Thursday, February 28, 2019

#2150: Jeanna Reed

Hardly a mover or shaker in the antivaccine autism quackery movement, Jeanna Reed primarily came to our attention through her role in the tragic tale (murder) of Alex Spourdalakis. Reed is affiliated with – or runs, we are not sure – Autism is Medical, an autism biomed quackery group with a website full of familiar antivaccine and autism biomed nonsense, include sections on mitochondrial disorders and banners asking if autism is vaccine injury. It demonstrably is not.

And the Spourdalakis connection? It is admittedly not entirely clear, but it seems very likely that Alex Spourdalakis’s mother was subjecting him to autism biomed quackery on the advice of Reed, causing horrible suffering. Reed is apparently convinced that autism is caused by underlying physical conditions (bowel disease, mitochondrial dysfunction and/or “autistic enterocolitis”, a non-existent condition introduced by Andrew Wakefield and Arthur Krigsman), which is false, and it seems like she may have fooled Alex’s mother into thinking that following various quack treatments would remedy her son’s condition. Of course they wouldn’t. Reed is, in that case, to a large extent, to blame for the subsequent murder of Alex Spourdalakis. The antivaccine movement admittedly spun the story somewhat differently.

Diagnosis: A ghastly excuse for a human being. Oh, we are convinced that she thinks she is helping, but she isn’t, and has long since crossed the line where stupidity becomes indistinguishable from malice.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

#2149: James Redfield

James Redfield is the author of the novel The Celestine Prophecy, which has come to be viewed as something of a spiritual guide for the New Age by a substantial group of very silly people (“This book is very simply about how we get and use energy. When we get enough energy, in the right ways, we can ‘raise our vibration.’ With a higher vibration we are better able to tap into our psychic and intuitive skills, and thus are better able to discover and live our true purpose in life,” says one reader who, we suspect, wouldn’t be able to define “energy” (or “vibration”) if her or his life depended on it. Redfield himself treats his novel very much that way, too, in addition to using it as the basis for a very material industry that includes newsletters (The Celestine Journal: Exploring Spiritual Transformation), sequels (The Tenth Insight, which “will take you through portals into other dimensions,” The Secret of Shambhala; In Search of the Eleventh Insightand The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision), audio tapes and CDs. The book is discussed in detail here. There are hints of L. Ron Hubbard. This is a cult.

Most of the teachings gleaned from his writings consist of vague gesturing about (never-defined) energies and vibrations, and, in particular, on how to increase your energy level in order to vibrate harder, because that is apparently good for you. However, for some reasons these energies and vibrations mean that for “half a century now, a new consciousness has been entering the human world, a new awareness that can only be called transcendent, spiritual. If you find yourself reading this book, then perhaps you already sense what is happening, already feel it inside.” Like most millenialist prophecies, we are always already on the verge, it seems. And how should you prepare for this consciousness? You should, according to Redfield, avoid the negative (you can tell good from bad people by their eyes), quell your doubts, follow your intuitions, adopt a teleological worldview, tap into collective consciousness and evolve. Apparently it is no coincidence that coincidences are happening more and more frequently at present, as Redfield sees it, though there are of course really none. Good lord.

In fairness, there are some more concrete events described in the novel, too (concerning mysterious insight into vibrations set down by Mayans in the 6thcentury in Aramaic(!)), but those are fictional, and Redfield’s followers should take them seriously but not literally (perhaps you should vibrate at the frequency of their post-truth truthiness?). The novel also reminds you about the restlessness of contemporary life and focus on material goods – a deeply profound revelation, isn’t it? – and advices readers to care about auras instead. 

In any case, the book is supposed to convey nine “deep” insights, primarily about subtle energies (previously undetected by science, but which forms the basis of all things – how does he know about them? The insights of the Arameic-speaking Mayans that he invented, of course; silly you) that you can freely tap into by mystical experiences (unless blocked by childhood traumas, which can make you a psychic vampire) and which, if everybody does, will allow us to vibrate ourselves off the planet, which is apparently good. The sequels promise three more “insights”. Redfield has also written God and the Evolving Universe: The Next Step in Personal Evolution, with Sylvia Timbers and Michael Murphy.

The effectiveness of his message rests not on the contents but on its championship of solipsism and self-centered, self-serving egotheistic subjectivism (with a dash of victim blaming): truth is whatever you make it, follow yourself, evolve your spirituality, don’t care about reality. Subjective validation and communal reinforcement are everything you need. “Post-truth” is the currently popular word for it, we think.

