Monday, October 25, 2010

#91: Ken Cuccinelli

This is a difficult one. Vileness and punditry would usually not be sufficient for inclusion in our encyclopedia, but when the vileness is bred by ignorance, denialism and a general anti-scientific stance, I suppose it should – possibly – qualify.

Ken Cuccinelli is the Virginia Attorney General, and is most famous for his persecution of scientists who obtain results he does not like, trying to threaten them into silence by issuing groundless subpoenas. Described and discussed here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (and many other places). Even other denialists, such as MacIntyre, thought Cuccinelli’s stunt was over the top. That tells you something.

In my eyes, this counts as lunacy, and should be sufficient for inclusion. If you disagree, then Cuccinelli also led a rabid, flailing attack on Virginia’s state seal since it depicted the goddess Virtus with a bare breast. That should do the trick in any case.

Cuccinelli also argued extensively that universities in Virginia were not allowed to prohibit discrimination against gays. Apparently gays aren’t protected by the 14th Amendment since the people who wrote it didn’t like sodomites.

Diagnosis: Bigoted asshole and ignorant, anti-science nutcase. He is, however, frighteningly powerful – a real threat to science, rationality, liberty and civilization.

#90: Tom Cruise

All right – does this one really need an explanation? Rationalwiki calls him “an outspoken critic of sanity”. Cruise is, according to Miscavige (head of the Church of Scientology) comparable to Jesus Christ, and will spread the word of Hubbard around the world. According to some, he is the church’s second most powerful member. Short biography here.

Diagnosis: Utterly out of touch with reason, sanity and reality. It’s hard to determine how dangerous he is, but his church has clearly done a lot of stupid over the years.

#89: Robert Crowther

Well, the possibly mythical David Crowe, if he exists, is allegedly Canadian, so we’ll move on to the annoying crackpot Robert Crowther, Director of Communications at the Center for Science Culture (part of the Discovery Institute) and contributer to the Discovery Institute blog “Evolution News and Views”. Pretty much a stock loon, in other words. He was – predictably – very excited by the Expelled movie in a typically clueless manner.

Crowther has, in other words, not a clue about science or critical thinking, and commits all the usual fallacies (thinking that hard questions for Biology are evidence for religion, strawman fighting, red herrings etc.), and has no problems with just making things up. Good at moving goalposts, and has a serious persecution complex. Doesn’t like the peer review process, since it favors evolution over religion.

Calls himself a libertarian agnostic, but is of course nothing of the sort (a theocrat).

Diagnosis: Obsessive crackpot with little grasp of critical thinking. As expected. While Crowther isn’t the biggest profile of the Disco Institute, he’s part of an organization that must still be considered dangerous.

#88: John Crowder

Crowder is the leader of The New Mystics, who believe that people should be "drunk on the holy spirit" and therefore basically act like morons all the time. Here’s a brief introduction.

For a more thorough introduction, you can suffer through the whole ecstasy of God series.

Their website is here. Among Crowder’s associates are his wife (I think) Lily, and the incorrigibly idiotic Benjamin & Stephanie Dunn (“junkies for the word of God”), and Dave Vaughan (of the New Ecstatics). The equally insane people at Deceptionbytes (C. Peter Wagner and Chuck Pierce?) think it is blasphemous, of course.

Diagnosis: Back slowly away. By following these links you’ll enter an almost endless maze of worm-pits of delusion and insanity. These people are scary, and influential enough (I assume) to be considered dangerous. This one sums it up nicely.

Monday, October 18, 2010

#87: Don & Carol Croft

If you think our last couple of loons were a little low-key, with the Crofts we’re firmly back in tinfoil territory. Listen, for example, to this arbitrarily selected, bitingly convinced and well-informed little quote from Don (on the healing properties of gemstones): “There are books that can teach you the properties of gemstones and minerals and these properties are greatly enhanced by orgonite. My favorite, because it's based on a combination of intuition and empirical testing, is Michael Gienger's CRYSTAL POWER, CRYSTAL HEALING. I don't personally care much for channeled literature because there's no science behind it. Science and spirituality are inseparable, in my opinion. Leaving one or the other out of our personal life leaves us either materialistic or superstitious but when they're in harmony, we're
empowered and intelligent.”

Croft keeps using terms such as “empirical testing” and “science”. I do not think they mean what he thinks they mean.

Don & Carol invented 'tactical' orgonite devices called Orgone generators (as well as adding crystals to enhance their effect) named the Holy Hend Grenade (I’m not sure they get the MP reference), Towerbuster and Cloudbuster to deal with Chemtrails, HAARP & Death towers among other applications (Laozu is opening earth energy vortices with TBs), as well as inventing an orgonite zapper, and energy weapons to deal with the dark side attacks. Orgone energy is apparently “possibly the same or similar to life force energy, chi, or prana”. If you remember, this is really Wilhelm Reich’s idea (here; see our entry on Alan Cantwell). The Crofts are etheric warriors you see, zealously engaged in battles against powers only they can see (though they do claim it’s taking a lot of lives). The best evidence of the power of orgone energy in combating the ruling Nazi parasites is apparently deduced from the way they murdered Dr Reich, and burnt 6 tons of his books, journals and papers (seems a little weak to me, but OK). That there is such a Nazi-conspiracy controlling information is proven by the fact that the original Wikipedia page was deleted, as was the entry for Don Croft. That can only be a conspiracy, right? The Crofts are, in other words, among the ur-tinfoil-hatters and into both the chemical conspiracy and the HAARP conspiracy. And of course they have their own site(s), including one that describes their adventures (among other things their realization that the Red Cross is a masonic organization).

