Thursday, March 31, 2011

#183: Mike Huckabee

Huckabee is a Baptist minister and former governor of the State of Arkansas. He was a candidate in the 2008 United States presidential election, representing the Christian Taliban. He is a young earth creationist, and therefore rejects certain controversial elements of modern science such as evolution, heliocentricism, gravity, and mathematics.

As a theocrat, Huckabee advocated changing the Constitution to incorporate Biblical values: “I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.” He generally subordinates logic, evidence and governmental responsibilities to religion. As a presidential candidate he seems, interestingly, to have appealed mainly to the younger evangelical population.

Among his proposed policies are Covenant marriage and reinstating prayer in school (since its removal from school is, together with TV, one of the main reason for the current “moral decay”). He has also used the infamous bumblebee argument for the claim that science doesn’t understand everything. His argument against evolution is mainly Wilberforce’s (you are free to believe that you and your family came from apes, but I didn’t). He admits to not having been present at creation, however. And yes, his ignorance matters.

More here.

Diagnosis: The crackpots shall lead the ignorant, ‘tis said, and Huckabee is certainly a candidate for the position of kook supreme. He is extremely dangerous, and persistent assertions that he is unelectable don’t quite allay all of our worries.

#182: Barbara Marx Hubbard

Nope, she’s apparently not related to that other more famous Hubbard. Barbara Marx Hubbard is the current President of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, author of several books and featured in the 2006 film “Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within”, a ‘documentary about rediscovering an enchanted cosmos in the modern world’. Yes, it’s woo, and it’s the quantum type – full-fledged ‘What the bleep do we know’-style.

She claims that humanity, having ‘come to possess the powers that we used to attribute to the gods’, is presently in a critical and dangerous ‘Late Transition’ to ‘the next stage of human evolution’, a transition that was commenced with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima. The idea is ‘Conscious Evolution’, the ‘evolution of evolution, from unconscious to conscious choice’, in other words ‘an awakening of a 'memory' that resides in the synthesis of human knowing, from spiritual to social to scientific as the only solution"

That kind. Read her conversation with the equally fluffily gullible Jeff Mishlove here, or her interview with Dennis Hughes (publisher of Share Guide, The Holistic Health Magazine and Resource Directory) here to get an idea. She is, in other words, your typical new age (“futurist”) bullshitter, an accomplice of Deepak Chopra and Michael Bernard Beckwith who employs scientific concepts she doesn’t begin to (or try to) comprehend, filling them out with wishful thinking and what she wants from post-modernism.

Diagnosis: Another professional propagator of amazing new-age, feel-good gibberish. Her methods seem to be confirmation bias and wishful thinking. She has some followers, but her real impact is uncertain.

Friday, March 25, 2011

#181: Kent Hovind

A.k.a. Dr. Dino

Kent Hovind needs no introduction, and plumbing the abyss of his cluelessness is probably not a hygienic enterprise, so we’ll restrict ourselves to the basics (and some examples). Hovind used to be the head of Creation Science Evangelism, a young earth creationist activist group. He also operated a small museum and amusement park known as "Dinosaur Adventure Land". In 2006, during the run-up to Hovind's trial for tax evasion, much of the park was shut down due to Hovind's refusal to secure a building permit. He was convicted on the tax evasion charges and is now serving a 10-year sentence.

Hovind has his doctorate in Christian Education from the diploma mill Patriot University. You can download his dissertation from this site (for instance); it was made public through Wikileaks and has become quite popular, so the server is often overloaded. It’s opening sentence, already established as a classic, is “Hello, my name is Kent Hovind”. In it he claims that “[i]n the twentieth century the major attack Satan has launched has been against the first eleven chapters of Genesis,” and goes on to display his deep understanding and erudite knowledge of modern biology by following it with “[c]hapter nine discusses the “best evidence” evolutionists have for evolution, that is, archeopteryx” and “I believe that dinosaurs are not only in the Bible, but the have lived with man all through his six thousand year history”, not to mention “The idea that evolutionists try to get across today is that there is continual upward progression. They claim that everything is getting better, improving, all by itself as if there is an inner-drive toward more perfection and order.” (More here, and here, and last but not least here)

Point is, Hovind views the manufactroversy between creation and evolution as an epic battle between God and his former chorus director, Satan. Evolution, you see, has been with us from the start: “When the people left the Tower of Babel, they took their false religion of evolution with them.” In fact, most opposition to Christendom concerns evolution: “the Islam religion accepts evolution very readily as a scientific fact because it fits so well with their teaching.”

Oh yes, Hovind believes the earth is 6000 years old, that the flood created Gran Canyon and that humans walked with dinosaurs. In fact Ken Ham, who shares these beliefs, has taken Hovind to task by creating a list of arguments against evolution a creationist should not use. They actually got into a dispute over that, since Hovind recognized several of his own trump arguments on Ham’s list. And that is Ken Ham. Of creation museum fame. When you are too ignorant of science for Ken Ham, then you are, well, rather ignorant. PZ Myers has attended one of his talks, and wasn’t particularly impressed.

