Tuesday, October 20, 2020

#2397: John Weeks

Dangerous lunatic, quack and antivaccine champion Larry Webster, of the Webster technique, has apparently passed away, disqualifying him from an entry he would otherwise have richly deserved. Remembering him nevertheless provides a useful backdrop for introducing this entry’s John Weeks, a writer, speaker and organizer and a relatively major figure in the long ongoing and disconcertingly often (though far from always) successful effort to raise the profile of quackery and pseudoscience under the title integrative health and medicine – “[w]hat was ... considered quackery or fraud [in 1989] ... is now being viewed as a normal part of doing business among insurers and others in the delivery side of medicine,” says Weeks of the movements’ successes, as if that was somehow progress. Weeks is founder/editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports and editor-in-chief of the tooth-fairy science journal the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. He has also written for e.g. Huffington Post and is the founder of a number of organizations and consortia, including the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, which he directed from 2007 to 2015. 

Weeks is a true believer in all things quackery, so at least he tends to be honest about his aims – if not his means. For instance, he explicitly explained his support for efforts to have a range of quacks and New Age practitioners officially recognized as “physicians” (so that it would be easier to confuse potential victims patients about what they are up to) by pointing out that “success in claiming the physician title, linked to privilege, status and particularly third party payment – some insurers will only cover certain services if provided by a “physician” – figured heavily in an October 2, 2009 mailing to members from the American Chiropractic Association.” At present, as Weeks sees it, MDs are viewed as kings and queens of the hill, while frauds and quacks and snakeoil salespeople are being oppressed; only a few noble mavericks like himself seem to be willing to fight for the ‘underdog’.


His organization Integrative Practitioner has even been able to offer Continuing Medical Education courses for credit by attaching itself to a medical school: In 2015, for instance, it teamed up with Mount Sinai/Beth Israel, to present the Integrative Healthcare Symposium Annual Conference, at which a physician could earn 17.75 CME credit hours by attending and be exposed to pro-woo propaganda and conspiracy theories.


The fact that someone like Weeks was appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM) is actually pretty telling – after all, JACM sometimes pretends to be a legitimate, properly ‘sciencey’ journal, though maintaining the pretension is obviously hard (articles and press releases like the brilliant example of Betteridge’s Law “Can Traditional Chinese Medicine Offer Treatments for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?” or “Deepak Chopra’s Ayurvedic Retreat Program Yields Sustained Increases in Well-Being; that’s “well-being”, not “health, and the distinction matters even though JACM presumably don’t want you to notice) – appointing Weeks obviously doesn’t help in that respect. Weeks is, notably enough, neither a physician nor a scientist, and it would be strikingly remarkable for a scientific journal to have an editor-in-chief with no scientific background. Weeks does, however, have some promotional skills, and that’s presumably what matters for such journals (indeed, Weeks himself sometimes seems to struggle with the distinction between scientific studies and marketing). Under Weeks’s leadership, JACM has continued to push articles and special issues that makes a mockery of scientific integrity in a fashion that even Answers in Genesis’s own house journal would struggle to outdo, such as the special issue on integrative oncology discussed here; another example is an entire issue devoted to trying to show that naturopathy, no less, is science-based, discussed here – the attempt failed spectacularly, of course.


Weeks is, of course, no fan of criticism of alternative medicine: He likes to portray himself as being above the fray while engaging in self-righteous whining and name-calling, saying that “science-based medicine” should be referred to “polarization-based medicine” because some adherents of science-based medicine criticize and call out frauds, scams and crackpottery, something that Weeks thinks is very combative and non-nice – indeed, Weeks says that criticizing frauds, scams and crackpottery is as “hateful as the campaign for the presidency of Donald Trump” (comparing his critics to Trump is sort of a go-to ploy for Weeks). He also likens criticism of quackery to “racial profiling” and promoting birtherism, and claims that is “anti-science because he is aware that it sounds bad to be “anti-science” even though he has only a dim idea what science actually is or how it works. Indeed, Weeks also distinctly indicates that he thinks his critics are united, making science-based medicine a sort of conspiracy. And completely predictably: Nowhere does he even attempt to address the contents of the criticisms of alternative medicine, or the damning rebuttals of results of sloppy pseudostudies promoted by his journal and organizations. It’s all about tone, and what’s bad about the criticisms is the fact that they are critical, which is mean – not that the criticisms are wrong, which they aren’t. Edzard Ernst sums up Weeks’s rhetorical tactics well: “The principle is adorably simple and effective: 1) you are faced with some criticism, 2) you find it hard to argue against it, 3) therefore you elect to attack your critic personally, 4) you claim that the criticism is insulting, 5) you re-name any criticism ‘TRUMPISM’, and 6) all is forgiven! Weeks is not even original; others have used this method before him. In fact, advocates of alternative medicine thrive on ad hominem attacks, and without them they would go nowhere.”


Of course, Weeks also likes to promote many of the regular anti-medicine tropes, such as the false claim that medical errors are a leading cause of death and the nonsensical claim that science-based practitioners do not care about prevention. 


Diagnosis: One of the leaders of the effort to increase the perceived legitimacy of woo, without (of course) doing the footwork needed to justify legitimacy. Indeed, Weeks doesn’t seem to fully recognize that such justification is needed. His writings are often rhetorically effective, we’ll grant him that, but you’ll be hard pressed to find publications with a denser concentration of fallacies and with less appreciation of how scientific and rational investigations should actually work (while claiming that he’s very scientific) than the writings of John Weeks. Dangerous.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

#2396: Trevin Wax

We have had the opportunity to deal with several fundamentalist pastors who claim that pop and rock music are tools of Satan to lure young people into depravity and damnation. Trevin Wax’s position is really the exact opposite, yet he manages to be almost equally silly about the issue of popular music and Satan. According to Wax, Satan is going around killing popular singers because music is a gift from God, and if people like the music, there’s a huge chance they’ll trace it back to the God that gave the person in question the gift of being able to sing. The artists must therefore be eliminated. The deaths of Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston all have something in common, and it’s not the obvious factors but the evil hand of Satan, no less: The Evil One not only hates it when people find joy in God [but] … he also hates it when people find joy in God’s gifts,” says Wax, and Satan works hard to eliminate such “signposts that point us to the God who loves the world enough to shower us with gifts of common grace”, leading people to squander the good gifts from above.