Diagnosis: Redfield seems, at least superficially, to be a true believer, so we will assume he is. It doesn’t make him significantly less disgusting. And to his fans (and fans of similar tripe):youare the reason for fake news, post-truth nonsense, conspiracy theories and inauthentic living (yes: go read some Sartre instead, though we suspect you are too dimwitted to get anything out of it).

Hat-tip: skepdic.

Friday, February 22, 2019

#2148: Ruth Reddens & Earl Fernandes

More anti-abortion activists. Ruth Reddens and Earl Fernandes are some of the local activists of Dayton, Ohio, involved for instance in the 2012 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in front of the Kettering abortion clinic (Reddens was the organizer). Now, anti-abortion activists have held prayer vigils outside the clinic for decades, but Reddens and Fernandes took it one step further, arranging an “exorcism of locality” with exorcism prayers, which are designed to drive evil out of a place, rather than out of a person. “Hopefully, the spiritual battle will be won,” said Reddens. It doesn’t work that way. She did, however, obtain permission to perform the exorcism from Rev. Steve J. Angi, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Participants to the event would be reading Pope Leo XIII’s Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel (“[s]eize the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the devil and Satan, bind him and cast him into the bottomless pit, that he may no longer seduce the nations”), a prayer, said Rev. Fernandes, dean of the Athenaeum of Ohio seminary in Cincinnati, that “is said over a place that’s infested with the evil spirit, to remove any evil that might happen to be there.”

Diagnosis: There are legitimate discussions to be had over moral and political issus related to abortion, but your opponents do not have the views they do because of demon possession. Some people ought really not to watch old horror movies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

#2147: David Reardon

David Reardon is an American electrical engineer and anti-abortion activist with a bogus degree in biomedical ethics from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited, now-defunct diploma mill. He is the founder of the Elliot Institute, an anti-abortion advocacy group, and the author of a number of articles and books on abortion and mental health. As such, Reardon is one of the most influential propagators of the myth that abortion causes psychological health issues, which he backs up with a thick layer of pseudoscience and discredited “studies” (like the infamous Priscilla Coleman et al. study). Indeed, Reardon’s main anti-abortion strategy is to try to argue that abortion is not only morally wrong, but that there are prudential reasons – women’s health and well-being – for making it illegal, a position that is hard to sustain without an unhealthy dose of pseudoscience, denialism and conspiracy mongering. The purpose of the Elliot Institute is accordingly to study “the effects of eugenics, abortion, population control, and sexual attitudes and practices on individuals and society at large,” where “study” means “working hard to make the data fit the hypothesis by any means necessary.”

Reardon’s nonsense is not exactly fringe-nonsense in the anti-abortion movement, however: post-abortion counseling ministries are a growing industry, and part of an effort by the pro-life movement to outlaw abortion by stressing its purported psychological effects. “Even if pro-abortionists got five paragraphs explaining that abortion is safe and we got only one line saying it's dangerous, the seed of doubt is planted,” Reardon wrote in his book.

Diagnosis: It’s almost as if any issue taken up by wingnuts and fundies turns into pseudoscience, denialism and conspiracy theorizing by default. Reardon has at least emerged as a major producer of pseudoscientific bullshit, and one whose impact is non-negligible.

Monday, February 18, 2019

#2146: Donny Reagan

Brother Donny Reagan is affiliated with the Happy Valley Church of Jesus in Tennessee. Like many, Reagan is worried about the status of the institution of marriage these days, but for Reagan the problems go far deeper than gay marriage. In a video recorded in 2013, Reagan railed against interracial marriage and mixed race children calling such marriages “not right” and wondering why we can’t leave segregation “alone.” Said Reagan: “Today we have so much fussing and stewing about this segregation of white and colored and everything. Why don’t they leave it alone? Let it be the way God made it;” that is, “if God wanted a man brown, black, white, whatever color he wanted him, that God’s creation. That’s the way he wanted it.” As such, “there is a move in the message, of blacks marrying whites, whites marrying blacks. And folks think that is alright, but you know, my God still has nationalities outside the city.” And just think about the offspring: “Hybreeding, hybreeding, oh how terrible. They hybreed the people. You know it’s a big molding pot. I’ve got hundreds of precious colored friends that’s borned again Christians. But on this line of segregation, hybreeding the people. What, tell me what fine cultured, fine Christian colored woman would want her baby to be a mulatto by a white man? No sir, it’s not right.”

