Friday, August 30, 2019

#2235: Kristine Severyn

Medical Voices is an antivaccine website that seems to pretend to offer scholarly articles written by various quacks, pseudoscientists and denialists on various medical issues loosely related to vaccines (or: it used to be; at present it seems to have reverted to its origin as the International Medical Council on Vaccination). The publication criteria seem mostly to be that the author uses (or misuses) medical terms in their articles, and their academic standards are otherwise non-existent. The goal, however, seems clearly to be to have a repository of articles that quacks can cite in a manner that superficially looks scholarly practice, which they certainly need given that they otherwise struggle to have their rants published in outlets that care about details like evidence, fact and accuracy. The list of people who have published on the site accordingly makes for a fairly comprehensive list of the most egregious woo-promoters and antivaccine advocates in the US, including Joe Mercola, Suzanne Humphries, Bob Sears, Russell Blaylock and Sherri Tenpenny.

Kristine Severyn has also “published” with Medical Voices. Severyn is an “RPh, PhD” and antivaccine activist. For Medical Voices, Severyn published the article “Profits, Not Science, Motivate Vaccine Mandates,” where she argued that “[v]accines represent an economic boon for pediatricians. Profitable well-baby visits are timed to coincide with vaccination schedules established by the AAP and the CDC,” and therefore that vaccine mandates are not motivated by science – the shill gambit is a recurring strategy in Medical Voices articles. Of course, in real life (yes: there are studies on this), “the vaccination portion of the business model for primary care pediatric practices that serve private-pay patients results in little or no profit from vaccine delivery. When losses from vaccinating publicly insured children are included, most practices lose money.” It is worth emphasizing, however, that Severyn’s conclusion wouldn’t follow even if one assumed the opposite of what is actually the case with regard to profits.

Severyn is otherwise the founder of Ohio Parents for Vaccine Safety, which has long been fighting for religious as well as “moral and philosophical” exemptions to vaccinations in Ohio as well as pushing various myths and conspiracy theories about vaccines (including aborted fetal tissue scaremongering and falsely claiming that vaccines aren’t tested). Severyn, a registered Republican, has apparently also been involved in various anti-abortion campaigns.

Diagnosis: A tireless veteran campaigner for unreason, denialism and conspiracy theories, Severyn is perhaps not among the most notable celebrities in the antivaccine movement, but her persistent efforts to promote myths and falsehoods are surely not making a positive contribution to humanity.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#2234: Stephanie Seneff

Stephanie Seneff is a real senior research scientist at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, specializing in human–computer interaction and algorithms for language understanding and speech recognition. She is also a crackpot, pseudoscientist and conspiracy theorist trying to write about issues in biology and medicine, fields she demonstrably doesn’t understand. She has also managed to become something of an authority in the antivaccine and anti-GMO movements since people in these movements don’t notice or care that she has no competence in those fields as long as her credentials in completely unrelated fields give her crackpot rantings a sheen of authority. Not that Seneff herself would recognize the limits of her competence: “So basically what I do is I read papers and I process them with the computer to help me understand them and interpret them and generalize and build a story […]. Mostly what I do now is study, and then write. Trying to understand biology. I have an undergraduate degree from MIT in biology, and I also spent one year in graduate school in biology before switching over to computer science. And my PhD was on an auditory model for the human processing of speech. So that also involved biology, neurology. I’m not a complete ignoramus in the field of biology.” Actually, she is worse than an ignoramus; her description brilliantly illustrates a serious case of Dunning-Kruger and someone who is confidently scaling mount stupid.

So in 2011, Seneff began publishing articles on topics in biology and medicine, areas where she has no relevant qualifications or expertise, in low-impact or predatory open access journals, such as Interdisciplinary Toxicology, including eight papers in the journal Entropy between 2011 and 2015. It is rather important to emphasize, as Seneff herself admits in the above quote about how she does “research”, that Seneff “has published only speculations and gives many presentations, but has not created any new data” – there is no actual research going on; just manipulations of data from fields she doesn’t have any competence in; basically, her studies are review articles that just cherry-pick the results she wants to use and disregard the rest (some glaring examples are discussed here). Of course, her reviews have also been criticized for misrepresenting the results and conclusions of other researchers’ work, and for extensively relying on pseudoscientific studies and studies that have later been refuted – just to reach home base when even cherry-picking won’t suffice to get her where she wanted. And of course the “peer review process” isn’t going to notice given her choice of journals; the journals in question are pay-to-publish journals of the kind most serious researchers would classify as “predatory”, and the publisher of Entropy, MDPI, has a known history of publishing articles without merit.

Hat-tip: ?