Trevin Wax is otherwise a pastor and managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, as well ascontributing editor to Christianity Today. He has also written some books, including Counterfeit Gospels (which argues that misinterpretations of the gospel are an even bigger threat to the church than persecution and the rise of Islam) and Holy Subversion.


Wax is unsurprisingly critical of gay rights and sexual freedom, and his tortured reasoning is actually worth having a look at as an example of the ridiculous knots opponents of such things manage to tie themselves into in their attempts to come across as reasonable. According to Wax, gay rights is a threat to freedom: “There is no such thing as absolute freedom when it comes to sexuality,” says Wax, for “[t]he moment we celebrate or endorse certain behaviors, we curtail freedom in other areas. This is the nature of freedom.” This is not the nature of freedom. Wax’s illustration is that 100 years ago, it was OK for men to be openly affectionate toward other, whereas now it is not, apparently because gay marriage is legal and homosexual relationships have become more accepted. Yes, it’s just a desperate, random and contradictory association of thoughts. That seems to be how things usually go in Trevin Wax’s attempts at reasoning. 


He is, of course, also a creationist, and has written articles in which he is “exposing the fundamentalist narrowness of scientists, not creationists” and arguing that science is based on faith just as much as religion, and therefore the Biblical account of creation is just as good as the scientific story. 


Diagnosis: Relatively typical fundamentalist purveyor of nonsense and mindrot. That people able to open doors by themselves actually listen to him and think he has anything to offer, is flabbergasting. And no, your hateful message doesn’t get any less hateful if you smile while you deliver it. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

#2395: Anthony Watts

Willard Anthony Watts is a former radio and TV weatherman and one of the leading global warming (AGW) denialists in the US today. Watts is the owner of the blog Watts Up With That, and he has joined the denialist Heartland Institute as senior fellow for environment and climate. As is typical of media weathercasters, Watts has no academic training in the physics of climate or any related disciplines. He does, however, claim to have subscribed to AGW years ago before he turned around to became a denier; the data apparently didn’t gel with his intuitions, so he began to look for ways to deny or reinterpret them. His blog was the proud recipient of the 2008 Best Science Blog prize. The year before, that prize was given to Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit blog. The prize is, in other words, not exactly a measure of scientific credibility. 

As a matter of fact, Watts comes across as rather reasonable compared to many of the deniers you may meet the Internet, which presumably makes his denialist points all the more effective. The talking points, however, are for the most part just the tired old denialist PRATTs (a few examples are mentioned here), including using cherry-picked data to claim that “look, it’s cold somewhere”. 


Interestingly, however, Watts appears to have ultimately done more to strengthen the evidence for AGW than to disconfirm it. His Surface Stations Project was introduced to show that NOAA’s weather stations had collected unreliable data. Watts, through volunteers, collected quite a wealth of data, which were published by the Heartland Institute. Of course, Watts just assumed that the data showed that the data previously used exaggerated maximum temperatures, and didn’t bother to actually do any real statistical analysis. A later, real study that bothered to do the work (published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres) and analyze Watts’s data, found that they showed that the maximum temperatures had actually been underestimated. Watts’s own new “research” in 2011 came to essentially the same conclusion. Watts didn’t change his mind.


Perhaps the best illustration of the typical denialist mindset, as embodied by Anthony Watts, is his attitudes to the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST). The BEST study was an independent (of IPCC and governments) temperature record that was be constructed using over 39,000 unique stations. Watts stated that he was “prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise. So let’s not pay attention to the little yippers who want to tear it down before they even see the results.” Of course, since it was properly carried out, BEST’s results confirmed the reliability of preexisting surface temperature records. Did Watts accept the results? Of course not. By “accept whatever result they produce” Watts meant “accept whatever result they produce, as long as it confirms what I have already determined that the results should be.”


In 2018, Watts speculated that Hurricane Willa “may stop the migrant caravan as it slams into Mexico,” referring to the Honduran refugees then attempting to seek asylum in the United States. When it was pointed out that the migrants were far removed from the storm’s path, Watts clarified by claiming that the storm’s impacts on roads and bridges would impede the caravan, “even if Soros is busing them there.” He seems to have deteriorated under Trump.


There is a reasonably comprehensive biography of Watts here.


Diagnosis: Though Watts usually manages to appear reasonable and moderate, his denialism is nevertheless a good example of how denialism works: He starts out having decided on what the conclusion is going to be, and no facts or evidence – which are already overwhelming – could even in principle change Watts’ mind. Yes, it’s dogmatism, pure and simple, and as far removed from skepticism as you could come. Watts is nothing if not influential, however, and it certainly doesn’t hurt his image that the legislators, celebrities and pundits who refer to him usually come across as far more wild-eyed, loony and silly than he does.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki, desmogblog

Monday, October 12, 2020

#2394: Brenda Watson

Brenda Watson is not a medical doctor, but an “N.D. [short for “not a doctor”], C.N.C.” (a certification given out by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, the organization that also gave a “certified professional membership” to science writer Ben Goldacre’s deceased cat Hettie for a $60 fee), and according to herself “among the foremost authorities on natural digestive care and nutrition” – “natural” being the key word, of course: you should not take her advice on actual digestive care and nutrition. Watson is a naturopath and a nutritional consultant, and proudly “holistic”. According to Watson, all health problems are related to nutrition, and treatable by detoxification and the kind of bullshit nutritional supplements she happens to sell you. 