So Hovind rejects the age of the earth, the field of astronomy, the entire field of geology, and has no trace of a clue about physics and/or radiometric dating. In fact, he is utterly ignorant of anything in science, has no time for evidence and is unmoved by facts. He doesn’t seem to mind, though. One famous example (among numberless) is his arguments against 'evolution' by trying to discredit the Big Bang, telling us that Big Bang violates the conservation of angular momentum because if everything came from a tiny spinning dot that blew up then everything would spin in the same direction; since some planets and moons in our solar system exhibit retrograde motion/rotation; this disproves the Big Bang, so evolution is impossible.

Other examples of his claims are that the Trail of Tears (1838) was a result of Darwin's Theory of Evolution (1859), that vaccinations are from Satan, that the New World Order was behind the Oklahoma bombings, that UFOs are “satanically owned and operated”, and that his commercial enterprises needn't file with the IRS in anyway or abide by legally issued warrants from same – even as a tax free organization in the unlikely event they qualify. With respect to this, Hovind claimed that as a minister of God everything he owns belongs to The Lord and he is not subject to paying taxes to the United States on the money he received for doing The Lord's Work (the judge in the case called his arguments “patently absurd”).

Hovind is well known for his "$250,000 Challenge", in which he states that he will pay $250,000 to anyone that can prove evolution. The conditions for “proof” are, well, Hovind’s own, and he has made it quite clear that it is logically impossible to meet his criteria (more here, and here).

An extremely fine resource on Hovind's studies can be found here. A nice, short summary can be found here. Note also this.

Kent has also lent his name to the Hovind, a unit of measurement which evaluates statements for kookery. Roughly, 0 is the score for a scientifically sound statement, 100 is for a lie that isn't even wrong. You can test your own Hovind here.

There are actually groups campaigning for Hovind’s release, such as this one (lead by one Adrienne Gilbert). Their main tactic seems to be praying, however, so they may be relatively harmless (here is another such call to prayer from the criminally insane Shelleytherepublican (Tristan Shuddery)).

Diagnosis: Hovind is a riot of insanity, ignorance, crackpottery, delusion, lunacy and idiocy. Thus, he has had rather far-reaching influence. His jail-time may have halted his career, and he seems to have grown even more unhinged during his time in prison. What happens when he is let out in 2015 will be interesting.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#180: Eric Hovind

Kent’s son, Eric Hovind is currently in charge of his dad's ministry. He is just as insane, and is equally inept at evaluating arguments and evidence as is father – so we get the same silly young earth creationist arguments, the same fallacies, stories about the age of the earth, Noah’s flood and so on that we all know and love. For only $ 9.95 per episode you can get his minute-long idiotic (but lavishly constructed) vignettes here.

In general, he seems to rely a little less on science-mangling and more on pure reading of the Bible, without having to deal with that pesky secularist conspiracy. He is, however, willing to sacrifice medicine if it turns out to have been influenced by the Theory of Evolution.

Here’s Eric Hovind on money: “It's not your money, it's God's”. You can grasp the pattern from that one, I assume. And from this one, and this.

A favorite argument (the flood and Grand Canyon): the current level of the Colorado River is several thousand feet lower than the peak elevations of the Grand Canyon, therefore the river must have flowed uphill to cut the canyon when it was formed.

More here.

Diagnosis: I’m sure his father is proud of him, but it is still unclear whether he possesses that persistently, powerful presence of fail that lead to his father’s success among the less rationally endowed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#179: Leonard “Len” Horowitz

If you think the last couple of HIV denialists and anti-vaxxers and purveyors of alternative medicine (staple fare in any encyclopedia of loons) have been a little tame, meet Len Horowitz. Len Horowitz is a shrill, roaringly raving loon if there ever was one. He is, according to himself, a diplomatic officer for the World Organization for Natural Medicine. He is a representative of God, knighted in the Sovereign Orthodox Order of Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, as a Levitical priest in the bloodlines of Moses and Yeshua the Messiah. Indeed.

Watch Len Horowitz take down Peter Duesberg, the king herald of HIV denialism here. But wait, wasn’t Len himself a HIV denier? Oh yes, but in Len Horowitz’s grand theory of everything, Duesberg is really a corrupt shill for the militaristic fascist conspiracy that originally were behind the AIDS epidemic, whose role is (it seems) to spread confusion.

Horowitz, a Harvard-trained dentist who (as you see) identifies himself as a Messianic Jew and frequently cites the Old Testament to condemn blood contamination or injections containing genetic material (such as vaccines), believes that there is a large depopulation conspiracy, the purpose of which is to kill roughly 84% of the population. The purpose is to economically benefit Big Pharma (i.e. Wall Street Bankers, Fox News and the British Royalty). It is unclear which mechanism is supposed to confer these economic benefits on said beneficiaries, but the original article is here in all its glorious insanity. Behind everything? Good old Henry Kissinger, who allegedly called for massive "Third World" depopulation efforts in order to maintain the economic alignment of the superpowers, and his successor "Zbigniew Brezinski” (Horowitz’s spelling), who unknown to absolutely everyone but Horowitz, advanced National Security Memo #46 to cabinet chiefs only, authorizing the FBI and CIA to initiate genocidal policies. Kissinger's security policy specifically stated the need to dramatically reduce African populations, and Brzezinski's memo explained that Black nationalism "posed" economic and security threats to America. Indeed.