Glyphosate and anti-GMO insanity
Seneff and her regular coauthor Anthony Samsel – a “long time contributor to the Vital Votes Forum” (yes, that description was apparently intended to convey an air of authority) – have coauthored a series of, well, comments that associate glyphosate with a wide variety of diseases, including “gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer's disease”. The comments have received quite a bit of media attention given her and her coauthors’ marketing of the results (one Carey Gilliam seems in particular to be a repeat offender when it comes to pushing Seneff’s conspiracy theories masked as “research” for various newspapers). The paper(s), of course, have no scientific merit – indeed, they have been characterized as “not even wrong” for instance due to “word salads about toxicology and biology that might as well be magic” – which is of course also why they were published in pseudojournals. Seneff and Samsel’s “results” are discussed in some detail here; a good primer on glyphosate is here. Seneff herself claimed that glyphosate is a major cause of autism and largely responsible for the current autism epidemic: “At today’s rates, by 2025, half the kids born will be diagnosed with autism,” Seneff said (the claim was picked up by Snopes after making its ways in the usual conspiracy-and-pseudoscience circles); indeed, she has gained some infamy for using a graph in her Powerpoint presentations that shows that 100% of all children born in 2050 will be born with autism. In other words, according to Seneff GMOs are going to make everyoneautistic. Yes, that’s the level of density we are talking about (for the record: there is no autism epidemic; increasing rates are probably exclusively due to changes in diagnostic practices). Real studies have also found no evidence that glyphosate is associated with adverse development outcomes, nor any of the other adverse outcomes Seneff asserts it is the cause of; indeed, glyphosate is probably among the least toxic herbicides there is. A 2017 Review Article in Frontiers in Public Health characterized Seneff’s glyphosate health-risk research claims asat best unsubstantiated theories, speculations or simply incorrect.”

It is worth pointing out that infamous anti-GMO activist Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, who is himself no stranger to spouting insane conspiracy theories about science, thinks Anthony Samsel is so crazy that he should be avoided lest his side lose their credibility among the public (his side has precariously little credibility among scientists as it is).

Much of Seneff and Samsel’s work in these papers are simple applications of post-hoc fallacies, for instance when they suggest that “[t]he incidence of inflammatory bowel diseases such as juvenile onset Crohn’s disease has increased substantially in the last decade in Western Europe and the United States. It is reasonable to suspect that glyphosate’s impact on gut bacteria may be contributing to these diseases and conditions.” It really isn’t reasonable, any more than blaming increased consumption of organic products. (And the connection to gut conditions matters, because they also adhere to the at best extremely controversial idea that gastrointestinal issues are a causal factor in autism – another correlation/causation failure, really). They make similarly ridiculous correlation/causation mistakes when trying to tie glyphosate to obesity; in fact, had they been careful, they would have seen that they don’t even actually have a correlation to mistake for causation in this case (further discussion here). They are not careful. Seneff also notes a correlation between deaths from senile dementia due to an aging population and … well, she doesn’t notice that association.

The proposed association between glyphosate and autism is further discussed here. According to Seneff, there is of course a correlation between the use of glyphosate and, well, really the expansion of diagnostic criteria and practices for autism (not the number of incidences); therefore, there must be a causal connection. “Is there a toxic substance that is currently in our environment on the rise in step with increasing rates of Autism that could explain this?… The answer is yes, I’m quite sure that I’m right, and the answer is glyphosate.” The evidence-free convictions of an electrical engineer with a history of pseudoscience really isn’t going to cut it in any context where truth, accuracy and evidence matter. And she really, really doesn’t get the correlation/causation thing; nor is she very careful about identifying actual correlation from which one could actually fallaciously derive causal claims.

And as mentioned above, it isn’t just autism, obesity, Crohn’s disease and Alzheimers. According to Seneff glyphosate exposure causes arthritis, concussions, Celiac disease, food allergies, and Parkinsons as well. Indeed, in an interview with anti-GMO activist, yogic flying instructor and conspiracy theorist Jeffrey Smith, Seneff upped her game even further: “I believe that glyphosate may be a contributor to all the – this epidemic that we have in school shootings and the thing that just happened in Boston (the Boston Bombing).”

Wait, was concussions on that list? Oh, yes. According to Seneff, glyphosate causes concussions (her coauthor on that rant was Wendy Morely, who is a “Registered Holistic Nutritionist” specializing in the nutrition of concussion; Morely has no neurology background either, of course). And yes, it’s just as insanely dumb as you would imagine. Their tortured reasoning process is discussed here, and the basic idea is a proposed “diminished brain resilience syndrome”: according to Seneff and Morely, concussions are on the increase because the general population has poor nutrition, disordered gut microbiota, and increased exposure to toxins like glyphosate and GMOs, which render the brain less resilient to injury and less able to repair itself after injury. There is a long road of fallacies and confusions to travel to make that connection look like it works even to those who know nothing about any of the relevant fields (notice how although Seneff and Morely add references behind some of the central figures in their arguments, the sources cited don’t actually contain those figures, and the suggested figures do, entirely unsurprisingly, contradict the figures actually found in the scientific literature.) Of course, the proposal collapses on the starting block, since there is no evidence at all for the claim that concussions are on the rise. In short: Seneff and Morely propose, without evidence, a nonsensical hypothesis to explain – something it couldn’t have done even if it were coherent – a phenomenon that don’t actually exist. The whole attempt is roughly as intelligent or credible as one that tried to use chi vibrations to explain how unicorns fly. 

