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David Rives, son of Richard Rives and head of David Rives Ministries, is a creationist in the grand tradition of ridiculous crackpots like Ray Comfort and Carl Baugh, whose TV program “Creation in the 21st Century” (on the Trinity Broadcasting Network) Rives seems to have inherited. Rives’s output, in particular his series of short videos, is regularly featured by the WND, for instance in WND's video series The Heavens Declare, where Rives goes through all the usual talking points in apparent favor of a 6000-year-old universe, such as the old and thoroughly refuted creationist take on the bombardier beetle (which Rives seems to think, in line with the teachings of standard creationist cryptozoology, is evidence for the historical accuracy of descriptions of large fire-breathing dragons in the Bible), with a recurrent focus on irreducible complexity. He also thinks that all modern scientific discoveries were predicted by the Bible, mostly because the ones that weren’t are just atheist conspiracies anyways. Here, for instance, is Rives claiming that gravity only makes sense in the context of the Bible.
You can follow the link here to see Rives attack evolutionists on the grounds that dictionaries distinguish astronomy from astrology – “God is behind the stars, not in them,” Rives inform us. Take that, atheists and evolutionists. Of course, Rives is not particularly fond of astronomy either, and has argued for instance against the Big Bang; according to Rives “good science” backs up the six-day creation account in the Bible, and “bad science” contradicts it – “good scientific practice” is the set of methods that give you the answers you’ve already convinced yourself are correct – and besides, the Big Bang theory has unanswered questions: only the Bible has all the answers. Here is Rives explaining further why Big Bang is science fiction (it’s only an atheistic theory) because good science is supposed to be observable and repeatable; evolution, as he sees it, is faith, not science – no, he doesn’t have the faintest idea what science is. (Hint: science istesting hypotheses about the unobserved through observable data derived from the hypotheses – that’s the whole pointof scientific inquiry – and it’s the observationsthat must be repeatable, not the events or circumstances your hypothesis is about.) Then he explains how Galileo, Kepler, and Newton all relied on a Biblical perspective; science should apparently have stopped there (Kepler, of course, also relied on astrology; Rives doesn’t mention that). And in the brief video “Billions of Earths in the Galaxy” Rives argues against elitist, smartypants astronomers who claim to have found “earth-like” planets elsewhere in our galaxy, pointing out that even astronomers admit that even the closest one is supposed to be 13 light years away, which according to the “Rives Theory of Relativity” (no, seriously: he calls it that) would take us more than 200,000 years to reach with any spacecraft. And what does it mean? At best that astronomers don’t know what they are talking about; at worst apparently that they are deliberately trying to sow doubt about the Bible.
As for his TV show Creation in the 21th century, it is based on the observation that “[t]heologians have long questioned the dogma of Darwinian evolution, particularly when its adherents have trumpeted the theory as evidence God is no longer needed to understand the universe. But in recent decades the classic, Darwinian narrative of man descended from primordial ooze through the process of random chance and mutation has drawn criticism from another, perhaps more surprising sector: from the world of science.” Of course, the idea that evolution proceeds by random chance is precisely a fundamental misunderstanding frequently made by creationists that real scientists have criticized rather severely, but that’s not what Rives has in mind, of course. The show features “interviews with top scientists around the world discussing the controversial topic of creation science” – “top scientists” here of course being used according to Rives’s personal definition of “science”, which has little to do with science.
Diagnosis: Good grief. As feeble as you could possibly imagine, but apparently that is the key to success with this particular audience, and Rives seems to be on the ascendance to something resembling stardom in the creationist circus.
What Really Happened (WRH) is a website run by one Michael Rivero. The website, which sports the tagline “Putting America First, Second, And Third!” claims to be telling you “what really happened,” which is rarely what really happened. Rivero credulously endorses more or less any conspiracy theory he comes across, and the website is particularly heavy on 9/11 conspiracy theories, Jewish banker conspiracies, JFK assassination conspiracies, Bin-Laden-is-alive conspiracy theories, the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory, global warming conspiracy theories (dominated by a large number of links to articles about days with cold weather and snow), as well as a range of conspiracy theories and nonsense related to various types of pseudohistory and survivalism. He also has a podcast – until recently on a shortwave radio and carried by the Genesis Communications Network – and a wiki.
As for his climate change denialism, Rivero thinks you should take his collection of weather reports seriously since “I come from a science background myself” (he does not), and knows that science is corrupt and arrogant. “Why should you not trust science?” Well, according to Rivero, science was wrong before: “Alchemy, for one [which is decidedly pre-scientific]. Phlogiston Chemistry, for another.” Moreover, “[p]rior to the 14th Century Astronomers thought the Earth was the center of the universe, because, well, that’s what the church wanted,” which would count as an instance of the science-was-wrong-before fallacy only if you count church-appointed theologians living before the discovery of scientific methodology as “scientists” (one would think that Rivero, an unrelenting atheist, would be observant of that difference). Indeed, “18th Century Geologists thought the Earth was 6000,” which they did not, and “[P]rior to the 1950s, scientists thought proteins carried our heredity,” until the hypothesis was falsified by … independent conspiracy theorists? In any case, the main gist is that because science is wrong you should reject the scientific consensus about climate change because Rivero can show you news articles about cold days in North Carolina and climategate.
Rivero claims to have started the website as well as his radio show as a result of wondering (i.e. blindly endorsing a conspiracy perspective on) what happened to Vince Foster. Of course, Foster was not the only troublesome character assassinated by the Clintons, and WRH website dutifully keeps records.
Diagnosis: At least his rants tend to be grammatical and internally mostly coherent. Which is more than one can say about a lot of people pushing the kind of nonsense Rivero pushes. His website has been called “a poor man’s version of Infowars, which sums it up pretty well.
The Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) is, essentially, industrial strength bleach (28% sodium chlorite) that, when diluted in acidic juices, results in the formation of chlorine dioxide, a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment. As a treatment for medical conditions (and other things) MMS should rank as among the most dangerous and delusional pieces of quackery out there, yet according to proponents, MMS can cure almost anything from cancer to AIDS and anything in between and beyond. There is no biological plausibility to any of these claims, and no evidence, either preclinical or clinical, that MMS can do what its proponents claim it can do. According to Kerri Rivera, one of the most dangerous and insane people on the planet, MMS can – in particular – cure autism, and her abhorrent insanity has unsurprisingly made significant inroads in already severely reality-challenged antivaxx communities, whose members, demonstrably mistakenly, still think that vaccines cause autism. Rivera was for instance invited to talk at the 2012 Autism One Quackfest to convince parents to torture their autistic children by giving them painful bleach enemas. As Rivera sees it, “autism means that your child has virus, bacteria, Candida, inflammation, heavy metals and food allergies ... [this is, hopefully needless to say, insane nonsense],”therefore these children take (her) poison, which would do nothing to address these issues if they had anything to do with autism, which they don’t. At the conference, Rivera boasted about 38 children who purportedly recovered in 20 months (by 2018 the number is allegedly in the hundreds, and if you need proof that her numbers are nonsense, here it is).
Needless to say, her presentation was short on documentation but rich on paper-trail-less anecdotes. Among the attendees it seems to have been sufficiently popular to get her reinvited in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Indeed, media attention to her dangerous nonsense prompted the Illinois attorney general to send agents to her presentation at the 2015 conference and serve her with a subpoena; unable to present evidence for MMS’s benefits, Rivera was forced to sign an agreement barring her from further promoting MMS or appearing at conferences in the state of Illinois. Rivera has since announced that she will no longer do MMS consultations for autistic kids. MMS remains popular in antivaxx communities, however, and central players like Julie Obradovic and JB Handley quickly ran to Rivera’s defense when she was “attacked” by skeptics. Rivera herself addressed critics by telling them that “You have your science all wrong. The websites that you site are incorrect.” Short and sweet, in other words.
Rivera runs, or at least used to run, a clinic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, called AutismO2 Clinica Hyperbarica (Rivera is also fond of hyberbaric oxygen therapy), where she would expose autistic children to MMS by mouth and enema – at her AutismOne presentation she also discussed “recent protocol developments around MMS and Autism, such as loading the dose, the baby bottle, the baking soda mix, enemas, baths, and how to handle a fever.” One would think that parents bathing their babies in bleach and putting bleach in their bottles would face some social condemnation. Occasionally, Rivera uses the letters “D Hom” after her name. D Hom is not a real degree. But as a homeopath, perhaps Rivera could at least dilute her bleach to the point where there is not a molecule left before serving it to children? According to homeopathic theory doing so shouldn’t decrease its effectiveness, quite the reverse.
Apparently, children undergoing the therapy she recommends will often experience diarrhea (which is “good” since it is a “detox diarrhea”) and fever, which according to Rivera is also good since it is “waking up the immune system” to realize that there’s “autism in the house.” This is, hopefully needless to say, not how this works. And what do you think is her evidence that the regime has any benefits? Nothing, of course – Rivera has some undocumented anecdotes, which really, really means nothing. She also has leaflets and handouts with the fake Schopenhauer quote about truth “passing through three stages”, which is, of course, false but a surefire sign that we are dealing with a quack. There is a horrifying account of one of her clients undergoing her treatment regime here, and a good takedown of her dangerous nonsense here. A response from (insane) MMS and Rivera apologist Adam Abraham is discussed here.
Ultimately, and as mentioned above, attaining good health is (apparently), according to Rivera, mostly a matter of getting rid of toxins and parasites. As described in her book Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism, “[a]lmost all of the people with autism have high levels of pathogens; virus, bacteria, parasites and heavy metals. Chlorine dioxide kills pathogens and helps the body to detoxify itself. It is considered safe at doses we use for weight.” It is not considered safe, and Rivera has no remotely reliable test for “levels of pathogens” beyond the a priori, of course. But this is really a matter of religion – what she is promoting is a cleansing ritual – not evidence, truth or reality; indeed, seeing how no player in the antivaxx community can bring themselves to criticize even feeding bleach to kids with autismshould really, really illustrate how much of a cult the antivaccine movement has become (unity against criticism from the outside is a familiar hallmark of cults).) None of the parasites in question actually exist, of course, which is good, since MMS would presumably not have had helped deal with them anyways – the rationale behind MMS is that bleach unsurprisingly can kill microbes in petri dishes; therefore it can kill them in the body, too, without harm; and therefore all disease, also autism, is caused by microbes. Needless to say, none of those steps in that piece of reasoning are anything but idiotic. There is a good resource on Rivera and her crazy here.
Diagnosis: As sane and scientific as the flat earth movement, but far more harmful. Now, Rivera’s base is in Mexico, and we cannot say with any confidence that she’s actually American. But she has at least enjoyed plenty of popularity in the US, and what really matters is presumably ultimately that her insanity – and the cult that has grown up around her and her crazy – is exposed.
Robert Ritchie is the rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and executive director of America Needs Fatima (ANF), a project of the right-wing American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (we’ve dealt with them a couple of times before), and one might naturally suspect that he is therefore related in some way to last entry’s John Ritchie. Robert Ritchie is in any case just as delusional as John, and exhibits a similar level of deranged fundie wingnuttery and paranoia. For instance, in November 2013 Ritchie linked tornadoes that hit Illinois to the state’s recent approval of a marriage equality bill “Do you think the massive Illinois tornadoes are linked to the passing of the same sex ‘marriage’ bill? The massive tornadoes that hit Illinois after the passing of the same sex ‘marriage’ bill, has stimulated many people to reflection. In it, some see God’s chastisement; others see it as yet one more merciful warning from Providence; others yet deny both options and give various reasons. What do you think?” Oh, yes – he’s just JAQing off. Do you think we can find an example of Betteridge’s law of headlines, too? You bet: “Is the Voice of God Resounding in the Recent Catastrophes,” asks a contemporaneous ANF article, which promptly goes on to blame homosexuality for a range of natural disasters.
