Sunday, November 17, 2019

#2268: J.C. Smith

J.C. Smith (right) being interviewed.
The appreciation of science, evidence and medicine among chiropractors varies. Chiropractor J.C. Smith represents the non-appreciating faction. According to Smith, science and scientists, biased as they are toward truth, evidence and reality, are waging a war against chiropractors, especially those who, like Smith, find themselves on the more overtly pseudoscientific end of things, and in 2011 he (self-)published his magnum opus The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story from Persecution to Vindication detailing the battle in an exposé comparable, in his view, to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s exposé of slavery. According to Smith, the American Medical Association has waged a dirty war on perceived competition, and the motive is primarily money – though not only that: according to Smith, real MDs are apparently attacking chiropractic because it is based on a vitalistic philosophy, which doctors and scientists oppose because they are mostly atheists. The fight for the legitimacy of chiropractic is according a “religious war to keep the heretics out of the medical den of iniquity.” It is, apparently, also an attack on academic freedom and comparably to the bigotry in America before Civil Rights, when desegregation led to resentment and deadly attacks. The book-burning mindset of scientists and medical doctors will, as Smith sees it, go down in the annals of history alongside Joseph Goebbels’s book-burning policy. Indeed, Smith’s book contains a remarkable amount of references to Nazis and racial prejudice in addition to its more predictable half-truths, falsehood and general crackpottery. 

The general narrative of the book is approximately as follows: Before chiropractic licensure was approved chiropractors occasionally got themselves in legal trouble for practicing medicine without a license, and as Smith sees things, this was apparently a bogus charge, but one that forced noble chiropractors to hide like Anne Frank or escaped slaves; chiropractors persevered despite AMAs aggressive efforts to combat quackery, however, and finally got their long-awaited licensures. AMA is, throughout the book, compared to the KGB, Gestapo and CIA, and he even mentions the showers of Auschwitz; medical doctors are like storm troopers, and criticizing chiropractic is like making Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus. Suffice to say, the book probably did not do chiropractors who want to be taken seriously any service. There is a good and reasonably comprehensive critique of the book here.

His book. It is published
by Tate Publishing.
Apparently there is a sequel,
too: To Kill a Chiropractor:
The Media War against
Chiropractors. 
As for his claims on behalf of the efficacy of chiropactic, Smith decides to go all D.D. Palmer. Deep into subluxation woo, Smith is very concerned about the proper flow of nerve energy, claiming that spinal dysfunctions disrupt the flow and cause heart attacks and visceral disorders like dysmenorrhea, asthma, enuresis, and infantile colic. Indeed, spine dysfunctions can even cause brain damage and premature aging. And manipulation is, of course, effective for all these disorders. As evidence for his nonsense, Smith relies for instance on the 1979 New Zealand Chiropractic Report developed by a panel consisting of a barrister, a chemistry professor, and a retired headmistress of a girls’ school (and comprehensively discussed here); the NZ report relied primarily on selected testimonials, draws conclusions in direct conflict with all current evidence obtained by using actual scientific methods, and nevertheless concluded that chiropractors should be strictly monitored, not present themselves as doctors, not encourage patients to consult a chiropractor in preference to a medical doctor for any condition, and not mislead the public into believing that chiropractic is an alternative to medicine. To bolster his case, Smith has arguments from popularity and patient satisfaction, and even arguments from antiquity: according to Smith, Hippocrates and Imhotep wrote about chiropractic (they did not). He also quotes Gary Null and Dana Ullman, and dismisses critics as being in cahoots with the AMA.

Smith also runs a website called Chiropractors for Fair Journalism, where he attacks critics of woo for oppression and for engaging in mafia tactics (The Institute for Science in Medicine, for instance, is referred to as “The Medical GoodFellas”), and accuses anyone who points out the pseudoscience and quackery that underlie chiropractic of “bigotry”, like: “His [Morris Fishbein, MD] intolerant quasi-KKK attitude about all non-allopathic CAM professions set the tone for the Jim Crow, MD, bias we see in many members in the medical profession today.” Likewise, efforts to inform the public of medical science and medical evidence that Smith doesn’t like is “fear-mongering and slander”. The main problem, though, with organizations like the ISM, which offers medical information and criticize pseudoscience, is apparently that they seek to “alone determine[…] what qualifies one method as ‘pseudo-scientific practices’ and the others as ‘scientific’,” and that “it is not its role to act as watchdogs since this is a governmental issue within each state. No one has endowed ISM to act as such, but the AMA has never subjected its power to any governmental agency in its quest to remain the medical monopoly.” Not indicative of a particularly well-developed ability to draw obvious distinctions or avoid massive strawmen, is it? 