Though Seneff has her own, wrong idea about the causes of autism, she has nevertheless thrown her lot in with the antivaccine movement. Indeed, according to Seneff, Alzheimer’s, which she has claimed is also caused by glyphosate – and sunscreen – is also caused by vaccines: “The elderly are greatly encouraged to renew their flu shots every single year, and I think this is another major factor that is steadily increasing their risk to Alzheimer’s disease. This is mainly due to the aluminum contained in the flu shot.” She doesn’t have any evidence of course; she just thinksthere is a connection. Some might even consider her claim to think vaccines are a factor in Alzheimer’s is false, due to a legitimate hesitancy to characterize what she is doing as thinking

In 2012 Seneff was a coauthor with Jingjing Liu (from Seneff’s lab) and one Robert M. Davidson on “Empirical Data Confirm Autism Symptoms Related to Aluminum and Acetaminophen Exposure”, published in their standard pay-to-publish journal Entropy (in fact, they also blame autism on mercury in the article, but probably didn’t dare put it in the title in case even the editors of Entropy, whom we suspect do not read beyond the title, would have noticed). There is a good review of the article here (“Rarely have I seen so much antivaccine pseudoscience packed into a single paper”). You get a feel for the contents of the paper from the way they frame their study: “The ASD community has maintained a long-standing conviction that vaccination plays a causative role in ASD, an idea that has been vehemently denied by the vaccine industry, but nonetheless is still hotly debated,” which must count as one of the most egregious manufactroversy gambits in the history of the Internet (it really isn’t hotly debated, the ASD community is not in general antivaccine, and refutations of the proposed link have not come from the vaccine industry). And yes, they cite celebrity fraud Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent and retracted 1998 paper as evidence. They also cite Gayle DeLong, Mark Geier, Boyd Haley, Helen Ratajczak and really a whole cornucopia of antivaccine conspiracy theories published in bottom-feeding or predatory journals, while systematically of course neglecting the overwhelming amount of large, real, serious and extensive studies that consistently yield results that don’t fit their narrative. It is actually not entirely clear what their thesis is; the antivaccine movement has blamed everything from thimerosal to aluminum adjuvants, and Seneff et al. seem to cite it all equally approvingly despite the fact that the claims contradict each other. Of course, the MMR vaccine has never contained either aluminum or thimerosal, but Seneff et al. don’t seem to have gotten the memo and blithely go from blaming “heavy metals” like mercury and aluminum for the “autism epidemic” to blaming the MMR vaccine. They also blame vaccines for SIDS, despite vaccines being negatively correlated with SIDS. Then they dumpster-dive in the VAERS database. (And no, they apparently don’t really have the faintest idea what the VAERS database actually is, but nevertheless went on to “torture the data until it confessed”) And that’s just the start. At least their paper provides an illuminating illustration of how anti-vaccine “researchers” work.

Despite Because of her lack of expertise or knowledge in the fields she is writing about Seneff has become a central character in the antivaccine movement, and she participated in the antivaccine film Vaxxed, for instance, as well as in the antivaccine series The Truth about Vaccines.

Cholesterol denialism and more
Seneff has also put her degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to work in dreaming up theories that ADHD is caused by eating too many low fat foods, that autism is caused by a cholesterol/vitamin D deficiency syndrome because mothers eat too many low fat foods and use too much sunscreen (her 2008 essay “Sunscreen and Low-fat Diet: A Recipe for Disaster”), that sulfur deficiency causes obesity (sulfur deficiency is of course not actually a thing, but Seneff knows nothing about chemistry, biology or medicine), and that a low fat diet and statin drugs (for high cholesterol) can cause Alzheimer’s.

Yes, Seneff (and colleagues) have also aligned themselves with the conspiracy theorists in the cholesterol denialist group THINC (yes, cholesterol denialism is of course a thing) and garbage-published on the health impacts of fat and cholesterol consumption in America. According to Seneff Americans are suffering from a cholesterol deficiency; this is, to put it diplomatically, incorrect. In 2014–2016 Seneff was accordingly proposed as an expert witness for litigators seeking damages from Pfizer associated with their cholesterol drug Lipitor, but the court dismissed the suggestion, of course, since Seneff has no expertise in the field and failed to provide credible evidence linking Lipitor to any specific harm.

Oh, and she has also blamed low fat diets and statins on autism. So, just to tally up: thus far Seneff has blamed autism on low fat diets and statins, GMOs and glyphosate, sulfate deficiency, vaccines, aluminium and painkillers. That’s what happens when you don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation and is also really bad at actually identifying correlations, we suppose. Her regular coauthor Anthony Samsel, meanwhile, has even proposed that water dynamics are responsible for autism. 

As a result of her stalwart efforts on behalf of dangerous nonsense, Stephanie Seneff is currently on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI). She has no relevant qualifications to assess the medical safety of anything whatsoever, of course, but that probably makes her a fine match for the CMSRI, which is a conspiracy-mongering pseudoscience organization.