Responding to the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic church, Ritchie suggested that we should “pray for the priests.” This is not a proper response.
Ritchie is also a creationist, celebrating in his post “Why Evolution Is The Lonely Dinosaur” survey polls that suggest that many teachers in public schools fail to teach the theory of evolution properly and many even promote creationism. Ritchie suggests that “[m]aybe it is time to tell the liberal establishment to let the dinosaur evolve into something more believable?” since scientific theories are really political creeds and scientific truth should be decided by the practices of American public school teachers. His blog also promotes global warming denialism (e.g. Gary Isbell’s guest post “How Global Warming Stopped 16 Years Ago”, promoting one of the hoariest denialist myths in the repertoire.
Diagnosis: A predictable mix of bigotry, denialism, fundamentalism and moral corruption. But as mentioned in the previous post, these fundie Catholic groups still seem to wield quite a bit of power and influence.
The American Society for Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) is – you guessed it – a wingnut anti-marriage-equality group (we’ve met them at least a few times before). John Ritchie is their Student Action Director, and thus for instance responsible for their 2011 report on “pro-homosexual clubs” at Catholic colleges and universities, which was really an extended chart naming student clubs or resource centers for LGBT students and allies at such colleges, and the availability of other objectionable material at such campuses (e.g. that the “pro-homosexual film” Brokeback Mountain was available at the campus library at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University). “Students are getting immoral messages from these clubs,” said Ritchie, “[a] sort of dictatorship of tolerance is slowly squeezing out the truth, silencing Catholic teaching right on Catholic campuses [there is much wiggle room in the “sort of” qualifier, apparently]. More and more Catholic college students are confronted with visible, active and well-funded pro-homosexual clubs that openly contradict natural law and undermine moral values.” As a response, Ritchie and the TFP were working to have 100,000 people sign a petition demanding the leaders of Catholic colleges “disband” organizations that “favor the homosexual agenda” and “push for the mainstreaming of unnatural vice.”
Ritchie was also central in the fundie attempt to prevent Desmond Tutu from speaking at Gonzaga University because of his views on legal abortion and “affirmation of the homosexual agenda” and being a socialist (“no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist[Pope Pius XI]).” According to Ritchie, Gonzaga’s “shameful” decision has “tarnished” its reputation. Here is Ritchie on whether the Boy Scouts ought to allow openly gay members.
It is worth noting that the TFP is affiliated for instance with Jeremias Wells, a hardcore creationist who, in the TFP magazine, has argued at length against the “revolutionary currents that are degrading society today from the feminists and homosexuals to the pantheists, radical environmentalists and evolutionists. We must also keep in mind that evolutionism is not only an inherent doctrine of Gnosticism but also communism and the Modernist heresy condemned by Saint Pius X in Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Charles Darwin laid the foundation for the New Age mysticism by concocting the highly popular but never-proven theory of evolution [Wells, to no one’s surprise, doesn’t really understand how science works]. This abominable theory which is nothing more than Gnostic ideas dressed up in scientific clothing denies the transcendent Creator and anticipates one of the central heresies of the Da Vinci Code by implying that the Bible is not a reliable record of Divine action.” In other words, the TFP doesn’t alwayscare about official Catholic doctrine; only when it suits them.
Diagnosis: A remarkably evil and hateful fellow. Though apparently quite out of touch with regular Catholics, these extremist, fundie Catholic groups still seem to wield quite a bit of power and influence.
Robert Ringer is a motivational and political speaker, as well as author of several best-selling personal-development and political books. Ostensibly a libertarian, Ringer has over the years moved toward more and more feverishly deranged conspiracy theories. Currently an ardent defender of what he calls rational living, Ringer has his own, personal understanding of ‘rational’, which unfortunately has few points of contact with rationality.
Ringer is also a relatively frequent columnist for the WND, under the signature “A Voice of Sanity” (an instance of a corollary of Badger’s Law). This is for instance where Ringer, over several columns, warned us that Obama was going to cancel the 2012 election and declare himself dictator – one suggestion for instance being that Obama would use the violence in the Middle East to declare a state of emergency and cancel the election (that Obama, at the time the column was written, looked exceedingly likely to win), in accordance with the wishes of his nebulous allies on the far left: “[t]he far left, of course, would love a state of emergency and suspension,” said Ringer, because they disagree with his political views and are therefore evil and just trying to destroy things. Of course, this was Obama’s plan from the start; Obama was, according to Ringer already from the outset “well aware that the continuation of his policies will destroy the U.S. economy beyond repair. I believe his strategy from the outset has been to follow the Saul Alinsky model [the understanding of which seems closer to the strategies described in Ringer’s own 1974 book Winning Through Intimidation, in fact]: Win the presidency through a semi-legitimate election [not completely legitimate because Ringer disagreed with the outcome], then tighten your grip over everything and everybody, move swiftly to create economic chaos, and use the chaos you’ve created to establish a dictatorship.” Ringer also repeatedly warned about Obama’s continuing efforts to “grab your guns” (always in the immediate future); and gun control, warned Ringer, is merely a first step: “gulags, gas chambers and firing squads are easily put into place,” and the president will thus ultimately be able to accomplish his life mission: “the complete destruction of Western civilization.” Evidence that these are Obama’s intentions? Ringer disagrees with Obama on economic policy, and if you disagree with Ringer on fiscal policies, well, this is just the natural conclusion to draw about your ultimate life goals according to Ringer’s idiosyncratic understanding of “rationality”. Moreover, Obama is angry, like the “other angry people” who influenced him, “from Frank Marshall Davis to Jeremiah Wright, from Bernardine Dohrn to Michelle Robinson.” Black people apparently tend to seem angry to Ringer. He is of course also a birther, who “knew the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Obama before he ever took office. We knew he would never make the original of his birth certificate available to any independent authority.”