Diagnosis: A shining illustration of the all-too common failure to distinguish criticism from oppression and facts from opinion. At least his efforts are probably unlikely to do quacks any favors.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

#2267: E. Norbert Smith

One of Smith's books labelled
"non-fiction". Smith does of
course not want you to
consider the evidence - he
wants you to consider the
fragments of evidence
he carefully selects and
interprets for you.
A.k.a. Doc Gator

E. Norbert Smith is a near-infamous mainstay of creationist organizations and fundie anti-science efforts. The reason is, of course, that Smith is one of those rare specimens among creationists who does indeed possess a Ph.D. in Zoology, from Texas Tech University. Smith is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s idiotic petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism (his dissent being not even remotely scientific, of course), as well as the CMI list of scientists alive today who accept the biblical account of creation. He seems to be currently affiliated with the website Creation.com (previously with godofcreation.com), and was formerly on the board of directors for the Creation Research Society. He has also taught courses for various fundie extremist mockeries of educational institutions, including a “graduate course” for the Institute for Creation Research as well as an online course in Creation for Liberty University.

Now, Smith might, in fact, have written some real research articles back in the 70s and 80s. For the last 30 years or so, however, he has focused on writing articles for the Journal of Creation, children’s books (of course: this was never about science, truth or evidence, but cult recruitment) – including a number of books about Al-the-gator under the pseudonym Doc Gator – and various anti-science books with titles like Evolution Has Failed and Battleground University. In the latter his main complaint seems to be that universities teach critical thinking to students, something that often gets in the way of accepting his denialist talking points on pure faith. Smith does not appear to have any current academic affiliation, however, and is surely not a working scientist by any stretch of the imagination.

And if you ever wondered whether his creationist research had any scientific merit, you can read about his pitiful forays into creation hydrology here. The measures taken to avoid actually testing the core hypothesis are rather striking.  

Diagnosis: A mainstay of creation science, which stands to science like pretend gold stands to gold. We cannot let real scientific testing or evidence get in the way of good dogma, can we?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

#2266: David E. Smith

The Illinois Family Institute, a state affiliate of the American Family Association, is, not surprisingly, an anti-marriage-equality organization and its executive director, David E. Smith, a fundamentalist bigot (Smith succeeded Peter LaBarbera in the position; Laurie Higgins is their director of school advocacy). The IFI is also a vociferous opponent of abortion, the separation of church and state, “activist judges”, gambling and drugs, and was correctly designated a hate group by the SPLC.

In spring 2013, when a law legalizing same-sex marriage was postponed by the Illinois legislature, Smith was ready to explain why: “The Body of Christ here in Illinois has risen up and has really made a noise and made a really concerted effort to make sure that our state lawmakers know without a doubt that we object to the idea of them redefining marriage,” Smith said: “They do not have the moral authority to redefine marriage as God created it.” This was not the reason for postponement. Moreover, neither Smith nor his fellows at the Illionis Family Institute have the power to raise zombie Jesus, even though they probably wouldn’t be prevented from doing so by alignment restrictions. 

Later Smith sent out a fundraising appeal where he warned that if activists failed to stop marriage equality legislation in Illinois, “America will collapse” like Sodom and Gomorrah, and compared his fight against the evil agenda” of gay rights to that of American soldiers in WW2: “We should be inspired to defend marriage with the same courage, conviction, tenacity, and sacrifice that the greatest generation fought to defend American principles and to honor their fallen. If we don’t stop the enemy from achieving his goal of destroying the family, there won’t be any monuments to visit.” Yes, it’s always the end of everything; only apostates would ask for evidence or reasons.

In 2012, IFI called for parents to remove their children from classrooms led by teachers who support LGBT-related instruction; in particular, in their document “Challenge Teachers, Not Books” they encouraged parents to “object to teachers rather than texts”, and offered suggestions for parents who are “fed up with the subtle and not so subtle messages that activist teachers of a liberal bent work into their classroom teaching through their classroom comments, curricular materials ... and even their desks and classroom displays.” The IFI has also for a long time advocated teaching creationism in public schools, ostensibly as a way to present “both sides of an argument” (they aren’t really interested in both sides, even if there were two sides, which there aren’t), and have made recommendations to Illinois educators to keep explicit references to evolution out of public school classrooms in Illinois.

Diagnosis: Fundie loons, and though they have probably lost the war people like Smith are still trying their best to cause as much harm as possible. A real, if relatively minor, threat to civilization.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

#2265: Daniel Smith

Alternative medicine isn’t medicine, but at least most woo is in itself probably as harmless as it is useless (the conspiracy theories and falsehoods involved in marketing them less so). MMS, or Miracle Mineral Supplement, is different. MMS an aqueous solution of 28% sodium chlorite, an industrial chemical that, when prepared in a citric acid solution, forms chlorine dioxide. Yes, we are talking industrial-strength bleach, and its effects on the body are what you’d expect from that. MMS is nevertheless promoted as a cure for HIV, malaria, viral hepatitis, the H1N1 flu virus, common colds, acne, cancer and much more. Its inventor, Jim Humble, has no evidence for any of his medical claims, of course; instead, he claims to be a billion-year-old God from the Andromeda galaxy. 