Most notably, though, is their campaign against cell phone towers. I guess most readers are aware of the completely unsupported and unsupportable claim that such towers are a health hazard, but the Crofts take it one step further. In Don’s own words, he “campaign[s] to help genuinely inquisitive people get past the falsely promoted idea that the towers are for cellphones […] They’re simply not; they’re for destroying the atmosphere and for making everyone sick. They’re also used to target individuals in the population in conjunction with GPS.” The evidence? “Dr von Peters, who spends a lot of time teaching in various medical schools in Russia, told me unequivocally that he's seen absolutely NO death towers in that country, though everyone has a cellphone.” In other words, these towers simply must be part of a conspiracy to kill innocent people. Luckily orgonite is an antidote, so the Crofts and their followers will stay untouched. A perfect system, in other words.
Don and Carol Croft also have a special affinity with cetaceans. Apparently dolphins are some kind of ethereal safeguarding angels of something, unbound by the laws of this world. Don Croft has, for instance, a video of dolphins manipulating gravity. A lot of dolphin stuff can be found here (this is fluffgobbling insanity gone wild, so be prepared).

Diagnosis: Totally beyond reason and sanity; utterly unhinged. They can hardly be considered a major threat to humanity, however.

#86: Robert Haig Coxon

Robert Coxon is associated with Kryon, which has been previously covered. According to their website, Coxon is “undoubtedly one of the great composers reincarnated. If you are looking for a perfect blend of New Age and classical music, this is it!” Apparently the musician behind the Kryonites (an important part, it seems), Coxon also has an “interest in trying to test music scientifically... finding where the interdimensional parts are that touch and heal people, as he has seen his music do, for years”. Coxon has, according to the bio, had several no.1 hits (although the bio is reluctant to add the disclaimer “on Canadian New Age Charts”).

Yes, you’ll hear other musicians making grandiose, flaky claims for their music as well. Coxon, however, takes the dimensionally transcending-, channeling- and healing potentiality-talk literally. Listen to his music, and it’ll literally transport you to a different dimension and literally heal your diseases. His website is here.

You can buy his products here.

Diagnosis: Snowflake; harmless but profoundly looney.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#85: Martin Cothran

Fellow traveler with the Discovery Institute creationists, global warming denier, shill for James Dobson and Pat Buchanan, sycophant who defends Buchanan’s holocaust denial while at the same time accusing Obama of being an anti-semite.

A staunch opposer of gay marriage (claiming that it’s not really a question of marriage, since marriage by definition is between man and woman) and an affiliate of the hardcore fundamentalist group Focus on the Family. Theoconservative.

Nothing particularly notable about these views, of course. What makes Cothran notable (for the purposes of this Encyclopedia) is the fact that Cothran is a logic teacher (at a small private school) and has written an Intro to Logic textbook. One would have to conclude that Cothran the logic teacher is a real, living Chinese Room. He is further discussed here.

Diagnosis: Stock loon and bigoted theocrat. Unimportant and hardly notable were it not for his background.

Monday, October 11, 2010

#84: Jerome Corsi

Paranoid, right-wing loon and conspiracy theorist, columnist for World Net Daily, and prolific author who has hit upon the most effective rhetorical strategy there is: just lie. Outright, all the time, and if anyone catches you lying, just lie more. Just invent the facts – some people will believe you.

Among Corsi’s conspiracy theories are the NAFTA highway, the alleged plans for a North American Government, criticism of the United States government for allegedly covering up information about the 9/11, the abiotic theory of petroleum (arguing that oil is produced from chemical reactions in the Earth, rather than from biological matter – in fact, the argument isn’t mainly the usual creationist ones, but arguments from the conspiracy that oil is a scarce commodity), and that the United States (i.e. the Democrats) really support Iran in their attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

As a matter of fact, Corsi’s attacks haven’t only been directed at the Democrats; he also alleged that a Muslim terrorist group group with ties to criminal drug networks and al-Qaida has given "strong support" to John McCain, and that "the Republican Party is controlled by what used to be called the ‘Rockefeller Wing'”. Politically, Corsi backs Chuck Baldwin, who has already been covered in our Encyclopedia.

Corsi’s most famous achievment was his 2004 book “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” the book that (dishonestly) started the rumors of Kerry’s “cowardice” in the Vietnam war. Purely made up, of course, but the distinction between truth and falsity has always been blurry (or rather unimportant) for people like Corsi. His equally non-factual book on Obama, book The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, was released in 2008. More on Corsi’s antics can be found here.

He frequently hangs out with White Supremacists, and with Alex Jones (who will be covered here in due time; don’t worry). He is also (in addition to being a Troofer) a Birfer and spends a lot of time warning people about the planned, Government-run concentration camps.

Even right-wing pundits like Medved think Corsi is a kook. That should tell you something.

Diagnosis: Utterly unhinged, pathologically unable to distinguish truth from falsehood from fantasy from opinion. Has had a huge impact, however and must be considered severely dangerous.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

#83: Bob Cornuke

Explorer, adventurer and Worldview Weekend Speaker with dubious credentials who found Noah’s Ark back in 2006.