One wonders how people could take him seriously, but he was apparently influential in the decision of the (blatheringly moronic) Nation of Islam to call for a boycott of U.S.-sponsored vaccination programs. Hence, Horowitz was only tending his main market segment when he, in 2009, told al Jazeera that H1N1 vaccines would cause sterility, as part of a plan of "pangenocide" against Muslims. He may also have been behind the identical claim circulated by Muslim clerics in Kano, Nigeria in 2003, leading to a resurgence of polio in North Africa. Visit his wikipage for more.

Obama’s unhinged sidekick Jeremiah Wright is also a huge fan of Horowitz.

You can get his products and a load of batshit insanity here. It is, however, over at our friends at that he can really shake of his inhibitions. Read about Bush, 9/11, anthrax, ebola and how the code-the words "Kissinger" and "Vaccination" both decipher to "666," the infamous "mark of the beast" here (and there's a collection of articles and opinions here; this is serious, serious insanity).

Even the FDA has noticed this raving tornado of whackery and enthropic lunacy, and issued a warning. He first came to their attentions weeks after the initial identification of the virus causing the 2003 SARS outbreak, when Horowitz and associates promoted what they claimed was an “effective treatment” for the disease, a naturopathic product line called "Urbani” after the first identified victim of Sars, Carlo Urbani,

In fact, even NASA has been forced to take action, since Lenny is plastering the colloidal silver he peddles with the NASA logo (since it is, according to Len, “NASA technology”).

Diagnosis: If Gary Null hadn’t existed, Lenny would have been the Kent Hovind of anti-vaccination and woo. He is still pretty close to the Platonic idea of lunacy and crackpottery. But he is not merely fun (like Arthur D. Horn), since his cunning peddling to the most susceptible can possibly be linked to rather extensive actual harm.

#178: Arthur David Horn

Arthur David Horn is not a creationist. He believes in guided evolution, a view that is common enough among religiously oriented Americans. But he’s got his own twist, of course. Modern man isn't the result of natural selection selection. Rather, evolution was artificially controlled by reptilian extraterrestrials who bred mankind as servants and continue to rule the planet today (from the shadows). The reptilians, devious rascals as they are, have subtly altered our perception of and understanding of history and hold power over humankind. They operate by directly controlling an elite group of humans. Can you guess who? Well, if it is not the Jews, it must be … the Illuminati (just spot the eye in the dollar bill!). He presented his views during a "Galactic Gathering" organized by The Institute for the Study of Galactic Civilizations. I cannot really find a website, but some info is given here, or perhaps here, or here - all seem delightfully whacky and unprofessional.

At least here you have Horn himself, giving you the details of his theory (including the twelfth planet). He even has Sumerian hieroglyphs and interpretations of them – and a fascinating web design. Horn was a pupil of Zecharia Sitchin. Guess which planet the twelfth one is … yep, it’s Nibiru, of Mayan Calendar fame. (We had planned an entry for Sitchin, but he disqualified himself by dying October 9th last year; a real pity – he was a gem).

For more on lizard people, you can check out the discussions on the blog belonging to the seriously mentally challenged (but British) David Icke.

Funny thing is that Horn (apparently) has a Ph.D. from Yale and was employed by Academia for a while (a biologist, in fact), but apparently something happened. It is claimed that it all changed when Arthur met his wife Lynette, a “metaphysical healer”, but something must have gone wrong before then, given that they met in July of 1988 when they spent a week in Northern California's Trinity Mountains searching for Sasquatch, commonly known as Bigfoot.

PZ Myers puts it in context here.

Diagnosis: Totally insane, of course, but completely harmless and kinda cute.

#177: Bodie Hodge

Bodie Hodge is Ken Ham's son in law and in charge of the day to day operations at Kentucky’s Creation Museum. He also writes for Answers in Genesis and has a … uh … Kantian view of morality, defending the counterexamples in the stupidest D-grade intro student manner.

Here is a list of his major contributions to Answers in Genesis, including highbrow scientifically meticulous investigations into the age of Metuselah, why human lifespans were shorter after the flood, how Eve knew the apple was edible, and – of course – evolution. This one is a good example; he responds to an unbeliever who offers no reasons or substantiations at all. It's a one-way argument against a strawman, and Hodge still manages to loose the debate! In other words, Hodge is the kind of person who – as the saying goes – would lose a debate with a dead hamster (if truth and coherence are standards).

AiG is founded on the view that the Bible is the ultimate science textbook, and their writers are fond of trying to show how you can precisely derive things from the Bible. Hodge therefore uses the Bible to derive the sinking of the Atlantis as taking place somewhere between 1818 BC and 600 BC. Words fail.

Diagnosis: Yet another crank who couldn’t distinguish evidence from fantasy if his life depended on it, but Hodge is among the more blatant examples. Consequently, he seems to have a sound fanbase among those who find Ken Ham and Jason Lisle to be abstruse and esoteric.

