Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#2390: James Wanliss

Yes, it’s that one again: the list of signatories to the Discovery Institute’s nonsense petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. James Wanliss is a Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, whose research and fields of expertise are completely unrelated to anything to do with evolution or biology in general. He is, however, a fundamentalist Christian. The combination of an education and fundamentalist religious beliefs makes him fairly typical of the signatories to the list.

Wanliss is probably more notable, however, for his deranged promotion of climate change denialism and anti-environmentalism (and no: he has no scientific publications in those areas either). Wanliss is for instance the author of The Green Dragon: Is Global Warming a Religion (brief review here), in which he portrays environmentalists as a “pagan world order” – according to Wanliss, “the green movement is not about science, or the environment, but is offered as an alternative to Christian faith”. Yes, it’s a conspiracy, a Satanic one: “environmentalism is no longer your friend. It is your enemy. And the battle is not primarily political or material, it is spiritual”. Because Wanliss is a Christian and if he disagrees with you about something, it means that you cannot be and that you have nefarious, ulterior motives and so on. Otherwise, Wanliss has been pushing the predictable and idiotic standard denialist myths, such as claiming that global warming has stopped.


His books, as well as other rants about environmentalism, are published by the fundamentalist, global warming denialist Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. The Alliance is also responsible for the video series “Resisting the Green Dragon”, and in 2011 they released an accompanying book titled Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death, also written by Wanliss.


Wanliss also appears on James Inhofe’s dishonest list of 650 scientists who supposedly dispute the global warming consensus, and Wanliss is thus one of five signatories sufficiently anti-science to appear on both the Inhofe and Discovery Institute’s list. The fact that he does ought of course to undermine any value his signature to either might otherwise have seem to have had, though the general quality of Wanliss’s anti-science contributions should really do so on its own. He was also a signatory for instance to a Cornwall Alliance open letter supporting Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator under the Trump administration, and which stated for instance that “Mr. Pruitt has also demonstrated understanding of and open-mindedness toward scientific insights crucial to the formulation and implementation of environmental regulation,” a claim that one its own should qualify any signatory for an entry in any encyclopedia of loons.


There is a more comprehensive biography of James Wanliss here.


Diagnosis: All-round science denialist, and his denialists screed are permeated by religious fundamentalism to the extent, and in ways, that it makes it hard for him to claim that his denialism is in any way based on science. As such, his contributions should really harm rather than help his causes, but it is probably overly optimistic to hope that this is how it will pan out. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

#2389: Dee Wampler

Dee Wampler is a Missouri-based attorney (or, for the moment, ex-attorney), writer and wingnut conspiracy theorist. He is probably most famous for his book The Myth of Separation between Church and State, a sort of poor man’s David Barton rant. The book takes as its point of departure the claim that “even a precursory glance at the first amendment easily shows it was meant to protect freedom of religion, not to protect government from religion,” which is a strange formulation of a claim no one would, if read quickly, disagree with. (As you’d expect the rather contrived distinction made in that claim gets twisted into the silliest conclusions in Wampler’s book.) 

Wampler also featured in Truth in Action Ministries’ unhinged conspiracy flick “The Dumbing Down of America”, which set out to expose the “sinister” agenda of the public education system. In the movie, Wampler went ahead and blamed public education for “everything bad that is happening in our country today,” led by communist teachers who seek “the eradication of Christianity.” Otherwise, Wampler is a tireless warrior at the frontlines of the imaginary War on Christmas.


Diagnosis: Yes, that kind of guy. We can’t be bothered with too much detail here, insofar as it is easy to tell precisely where they’d be headed. Worth mentioning all the same, in case anyone stumbles across any of his very silly books.

Friday, September 25, 2020

#2388: Mike Walsworth

Mike Walsworth is a former member of the Louisiana State Senate, representing District 33 from 2008 until he was term-limited in 2020. He previously served in the Louisiana House of Representative (1996–2008). Walsworth’s career is marked by his stalwart attempts to maintain Louisiana’s reputation as a backwards hole of fundamentalism and science denial, and he was a major supporter of Louisiana’s Academic Freedom Act, which in practice allows teachers to promote creationism and anti-science in public schools under the “teach the controversy” label.  

