Saturday, January 28, 2012

#285: Roy Moore

Roy Moore is something of a legend in the history of the separation of church and state. A month after being elected to an Alabama court (despite being astoundingly incompetent, something he has shown again and again), Moore decided to erect a Ten Commandments statue for the Court lobby – replacing the one already there with a bigger one. He repeatedly insisted that the statue did not mean that the court, or he as a representative of the court, endorsed a particular religion. For instance, when the statue was unveiled, he included the following in his speech: “Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded … May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.” The whole spectacle is covered here. In fact, one of Moore’s arguments was that the Ten Commandments monument could not offend any religion because all religions believe in the Ten Commandments; when asked about Hindus or Buddhists he said “they are not real religions so they are not protected by the First Amendment”. Problem solved.

After complaints and requests to remove the statue, Moore argued that he couldn’t do so, since removing it would violate his oath of office (also here) by making him act against the “moral foundation” of the law (“we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs … by recognizing the sovereignty of God”). To the argument that the statue violated the Establishment clause and the separation of church and state, Moore argued that it didn’t; it just showed that “the Judeo-Christian God reigned over both the church and the state in this country, and that both owed allegiance to that God”. Thus, the separation is upheld.

That argument didn’t fly with the courts (including Supreme Court), and Moore was told to remove the statue. That’s when the tumults started; Moore refused to follow the ruling, Ol’ Falwell threw in his support, there were protests, the courts ordered the immediate removal and Alabama faced daily fines unless they ensured its removal (Moore argued that using daily fines was illegal coercion and a violation of his rights). His followers were outraged that local courts didn’t refuse to follow the Supreme Court’s demands.

Moore has later clarified his arguments. No deity but the Judeo-Christian God can be held in official esteem in the US (and we have to hold him in esteem, since God is the metaphysical basis for the law), at least not if religious tolerance is to be maintained: “The Judeo-Christian God is the one that gives religious liberty. The Muslim God, Allah, does not give religious liberty”. See also this. It should come as no surprise that Moore has also endorsed Barton-style Christian reconstructivism (e.g. this), and that he is an ardent theocrat of the “religious freedom is important, so everyone must be Christian, else there cannot be religious freedom, since we would have to force those who aren't Christian to become Christian”-style. He is also a creationist, and he was the guy who during the gubernatorial campaigns accused Bradley Byrne of not being creationist enough.

Roy has toured the US with the giant statue he had to remove and writes for WorldNetDaily. He has also run for governor of Alabama (backed by Michael Peroutka and the Constitution Party) with little success, and did indeed consider running for president in 2012, but apparently abandonded the idea in favor of trying to regain a seat at the Alabama Supreme Court. His qualifications appear to be stellar.

Diagnosis: Almost unbelievably dense idiot, and his insanity and Taliban style fundamentalism have predictably made him a hero among certain groups of people. Overall, he is probably relatively toothless, but it is hard to say for sure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#284: Richard Moore

There are few things more detrimental to reason, sanity and the well-being of people than reporters who are absolutely ignorant of science, but nonetheless think they have uncovered something the public needs to know about (be it medicine, climate, biology or what have you). Such reporters tend to swallow the manufactroversies hook and sinker, and given some POMO background assumption that all viewpoints are equal, help present the voice of the loons as respectably as possible. The consequence is of course that readers, who cannot be expected to know the science either, may think there really is a controversy here.

The problem is exacerbated if said reporter becomes dimly aware that scientists (or government, or sane organizations) dismiss the “breaking news” he copied and pasted from the loon activists. Then, of course, he may come to think that it is his duty to crank up the volume to make the public aware that authorities don’t want you to know the truth.

Richard Moore: eat your cake. Moore is an “investigative reporter” for the Lakeland Times. He has enthusiastically endorsed the Age of Autism propaganda: vaccines cause autism, autoimmune disease, and all sorts of ills, and he sees it – apparently – as his duty to help spread the gospel. And Moore jumps in deep; not only is Big Pharma untrustworthy – they are actively killing you, in an unholy alliance with the government. And he trots out pretty much every lie ever peddled by the antivaxx movement (e.g. the numbers of cases of autism must have increased, for where are the adult autistics? Well, maybe here?). It never seems to strike him that it might be worth checking his sources. First, vaccines cause autism (and kills), then BigPharma ‘release “scientific” studies “disproving” any link between autism and mercury in vaccines”. See? Conspiracy proven. Of course, being completely scientifically ignorant, Moore is unable to point out any actual scientific flaw in any of the studies, but since they don’t agree with the position he has intuited himself into, there must – must! – be a conspiracy.