Ringer’s silliness is not limited to politics and political forecasts, however. Ringer is also for instance a creationist, having, according to himself, discovered – when he ostensibly read up on the topic – that “evolution sounded like something out of ‘Aesop’s Fables.’ Inanimate matter ‘evolving’ into an animal, and an animal evolving into a human being? It seemed to me to be an idea that required a size extra-large imagination.” Ah, yes – the argument from incredulity. Why the incredulity? Well, you see, according to Ringer it is completely impossible for purely random processes to have created anything as complex as living organisms. Which, as an argument (a common one among creationists), at least shows that Ringer hasn’t even tried to understand evolution (hint: the processes are exactly not random; that’s sort of the whole significance of Darwin’s discovery). Incredulity is natural when you don’t have the faintest idea what you are talking about. (Nor does he, for that matter, understand what “random” means, as shown by possibly the most feeble attempt on the Internet to prove the existence of God – “How can infinity be explained away by simply saying that everything is random?” asks Ringer rhetorically; how, indeed). Apparently, part of the problem is evolutionists’ overreliance on science: science is limited, according to Ringer: “science can explain how gravity works, but it cannot explain why it works the way it does;” Ringer calls this the “Why Wall” (it’s more commonly known as appeal to mystery): “You can offer endless scientific explanations for a natural disaster like a hurricane – high pressure systems, low-pressure systems, unusually warm ocean water, etc. – but eventually you come to what I call the ‘Why Wall.’ Whydo these phenomena occur?” (Might he have tried – and miserably failed – to read Dilthey?). Bill O’Reilly famously tried a similar gambit concerning the tides.
And then we’re off down the rabbit hole. Since the complexity of life cannot be random, there must be a Conscious Universal Power Source behind it all. And therefore, thinks Ringer, we have evidence for the Law of Attraction, the nonsense familiar from The Secret: “Since every negative has an offsetting positive built into it, and vice versa, you always have a choice as to whether to focus on the abundance or the scarcity in your life […] if you want more positives in your life, you’d be wise to focus on the positives you already have. You’ll be amazed at the number of new positives that will almost magically make their appearance into your life as a result of this mindset,” says Ringer, and before you conclude that this is just standard, metaphorical, fluffy, motivational newspeak hogwash, Ringer assures us: “Let me make it clear that there that is nothing magical about this phenomenon. On the contrary, it’s quite scientific. What makes it possible is the fact that 1) all atoms are connected, and 2) atoms vibrate at tremendous rates of speed.” It is not scientific. Continues Ringer: “That’s why, when your thoughts are positive, science works its wonders and causes those vibrating atoms in your brain to draw positive people, things and circumstances into your life. Because you are connected to the Conscious Universal Power Source, you always have infinite power at your disposal.” Then he invokes quantum physics. No, really.
Diagnosis: Ringer is clearly aware that “reason” and “sanity” are concepts that denote something we should aspire to. Unfortunately, he has no idea what it is, and the results are predictably pitiful and feeble. That he is also a best-selling author on political topics is rather scary, however.
Riley is also chairman of the Constitution Party of Mississippi, and has stated that its goal is to “restore American government to its Constiutional [sic] limits and American jurisprudence to its Biblical presuppositions.” According to their platform, “The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law,” which sounds like an attempt to state a fact but fails miserably. The Personhood organization is well covered here; as Riley sees it, the real hope for the personhood amendment efforts is that they “would help lead people to convert to Christianity” (i.e.: his brand of Christianity, of course).
Visiting the area right after the event (in connection with a personhood campaign drive), Riley also weighed in on the Aurora shootings – or rather, people’s responses to the shootings: “how ridiculously people would respond to a crisis when they don’t repent, when they don’t turn to God, when they don’t acknowledge their Creator. You see this shooting and rather than crying out to God there’s this big memorial with teddy bears and it’s great that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves but rather than turning to their Creator they again turn to their folly.”
Diagnosis: Charming, isn’t he? At least an alarming number of legislators and politicians seem to think so. Dangerous.
Seth Riggio is an admittedly rather obscure fundie theocrat associated with the Conservative Party USA and founder of the organization The Conservative Comeback, which is primarily an anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality group (“upholding the Sacred Bond of marriage against an increasingly anti-family culture and the pro-homosexual agenda”) devoted to combating the separation of church and state. In 2012, Riggio endorsed Tom Hoefling for president, the candidate for the outspokenly theocratic America’s Party, partly because he found Mitt Romney to be as objectionable as Obama: “Mitt Romney is also in favor of Homosexual couples adopting children. Barack Obama does the same. What difference is there if these men both agree that placing innocent children in homes where such perversion takes place. This entails that they both support this evil… WHAT ARE WE THINKING!!!” Rest assured you are not, Seth. “We [those supporting Romney] are supporting a man who is willing to allow innocence to be slaughtered,” said Riggio. Also Hitler, apparently.
Diagnosis: Whatever. He may have a bright career ahead of him in wingnut circles, at least.
