Monday, December 30, 2019

#2289: Rodney Stark

Yes, he’s got credentials. Rodney Stark is a sociologist of religion, long-time professor of sociology and of comparative religion at the University of Washington, currently Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University and co-director of the university’s Institute for Studies of Religion, and author of numerous scholarly books and articles. Confidence in his own expertise would be justified. Unfortunately, when he ventures beyond those fields, the results are embarrassingly feeble, and Stark has made several attempts to make contributions beyond his own field of expertise.

Stark, though perhaps not particularly religious himself, is for instance an apologist for intelligent design creationism. In his 2004 article “Facts, Fable and Darwin,” he took issue with what he described as the stifling of debate on evolution, criticizing the “Darwinian Crusade” and their “tactic of claiming that the only choice is between Darwin and Bible literalism” (which sounds suspiciously rather like the tactic of young-earth creationists) and complaining that “the theory of evolution is regarded as the invincible challenge to all religious claims,” even though “it is taken for granted among the leading biological scientists that the origin of species has yet to be explained.” Of course, there is little controversy about evolution or the (general theory of the) origin of species within biology, and Stark’s point is rather that religious dogma should be given serious weight as an alternative to empirical evidence also within the sciences – not only does he not really understand evolution or biology; he doesn’t understand how science works either. For instance, to back up his claim that “there is no plausible scientific theory of the origin of species” you would have expected Stark to launch into a debate of, say, chromosomal speciation or something, wouldn’t you? Yeah, right. What he actually does is launch into a mess of murky nonsense, misunderstandings (he really doesn’t have the faintest clue how biologists understand species and borrows instead some misunderstandings from creationists; there is a good criticism here), ad hominems (plenty) and – of course – quote-mining: Stark even reproduces the old creationist quote mining that makes it sound like Gould claimed that there were no transitional fossils. Indeed, Stark even suggests conspiracy, that biologists are covering up a dark secret and all know that evolution has failed but don’t dare to say so because of the orthodoxy, and that their only motivation is atheism. In short, he displays a level of intellectual dishonesty that ought to make his colleagues go back and review his own scientific production in his own field. And in conclusion, Stark suggested that governments “lift the requirement that high school texts enshrine Darwin’s failed attempt as an eternal truth.” If you wondered what a strawman looks like, this is a strawman.

There is a thorough takedown of Stark’s nonsense and dishonesty here. (Stark’s misunderstanding of and lack of knowledge of basic biology is actually striking even for a hack.) As a consequence of his ranting, Stark has – despite his utter lack of knowledge about biology – become something of an authority among certain creationists, such as John Adolfi.

Diagnosis: Hackjob standing proudly at the pinnacle of Mount Stupid. But seriously: given his willingness not only to blather nonsensically about a field he knows nothing about, but to actively lie about it, someone really should subject his scholarly production to some serious critical scrutiny as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

#2288: Bob Staples

Somewhat obscure, perhaps, but Bob Staples is member of the Villa Rica Church of Christ and a young-earth creationist. He is, we suspect, not the only young-earth creationist in his congregation. What’s more disconcerting is that Staples is also “a college math teacher” – what or what kind of college is not specified, and the fact that Bob is there is itself sufficient reason to choose a different institution for your education – and that, as of 2012, he was, according to one source, (apparently) serving on some “state committee that is working to develop science standards for education”; at least he was pestering the Carroll County Board of Education with letters and protests.

Staples was clear about his goals for those science standards: evolution should not be part of them. It should not, because Staples believes in a literal reading of the Bible, and although he didn’t expect public schools to teach the Bible’s view of creation, they should at least drop the scientific alternative: As Bob sees it, you can’t have it both ways: “You cannot read Genesis 1 and 2 and also agree with evolution. They are contrary to each other. They are contradictory,” said Staples. In his letter to the state science committee, he claims that shools teaching evolution since the 1960s has contributed to what he sees as a decline in American morals. “The crime rate, child abuse, divorce. All of these things rose from a period following the implementation of teaching Darwinian Theory,” Staples said, because correlation proves causation even when there isn’t really a correlation. 

He also said that “[e]volution is a theory in crisis [claims about the imminent collapse of the theory of evolution has been a creationist staple for well-neigh a century] and harmful to our progress.” Why is it in crisis? “There is no evidence of evolution [at least Bob hasn't bothered to look]happening in the past […] Evolution is not a fact, but is taught as a fact in many educational settings,” whereas “[b]elief in creation and a global flood are consistent with the facts of science.” Apparently you have to take his word for it, and not look at the glaring inconsistencies in the creationist flood geology narrative (of course, the problems are not scientific; since Bob has no clue how science actually works he gets to define the word “science” any way he likes.)

Diagnosis: At least he is honest. None of that “teach the controversy” waffling here. Unfortunately he is also a rabidly insane fundie.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

#2287: Glenn Stanton

Glenn Stanton is a spokesperson for Focus on the Family – indeed, he is director of global family formation studies – and seems to have been heavily involved in the organization’s systematic and deliberate misrepresentation of research to try to support their anti-gay political agenda. How Focus on the Family does science is well illustrated by this commentary, which compares what Stanton claims is a “clear consensus” among anthropologists in support of his favored view on marriage, with what actual anthropologists actually say. “Wait,” you may ask, “Stanton didn’t actually bother to consult anthropologists before he made a sweeping remark about anthropology?” Indeed, he didn’t. That’s how he rolls, and insensitivity to evidence appears to be one of the pinnacles of Focus on the Family’s “research” efforts. (The American Anthropological Association was not impressed with Stanton’s claims.) For other examples of Focus on the Family manipulating data and misrepresenting research, you could look at this, this (also here), this, and this. Seeing a pattern yet?

