Saturday, February 28, 2015

#1301: Ché Ahn

Ché Ahn is the head pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, United States, president of the board of directors for The Call, central member of the New Apostolic Reformation and author of plenty of books with “love” in the title to try to convince himself and others that he is anything but the hateful bigot he in fact is. Ahn is a a vocal proponent of Seven Mountains Dominionism, co-founded The Call with Lou Engle, and was an official endorser of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response prayer rally.

He is also – but of course – a staunch opponent of LGBT equality, saying that even if same-sex marriage became legal in the United States it will never be justifiable in the same way laws that didn’t consider African Americans citizens were illegitimate, which is one of the most bizarre comparisons made in the history of the Universe, but to Ahn means that America needs to confront gay marriage as it confronted slavery. According to Ahn, LGBT equality “is not a civil rights issue” because they never had “rights taken from them.” He also took some credit for Proposition 8: It passed partially as a result of his prayers, apparently.

Diagnosis: Hysterically monstrous madman; the kind of thing that makes Sauron seem almost reasonable.

Friday, February 27, 2015

#1300: Dave Agema

David Agema is a Michigan wingnut politician, former member of the Michigan House of Representatives, and current (2014) member of the Republican National Committee and the chairman of the Top Gun Republican political action committee.

Agema, who is a self-proclaimed pro-life Republican, is actively vocal in his opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage, as well as censorship (partially because he views it as a serious democratic problem that he cannot say offensive things without being criticized) – despite his alleged views on censorship he has endorsed Russia’s anti-gay laws, regardless of that law’s rather blatant attempt to censor free speech; but that would be censoring speech Agema disagrees with, and that’s very different. (I suppose he views himself as an opponent of censorship mostly because of this).

In 2013, he faced calls to resign from the Republican National Committee after he posted extracts from an article entitled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics On Homosexuals,” in which he claimed that homosexuals lived a “filthy lifestyle,” were responsible for 50 percent of U.S. murders and that many are paedophiles. RNC chairman Reince Priebus, for instance, was not very impressed, but he also played surprised by the statements – pretending not to have noticed that Agema is hardly the only RNC member with views like these; check out for instance:

-       Tamara Scott (Iowa), who alleged that the legalization of gay marriage hurt her state’s economy and that marriage equality will pave the way for man-Eiffel Tower marriage.
-       Steve Scheffler (Iowa), of the Faith and Family Coalition chapter, who falsely links homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that gay men typically don’t live past the age of 47.
-       Bill Armistead (Alabama), who claims same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, that acceptance of gay people is a “sad testament to where we are as a nation,” and that tolerance of LGBT people puts “America on a slippery slope.”
-       Debbie Joslin (Alaska), who wishes to ban mention of homosexuals in schools and anti-bullying measures since increased tolerance would “foster confusion in the minds of our children.”
-       Ada Fisher (North Carolina), who was outraged when Obama and Clinton endorsed marriage equality, suggesting that it showed a lack of respect for straight people, and that her opposition was motivated partially by concern for black families (right …).  

Why don’t people know the statistics Agema cites? Well, Agema got them from the FRC, Frank Joseph  and Paul Cameron (an extremist and activist who poses as a researcher) and similar sources, so no – there isn’t the faintest trace of methodologically sound research behind them. Surprised?

Although he tried to distance himself a bit from the claims later on, he repeated them in an interview was with WPIQ in Manistique, an obscure radio show that he probably thought none of his critics would listen to. And he went in with full force when talking to rabid fundamentalist Tony Perkins, arguing that gay people should be treated no differently than alcoholics, repeated his early claims, and complained that wealthy and powerful gay activists were in a conspiracy against him to suppress “the facts” and making the truth-tellers “shut up” (Perkins agreed, and added that homosexuality is “personally destructive and harmful to the society as well”). Indeed, Agema has claimed that he is fighting gay rights to save America from destruction; just “[l]ook at the Greek empire, look at the Roman empire,” which suggests that he is not too concerned with historical accuracy. He also pointed out the major and destructive repercussions legalizing gay marriage has had in “Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland,” but didn’t go into details (that Switzerland has not legalized gay marriage is only one of the problems). “I don’t hate gay people,” said Agema; “I just think they’re trying to destroy America like they destroyed every other civilization.” Right.