Jim Rigano was for a while, until 2016, a member (vice president) of the Springboro, Ohio, board of education, famous nationwide for its attempt to get creationism taught as science in public schools in the guise of a “controversial issues” policy – according to the school district website, “evolution/creation,” “'pro-life/abortion,” “contraception/abstinence,” legalization of drugs, gun rights, and global warming would be among the topics added to a list of “controversial issues”. Kelly Kohls was perhaps the main driver behind the proposals, but Rigano deserves his own entry for his stalwart efforts on behalf of lunacy. According to Rigano, the proposal was made in part because they (he) did not want students to be “indoctrinated by teachers”. Said Rigano: “We want to make sure that all sides are being taught in a fair and balanced way and then, also, we want to encourage critical thinking.” We are fairly confident that Rigano did not really want to promote critical thinking. (In the process the anti-science faction apparently also relied on advice from John Freshwater and Liberty Counsel.)
Diagnosis: Hardly a star in the anti-science movement, Rigano still deserves a mention insofar as he, at least for a while, possessed some actual power over Springboro schools, powers he was disposed and prepared to misuse. Hopefully neutralized.
Cutting Edge Ministries (CEM) is a South-Carolina-based fundamentalist group of deranged conspiracy theorists, famous (to some limited extent) for instance for various 9/11 truther conspiracy theories based on pareidolia and numerology: 9/11 was, according to the website’s contributors, a ploy orchestrated by the Illuminati, and this is shown by the appearance of the Illuminati “signature” in connection to the event, as CEM has demonstrated in “a series of articles detailing this use of the number ‘11’, proving that the Illuminati was the planning, active agent behind these attacks”. For instance, the number eleven occurs in the date of the attack, the number of the first aeroplane to hit the World Trade Center, the number of the plane which hit the Pentagon (77, which gives 11 if you divide it by 7), the number of floors in the towers, the fact that the buildings resembled an 11, that one of the planes had a crew of 11, etc. They are apparently dead serious. The group is perhaps even better known, however, for their collection of “Harry Potter is of Satan” articles. It is, shall we say, unclear whether any of the article writers actually read any the books.
Though David Bay is (or used to be) the director of CEM, Pastor Ron Riffe used to be perhaps been the main contributor to CEM’s online rantings (it is not entirely clear), and has made his mark in particular on their promotion of one of the most inane pieces of conspiracy theorizing on the entire Internet: Six school shootings committed over a space of two years in the US, when marked on a map, form two rough lines, which shows that “they were planned events, not isolated, sporadic horrors:” Riffe then suggests that the lines are actually part of a hexagram, which he promptly drew onto a map of the world to go hunting for other disasters that occur in the vicinity of any of the lines, like Venezuelan floods, the Waco incident, the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey and the crashing of John F. Kennedy Jr’s plane (“While his plane apparently did not go down right on the line, it went down close enough to it to raise one's eyebrows”). And at the center of the hexagram? The Galapagos Islands, “at which Darwin conceived his Satanic idea we now call Evolution.”
“[I]t is highly conceivable [interesting choice of words] that the Illuminati would create such a symbol, believing it would reverberate with Satanic power to aid them in achieving their global objectives.” The author does understandably not go into details about the magic properties by which it is supposed to aid them. Things are prone to get a bit murky at this level of conspiracy theorizing, but it involves the UN, the Clintons and “the exercise of powerful Black Magick Witchcraft” by the government in attempts to confiscate your guns.
Somewhat refreshingly, Riffe is a fierce critic of the King James Bible; all English Bibles, in fact: “The fact of the matter is that 100% of all English Bibles bear the imprint of Rosicrucian/Freemason tampering! ... The tampering took place primarily in the chapter and verse divisions, artwork, etc. of the early English translations as signs to ‘those in the know’ that the publications were done under Rosicrucian supervision.” It seems like disagreement over the inerrancy of the King James Bible made Riffe and CEM part ways at some point around 2006.
Riffe is also a fierce critic of anti-semitism … though “we need to understand there is a trait among the Jews as a race of people that contributes greatly to anti-Semitism. For reasons known only unto God He continues to give many of them an uncanny ability to make money and prosper […] And over time they have become some of the most powerful and wealthy individuals among the world’s bankers and financiers. But that tremendous wealth is being misused by some extremely wicked individuals among them – in some cases involving entire families that go back for generations – as they operate financial empires having no national allegiance or recognizing any borders. Their insatiable lust for power has played a major role in most (if not all) of the wars that have been fought over the last two hundred years.” It’s not all of them, though. Some are nice.
Cutting Edge Ministries has produced a number of books and DVDs, mostly on how the hidden Powers That Be are covertly working to bring about the End Times.
Diagnosis: As unhinged as they come: dimwitted, bigoted, angry and evil. Probably relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things, however.
John P. Rickert is a Catholic priest with a Ph.D. in mathematics from Vanderbilt University. Given his education, Rickert met the requirement for signing the Discovery Institute’s very silly and (given its goal) actually self-undermining petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, which he did. Rickert is – relatively typically for the signatories – not a scientist by a long shot, however. Instead, Rickert has made a bit of a career campaigning against reductionism in churches (though he doesn’t seem to have a very clear idea about what “reductionism” might possibly mean). Rickert is, however, a young-earth creationist, who thinks the fact that some fossil finds (such as ancient whale bones found in what is currently a desert) haven’t been explicitly and speicifcally predicted by scientists may be evidence against evolution. He is just asking question, though, and responds to criticism of his claims by suggesting that his interlocutors are afraid of questions.
Diagnosis: Minor figure, to be sure, but he is a creationist and did put his name on that list, so here he goes.