Here is Stanton saying that it is “very unscientific” to believe same-sex parents can have healthy families, and here is Stanton on Janet Mefferd’s show, trying to poke holes in a study showing that epigenetic influences in the womb are a primary cause of homosexuality. He rejects it primarily because scientists, according to him, are biased because they lack faith – the study was done, after all, by evolutionary scientists and Stanton vehemently rejects evolution – and fundies are not because they have God. He didn’t get his response published in a peer-reviewed journal. 

At least Stanton is convinced of the importance of his own work. According to Stanton, same-sex marriage does not only undermine the institution of marriage and therefore civilization, but “deconstructs humanity itself (no, he doesn’t know what it means, but the appeal to postmodernist rhetoric when it suits him – it is not an isolated occurrence – is telling). Same-sex marriage is ultimately a “pernicious lie of Satan that imperils society and humanity; Stanton means this in a very scientific way. (Stanton does, apparently, think of himself as a scientist, though he has no relevant education and no published research to his name – of course, he has no idea what science is, so it is for him a more or less an empty label to be tagged onto whatever he wants.)

Here is Stanton arguing that Christian right leaders should distance themselves from “extreme rhetoric”. He uses Chuck Colson as an example of someone who apparently avoided extreme rhetoric, which I guess is just another example of the care with which Stanton handles data and evidence. 

GLAAD has a useful list of Glenn Stanton quotes here.

Diagnosis: I suppose he had everything stacked against him. Being responsible for the research part of Focus on the Family is a poor point of departure if you aim for respectability and actually contributing to knowledge. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

#2286: Salo Stanley

Now what is this? Salo Stanley is apparently a chiropractor who consistently calls herself “Dr. Stanley”, apparently on the grounds that she received some degree from Life Chiropractic College West. That place received a bit of attention in 2015 when its students gave Andrew Wakefield standing ovations for telling them to oppose Senate Bill SB277, which would limit non-medical vaccine exemptions. Hers is not a degree to be particularly proud of, in other words. But Salo Stanley is so much more than a mere chiropractor. She is “a sound therapist, psychic, medium, musician, artist, researcher, professional speaker and ordained minister of the Universal Life Church in Modesto, California” who “does paranormal research with trans-communication radio devices to contact the Spirit World and provides channeled information to various groups.” She has even had her own cable TV show with Barb Heintzelman called “BS in Fresno” (very apt, though we suspect they thought it was an acronym for “Barb and Salo”), and currently gives “lectures on consciousness, positive thought and spirituality,” including a monthly “Spiritual Potpourri.” 

Though she assures us that “she also does spiritual readings over the phone to help you with your spiritual purpose,” Stanley’s main area is sound therapy. “After a crystal therapy treatment in July 1992 Dr. Stanley experienced a spiritual awakening that opened her up to new talents for sound, music and intuitive qualities,” claims her bio, and she ostensibly developed her own brand of sound therapy in response to her experiences. Stanley’s brand of sound therapy, more aptly called “sound healing, “consists of tuning forks applied to acupuncture points on the body.” As evidence, she offers two quotes: “Every illness is a musical problem and every cure has a musical solution” (attributed “Novalis 16th century” – we haven’t checked whether Novalis really said this, but the fact that Stanley is off with about two centuries on his life sort of suggests that she hasn’t actually read him either) and “[t]he Body is held together by sound. The presence of disease indicates that some sounds have gone out of tune” (attributed to Deepak Chopra – we haven’t double checked this one either but will happily grant that it sounds like Chopra).

How exactly the treatment is supposed to work is somewhat unclear, however, so we’ll just give you Stanley’s full description: “Tuning forks are applied to acupuncture points on the body. Light therapy is above the treatment table and a Infratonic sound therapy machine with alpha waves is placed on the shoulder or belly to give the patient a sense of relaxation. Alpha waves are the first state of meditation/relaxation. It trains the brain to relax/meditate and gain access to a whole new way of living: less anxiety, less stagnation, greater health, fewer accidents, more creativity, clarity, more peak performance, and more happiness.” You are probably supposed to fill in the details yourself, but she suggests that her tuning forks could “maybe even break up some calcium deposits in our psychic center of the Pineal Gland to create and enhance connection to our higher self, intuition, guides and angels.”

She has apparently also produced a CD, “Walking Between Worlds”, but we have somehow failed to tempt ourselves into sampling it. Her website also contains ample information on astrology, earth changes and crystal skulls. Do visit it (but you need to google it yourself).

Diagnosis: It’s all there. We honestly suspect her alma mater would be proud of her. Utter rubbish, of course, but probably harmless.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

#2285: Glenn Stankis

Glenn Stankis is a local village idiot in Magalia, California, who has for a long time been tirelessly fronting a campaign to get religion and “love of countryback into public schools. He has alternately pestered and run for the local school board for years, on a platform of “Christian Beliefs”, but has so far failed to gain much traction, presumably in part because he is angry, crazy, obsessed and wrong. He has also tried and failed to implement an Elective class on the Bible at Paradise high school, tried to get the Bible on the curriculum in history (and literature) classes, and set up a number of road signs in support of his campaign. “This is a Christian nation the courts have actually ruled that and the district wants to be secular in their outlook,” said Stankis. He did not cite a particular ruling, for rather obvious reasons.