When the video was noticed by people outside of his congregation, Reagan claimed to apologize: “If I offended you, I’m sorry and I’m asking you to forgive me,” which is not really an apology. He also explained that even though he doesn't believe in interracial relationships, he isn’t a racist since that label has negative connotations that he doesn’t want associated with him. He also toyed with the friends argument.

Diagnosis: Bigoted shift**k. His influence is presumably pretty limited, though.

Friday, February 15, 2019

#2145: Joe Read

Joe Read was a member of the Montana House of Representatives, representing House District 15, from 2011 to 2013. He is most famous for his 2011 bill maintaining that global warming is “natural”, not man-made (“human activity has not accelerated it”), and “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana”. Some details here. It is instructive to note how Read seems to think these matters are settled, and according to himself he did not consult any climate scientists in drafting the bill, relying instead on his own experience and understanding of the issues (“science is driven by grant money” and hence “being skewed” by the “federal goverment” through the grant process, which manipulates most scientists to deliver findings that support governmental power, said Read, evidently unaware of how these processes work: “[The grant money is] all on the side for writing studies that global warming is happening[; t]here’s nothing on the side that says I wish to write a paper that global warming is not an issue”; right: since there isn’t an equal number of papers arguing each side, the grant process must be biased. He did, however, introduce a companion bill that asserts that federal greenhouse pollution limits violate the Tenth Amendment (once again apparently oblivious to how such matters are settled.) It is worth pointing out, to nobody’s surprise, that Read was not the only clown in Montana’s legislature at the time.

Nor, of course, was this Read’s only attempt at being an idiot. His tenure was in particular characterized by attempts to pass state laws that would nullify federal law, including circumventing the Affordable Care Act, nullifying federal environmental regulations, and even criminalizing the enforcement of federal firearms laws.

After receiving the boot in 2013, Read has apparently joined the Constitution Party.

Diagnosis: One would imagine his constituents being embarrassed by their mistake – Read was, after all, voted out at the first opportunity – but the cynic in us is reluctant to really believe so. (And yes: that’s technically a diagnosis of us, not Read. Read doesn’t really need one.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#2144: David Reaboi

David Reaboi is a wingnut, founder and senior vice president of the think tank Security Studies Group (SSG) and previously spokesperson for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conspiratory-minded rightwing group focusing for instance on the myth of creeping sharia. The CSP has tried to prop up that myth with a study called “Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases”, which is – considered as a study– as fraudulent as you get them. It was even pimped by the WND for months: that’s how ridiculous it was. The study ostensibly outlined numerous cases in which the Islamic system of law has been applied in the US. However, anyone bothering to actually look at the cases used would note that every single example in the report in fact shows the opposite of what the authors conclude that they show (“Shariah enters U.S. courts through the practice of comity to foreign law,” Reaboi explained, which “happens, for example, when a judge decides to allow the use of say, Pakistani or Saudi family law (Shariah) in a dispute between Pakistanis or Saudis”); instead, the cases involved the courts refusingto impose laws from Muslim countries (some details here). However, what matters to people like Reaboi is that the cases involved an Arab or a Muslim; thatis what it takes for it to be a case of the courts imposing Sharia law.

Otherwise, Reaboi seems to have been very concerned about what he perceived to be Obama’s sharia sympathies and “the infiltration of the conservative movement” by GOP figures who have suggested that Islamophobia is real. He was also a diligent pusher of various and increasingly insane Huma Abedin conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, SSG’s social media director, Nick Short, wrote about “the sheer amount of money being allocated by Congress to fund what is essentially an invasion of the third-world in the form of refugees and illegal aliens [which] is outright treasonous,” and SSG’s president Jim Hanson described the Orlando shooting as “in keeping with totalitarian Islamic code” and suggested that a homemade clock brought to a school by a 14-year-old American Muslim “was half a bomb.” (What else would a Muslim use a clock for?) 

The CSP, on the other hand, is of course the group founded by Frank Gaffney, who has claimed that Obama is a Muslim and that Gen. David Petraeus submitted to Islamic Sharia law.

Oh, and in 2017 Reaboi and his group were apparently – at least according to the group – advising the White House on the dispute between Qatar and other U.S. partner nations in the Persian Gulf. It really should worry you that not only they, but the White House, think that they are remotely competent to say anything meaningful about the topic.