Moore is not alone, of course. The attitude is frighteningly common. With respect to antivaxx, the most egregious examples include the delusional and utterly moronic reporter (who currently enjoys intimate ties with the antivaxx organizations) Sharyl Attkisson in addition to the usual suspects, already covered or to be covered, Kirby and Olmsted. Steve Wilson of WXYZ-TV in Detroit is another example.

Diagnosis: A very common example of investigative reporting gone awry because the reporter is completely ignorant about the topic and assumes that if two fractions disagree, then their viewpoints are by default equally valid and justified. I am willing to claim that reporters like him constitute one of the major threats to modern civilization.

Monday, January 23, 2012

#283: Sun Myung Moon, his followers, admirers and associates

The Unification Church, whose members are known as the Moonies, is a personality cult formed by “Reverend” Sun Myung Moon. Moon is a probable psychotic, gibberingly insane SPAGger from South Korea who has lived in the US since 1971. In fact, Moon claims to be the second coming of Jesus. He and his wife have been banned from entering several European countries.

He is popular in the US where the Unification Church has become something of a competitor to scientology. The difference that the Moonies are actually much crazier and more vile, and at the same time probably more powerful, wealthier and more influential. Back in the 70s Moonies were Hare Krishna-like fluffdolls who recruited stoned hippies (earlier it was more or less probably a sex cult back in Korea). But the organization was, and has become more overtly, hardcore rightwing. Among the teachings is the standard crap: anti-gay (Moon has called homosexuals “dung eating dogs”), that the victims of the Holocaust were paying indemnity for the crucifixion of Jesus, theocracy, channeling, and occultism (and of course, the famous arranged marriages of church members determined by the church). One of Sun Myung’s many sons, Heung-Jin Moon, died in 1984, but was apparently resurrected via Heung Jin Moon's embodiment in the body of Cleopas Kundioni, a Zimbabwean member of the Unification Church. Many Moonies referred to Kundioni as “the new Christ” (after all, revd. Moon is God). Apparently Kundioni exploited his position by beating up other Moonies.

However, the scary part isn’t only that Moon has millions of followers in the US; he also has billions and billions of dollars, and his Moonies own and run a long row of businesses and media (in the US and elsewhere): His Saelio Inc. owns the Kahr Arms Company; he owns the United Press International, Washington Times, the New World Encyclopedia, Insight magazine (notice the connection to Joseph Farah), runs the Universal Peace Federation and CAUSA International, and owns the True World Group (if you are eating sushi anywhere in the US chances are you’re paying Revd. Moon). The Moonies have also more or less absorbed Jerry Falwell’s empire and pretty much control Liberty University, and they run the InternationalConference on the Unity of the Sciences. A good resource for Moon-related business, media outlets and recruiting centers is here. The list of Moon-fronts is here. It is … long. Another list is here.

This one is worth reading as well. Another resource worth looking at is this.

In the mid-1990s, U.S. President George Bush senior accepted millions of dollars from Moon's Women’s Federation for World Peace to speak on Moon's behalf around the world (and he has repeated it later). In January 2001 Moon sponsored President George W. Bush's Inaugural Prayer Luncheon for Unity and Renewal. Bush Jr. returned the favor. George H. W. Bush's youngest son Neil Bush accompanied Moon on a speaking tour of Asian countries in 2005 (and retained the close association). Moon is also closely associated with ultraloon Louis Farrakhan, although that pales by comparison. Bob Dole and Chris Matthews are other names that have been on Moon’s payroll list.

In 2004 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, D.C., Moon crowned himself with what was called the "Crown of Peace". Among the attendees were Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), as well as former Representative Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.). Key organizers of the event included George Augustus Stallings, Jr., a controversial former Roman Catholic priest who had been married by Moon, and Michael Jenkins, the president of the American Unification Church at that time.

In April 2008, Moon appointed his youngest son Hyung Jin Moon to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the worldwide Unification Movement.

Diagnosis: Moon himself is a messianic fascist and utterly delusional Sauron-wannabe; absolutely everything about this man is wrong. His followers are therefore insane, and dangerous.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#282: Glenn Moon

We’ll jump over some famous international (non-American) candidates, such as the incoherently babblingly insane loose cannon and ignoramus Viscount Monckton and the infamous virologist and Noble Prize winner Luc Montagnier, whose subsequent career has taken a slightly disconcerting turn.