Friday, March 18, 2011

#176: Richard C. Hoagland

Up next is one of the main entries of our Encyclopedia of Loons, Richard Hoagland. He is, according the Enterprise Mission (Hoagland’s own organization), a former space museum curator, NASA advisor, and science adviser to Walter Cronkite and CBS news. Some window-dressing of facts is evidently going on here, as it is with respect to the claim that the Enterprise Mission is supported by many NASA senior officials, and has visited NASA centers multiple times.

Thing is, Richard Hoagland is ravingly insane. It is presumably in virtue of this qualification that he is also on the Board of Directors for American Antigravity.

Among other things, Hoagland is one of the most active promoters of Däniken-like theories in the States, and was the first to procure the ultimate evidence for the existence of a high-tech civilization period prior to the known Egyptian civilization, namely the infamous Abydo helicopter.

He is perhaps most famous, however, for his theory that the Face on Mars in Cydonia Mensae was made by aliens. He offers as proof many coincidences about ratios of angles formed by structures in Cydonia Mensae, most of which are made up. The rest is pure numerology. Apparently (according to Hoagland) it has something to do with crop circles.

But even that is only a start. Among his other claims is that Iapetus (one of Saturn’s moons) is artificial, and that there are semi-transparent glass structures on the moon. Now, you might ask: if these claims were true, why are they not better known?

Ahh … you don’t really need to ask, do you?

You see, NASA has covered up nearly every discovery they’ve made through space exploration (it is a little unclear why), and the conspiracy that the moon-landing was a hoax (common enough in Hoagland’s natural habitat) was set forth by NASA itself to divert attention from the real issues. NASA also murdered the Apollo 13 astronauts. And 9/11 was a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy with the US government. The 12 moon-walkers, who would be qualified to confirm the existence of lunar artifacts and glass structures, have of course had their memories selectively edited via hypnosis so that they no longer remember seeing evidence of a lunar civilization. Furthermore, interplanetary warfare is currently being waged right now in Earth orbit, conducted by factions of a secret supra-national World Government.

To give you a taster of Hoagland’s deranged mind, he claims that The Norwegian Spiral was more than a Russian missile test failing; rather, a torsion field weapon intercepted the missile
in mid-flight. Who was behind it? Well, most probably one of many "Nazi-derived off-world colonies". For what purpose? To intimidate Obama (who was accepting his Nobel Peace prize in Oslo at that time) – and it was successful, Hoagland claims, since Obama subsequently cancelled the Constellation program. Hence, Obama was "blackmailed (...) Into "imprisoning" Humanity on Earth ....". Oh, those darn Jewish-Masonic Nazi Muslim Aliens terrorizing the stratosphere, always causing trouble.

He has also proposed a form of physics he calls 'hyperdimensional physics' based on the work of pseudoscientific overunity claimant Thomas E. Bearden (briefly discussed here), who might be a notch more delusionally cranky than even Hoagland, thus proving to be an irresistible magnet for the latter.

Hoagland is discussed in some detail here, and there is more food for thought in the wikipedia article (he is, among other things, a global warming denialist, though for interesting and unusual reasons).

Diagnosis: Astronomy’s answer to Ken Ham – with conspiracy theories attached (every conceivable one) – who thinks X-files is a documentary and apparently believes every single random claim that enters his head (entertaining a hypothesis without accepting it is apparently not a skill he has managed to develop). It is unclear how harmful he is, but he has achieved some notoriety and fame. Well deserved.

#175: Esther Hicks

A.k.a. Abraham

For reasons that may be hard for ordinary, relatively sane people to fathom, Esther Hicks has become a famous spirit channeller (or "receiver"). She claims to channel an otherworldly being called “Abraham” by using a creepy voice (actually, she doesn’t change her voice when channeling; it is just creepy to begin with). The whole thing becomes especially interesting when you start noticing that Esther has a penchant for talking about herself in third person, even when she does not claim to channel Abraham.

According to Esther, what Abraham is here to tell us is that Rhonda Byrne’s new age drivel “The Secret” is true. In fact Esther has been in some conflicts with Rhonda (over money, of course), and her (well, Abraham’s) big argument in this conflict is here. The conflict is hilariously reported here. She has actually been quite successful financially, selling numerous self-help books and holding several seminars, even receiving honorable mention by that patron of all woo, Oprah Winfrey.

Of course she is way into quantum woo. Her total ignorance of physics is predictably enough no obstacle to talking about observer effects and how that means that people can define their own realities by using their emotions. The messages from Abraham are standard fluffy feel-good drivel of the “universe adores you” and “you are the creator of reality” kind.

Her partner and manager is her husband Jerry Hicks, a former acrobat and movie stunt man. If Esther’s not a huckster, then Jerry surely is.

Diagnosis: Might be a fraud, but more likely stark raving crazy, clinically unable to recognize that wishful thinking is a fallacy. She has lots of followers, the most dangerous of whom are the more cynical ones who realize that there may be a lot of money in it (e.g. Mari Tierney).