In recent years, MMS has in particular been promoted as a “cure” for autistic children, in particular by deranged lunatic Kerri Rivera. But there are several other promoters of MMS around as well. Louis Daniel Smith is hopefully not anymore, though: In 2015 he was found guilty of selling industrial bleach as a miracle cure for numerous diseases and illnesses, including cancer, AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, lyme disease, asthma and the common cold through a business called “Project GreenLife”, and sentenced to 51 months in prison. In particular, the jury convicted him of one count of conspiracy to commit multiple crimes, three counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and one count of fraudulently smuggling merchandise into the United States. Before the trial, three of Smith’s alleged co-conspirators – Chris Olson, Tammy Olson and Karis DeLong, Smith’s wife – pleaded guilty to introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. The most scary part, however, is that Smith was part of a network of at least 1,700 people selling MMR around the world; stopping him was, in other words, likely to make only minimal difference to the worldwide distribution of MMS. Smith’s numerous fans and followers were of course quick to yell “conspiracy” and “oppression” and “health freedom”.

According to the instructions for use that Smith provided, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting were all signs that the miracle cure was working, and, despite a risk of possible brain damage, they suggested that the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women or infants who were seriously ill. Officially, however, the sodium chlorite was imported for use in wastewater treatment facilities, conveniently sold in 4-ounce bottles for $20 apiece. It is, in that light, only a remarkable coincidene that Project GreenLife also happened to sell citric acid, the other component of MMS, and provided information about use “for your safety and convenience”.

There is a good discussion of MMS here.

Diagnosis: We don’t generally cover ordinary criminals, but have to make an exception here. Hopefully he learned a lesson, but we are not really very optimistic, and there are many more like him. An extremely dangerous fellow – crazy, stupid and completely without scruples – so we recommend maintaining a safe distance.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Friday, November 8, 2019

#2264: Brad Smith et al.

In 2013 a group of pagans planned and arranged a festival to celebrate the summer solstice in Pahokee, Florida. It is probably little surprise that the event was not exactly welcomed by the area’s resident Talibanists, who packed a city commission meeting and demanded that the city prevent the festival from taking place because pagans, devil worshippers. We suspect many of them would be firm defenders of religious freedom but also be baffled if told that religious freedom means that people who hold religious views different from yours also have the right to have and express them. 

Among the protestors were Brad Smith, a funeral director and apparently the Florida Director of Kids for Christ, who called the event “an abomination”; “I just found out about this today. I am disappointed in the city of Pahokee for allowing this group to come,” he said, under the delusion that the city has the power to deny groups that Smith doesn’t like the ability to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights. Evangelist Lillian Brown, of Saints on the Move, pointed out that “God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community,” which is a fine example of fractal wrongness. At least if you ever wondered how witch burnings could go on for centuries back in the days despite the patent ridiculousness of the charges, people like Lillian Brown should give you some indication. Rev. Raul Rodriguez, of Church of God Door of Jesus Christ, just pointed out that “we don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever”, even though whether Raul Rodriguez needs the event or not seems to be strikingly irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Daniel Mondragon, however, warned that by hosting the event “we are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells;” belly dancing and magic spells are almost equally bad, and the former could potentially even take place: “We do not welcome these things. This is the first annual event, and it should be the last.” Dire warnings also from Bishop Jared Hines of New Destiny Community Church: “This event is not only detrimental to our city but to our county. What goes on at that lake will affect us all; it will move from the dike and into our homes.” Pastor Eugene Babb of Harlem Church of God, meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to top the others, asserted that “we cannot expect our city to survive and prosper if we allow these things.”

When their attempts to prevent the event from taking place by legal means failed, they resorted to their most powerful weapon: prayer. Pastor Jorge Chivara of the Hispanic Nazarene Church led the effort: “We want to begin praying about what’s taking place before the event, during the event, and after the event,” Chivara said.

Diagnosis: Yes, they are theocrats, plain and simple. It is a very telling illustration of what many fundies think religious freedom amounts to, at least. Though the delusional nitwits described here – they really give Sir Bedivere’s audience a run for their money – are local nitwits with negligible influence on civilization considered individually, their actions and responses also seem to be pretty standard fare many places in the US.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

#2263: Patricia Slusher

Chronic Lyme disease is (almost certainly) a non-existent condition, but the diagnosis remains popular in woo-minded and (largely overlapping) conspiracy-minded groups. There is, accordingly, a thriving market for people who “diagnose” and “treat” chronic lyme disease, and they are often termed LLMDs, or “Lyme Literate” doctors. Some of these are spineless or deluded MDs; many are not. Patricia Slusher is not. Slusher is an “ND” – a naturopath, or not a doctor – and a “CN”, i.e. “certified nutritionist”. That certification means nothing, of course: Ben Goldacre once got his cat, which had been dead for years, registered as a certified member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants – Slusher presumably got her certification from something called the American Health Science University, which you can read about here. She is, however, treating patients for “chronic Lyme disease”.