Together with her husband Stan, Watson is the founder of ReNew Life Formulas, Inc., a company that manufactures and distributes “natural digestive care” products and “functional foods” with supplements normal people do not need. They also promote colonic irrigation, which is a strange way to get rid of some money without getting anything any reasonable person would want in return.


Her nonsense has been repeatedly promoted by the PBS, including the PBS special “Join Me on the Road to Perfect Health”, where she’s been given plenty of space to promote her products and detox nonsense. She has also written a number of books to promote the same.


Diagnosis: Just one of many, many promoters of questionable and idiotic health advice who adorn themselves with alphabet soups to convey some sort of authority to those who don’t bother to check, and who proceed entirely without concern for science, evidence or accountability. Watson, however, has been given plenty of room to promote herself by channels that really should know better (or have a bit more of a spine), and is hence worthy of an entry.


Hat-tip: Skepdic

Thursday, October 8, 2020

#2393: Paul Washer

Paul Washer is a wingnut, Taliban-style fundamentalist preacher, missionary – he is the founder of the HeartCry Missionary Society, which supports indigenous missionaries evangelizing to people of their own culture – and author. Though nominally an adherent of sola fide – salvation through faith alone – he likes to denounce activities and people and threaten them with hell for a range of activities and interests: you see, if you do not adhere to his strict rules for correct behavior, you are automatically not a “true” believer and thus not covered by the principle. He once stated that if his children were to die unsaved, he would applaud God as he cast them into Hell.

Washer is perhaps most famous for a 2002 sermon to some 5,000 kids entitled “Shocking Message!” where he warned against the evils of worldly entertainment, emphasized God’s capacity for hate, and claimed that a majority of his audience would spend eternity in hell. A recurring feature of his sermons is the idea that a woman is committing a sin if she wears clothes that shows the shape of her body at all – “I mean, that’s just logic,” said Washer, expressing a somewhat off understanding of the word “logic” – which is, of course, precisely why his intellectual allies in Afghanistan recommended burqas. 


One thing that distinguishes Washer from many fundies, however, is that he really claims that the US is the most wicked country on Earth because a large number of people who claim to be Evangelicals live a “worldly” lifestyle. Most preachers today are also too lenient and soft-minded about such issues and haven’t really taken the hate, anger and oppression that is at the core of Christianity sufficiently seriously – they are accordingly also to a large extent to blame for the moral decline of the world in general. 


Washer is of course a creationist, and has in his sermons bragged about how he is able to shut up genuine university students by bringing up punctuated equilibrium (he just mentions the expression – he doesn’t seem to have the faintest idea what it means, mistakenly thinking it refers to some sort of objection to the theory of evolution) and irreducible complexity. Yes, you are pardoned for suspecting a tall tale. Then Washer claims that acceptance of the theory of evolution is really motivated by hatred of God, his evidence being the apparent dumbfounded reaction to Washer mentioning “punctuated equilibrium” and “irreducible complexity”, and concludes that any disagreement between science and fundie-motivated denialism and pseudoscience is “not an intellectual matter as much as it is a moral matter of the will.” He has also promoted Ray Comfort’s books. 


Diagnosis: Fundie liars for Jesus are a dime a dozen, but Paul Washer is angrier and more extreme than most. He seems to have a bit of a following, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

#2392: Wade Warren

Wade Warren is a creationist and the C.J. Cavanaugh Chair in Biology at Louisiana College, an alleged educational institution whose mission includes a commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible. Warren does not appear to be an active scientist. He is, however, very active in promoting creationism and in trying to undermine public education in Louisiana (and nationally) by weakening educational standards to allow teachers to teach science denialism as science when Warren doesn’t like the science. He is also affiliated with the Louisiana Family Forum, which works closely with groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

Warren is for instance notable for his role in promoting the creationist-friendly Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, and was one of three professors from his fundie college to testify on the bill. Creation-friendly senators then went on to use Warren’s testimony to claim that the theory of evolution is, despite statements from the scientists, controversial, because wild-eyed non-scientists teaching biology at fundamentalist institution are as much of an authority as actual scientists – which was, of course, the whole intention behind inviting Warren and his colleagues to testify in the first place. In 2016, Warren was appointed to the Louisiana’s Science Standards Review Panel, together for instance with John Oller. Fortunately, the panel doesn't ultimately seem to have listened to him, even if they offered him a token consolation prize.


Warren also testified before the Texas Board of Education during their 2009 evolution hearings where he claimed not to understand why anyone would get upset about the “strengths and weaknesses” language, a claim one suspects reflects the same level of dishonesty as that language itself does. Moreover, Warren is, unsurprisingly, a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s hilariously intellectually bankrupt petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.