Diagnosis: Yeah, the world is full of them, and they do admittedly add some color; we’ll oblige and give them some attention. And let us not forget that to their targets people like Stankis are annoying at best.  

Friday, December 20, 2019

#2284: Jill Stanek

Jill Stanek is a radical anti-abortion activist and nurse, national campaign chair of the anti-abortion organization the Susan B. Anthony List, and currently affiliated with Newsbusters and regular columnist for the WND. Yeah, “columnist for the WND” should really tell you all you need to know. As for her anti-abortion campaigning, Stanek is the kind of person who compares abortion to the Vietnam War, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the atrocities of the Taliban and says that she won’t be mourning the death of Nelson Mandela because, according to her, Mandela’s pro-choice record means he “engaged in mass genocide of his own innocent people” and “has the blood of preborn children on his hands.” But OK: we are willing to write those claims up as a matter of consistent application of some deranged moral principles.

What secures Stanek an entry in our Encyclopedia, however, is her relentless pushing of pseudoscience in the name of ideology. Stanek is for instance one of the main promoters of the utterly discredited idea that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. She does cite studies when she claims that there is a link, though from places like the pseudojournal JPANDS and with complete disregard for the quality of those studes or the fact that good studies on the link overwhelmingly show no link.

And just for the record: Stanek isn’t merely opposed to abortion; she also “opposes contraception, not only because some of its forms may cause abortions, but also – moreso – because the thinking behind contraception makes it the forerunner to abortion.” She bases her reasoning “on several Biblical concepts,” the foremost being “that God is always described in Scripture as the sole procreative decision-maker. To my knowledge, every incident in Scripture describing pregnancy or barrenness gives God complete creditIf that premise is true, who has the right to say no to God? Who can say they have a better grip on timing than God?” Just imagine where parallel reasoning would get you on virtually any other topic (she also fails to notice that if her premises were correct, contraception or not really shouldn’t matter either). She has also claimed that legalizing the purchase of Plan B emergency contraception over the counter would lead to more pedophilia because, well, she perceived the claim to be rhetorically effective, mostly. Stanek has, moreover, designated June 7 as “The Pill Kills Day” in honor of the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut decision: According to Stanek, birth control pills can cause chemical abortions (another common myth from Stanek) but “radical pro-aborts don’t want you to know.” The information has been suppressed because “if women knew, some would feel morally obligated to refuse that contraceptive option. And that would mess up lucrative birth control pill sales, which nets pro-aborts hundreds of millions of dollars a year, as well as abortion sales from failed birth control pills.” This is, if nothing else, a good illustration of deranged conspiracy theorizing in action.

Stanek has also at least expressed sympathy with the anti-vaccine movement, having apparently bought into the “aborted fetal tissue” claim – it is nonsensical, of course, but Stanek predictably buys it: in her post “Vaccines made with fetal cells causing autism?” (Yes, Betteridge’s law at work, but Stanek isn’t really asking a question) she claims, based purely on meaningless speculation, that “aborted fetal tissue” in vaccines are a likely cause of autism and asserts that “[t]he conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the same sort of ideological culprits we see covering up the abortion-breast cancer link are also involved here.” The comparison is actually rather apt, but not in the way Stanek thinks, of course. 

Diagnosis: Yes, this is the kind of mockery of reasoning that the term “wingnut science” is supposed to describe. Completely unable to distinguish facts and evidence from what she wishes were facts and evidence to support her agenda. And Stanek is a significant voice in certain wingnut circles.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

#2283: Timothy Standish

Timothy Standish is one of the mainstays of the Intelligent Design Creationist movement, and has given numerous talks and contributed numerous articles to creationist publications, such as a chapter in the 2006 anthology Darwin’s Nemesis, a series of essays in honor of Phillip Johnson. Standish’s creationism is of the young-earth variety, and he is affiliated with the Geoscience Research Institute, a Seventh Day Adventist front organization. He is, of course, also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s embarrassingly self-undermining petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism as well as on the CMI List of Scientists Alive Today Who Accept the Biblical Account of Creation.

Standish ostensibly does “research” in molecular biology, though his “research” seems to be mostly limited to writing articles for Origins (the Geoscience Research Institute magazine) and similar creationist publications – he has, for instance, contributed to propaganda at Answers in Genesis.

As Standish sees it “[E]volution survives as a paradigm only as long as the evidence is picked and chosen and the great pool of data that is accumulating on life is ignored.” This observation is of course based on Standish himself ignoring the data real scientists actually have, and misrepresenting and misunderstanding the rest. Standish is rather well known for using misrepresentations and misunderstandings to draw whatever conclusions he wants to draw.