#174: Peter Heck

Utterly dense creationist and author of “Darwinists’ swine flu science” for onenewsnow, an unremarkable piece that trots through all the standard creationists misunderstandings, fallacies and dishonesties. According to Heck “It never ceases to amaze me how intellectually condescending evolutionary naturalists can be.” (from which he goes on to condescend, the difference being that he does so from a position of near perfect ignorance, thereby also showing why people like Heck should indeed be treated with a condescending attitude). It is basically one long argument from ignorance in favor of ignorance, and completely without merit or notability, were it not for the fact that it was subjected to this very nice takedown.

The other point of notability is the illustration of standard creationist dishonesty when he responds to the takedown. Still, he merits inclusion in our Encyclopedia primarily for the same reason as Tim Harlow – standing as a representative of an ocean of dishonest, ignorant zealots who sticks to their preconceived delusions in the face of reality, reason and evidence (the latter of which they are completely unable to recognize anyway).

Diagnosis: Loon. Probably unimportant, but his attitudes and ignorance are widespread.

#173: Louise Hay

Louise Hay is the founder of the Hay House publishing firm, whose vision is to make humanity as stupid as remotely possible. It is devoted to publish the most insane self-help authors, woomeisters and gurus (and is financially pretty successful), in addition to sponsoring tours, radio shows and forums. Their area of specialty is quantum woo and the Law of attraction. Among their authors are Sylvia Browne (who has already been covered), Esther Hicks (who will be covered shortly) and Doreen Virtue.

Louise Hay herself made her success with this kind of bullshit, of course (strongly influenced by “researcher” Ernest Holmes, the delusional Florence Scovel Shinn and snowflake Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) most famously with “You Can Heal Your Life”, from 1984. She is a certified practitioner of “religious science”, mixing Christian fundamentalism with the flakiest ideas from oriental spiritualism, such as reiki. The central tenet of “You Can Heal Your Life” is that those who are sick have themselves to blame for it, and if they are unable to cure themselves, it is because of their psychological shortcomings (“we are each responsible for our own reality and "dis-ease"”). A standard and devious strategy for promoting woo, favored by Oprah, Chopra and others. For instance, according to Hay birth defects are a result of bad karma in a previous life.

She also claims to have cured herself of cancer through positive thinking and woo, but no one has ever been able to verify that she even ever had cancer.

Her life has even been made into a movie.

Diagnosis: Seriously deluded crackpot and peabrain who thinks religious-based intuition is on par with evidence. Her tireless promotion of stupidity, and her resources, makes her dangerous even apart from the popularity of her own inane dribblings. Her advice does actually appear to cause concrete, physical (and psychological) harm to real people.

#172: James Hartline

San Diego’s most famous wingnut, and one of the most thoroughly unhinged anti-gay activists out there (the competition is pretty fierce), James Hartline is the publisher of The James Hartline Report, which addresses issues involving homosexuality. A fine example is here, where Hartline urges his voters not to cast their votes for Mayoral Candidate Jerry Sanders because it violates the Bible, and because Sanders “will be bringing with him a new wave of moral compromise and radical homosexual ideology. This is the core problem in San Diego, which, for the last ten years has destroyed all sense of morality in America's once Finest City, and left the citizenry with an unfixable financial black hole.” The point was the Hartline found homosexuals among Sanders’s campaign sponsors (which are, by default, extremist promoters of the insidious homosexual agenda). By not treating gays as shit, Hartline claims, Sanders is disrespecting every Christian voter. He also claims that “both Jerry Sanders and Donna Frye are rabid supporters of the liberal, social experiment of the sexual revolution”, but I am unsure that Hartline has earned the right to use the adjective ‘rabid’ of other people. Here, by the way, is some context and a snapshot of ordinary San Diego lunatics.

He also blamed the 2007 forest fires on the gays (God’s punishment), or actually on the anti-christian California lawmakers who even considered legalizing gay marriage.
And last year, the torrential rains in Southern California were … well, you guessed it.

Particularly charming is his tendency to start sounding like an incoherent Old Testament prophet when his hysterical rants reach their climax. He is also oppsed to the “Nazi-style stem cell research”.

This entry could also serve to indict Phil Magnan, the director for Biblical Family Advocates, who joined forces with Hartline on at least this occasion, and who thought it was ‘sad’ that the Gay Men's Chorus of San Diego was allowed to sing the National Anthem at the San Diego Padres baseball stadium.

Diagnosis: Hartline’s Report is one long, hysterical, unhinged, garbled primal scream against sanity, reason and freedom, and the guy is totally insane. Impact unclear, but I doubt he convinces anyone not already positioned well beyond the reach of reason

#171: Tim Harlow

An exceptionally dense creationist, pastor Tim Harlow is hardly a major figure, and it seems to be a coincidence that his pamphlet containing some of the most common creationist canards (mixtures of ignorance, fallacious reasoning, wishful thinking and dubious respect for veracity) has come to the attention of the rest of us. The pamphlet, “Creationism for my Child’s Teacher”, is apparently intended for parents among Harlow’s flock, to be handed out to teachers (for discussion of various points, see here and here). It really is a collection of quote-mining, dishonesty and desperate twisting of facts, patched up with, uhm, inaccuracies where even the standard dishonest techniques do not work.