Diagnosis: Fundie denialist, and that someone like Warren is, at least nominally, tasked with teaching science, including biology, at something pretending to be a real educational institution is a travesty – as is, of course, the fact that being a denialist is a means to political influence in the US, however much we might be used to those dynamics by now.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

#2391: Chris Wark

Chris Beat Cancer is an anti-chemotherapy website that has managed to establish itself a relatively significant and popular source of misinformation. It is run by Chris Wark, who claims that he cured his own bowel cancer by adopting a raw vegan diet. Now, Wark did, in fact, beat cancer; that’s not in doubt. Wark underwent surgery to remove the cancer from his abdomen. Surgery alone (without chemotherapy) has a roughly 60% chance of curing stage-III bowel cancer of Wark’s type. That probability would have increased to around 75% had he also received adjuvant chemotherapy, which he refused (and for the record: Wark really doesn’t understand the difference between adjuvant chemotherapy and chemotherapy administered with curative intent). Of course, instead of attributing his survival to procedures (surgery) that demonstrably works very well against his cancer, he attributes his success to those that demonstrably don’t, and takes his survival without using means (adjuvant chemotherapy) that would have increased his high chance of survival to a very high chance of survival, to show that those means (chemotherapy) don’t work. In short: Wark survived, but his survival is certainly not due to his unusual diet, and/or him worshiping a particular God – long-term, large-population studies have been carried out to determine the impact of going vegetarian after a cancer diagnosis (surprise: it doesn’t help) – contrary to what he himself is convinced of. There is a good discussion of Wark’s story here.

What’s scary, then, is that he uses his own story, which shows nothing that even remotely supports what he claims it supports, to try to convince others to refrain from using means that might actually save them, and instead to rely on a plethora of ridiculous woo that will not – Wark, not being an official caregiver for his audience (he is not a doctor, and his spokesperson Joanna Tackett will emphasize that he “does not provide medical advice”), will of course take no responsibility for the consequences. And people do listen to Wark’s nonsense, and they die from doing so.


The Chris Beat Cancer website promotes a range of quackery, for which Chris is paid commission, including quackery pushers like Cancer Tutor, the Cancer Control Society, Veronique Desaulniers, the American Anti-Cancer Institute, CancerCrackdown, “Best Answer For Cancer”, CANCERactive, “Yes To Life”, “HealingStrong™”, Mike Adams, Keith Scott-Mumby (a poor man’s version of Mike Adams), and Ty Bollinger – Wark also appeared in Bollinger’s straightforwardly insane conspiracy flick “The Truth About Cancer”. The long list of crackpottery promoted by Wark also includes earthing, solfeggio frequencies and the bogus RGCC test.


His website also repeats various conspiracy theories, such as the idea that cures for cancer are being suppressed (those cures would apparently include laetrile) and the endlessly idiotic and often-debunked falsehood that chemotherapy fails 97% of the time and that it even helps spread cancer instead of preventing it. Yes, Wark is, together with Bollinger, one of the leaders of the “chemotherapy doesn’t work” denialist movement, a movement that has aptly been described as the new anti-vaxxers. Other silly myths pushed by Chris Beats Cancer includes the ridiculous claim thatstage 1 breast cancer is a myth” and that all stage 1 breast cancer is really stage 4 (you may perhaps sense how that myth plays a rather significant role in his otherwise thoroughly nonsensical video “How April Healed Stage 4 Breast Cancer with Nutrition and Cannabis”); Wark’s source for the claim seems ultimately to be spam, repeated on other deranged conspiracy blogs before he got hold of it. Heck, Wark even repeats – on several occasions – the easily demonstrable falsehood that since there were fewer incidents of cancer before, cancer must be (primarily) caused by modern-era pollution, completely neglecting the rather obvious explanation for the observed increase, namely that we live vastly longer and no longer tend to die from all the things that used to kill people off before they reached 40 and that cancer has always been, and remains, primarily a set of diseases associated with age(obviously so, if one understood how cancer actually works, which he doesn’t). In fact, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Wark is deliberately misinforming his readers: In a video where he tries to argue that surgery and biopsies spread cancer and cannot treat it, he cites real research, but the conclusions stated in that research contradicts what he attributes to it so blatantly that it is hard to avoid concluding that there is rank lying going on. Here and here are discussions of similar examples, and here is another one that gloriously illustrates how Wark dishonestly and ignorantly spins real studies make them look like they say the opposite of what they say and spins real developments to make them look like setbacks, at least to people who really don’t understand how things work and cannot be bothered to check Wark’s sources.


Self-styled “Cancer Mastermind Chris Wark has of course also monetized his wisdom through his own-brand “healing cancer coaching program”, Square One. In terms of money, it will cost you $197 (or so: the price varies). If you actually suffer from cancer and use Wark’s advice and reject chemotherapy, it will likely cost you far more. He does offer a refund to dissatisfied customers – it used to be a 1-year warranty, but is currently 6 months, for rather obvious reasons. He has also got testimonials, but is rather selective about which of the testimonials you’ll hear: when people he interviews subsequently die of cancer he will delete the evidence from his channel and website. Indeed, Wark’s use of this common trick is well documented; here is a discussion of one good example (among several): Wark pushing a miracle story of someone allegedly curing herself of cancer by “natural” means, only for all traces of the story to miraculously disappear from Wark’s website when said person subsequently died from the putatively cured cancer. On the other hand, Wark is ready to seize on any story he thinks he can spin to make it look like it supports his narrative with sufficient editing, including stories of people dying of cancer, where he’ll lie about the story to claim that the patient didn’t die of cancer, but died from choosing conventional treatment instead of the kind of useless, often expensive, quackery he pushes (and which, remember, wasn’t the stuff that saved him when he battled cancer).


In any case, in his own program, you will receive recommendations for Essiac tea, “Dr. Hulda Clark’s parasite cleanse formula” (yes: that Hulda Clark), colloidal silver, “black-seed expert, Dr. Roby Mitchell” (the Texas medical board described Mitchell as a “threat to public welfare” when they suspended his license in 2004), Nicholas Gonzalez’s enzyme-therapy, The Navarro Urine Test, Richard Schulze’s “herbal detoxification program”, the Gerson therapy, alkaline diets, and Jason Winters anti-cancer tea. The program’s relatively restrained quackwatch entry is here.