Glenn Moon (not related to Sun Myung other than in spirit) may have received less attention, but he is surely no more in touch with reality. In 2009 Glenn Moon attempted to run for City Council in Livonia. You can watch a speech of his before the Livonia City Council meeting here. I am unable to discern exactly what policy he is suggesting, but in what is basically one unbroken sentence there are at least references to the police force in the 16th district and an unhealthy number of occurrences of “Heavenly Father Almighty God in name God Son Jesus Christ Lord Savior Messiah” for a single sentence. It seems to be clear that Moon thinks his speech is delivered by “world historic spiritual leader prophet of God in name Jesus Glenn Moon” (“I” is generally more elegant), and that he views it as his responsibility to “lead this world of lost human souls to eternal salvation through Jesus” (which he makes to sound uncannily like he’s suggesting a Jim Jones move). It’s all weirdly and adorably reminiscent of Dr. Bronner’s Soap.

In general his political platform seems to have been centered on abortion, littering, firing non-believers and paying city employees a salary of $1 per year plus the love of Jesus Christ.

Diagnosis: Probably in need of professional care. Relatively harmless (and no, he didn’t get elected, although I guess the existence of Michele Bachmann means that I had to point that out).

#281: Edgar Mitchell

A legend among nutjobs, Edgar Mitchell is a former Apollo astronaut who has actually walked on the moon. He is just as famous for being an UFO conspiracy loon, and is of course a hero among the UFO nutters because Mitchell must obviously have some insider info.

To undermine the last shreds of his credibility, Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (current president Marilyn Schlitz should be considered indicted by this entry as well). Noetic science is basically medical woo peppered with postmodernism (i.e. word-salads, reason and evidence are Western tools for oppressing other insights, and so on): “Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing – including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic sciences explore the ‘inner cosmos’ of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the ‘outer cosmos’ of the physical world.” His institute has unsurprisingly made it to Quackwatch. Among people associated with the Institute, special mention should go to DeanRadin.

Apparently Mitchell tried to conduct private ESP experiments with his friends on Earth during the Apollo flight, and he claims to have had his purported kidney cancer purportedly distance-healed by Adam“Dreamhealer” McLeod. Mitchell is also fond of (and may have been the inventor of) the Quantum Hologram (though the idea is old), the property of all physical things only accessible to psychics (i.e. Mitchell has no clue about quantum mechanics). According to Mitchell, the quantum hologram theory has explanatory power – it can explain RupertSheldrake’s morphic field theory, for instance. Not much else can do that.

Mitchell is sure that UFOs visit Earth and have been the “subject of disinformation in order to deflect attention and to create confusion so the truth doesn't come out” (like UFO-conspiracy nuts, Mitchell has no coherent story about exactly why the truth must be kept hidden). Apparently the evidence for such alien contact is “very strong” and “classified” by governments, who are covering up visitations and the existence of alien beings' bodies in places such as Roswell (i.e. the evidence is very strong, but Mitchell hasn’t actually seen any of it). UFOs have also provided “sonic engineering secrets” that have been helpful to the U.S. government.

Apparently Mitchell’s condition has declined over time (interview here). Currently the tenor is: “I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we've been visited on this planet, and the UFO phenomenon is real.” He knows this since he has talked to people who were at Roswell back then, but who are conveniently dead at present. You can watch him call for the government to stop hiding the truth here.

This is an interesting description of Mitchell’s spectacular failure to experimentally prove ESP; it’s worth the read for the staggering methodological problems with the experiment – and Mitchell still didn’t get significant results (though he presented them as such).

Diagnosis: Wackaloon. He has a lot of followers (at least among the UFOers); whether he can really be considered particularly dangerous is a different matter.

#280: Chuck Missler

A.k.a. The Peanut Butter Man

One of the most celebrated confirming instances of the Salem hypothesis, Chuck Missler is also a prominent Christian Zionist with ties to the far right Patriot movement, and an author. He and co-author Hal Lindsey plagiarized and published whole chunks of other people’s books back in the 90s before being called out on it. Some of the books, such as “Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon” and “Cosmic Codes: Hidden Messages From the Edge of Eternity” look rather enticing given the evidence for Missler’s general reasoning skills (Missler seems to be a William Cooper fan, but I might be mistaken).

He is by far most famous for the peanut butter argument against evolution. Whatever you do, you must see the video (also here). Basically the argument is that since life does not evolve spontaneously in sealed jars of peanut butter, it follows that evolution is wrong, and therefore Jesus. The value of the argument is probably that it is wrong on so many levels that it is almost impossible to pry them apart. It starts by defining evolution as “matter + energy = life” (huh?). Hence, it deductively follows that light shining on a peanut butter jar should spontaneously create life in that jar. Lots of people open jars of peanut butter every day, and this has never happened, therefore Jesus (the way Missler conceives of him) and the Rapture is drawing close. QED. It is closely related to the Banana Argument.