According to one of her patients, “[f]or the first 3 weeks my Lyme protocol consist of taking 3 supplements from Percision [sic] Herbs, LLC; LYX, Spirex and Puricell and spending 30 minutes 2X a week getting a Quad Zapper treatment.” The Quad zapper is a Hulda Clark device, no less. So, Slusher treats her patients with Hulda Clark devices and worthless supplements, as well as with homeopathy. It’s fortunate that chronic lyme is not a real disease. That, however, doesn’t clear Slusher of wrongdoing – her patients are clearly suffering, and taking their money is not likely to make things better. 

Consultations with Slusher start out with “Quantum Reflex Analysis”, which is applied kinesiology with “quantum” added on (Slusher likes quantum mumbo jumbo), and an examination of the patient’s tongue, nails, and face. Then you can sign up for:

-       The Zyto Biocommunication Health Evaluation, a bogus electrodermal diagnostic process using a biofeedback machine hooked up to a computer.
-       Avalon Photonic Light Therapy (equally nonsensical).
-       Distance Consultation and Testing: you don’t actually need to come to her office; sending a photo or handwriting sample will do. 
-       Saliva Hormone Testing. Yeah; no.
-       “Detoxification” treatments with ionic foot baths, no less.
-       Chromatherapy Light Goggles, because “God designed people to be exposed to full spectrum sunlight several hours a day”, with color pairings for various organ systems.
-       Electronic acupressure
-       A chi modulator.
-       Meridian therapy.

Slusher, who describes herself as an energy medicine “doctor”, obtained her naturopathic “degree” from the Trinity College of Natural Health; now, accreditations by the official naturopathic college organization, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Colleges, really shouldn’t convey any sort of authority either, but it is worth pointing out that even they don’t recognize Trinity.

Diagnosis: You probably have to be stupid or desperate to fall for any of this, but those are precisely the characteristics of the victims Slusher targets. Complete and utter bollocks.


Hat-tip: Harriet Hall @ Sciencebased medicine

Monday, November 4, 2019

#2262: Sharon Slater

Family Watch International (FWI) is a hate organization that lobbies the United Nations for pro-life and anti-gay causes, including the imprisonment of gay people around the world. Sharon Slater, its president, is apparently opposed to the death penalty for gay people, but she is fine with imprisonment. The FWI for instance arranges an annual, invitation-only global policy forum for UN delegates to promote their policy objectives, where Slater has particularly emphasized ex-gay messages, including “the personal testimony of a patient who is successfully reorienting from homosexuality to heterosexuality” and a speech from an alleged expert Slater conspicuously refused to name. According to FWI literature, “so-called ‘homosexual rights’ are driving much of the current worldwide assault on marriage, the family and family related issues.” There is a good, if old, portrait of Slater, the FWI, and their efforts here.

Like many anti-gay groups, Slater and the FWI focus much of their attention on Africa. After all, their ideas for how to treat gay people probably won’t fly in the US anymore (not that they’ve entirely stopped trying), but fanatic bigots still have some clout in certain African nations that makes it possible to turn their bigotry into policy; by claiming that the West is imposing its corrupt, “anti-family” values on the rest of the world, and that the “developing world” is the last holdout against the “homosexual agenda” (Slater is no stranger to lying, of course), these groups often do find favor with people who otherwise find themselves struggling under the weight of a global economy designed to exploit and indebt. 

And as long as gay people get to suffer, these organizations – FWI included – are not above creating alliances e.g. with Islamist extremists, for instance in developing a UN “Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families”, which is basically an anti-marriage-equality statement: It calls upon the UN to recognize a “family with a married mother and father” as the preferred family organization, and “call upon States Parties and the United Nations system to discourage sexual relations and childbearing outside of the marital bond”. The effort was at least in part set in motion by Slater’s and the FWI’s “Protect the Family” petition, which is not really about protecting families but attacking families organized in ways different from the one Slater fancies (i.e. those led by grandparents, single parents, same-sex parents, and countless other configurations of people caring for people – Slater is, in fact, explicit about this goal – family values™ are not about family values). Slater is also a frequent participant and keynote speaker at the World Congress of Families, which is not about families either.

FWI has been deeply involved in promoting abstinence-and fidelity-only initiatives in Uganda, and has praised Nigeria – where same-sex couples can face up to 14 years in prison or stoning at the hands of Sharia courts – as “a strong role model” for other regional governments “on how to hold on to their family values despite intense international pressure.”