Diagnosis: Though the topic concerns issues that are partially outside of what we usually cover, the case in question is such a striking case of paranoia-fuelled fraud (without recognizing it as such) that it would be negligent not to call it out. You probably shouldn’t trust a single word that comes out of David Reaboi’s mouth about anything.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

#2143: Sondra Ray

Yes, we have encountered her before, but Sondra Ray deserves her own, albeit brief, entry. Ray is an advocate of rebirthing therapy, a silly and not entirely benign brand of New Age psychotherapy, and proudly considers her profession to be spiritual guide, not scientist – “science” being more or less a synonym for narrowmindedness for people like this given scientists’ obsession with efficaciousness and accountability. According to Ray and her colleague Bob Mandel, whatever problems you feel you suffer from are due to the way you were born, and they will help “rebirth” you, properly this time. According to Rebirthing in the New Age, the book she wrote with Leonard Orr, it seems that rebirthing will help you achieve immortality. It’s quite astoundingly ludicrous, really.

Ray is also the author of Essays on Creating Sacred Relationships: The Next Step to a New Paradigm, which apparently helps you create your own paradigm. It’s hard to put how silly that claim is into human words, but it helps to realize that she apparently confuses paradigm with personal set of beliefs.

Diagnosis: Complete idiot. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

#2142: Barbara Weber Ray

Barbara Weber Ray is a psychic, astrologer and Latin teacher, and the author of The 'Reiki' Factor in The Radiance Technique, which describes her version of the Eastern faith healing discipline Reiki, The Radiance Technique® (or TRT). As an astrologer, she is apparently “professional” and “licensed”, whatever that might mean. Now, Ray apparently really has a PhD, in the humanities, but switched to practicing clairvoyance in the early 70s and used, when she for instance also had a radio show called “Star-Talk” to spread her nonsense. 

Reiki, of course, demonstrably has no beneficial health effects. Her book on the topic, which is notably riddled with quotes by real scientists that have been either judiciously mined, are completely irrelevant to the context, or fake, describes what she perceives to be the history of Reiki (which is not the actual history, since the actual history is too mundane for her agenda), describes how people attuned to cosmic energies (i.e. subtle energies can go on to use TRT, contains a large number of anecdotes and testimonials (many of them are discussed here; they are quite ridiculous), as well as some appendices with quotes and an FAQ that doesn’t really deal with any of the more obvious questions. Among the quotes you will find the “truth goes through three stages” fake quote attributed to Schopenhauer (the relevant Schopenhauer passage actually says more or less the opposite of what promoters of the quote think he says) favored by self-aggrandizing Galileo gambit promoters everywhere. It is not the only fake quote in the book.

There is a decent review of the book here. Among the book's themes is the idea that just as we have food diets now, humans will go on light diets (attributed to John Ott), which Ray compares to what she characterizes as the Light diet ostensibly provided by Reiki (“Light” doesn’t mean light, of course, any more than “energy” in Ray’s book means energy– subtle energy is not energy – but spirit-ether), which people need because people are apparently made both of Light and matter. 

Apparently reiki is a really old technique. In reality, it was invented by Mikao Usui in 1922, but many proponents claim that he only rediscovered it, since being older is better and many proponents have anyways already decided that what they want to be true, is true. According to Ray, knowledge of TRT was orally transmitted for centuries in Asia, but she is the only scholar able to recognize ancient descriptions of the method for what they really are. Apparently reiki originated with extraterrestrial aliens.

Of course, we are just scratching the surface. Did you know that E = MC2 is a tool for activating energy? Or that Ray’s TRT will play a very important role in the dawning of the “New Age”? Neither did we. Nor, for that matter, does Ray. TRT is listed here.

Diagnosis: The kind garbled fluffy insanity that certain audiences just gobble up, Ray’s lunacy has apparently received a modicum of popularity, which does not reflect well on humanity. Complete and utter rubbish.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Friday, February 8, 2019

#2141: Dennis Dean Rathman

The Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, which we’ve had ample opportunity to discuss before, contains signatures by what is overall and with only a few exceptions a pitiful group of non-scientists, conspiracy theorists and religious fundies teaching at religious institutions of questionable educational merit, thus serving to undermine its intended rhetorical value of the list more than anything else. Now, Dennis Dean Rathman is a Staff Scientist at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and has contributed to a few publications (in fields unrelated to evolution), so at least he has some genuine credentials in some scientific field. What made his name interesting to us, is that it also appears on an HIV denialist petition for a “Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis”.