There is nothing unusual about Harlow, of course. There are people like Harlow in every small town, people who are diligently doing their own small parts in forwarding delusion, religious fundamentalism, anti-science and anti-rationality. It is their numbers that makes Harlow and his band of liars for Jesus dangerous, of course, and Harlow deserves an entry as a representation of all those delusionally lunatic minor players that seemingly exist everywhere. And for this beautiful takedown by PZ Myers, of course.

Diagnosis: Kook and Liar for Jesus. Apparently a nice chap, but his ignorance and bias make him dangerous nonetheless.

#170: Tom Harkin

We have covered some Republican politicians in our Encyclopedia, so it is perhaps apt to include a Democrat as well. Tom Harkin is the junior United States Senator from Iowa and even tried his hand at running for president in 1992. He is, in general, considered relatively liberal among Democrats. But he has one drawback: He is a loon. This is not disclosed on his Wikipage.

Tom Harkin was a prime force behind the establishment of the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Why, one might wonder (if one is sane) would we need that insofar as the National Institutes of Health already study health science?

His comment in 2009 might be illuminating: “"One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. It think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving.” In other words, the mandate of NCCAM was not to investigate alternative practices, but to validate them (unfortunately for him, NCCAM has in practice, for the most part, deployed actual scientists and done actual experiments – no wonder he didn’t get the results he wanted). Senator Harkin has, in other words, no clue how science works, and not the slightest idea about what make scientific methods scientific.

Harkin’s favorite argument is of course the “freedom of choice” gambit: “It is time to end the discrimination against alternative health care practices” and “it is time to adopt an integrative approach that takes advantage of the very best scientifically based medicines and therapies, whether conventional or alternative.” To prove his point to the senate Harkin called on his expert witnesses: Mehmet Oz, Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil and Mark “I invoke Kuhn” Hyman. More here, and here.

Harkin also attempted to get this crap into Obama’s health care bill.

Representative John Dingell sponsored a similar “freedom” bill for faith healing, by the way. So Harkin is not alone among Democratic representatives who wage wars on science (something usually associated with the religious right).

Diagnosis: Since he often comes across as sensible, Harkin’s attacks on science are all the more dangerous for tending to fly under the radar of many otherwise sensible persons. But Harkin has no clue about science, and does not let that deter him from drawing on his own confirmation bias to pronounce on scientific issues. A moron, and a dangerous one.

#169: Robert Hansen

Robert Hansen is a well-known psychic medium certified by the Forever Family Foundation. You can follow his facebook blog here (his homepage is here). He is most famous, however, for being the host of TLC’s show Paranormal Court in which he “mediate[s] disputes between family members squabbling over possessions left behind by the deceased.”

A recipe for disaster, one assumes. From their press release: “Paranormal Court demonstrates Robert's psychic abilities in solving disputes when two parties come together and agree to be bound by the ruling enlisted from the other side”, and “Paranormal Court is about helping families in their time of need”. Hardly. But I am sure it “presses emotional buttons”. This author for Technorati is skeptical of the program, but for exactly the wrong reasons.

Diagnosis: Not as despicably influential as Sylvia Browne, but there are enough people out there who think being open-minded means being gullible (and that being non-gullible is wrong) and are as a consequence prevented from talking sense into people who are actually gullible enough to let Robert ruin their lives. Tragic.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#168: Sean Hannity

Hannity needs little introduction. But in any case he is a famous Fox News talk show host discovered by Rush Limbaugh who seems to think that “peace” means “blowing the shit out of dirty foreigners”.

Compared to the insane bozo (or perhaps fraud) Glenn Beck, Hannity is a slick liar who may be more intelligent than he appears to be, but who has a background of palling around with neo-nazis like Hal Turner (see Sullivan’s comparison of Beck and Hannity). He has recently been involved in a charity scam as well.

Now Hannity may be more a paid PR agent for the extreme right than a genuine believer, and as such he may be completely devoid of intellectual honesty and completely uninterested in truth, rather than a true loon. But his real beliefs could be very far away from those he actually espouses and still make him a loon. His sole argument against global warming was “doesn’t exist”, for instance. And his interview with con man John Edward … well, you cannot fake this; seriously.

He isn’t very good at reading material that doesn’t conform to his ideology either.

Bonus: see Hannity squirm when his own dirty tricks are used against him.

He is described in some more detail here.

Diagnosis: Another important motivator for ignorance and idiocy, Hannity may not quite be the inane nitwit he portrays himself as (he may instead be completely intellectually dishonest). Some things seem too hard to fake, however, and I think it is safe to say that he is moronic (or delusional) enough to qualify for an entry.