Bob led a team consisting of several business, law, and ministry leaders including Barry Rand (former CEO of Avis), the best-selling author and Christian apologist Josh McDowell, Frank Turek (co-author with Norm Giesler of I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist), Boone Powell (former CEO of Baylor Medical Systems), and Arch Bonnema (president of Joshua Financial). (Unfortunately they had to drop the geologists and archaeologists for the expedition.) So ok, they didn’t actually find the boat itself, but a basalt dike that looked uncannily boatlike and that they needed to “keep an open mind about”.

The Ark was, by the way, also famously discovered by the late Ron Wyatt a couple of years before he died (I don’t think Wyatt’s assistant, Jim Pinkoski, deserves a separate entry, despite his boundless idiocy; Wyatt also found the Ark of the Covenant, and his “Wyatt Archaelogicial Research” is still going strong).

The Ark was also discovered this year, but Cornuke was skeptical of the alleged find.
Diagnosis: Flamboyant ultraloon and crackpot. Utterly insane, but unimportant and mostly fun.

#82: Billy Corgan

Erstwhile leader of the band Smashing Pumkins and dangerously medically ignorant. Anti-vaccinationist, new-ager and conspiracy theorist educated by confirmation bias and the University of Google, discussed here.

It goes without saying, but celebrities are not medical authorities.

Diagnosis: Noob

#81: Salvador “Sal” Cordova

Here is another slimy, dishonest creationist and liar for Jesus. Cordova's style is well exemplified here.

He is neither the most influential nor the stupidest of the creationists, but he is probably the most vile and dishonest. He has absolutely no scruples concerning quote-mining, twisted misrepresentations and blatant, bald-faced lying to make a rhetorical point which might, at first, seem convincing to the ignorant. Another example is this one.

Cordova teaches at the George Mason University and is a firm Bill Dembski acolyte and disciple (writes on Dembski’s blog, which I will not link). Apparently he really thinks that he has come up with challenges to evolution that scientists cannot manage/don’t dare to try to answer.

Of course, Cordova does not even begin to have the background to do biology, but what’s more, he doesn’t even have the slightest idea about what constitutes scientific inquiry or how to distinguished good arguments from fallacies. Here are some further examples.

And here, Cordova's associate Tim McGrew comes clean as a dishonest idiot as well.

Cordova really doesn’t have a clue about anything even remotely related to science.

Diagnosis: Lunatic jerk. Liar for Jesus, crackpot and moron. Impact is probably negligible.

#80: Kenneth & Gloria Copeland

Among the most prominent pieces of New Age lunacy is “The Law of Attraction” – basically, if you really wish for something, you exert positive energy that’ll bring it about – as formulated e.g. by the followers of (the Australian and therefore ineligible for our Encyclopedia) Rhonday Byrne, of The Secret fame, and her disciples (e.g. Michael B. Beckwith, who has been covered). But the idiotic Law of Attraction is not a new idea – in fact, it is the foundation for the “blab it and grab it”-theology (or “prosperity gospel”) made famous by numerous seriously wealthy televangelists. For an introduction, see this. The movement may also be partially to blame for the financial crash.

Among the most prominent prosperity gospel televangelists; Kenneth is also the mentor of Mike Huckabee. Kenneth Copeland is a Texan faith whose show, "The Believer's Voice of Victory", is featured on Paul Crouch's Trinity Broadcasting Network and many local TV stations. He teaches a theology he calls "Word of Faith", also called name it and claim it by critics. He is criticized for taking donations from cancer patients who believed his teachings that God would heal them as a result of donating, for leaving business partners in debt, and for spending funds donated to the ministry on lavish personal vacations in his Cessna jet.

He also sits on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.

A selection of quotes, discussed by an equally ardent but disagreeing fundamentalist; same goes for this selection. Someone apparently also believes he is actually a 33rd degree Freemason and part of The Conspiracy.

Diagnosis: Professional con artists (both of them), but I have no reason to think they don’t actually believe the rubbish they preach. Kenneth is a master of public relations with lots of powerful friends, so he seems to have some influence but probably little lasting impact.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

#79: Ray Comfort

A.k.a The Banana Man

Quite possibly the densest man on earth, and at the very least the guy behind the famous banana argument (probably the stupidest argument on the Internet, and the competition is pretty fierce). Watch it here in all its glory (the sound isn’t the best – maybe there’s a better version around).

Subject to a thorough (and hilarious) analysis here.

One curiosity, though: As other commenters have pointed out, since the main thrust of the argument is that the banana is clearly designed for its purpose (being eaten) by fitting perfectly in the human hand and mouth, the argument should also be extendable to other, roughly banana-shaped items that also fit well in various human orifices or hands (but which fundies tend to claim should be kept out of these). Keeping that in mind, pay attention to (roughly) 0.39–0.42, where Comfort says: “when you pull the tab [of the banana] the contents don’t squirt in your face”. Why does Comfort fear or think that a banana would squirt in his face? What is really going on here?

Comfort is New Zealand-born, but operates in the US, and as such qualifies for inclusion in our Encyclopedia (OK, real reason: he’s got to be in here, come on). Other sources, e.g. Rationalwiki, suspects that Comfort may be a deep-cover atheist out to destroy the creationist movement from the inside. He works closely with the equally dim Kirk Cameron to produce the Way of the Master series, TV and radio shows, and Internet articles (and the ID board game: brilliant). His blog seems to have mainly atheist readers. Do visit it. It’s hilarious.