The argument is worthy of this list (enjoy).

Diagnosis: Terminally bewildered bozo vying with Ray Comfort for the title of “dumbest creationist”. Impact unknown.

#279: Scott Minnich

Minnich is an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho, and a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Together with Behe (and Ralph Seelke) he must count as creationism’s biological alibi. In fact, Minnich is the biologist who wholeheartedly swallowed Behe’s idea of “irreducible complexity” in bacterial flagella, which supposedly is evidence of intelligent design (although since ID remains unfalsifiable (partially because Behe and his accomplices counter all counterevidence by moving the goal posts), it couldn’t have been, but that’s another story). Minnich was thus an obvious choice for the defense in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Part of his contribution to the defense was the fact that the previous year, Minnich and Stephen Meyer had presented a paper to an engineering conference entitled “Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits” and the Discovery Institute lists this as one of its “Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design”. The paper was, however, only reviewed for a conference presentation in engineering. I don’t think that counts insofar as scientific rigor is hardly the only (or even main) criterion for a conference presentation (more on the significance of Minnich’s testimony here). His actual publication record doesn’t show much sign of any support for creationism.

Minnich is also the co-author or “Explore Evolution” with Stephen Meyer (discussed under Meyer).

Diagnosis: Minnich tends to shy away from public debates and it’s hard to say how hard he rides his creationist hobbyhorse (most of his actual work seems to have nothing to do with it). Still, he does lend his credibility to the crazies, and must be denounced for that.

#278: Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller was the screenwriter for the movie Expelled. He has actively attempted to defend the movie (including creationism and the associated persecution complex/conspiracy theories) in online debates by arguments from post-modernism – many (not all) facts are perspectival and subjectively constructed (such as the fossil record); therefore, the creationist interpretation (dismissal) of the evidence is just bringing in an equally valid point of view. It’s all about the worldviews, you see (scroll down to Elsberry’s list of Miller’s arguments – it’s pretty good). Not that Miller has really brought anything to the fossil data; his positive arguments for creationism are consistently “scientists disagree with creationists; therefore creationists are persecuted; therefore they are right” and “I have evidence; I’ll give it to you later. It will convince you. Therefore you should believe me now.”

And then of course there is the quote-mining.

He may have taken an intro course to Philosophy, for he likes to take the Phil of Science angle and claim that it is all about this. No.

Miller’s next movie is “Creation”, concerning the life of Kent Hovind.

Diagnosis: Typical hack who does not, and does not want to, understand science (he and Walt Ruloff took science out of Expelled because they, in their own words, “found it boring”). But he does want to argue against it, since he disagrees with its conclusion for religious reasons – which means your options are to claim persecution and conspiracy, arguments by word salad, and argument by assertion.

#277: Lionel Milgrom

The Ken Ham of homeopathy, no single person has done more to torture quantum theory into the service of woo than Lionel Milgrom. Not that he has any understanding of quantum mechanics; but since his audience does not either, plastering the vocabulary of quantum theory onto his crackpottery to make it sound like Harry Potter spells seems to provide his readers with warm, fluffy feelings and the impression that Milgrom actually has anything to contribute. He hasn’t, of course.

Look, for instance, at one of his contributions to the “journal” Homeopathy. The article starts out with the Galileo gambit, conspiracies and persecution complexes. It goes downward from there. Can he provide evidence for homeopathy? Not a trace – and he even indirectly admits as much. The reason science cannot show that it works, you see, is that it works as follows: “[i]nstantaneous, acausal correlations are somehow established between various combinations of patient, practitioner, and remedy”. How? Well, by quantum, you see. How? I have no idea. Neither does Milgrom. It has something to do with our “vital force” acting as a “quantum gyroscope” upon which homeopathy can act. To get there, he uses the appeal to postmodernism gambit: “it’s all about the narratives” (scientists are evil and close-minded and in a conspiracy; I am the hero who stands on the outside; hence I am oppressed; hence I am right). Oh, and to top it he appeals to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as a proof that there is no “underlying ontological physical reality” and why the observer effect explains that homeopathic remedies don’t work during clinical testing. This combination of confirmation bias, argument by assertion, wishful thinking and handwaving must really be seen to be believed.

He tries to achieve the same conclusions in this insane rant. Then he hit upon something obvious that would provide him with the justification he needed. That’s right. He discovered Dr. Emoto’s Water Memory Woo – truly among the most insane crackpot ideas in existence. View the unholy combination of Milgrom and water memory in all its glory here. Homeopathy is the “semiotic notion that the homeopathic remedy is a ‘sign’ working simultaneously in and for two different but connected meaningful contexts” (and if you nod in agreement with this, meet Dr. Sergio Stagnaro).