Walsworth himself is no fan of science, and this video is instructive: Walsworth is questioning a science teacher about teaching evolution, asking whether there was an experiment that would prove the theory of evolution “without a shadow of a doubt.” That, of course, is not how science works, but the teacher did mention Richard Lenski’s famous E. coli experiment, upon which Walsworth responded with a typical creationist gotcha question, namely whether the bacteria evolved into a person. No, Walsworth doesn’t have the faintest idea about what the theory of evolution actually says, and doesn’t hesitate to use his legislative powers to ensure that Louisiana’s kids won’t either. Walsworth also sponsored House Bill no. 580 in 2011 (which, sponsored by Frank Hoffman, had sailed through the house), which would allow local public schools to decide on their own to use state money for purchasing any textbooks they want, including, in principle flat-earth textbooks (not inconceivable in Louisiana). The bill was, of course, intended to promote creationism. Fortunately it died in the Senate.


When the Louisiana creationist act was up for repeal in 2016, Walsworth was of course among those voting to keep it, as did rabid young-earth creationist Sen. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport), Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) and Sen. Mack “Bodi” White (R-Baton Rouge).


Diagnosis: Idiocy and ignorance even by creationist state legislator standards. And though Walsworth has been term limited, we wouldn’t bet on the situation in Louisiana improving much.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

#2387: Lance Wallnau

Director of the Lance Learning Group, a Dallas-based “strategic teaching and consulting” company, Lance Wallnau is currently one of the leaders of the militant wing of the American Taliban. An uncompromising dominionist and self-declared prophet who regularly posts “prophetic insights”, Wallnau is one of the central characters in the New Apostolic Reformation and a promoter of the seven mountains ideology. And he has a frightening amount of power and influence. 

The central goal for the New Apostolic Reformation is to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence: government, arts and entertainment, business, family, media, religion and education. Here is Wallnau using his trademark Magic Marker illustrations to explain how these “mountains” of influence are currently being occupied by Satan and how it is a Christian duty to take them back. We’ll take Wallnau’s views on the mountains in turn.



Like many dominionists, Wallnau is a vocal supporter of president Trump, having declared that “God has given this man an anointing for the mantle of government in the United States and he will prosper!” and dedicated a section of his website to explaining (or whatever you choose to call it) why “Trump is the guy that God is going to use” and how he is thus like both king Cyrus and like Samson. In fact, Wallnau has declared that Trump himself is a prophet, partially based on inaccurate and false claims (with conspiracy mongering) in Trump’s tweets.


Indeed, Wallnau tends to refer to President Trump as his “king (parading his victory over his politicial rivals with the heads of his enemies), which is a fine illustration of his general view of democracy and the American system of governance. No, he doesn’t care about the Constitution. He does, apparently, not really care about the Bible either apart from when it can be interpreted as saying what he has already decided he wants it to say.


With regard to the release of the “Access Hollywood” recording on which Trump bragged about getting away with sexually assaulting women, Wallnau said that the video was God’s way of humbling Trump, so that “now he’ll know if he gets elected, it was an act of God,” calling this public humbling of Trump “the circumcision he never got.” 


Although God is using Trump to block Satan’s rise to power, Wallnau warns us that “the spirit of Jezebel” is resisting Trump’s divine mission to save America and vanquish the “one-world order” and “globalist one-world movement,” which is a Satanic plot to pave the way for the Antichrist. The Satanic/demonic connection is presumably important for understanding why liberals are waging a spiritual “jihad” against Christians: “there’s spiritual warfare going on and it’s primarily coming from the left and it’s coming from a spirit that is manifesting there,says Wallnau. “The left is crazy” and the Democrats are 20th Century Pharisees, but the primary evidence for demonic foul play seems to be that “liberals are miserables. You’ll never see a happy liberal. Liberals are always protesting something. They are the essence of discontent; never happy and politicize everything,” as opposed to people like Wallnau, who see things through the lens of a spiritual war between good and evil and therefore don’t distinguish religion from politics. Indeed, according to Wallnauanyone who criticizes Trump is obviously under the control of Satan.