Dan Reynolds is chairman of the Triangle Association for the Science of Creation, a North Carolina-based group whose “mission is to rebuild and strengthen the foundation of the Christian faith by increasing awareness of the scientific evidence supporting the literal Biblical account of creation and refuting evolution.” The group is ostensibly focusing on creation science, but as the mission statement also makes explicit, it really has nothing to do with science but with dogma – the conclusion is given; now we have to make the evidence fit. To achieve their aims – to “show Christians and others in the Triangle area that the facts of science are consistent with the Biblical account of origins and inconsistent with the evolutionary worldview” – they offer “speakers, books, videos, movies, and slides for churches, civic groups, campus organizations, and schools; hosting creationist seminars and debates; sponsoring creationist films on local-access cable TV; holding periodic meetings; and engaging in other activities.” Yes, it is, of course, all about outreach and winning souls for Jesus, not research. Their website is, as you would expect, full of articles displaying a striking lack of understanding of the theory of evolution, while pushing all the standard creationist PRATTs, including skepticism about radiometric dating, flood geology, evidence for the historical existence of the Nephilim (media is part of an evolutionist conspiracy to cover up the evidence), Walter Brown’s pseudoscientific hydroplate theory, pointing out gaps in scientific knowledge (such as claiming that they don’t know how dinosaurs died out; therefore the Biblical story of creation is correct), claiming that dinosaurs and humans coexisted and that dinosaurs are really the behemoths of the Bible, and that religious knowledge is better than science because religious knowledge never changes whereas science does, which is sort of missing a rather obvious point. There is also a number of forays into pseudoarchaelogy, including out-of-place artifacts, and the group seems pretty excited about Graham Hancock’s pseudoscientific rantings.
It's the usual stuff. Chairman Dan Reynolds does have a PhD in organic chemistry, which does, of course, not amount to any kind of authority on evolution, but which makes him eligible for signing the Discovery Institute’s laughable petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. Other members of their Board of Directors include (for future reference):
- Fred Johnson, another signatory to the Discovery Institute petition.
- Joe Spears, their resident pseudoarchaelogy fan, responsible for their articles e.g. on out-of-place artifacts.
- Mark Stephens, a Duane Gish fan, who finds scientific explanations (“scientists basicly conjecture or guess using the naturalistic evolutionary theory”) for the extinction of dinosaurs (Biblical “dragons”) ridiculous since how could changes in climate have killed off tough dinosaurs and let, say, thin-skinned mammals survive? Therefore, concludes Stephens, the Biblical story is better: dinosaurs survived the flood (since Noah brought two of eachkind and thus must have brought dinosaurs on the Ark), but post-flood climate change killed them off. Yes, you may have some questions about that story, especially in light of Stephens’s argument against evolution. Stephens also toys with the idea that dinosaurs may still exist. Also, schools are part of an evolutionist conspiracy to deceive children.
- Gerald Van Dyke, who may have done some science at some point (he used to be the resident creationist at North Carolina State University) but seems to have left the principles of science far behind when it comes to biology. Probably the member of the group with the highest profile in the creationist pseudoscience community, Van Dyke was supposed to witness for the defense in the 1981 McLean v. Arkansas case. According to Van Dyke, “[m]acro-evolution is strictly philosophy, not science,” because he says so. (A member of a group that thinks that science adjusts its theories and confidence levels to the the evidence is a shortcoming of science should probably not be viewed as an authority on the distinction between science and philosophy.)
Diagnosis: There are lots of these groups of fundamentalist conspiracy theorists around, and there doesn’t seem to be much to distinguish this one as either more or less lunatic than the others. It is not clear how influential they are, but at least they’re zealous.
Antivaxxers are very active in Texas, and antivaccine groups like Texans for Vaccine Choice have been quite effective in blocking commonsense measures and legislation, such as legislation that would have required school-level reporting of vaccine exemption rates so that parents interested in not sending their children to a school with high exemption rates could choose. No, Texans for Vaccine Choice isn’t really about choice; it’s just against vaccines.
Well, spineless major antivaccine groups like the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) (shades of Badger’s Law here: don’t peruse the NVIC site if you actually seek information) know to exploit the situation in Texas. For instance, in connection with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, antivaccine advocates Rebecca Rex and Dawn Richardson jumped in with the post “Texas Parents: Know Your Vaccine Choice Rights During Hurricane Harvey Flood Emergency” (discussed here) encouraging antivaccine parents to take advantage of the disaster to “stand up for their right” not to vaccinate their children and to wreak havoc in general, for instance by urging parents to take advantage of a law designed for what is normally a small number of homeless children to be enrolled in school immediately, to enroll their own children without the requirement for documentation of vaccine status.
Rex and Richardson are the founders of PROVE – Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education – which does not request vaccine education but that denialist talking points and conspiracy theories be given equal time in discussions of vaccine-related issues. Here is Rex trying on the Nirvana fallacy. Richardson, meanwhile, is also the NVIC Director of Advocacy, and has been in the antivaccine game for a while. She must for instance be credited with managing to get a personal belief exemption added to Texas law in 2003, and has been heavily involved in blocking efforts to restrict exemptions in a number of states.
Diagnosis: They seemingly try their hardest to avoid looking like complete and utter loons. They fail. But they have already been frighteningly successful in blocking efforts that would actually save lives, so it’s not just a matter of laughs.
ReMine is particularly famous for his decades-long obsession with Haldane’s dilemma, which isn’t a dilemma and no obstacle to evolution, though ReMine makes sure to misrepresent science to make it sound like it is. Besides, ReMine’s position in the creationist community and the general hero worship that seems to be required for their work – after all, they cannot use science or evidence to identify authority – means that his claims have, despite being fundamentally mistaken, become fairly common talking points among creationists; falsification has never been a particularly effective contributor to change in creationist ideas. Of course, instead of correcting his mistakes, ReMine’s response to refutation is to complain about evil scientists and the global conspiracy that prevents him from revealing the fatal flaw in the theory of evolution to the world. (Hint for rational people: if the options are “there is a global conspiracy to suppress the truth I have discovered” and “I am wrong”, it is a good idea to at least consider the latter option.)
