Friday, July 29, 2011

#233: Mary Leitao

The inventor of Morgellons Disease, the biologist Leitao found the term in a very old reference book and used it to describe her child's rash, which doctors described as common eczema. Fuelled by various sensationalist news stories, Morgellons has achieved a life of its own, despite the fact that few serious researches have found anything novel about the conditions (apart, possibly, from the fact that the patients may suffer from delusional parasitosis). The disease seems to affect a particular group of people predisposed towards mistrust towards “established medical science”, and the people doing serious discussions of the condition at morgellonswatch appears to have closed down.

No one doubts that patients are suffering, of course, but the "research foundation" (where Leitao is executive director) has already decided what’s going on. They have started with a conclusion rather than a hypothesis, and are hence working on making the data fit. Which is, of course, not how science is done. In fact, the little research there is in support of the diagnosis is often (well, consistently) rather poor, such as this one (where Leitao herself was involved).

This is, in short, one of the plagues of modern day healthcare. The afflicted people surely need treatment, but knowing about your own symptoms does not confer authority regarding what the cause of the illness, or the correct diagnosis, is. People who have encountered Morgellons usually ask for the medical establishment to show some empathy, be tolerant and open-minded – failing to recognize that it is they who have already decided on what the correct conclusions are (which is, of course, anything but open-minded), not those who are skeptical of the nature of the disease. Having reached the conclusion without evidence (and then attempting to fit the evidence to the conclusion) makes Leitao and her associates (such as Marc Neumann) crackpots (and that is the case even if it should – contrary to what evidence suggests today – turn out that she is, in the end, correct about Morgellons being a real disease).

Diagnosis: Surely worthy of empathy, and Leitao certainly has people’s best interest in mind; but she is definitely a crackpot, and as such, she may end up – unintentionally – doing quite a lot of harm.

Friday, July 22, 2011

#232: Brock Lee

Brock Lee is an unimportant, local creationist in Owatonna, Minnesota, whose sole claim to fame is his sheer idiocy and the fact that his ramblings have been picked up by PZ Myers. He is apparently fond of writing letters to newspapers; for instance see here, where he claims that evolutionary biology (analytically) implies that as long as you are not having sex or are pregnant, you don’t count as a human and hence have no moral status. Because of this analytic connection, evolutionary biology is responsible for teenage pregnancies – teenagers are having sex because they wish to be human. I don’t think there is any point in trying to unravel the various layers of misunderstanding here.

He has also been involved in arranging the Minnesota Creation Science Fair.

Diagnosis: You can’t fake this. Moronic loon (Hovind-sycophant). Probably relatively harmless.

Monday, July 11, 2011

#231: Dave Leach (and Scott Roeder)

Dave Francis Leach is an anti-abortion activist and publisher of the utterly insane, extremist newsletter Prayer & Action News. He also runs the web site The Partnership Machine. Both support the doctrine of “justifiable homicide” in the case of abortion doctors, and one of his subscribers was Scott Roeder, who cited the doctrine prior to the assassination of George Tiller. In the January 1996 issue, Leach reprinted the Army of God manual, which lists ways to damage abortion buildings from putting super glue in locks to two simple bomb recipes.

The Army of God, by the way, is a terrorist organization featuring members such as Clayton Waagner, Eric Robert Rudolph, Michael Bray, Donald Spitz, Shelley Shannon, and other known domestic terrorists.

Leach, while avoiding association with terrorists according to legal definitions, has nevertheless staunchly supported Roeder’s actions; he wrote a legal brief for Roeder, pointing out that shooting Dr. Tiller was justified by the Bible (and more obviously falsely, by various court rulings). Roeder was officially associated with the insane domestic terrorist organization “Operation Rescue”, which will be covered in more detail in a later entry.

Diagnosis: Totally insane, and demonstrably dangerous.

#230: Marcus Laux

Not exactly a household name, Marcus Laux is in any case a very typical example of how woo is peddled. He is “a licensed naturopathic physician who earned his doctorate at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. He has been clinically trained in acupuncture, homeopathy, physical medicine, among other healing modalities.” His biography is here.

It’s all there. He chose the woo route because “[science-based medicine] doctors seemed more interested in money than their patients” and – predictably – because naturopathic medicine “looks beyond the symptoms to the source, treating you as a whole person rather than a bunch of separate, unrelated symptoms”. But of course, Laux initially thought naturopathic medicine was quackery, However, he “knew in [his] heart [i.e. rather than by evidence] that the natural path was the right path” (in short, he found fallacious appeals to nature extremely intuitively compelling). He is also coauthor of “Natural Woman, Natural Menopause” (with Christine Conrad) and “Top Ten Natural Therapies” (with Melissa Block).

His web page is here. Now, Laux is the founder of Qivana, a network marketing company peddling all sorts of wellness products (woo-based, of course – no, you don’t get a link) in what they call the “Qivana Qore” series (it even has “Qi” in the name to give them away).

Diagnosis: This is how great woo is done; while Laux may be a fraud, it's more likely he is completely oblivious to the fishiness of his approach to medicine or business. Not very influential or likely to become very influential, but he is still not unlikely to cause some harm.