Wark’s 2018 book Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally garnered over 200 five-star Amazon customer-reviews in ten days (note that fakespot’s AI concluded that the reviews were likely fraudulent, without being able to recognize that reviews by cranks, crackpots or “friends of the author” are unreliable). There is a thorough review of the book here. It contains more or less what you’d expect:


-       Claiming that cancer is a new disease caused by environmental factors: Wark provides a long list consisting mostly of things that are not carcinogens. And no: GMOs have not been shown to be harmful, much less to lead to cancer, and no: coffee enemas do not help.

-       Most of the book is an attempt to blame the victim for getting cancer and failure to be cured, which is an all-too-familiar ploy among quacks and a crucial escape hatch: If their recommendations didn’t work for you, you just didn’t try hard enough. The ploy is never more obvious than in Wark’s promotion of his “Beat Cancer Mindset: you really have to want to get well, and if you didn’t get well, you didn’t really want it hard enough.

-       Silly recommendations for how to avoid cancer. Wark is of course under the misapprehension that cell phones cause brain cancer (they really don’t), and that electromagnetic fields increase cancer risk.

-       Silly dietary advice, of course, including fasting (a bad idea) and Mark Simon’s wooful and useless NORI protocol.


There is a detailed fact check of some of the claims made on Wark’s website here.


In fairness, Wark is making good money of his business and his cancer program, including kickbacks when you follow links on his site. He is not particularly forthcoming about this part, however – a chapter in his book is even titled “It’s not like I need your business”. He does.


Diagnosis: Chris Wark is certainly a true believer, but his promotion of silly and dangerous nonsense, and the dishonestly and misinterpretations that go into that, is indistinguishable from fraud. People listen, and in particular people in desperate situations, and they die. As a loon, Wark is more vile and more dangerous than most loons we cover.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#2390: James Wanliss

Yes, it’s that one again: the list of signatories to the Discovery Institute’s nonsense petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. James Wanliss is a Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, whose research and fields of expertise are completely unrelated to anything to do with evolution or biology in general. He is, however, a fundamentalist Christian. The combination of an education and fundamentalist religious beliefs makes him fairly typical of the signatories to the list.

Wanliss is probably more notable, however, for his deranged promotion of climate change denialism and anti-environmentalism (and no: he has no scientific publications in those areas either). Wanliss is for instance the author of The Green Dragon: Is Global Warming a Religion (brief review here), in which he portrays environmentalists as a “pagan world order” – according to Wanliss, “the green movement is not about science, or the environment, but is offered as an alternative to Christian faith”. Yes, it’s a conspiracy, a Satanic one: “environmentalism is no longer your friend. It is your enemy. And the battle is not primarily political or material, it is spiritual”. Because Wanliss is a Christian and if he disagrees with you about something, it means that you cannot be and that you have nefarious, ulterior motives and so on. Otherwise, Wanliss has been pushing the predictable and idiotic standard denialist myths, such as claiming that global warming has stopped.


His books, as well as other rants about environmentalism, are published by the fundamentalist, global warming denialist Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. The Alliance is also responsible for the video series “Resisting the Green Dragon”, and in 2011 they released an accompanying book titled Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death, also written by Wanliss.


Wanliss also appears on James Inhofe’s dishonest list of 650 scientists who supposedly dispute the global warming consensus, and Wanliss is thus one of five signatories sufficiently anti-science to appear on both the Inhofe and Discovery Institute’s list. The fact that he does ought of course to undermine any value his signature to either might otherwise have seem to have had, though the general quality of Wanliss’s anti-science contributions should really do so on its own. He was also a signatory for instance to a Cornwall Alliance open letter supporting Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator under the Trump administration, and which stated for instance that “Mr. Pruitt has also demonstrated understanding of and open-mindedness toward scientific insights crucial to the formulation and implementation of environmental regulation,” a claim that one its own should qualify any signatory for an entry in any encyclopedia of loons.


There is a more comprehensive biography of James Wanliss here.


Diagnosis: All-round science denialist, and his denialists screed are permeated by religious fundamentalism to the extent, and in ways, that it makes it hard for him to claim that his denialism is in any way based on science. As such, his contributions should really harm rather than help his causes, but it is probably overly optimistic to hope that this is how it will pan out. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

#2389: Dee Wampler

Dee Wampler is a Missouri-based attorney (or, for the moment, ex-attorney), writer and wingnut conspiracy theorist. He is probably most famous for his book The Myth of Separation between Church and State, a sort of poor man’s David Barton rant. The book takes as its point of departure the claim that “even a precursory glance at the first amendment easily shows it was meant to protect freedom of religion, not to protect government from religion,” which is a strange formulation of a claim no one would, if read quickly, disagree with. (As you’d expect the rather contrived distinction made in that claim gets twisted into the silliest conclusions in Wampler’s book.) 

Wampler also featured in Truth in Action Ministries’ unhinged conspiracy flick “The Dumbing Down of America”, which set out to expose the “sinister” agenda of the public education system. In the movie, Wampler went ahead and blamed public education for “everything bad that is happening in our country today,” led by communist teachers who seek “the eradication of Christianity.” Otherwise, Wampler is a tireless warrior at the frontlines of the imaginary War on Christmas.


Diagnosis: Yes, that kind of guy. We can’t be bothered with too much detail here, insofar as it is easy to tell precisely where they’d be headed. Worth mentioning all the same, in case anyone stumbles across any of his very silly books.

Friday, September 25, 2020

#2388: Mike Walsworth

Mike Walsworth is a former member of the Louisiana State Senate, representing District 33 from 2008 until he was term-limited in 2020. He previously served in the Louisiana House of Representative (1996–2008). Walsworth’s career is marked by his stalwart attempts to maintain Louisiana’s reputation as a backwards hole of fundamentalism and science denial, and he was a major supporter of Louisiana’s Academic Freedom Act, which in practice allows teachers to promote creationism and anti-science in public schools under the “teach the controversy” label.  