As mentioned, Slater and the FWI are also opposed to sex education: “It’s destructive. It’s pornographic. It’s designed to change all the sexual and gender norms of society by sexualizing children everywhere. It’s probably one of the most insidious attacks on the health and innocence of children ever imagined,” says Slater. In a radio interview, she also said that sex education is a plot by Planned Parenthood to turn your kids into sexual deviants so they can make more money on condoms, STD tests and abortions. There is, Slater asserted, “an intentional, targeted effort to get to your children and change the way they think about sexuality, to encourage them to engage in sexual activity, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual or self-stimulation, because if they can recruit children into this worldview and this sexual ideology, then they’ll have the future, if they can train up the next generation in all these radical ideas. And that’s what they’re after. In fact, even Hitler said, ‘He who owns the minds of the children owns the future.’” Because whenever organizations or people disagree with you, it is always because they are in a greed-motivated nefarious conspiracy against you, the US and Jesus.

Diagnosis: Deranged bigot. But Slater and her organization are not mere fringe lunatics with Internet access – their power and influence is frighteningly real, if mostly realized abroad: Slater is genuinely knowledgeable of the workings of the UN, and possesses enough political skills to exploit that knowledge; few loons covered in our Encyclopedia rival Slater and her organization for harm and suffering caused.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

#2261: Jane Skrovota

Jane Skrovota is hardly a big name in bigotry; indeed, she is just a Lincoln, Nebraska local lady whose only claim to notability is a graphic diatribe she delivered during a public hearing before the Lincoln city council in 2012 on a proposed ordinance to ban discrimination against gays and transgender citizens in employment, housing and public accommodations. That rant is, however, deliriously insane. You can hear it in full here. Some choice quotes:

Winter Wipe Out TV Show have broken bones and man slaughter every minute. Winter wipeout show is produced in Holland by gay bi’s and orgiers. Why do gays like to see people perishing?

P.E.N.I.S. goes into the anus to rupture intestines, the more a man does this more likely he will be a fatality or a homicider. Getting pleasure while the other man passes away reverberates another homicide later.” 

UNESCO United Nations has gender and bioethics conferences combined. Only gays go to gender studies. Gays are the bio ethic genociders in hospitals Ah, children can be eliminated the FEDS stated in this December 11th article ah the Lincoln General Star page six. Gays should not be employed in hospitals or any health occupation.” 

Lesbians and Gays rarely live past 40 years old because it is common for the partner to do away with them or they self inflict.”

Have No Gays in Education. A high percentage of gay men in school grounds molest boys partly because they do not have AIDs yet! Be on the side of the innocent boy who gets Fs and Ds a year after being molested.”

To avoid going gay like Hillary Clinton did, college students need single rooms and single-gendered dorms. Going lesbian is not normal. A college woman is seduced with illegal Rohypnol to go gay, otherwise they think it’s abhorrent.”

AIDS is a Candida fungus disease. Roman senators went to Roman baths to be promiscuous gays, bis, and orgiers, and then went to The Colosseum to watch Christians get mauled and perish. Do gays become sadistic? Yes. They cuss after coupling, don’t like the land they lay on, and 80% of those that did treason by the year 2000 were gaysDon’t employ gays in military, education, health, or psychology. They are the genociders, molesters, treasoners, deranged.” 

Jesus was kissed by Judas, a homo, who tried to sabotage Jesus’ kind ideas. Do you choose Jesus, a celibate, or Judas, a homo? You have to choose.”

Don’t worry, there is plenty more where those quotes came from.

Diagnosis: So no, not an influential public figure by any stretch of the imagination, but we just had to include her all the same.

Friday, November 1, 2019

#2260: Mark Sircus

Marc Sircus is a near-legendary crank and promoter of cancer woo, perhaps most familiar for his Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, which is not something you should get involved with under any circumstances. Sircus, like many quacks, are fond of adding meaningless alphabet soups to his name, and usually titles himself with “O.M.D” (“oriental medicine doctor”, which does emphatically not have anything to do with doctor or medicine, but does convey a hint of racism), as well as “Ac.” (probably “acupuncturist”) and “DM (P)”, which is new to us but may have something to do with pastoral medicine. None of the “credentials” are worth the price of the paper on which they are printed, if they are printed anywhere at all, but they are apparently good for marketing purposes. We encourage people to ponder why Sircus feels the need to add meaningless letters to his name in his promotion materials given that readers are unlikely to have the faintest clue what they are supposed to be short for, and Sircus presumably knows that they don’t. 