Diagnosis: It is worth emphasizing again: Stephanie Seneff has no expertise, background or competence in anything related to medicine, biology or how to use population studies. And she has done no research whatsoever on the topics she writes about. Her output isn’t studies, but conspiracy rants superficially structured like research papers and published in pay-to-publish journals. Seneff is a pseudoscientist and a tragic case of Dunning-Kruger. But she has also found a receptive audience, and even mainstream media isn’t always able to distinguish her writings from science. Dangerous. 

Hat-tip: Vaxopedia

Monday, August 26, 2019

#2233: Judy Seeger

Judy Seeger is an ND. Naturopathy is, of course, little else than a rich array of woo, pseudoscience and quackery, and what Seeger advocates is no exception. Her website, Colon Cleanse Camp, describes her as having been “involved in the alternative medicine field for over 33 years[per 2012]”, starting out “as a nutritionist, herbalist, consultant, workshop leader” before becoming “a traditional naturopathic physician and Natural Health Counselor, then continued learning from world renowned healers like Dr. Bernard Jensen, Dr. John Christopher, Dr. Joel Robbins, and many others.” In other words, she went back to school to learn how to more effectively market crackpottery she had already convinced herself of, not to learn anything about how anything actually works.

Seeger has written a lot about her own take on cancer (discussed here), and even calls herself a “Natural Cancer Cure Researcher”. Her results, apparently obtained through the time-honored methods of intuitionfree associationpowerful anecdote and wishful thinking, seem mostly to have been published as posts on her website, various webinars and some youtube videos, since youtube videos trump rigorous research published in research journals every time – after all, those journals focus so much on details; Seeger’s ilk want to paint bigger pictures, without having to get bogged down in details, careful research, evidence, facts or accuracy. Among her webinars are the “ultimate cancer detox secrets,” where she promises to “eliminate deadly poisons ... in less than 30 days.” Yes, toxins. Those. 

One of her videos/blogposts is “5 Cancer Cures That Alternative Medicine Can Guarantee”. One question that should strike you when reading that title is: guarantee what? Well, according to Seeger, the advantages of using Alternative Medicine include

i)              guaranteed safe NO side effects – no harm done” [which is easily demonstrably false]
ii)            guaranteed immune boosters” [presumably since she cannot be held legally accountable for claims that are medically meaningless]
iii)          guaranteed easy to use – comfort of your own home, no doc waits.” [See below.]
iv)           guaranteed more control of your health – can talk to practioners longer than 10 min.”
v)            guaranteed less invasive” [see below]

Notice what she does not guarantee? That’s right.

Then she lists therapies she uses: hyperbaric oxygen therapy, colon hydrotherapy, ozone therapy, massage therapy, herbal medicine, enzyme therapy, and nutrition/juice therapy. Perceptive readers might wonder how she squares hyperbaric oxygen therapy and colon hydrotherapy with guarantees iii) and v) above. Her target audience does not include perceptive readers.

Elsewhere she does claim that vitamin B12 will shrink your tumor (but only “natural B12,” not synthetic B12), as will apparently vitamin C (not at all, but the definition of dogmatism is the unwillingness to change one’s mind in the face of evidence, and altmed is dogma, not science), vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and several other substances. There is no evidence that any of them will affect existing malignant tumor in humans or have any impact on cancer in any measurable, positive way (indeed, there is some evidence some of them might be harmful), but when Seeger’s customers discover that it will probably be to late to try to claim their money back anyways. Seeger does claim to have “worked with thousands of people just like you” but does of course not even provide survival statistics. She does state that she only works with those who are “serious” and “ready for their healing.” Skeptics will probably cause too much trouble here. The demand for total commitment to her plan from potential patients serves another purpose, too, and one very familiar from cults everywhere: if things don’t improve, Seeger can always tell you to blame yourself for not being sufficiently committed. Worst of all, however, Seeger provides strategies for convincing family members with cancer to buy into the quackery. 

At one point she also manages to claim that “[c]omplementary medicine is based on scientific knowledge whereas alternative medicine is based on clinical or anecdotal evidence.” Of course, complementary medicine is alternative medicine under a different marketing strategy (it is integrated with real medicine), and no: complementary medicine is not even remotely based on scientific knowledge; the scientific foundation for the real medicine with which the bullshit is supposedly “integrated” doesn’t magically rub off. 

Diagnosis: Dangerous crackpot; nothing she does has any foundation in science, evidence or research, but many of her techniques and strategies bear striking similarities to how you build a successful cult. Avoid at all costs.