#167: J.B. Handley

J.B. Handley is the founder of Generation Rescue (GR), an organization advocating the view that autism (and related disorders) are primarily caused by environmental factors, and in particular by vaccines (shifting goalposts for the previous “autism is misdiagnosis of mercury poisoning”). For anyone in doubt, these claims are biologically implausible and lack scientific evidence. But evidence hardly matters. GR may be the most famous of the anti-vaxx groups, and certainly among the most aggressive, gaining widespread attention from aggressive media campaigns (including sponsoring full page ads in the New York Times and USA Today). Today, Generation Rescue is known as a platform for Jenny McCarthy's autism advocacy, but Handley is still pulling most of the strings. The wikipedia article is actually fairly balanced. He is generally known for supporting discredited researcher Andrew Wakefield and offering arguments of dubious coherence.

He also founded and has an editorial role (but denies that) in the Age of Autism community (AoA), which basically does the same as GR (it’s a blog/news community) at a broader scale, but with the same level of reason and accountability.

The AoA has repeatedly called for a civil debate on vaccination. Some of Handley’s contributions on behalf of AoA to the civil, reasonable debate are covered here (a good illustration of how denialist movements actually work). See also this, or for the truly bizarre, this.

He has absolutely no understanding of science either, and has confirmed that if scientists say something that contradicts his belief that vaccines cause autism, then they must be corrupt and lying.
Diagnosis: Dangerous, zealous crackpot – more precisely a hysterical pinhead unable to distinguish scientific evidence from emotional reactions. Unfortunately he is rather influential and a real danger to civilization.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#166: Ken Ham

Arguably the successor of Kent Hovind to the title of mackerel baron of the biblical creationist movement, Ken Ham is the well-known founder of Answers in Genesis (a pertinent description of which is found here, and also here). He originally hails from Australia (where all the kangaroos apparently floated after the Ark stranded in Turkey; see here). He is very diligent and shovels a lot of shit every day, completely delusional and utterly unable to distinguish fact from fantasy.

Also generally recognized as a human spambot that generates sentences with no regard for their truth or justification, their cogency with previous statements or any conceivable rules for good critical thinking, but in a completely predictable manner, such as in this case where the input cue is the term “atheist”. See this, and also this.

His favorite debate technique is a version of the Gish gallop known as the “Ham Hightail” which consists of jumping from point to point, ignoring all contrary evidence, and quoting the Bible whenever proof is required. Since the purpose is to retain the hold of those who already believe creationism is backed by science, if all else fails the hightail prescribes the “different worldviews” (i.e. atheist vs. moral) gambit.

Ken Ham and AIG also run the world-famous creation museum in Kentucky, a monument to ignorance, fundamentalism and denialism. The main purpose of the museum is to promote the idea that humans and dinosaurs coexisted peacefully before the Flood. The T Rex ate coconuts, and the reason animals ended up on different continents was that plate tectonics happened really, really fast after the flood. It “says quite a lot about Ham and his followers that they find a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth wildly implausible next to the notion of a tyrannosaur calmly grazing in a meadow.” Ken Ham and AiG seem to have failed to realize that the Flintstones is not a documentary. This is also pertinent, as is this.

Absolutely clueless and ignorant about science, Ham is also fond of dismissing any evidence on the grounds that the presenter is (purportedly) an atheist – a standard conspiracy theory trick, really.

He does, however, realize that Dembski’s old earth, intelligent design creationism is “bizarre", though not obviously for the right reasons.

Ham is also constantly complaining that scientists are unwilling to take him seriously. Go figure (He really, really doesn’t get it, though).

A couple of other examples: Ken Ham (feebly) claims that his Noah’s Ark claims are misrepresented.

Ken Ham on the Virginia Tech shootings (predictably).

Ken Ham on Tiktaalik.

Ken Ham applies double standards for Jesus.

Ken Ham fails to stay classy.

Ken Ham goes insane.

Oh, and Hitler.

And so on, and so forth. You get the gist.

Diagnosis: A clod, crackpot and (unintentional) con artist; seriously deluded and influential in the manner of Kent Hovind; Ken Ham is perhaps the leading advocate of traditional creationism and naïve biblical literalism. A threat to reason, sanity, intelligence and rationality everywhere.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#165: Wilfred Hahn

We may have entertained some doubts concerning Ted Haggard eligibility for our encyclopedia. No such doubts concerning Wilfred Hahn. For a taste, you may wish to read this. Here he asks the inevitable question I am sure many readers have pondered: “Does government debt have an endtime role?” By even asking the question, you kinda know what Hahn’s answer is going to be. “Taken together with several other trends and a literal scriptural perspective, in our view, it leads to an irrefutable diagnosis. These developments do align with endtime Bible prophecy.” (I think “irrefutable” means “non-falsifiable”). Really, this article is a study in equivocations (you can see them coming from far away in these claims): “The world has agreed to endorse humanist materialism”, “To begin, it is crucial to understand that economics is not a science. It is a philosophy … really, a religion”

Wilfred Hahn is a prolific writer, it seems (a collection is here), which I guess is easy when you don’t have to consider coherence, truth or justification. Much of it is interesting, though. His attacks on anti-Semitism are downright bizarre. His endtime signs for the secularists are amusing, though.