Sircus is so into cancer woo that he is even associated with the delusional rantings of Tullio Simoncini (both are apparently sources trusted by people like Joe Mercola). According to Sircus, “[c]ancer is, fundamentally, a relatively simple oxygen deficiency disease and the use of bicarbonate increases oxygen carrying and reaching capacity.” Or in other words: “I don’t have the faintest clue about physiology, but I am merrily making up nonsense” (explanation here if you need it). The idea that sodium bicarbonate is an efficacious treatment for cancer must count as one of the most idiotic (and vile) disciplines of cancer woo out there – though the competition is fierce – relying as it does on blatantly false, conspiracy-theory driven delusions about what cancer actually is. According to Sircus, however, and his book Winning the War on Cancer, “[s]odium bicarbonate happens to be one of our most useful medicines because bicarbonate physiology is fundamental to life and health.” This is not how “because” works (and that is not the only problem with the claim). Sircus has observed, though, that many chemotherapy treatments include sodium bicarbonate, and asks whether it could be that the results one sees when using chemo and sodium bicarbonate is the result of the latter rather than the former, and promptly concludes that it is. “There are no studies separating the effects of bicarbonate from the toxic chemotherapy agents, nor will there ever be,” claims Sircus, suggesting a conspiracy. In reality, of course –Sircus isn’t even close to reality – sodium bicarbonate has been provided as part of a chemotherapy regimens not to treat the tumor but to protect the kidneys, given that certain chemotherapy regimens cause massive tumor cell lysis, though it is less commonly added these days since questions have been raised over whether it is actually beneficial. (Moreover, a controlled trial where one group of cancer patients only gets sodium bicarbonate without chemo is not very likely to pass ethical review boards, for obvious reasons.) Bah, details: Sircus has a panacea and a conspiracy theory to underpin the claims on its behalf; details are irrelevant. Instead, Sircus goes on to claim that baking soda can cure H1N1, too.

Sircus is the leader of something called the International Medical Veritas Association (remember Badger’s Law!), which is apparently different from the infamous HIV/AIDS-denialist, antivaccine Medical Veritas International organization (Badger’s Law predicts such confusing similarities among these kinds of organizations), and also writes the IMVA blog. A telling entry on the blog is his “Cancer Still a Mystery to Medical Science”, discussed here. You can already guess the gambit he tries to use, can’t you? Yes, there is still a lot of stuff scientists don’t know about cancer – that’s why they do research – and no, that doesn’t mean that you get to fill the gaps with whatever unsupported bullshit you fancy. In fact, Sircus goes one step further: he is claiming that physicians are deliberately making money by “complicating” the subject of cancer. To Sircus and the quacks, cancer isn’t “complicated;” the complexity of cancer is just part of a conspiracy, and/or the myopia of scientists blinded by the “reigning paradigm” that cancer has something to do with cells or DNA (the “cherished chosen belief system” of scientists and physicians who defend it with “fanatical fervor”); according to Sircus, that is “just […] a theory”. The rest of the post is a long list of familiar cancer quackery, including vitamin C quackery, where Sircus cites a recent study published in Cancer Research to support his case – or rather, he doesn’t cite the study, but a news story about the study that completely misrepresents its findings, and then ignorantly proclaims that “[o]ncologists never made it to first grade as far as knowledge of nutrition and its role in health and disease.” It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or to cry. 

So, what’s really the cause of cancer? Well, I think it’s worth quoting him at some length: “The germ theory of cancer is quite legitimate though medical authorities continue to crucify Dr. Tullio Simoncini for his focus on fungus and yeast as a central part of the cancer paradigm. Long before Simoncini walked the earth we have had research connecting fungus to cancer. Fungus is a microbe, and many scientists believe viruses, fungi and bacteria are all different stages of the microbe life cycle. Neither Dr. Dannenberg nor Dr. Simoncini is a medical heretic but many subjects in our contemporary civilization are just too taboo.” One would have liked to know a bit more about the “many” scientists who don’t know the difference between fungi, viruses and bacteria (some suggestions as to where Sircus picked up the idea here), though even that claim isn’t nearly as ridiculous as the idea that Simoncini is anything resembling a legitimate scientist, however. 

Sircus is, of course, also an anti-vaccine activist, advocating (in his post “String the Bastards Up”) killing scientists at the CDC for crimes existing only in his feverish imagination: “I think these people should be lined up against a wall. Actually there is no punishment that could possibly compensate for the suffering of autism and the tragedy of vaccine deaths” and “I am calling for the conviction and the worst possible punishment under the law for certain people in government who are in the medical field.” It’s unlikely that explaining to him that vaccines demonstrably do not cause autism would help much. This is what might happen if you are unable to distinguish reasonings from violent, paranoid fever dreams. And instead of executing them, “we are letting doctors in white coats inject poisonous heavy metals into babies and paying them well for it,” laments Sircus. As telling as his baseless, conspiracy-driven hatemongering against those who are actually helping people, is the fact that no vitriol is directed against his fellow bicarbonate sodium-quacks, who are demonstrably killing people, and being paid for it, by injecting people in desperate situations with what is, in effect, poison.

Part of it all is, of course, motivated by Sircus’s hatred for real medical doctors, in particular oncologists: “Oncologists certainly don’t cure cancer since it’s illegal to even speak about curing cancer and since most of their patients die no matter what the doctors say or do.” None of those claims are remotely true of course. It is, however, true that real doctors tend to reject most of the nonsense Sircus promotes, which makes it hard for people like Sircus not to ascribe them malicious intentions. As for his own views, we are still waiting for his magnum opus, the (ostensibly) 3000-page Conquering cancer, which supposedly sums up Sircus’s various views on the topic (one recent(?) addition being electrochemical cancer quackery, discussed here), as well as his fundamental misunderstandings and lack of understanding of basic biology, physiology or medicine. 