Friday, August 23, 2019

#2232: Mary Helen Sears

Mary Helen Sears is a Michigan-based wingnut and, at least formerly, vice-chair of the Republican party for the 1st congressional district of Michigan. In 2014 she was also (unsuccessfully) a candidate for being Michigan’s representative on the Republican National Committee. At that point, she fought bitterly against a Republican “expanding the tent”-strategy and sought instead to purge the party of Satanic influences, pointing out for instance that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Declaration of Independence: After all, the Declaration says that “All men are CREATED equal” (yes, she capitalized “created” – she doesn’t care so much about the equalpart), and you will “certainly not find that in Darwin’s view of the world, which is being taught to our gullible children. His view gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.” It did not, but at this point we have already left the realm of truth, reason or accuracy far, far behind.

Perhaps more importantly, the GOP should not be open to homosexuals or homosexuality, for marriage “is a reflection of God and his Church. The promise that when this horror show we call life is over [Sears is apparently working hard to make that description accurate], we will once again be reunited with the God of this Universe. The joining of two men or two women is a perversion of this Covenant and a direct affront to God. Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit, which is the body of the person.” We need to accept God’s word on the matter, and Sears does not hesitate to remind us that people who engage in homosexuality “shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” At the very least, the GOP should not welcome them in their party: “How then can we as Christians stay in a party that adopts Homosexuality into the fabric of the tent. I say we cannot. Homosexuals make up less than one percent of the total population. They must prey on our children to increase their numbers. Why then, would we, as a party, entertain this perversion? We as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.” She also referred to college professors as communists indoctrinating young naive students in public schools.

Diagnosis: Deluded, hateful and evil. We keep being drawn to thinking that this kind of person would immediately be recognized as unsuited for any position of power or influence, but are, as usual, disappointed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#2231: Bob Sears

Bob Sears is a California-based celebrity pediatrician. Though he was initially famous for his promotion of attachment parenting, he is currently best known as one of the central figures in the antivaxx movement, and is notable for his unorthodox and potentially dangerous views on childhood vaccination - though Sears vehemently rejects the “antivaccine” label, he is at the very least one of the most diehard antivaxx apologists out there. Sears is a vocal vaccine delayer, promoter of the nonsense “too many too soon” gambit, and a master antivaccine dogwhistle performer; he is also a mainstay at antivaccine conferences and meetings. No, seriously: Bob Sears is antivaccine.

His book The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for your Child (2007) proposes, against accepted medical recommendations, two alternative vaccination schedules, a proposal that has garnered almost as much celebrity endorsement as it has received criticism from people who actually understand how this works based on medical evidence. Sears’s advice (or systematic misinformation) has contributed to dangerous under-vaccination in the national child population. The book has been accurately described as “basically a guide to skipping vaccines,” and it “may as well be called The Anti-Vaccine Book.” 

Rhetorically, Sears's book relies to a large extent on the balance fallacy in order “to compromise between mutually exclusive positions, like young-earth creationism and evolution” by handwaving and false and misleading claims. Of course, Sears knows very well what audience he is targeting, and the techniques he is using are well-established techniques for reaching them; it is thus little surprise that his book has also been highly successful among certain knowledge-challenged groups. There is an excellent discussion of his techniques, as well as his dangerous misrepresentations of the facts and evidence, here. For instance, Sears predictably (and, one has to suspect, deliberately) misuses the VAERS database to argue, falsely, that the risk of serious adverse events over the course of the current vaccine schedule is 1 in 2600. Then he says that the “risk of a child having a severe case of a vaccine-preventable disease is about 1 in 600 each year for all childhood diseases grouped together,” leading him ask whether “vaccinating to protect against all these diseases worth the risk of side effects?” Even disregarding his nonsense calculation of the risk of adverse events, even minimally intelligent readers should be able to identify the sleight of hand here: Yes, Sears weighs the risk of an adverse event against the risk of acquiring a vaccine preventable disease using current disease incidence rates, which, of course, are what they are precisely because of current vaccination rates. It is accordingly safe to conclude that Sears isn’t only a loon, but actively malicious. (He has also, on several occasions, lied about the danger of the diseases in question, of course.) Similarly, with regard to HIB, Sears admits that HIB is bad, but also “so rare that I haven’t seen a single case in ten years … Since the disease is so rare, HIB isn’t the most critical vaccine.” That it wouldn’t take long for him to see plenty of cases if people followed his advice, is not addressed. He also employs the appeal to vaccine package insert fallacy.

The rhetorical strategy described above is, of course, a mainstay of Sears’s marketing toward the antivaccine community. Though Sears admits that vaccines kinda work and are responsible for eradicating dangerous childhood diseases, he also said, in 2014, that he thinks “the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today’s society.” It is notable that Sears encourages anti-vaccine parents not to tell others of their decision not to vaccinate, writing that “I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly,” clearly, and probably correctly, recognizing that his intended audiences don’t worry too much about the ethics of free-riding. After all, Sears doesn’t care about ethics either. It is not for nothing that Sears has been a house expert for the insane New Age pseudoscience website, for instance. 