Diagnosis: Now, Standish does have some credentials, and he seems to honestly believe he is a scientist who engages with science with something resembling intellectual honesty. It’s actually rather sad.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

#2282: Leanna Standish

Leanna Standish, “N.D., Ph.D., Dipl.Ac.” (and more recently also LAc, FABNO), is one of the movers and shakers in the movement to legitimize and popularize quackery, woo and nonsense in the US. A “licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist”, Standish is also former Director of the Bastyr University Research Institute from 1987 to 2001 and, as naturopathic cargo cult science practictioners see it, a “Senior Research Scientist” in “experimental neuroscience with numerous publications.” Her “clinical practice specializes in cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C and neurological diseases”. Apparently she also directed “the Breast Cancer Research Program at Bastyr University” at one point and was a member of the Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (currently NCCIH) from 1999 to 2001; she has also served on the NCI Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the NCI Institute of Medicine’s committee to investigate the “Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by the American Public”, discussed here, together with luminaries like Jeanne Drisko.

Standish has been principal investigator on several NIH/NCCAM funded research projects in the areas of HIV/AIDS and basic neurophysiological research on mind/body interaction, and has published extensively in questionable journals such as Integrative Cancer Therapy (which has also published e.g. Stanislaw Burzynski’s stuff) and the Journal of Natural Medicines. Still a faculty member at Bastyr, her classes include e.g. a course, “within the Spirituality, Health and Medicine program”, on “scientific evidence from physicians and biology that addresses some of the propositions emerging out of modern spiritual disciples [sic]”. It is safe to say that the investigative method used to connect science with “spiritual disciples” is, shall we say, of the more associative kind.

Currently her research is focused on things like functional brain imaging in the treatment of brain cancer and integrative oncology outcomes (they’ve received extensive funding for the latter, apparently, and her study is completely pointless) – we’re talking $3 million to do an observational study with no control; there is a good discussion of integrative oncology here – and developing research programs on the use of IV Resveratrol and IV Curcumin to treat cancer. She is also e.g. “co-principal investigator for the Bastyr/UW Oncomycology [oh, yes] Translational Research Center”. Standish has also tried to demonstrate, in a splendid illustration of tooth fairy science, that one person’s brain can influence the EEG findings of a person who is about 45 feet away, apparently believing that “distant healing” is possible through brain-to-brain “neural energy transmission.” There is a long tradition in naturopathic circles for such investigations. The “research” was apparently NCCAM-funded. (This discussion is useful for context.)

Of course, some of Standish’s credentials might look impressive to the uninformed or those who cannot be bothered to take a deeper look. Naturopathy, of course, is bullshit, and Standish’s list of publications e.g. on her speciality HIV/AIDS include the 20-page chapter on HIV/AIDS in the 199) edition of the Textbook of Natural Medicine (naturopathy's leading textbook), in which recommended treatment includes large doses of beta carotene; vitamin C (see also this) and vitamin E 400; cod liver oil; multivitamin and mineral supplement twice a day; colloidal silver; and a long list of other nonsensical and potentally harmful products, including dozens of worthless homeopathic products such as “homeopathic marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, heroin, amyl nitrate, etc.” (the chapter does note that there is no evidence that naturopathic care has any beneficial effect for HIV positive people, but that doesn’t prevent Standish from promptly providing a long and detailed list of recommendations based on neither plausibility nor evidence). 

Diagnosis: Yes, not only has she wasted her life, career and efforts on nonsense – and the worthless pseudoeducation offered by her institution is hardly free either – Standish is also a serial recipient of public funding. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on Leanna Standish and co. to support quackery by superficially science-sounding motivated reasoning. It’s really a multilayered tragedy.

Hat-tip: Quackwatch

Thursday, December 12, 2019

#2281: Erick Stakelbeck

Yet another rightwing commentator whose only recognizable qualifications are anger and paranoia, Erick Stakelbeck is a former sports reporter who has become recognized by some wingnuts (e.g. Pat Robertson) as a “terror expert because he says stupid things they happen to agree with. Stakelbeck has no credentials or expertise in anything resembling such fields, but you won’t find anyone who does who are also willing to say the stuff Stakelbeck says, so there you are. So, according to Stakelbeck, Obama was a “revolutionary Marxist” trying to destroy “Judeo-Christian western civilization.” He seems to have no clear idea what any of those words mean. 

Probably the main threat to the US at present, as Stakelbeck sees things, is anyways the Left. And Islam. Which are more or less the same – according to Stakelbeck the “Left sees Islam as an ally and Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition is the enemy” because they “have a shared hatred for this country.” Apparently gays are in cahoots with radical Islam/the Left as well, and they hate not only America but Jesus himself, too. Stakelbeck is pretty adamant that facts don’t matter here.

In his capacity as a terrorism expert, Stakelbeck has also offered “expert analysis” of the Syrian civil war, complete with biblical prophecy. On Marcus and Joni Lamb’s show Celebration in 2012 he revealed that the war will end with the destruction of Damascus because “the Bible says it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen.” He also claimed that Islamic terrorists have infiltrated cities all over the United States (though the media doesn’t cover it because of political correctness), including Dearborn, Michigan, which is a “radical Islamic enclave” – he called it “Dearbornistan” – presumably to the surprise of the people of Dearborn, only a minority of whom are Muslim. Apparently Brooklyn and Chicago are other examples of radical Islamist enclaves. At least he answered any concerns with respect to his claims to expertise that might have arisen from realizing his complete lack of credentials: while he was in Israel God spoke to him and told him to defend Israel; therefore, Stakelbeck, said, “I know why I’m here on this earth.” After all, how could expertise gained from reading, carefully analyzing and understanding compete with the word of God?