Agema has also been condemned by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, after alleging homosexuals were in favor of health care reform because “they’re dying between 30 and 44 years old.” In particular, he claimed that while working at American Airlines, he saw American Airlines workers who would say a person with AIDS was their lover so that person could get medical benefits (no, he didn’t try to back it up, and it’s unclear what social problem the assertion would illustrate if it were true). Said Agema: “To me, it’s a moral issue. It’s a Biblical issue.” Indeed, Agema claimed that it was “immoral” to insure gay people because their “lifestyle” kills them. So he really doesn't know what “moral” means and thus, as so many others, he confuses it with “things others do and I don’t and therefore don’t like.”

Though Agema has received most attention for his anti-gay efforts, it is probably little surprise that he also harbors strong creationist sympathies. For instance, in 2008, while a state representative, he and State Senator Bill Hardiman were the sponsors of a bill that would let schools teach “alternative views” of evolution, global warming and cloning, referring directly to the Discovery Institute’s Academic Freedom campaign in the process (it is worth mentioning the co-sponsors Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, and Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township).

Then there is this, which tells you a bit about how Agema evaluates his sources – partially in response to that one some of his fellow RNC members have tried to kick him out (some of his fans mounted some interesting defense attempts), but they seem to be a long away way from succeeding.

Diagnosis: The scary thing, of course, is that the ideas and idiocy of people like Agema has become pretty mainstream. Agema is a fumingly bigoted, hateful monster, who fuels his bigotry by adopting whatever notion he thinks could fuel his bigotry, completely regardless of whether it is accurate or not.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#1299: E. Theo Agard

E. Theo Agard is a medical physicist with a PhD from the University of Toronto, and a former director of the Flower Hospital Oncology Center in Ohio. Agard is most notable for being a signatory to the Creation Ministries International’s list of scientists today who accept the Biblical account of Creation. According to Agard, his subscription to creationism can be “largely summarized” by ignorance about whether the chicken or the egg came first (only lightly paraphrased, and no; follow the link from the rationalwiki page; I won’t link to AiG). Agard also observes that there are gaps in the fossil record. Therefore, God must have created the Earth in six days and the Flood and Adam and Jesus, so there. 

Diagnosis: I am not sure Agard has accomplished much as a creationist proponent, but he does subscribe to the idiocy and does have a legitimate degree. Thus, Agard is among the very unimpressive group of “many” “real scientists” who support creationism that creationists like to claim exists, apparently in abundance.    

(And yes, there is a serious objection to creationism behind the last sentence: Problems with evolution - especially imagined problems, but real problems as well if there are any - are not evidence for creationism. Evidence for creationism can only come through testing the novel, correct predictions not made by the alternative theories that creationism makes; thus far, all novel predictions creationism makes have been falsified, and it is frankly hard to see how continuing to subscribe to the idea is compatible with intellectual honesty.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#1298: Hunter Adams

Though he has claimed to be a research scientist at Argonne National Labortory, Hunter Haviland Adams is, in fact, an industrial-hygiene technician (who “does no research on any topic at Argonne”) and whose highest degree appears to be a high school diploma (he calls himself "Professor"). Yet Adams has somehow managed to become a central figure in the pseudo-science and pseudo-history version of Afrocentricism (and just to be clear: we are not trying to bash Afrocentrism in general; we are calling out the pseudoscience that has sometimes been promoted in the name of Afrocentrism).

When the Portland, Oregon, school district published the African-American Baseline Essays in 1987, a set of six essays to be read by all teachers and the contents of which were supposed to be infused into the teaching of various subjects, Adams got to write The Science Baseline Essay (“African and African-American Contributions to Science and Technology”), a complete and utter display of sheer lunacy and imagination. The essay contains a mass of ridiculous claims supported by little or no evidence. It argues for the existence of the paranormal, advocates the use of religion as a part of the scientific paradigm, draws no distinction between information drawn from popular magazines, vanity press books, and the scientific literature, is riddled with unattributed and inaccurate quotations, and contains a a number of references to the existence and scientific validity of the paranormal in the context of its use by the ancient Egyptians. According to Adams, the ancient Egyptians were black and their culture ancestral to African-Americans. They also flew around in gliders and were the inventors of most of modern science, in particular the use of the zodiac and “astropsychological treatises,” which Adams implies is science. Furthermore, the ancient Egyptians were “famous as masters of psi, precognition, psychokinesis, remote viewing and other undeveloped human capabilities.” His essay does indeed claim that there is a distinction between magic, which is not scientific, and “psychoenergetics,” which supposedly is, but gives no basis to distinguish one from the other, rather defining psychoenergetics as the “multidisciplinary study of the interface and interaction of human consciousness with energy and matter.” Indeed, according to Adams Egyptian professional psi engineers, hekau, were able to use these forces efficaciously, and – for good measure – claims that that psi has been researched and demonstrated in controlled laboratory and field experiments today.