A couple of Comfort highlights:

Comfort claiming that the Bible is a science textbook.

The debacle concerning his knock-down argument against evolution, the point that there would be a cosmic coincidence for a male to evolve and a suitable female to evolve in the exact right manner at the same time, discussed here and here (this one is priceless).

Concocted his own edition of the Origin of Species to hand out to students at various universities, with a fifty pages long foreword written by himself (repeating the usual creationist drivel, not understanding a word of the science, partially copied and pasted off the Internet and with subsequent legal action being considered) Part of the situation is summed up here (the male/female argument makes a reappearance).

Comfort on atheists, Muslims and chickens.

Apparently he also runs an Agony Aunt column.

Comfort on the swineflu “showing how useless and sometimes deadly a mutation can be”. So because the swineflu is detrimental to humans, it is evidence that all mutations are detrimental to survival and so undermines evolution. That’s seriously the argument.

Then there is the electricity argument against atheism.

And the usual Godwin stuff.

And so on, and so forth.

Has written books as well (something like 60 of them), such as “You can lead an atheist to evidence, but you can’t make him think”. Several of his more famous arguments were first presented there.

Diagnosis: Possibly the densest person alive. He does make the world a more entertaining place and can hardly be claimed to boost the popularity of ID. I’ll nominate him for the Templeton Prize anytime. He really should get it (and thereby hopefully put an end to that institution).

#78: Charles Colson

Charles “Chuck” Wendell Colson is a Christian leader, cultural commentator, and author of lots of book books, several of which have been recognized with ECPA Christian Book Awards. Colson was a former Special Counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973 and the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges (he was named as one of the Watergate Seven). He was never charged with or convicted of anything related to that, but did plead guilty to obstruction of justice in another case and served seven months of a one-to-three year sentence in Alabama's Maxwell Prison. He is also a Templeton foundation recipient and winner of a number of awards, among them honorary doctorates from you-know-what-kind-of institutions, and the Others Award from the Salvation Army (you might want to look up the list of previous winners here. He's also a member of the Family (more here).

He also maintains several media channels which discuss contemporary issues from an evangelical Christian worldview, his own views usually being conservative interpretation of evangelical Christianity. He zealously opposes same-sex marriage, argues that Darwinism is used to attack Christianity, and that the Enron accounting scandals were a consequence of secularism. He is, in short, a hard-core creationist repeating Discovery Institute lies - claiming Darwinism helped cause forced sterilizations by eugenicists – and a steadfast anti-abortionist, claiming that abortion is the real cause of illegal immigration by creating a labor shortage due to "40 million sacrificed since 1973". He is also a steadfast proponent of the Bible Literacy Project's curriculum “The Bible and Its Influence” for public high school literature courses – a poorly disguised wedge trick.

There is much to choose from in Colson’s career. There is, for instance, his argument that the real causes of terrorism are pornography and abortion, and if only the US restricted the freedom of its citizens some more, terrorism would go away (I mean, the Taliban hates us for our freedom, don’t they? Take it away, and they wouldn’t hate us anymore).

A short biography here.

Diagnosis: Deranged wingnut and blind zealot with no aptitude for truth or reason. Still pretty powerful and influential.

#77: William B. Collier

William B. Collier is a professor of chemistry at Oral Roberts University, which is of course not an academic institution or research institution but a fundamentalist boot camp. Accordingly, Collier is not a scientist and does no serious research. He has, however, an education in science, which is qualification enough to be a signatory to Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent of Darwinism. Collier’s acceptance of creationism appears to be based on the claim that religion and science is the same, and since they are the same they must be of equal epistemic merit. That is, it matters not that science is based on reality and evidence. It’s all about beliefs.
Diagnosis: Collier is a minor figure but is included as a rather typical representative of the quality found among many of the signatories to Discovery’s list – and to represent the ghastly pseudo-university that is the Oral Roberts institute.

#76: John Coleman

Coleman is an ardent believer in the Maurice Strong conspiracy. ”The what?” you might ask if you are unfamiliar with the strange features of the looniverse.

"Militia members are famously worried that black helicopters are practicing maneuvers with blue-helmeted UN troops in a plot to take over America. But the actual peril is more subtle. A small cadre of obscure international bureaucrats are hard at work devising a system of 'global governance' that is slowly gaining control over ordinary Americans' lives." So said the journalist Ronald Bailey back in the nineties – Bailey might be credited as the instigator or at least popularizer of the Maurice Strong conspiracy and the idea that AGW is a UN conspiracy to take over the US and erect a world-government, but Bailey has later turned around and admitted that the evidence for global warming is pretty compelling and backpedaled wildly from any association with said conspiracy. Coleman, however, marches onward, impervious to reason, evidence or sanity. Maurice Strong is a Canadian business man and environmentalist who has had several positions in the UN over the years. How he came to be the target of a conspiracy is a little unclear.

There also seems to be some uncertainty regarding whether Strong is supposed to be a member of the Illuminati, but he is, in any case, one of the main figures behind the New World Order. (the conspiracy is – of course – also endorsed by the Locust blog, a nexus for lunacy that must be seen to be believed).