Walsworth himself is no fan of science, and this video is instructive: Walsworth is questioning a science teacher about teaching evolution, asking whether there was an experiment that would prove the theory of evolution “without a shadow of a doubt.” That, of course, is not how science works, but the teacher did mention Richard Lenski’s famous E. coli experiment, upon which Walsworth responded with a typical creationist gotcha question, namely whether the bacteria evolved into a person. No, Walsworth doesn’t have the faintest idea about what the theory of evolution actually says, and doesn’t hesitate to use his legislative powers to ensure that Louisiana’s kids won’t either. Walsworth also sponsored House Bill no. 580 in 2011 (which, sponsored by Frank Hoffman, had sailed through the house), which would allow local public schools to decide on their own to use state money for purchasing any textbooks they want, including, in principle flat-earth textbooks (not inconceivable in Louisiana). The bill was, of course, intended to promote creationism. Fortunately it died in the Senate.


When the Louisiana creationist act was up for repeal in 2016, Walsworth was of course among those voting to keep it, as did rabid young-earth creationist Sen. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport), Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) and Sen. Mack “Bodi” White (R-Baton Rouge).


Diagnosis: Idiocy and ignorance even by creationist state legislator standards. And though Walsworth has been term limited, we wouldn’t bet on the situation in Louisiana improving much.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

#2387: Lance Wallnau

Director of the Lance Learning Group, a Dallas-based “strategic teaching and consulting” company, Lance Wallnau is currently one of the leaders of the militant wing of the American Taliban. An uncompromising dominionist and self-declared prophet who regularly posts “prophetic insights”, Wallnau is one of the central characters in the New Apostolic Reformation and a promoter of the seven mountains ideology. And he has a frightening amount of power and influence. 

The central goal for the New Apostolic Reformation is to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence: government, arts and entertainment, business, family, media, religion and education. Here is Wallnau using his trademark Magic Marker illustrations to explain how these “mountains” of influence are currently being occupied by Satan and how it is a Christian duty to take them back. We’ll take Wallnau’s views on the mountains in turn.



Like many dominionists, Wallnau is a vocal supporter of president Trump, having declared that “God has given this man an anointing for the mantle of government in the United States and he will prosper!” and dedicated a section of his website to explaining (or whatever you choose to call it) why “Trump is the guy that God is going to use” and how he is thus like both king Cyrus and like Samson. In fact, Wallnau has declared that Trump himself is a prophet, partially based on inaccurate and false claims (with conspiracy mongering) in Trump’s tweets.


Indeed, Wallnau tends to refer to President Trump as his “king (parading his victory over his politicial rivals with the heads of his enemies), which is a fine illustration of his general view of democracy and the American system of governance. No, he doesn’t care about the Constitution. He does, apparently, not really care about the Bible either apart from when it can be interpreted as saying what he has already decided he wants it to say.


With regard to the release of the “Access Hollywood” recording on which Trump bragged about getting away with sexually assaulting women, Wallnau said that the video was God’s way of humbling Trump, so that “now he’ll know if he gets elected, it was an act of God,” calling this public humbling of Trump “the circumcision he never got.” 


Although God is using Trump to block Satan’s rise to power, Wallnau warns us that “the spirit of Jezebel” is resisting Trump’s divine mission to save America and vanquish the “one-world order” and “globalist one-world movement,” which is a Satanic plot to pave the way for the Antichrist. The Satanic/demonic connection is presumably important for understanding why liberals are waging a spiritual “jihad” against Christians: “there’s spiritual warfare going on and it’s primarily coming from the left and it’s coming from a spirit that is manifesting there,says Wallnau. “The left is crazy” and the Democrats are 20th Century Pharisees, but the primary evidence for demonic foul play seems to be that “liberals are miserables. You’ll never see a happy liberal. Liberals are always protesting something. They are the essence of discontent; never happy and politicize everything,” as opposed to people like Wallnau, who see things through the lens of a spiritual war between good and evil and therefore don’t distinguish religion from politics. Indeed, according to Wallnauanyone who criticizes Trump is obviously under the control of Satan.


Wallnau has accordingly concluded that Trump is being attacked by a “leviathan spirit” that seeks to “dismember his credibility.” The attack is carried out by liberals who are under demonic control, just like Hitler was (kids protesting for better gun control to prevent more school shootings are also just like Hitler’s Brownshirts, by the way). It was the leviathan spirit that for instance successfully worked to “divide the Bannon/Trump team and which might more recently have been involved in John Bolton’s book (Wallnau bases his assessment on the fact that it seems to contain things critical of Trump), and it is apparently empowered by “witchcraft” that liberals are occasionally deploying: the real reason millions of people marched against Trump the day after his inauguration, for instance, was that upon taking office, Trump evicted an evil spirit of witchcraft from the White House, causing that demonic spirit to go out into the general populationWhat I believe is happening is there was a deliverance of the nation from the spirit of witchcraft in the Oval Office,” said Wallnau. “The spirit of witchcraft was in the Oval Office, it was about to intensify to a higher level demon principality, and God came along with a wrecking ball [Trump] and shocked everyone, the church cried out for mercy and bam – God knocked that spirit out, and what you’re looking at is the manifestation of an enraged demon through the spirit.” And Wallnau himself is helping Trump/God in his efforts: in 2018, for instance, he hosted an emergency prayer session on his Facebook page, during which he took command over the “demonic” cloud of “witchcraft and curses” that has been attacking President Trump and blew it away (he literally blew into his cell phone). But you have to remember to pray for Trump’s family too; Trump may be impervious to the spells of leftist witches, but when those spells bounce off him they might hurt his family