In 2008, Sears told the NY Times that 20% of his patients do not vaccinate at all, and that another 20% vaccinated partially, commenting that “I don’t think [vaccination] is such a critical public health issue that we should force parents into it.” The same year, he landed himself in some trouble when one of his “intentionally undervaccinated” seven-year-old patients was identified as the index patient that started the largest measles outbreak in San Diego since 1991, resulting in 839 exposed persons, 11 additional cases (all in unvaccinated children), and the hospitalization of an infant too young to be vaccinated, with a net public-sector cost of $10,376 per case. It is both disheartening and interesting to see Sears react to suggestions that he is kinda responsible here, but the reaction is relatively representative for the contortions Sears often gets himself into when he simultaneously respond to critics, tries to maintain a veneer of respectability and cultivate his status in the anti-vaccine movement, and attempts to escape blame of his moral failings. (Sears has predictably been attacked by other antivaxxers, too, over his lack of ideological purity).

Sears has said that he created his alternative vaccine schedules to allow parents to vaccinate their children “in a more gradual manner” than by following the CDC-recommended schedule partially because vaccination risks causing “antigenic overload”. That idea is based on fundamental misconceptions and not on sound scientific evidence, and, interestingly, Sears even admitted that there was no published, peer-reviewed evidence to support the notion of vaccine overload, and claimed that “my precautions about spreading out vaccines are theoretical, a theoretical benefit to kids …”; PIDOOMA, in other words.

Health freedom
Sears is staunchly opposed to California Senate Bill SB277, which eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions, and tried to fight it under the banner of “health freedom”, comparing non-vaccinating parents to Nazi-persecuted Jews during the Holocaust. Because that’s the kind of person he is. (It is a common gambit among antivaxxers.) When the bill passed, Sears responded by teaching antivaccine parents how to proceed to obtain exemptions without any medical justification, basically offering to sell medical exemptions for $180 apiece. No, seriously (details here; and Sears wasn’t the only one to do so). Sears and one Melissa Floyd, a self-proclaimed “data analyst”, subsequently launched a website and associated facebook group called the Immunity Education Group to spread misinformation about the law, the CDC, infectious diseases and vaccines (some examples here).

Sears was similarly opposed (i.e. unhinged) to bill AB 2109, a bill that would require pediatricians to counsel parents on the risks and benefits of vaccines, partially because of its ostensibly hidden agenda: “it isn’t difficult to see the REAL reason for the bill: to increase vaccination rates in our state by making it more difficult for parents to claim the exemption,” said Sears, identifying what for a hidden agenda must be counted as remarkably open and explicit. The point of the bill was otherwise to ensure that informed consent was actually informed, but Sears – who has otherwise been very concerned about “informed consent” – seems to have been mostly worried about liability issues that might arise from any legal duty to be honest with his patients being imposed on him. 

In 2016, the Medical Board of California released a six-page opinion accusing Sears of “gross negligence”, “Repeated Negligent Acts”, and “Failure to Maintain Adequate and Accurate Records” (quacks and antivaxxers were quick to run to his defense). And in 2018, the Medical Board placed Sears on 35 months of probation after he settled a case in which the Medical Board accused him of writing a doctor’s note exempting a two-year-old child from vaccinations without obtaining basic information about the patient (detailed discussion of the charges here). Per the terms of his probation, Sears is required to take 40 hours of medical education courses annually, attend an ethics class, be monitored by a supervising doctor, and will have to notify hospitals and facilities of the order, with restrictions on supervising physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Sears denied any wrongdoing, of course.

Oh, and he also runs an online store selling untested supplements at steep prices for all people in all sorts of different situations, such as the $18.99 (per 2015) Children Liquid Immune Boost supplement, presumably aimed at the same group who buys into his misinformation about vaccines. 

Bob’s brother Jim Sears, also a pediatrician, has been involved in the antivaccine movement as well, and appears for instance in the antivaccine propaganda movie Vaxxed, where he claims not to be antivaccine while simultaneously spreading antivaccine conspiracy theories and defending Andrew Wakefield.

Diagnosis: One of the central figures in the antivaccine movement (regardless of how he tries to market himself), and thus one of the most significant threats to the health, life and well-being of children in the US today. Utterly despicable.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

#2230: Steven Seagal

More celebrity loons, and we suppose it comes as no shock to many that Steven Frederic Seagal struggles with reason, fact and comprehension. Seagal has been a lot of things, from martial artist, musician and aspiring politician to apologist for dictators, but is perhaps best known for a ridiculously overblown ego and intense paranoia. He has also claimed to be CIA black ops, a psychic, a “healer” and the reincarnation of a Buddhist God or holy man (which is presumably a step on the only way to justify his earlier claim to have put “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hours into my weapons training”).

A fierce critic of Obama’s supposedly authoritarian governing style (he should have been impeached, e.g. over Benghazi, as Seagal sees it), Seagal is instead a fan of Vladimir Putin because Putin as a statesman “simply gets shit done when necessary”. Apparently, Seagal considers Putin “one of the great world leaders” and a “brother”, and has taken it on himself to be some sort of PR agent for Russia, including defending Russia’s actions toward the Ukraine; Seagal has even played a concert at a Russian nationalist bike show in Crimea in celebration of the annexation; in 2017 he was also banned from Ukraine for five years for being a national security threat. Putin has reciprocated the bromance, and Seagal is currently a Putin-appointed special envoy to the US, ostensibly with the task of improving relations between the countries. It is impossible to imagine that this might have been Putin's true intention.

