Thursday, October 31, 2013

#775: Steve Hotze

Steve Hotze is a wingnut crackpot who runs a big, lucrative practice in suburban Houston focused on “nontraditional therapies” and treatments for allergies, thyroid problems and yeast infections. He is particularly known for promoting natural progesterone replacement therapy for women, a treatment that can hardly be said to be particularly science-based. He also runs a daily health and wellness show that airs on Sen. Dan Patrick’s Houston radio station, KSEV. Quackwatch has taken due note of him, though.

Now, even Hotze’s approach to medicine is something special. In 1986 Hotze was one of dozens of ministers, professionals and laypersons who signed the Coalition on Revival’s Manifesto for the Christian Church, expressing his commitment to the following doctrines:

- A wife may work outside the home only with her husband’s consent
- “Biblical spanking” that results in “temporary or superficial bruises or welts” should not be considered a crime.
- No doctor shall provide medical service on the Sabbath (yup – it’s all for your benefit).
- All disease and disability is caused by the sin of Adam and Eve.
- Medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin.
- “Increased longevity generally results from obedience to specific Biblical commands”.
- Treatment of the “physical body” is not a doctor's highest priority.
- Doctors have a priestly calling.
- People receiving medical treatment are not immune from divine intervention or demonic forces.
- Physicians should preach to their patients because salvation is the key to their health.
- “Christians need better health to have more energy, tolerate more stress, get depressed less often, and be more creative than our non-Christian counterparts for the advancement of God's Kingdom.”

Nor does he like gays and socialists, like Obama. Surprise, surprise. Hotze even bankrolled the anti-gay attacks against Houston mayor Annise Parker on the grounds that she wasn’t anti-gay, and a leader who lacks Hotze’s level of hatred and bigotry is obviously unfit for a position of power.

Indeed, Hotze also runs a PAC known as Conservative Republicans of Texas, which he uses to push “health freedom” bills in Texas – that is, facilitate the promotion of questionable therapies and outright quackery without fear of government involvement or legal responsibilities. For instance, Hotze was a major backer of HB 1013, a bill that would ban all anonymous complaints other than those filed by patients, their guardians or their family and open up the process by which doctors are investigated – the measures would include setting statutes of limitations, providing doctors with details of the charges against them and giving them more time and legal remedies to respond or appeal; apparently he managed to get a lot of conservative politicians on his payroll to push the bill (presumably reflected in the Texas Republicans’ stance on reality). Officially, he claimed that “[o]ur opponents have said this is all about snake oil. What they mean is these doctors use natural approaches to health. This is a turf war between conventional medicine and alternativenatural approaches to health.”

Diagnosis: An extremely dangerous, quite (perhaps unintentionally) evil person, whose efforts to undermine civilization, promote denialism, and fight reality are almost staggering. We’ll deem Hotze to be one of the most objectionable people in the US, and that’s quite an impressive feat.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

#774: Arlin Horton

Arlin Horton is the former president of Pensacola Christian College (PCC), an unaccredited institution (or, as some argue, a cult) he founded in 1974 right down the street from Dinosaur Adventure Land. The PCC also runs “A Beka Book”, the infamous propaganda mill publishing house providing textbooks to fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers, known for instance for claiming that set theory is godless and evil, and for its uncompromising creationist stance (it is named after Rev. Horton's wife, Rebekah).

Indeed, in A Beka Book’s catalog you will find titles such as “Science of the Physical Creation”, which claims that evolution is bunk, all scientists subscribing to evolution are frauds, and that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons; “Science: Order and Reality”, presented as a biology textbook but really mostly a collection of Bible verses; “Biology: God’s Living Creation”, the same, and made famous through some court cases in 2012; “Physics: The Foundational Science”, which contains very little physics but a lot of attempts to emphasize the faith of famous physicists; “Vocabulary, Spelling and Poetry”, which describes a purported conspiracy among grammarians to make kids into evolutionists; “Economics: Work and Prosperity”, an anti-communist tract (which has in fact missed the fall of the Soviet Union); “Sex, Love and Romance: Sex Education from the Bible”, which is a rabidly misogynist tract mostly about Satan; “Bible Doctrines for Today”, which one would suspect would be a Bible tract, but which also contains a fair share of ufology and conspiracy theories concerning aliens; “A Healthier You”, which claims in effect that prayer is the foundation for all health; and “Choosing Good Health”, which is the same as the previous book, but targeted at kids.

PCC is strictly devoted to gender segregation, prohibiting e.g. handshakes between people of opposite genders, has strict restrictions on what music students may listen to, and has a strict prohibition on petitions or reading or distributing unauthorized literature (all in the name of free speech, of course). The coursework at PCC is of course strictly young earth creationist.