Diagnosis: If you develop a claim and nobody is impressed, the wise person will at least consider the possibility that the claim is wrong; ReMine, however, seems to be the kind of person who takes it to demonstrate that nobody else understands the field as well as himself, and therefore as a boost to his ego. (This would explain much of his antics quite well.) He has, however, established himself as something of an authority in the creationist community – which is not something to be proud of, of course.
Judith Ann Reisman is a wingnut activist most famous for her deranged crusade against sexologist Alfred Kinsey and insane hatred of homosexuality, which she believes was the cause for the rise of Nazism. Her thoughts are often published by the WND, RenewAmerica and The New American, the magazine of the John Birch Society. Reisman is also visiting professor of Law at Liberty University (her education is not in law; the important thing is that she is an ideological fit), and Liberty Counsel’s favorite expert when it comes issues pertaining to sexuality. Reisman’s advice was endorsed by Rick Santorum, who also supported a ban on pornography (Reisman claims that pornography is ultimately the source of all evil.)
Reisman’s attacks on Kinsey (more details here) are unconstrained by truth, reality or reason. She has, for instance, falsely accused Kinsey of being a fraud who employed and relied on pedophiles for his research, and even that he himself sexually abused children, based on the fact that she doesn’t like the results of his work. Indeed, Reisman views Kinsey as some kind of Satan who is personally responsible for what she perceives to be the cultural decay of America. In 1991 she sued the Kinsey Institute, its then director, and Indiana University for defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress regarding alleged attempts to censor her book Kinsey, Sex and Fraud (they criticized it, for its remarkable falsehoods and misunderstandings), a case ultimately dismissed with prejudice in 1994. Her follow-up book Sexual Sabotage: How One Mad Scientist Unleashed a Plague of Corruption and Contagion on America was, shall we say, not better, and according to one critic “takes the unseemly shape of a paranoid sermon on American decency held together by acerbic ad hominems, a tapestry of slippery slope arguments, a string of unwholesome linkages (“Nazi serial pedophiles”), and a litany of medieval, Victorian, and McCarthyian diagnostics.” In the book, published in 2010 by the wingnut conspiracy theorist press WND Books, Reisman calls Kinsey a “traitor” to America because in her mind, he and his researchers deliberately set out to defame the Greatest Generation and destroy the world. Even Kinsey’s death is a conspiracy: Reisman claims that he died of “brutal, repetitive self-abuse” (i.e. masturbation) when in fact he died of heart problems and pneumonia.
Prior to the release of the 2004 film Kinsey, Reisman and wingnut extremist Laura Schlessinger attempted to place an advertisement alleging that Kinsey was a pervert and a pedophile, or, as she put it elsewhere, “a scientific and moral fraud, a certifiable sexual psychopath as well as a sadomasochistic pornography addict and a sexually harassing bully” (“certifiable” in this context does not mean what ordinary people ordinarily think it means) and that “Dr. Kinsey’s most egregious fraud is that he wasn’t a scientist. He was an ideologue who was most importantly a sex offender at best, and, beyond being a sex offender, he was certainly a child sexual abuser and/or solicitor and guide in the perpetration of that abuse.” At least we can pretty firmly establish that Reisman is unable to see the distinction between a scientist and an ideologue. Ultimately, Reisman wishes to discredit not only Kinsey but the entire field of sexology, “the sexindustrial complex” that has grown out of his work: “One doesn’t measure American sexual habits,” she said. “That’s not a science.” At least what she is doing certainly isn’t.
In 2012, Reisman predictably blamed Kinsey for the child abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church, pointing out that it is no coincidence that the abuse “problem in the Church” began just when Kinsey published his work, which is technically true given that there is not even remotely any correlation in the timelines here that could even be said to be coincidental.
Pornography, according to Reisman, is dangerous, and not only for spiritual reasons. According to Reisman there is a genuinely physiological mechanism that makes pornography dangerous: If you view pornography, an addictive chemical mixture floods the brain and harms it. Reisman has dubbed this mixture “erototoxins”. Of course, she has not actually provided any evidence for the existence of erototoxins, nor described any plausible mechanism, or even attempted to define “harm” as in “harms the brain”. She has, however, expressed an impressive degree of confidence that MRI studies will prove the existence of porn-induced physical brain damage. And such proof will be followed by a mass of lawsuits against distributors of pornography. Reisman is ready. Yes, it is a little bit sad, but remember that Reisman is really evil, too.
More importantly, insofar as pornography can “subvert cognition”, then it stands to reason that “these toxic media should be legally outlawed, as is all other toxic waste, and eliminated from our societal structure.” Indeed, as she sees it, there cannot really be any substantial arguments against her position, since individuals who have suffered brain damage from “pornography are no longer expressing ‘free speech’ and, for their own good, shouldn’t be protected under the First Amendment.” (This really, really isn’t how the First Amendment works.)
The 2002-2011 Proceedings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences state, concerning Reisman’s public statements about erototoxins, that “facts stood in the way of her opinion and testimony.” As of October 2018, PubMed still contains no results either for “erototoxin” or for “erotoxin.”
When Rick Santorum claimed that “a wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences,” he was referring largely to Reisman. “Research” and “demonstrating” are not really the correct word choices. Similarly, at a 2004 congressional hearing convened by Sam Brownback, Reisman, apparently billed as an expert on addiction, testified that “pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the ‘high’ from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins,” proposing a ban on all sexually explicit images as mind-altering drugs because they cause the release of opioids. We will grudgingly admit that it takes some effort to really comprehend the abysmal depth of the idiocy expressed here.
Erototoxins emitted from pornography are also to blame for homosexuality, and apparently sex-ed rewires the brain and consequently promotes homosexuality. To back up the claims, Reisman has pointed to a case where pheromones were used to confuse male gypsy moths in order to prevent them from mating with females, which is evidence that pornography is similarly confusing men by emitting erotoxins and thereby make them less attracted to women (or something like that); according to Reisman: “Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful 100-billion-dollar per year brain drug that is changing sexuality even more rapidly through the cyber-acceleration of the Internet. It is ‘inhibiting orientation’ and ‘disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere’ and Internet.” Apparently this passes as “science” at the creationist institution Liberty University.