And, to repeat: The essay, endorsed by the school board, was aimed at grade-school teachers (who, by the way, are not themselves not necessarily particularly scientifically literate) to help raise scientific literacy among African-American students. Though widely distributed, the essay will of course do no such thing – indeed, according to Adams, African-American students should apparently replace the scientific method with an ancient Egyptian religious outlook (of dubious historical accuracy) that, according to him, is equal to science as a source of knowledge about the world (including commitment to a Supreme Consciousness or Creative Force, both material and “transmaterial” causal forces, and an emphasis on “inner experiences” as a source for acquiring knowledge). If the purpose is to remedy the fact that African-Americans are underrepresented in science, Adams’s essay is, in other words, not going to help.

Hundreds of copies of the Baseline Essays have been sent to school districts across the country. Carolyn Leonard, Coordinator of Multicultural/Multiethnic Education for the Portland Public Schools, has given more than 50 presentations on the Baseline Essays, and they have been adopted or been seriously considered by school districts as diverse as Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Chicago, and D.C., have been used for several years in Portland, and been adopted by the Detroit Public Schools.

Adams has also been associated with the magic melanin group, the promoters of the idea melanin gives dark-skinned people superpowers, and Adams is presented as a respected scholar for instance in books like the anthology Why Darkness Matters: The Powerof Melanin in the Brain (eds. Ann Brown, Richard D. King, Edward Bruce Bynum, & T. Owens Moore), which rivals for pseudoscience content. Although he never explained why he thought astrology was science in his Science Baseline essay, Adams did do so at the 1987 Melanin Conference. According to Adams melanin has an extraordinary ability to absorb and respond to magnetic fields, and “that movement [magnetic motion] is reflective of the movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars. Thus, at birth, every living thing has a celestial serial number, or frequency power spectrum. This is the basis for astrology right here.” We’ll admit that it is probably as good a basis for astrology as any.

Diagnosis: As anti-science as your most desperate creationist, Adams’s bullshit is still being treated with respect for political purposes by well-meaning people who should know better, in the service of goals that his works will ultimately ensure cannot be achieved if taken seriously.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#1297: Contessa Adams

Contessa Adams is a Christian speaker, author of a book called Consequences, and director of the Love in Action Ministries. Apparently she used to be a stripper, but was saved and is currently engaged in battling the demons that once led her into sin, or something. At least her book and ministry are devoted to exposing one of Satan’s darkest secrets – sexual demons. These spiritual rapists, Adams says, often prey on people by performing sexual acts through nightmares and erotic dreams. Literally. The two most identifiable sexual demons are, according to Adams, the incubus, which is a male sexual demon that traditionally assaults women, and the succubus, which is a female sexual demon that assaults men. Sometimes they also lure people into homosexual behavior.

And there, according to Adams, you have for the cause of homosexuality. It’s demons who make you gay – not just by possessing you, but by actually having sex with you. And they are really good in bed, so you’ll quickly get addicted; the only way back is apparently exorcism.

That’s approximately how she herself became a stripper. According to Adams, Satan claimed her from birth by using a well-known witch as her midwife. “[My] mother admits that she was voodooed or hexed, as it were. One could easily say that from my birth I was raised by a hexed, voodooed or a demon-possessed woman,” and many of her relatives were occultists, so through her upbringing she was constantly performing ungodly magic and voodoo. Even today, after escaping the clutches of demons into fundamentalist Christianity, she is regularly targeted by witches and warlocks – Satan is enraged at her, since “I’ve embarrassed hell” by coming to favor Jesus over stripping. Her story is … rather colorful, and she does apparently not feel any need to back up the elements that bear uncanny resemblances to scenes from Hollywood action- and horror blockbusters.

Charisma magazine swallowed her story whole, and Adams’s metaphysics was backed up by people like Joseph Thompson, associate pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, who claimed to have ministered to more than 100 people who have suffered sexual attacks by a demonic spirit.

Diagnosis: Yes, there really are people like this running around. Their influence is rather obviously limited, but they are probably capable of causing real harm to the real people who, for various reasons, may have come to trust them.

That said, we have to admit that we've had trouble finding any information about Adams that doesn't ultimately refer back to the Charisma Magazine article. Cannot completely rule out the possibility that Charisma has been hoaxed or are being liberal with their interpretation.