Given that the left is being guided by the “Marxist, communist, crazy and lawless” spirit of the Antichrist (Sen. John McCain, for instance, might have been “under demonic influence, Ocasio-Cortez is in a cult and “not intelligent” Kamala Harris is driven by a “Jezebel spirit and was chosen by the “deep state” to “do what Obama wants her to do, which is to undo Trump’s legacy”) and using both “Nazi propaganda” and “basic voodoo hypnotism” as weapons against Trump, it is no wonder that he God (Wallnau seems constantly confused by the distinction) is telling Christians to “shut up” and stop criticizing President Trump. One supposes that some Christians are occasionally confused into thinking that Trump’s political decisions are about politics, and they’re not: Trump’s wall, for instance, isn’t about Mexico, according to Wallnau, but about Biblical prophecy. So rather than criticize, Christians must united behind Trump, for he is a miracle worker laboring to break the demonization of culture, and “if you don’t go through the window of God when God’s got the window open,” then the opportunity will be lost. And make no mistake, the progressives’ Baal is coming for all Christians to throw them in the lion’s den; it is only a matter of (short) time. At the very least, Christians need to eliminate every “leftist” from the government in order to stop Nazis, who are on the march (univocally supporting Trump), becase “you can no longer be in neutral when the Nazis are on the march”. Only that way can they help bring about the End Times, which is the explicit goal.


Wallnau also credited Trump with saving the life of Steve Scalise during the 2017 shootings, just like he – with the support of Wallnau’s prayers – has saved so many others.


Though Wallnau seems to view himself as a sort of John the Baptist to Trump as Jesus, and although that would make them an impressive couple, they apparently need help, too. In 2017, Wallnau called on God to take His “sword out from heaven” and use it to deal with Trump’s enemies. As a matter of fact, God has helped Trump before, for instance when He smote allowed the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to die before the 2016 presidential election in order to motivate conservatives and Christians to vote for him. Fortunately Trump is currently watched over by the very same angel that protected Ronald Reagan. The help is still needed because Trump’s enemies are united (yes, Wallnau is of course a deranged conspiracy theorist): a 2019 suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans was for instance, as Wallnau imagines it, “coordinated” by defense contractors opposed to Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from the country.


Some other examples of conspiracies: the bombs that were sent to various Democratic leaders and members of the media in 2018 were a false flag operation: “I’m telling you, I think it’s ALL a set up. It’s not the Trump base behind these bombs any more than it’s them funding those mobile mobs;” rather, it is presumably the CIA – in fact, when the perpetrator was caught, Wallnau concluded that he was obviously possessed, and demons are working for the liberals, aren’t they? The same year Wallnau prophesied, based on passages from the Old Testament, that “the entire deep state intrigue” against President Trump would be exposed by June 6, and it would bemassive disclosures, a virtual hemorrhaging of information”. When that didn’t happen, for obvious reasons, Wallnau insisted that his prophecy had actually come true but that the proof was “being suppressed,” and claimed that a Department of Justice inspector general report that had just been released would “vindicate” him. It didn’t, but Wallnau nevertheless claimed victory by shouting very loudly that it did. (The Bible, after all, tends to take a rather dim view of false prophets, so it is somewhat important for Wallnau to avoid that rather obvious association.) Wallnau has repeatedly ranted about the deep state, and even when his rants don’t involve demons, most of his claims are based purely on his paranoid imagination – it’s not like he is misconstruing things or being inaccurate: were he not delusional, everything he says would have counted old-fashioned, baldfaced lying.


Also in 2018, Wallnau said that the Unite the Right rally was a liberal false flag operation organized by the left in order to get all of the left-wing activists funded – because there has, according to Wallnau, never been a white supremacy movement in America.


In reward for his efforts, Wallnau has been granted access to Trump’s inner circle, for instance when discussing peace plans for the Middle East.


Wallnau and his accomplices have helped Trump with international politics in other ways too, however, such as when a group of “key intercessors” had to go to Singapore to fight a spiritual battle against demons unleashed by other Christians who had prayed against Kim Jong-un to “cleanse” the area for the Trump-Kim summit in 2018; these anti-Kim-Jong-un Christians had unwittingly released demonic forces through “destructive” prayers, and the other intercessors had to go to the location of the summit where “they ran into was darkness that was shrouding this because of word curses from Christians. As they went up in the spirit, they saw demonic hosts that had been authorized by the anger and the fear and the utterances that were unauthorized by believers. And so, in a sense, these word curses were wrapped around the event and they had to repent on behalf of Christians for cursing.” Fortunately, the intercessors succeeded and opened the door for “North Korea to flourish with Christ.”


Arts and entertainment

Hollywood has been an enemy of good Christians for a while, but according to Wallnau “God is now visiting Hollywood.” The sexual abuse scandals that have been rocking Hollywood, in particular, are God’s judgment on the entertainment industry for criticizing President Trump (rather than for, you know, sexual abuse, which doesn’t really matter that much to Wallnau’s God, whoever He might be.)


As for the NFL protests in 2017, Wallnau concluded that Satan is behind the whole thing, working through the “spirit of globalism”, which, by the way, is also “what the climate accord is all about. I always thought there was something demonic and suspicious about these things. Now I get it.” 



In 2012, Wallnau explained that the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged as a result of the fact that the Devil, and not wingnut fundies, was in charge of Wall Street banks, which unsurprisingly led to the economic crisis in 2008. Along with the economics mountain, “the Devil will send kings” to the different cultural mountains, such as government media, arts and education, to “screw it up,” at least as long as government leaders are “under the Kingdom of Darkness”, which they were in 2012, and it is the responsibility of people with a “biblical worldview” to “dominate” each of the Seven Mountains.