Coleman’s take on the issue is here, and while the most important and influential Maurice Strong conspiracy theorists are James Inhofe, Wes Vernon and (probably) Jesse Ventura (all three will receive separate entries, don’t worry), Coleman’s screed is delightfully representative of the mindset and reasoning behind the movement.

Well, ok – Coleman might be one step ahead. He is firmly on the Strong-is-a-member-of-the-Illuminati side. In fact, Coleman has written mind-bogglingly illuminating articles on the Illuminati as well, such as this one. In this well-researched essay he identifies several targets of the Illuminati, including (this is not the looniest one, trust me, but it is one of the shortest): “12. To introduce new cults and continue to boost those already functioning which include rock music gangsters such as the Rolling Stones (a gangster group much favored by European Black Nobility), and all of the Tavistock-created rock groups which began with the Beatles.”

“Tavistock”? Oh, right, here you go (Here’s the link to the real Tavinstitute; it is not entirely clear what set Coleman’s snowball rolling. Maybe you could try to watch some of his numerous YouTube contributions. I’m not sure I would recommend it, however.)

Diagnosis: Baffling. The Maurice Strong conspiracy is very popular, and although it is just one side-branch of Coleman’s rather more ambitious theory, its denialist supporters would do well to consider the mechanisms that led them to support it in the first place – leafing through Coleman’s essays should help do that, I hope. Then again, probably not.

#75: Don Colbert

Don Colbert is an Oral Roberts University Alumnus and author of more than 40 books that together have sold more than one million copies. An ardent promoter of WWJD and such things as the Jesus diet (no joke!), his most famous books are the ”The Bible cure for ...”-series. You can get, for instance, The Bible cure for cancer, or The Bible Cure for Depression and Anxiety (”Ancient Truths, Natural Remedies and the Latest Findings for Your Health Today [With Guidebook]”), The Bible Cure for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain ("Jesus wants YOU to be thin" is in fact the slogan, and – just as you suspected – the diet recommendations are baskets of bread and fish, and watered down wine), The Bible Cure for Allergies, The Bible Cure for ADHD, for PMS & Mood Swings, and so on and so forth.

He has also written ”Toxic Relief: Restore Health and Energy Through Fasting and Detoxification” which will give you an idea about where this is heading. And yes, Colbert’s work is a brilliant combination of fundamentalist religion and the most ridiculous New Age alternative treatments (negative feelings as the main cause of disease, apart from mercury in dental fillings and vaccines and so on for some utter lunacy, visit here.

Extensively used by Televangelists to discuss health and nutrition (Benny Hinn, the Copelands). His claims are generally too loony to be caught by Quackwatch, Orac or the like.

Diagnosis: Complete nutjob (with an admittedly effective marketing idea) and godbotter. Appears to be relatively influential.

#74: Andrew Cohen

Cultmaster, founder of EnlightenNext and professional con artist, Cohen has also been writing for the despicable Huffington Post.

So what is Evolutionary Enlightenment? ”To put it simply, enlightenment is evolving. It is no longer found only in the bliss of timeless Being; it is found also in the ecstatic urgency of evolutionary Becoming.” Exactly how Lacan would have said it if he had attended Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment. If you’re excited about the rest, you can read it here. Pound out word-salad, include references to ancient mystics, collect the money. Well-known recipe for success.

Apparently ”Evolutionary Enlightenment, is unique for placing the traditional realization of enlightenment in the context of cosmic evolution” (whatever that means). By awakening to the timeless "Ground of Being," human beings can liberate themselves from their ego and the "Authentic Self.", a self beyond ego that represents ”humanity at its most wholesome”, : motivated by an evolutionary impulse that is "one with the big bang itself." Right.

More here, partially on the cult-like nature of Cohen’s organization (spiritual_teacher). In fact, the cult is so vile that even Andrew’s mother cannot stand it.

Diagnosis: Über-crackpot and delusional nutjob with delusions of grandeur. Utterly unhinged from reality. Pretty famous and influential apparently.

#73: Tom Coburn

An American politician, medical doctor, and ordained Southern Baptist deacon, Coburn is a Republican who currently serves as the junior U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and is, not surprisingly, opposed to deficit spending and gay marriage, pro-life (often recognized as one of the leaders of the pro-life movement) and supporter of gun rights, term limits and the death penalty (famous for his comment: “I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life”). Standard fare, in other words, coupled with standard hypocrisy and dishonesty (during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Roberts, Coburn began his opening statement with a critique of Beltway partisan politics while choking back a sob. Coburn had earlier been completing a crossword puzzle during the hearings. Coburn is also one of the most vocal opponents of filibusters and also one of the most frequent users of such measures). He is also affiliated with The Family.

But (apart from the death penalty quote) what qualifies him for inclusion in our Encyclopedia? A plethora of things, in fact. E.g. several small details such as his protesting NBC's plan to air “Schindler's List” during prime time; Coburn stated that, in airing the movie without editing it for television, TV had been taken "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity." He also said the TV broadcast should outrage parents and decent-minded individuals everywhere. Coburn described the airing of “Schindler's List” on television as "irresponsible sexual behavior... I cringe when I realize that there were children all across this nation watching this program." Please read that one again if the full impact of Coburn’s claims failed to hit you.

He also threatened to block the commemoration of Rachel Carson’s 100th birthday
calling her work “junk science” (no reason, apart from the fact that he doesn’t like her results, given). Climate change denier Coburn is a close ally of the ravingly mad James Inhofe and never lets evidence get in his way when advicing on environmental policies. Hates science in all its forms.