But the Muslims are everywhere. Stakelbeck has pointed out for instance that Grover Norquist, Huma Abedin and André Carson are all part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “fox in the henhouse strategy” to perpetrate “stealth jihad” hidden behind “suits and ties,” “fluent English,” and “eloquent tones, at least in public.” And with fellow conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles, Stakelbeck wondered why John McCain and Lindsey Graham have “sided” with the Muslim Brotherhood. Worst of all, perhaps, is Obama (of course), or “Imam Obama”, as Stakelbeck calls him, who is “empowering and emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood;” and don’t you forget Benghazi.

Stakelbeck is of course vehemently opposed to the First Amendment, at least when it is used to allow people he doesn’t like to say or do things he disagrees with.

Diagnosis: Moron. He has no credentials, no expertise, no understanding of anything. But he does say what other morons want to hear, and has therefore achieved a position of authority in certain groups. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

#2280: Mike Stahl

Pastor Mike Stahl of the Living Water internet church is one of many raging fundies polluting the Internet. Stahl has apparently “been seriously considering forming a ( Christian ) grassroots type of organization to be named ‘The Christian National Registry of Atheists’ or something similar.” After all, there are “already National Registrys for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc. [there actually isn’t],” so why not a similar registry for atheists? The registry, he rushes to affirm, “would merely be for information purposes. To inform the public of KNOWN (i.e., self-admitted) atheists” and not contain personal information or the person’s physical address (“though, perhaps a photo could be”). Now, why would we need such a registry? Well, “[d]uhhh, Mr. Atheist, for the same purpose many States put the names and photos of convicted sex offenders and other ex-felons on the I-Net – to INFORM the public!” Who wouldn’t see the obviousness of that comparison? And a list like that would give Stahl and likeminded people the opportunity to “begin to witness to them and warn them of the dangers of atheism. Or perhaps they are radical atheists, whose hearts are as hard as Pharaoh’s, in that case, if they are business owners, we would encourage all our Christian friends, as well as the various churches and their congregations NOT to patronize them as we would only be ‘feeding’ Satan”. In his wisdom, Stahl cannot even see “why anyone would oppose this idea – including the atheists themselves (unless of course, they’re actually ashamed of their atheist religion, and would prefer to stay in the ‘closet’”). Presumably being lectured to and told about the dangers of atheism is something any atheist would desire. 

After receiving some attention for his suggestion, Stahl promptly made his blog private. It was surely not because he didn’t enjoy the public exposure, was it? (A year later he apparently still thought the registry was a good idea).

Diagnosis: Genuinely stupid. (Unless he is evil. The options are not mutually exclusive.)

Monday, December 9, 2019

#2279: Carol Spooner

As a result of intense lobbying, naturopaths have become licensed in several American states. Now, naturopathy is bullshit through and through, and being a licensed naturopath doesn’t come with any duties toward truth, efficacy or accountability. That, of course, has never been the point. Naturopaths’ goal of pushing for licensing is rather a matter of protecting their turf from other, competing woo peddlers, those who for instance haven’t attended the same pseudo-educational institutions as themselves. 

In Arizona, licensed naturopathic doctors must have a degree from a naturopathic college – which is fancier and costlier than getting your diploma from a link in a spam email but about as deserving of trust when it comes to the safety and efficacy of the advice provided – but that gives them green light to administer intravenous nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and even to prescribe and administer some drugs. Accordingly, people like Carol Spooner, who is a licensed Arizona naturopath, can offer IV “nutrient bags” of vitamins and minerals for flu prevention – and because the nutrients go straight to the bloodstream the benefits are almost immediate, according Spooner. Of course, there are no benefits, but to the inattentive the procedure looks professional and, not the least, comes with the state of Arizona’s sign of approval. According to Spooner, however, “for anybody, regardless of whether they’ve had flu shots or not, these IV nutrients work very well.” The bags will cost you an impressive $100 to $200 apiece and will take up to an hour to administer – Spooner says that one bag carries a healthy person through the flu season while “others may need a few more” (note the escape hatch) – which is a pretty hefty price for something that does nothing at all for you.

Diagnosis: Just one example among many to remind you what kind of practitioners it is that wish to be licensed in all 50 states. It’s truly scary.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

#2278: Chuck & Lency Spezzano

Psychology of Vision (POV) is, allegedly, a “transpersonal model of healing that employs cutting edge psychological tools and methodology with the miracle power of grace.” Yes, it’s New Age bullshit, and there is some entropy principle at work here to the effect that for any word in a sentence on a New Age website beyond the tenth, the probably increases exponentially that it will devolve into a word salad. And as New Age bullshit POV is, of course, as nonsensical and hollow as you get it, and the movement seems mostly to be some kind of New Age personality cult revolving around Charles L. “Chuck” and Lency Spezzano. 