Things have improved. In 2018, Wallnau told his viewers not to worry about any decline in the stock market because there is no way that God will allow the United States to suffer as long as President Trump is in office – although in 2017, God did cause the stock market to drop to punish CEOs who were critical of Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville violence. Economics is really a branch of wingnut theology.


As for his personal finances, Wallnau has dutifully used Facebook to repent to his followers for the “sin” of not asking them to send him money.



Wallnau is, not entirely surprisingly, no fan of gay marriage. And it is really Satan, working through “globalists”, who is behind things like gay rights: globalists are deliberately pushing policies “that eradicate the definition of things like marriage, gender and borders because they love to create chaos as a means of empowering an elite to come in and clean up after it.”



As mentioned above, President Trump is, according to Wallnau, repeatedly being attacked by a “leviathan spirit” that seeks to “dismember his credibility.” The purpose of that spirit, Wallnau said, is to “twist the meaning of things” in order to create strife, and it is currently working through the media “to assault Donald Trump.” The media is, in other words, currently paving the way for the Antichrist, and CNN and NBC are run by false prophets. In particular, the “CNN does more to rape the reputation of the United States and destroy our influence as a democracy than any other organization in media history. They are the enemy of more than the people, they are the first phase of the emerging ‘False Prophet’ of Revelations.” Wallnau putatively doesn’t like false prophets. More specifically, the media is like “Pharaoh as they are in pursuit of this president with false allegations and accusations in the echo chamber of the deceived, causing Americans to be confused and bewildered because of the lies and the propaganda that come out of the mouth of the false prophets.” Bewildering lies and propaganda flowing from the mouth of false prophets indeed. 


In response to the media’s stories, Wallnau commanded God to send an angel to protect Trump – Wallnau’s requests to God have gradually become more assertive, such as when he warned God to get off his butt and help him (Wallnau) smite his (Wallnau’s) enemies because otherwise He (God) is gonna look really bad.


In 2017, Wallnau hailed “the king” Donald Trump for taking on his enemies in the media by calling critical reports about him “fake news”, asserting that since God has anointed Trump, members of the media will only suffer when they challenge him. Accordingly, when Trump have reporters removed from events, he is really casting out demons



According to Lance Wallnau, Lance Wallnau is so holy that he literally sparkles and his meetings are so anointed that he keeps “getting this gold dust and glitter on my face” because of the presence of angels. (The angels in this particular instance were on assignment to take control of the media for Jesus, which is why “the New York Times and CNN [are] in such deep doo-doo and what’s happening with Hollywood and Johnny Depp and Bill Maher and all the big mouths and the crazies as they’re running their mouths; God is literally taking the wheels off of the chariot of pharaoh as he’s trying to persecute what God is doing” through President Trump.)


Wallnau’s holiness also ensures that his prayers are particularly effective. In 2017, for instance, he commanded Hurricane Irma to change its projected path away from Florida by repeatedly and passionately ordering the storm to dissipate and turn out into the Atlantic Ocean. That obviously didn’t happen. Wallnau nevertheless declared victory. He also suggested that the storm didn’t damage any of President Trump’s properties in Florida because Trump is protected by God: “that was a demonic storm … The Lord didn’t send it, the devil is loosing chaos in America,” which means that men as holy as Donald Trump are safe. Later the same year he unsuccessfully tried to command hurricane Maria to turn away from Puerto Rico, thanking the Lord for “giving us power over the elements because they have to submit to the authority of Jesus on the earth.”


Though perhaps not as aggressively scared of Halloween as some of his fellow prophets, Wallnau has pointed out that the end of October is when “Christians focus on Harvest themes and pagans focus on Halloween,” which makes it “a great time of year to do evangelism if you build it around the END TIMES and SPIRIT REALM teaching.” He also offered a spell recipe for breaking witches’ curses, based on his audio manual “Breaking Controlling Spirits and Leviathan”.


In 2017, Wallnau prophesied that in January 2018, Trump was going to have an encounter with God that would lead him to begin quoting the Bible “at an unprecedented rate.”



No fan of higher education, for the obvious reason that intelligent and knowledgeable people tend to disagree with him, Wallnau has claimed that college professors are “priests of Baal” and “intellectual pedophiles molesting the virgin territory of your children’s imaginations.”


When Katherine Stewart criticized the anti-science attitude of the religious right in a New York Times column, Wallnau was outraged, though: “I don’t want my children to live in a world where they can get publicly raped by the New York Times and have people stigmatized [about] their religion because they’re told that Christians are anti-scientific.” Yes, science is a demonic plot by intellectually pedophilic scientists at Baal-run institutions, but pointing out that he is anti-science is “publicly raping” him. He is so persecuted it’s hard to believe.



In 2013, Wallnau prophesied that God is going to give Christians “technology that can heal diabetes” within months, along with technology “that is going to revolutionize our dependence on oil and energy.” The new discoveries would only be “given to Kingdom-minded believers” and not sold to benefit the general public, however, although he urged that the diabetes cure be shared with “top layers of the political elite” of the Chinese Communist Party in order to gain access to their government and help spread the Gospel.


In 2017, he claimed Milo Yiannopoulos (remember him?) “in the name of Jesus for the Kingdom of God”, predicting that Yiannopoulos would soon be going to undergo a radical religious conversion and, by leading campus revivals, lead an army of millennial prophets who will take on the left. If you ever wondered how the children’s crusades could have happened, Wallnau is how they could have happened.


There is a good Lance Wallnau resource here.


Diagnosis: Thinking that people who disagree with you must be possessed by demons, and that whenever you are wrong about anything you are really right but demons make it look otherwise, are not indicators of a healthy mind. But it is certainly part of the job description for leadership in the New Apostolic Reformation. Lance Wallnau is a deranged, rabid, hateful and ridiculous man, but he is also frighteningly powerful.