Diagnosis: Ok, so we have been unable to locate more information about this figure, but we think we have enough to give him an entry. Loon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#2140: John Ragan

John Ragan is a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, representing the 33rd District, which puts him in the company of deranged lunatics like Kevin Brooks, Jimmy Matlock and Stacey Campfield. Ragan is famous for believing that homosexuality doesn’t really exist: “A person is a heterosexual because of the presence of genitalia of one sex or the other. No one except a very few with an exceedingly rare congenital deformity have both kinds of genitalia.” Yes, he might be confused about some details here. In 2013 Ragan sponsored a bill – described by Ragan as a “mental health” bill – that says that school officials must “notify parents or legal guardians in the manner specified by law for such a medical referral” if a child is, among other things, suspected of being LGBTQ; he did claim to not be “anti-gay”, and putting the mental-health reference together with his aforementioned denial of the existence of homosexuality, you sort of get where he is coming from. It is not a good place to be coming from. The bill was a modified version of his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have forbidden public school teachers from saying “gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual” in classrooms, a bill that drew national attention. In 2017 Ragan sponsored legislation that tried to limit the terms “mother and father” to households with opposite sex parents in a complicated effort to create trouble for gay couples wishing to adopt children.

But Ragan’s lunacy isn’t limited to anti-gay efforts. In 2012, Ragan co-sponsored HJR 587, a resolution against the United Nations’ non-binding Agenda 21 treaty, based on the hard-right conspiracy theorist fear that the treaty is a plot to establish a New World Order. He is also a firm climate change denialist, having asserted that “[t]he anthropogenic climate change theory, as a scientific theory, fails to meet criteria for explanation of all evidence, testability and falsification,” which, of course, is nonsense – not that we even for a moment would suspect Ragan of actually understanding the meaning of the terms he is using.

Diagnosis: Simply a standard, bigoted denialist and conspiracy theorist. He keeps getting reelected, though, which does not reflect well on people in Tennessee’s 33rdDistrict.

Monday, February 4, 2019

#2139: John Rabe

John Rabe is a fundamentalist maniac and conspiracy theorist affiliated with Truth in Action Ministries (TiAM), and yes, we could really end this entry right there. Rabe is also a regular cohost, with Carmen Pate, of TiAM’s radio program Truth that Transforms, which is an instance of (the generalized version of) Badger’s Law (

In 2012 Rabe said that idolatry and the worship of government is to blame for the protests and recall movement in Wisconsin over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s push to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public workers, calling it a “theological issue” (apparently climate science is idolatry, too, according to TiAM – policies targeting climate change could, according to Rabe, lead to the return of communist dictatorships that left “over 100 million people killed”). According to Rabe Wisconsinites who have rallied against Walker’s move are people who have made government “a replacement for God” and moreover that government employees shouldn’t look to government to provide for them. Yeah, it’s not exactly unexpected given the source, but it is worth taking a moment to think about how delusionally insane it is.

Then, of course, there is the anti-gay tirades, including complaints about “activists” with a “harmful agenda” that attack “two thousand years of traditional marriage” by striking down homosexual marriage bans like Proposition 8, as detailed in Rabe’s and Jerry Newcombe’s “documentary” “We the People: Under Attack”. The courts’ discovery of “so-called ‘right to sodomy’ [not so-called by the courts, obviously] in the Constitution” comes of course on top of all their other sins, such as having “silenced voluntary prayer in schools,” which is emphatically not illegal anywhere in the US. Honesty has never been a central virtue for people like John Rabe. As for homosexuality, Rabe has likened it to “bondageand even “slavery because it is a communist, liberal un-Godly ploy. Indeed, Marxism and sex seem to be deeply intertwined in the twisted mind of John Rabe, which is why he thinks sex education, for instance, “isn’t just basic biological information; this is really ideological indoctrination form a very liberal standpoint.” He has also claimed that supporters of marriage equality are “unscientific” when it comes to family stability and have “completely ignored” evidence showing that same-sex parenting harms children. Then he lamented the irony that bigots like him often get labeled “unscientific” for their nonsense. The irony is, indeed, fascinatingly many-layered here.

Rabe, who regularly toys with dominionism, is also a fan of the myth of the US as a Christian nation, claiming that “[i]t’s the Christian foundation of our foundation that brought us freedom.” This is, of course, false, but Rabe and TiAM are unsurprisingly not above using fake Founding Father quotes to suggest otherwise.

The decidedly silly commenter chiming in here may or may not be the same John Rabe.

Diagnosis: Yes: bigoted fundie conspiracy theorist. We seem to be repeating ourselves here, but then there is little new or surprising in Rabe’s moronic rants.