Diagnosis: Complete crackpot whose understanding of reality is sufficiently limited to make any claim to reason beyond his purview. Completely divorced from it (reality) and an outspoken critic of reason and sanity. Ardent and dangerous.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#276: Stephen Meyer

Stephen C. Meyer is a philosopher and one of the hotshots of the Discovery Institute. And like some philosophers and all Discovery Institute people, he likes to make grand claims about scientific fields about which he must be counted as an illiterate. Meyer helped found the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the Discovery Institute (DI), which is the major hive for the ID creationist movement. Meyer is currently vice president and a senior fellow at CSC, and a director of the Access Research Network. He has been described as “the person who brought ID (intelligent design) to DI (Discovery Institute)”, he contributed to the second edition of Dean Kenyon’s “Of Pandas and People”, wrote (with Ralph Seelke) the ID textbook “Explore Evolution”, was appointed by the Texas Board of Education to be on the committee reviewing Texas’s science curriculum standards, is the primary link to DI sponsor and Taliban theocrat loon Howard Ahmanson, and was partly responsible for the Wedge Strategy, as well as an active speaker and debate panelist.

In 1999, Meyer (with David DeWolf and Mark DeForrest) designed a legal strategy for introducing intelligent design into public schools in the book “Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum.” (I mean, the point of ID is to get creationism and religion into the schools, not to do science). He is perhaps most famous for trying to realize the strategy through helping to introduce ID to the Dover Area School District (more extensively here), and for his ridiculous 2009 book “Signature in the Cell” (which a probably drunk/dementia suffering Thomas Nagel actually praised, flaunting his own ignorance of science). PZ Myers was offered a review copy by Meyer’s assistant Janet Oberembt, but never received it. The book actually makes twelve “predictions” for ID (although they are not predictions in the ordinary scientific sense because they are not derived from any concrete theory, and they all concern testing the theory of evolution, not ID). He also offers a “theory”. The theory is unrelated to the predictions. He derives no predictions from his theory. He offers nothing resembling a coherent justification either, so the book didn’t receive much positive feedback from actual scientists. He has offered some appeals to authority, however (“Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a Darwinist”).

In March 2002 he announced the “teach the controversy” strategy aimed at promoting the false idea that the theory of evolution is controversial within scientific circles, following a presentation to the Ohio State Board of Education. Since Meyer knows this is false, he was lying, but dishonesty isn’t exactly a surprising trait in ID advocates. The presentation included a bibliography of 44 peer-reviewed scientific articles that were said to raise significant challenges to key tenets of what was referred to as "”Darwinian evolution”. When NCSE contacted the authors, none of the authors who responded (the authors of thirty-four of the papers) thought that their research provided evidence against evolution. Meyer also publicly claimed that the “Santorum Amendment” was part of the Education Bill, and therefore that the State of Ohio was required to teach alternative theories to evolution as part of its biology curriculum. Which is demonstrably false, but tells you a lot about the DI creationists.

Of course, he thinks there is active persecution of the purportedly fast-growing number of scientists rejecting evolution in Academia (probably because he cannot find any). He was interviewed about those claims in Expelled.

Diagnosis: One of the staunchest, most influential, most dishonest anti-science advocates in the world. Crackpot and complete hack.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#275: Joyce Meyer

Pauline Joyce Hutchison Meyer is a Charismatic Christian author, speaker, and televangelist whose drivel is extensively distributed – her television and radio programs air in 39 languages in 200 countries. And she has written over 90 books (she’s a seemingly endless source trivialities, fluff, unsupported assertions and HR talk). Her husband Dave is a staunch supporter and helper. She also has a doctorate from Life Christian University. Guess whether that one is accredited (but she also has an honorary degree from Oral Roberts university…). Her deepfelt genuine altruism and care for people in difficult situations have earned her several homes and a private jet (described in detail here). 

She’s an adherent of the prosperity gospel. Meyer’s ministry was one of the six put under investigation by Chuck Grassley’s window-dresser commission: “We laid hands on the check and prayed. I went and got all of our checkbooks and my pocketbook and Dave got his wallet and we laid hands on them and put the blood on them, asking God to protect our money, to cause it to multiply and to see to it that Satan could not steal any of it from us”. To ensure that people use their hard-earned money to make Meyer’s fortune multiply, she also panders a pretty bleak view of what will happen if you don’t follow her teachings (see here (this link has not been carefully controlled for content)).

Diagnosis: Should probably be filed under fraud, but whatever – she must probably believe at least some of the garbage that pours from her mouth. Very dangerous.