A possible contender for “world record in bizarreness”, Seagal’s own reality show was, in 2008, invited to Phoenix by sheriff Joe Arpaio to film a season and partake in police work. The apex of the season was probably when Seagal arrived at the scene of an alleged cockfighting ring driving a tank through the suspect’s gate; 115 roosters and a pet puppy were apparently killed in the process; Seagal summed up the operation by claiming that animal cruelty was one of his pet peeves. (That said, America’s most pressing problem, which Seagal learned while working with Arapaio, is its open borders.) In 2014 Seagal also considered running for governor of Arizona. Here is an interesting take on the similarities between Steven Seagal and Donald Trump, in case you thought he would have been guaranteed to lose.

A staunch defender of gun rights, Seagal has argued that the mass shootings that have occurred in the US are false flag operations with the intent to create unbearable restrictions for gun owners. He has also proposed that the solution to mass shootings is to have armed guards at every single school.

Honorable mention also to Seagal’s woo-based energy drink, the Lightning Bolt energy drink, “the only all natural 100% juice energy drink on the market”, which allows the consumer to “partake of the true Asian Experience”.

Diagnosis: A silly celebrity loon. But remember: so was Donald Trump.

Friday, August 16, 2019

#2229: Patrick Scrivener

A.k.a. Noel Kilkenny

Patrick Scrivener is an ostensibly Irish-born, incoherent, fundamentalist conspiracy theorist (we use “ostensibly” since we are unsure whether we can trust a word of what he says). Scrivener’s main schtick seems to be the belief that Catholicism is some sort of Satanic conspiracy; in fact, according to Scrivener “the Papacy has been controlled by the British Secret Service from it’s [sic] creation” – yes, you read it correctly – not unlike most other ills that affect what Scrivener takes to be “our flat earth” (oh yes, that too). To explain the British Secret Service connection: “The British Empire WAS the Roman Empire after 313 AD when Druid Constantine became Emperor. The British Empire lost Britain in 410 but continued in Rome. The continuation continued [sic] after the Fall of Rome in 476 because the Papacy was under control of the British. The British Empire regained Britain after the Norman Conquest.”

To give you some flavor of Scrivener’s scholarship, it is worth quoting him at some length; the following is collected from his criticisms of the website Fundies say the darndest things, which have naturally picked up some of Scrivener’s observations: 

Fundies Say The Dardest Things is a M16 controlled website to discredit my exposing of the great conspiracy! M16 agents on Fundies Say The Dardest Things post my articles on The Reformation Online onto this site because the site’s title makes it seem like the people who’s posts end up here are crazy! Fundies Say The Dardest Things want me to seem crazy [Fstdt doesn’t really deserve the credit for that] to prevent people from taking my words about Joshua of Nazareth, the Flat Earth, the Jesuits, and the British seriouslyWhen Joshua of Nazareth claimed to be the messiah, the Pharisees tried to discredit him by calling him crazy [Scrivener is just like Jesus].However he gained so many followers that they decided to crucify him. Joshua of Nazareth lived in the Roman Empire. The British Empire was established in 313 AD when Druid Jesus Constantine became Emperor. The British learned of the strategy of discrediting their opponents from the Romans. Jesus Constantine created the Latin Church. The Papacy has been controlled by the British Secret Service from it’s creation. The Pharisees originally mocked Joshua the Messiah but Joshua gained so many followers that they decided to crucify him.” And now that M16 is on to him, as demonstrated by the fact that Fstdt has picked up his quotes? “The British Empire will eventually send James Bond to assasinate me [!] for exposing their conspiracy. But I will not cower in fear to the British. I will continue to expose the diabolical conspiracy and preach the truth about the messiah to save the souls of those who read my site from Hades.”

No, the James Bond reference isn’t just a figure of speech. According to Scrivener “[t]here was a real James Bond that existed”, namely Jackie Kennedy: “Jackie Kennedy was the female James Bond. Licensed to kill James Bond was a fictional character created by Ian Fleming, but the real life career of the female James Bond far surpasses any of the plots in his spy novels.” Kennedy was for instance instrumental in bringing Fidel Castro to power – apparently Castro was a CIA agent: “what eventually led to the Cuban Missile Crisis was the close ties between CIA Castro and MI6 Nikita Khrushchev” (no further detail given, unfortunately) – and married JFK on orders from the M16, before assassinating him and later RFK. Evidence? According to Scrivener “it can be proven conclusively that she was completely OWNED by the Agency”; it is unfortunate that he doesn’t try to, you know, supply the proof. Anyways, “[t]here are more James Bonds. Daniel Craig’s James Bond is based on an MI6 agent that is after me. Proof of it is a meme an MI6 agent did on the internet. Luckily I have guns in my house to defend myself.” That last sentence should perhaps give rise to some concern.