His pro-life stance has taken him to considerable extremes.

Alleged to be “too stupid to be real” after this issue.

Firmly opposed to civil disobedience as long as the target isn’t the health care bill or abortion.

His chief of staff is Michael Schwartz, but that’s another story for another entry.

Diagnosis: Bigot, zealot, religious fundamentalist, vile - and one of the most lunatic pundits of Washington. Firmly fails to understand science or reason (and hates it as a result). Obviously influential and powerful.

Friday, October 8, 2010

#72: Deepak Chopra

A.k.a. The King of woo woo

The arch-bishop of woo himself, and probably one of the most influential (and flaky and zealous) crackpots chugging along today. A prolific author of New Age/self-help books (and a regular contributor to that absolutely abhorrent cesspool of anti-science, Huffington Post), Chopra is famous for using poorly understood (or not understood at all) vocabulary from physics, particularly quantum physics, mixed with “Eastern knowledge”. His writings are usually centered around woo-y claims along the lines of “recognize your inner beauty and the quantum entanglement will cure you”. Ardent opponent of “materialistic science” which hasn't yet recognized the ancient wisdom of Eastern spirituality, reincarnation, homeopathy and such. Earns a lot of money.

His most common inference rule is The Galileo Gambit (“scientist uniformly reject my ideas, but hey! Remember Galileo; his ideas were also reject by the scientific community [well, the church, in fact] back in the days; therefore I am right and everyone else are close-minded). An antidote is available here.

Some examples of his style: Chopra bashing skepticism (that is, Chopra fighting against logic and scientific inquiry – spot the fallacies): ; Chopra being taken on by Michael Shermer; Chopra on ”only spirituality can save the world” (and as Myers points out, Chopra neglects to tell us how); Chopra failing to deal with criticism; Chopra ”proving” that there is an afterlife; Chopra in general (this is part 3; links to the earlier ones); Chopra failing critical thinking yet again.

Well, I guess you get the point. This is a guy so utterly unable to grasp the foundations for critical thinking, so completely out of touch with reason, rationality and the ability to distinguish evidence from wishful thinking, that he must set some kind of record.

Diagnosis: This guy is seriously dangerous; he’s been claimed by Time magazine to be one of the 100 most important people of the 21st century; he has a huge following (Mikhail Gorbachev referred to Chopra as "one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time"). His grasp of reason, critical thinking and reality is more tentative than Jack Chick’s, however, and the lunacy he represents might in the long run be even more dangerous than the Discovery Institute.

In short, he is probably the most influential loon in our Encyclopedia, and among the most dangerous (with Cynthia Dunbar and David Barton and some others).

#71: Gary Chism

Another one of those; Gary Chism is an insurance salesman who works tirelessly to promote creationism in the state of Mississippi. He is also a State Representative - guess which party. Notable for wanting to put a disclaimer on all school textbooks touching on the topic of evolution to point out that evolution is just a theory. The debacle is reported on here, here, and here.

Chism claims – of course – that creationism is just as scientifically respectable as evolution (and not just a religious dogma), as illustrated by the following brilliant argument by cases: "Either you believe in the Genesis story, or you believe that a fish walked on the ground".

Also famous for his campaign to cover up an anatomically correct statue of a stallion outside a strip club in rural Mississippi.

Diagnosis: Scientifically illiterate moron, Taliban-style religious fundamentalist with absolutely no grasp of critical thinking, reason or sanity. Impact unknown, but he hasn’t had much success with his creationism bills (more so with the strippers).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

#70: Jack Chick

Among the more notable loons in our encyclopedia, this amiable fellow is a firmly entrenched acolyte of the abominable William Branham. Jack Chick is of course the guy behind Chick Publications. His tracts deal with various aspects of the Christian faith, including the principles of tolerance and love as well as the Catholics' satanist conspiracy to overthrow God's reign on earth (the Jesuits, in particular, created the Qu’ran, were responsible for the Holocaust, communism and the current conspiracy that controls American media). He doesn’t like evolution either. A representative example is here. The most popular tract is, apparently, this one. I also have a soft spot for this one.

Back in the day, Chick used to draw the tracts himself. Today, they’re mostly drawn by Fred Carter, who is considered covered for the purposes of this Encyclopedia.

Endless hours of indulgence and fascination can be spent rummaging through his backlog. Do visit it.

I am not going to go through in detail the omniprescent homoeroticism in the tracts. Check it out yourself. A longer biography of Chick can be found here.

The topics vary, but many of them are concerned with God-fearing murderers and rapists ending up in Paradise because they accept the Holy Spirit, whereas the good guys go to hell. Other common targets are rock music, witchcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, astrology, Ouija boards, Evolution, Jews, Muslims,Teenagers, Science (including gravity, which Chick apparently thinks is an atheist myth), the Easter Bunny, North Coreans, the Tooth Fairy, Santa (the message is a little muddled), the Washington Monument, Native Americans, Freemasons, the UN and Satanic books (Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) - among other things. This guy’s got a whole lot of hate and fear to share. There is a documentary available as well.

Diagnosis: Possibly the most deranged loon in the Western hemisphere. His tracts are widely read, but probably not by the intended audience. Life would have been much duller without people like Jack Chick.