He is also a global warming denialist, interestingly starting from (rather than ending at) the premise that science is a secular conspiracy. I haven’t read anything on evolution from him, but I don’t think I need to. I wasn’t completely able to figure out his argument against China’s one-child-per-couple policy, but the conclusion was “With so many single, non-family-rooted men soon coming of military age in the future, events and trends could move into rapid alignment with events prophesied in Revelation 9:14".

Hahn may be Canadian, but has at least operated from the US for a while.

Diagnosis: Delusional dimwit. Probably relatively harmless.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#164: Ted Haggard (?)

Ted Haggard, who is not gay and known for saying that “evangelicals have the best sex life of any group”, is best known for being exposed as a methamphetamine user and a regular customer of Denver's male prostitutes in 2007 (of course not using money donated to his church by his flock). That does not make him a loon. What could perhaps make him a loon is the aftermath and rationalization (in addition to certain wacky beliefs he had beforehand). After a month of, well, therapy, however, he was pronounced “100% heterosexual” (which he asserted the whole time anyway) by his colleague Tim Ralph and followed his ministry’s advice of pursuing a secular career. Prior to his downfall, Haggard had immense influence reaching all the way to the White House; the scandal (and other scandals following in its trail) has led to a quick fall from grace of his New Life Church. Haggard was originally exposed since his masseur got tired of Haggard’s hypocrisy (Haggard was simultaneously campaigning for a law to ban gay marriage).

The reason Haggard did what he did was because Satan was present in his Church. If Satan can enter a church and provide the flock with impure thoughts, one wonders who wrote the Bible, but that is another matter. He has given his name to Haggard’s law. It got Haggard’s name since Haggard beat Larry Craig to it by a few months (along with an almost endless row of other conservative fundamentalist unnaturally preoccupied with other people’s sexual behavior). Haggard hasn’t tackled the episode very well (though he has, of course, made money off of it – separating people from their money is a skill that he had long before honed to excellence).

Contrary to popular belief, Haggard is relatively moderate (for an evangelical) in his religious views, and had never prior to the scandal been making any strong condemnations of homosexuality.

Thus, little of what’s mentioned qualifies him a loon (his reactions might in part be ascribed to the deleterious effect the incident had on his career). This one, though, will probably do the trick.

On the other hand, Haggard was also an ally in the fight against global warming, rather rare for radical wingnuts.
Diagnosis: The jury is still out on this one. If Ted Haggard is a loon, it would be in virtue of being a leader of an evangelical megachurch, possible, undisclosed beliefs about reality that may have come with that, and his sympathy for creationism. He doesn’t have much power anymore, however.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

#163: Louise Kuo Habakus

We follow one anti-vaccine crank with another. Louise Kuo Habakus is less powerful than Grossman, but quite a bit more unhinged. Habakus won the crackpot-and-lunacy organization Age of Autism’s “person of the year” award in 2009. She won it for “rallying vaccine advocates and concerned citizens in numbers that made the difference in the New Jersey governor's race, defeating Jon Corzine and carrying Chris Christie, the first candidate to go on record for vaccine choice, to victory” (AoA obviously entertains some delusions of grandeur). “Vaccine choice” means “vaccine denialism”, and Habakus’s stance is well covered here. She likes to talk about the vaccine gestapo.

Her own website “Life Health Choices” is crammed with woo, strawmen and links to pseudoscience and conspiracy theories (she links to Mercola, for crying out loud). It is pretty transparently bad and would never have risen to notice were it not for the fact that certain news outlets sometimes seem to entertain an almost pathologic need to cover “both sides” of an issue regardless of whether that issue in fact has two legitimate sides.

Apart from her blog, Habakus gives lectures and talks on vaccines and other woo.

A good, concise primer on the Habakus-style anti-vaxxer is here.

Diagnosis: Not particularly original, but nevertheless scary peddler of disturbing woo and dangerous myths. Her influence is presumably a function of the influence of the despiccable Age of Autism organization, but she is notable enough nonetheless.

#162: Lee Grossman

Originally, I meant to cover Herb Grossman, who runs the website trashevolution and whose arguments are more inane than Christine O’Donnell’s and Kent Hovind’s. The problem is that the stupendous Herb Grossman is powerless and in fact merely pitiful – he is a guy with a website and an issue, so I think I’ll just leave him alone.

Lee Grossman, on the other hand (probably unrelated), deserves exposure. He belongs to that other favorite group of nuts of ourse, the anti-vaccinationists. Grossman is not the loudest or most vocieferous among them, but he is president of the Autism Society of America (ASA), and a firm believer in the scientifically completely unsupported claim that vaccines may cause autism. That belief and that position together make a very bad combination. Again, he may not be one of the most radically delusional (he’s no JB Handley, David Kirby or Jenny McCarthy), but the belief is so dangerous that any person in a position of power with respect to this matter, is somewhat obliged to try to follow the evidence, and Grossman simply doesn’t, as shown by this screed.

In a way, the ASA is far more moderate than the horrible Autism Speaks. Still it is listed on Quackwatch’s list of untrustworthy organizations.

More scary stuff here.

Diagnosis: Crank, and a dangerous one; he might still, perhaps, be stopped by reason and evidence (i.e. he may, for all I know, not have succumbed completely to insanity) – but he should be stopped.