it cannot tolerate “two competing Gods … we’re going to find ourselves in increasing trouble.” As a solution to the ills, Rohrer suggested that we should require immigrants to “accept the God of the Bible,” just like the Constitution prescribes. It is probably worth mentioning, in this context, that “progressive Christians” aren’t really Christians either.

Indeed, Muslim jihadists had by 2016 infiltrated the Obama administration at the highest levels, and (then-)CIA Director John Brennan is, as Rohrer sees it, a Muslim convert who is on the side of the terrorists.

When push comes to show, however, the main problem is immigrants in general, not really their religious convictions. The recent refugee caravan, for instance, is a “fight against God himself”. Rohrer’s reasoning is … weak, but it ends with concluding that those who favor immigration are on the side of the Antichrist. Of course it does.

Threats to his vision 2: The gays (of course)
Another threat is, of course, the gays. It was obvious to Rohrer gay marriage could not be legalized since judges should rule according to “moral law” established by God, and having, in fact, been legalized, it is threatening to “destroy the very fabric of our nation and, like everything else that is not working according to Rohrer’s convictions, will “invite God’s judgment on the nation” (mass shootings, for instance, are part of said judgment). Gay marriage will apparently lead to “tyranny” as well, for good measure, and the judges responsible for legalizing it are “activist judges” and “ideological idealists” that “may have been motivated by an intentional defiance of God.” The legalization of gay marriage also means that “the moral position leadership of our country has been forfeited,” says Rohrer; apparently the new moral leader of the world – here Rohrer agrees with many religious right leaders – is Russia.

He also lamented that gay rights activists don’t realize that they, too, have lost a “great, great freedom” with the legalization of same-sex marriage. His reasoning behind the conclusion isn’t really reasoning.

Threats to his vision 3: Women
And then there are women. Apparently having women in power is a sign of God’s judgment. When making the claim, Rohrer hastened to add that “the real condemnation is not the women in office, the condemnation is the disregard and the absolute inability for male leadership to perform as God intended it,” so that he wouldn’t come across as sexist.

Miscellaneous Trumpisms
Shocked by the “lack of respect” shown by some people toward President Trump, Rohrer promptly and predictably declared that opposition to Trump “creates the circumstances … out of which will come the Antichrist,” explaining (or whatever you prefer to call it) that the “enemies of Christ” (globalists, Islam and the cultural “establishment”) are “all working together” because “they hate God, they hate the Constitution, they despise Jesus Christ, they want to destroy Israel and the United States.” And those who don’t support Trump’s immigration policies are definitely on the side of the Antichrist.

After all, as Rohrer sees it, it was God who put Trump in office, no less. Rohrer didn’t explain how God did that (without committing voter fraud).

There is a decent Sam Rohrer resource here. Rohrer is not to fond of rightwingwatch, and has said that if civil war breaks out, it will be because of groups like Rightwingwatch and others who don’t think what he thinks they should think.

Diagnosis: As deranged, confused and fanatical as they come, and unfit for any audience. He’s got one, though, and must be considered moderately dangerous.