Another one of his inventions is “natural allopathic medicine”, which according to him and his e-book is a “new therapeutic principle that revolutionizes both allopathic and naturopathic medicine offering a radical shift in medical thought and practice” that focuses on “pH management, cell voltage, magnesium and iodine medicine, cannabinoid medicine, carbon dioxide medicine, re-mineralization of the body, increasing oxygen transport and oxygenation of the tissues, opening up of blood vessels, saturation and healing of cells with concentrated nutrition via superfoods, breathing retraining, emotional transformation processing, detoxification and removal of heavy metals and radioactive particles.” Apparently you can use it to treat Ebola: “Instead of using toxic pharmaceuticals that diminish the immune system by further driving down nutritional status we use we treat and cure through the fulfillment of nutritional law.” It’s hard not to suspect that his success criterion is “no one complained”. Evidence? “Just ask an emergency-room or intensive-care-ward doctor right after he has injected magnesium chloride or sodium bicarbonate to save someone’s life.” I think we can safely say that emergency room doctors are not using magnesium chloride or sodium bicarbonate in emergency situations for their nutritional value. He doesn’t offer any other evidence for any of his claims, apart from some cherry picking and misrepresentations of some papers thrown together in a speculative jumble.

Diagnosis: When you, regarding a topic you know nothing about, disagree with everyone who knows anything about it, you should at least stop to consider the possibility that you are wrong before you conclude that everyone else is in a nefarious conspiracy against you. But that’s what people like Sircus, who have staked their careers on the second of those options, need you not to do. It does seem, however, that Sircus is a true believer rather than an outright fraud, though it’s an interesting question whether there really is a legitimate distinction to draw when you encounter characters like Mark Sircus.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

#2259: Matt Singleton et al.

Matt Singleton is a Baptist minister in Louisville who also runs an Internet talk-radio program. A staunch supporter of the nearby Ark Park, Singleton is a fierce critic of evolution, calling teachings on evolution a lie that have led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions. His criticisms have, not the least, been directed at Kentucky’s academic standards for public schools, which, as they should, include evolution: “Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion [no less!] of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,” Singleton said. “Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state” – relatively silly though possibly effective rhetorical gambit showing that someone is completely out of touch with anything resembling reality, of course.

Singleton made the comments when the Kentucky science standards were up for review in 2013. He was not the only one. Parent Valerie O’Rear, for instance, said the standards promoted an “atheistic world view” and a political agenda that pushes government control. Dena Stewart-Gore, meanwhile, suggested that the standards would marginalize students with religious beliefs, leading to ridicule and physiological harm in the classroom, and create difficulties for students with learning disabilities: “The way socialism works is it takes anybody that doesn’t fit the mold and discards them,” she said, adding that “we are even talking genocide and murder here, folks.” This would be an unusual definition of “socialism” outside of America.

Diagnosis: No, there is probably nothing you can do. It’s hopeless. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

#2258: Stephen Sinatra

Though he is, indeed, a cardiologist, Stephen T. Sinatra is better known as one of the most prominent and comprehensively lunatic woo-meisters, or “integrative medicine” practitioners, working in the US at present. In addition to being a cardiologist, Sinatra is a “certified bioenergetic psychotherapist”; we can probably safely assume that the certification is worth about as much as the bioenergetic psychotherapy it certifies. He also the proud owner of certifications from the Massachusetts Society for Bioenergetic Analysis, the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists and the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, a discipline that is emphatically not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Medical Association. All the certifications mentioned are of the kind that conveys less credibility on any practitioner bothering to obtain them. Sinatra is furthermore the author of the monthly newsletter Heart, Health & Nutrition and founder of Heart MD Institute, and proprietor of the “Healing the Heart” workshop, the psychospiritual component of a “healing” program where patients would, among other things, request guidance from “spiritual powers”. Sinatra is frequently featured on questionable talkshows, broadcasts and media outlets, including the Dr. Oz show and Suzanne Somers’s dangerously crazy book of cancer woo.

Bioenergetic psychotherapy is crackpottery based on the lunatic ravings of Wilhelm Reich, and has nothing to do with bioenergy as it is understood in real sciences – even practitioners occasionally admit that it is not science but instead “informed by science.” (It is not informed by science in any legitimate sense of the word “informed”.) Bioenergetic psychotherapy is, however, a classic tooth-fairy science underpinned by “worthless studies designed to generate false positives – the kind of in-house studies that companies sometimes use so that they can claim their products are clinically proven.”