Horton resigned in 2012, handing the reins to Troy Shoemaker, whose “doctorate” was awarded by the very institution he is about to take over.

Diagnosis: Deranged madman who makes even the most rabid ayatollah seem liberal by comparison, and who appears to think that the Taliban didn’t go far enough. The PCC has quite a number of students, and it is rather sad to see the numbers of child abusing parents who even consider sending their children there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

#773: Neal Horsley

Budd Hopkins, that legend of alien abduction and UFO research, has unfortunately passed away. That leads us to Otis O’Neal Horsley, whose brand of crazy admittedly takes a somewhat different direction. Horsley is a militant anti-abortion activist and wingnut maniac, who used to run a website – The Nuremberg Files – where he provided home addresses of abortion providers in the United States. James Charles Kopp, who murdered the Buffalo doctor Barnett Slepian in 1998, was an associate of Horsley’s, and used information from his site for his actions. The site has later been deemed not constitutionally protected by the courts.

Horsley has also achieved some fame for being arrested on charges of terroristic threats against Elton John, saying that “[w]hat Elton John has done is desecrated the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, blasphemed the Lord Jesus Christ,” apparently as a response to John’s assertion that Jesus was a “compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.”

In 2010, Horsley ran unsuccessfully for governor under his Creator’s Rights Party on a nullification platform. In the process he said that he was willing to kill his own son, a Sergeant in the Army, if he were sent to Georgia to stop him from seceding (Horsley advocated Georgia’s secession primarily on the grounds of Roe v. Wade). Nor was his response to Obama’s support of marriage equality entirely devoid of crazy.

Diagnosis: Rabid maniac who would have been funny if it wasn’t for the fact that he may arguably be held partially responsible for the deaths of real people. As it is, Horsley is not funny at all.

#772: Kent Holtorf

Kent Holtorf is an M.D. gone over to the dark side of shameless woo and crackpottery. He is a proponent of bioidentical hormones (which is dismissed as a quackery by people who care about evidence; also here)), a “chronic infection diseases” expert, a self-appointed weight-loss expert, and a practitioner of anti-aging treatments – he bills himself a board examiner for the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, which is, to put it mildly, not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. He is also founder and medical director of Holtorf Medical Group, a practice of five centers that reports to specialize in the treatment and management of medical conditions and disorders including fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, complex endocrine dysfunction, hypothyroidism, age management, chronic fatigue syndrome, low libido, Lyme disease, migraines, PMS, perimenopause and menopause – all conditions that have a long tradition of exploitation by woo-meisters. And Holtorf does indeed promote a variety of treatments that are not generally recognized – after all, according to himself his treatments are cutting edge whereas medicine in general are at least “17 years behind”. Indeed, Holtorf is so cutting edge that he does not even need evidence that his treatments work. For the same reason he apparently feels that he can dismiss the objections from the medical establishment outright.

Holtorf is perhaps most famous for being one of Fox News’ go-to “experts” concerning the H1N1 vaccine, on which he said that “I have more concern about the vaccine than I do about the swine flu,” backed up with claims such as the vaccine being “rushed to the market” (false). He has also shown support for the thoroughly discredited idea that vaccines are causally linked to autism and developmental delay.

Diagnosis: A frighteningly influential figure, whose careless treatment of truth and evidence makes him a rather significant threat to civilization. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

#771: Mary Holland

Mary Holland is a lawyer and antivaxx champion who attempts to use legal arguments to bolster the case for the thoroughly discredited idea that vaccines cause autism. She is on the board of editors of the antivaxx and crackpot woo magazine The Autism File and coauthor (with Louise Kuo Habakus) of the anti-vaccine propaganda piece Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children, an astonishing display of paranoid delusions and crackpottery gone off to conspiracy land. Holland also does “studies”. Not actual, scientific, controlled studies, mind, but badly mangled rants about the evils of vaccination using anecdotes, goalpost moving, JAQing off, and seemingly deliberate mischaracterizations, in particular “Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain” (with Louis Conte, Robert Krakow, and Lisa Colin). Tellingly, the article mentioned is disguised as a paper on law, in order to avoid accountability with regard to the authors’ mangling of science.

Holland (with Habakus) also runs the Autism Action Network, which were – for instance – responsible for a New York rally to protest Bill Gates’s financial support for vaccination campaigns, and included a rather shameful attempt to promote their book.

Diagnosis: A persistent and zealous enemy of evidence, reason, and reality, who has the influence to do real harm.