At some point Chuck Spezzano marketed himself as “one of the world’s leading psychologists” and “experts on relationships and personal growth therapy”, though there is apparently a 2004 court decision in Hawaii that promises him more than a slap on the wrist if he or his minions falsely market him as a professional “psychologist” (Spezzano is not a psychologist and has never been licensed as a psychologist) – his minions (such as POV trainer Avril Woodward) still seem to forget themselves so frequently that it is hard to explain it as honest mistakes. Lency Spezzano, on the other hand, is “pioneering POV’s mystical path through her joining method, which utilizes the feminine, direct access to divine love, resulting in the release of emotional pain from the body/mind and the experience of miracles of forgiveness and grace.” That seems, frankly, to be a rather more illustrative description of what they are actually doing. It would be interesting (or not) to hear Lency Spezzano try to define “method”. What they jointly promote seems to be something closely resembling the Law of attraction, which seems to have become the fundamental common tenet on the New Age self-help circuit. There are also vibrations, of course (“29 of February, 2016 is an extremely high vibrational day, so it is essential to focus on remaining grounded, centered and balanced to absorb and fully integrate the energies”), and numerology: “In numerology (2+9=11) and (2+2+1+6=11) equates to 11:11According to numerology the number 11 has the energy and the qualities of patience, honesty, spirituality, sensitivity, intuition and is idealistic and compassionate” – more or less like all the other numbers according to numerology, in other words. You’d probably encounter some difficulties trying to explain the use–mention distinction or what a category mistake is to these people.

Chuck Spezzano has apparently “authored over 40 books and card decks [!]” and his “greatest inspirations come from A Course in Miracles.” You have, in other words, to be pretty lost to confuse him with a psychologist. His New Age rantings have, however, garnered what seems to be something of a following in the US and Europe, to whom he apparently comes across as something of a guru – indeed, the last few years Spezzano seems to have owned that role completely, even adopting the title “Master Chuck”.

There is a lot of information about POV, the Spezzanos and the international cult they have somewhat successfully built up here.

Diagnosis: To be honest, it is hard to shake the feeling that the Spezzanos know exactly what they are doing, but if they don’t they must count as being among the most nonsense-dense specimens in the New Age circus currently enjoying even a modicum of success in their cult-building efforts. You wouldn’t think they’d be particularly dangerous, but cults are strange beasts. Caution is recommended. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

#2277: Dorothy Spaulding

Though she may not be among the most famous televangelists working in the US, Dorothy Spaulding, President and Founder of Watchmen Broadcasting, is certainly one of the truly whacky ones – a sort of low-budget, poor man’s version of Cindy Jacobs, if you wish – and her network show Club 36 has been dubbed “perhaps the most hilarious Christian train-wreck TV this great country has produced in … decades.” 

Indeed, Spaulding’s show is probably the go-to place if you feel the need to talk about how you were attacked by 80-foot demons or rant about Satanic baby farms and want to be taken seriously. Here, for instance, you can watch Spaulding and her guest, one Henry Lewis, discuss the dangers of Pokémon; Pokémon are “oriental demons”, and the names of the Pokémon characters are apparently the real names of these oriental demons. Here is a list of names of Pokémon characters for those unfamiliar with the universe (one imagines that the practice of fundamentalist Christianity would look very different had Revelations mentioned Jigglypuff and Wigglytuff by name). There is also, in addition to wild-eyed rantings about witches and Harry Potter, some kind of attack on the theory of evolution in there, for good measure – you wouldn’t really suspect Spaulding of being anything but a young-earth creationist, would you?

She has also written a book Walk by Faith, and is apparently especially “passionate about telling the truth of what is happening in Israel” – her reaction to the 80-foot demon story doesn’t really convey much trust in her ability to distinguish truth from other things, though.

Diagnosis: Possibly worth checking out for some cheap entertainment; otherwise, a potential reminder that what goes on at the grassroots level is often even crazier than the stuff that goes on in the top echelons of American evangelism.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

#2276: Ryan Sorba

Ryan Sorba is the Chairman of the Young Conservatives of California and a tireless anti-gay activist. Indeed, at a 2011 conference at the cargo cult version of an educational institution Liberty University, Sorba claimed that “‘gay’ is a left-wing socio-political construct designed to create grounds for fundamental rights [based on] whimsical capricious desires,” and that “gay identity does not exist.” (There is an illuminating conversation between Sorba and Alex Knepper, an openly gay conservative, recounted here). Accordingly, he urged people to stop using the word ‘gay’; instead, he suggested using “same-sex attraction”, “same-sex intercourse”, “sodomy”, “unnatural vice” and, for good measure, “anti-Christian”. He also blamed Republicans for losing what he apparently thinks of as a “war” promulgated by the homosexual lobby: “Our movement decided to abandon the real issue of homosexual behavior … with our major focus around protecting the word marriage,” said Sorba. He is also on record displaying a complete and utter lack of understanding of what a right is (or “truth”): “A civil right that conflicts with natural right is no right at all;” said Sorba: “The behavior is immoral. It divides you from truth and what’s the meaning of life. If you don’t have truth, you have nothing but fake.” As Sorba sees it, homosexuality is more like a hobby akin to playing basketball and surfing. Bryan Fischer and the AFA defended him. That should have given ordinary reasonable people pause.

Sorba is also the author of The Born Gay Hoax, which must count as poorly researched even by the standards of Sorba’s particular genre – the motivation for his “research methodology” is interesting, however. He has, moreover, been a regular at the religious right’s Awakening conference and an instructor at Peter LaBarbera’s “3 days of truth” conference.