In his books and newsletter, Sinatra otherwise promote a broad palette of quackery, from nutritional supplements to detoxification. In particular, according to Sinatra, to maintain good health you need to resolve your emotional blockages” as well as physical ones: “whenever you confront a person with an illness, you have to involve everything, including the spiritual.… Every illness has a psychological and a physical component.” (Or put more succinctly: if you’re sick, or the advice you take from him doesn’t work, it’s your own fault.) His “metabolic cardiology” seems to be a kind of energy medicine – Sinatra is a disciple of James Oschman – focusing on the use of electroceuticals such as grounding or “earthing”, ostensibly to improve the body’s capacity to heal at the cellular level (Sinatra is one of the most prominent promoters of the quackery of earthing in the US). This is not how anything works, of course. 

And by the way, apparently the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes is also directly caused by rubber-soled shoes, which insulate us from Mother Earth’s vital 3.83 Hz vibrations, a frequency that “thins our blood so it’s like red wine, not ketchup.” You don’t want your blood to be like ketchup.

So what is the rationale for earthing? As Sinatra explains it, the Earth is a reservoir of free electrons, and without a connection to this reservoir, our cells are unable to balance harmful positive charges; he also includes pictures from live cell microscopy to illustrate how positive charge makes blood cells clump. Of course, our cells don’t need an infusion of electrons and live cell microscopy is a bogus test – Sinatra’s pictures are also unable to show a positive charge, and the blood cell clumping is an artifact that anyways would be irrelevant to the alleged health effects. 

Sinatra also claims that we are bombarded by electromagnetic radiation from modern technology, which may disrupt subtle electrical communications in our body; grounding reduces these induced voltages. In reality, of course, there is  no evidence that EMF disrupts communication in our body or that grounding would offer any help whatsoever if it did (subtle” is probably a key term here). Ultimately, however, it’s all about the New Age: earthing is important since our connection with the earth carries information that helps align us with the greater network of intelligence of our planet. Try finding scientific evidence to contradict that, ye philistines. And the point about aligning with an intelligence network is wild imagination not supported by anything in science or reality.

But, ah, yes, the part of Sinatra’s claim you were waiting for: vibrations. Perhaps the (current) core idea in Sinatra’s otherwise somewhat amorphous medical philosophy is vibrations. According to Sinatra, “the whole essence of life is really vibration … when people are sick, their vibration goes down,” but “if we can increase the energy of our cellular framework … our lives will thrive … Vibration is the key to life.” What it means, or how Sinatra measures decreasing vibrations, is of course unclear (we have, of course, left the world of real medicine – or reality – far behind at this point). But he is pretty clear about what causes lowering of your “vibrational energy:

-       Drugs/Alcohol/Sugar
-       Chronic illness
-       Negative emotions – hostility, fear, anger, shame, resentment, depression …
-       Over-vaccination in the newborn and infants [Sinatra is of course anti-vaccine; what did you expect?]
-       Living in the energy of entitlement
-       Living in a false self – My life is a lie
-       Any misrepresentation of … The Truth!

That last one is rather revealing, though: This is cult-speak. Stephen Sinatra is trying to build a cult. Otherwise, you should in particular avoid consuming veal, since the angry vibrations in the flesh of animals raised inhumanely can be passed on to those who consume them. Fortunately, you can also increase your vibrations by eating “high vibrational foods,” many of which you can coincidentally and conveniently find in his online store. “[G]rounding the body, FIR sauna and the utilization of very low frequency pulsed electromagnetic waves” also help “assist the quantum energy of the body.” According to Sinatra “[t]his is the new wisdom that will assist us in the good vibe/bad vibe technological age.” “Wisdom” is certainly not an apt term for any of it.

As for EFM, “the chaotic, unseen, and unfelt environmental electrical fields we humans are increasingly exposed to from all the electronics, appliances, and telecommunications in our lives,” what is Sinatra’s evidence for harm? Well, Sinatra will baldly assert that the evidence shows that power lines cause leukemia in children, which is false, and that cell phones cause brain cancers, which is equally untrue. Primarily, however, Sinatra will point out that “[i]llnesses like multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autism have been proliferating in recent years. The incidence of cancer is up, particularly among young people,” so electropollution must be the cause. Correlation is causation, even when there is, in fact, no correlation.

Sinatra has promoted other kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense, too, of course. He is for instance co-author, with Jonny Bowden (proud holder of a “degree” from the diploma mill Clayton College of Natural Health), of the book The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will. Though less flagrantly nonsensical than his vibration woo, the book – which, to emphasize, hardly enjoys any better foundation in science than his claim that misrepresenting his claims may cause you ill-health by lowering your vibrations – is probably even more likely to cause actual harm to people than his vibration nonsense. (There is an overly fair review of the book here.)

Diagnosis: Egregious nonsense and lunatic New Age ravings, all of it. Of course, if you are able to distinguish evidence-based medical claims from lunatic New Age ravings, you are probably not in Sinatra’s target audience, and he does seem to have found one, for whom the fact that he is, indeed, an MD will probably give him some unwarranted credibility. And make no mistake: despite their laughable silliness, Sinatra’s advice has the potential to cause real and serious harm. Dangerous.