Monday, September 30, 2013

#733: Anne Habermehl

Update: Turns out the photo we had up here was not here. Apologies to everyone for the mixup.

Anne Habermehl is an independent creationist writer, researcher and scholar. Habermehl thinks that evolution is, as reported here, not just a theory that teaches about a big bang, species evolving and the earth being billions of years old, a rather bad start for anyone pretending to research the subject, but a ploy of Satan to entice people into believing that there is no God. Evolutionists do not believe in sin, she complains, only an imperfect system, and if there is no sin, there is no need for a savior. (Her own way of putting it is generally less coherent.)

She has written several articles for Answer in Genesis’s house journal Answers on these topics. For volume 3 she contributed “Those Enigmatic Neanderthals: What Are They Saying? Are We Listening?”, which discusses which of various creationist theories better explain Neanderthals. Habermehl defends the view that Neanderthals were humans who lived for hundreds of years and that they disappeared when humans didn't live long enough to develop their Neanderthal characteristics (in 4000 years). The idea resembles those promoted by Jack Cuozzo, but that is not a complement.

She also contributed a letter to the discussion topic “Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin”, which criticized fellow creationist Todd Wood’s view that other hominids could be “human.” Habermehl provided a slam dunk objection: “Let me point out that we creationists can tell, merely from reading our Bible, that some fossils are human and some are not; we do not need statistical analysis to confirm this.” And you doubted that baraminology was serious science? She also admitd that “Historically, we creationists have rather made a laughingstock of ourselves among evolutionists in claiming that we can tell the difference between human and nonhuman fossils, and [Wood’s] paper does nothing to reverse that situation.” Indeed.

For volume 4 she contributed “Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?”, in which she admits that she doesn’t know (duh!) but that “[t]here is a possibility that we may yet find the actual site of the Tower of Babel, but this will require further research as well as onsite archaeological excavation,” which may be a plea for donations.

You can read a rather exasperating report of a seminar headed by Habermehl, creationist Danny Faulkner (author of Universe by Design who thinks the dinosaurs were on the ark) and Bourke Bokma, a dentist who likes to talk about creation and dinosaurs, here.

Diagnosis: As dense as they get, Habermehl is a religious fanatic completely devoted to being as thoroughly stupid as humanly possible. Her impact is probably limited but may not be entirely negligible.

#732: Julie Haberle

Julie Haberle is (apparently) the founder of the Minnesota grassroots organization Who Is Your Creator, and a staunch creationist of the absolutely dumbest kind – the kind that makes Ray Comfort look erudite (well … ok that’s hyperbole). She is behind several billboards in Minnesota that allegedly “refute evolution”, primarily by directing people to her website, which according to herself is built by taking elements from Answers in Genesis and elsewhere and dumbing it down since Answers in Genesis is, according to Haberle, “very technical”. So yes, it’s all PRATTs, and it’s all the very stupidest PRATTs in the books. Thus Haberle asserts that there are no “transitory fossils”, and that because we haven’t grown wings, evolution didn’t happen, and if evolution is true, why are fish still trying to get out of the water? (How do you respond to that one?)

And to top it all with a real “gotcha” question; if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys? Yes, she really did.

Then, of course, there is the standard quote-mining and lies, for instance the claim that Carl Sagan knew the “mathematical statistics” were against life appearing on earth – that’s why he was looking for life on other planets, since it is impossible that we evolved.

She also produces videos designed for students. That is, to emphasize: she is not interested in research – she is doing outreach.

Diagnosis: Absolutely magnificently dense, and with such density comes zeal. She is doing her worst, of course, but with such lack of intellectual powers it is unclear how much impact she’ll have.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

#731: Nick Haas

The legendary Ted Gunderson, erstwhile American Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent famous for handling the Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy cases and major promoter of Satanic panic, chemtrail conspiracies, and the New World Order, decided to call it a day in July 2011. Nick Haas may be less colorful, but is just as clueless. Haas is one of the founders of the anti-vaccine, crank-nest Medical Voices, and president the International Medical Council on Vaccination (which counts, among others, Harold Buttram as a board member). Haas’s own educational background is in sales and logistics. His medical background is from the University of Google.

Haas is famous for challenging his opponents to live debates while being unwilling to answer critics in any other format – in particular, when Mark Crislip wrote a response to a particularly stupid naturopath screed (David Mihalovic, who will be covered later) – because in other formats evidence, reason and accountability might count more than rhetoric, falsehoods are more easily caught, and Gish gallops and similar tricks are harder to carry out. Indeed, challenges to public debates is a well-known favorite ploy of pseudo-scientists who have the evidence against them everywhere, and one suspects that is perfectly aware of this.

Haas himself has apparently made few specific statements about vaccines himself, leaving that job to his clueless crew of cranks, but his involvement with the organizations in question is enough to qualify him for inclusion in our Encyclopedia – particularly when the organizations team up with
the denialist crank of all denialist cranks, Mike Adams.

Diagnosis: Crank-promoter par excellence, and important facilitator for all things woo and denialist. Rather dangerous, really.

#730: Randy Guliuzza

Randy Guliuzza is the (a?) National Representative for the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and author of Made in His Image: Examining the complexities of the human body. He has represented the ICR on several occasions, and was, for instance, ICR’s representative at the 2009 science standard debates of the Texas Board of Education, where he complained – among other things – that surveys showing a large support for evolution among scientists were bogus since they only surveyed scientists working on evolution, not everyone else. He also complained that scientists were trying to limit Freedom of Speech, and agreed with board member Cynthia Dunbar that experts actually don’t know anything, an opinion it is useful to know about if you wonder about some of the conclusions in his own book.

Apart from that, Guliuzza’s main things are the complexity of the eye, and being yet another instance of the Salem hypothesis.

The ICR is a splinter organization of Henry Morris’s Christian Heritage College. Since it has “research” in the title you can be pretty confident that they are exactly not doing any research; rather the ICR produces books full of creationist PRATTs, and maintain websites; all in the name of evangelizing on behalf of anti-science and trying to put religion into public schools. It is, however, possibly the most influential of all creationist organizations.

Diagnosis: Slick and zealous know-nothing, though an influential member of the anti-civilization movement

Saturday, September 28, 2013

#729: Mimi Guarneri

Mimi Guarneri is an M.D., clinical cardiologist, and the founder of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California (and the woo-meister who was paired with Steve Novella on The Dr. Oz Show). So she does have some medical qualifications – so maybe we should listen to what she has to say about alternative medicine? In her own words: “why are we arguing over whether or not acupuncture is a placebo? We have three licensed acupuncturists and two physician acupuncturists at The Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. I can cite patient after patient who has received benefit from our acupuncture program.” In other words: no, we shouldn’t. And no, she has no studies supporting her claims, nor does she seem to understand why any is needed.

With Andrew Weil and others, she was also  among the founders of the American Board of Integrative Medicine, whose role is to legitimize certain alternative practices, by distinguishing between “good” CAM and “bad” CAM and certifying the former. Some might of course wonder how you draw this distinction when none of the practices can actually be justified by evidence in any case, but I’m sure they’ll find a way. Crystal ball gazing as a guide to decisions has some positive testimonials behind it as well, and could surely be applied with vagueness and metaphors.

Diagnosis: Not the most rabid promoter of quackery out there, but her apparent level-headedness might make her even more dangerous in the long run. Potentially a real threat to civilization.