Wallnau has accordingly concluded that Trump is being attacked by a “leviathan spirit” that seeks to “dismember his credibility.” The attack is carried out by liberals who are under demonic control, just like Hitler was (kids protesting for better gun control to prevent more school shootings are also just like Hitler’s Brownshirts, by the way). It was the leviathan spirit that for instance successfully worked to “divide the Bannon/Trump team and which might more recently have been involved in John Bolton’s book (Wallnau bases his assessment on the fact that it seems to contain things critical of Trump), and it is apparently empowered by “witchcraft” that liberals are occasionally deploying: the real reason millions of people marched against Trump the day after his inauguration, for instance, was that upon taking office, Trump evicted an evil spirit of witchcraft from the White House, causing that demonic spirit to go out into the general populationWhat I believe is happening is there was a deliverance of the nation from the spirit of witchcraft in the Oval Office,” said Wallnau. “The spirit of witchcraft was in the Oval Office, it was about to intensify to a higher level demon principality, and God came along with a wrecking ball [Trump] and shocked everyone, the church cried out for mercy and bam – God knocked that spirit out, and what you’re looking at is the manifestation of an enraged demon through the spirit.” And Wallnau himself is helping Trump/God in his efforts: in 2018, for instance, he hosted an emergency prayer session on his Facebook page, during which he took command over the “demonic” cloud of “witchcraft and curses” that has been attacking President Trump and blew it away (he literally blew into his cell phone). But you have to remember to pray for Trump’s family too; Trump may be impervious to the spells of leftist witches, but when those spells bounce off him they might hurt his family


Given that the left is being guided by the “Marxist, communist, crazy and lawless” spirit of the Antichrist (Sen. John McCain, for instance, might have been “under demonic influence, Ocasio-Cortez is in a cult and “not intelligent” Kamala Harris is driven by a “Jezebel spirit and was chosen by the “deep state” to “do what Obama wants her to do, which is to undo Trump’s legacy”) and using both “Nazi propaganda” and “basic voodoo hypnotism” as weapons against Trump, it is no wonder that he God (Wallnau seems constantly confused by the distinction) is telling Christians to “shut up” and stop criticizing President Trump. One supposes that some Christians are occasionally confused into thinking that Trump’s political decisions are about politics, and they’re not: Trump’s wall, for instance, isn’t about Mexico, according to Wallnau, but about Biblical prophecy. So rather than criticize, Christians must united behind Trump, for he is a miracle worker laboring to break the demonization of culture, and “if you don’t go through the window of God when God’s got the window open,” then the opportunity will be lost. And make no mistake, the progressives’ Baal is coming for all Christians to throw them in the lion’s den; it is only a matter of (short) time. At the very least, Christians need to eliminate every “leftist” from the government in order to stop Nazis, who are on the march (univocally supporting Trump), becase “you can no longer be in neutral when the Nazis are on the march”. Only that way can they help bring about the End Times, which is the explicit goal.


Wallnau also credited Trump with saving the life of Steve Scalise during the 2017 shootings, just like he – with the support of Wallnau’s prayers – has saved so many others.


Though Wallnau seems to view himself as a sort of John the Baptist to Trump as Jesus, and although that would make them an impressive couple, they apparently need help, too. In 2017, Wallnau called on God to take His “sword out from heaven” and use it to deal with Trump’s enemies. As a matter of fact, God has helped Trump before, for instance when He smote allowed the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to die before the 2016 presidential election in order to motivate conservatives and Christians to vote for him. Fortunately Trump is currently watched over by the very same angel that protected Ronald Reagan. The help is still needed because Trump’s enemies are united (yes, Wallnau is of course a deranged conspiracy theorist): a 2019 suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans was for instance, as Wallnau imagines it, “coordinated” by defense contractors opposed to Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from the country.


Some other examples of conspiracies: the bombs that were sent to various Democratic leaders and members of the media in 2018 were a false flag operation: “I’m telling you, I think it’s ALL a set up. It’s not the Trump base behind these bombs any more than it’s them funding those mobile mobs;” rather, it is presumably the CIA – in fact, when the perpetrator was caught, Wallnau concluded that he was obviously possessed, and demons are working for the liberals, aren’t they? The same year Wallnau prophesied, based on passages from the Old Testament, that “the entire deep state intrigue” against President Trump would be exposed by June 6, and it would bemassive disclosures, a virtual hemorrhaging of information”. When that didn’t happen, for obvious reasons, Wallnau insisted that his prophecy had actually come true but that the proof was “being suppressed,” and claimed that a Department of Justice inspector general report that had just been released would “vindicate” him. It didn’t, but Wallnau nevertheless claimed victory by shouting very loudly that it did. (The Bible, after all, tends to take a rather dim view of false prophets, so it is somewhat important for Wallnau to avoid that rather obvious association.) Wallnau has repeatedly ranted about the deep state, and even when his rants don’t involve demons, most of his claims are based purely on his paranoid imagination – it’s not like he is misconstruing things or being inaccurate: were he not delusional, everything he says would have counted old-fashioned, baldfaced lying.