#69: Liz Cheney

It might be a little unclear whether Dick Cheney, whatever else one might say about him, counts as a loon. Being vile, for instance (not explicitly saying that Dick is), isn’t enough. But he still manages to enter our encyclopedia through his daughter Liz. Liz founded, with Billy Kristol, the organization Keep America Stupid and Afraid (a.k.a. “Keep America Safe”), whose purpose is organizing vehement attacks on anyone who could conceivably be construed as questioning America’s war efforts – such as Amnesty.

Cheney is most famous for attacking the lawyers for the Gitmo detainees as being complicit in terrorism and allies of Al Qaeda. The way she did it resembles a Colbert parody in startling ways (guess Cheney is among the frighteningly large number of people who likes Colbert because they take his parodies as representing his true views). She’s been slammed pretty thoroughly for the whole affair, though - not that it has deterred her.

Diagnosis: Mad and malevolent wingnut; zealous. Her actions should, in any reasonable world, be sufficient to halt her political career permanently, but this might not be a reasonable world.

#68: Betsy Chasse

Producer, director and screenwriter for “What the bleep do we know” (together with, among others, the irretrievably lunatic William Arntz), Betsy Chasse is also an escapee from Ramtha’s school of enlightenment. She also runs Eloramedia, ”which offers spiritually oriented, motivational books, videos and music for children of all ages – adults included! She is a highly sought after speaker on such subjects as spirituality, the blending of science and spirituality, and marketing to the cultural creative demographic.”

A sympathetic interview can be found here. Among other things, it reveals that Chasse is ”infamous For: Driving scientists up the wall by claiming water's atomic structure can be changed by bad thoughts - and heavy metal music”. Indeed.

Chasse admits that before she started the film she didn't know anything about quantum physics. She learned from this film is that it's up to her, however: ”I am the creator of my own reality. I am responsible for my own self. By taking on that responsibility it's really empowered me to do great things in my life.” In other words, everything she knows about quantum physics she’s learned from the film she made about it without knowing anything in advance. A potent recipe for creative belief formation. A fair and succinct review of the movie is found here.

Diagnosis: Chasse lives and breathes on confirmation bias in its most purefied form – indeed, the whole message of What the bleep can be summed up as a defense of confirmation bias as a method of inquiry. The impact of the movie was big, but Chasse is probably soon forgotten. All the better.

#67: Bruce Chapman

I know you are tired of these tired, old YECs, but this series is supposed to something of a reference work, so we will cover them. Chapman is one of the most over-the-top lunatic anti-evolutionists (blithering idiots) at the Discovery Institute. In fact, Chapman is the president of the Discovery Institute, and seems to believe that this position confers on him the power to pass judgment on science in a manner slightly reminiscent on the infallibility conferred on the pope when he’s helped up on the pope-throne the first time.

This one, an attack on Expelled Exposed (a project committed to exposing the dishonesty and stupidity of the Expelled movie) is a good example of his idiocy. It must be read to be believed (no, I am not going to generate traffic to DI, so I’m linking to a level-headed discussion of the article in question). Like most ID’ers, Chapman knows virtually nothing about evolutionary biology, and even less about the scientific method (not understanding, for instance, that science is done by experiment and evidence, not arguments, and that truth is discovered through careful, controlled research, not through attempts to sway public opinion; the article discussed here is astoundingly ironic).

Has among other things, argued at length that the Pope himself is the true victim in the recent, well, scandals involving the Catholic Church, and has argued (“ranted delusionally” is more appropriate) at length that the health care reform is unconstitutional. Apparently, his talents range wide; here is some financial advice, and here is his discovery that the earth is cooling rather than warming - yes, global warming is a leftist conspiracy carried aloft by the promise of … an endless flow of grant money, apparently. All of it is written with the sharp wit and overwhelming flashes of genius we’ve come to expect from Champan. And here is some plain old dishonesty and stupidity.

Diagnosis: Blathering idiot whose misapprehensions of what science is and how it works are simply to deep to be reversible in a lifetime. Has some power, and must be considered dangerous, despite the clownish appearance with respect to intellect.

#66: Joseph Chambers

”The children and youth of America are living in a crisis-type existence. The basic character traits of a healthy, Christian culture have been lost [...] It was not that many years ago when pre-marital sex was utterly taboo because of a simple respect for our sacred bodies.”

Thus begins Chambers’s essay ”Unclean Children Troubled By Evil Spirits”, which you can find here (and the depravity concerns mainly women – Chambers doesn’t seem to be very well-versed in modern views on gender equality). What is the reason for this downfall? Well, it’s the demons. Literally: Out to create a new Sodom and Gomorrah by possessing the children. The gateways are, according to Chambers, occult books such as Harry Potter, cartoons, ”Rock music and other aberrant forms of entertainment [that] are running rampant in Satanism.” (and of course ”Homosexuality and lesbianism is Satan’s ultimate slap in God’s face”).

So who is this guy? Joseph Chambers is the head of Paw Creek Ministries, is proud to describe himself as being a "classical Pentecostal preacher" and operates a two-hour radio program called "Open Bible Dialogue." The website for his ministry is here - a classic study in fire and brimstone, and lots of clever advice for dealing with the immanent end of times.