Diagnosis: Though he received some 15 minutes of fame for his CPAC rant in 2011, Sorba seems to be, ultimately, a rather minor figure on the losing side of tahe culture war. He is rather aggressive and angry about his cause, however, so it is probably recommended to maintain a safe distance.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

#2275: Edward Sopcak

CanCell, also known as Entelev or Cantron, is one of many utterly useless purported cancer cures. Ostensibly CanCell is “an assembly of synthetic chemicals” – they are secret, though the assembly has apparently also changed over the years – that react with the body “electrically” rather than “chemically”, and the fact that it doesn’t work doesn’t prevent people with poor moral compasses and/or poor critical thinking skills from promoting it. Indeed, in addition to cancer, CanCell is promoted for a variety of diseases, including AIDS, cystic fibrosis, MS, emphysema, Parkinson's disease, hemophilia, and mental illness (except schizophrenia). Its inventor, James Sheridan, claimed that the formula was revealed to him by God in a dream in 1936, and that he therefore cannot charge people for using it, but instead established the Eden Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, through which people could pay him instead. Edward Sopcak, another promoter, was less worried about personal gain, and continued to promote the “remedy” at least until 1992, when the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan found him to be in contempt of a January 1990 decree to stop manufacturing and distributing the product. (Two associates, Diane Petrosky and Bonnie Sue Miller, were also warned to cease their violative activities.) Sopcak had then been promoting CanCell as a cure for a range of diseases, claiming for instance that all symptoms of AIDS disappear will in 28 days with CanCell. They would, needless to say, not.

According to Sopcak (here he departs from Sheridan’s teachings) there is only one type of cancer, which is caused by a mutated anaerobic cell: an improper diet will cause electrical and chemical damage and open the way for the microbe Progenitor cryptocides (an  imaginary cancer-causing germ invented by the late Virginia Livingston-Wheeler), and CanCell ostensibly acts by changing the vibrational frequency and energy of cancer cells, thereby “reducing their voltage,” until they reach the “primitive” state described by Sheridan. Sopcak also claims to “tune” the liquid to correct vibrational frequency in some secret fashion. He seems, in other words, to have tried to be careful to avoid phrases that are actually medically meaningful, which would be required for saying anything demonstrably false and therefore legally actionable. Evidence? Well, according to promoters, human and animal studies have in fact been done proving CanCell’s efficacy – the FDA did a “secret and illegal” study resulting in 80–85% cure rates, for instance – but you won’t find any trace of those studies since they have been suppressed by “the establishment. In other words: none. So it goes. 

Sopcak has also claimed that he believes all medicine in the future will ultimately be practiced by adjusting vibrational frequencies, and has even made forays into homeopathy, with a homeopathic version of CanCell called … “CanCell”, no less. Which could potentially be a source of confusion. Fortunately, the homeopathic version is probably no less efficacious than the standard version, and probably less prone to cause harm. 

The product has certainly not gone away – woo rarely does, given that it was never a matter of evidence anyways – but is sold in bottles claiming that “Cantron® is an amazing bio-electrical wellness formulation [a meaningless phrase, and thus potentially not legally actionable]. It provides astonishing health benefits like no other substance on Earth. It is the world’s most potent antioxidant [it isn’t, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing if it were, but “antioxidant” sounds like “health” to the intended target audience] and scavenger of abnormal proteins [nonsense] which accumulate in the blood, tissues, organs and jointsCantron is known to dramatically aid the body’s own natural defenses [yes: it “boosts the immune system”]. Since 1984, it has received rave reviews from those who have taken itOne customer summed it up perfectly on an Internet chat site when she emphatically stated: ‘How blessed we are to know about Cantron.’” There is an informative article on the product here.

Diagnosis: Admittedly, we haven’t heard from Sopcak for a while, and aren’t completely sure he’s still around. But the product certainly is, and deserves to be covered, and since we do entries by name, Sopcak’s seemed as good as any. A real threat to health and well-being.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

#2274: Mitchel Soltys

Answers in Genesis is apparently still running their own vanity journal, the Answers Research Journal, and the garbled nonsense that finds its ways into its pages is still strangely fascinating. Many of the contributors to the journal are completely unknown, and we have to admit that we have no clear idea who Mitchel Soltys might be. For volume 4 of the Answers journal, however, Soltys penned “Toward an Accurate Model of Variation in DNA”, which is, to be honest, more annoyingly tiresome than fascinating. In the paper – discussed here (yes, there is a lot of toward, in the gesturing sense) Soltys flogs the long-dead creationist information cannot originate in statistical processes” gambit, which, as always, is based on fully failing to understand “information” and what it might mean in the context of genetics. (Yes: the “information is a code, and a code requires intentions” should sound like a pretty silly equivocation even to those who don’t know anything about DNA or information theory; and yes: Soltys does cite Werner Gitt, and no: he doesn’t address any of the damning objections to Gitt’s claims.) And just to cover his bases, Soltys added a standard “[m]utations don’t result in new genes” stock phrase, completely without backing it up. The really telling passage in the paper, however, is “As we continue our discussion we could use actual gene mappings, but that would be overly large and complex […]”: yes: science, detail and fact is uninterestingly complicated. The primary aim of the article is, relying on analogies, to come up with a definition of “biblical kind”, “[t]he set spanned by all organisms having the same instructional segments and structural arrangements in DNA.” Supporting data? Oh, ye doubting fools.

Diagnosis: Nonsensical pseudoscientist. Probably a very minor figure, though, and unlikely to win many new converts to pseudoscience.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

#2273: Stan Solomon

[Update: Did he die, back in 2015 or so?]