Of course, it’s conspiracies all the way down. Did you know that “Queen Elizabeth I(Shakespeare) […] was secretly part of the Latin Church and was planning to surrender England to the Spanish Armada”? Bet you didn’t – and by the way, Mary Stuart’s rule “shows the consequences of letting women rule over men!”. As for Elizabeth Shakespeare: “Queen Elizabeth I went under the identity of Shakespeare because the name of the Virgin Goddess Athena means ‘Shakespearer’ so as the Virgin Queen she wanted to symbolize Athena and the Virgin Mary since she was a secret Latin Church member. However Shakespeare’s identity was kept a secret to prevent people from finding out.” That is not what “because” means. Nor did you probably know that James Earl Ray “was brainwashed by Dr. Donald Ewen Cameronat the Montreal and Expo67, which Scrivener coincidentally attended (“It’s a small non-rotating world after all!!”), andthen sent south to be the fall guy or ‘patsy’ for the upcoming MI6/CIA assassination of Martin Luther King.”

Moreover, according to Scrivener, “Christianity has been proven to be the one true religion. The evidence that Christianity is the true religion is the historical documents of Joshua of Nazareth, and the fact that bible prophecies have been fulfilled. The Bible fortold that the NATION of Tyre would never again be found. That prophecy was fulfilled because since it’s fall there has not been a nation called Tyre. The city of Tyre is currently in the nation of Lebanon.” As proofs go, this one exhibits some shortcomings.

Oh, and flat earth: According to Scrivener, “[t]he ‘space age’ was launched to undermine the foundation of the earth!! Even though children were exposed to the ball earth when they first entered kindergarten, it wasn't until the dawn of the ‘space age’ that thinking people were forced to accept it as a ‘scientific’ fact.” This is not entirely correct. Scrivener’s main point, though, is that the idea of a spherical Earth is a conspiracy created by Satan: “The fact that the earth is stationary and flat is the very foundation of Christianity […] Satan knows that he must undermine the foundation in order to enthrone is mother goddess.” How did Satan get the conspiracy going? Well, the answer is worth another somewhat lengthy quote:

Jesuit ‘Sir’ Isaac Newton invented GRAVITY to explain why the oceans, and all living things, stick to a rotating ball earth. Newton was a bitter foe of the Fifth Monarchy Men, and he spent most of his life studying the Book of Daniel and Revelation in order to refute them. Gravity did away with antipodes or men walking upside down in the Southern hemisphere. According to Jerome’s corrupt Latin Vulgate Version, the earth is suspended in space by NOTHING:He stretched out the north over the empty space (Lat. super vacuum) and hangeth the earth upon nothing (Lat . super nihili). (Job 26:7, Douay-Rheims Version). That is an apt description of the earth according to Newton: A ball hanging in SPACE suspended by NOTHING or GRAVITY. Newton’s ‘law of universal gravitation’ states that ‘a particle attracts every other particle in the universe using a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.’ In other words, the further an object is from another, the less the gravitational attraction. To prove this bizarre theory, astronots aboard a fake ISS are shown in ‘zero gravity.’ Remove gravity from the fake Newtonian system [gravity-denialism is a common feature of flat earth conspiracy theories] and the foundation is as unstable as water. That has not prevented NASA from spending billions of taxpayer dollars to prop up their crumbling foundatiuon. To go to so much trouble to exalt a female pagan deity is beyond belief.”

Scrivener was no fan of Hillary Clinton either, seeing right through her campaign to the British-Satanic-Round-Earth-Zionist-Catholic plot beneath: “Hillary in the White House is a vital part of the ‘Virgin Mary’ Co-Redemptrix dogma!! Hillary in the White House is a vital cog in the Rockefeller/Vatican scheme to force acceptance of that dogma worldwide: For all nations (UN) have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication [sic], the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury (Revelation 18:3). On 9/11, the official Hillary double was introduced. Hillary can run the White House vicariously through her double like she ruled the nation during the Presidency of her husband. The official Hillary double was introduced on 9/11. That date was so appropriate because Jay and Hillary Rockefeller engineered the 9/11 false flag operation. If Hillary is placed in the White House, both Russia and the United States will have doppelganger Presidents. For the past 500 years, with very few exceptions, female rulers have been bitter persecutors of Christianity [followed by a list of pseudohistorical examples pulled straight from Scrivener’s deranged imagination.]”

If you dig into his oeuvre, you’ll find deep sea monsters and free energy stuff as well, and that’s just scratching the surface. Scrivener’s website is here, and is worth a visit – at least it will give you all the details about how smart Scrivener is (Irish Gaelic “was not that difficult to learn because it used the letters of the English alphabet!!”).

Diagnosis: Possibly the most delusional person with regular internet access in the US at the moment. Probably harmless, though his proclamation that “I have guns in my house to defend myself” is somewhat disconcerting.