You can find a total of 78 essays of his here. Among the more appealing looking ones are ”#12 Tattoos & Body Mutilation”, ’#18 Hell is Rehearsing for Armageddon’, ’#29 Do Muslims Believe Obama is "Islamic Messiah?”’, ”#45 Warfare Praying”, ”#65. Signs in the Sun and Moon; 2010” and ”#71. Horrors of Hell! – but there are literally days of good reading material there.

Lots of attacks on other rapturists there (such as this), and even more on Catholics and Muslims (Islam is a blasphemous cult that will be utterly destroyed). See the essay titled ”Islamic radicals and God’s solution”, which sounds uncannily like something that could’ve been a joint-piece by Heydrich & Streicher anno 1942, although not with ”Islamic” in the title.

Diagnosis: Clinically insane; his influence is probably limited, but Chambers should really be kept locked up and far away from people. This guy needs serious, professional help.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

#65: Tim Chaffey

Chaffey runs some ministry in Wisconsin (Midwest Apologetics), and teaches (his version of) science at Tri-State Christian School in Galena, Illinois. Chaffey is most notable, however, as a writer/administrato for Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis.

He has also co-authored “Old-Earth Creationism on Trial” with Jason Lisle (to be covered later), a young earth creationist book attacking not biology but – indeed – the ”other” strand of creationism, old earth creationism. It is covered here.

For a sample of the level of acumen at work, notice first Chaffey & Lisle define ”open-mindedness”: ”All ideas and theories should be subjected to rigorous self-examination, yet a similar self-critique is long overdue from the old-Earth creationists.” (pp.14)

Then notice their main charge against Old Earth Creationism: ”Since the Bible undisputedly teaches a young earth, when someone claims that scientific evidence proves otherwise, we can be certain they are mistaken.” (pp.153)

They also argue that science presupposes the infallibility of the Bible, for without the Bible there would be no such thing as truth and verification (shades of Troy Brooks here). And on the annoying detail that radiometric dating kinda goes against the idea of a 6000 years old earth: ”Additionally, God cursed the earth when Adam sinned (Gen 3:17-18). The Bible provides only a few details of how the world was changed, such as thorns and thistles. Can we be certain that radioactive decay rates were not affected?” And that’s pretty much their argument (Ignoratio elenchi is an inference rule for these guys). And in fact, according to Chaffey, he doesn’t need to bother with the problem of evil since ”only biblical Christianity can make sense of evil and suffering. Every other worldview, philosophy, and belief system fall woefully short.” The details are a little unclear.

From his bio page. The website for Midwest Apologetics is here. It’s a marvel.

Diagnosis: As kooky as they come. His influence might not be very wide-ranging, but he does spend a lot of effort ”teaching children biblical truth”.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

#64: Gerald Celente

Celente is a “professional” trend forecaster and founder of the Trends Institute. He predicts future trends – in particular economic ones – with all the accuracy and razorsharp precision of a tabloid newspaper horoscope. He claims to have predicted more or less every major economic event in the last 30 years, establishing himself as a modern counterpart to Nostradamus. For example, Celente predicted on February 14, 1999, about the approaching millennial New Year, that, "Employers should anticipate several weeks of low productivity” and that children graduating in 2000 will "shape the new millenium." He has also predicted that America is going broke. A true wizard.

His method seems to be an Other Way of Knowing (intuition, mostly).

Curiously (or rather, unsurprisingly), he has received a lot of press, particularly from conservative sources – especially his assertions that American President Barack Obama's policies (described as “fascism light”) will lead to food riots and tax revolts. Indeed, Celente plays a major role in Conservapædia’s article on Barack Obama.

He seems to be the instigator of the term “Obamageddon”, which is predicted to occur in 2012. Made on November 13, 2008: “[B]y 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.”

The basis for the prediction has, of course, all the rigorous underpinnings of the ordinary, “Mayan calendar” 2012 Armageddon. If nothing else, however, Celente and his reception among pundits provide a fascinating glimpse of the mechanisms of confirmation bias, goalpost moving and wishful thinking at work.

His website, interestingly, does not keep track of his previous predictions (apart from the ones that could be interpreted as having been fulfilled by some stretch). He does provide “trend summaries” – his summaries of events occurring the previous year.

Diagnosis: Probably a fraud, but his confirmation bias and wingnuttery is real enough. Very influential, something that provides more evidence (if any more was needed) for the ubiquity and danger of confirmation bias.

#63: Kristia Cavere

Kristia Cavere was the Tea Party and a Republican candidate for New York's 19th Congressional District seat held by John Hall (currently withdrawn). She firmly believes that the Democrats have co-opted Republican values and claims, and might in the end compete with Michele Bachmann for unadulterated lunacy. Among her claims you find this one:

"The Republicans are the ones who liberated Europe in World War II."

Apparently, she is convinced that the Republicans are the initiators of "every" advancement of freedom in our history, although:

"Unfortunately, today there are many Republicans in office who are cowards and who are bad communicators. […] We have the right ideas, the right principles, the right philosophy and history on our side. […]. We have to unify and become Americans together and not just identify with a political party. America and principles must come before our party. There is common ground that can be found."

She might be young, but her grasp of reality is apparently already missing beyond recall. Discussed here and here. Fortunately she quickly played herself out of the electorial campaign, citing “family reasons” for her withdrawal, although this suggests otherwise. She’s also a religious fundamentalist.

Diagnosis: Moron; presumably neutralized for now, but she was found sufficiently appealing to the Sarah Palin crowd that the danger of reemergence somewhere else is rather large.