Stan Solomon is a fundie wingnut radio host who does the kind of stuff fundie wingnut radio hosts do, such as demanding that the police murder peaceful protestors when he disagrees with the contents of those protests and palling around with deranged crazies like Alan Keyes and Larry Pratt.

Solomon is not only a fundamentalist, he hates anything he deems non-Christian, and deems non-Christian anything he hates, thus giving himself reason to hate it even more: Latinos, Jews, gays, environmentalists, and just about everyone else: “… it doesn’t make a difference what group it is. If you put anything ahead of doing what’s right in God’s eyes, or better yet ignoring the reality of God, then you’re a tool, you’re a useful idiot.” “God’s eyes” in this context means his eyes, of course.

And importantly, his enemies are all the same: “The left, which is godless and serves Satan, has an agenda. To accomplish their agenda they have to get idiots, morons, numbnuts to do stupid things so the focus will be on them and not on the libs, not on the leftists. Jews, homosexuals, blacks, gays, Islamists, you may think they’re disparate groups, they’re not, they’re all tools. Because while we’re mad at these two punks, we’re mad at Trayvon Martin, that thug that deserves to be dead and I’m glad he’s dead.” (Maintaining focus is not Solomon’s strong side.) Continues Solomon: “Pieces of crap, homosexuals like what’s that one guy’s name? [Dan] Savage. That faggot. That horrible, awful, terrible excuse for a human being who is at the White House promoting attacks on Christians. I hope he dies – he probably will – of every disease known.” Worst of all, though, are black people and Latinos, and Solomon has called on his white listeners to buy guns to protect themselves against black and Latino people: black and Latino public school and college students are “terrorists in training” who are deliberately being taught” to hate white people in an effort to start a race war. Solomon even predicted that Obama would would establish “a black force” to attack white people.

Solomon also thinks that having humanist chaplains in the military is a really bad idea because humanist chaplains would try to convince soldiers to kill themselves.

Anti-gay efforts
It should hardly come as any surprise that Solomon is virulently anti-gay. Indeed, Solomon has opted to go for Scott Lively-style conspiracy theories about homosexuality, and claimed that homosexuality is even to blame for Nazism; according to Solomon, not only is homosexuality “destructive of the individual, destructive of the society and every society in the history of the world that has accepted homosexuality has crashed and burned – someone tell me where I’m wrong” [he doesn’t really want you to tell him where he is wrong], but “many people don’t know that the Nazi party was born out of a homosexual group; they call it the pink swastika.” There is, of course, a good and rather obvious reason why many people don’t know that.

He has also warned that liberals will take the children of conservative parents and put them into the homes of abusive gay couples. And of course, “the media won’t talk about it”, which means that it must be a conspiracy, which is all the evidence for his claim Solomon ever needed. (Phyllis Schlafly thought he was on to something with that one.)

Politics and general wingnuttery
In 2014 Solomon suggested initiating a violent uprising against Obama and have “100 million march on Washington” to depose Obama and the then-current government – “I don’t think our military and the few pitiful police they have there wouldn’t be able to stop us,” said Solomon. Though he seems to suggest that fascism is bad when he blames homosexuality for fascism, he rather explicitly doesn’t think it is bad.

Politicians who support gun laws, meanwhile, should be shot; indeed, “that’s why we need to have guns, you know what, more than one politician has been dispatched while doing a dance trying to avoid certain, shall we say, metal jackets.” After all, politicians who disagree with Solomon are evil people who will use Obamacare to force gun owners to undergo electroshock therapy, his evidence being apparently that this is the kind of thing evil people would do. So it goes.  

He does seem to have a particular obsession with Michelle Obama. For instance, when she was promoting healthy eating among youth, Solomon responded: “They have that Michelle O-Buick butt Obama’s you know, by the way, she doesn’t eat that crap, she eats like a garbage disposal at a fast food joint. Actually, they might name one after her … They just eat the biggest junk in the world.” President Obama, meanwhile, was, according to Solomon, “a homosexual Muslim married to man”; yes, it all comes together – Solomon’s mind isn’t spacious enough to keep thoughts apart. The evidence is apparently that Obama is a “wussy guy who throws a ball like a girl.” That, apparently, means that Obama also wishes he could be a drag queen. Phyllis Schlafly applauded Solomon’s reasoning, thanking him “for being a voice of truth and sanity on the air.” Solomon is of course also a birther: “Barack Obama is not an American, never has been, not in his actions, not in his speech, not in his politics and not in his birth.”

As mentioned above, Solomon expressed great joy over the death of Trayvon Martin; he was apparently equally happy about the death of Michael Brown: “I’m glad he’s dead. He deserves to be dead.”

Apparently, according to himself, NSA is monitoring his show, so when Larry Pratt, a recurring guest on Solomon’s show, expressed his excitement about Sarah Palin running for Senate in Alaska by saying that she would be a much-needed “bomb-thrower” in the Senate, Solomon felt the need to clarify: “By the way, NSA, if you’re monitoring our show, that was just a manner of speech, ‘bomb-throwers.’ We’re not Muslim morons. We’re not Democrat idiots. We’re actually intelligent life forms, so drop dead.”
Diagnosis: If Phyllis Schlafly congratulates you for being a voice of sanity, you are not a voice of sanity. Stan Solomon competes with people like Rick Wiles for the title of “most incoherently crazy wingnut” with regular access to an audience, and stars in the wingnut movement continue to flock to his show.