But sex-ed is of the devil, of course; sex ed turns children into prostitutes and “little sexual deviants,” says Reisman, and sex ed classes are designed to brainwash children into thinking they might be gay, transgender or “all kinds of other things”, making “these kids become fodder for adult predators.” Accordingly, she has argued that public schools should face class action lawsuits from parents for illegally “grooming” children for sex (an idea taken up by Michigan state representative Gary Glenn). In 2013, Reisman engaged herself in the fight against sex-education in Croatia. According to Reisman, George Soros has “brought in pedophiles from around the world” to the country as part of the effort to set up the system and make kids gay. Yes, Soros is turning kids gay. And to repeat ourselves: Reisman, with no education in law (or psychology), is a visiting professor of law at Liberty University, an institution that pretends to be a university.
Her anti-porn campaigns have been going on for a while, but really took a turn with a 1983 talk on CNN’s Crossfire about “connections between sex education, sex educators, and the pornography industry,” a talk that really made for an interesting study in delusional imagination and the ability to make up conspiratorial connections from nothing. She was subsequently invited by the US DOJ to apply for a grant to conduct a “study at American University to determine whether Playboy, Hustler, and other more explicit materials are linked to violence by juveniles” for the amount of $734,371, which was approved without competition. Reisman subsequently spent three years reading porn (Pamela Swain, director of research, evaluation and program claimed that the study could be accomplished for $60,000), and produced the report “Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler”, which was, perhaps needless to say, void of anything resembling quality, rigor, accountability or accuracy. In the report, Reisman claimed that she had found “2,016 cartoons that included children apparently under the age of 17 and 3,988 other pictures, photographs, and drawings that depict infants or youths.” Sex crime researcher Avedon Carol commented that the report was a “scientific disaster, riddled with researcher bias and baseless assumptions”, partially since (in the words of expert reviewers) “the term ‘child’ used in the aggregate sense in this report is so inclusive and general as to be meaningless.” American University refused to publish the completed work. Despite its shoddiness, the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography concurred with the report, with the result that several stores stopped selling Playboy and Penthouse.
When Playboy and Penthouse printed nude photos of Madonna in 1985, Reisman warned that because of the entertainer's idolization by youth, their publication would destigmatize and “encourage voluntary display by youngsters,” leading to an increase in child pornography. This is not remotely how this works.
Expert testimony at the Mapplethorpe exhibition obscenity trial
During the 1990 obscenity trial of Dennis Barrie, director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, for displaying controversial photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, Reisman was called as (the only) expert witness for the prosecution, after having had, the previous year, written an editorial in The Moonie Times with the title “Promoting Child Abuse as Art” accusing “Mapplethorpe of being both a Nazi and a child molester”. (The defense argued that she was not qualified as an art expert, but the judge allowed her to testify as a rebuttal witness.) During her testimony, Reisman did not discuss the explicit content of Mapplethorpe’s work, but argued rather that the five photographs were not works of art because they either did not display a human face, or, in the case of Self-Portrait, just a face that “... displayed no discernible emotion,” and that without emotion, the placement of the photographs in a museum implied that the activities displayed were appropriate. She also testified that “anal sodomy is traumatically dysfunctional and is definitely associated with AIDS” and claimed that the pictures of nude children legitimized pedophilia. One really, really wonder what the prosecution thought of her defense. Barrie and the Center were acquitted of all charges by the jury.
Reisman is apparently still being called as expert witness by various deranged and bigoted conspiracy theorists, both in the US and abroad.
Reisman is a fan of Scott Lively’s The Pink Swastika and apparently believes that the homosexual movement in Germany gave rise to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, warns Reisman, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes: “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’” Accordingly, she has enthusiastically endorsed criminalization of homosexuality.
According to Reisman, homosexuals employ recruitment techniques that rival those of the United States Marine Corps to transform innocent children into raving homosexuals: homosexual “recruitment is loud; it is clear; it is everywhere.” People like Judith Reisman tend to think things are everywhere.
And the ultimate goal of gay people is not what they say it is. According to Reisman, “the whole point of the objective” of GLSEN’s (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network – a “modern version of the Hitler Youth,” according to Reisman) anti-bullying efforts is to promote pedophilia; indeed “the aim of homosexual males and now increasingly females is not to have sex with other old guys and get married but to obtain sex with as many boys as possible.”
Not happy with the decision to allow gays to join the Boy Scouts, Reisman claimed that it is a result of a debate going back to Alfred Kinsey: “The Boy Scouts are up for grabs at this point in time, and I mean that in many ways,” Reisman said. And what will happen is, as Reisman sees it, that gay Boy Scouts will “train” and sexually assault other scouts and then trick them to “believe they are naturally ‘that way.’” In fact, it is a step in a strategy to implement … communism. That’s right: gay rights is ultimately about communist tyranny. How is that going to work, you may ask. Well, “the drive for homosexual, bisexual, bisexualization of the children” is meant to make people become “controlled by their sexual lust.” At that point, they will become a “slave population” who will lose their sense of right and wrong (homosexuals “aim to wipe out all morality – whatever legal mechanisms that have protected the weak from the strong for thousands of years,” says Reisman) and “buy into the tyranny.” You probably shouldn’t ask.
There is a decent Judith Reisman resource here.
Diagnosis: We probably shouldn’t, but it is hard not to speculate whether much of what Reisman says about gay people tell us more about Reisman than she wants to reveal (and certainly more than it tells us about gay people). A raving lunatic monster in any case, and her influence is greater than I think most reasonable people (whose paths she rarely crosses) realize.