Also in 2018, Wallnau said that the Unite the Right rally was a liberal false flag operation organized by the left in order to get all of the left-wing activists funded – because there has, according to Wallnau, never been a white supremacy movement in America.


In reward for his efforts, Wallnau has been granted access to Trump’s inner circle, for instance when discussing peace plans for the Middle East.


Wallnau and his accomplices have helped Trump with international politics in other ways too, however, such as when a group of “key intercessors” had to go to Singapore to fight a spiritual battle against demons unleashed by other Christians who had prayed against Kim Jong-un to “cleanse” the area for the Trump-Kim summit in 2018; these anti-Kim-Jong-un Christians had unwittingly released demonic forces through “destructive” prayers, and the other intercessors had to go to the location of the summit where “they ran into was darkness that was shrouding this because of word curses from Christians. As they went up in the spirit, they saw demonic hosts that had been authorized by the anger and the fear and the utterances that were unauthorized by believers. And so, in a sense, these word curses were wrapped around the event and they had to repent on behalf of Christians for cursing.” Fortunately, the intercessors succeeded and opened the door for “North Korea to flourish with Christ.”


Arts and entertainment

Hollywood has been an enemy of good Christians for a while, but according to Wallnau “God is now visiting Hollywood.” The sexual abuse scandals that have been rocking Hollywood, in particular, are God’s judgment on the entertainment industry for criticizing President Trump (rather than for, you know, sexual abuse, which doesn’t really matter that much to Wallnau’s God, whoever He might be.)


As for the NFL protests in 2017, Wallnau concluded that Satan is behind the whole thing, working through the “spirit of globalism”, which, by the way, is also “what the climate accord is all about. I always thought there was something demonic and suspicious about these things. Now I get it.” 



In 2012, Wallnau explained that the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged as a result of the fact that the Devil, and not wingnut fundies, was in charge of Wall Street banks, which unsurprisingly led to the economic crisis in 2008. Along with the economics mountain, “the Devil will send kings” to the different cultural mountains, such as government media, arts and education, to “screw it up,” at least as long as government leaders are “under the Kingdom of Darkness”, which they were in 2012, and it is the responsibility of people with a “biblical worldview” to “dominate” each of the Seven Mountains.


Things have improved. In 2018, Wallnau told his viewers not to worry about any decline in the stock market because there is no way that God will allow the United States to suffer as long as President Trump is in office – although in 2017, God did cause the stock market to drop to punish CEOs who were critical of Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville violence. Economics is really a branch of wingnut theology.


As for his personal finances, Wallnau has dutifully used Facebook to repent to his followers for the “sin” of not asking them to send him money.



Wallnau is, not entirely surprisingly, no fan of gay marriage. And it is really Satan, working through “globalists”, who is behind things like gay rights: globalists are deliberately pushing policies “that eradicate the definition of things like marriage, gender and borders because they love to create chaos as a means of empowering an elite to come in and clean up after it.”



As mentioned above, President Trump is, according to Wallnau, repeatedly being attacked by a “leviathan spirit” that seeks to “dismember his credibility.” The purpose of that spirit, Wallnau said, is to “twist the meaning of things” in order to create strife, and it is currently working through the media “to assault Donald Trump.” The media is, in other words, currently paving the way for the Antichrist, and CNN and NBC are run by false prophets. In particular, the “CNN does more to rape the reputation of the United States and destroy our influence as a democracy than any other organization in media history. They are the enemy of more than the people, they are the first phase of the emerging ‘False Prophet’ of Revelations.” Wallnau putatively doesn’t like false prophets. More specifically, the media is like “Pharaoh as they are in pursuit of this president with false allegations and accusations in the echo chamber of the deceived, causing Americans to be confused and bewildered because of the lies and the propaganda that come out of the mouth of the false prophets.” Bewildering lies and propaganda flowing from the mouth of false prophets indeed. 


In response to the media’s stories, Wallnau commanded God to send an angel to protect Trump – Wallnau’s requests to God have gradually become more assertive, such as when he warned God to get off his butt and help him (Wallnau) smite his (Wallnau’s) enemies because otherwise He (God) is gonna look really bad.


In 2017, Wallnau hailed “the king” Donald Trump for taking on his enemies in the media by calling critical reports about him “fake news”, asserting that since God has anointed Trump, members of the media will only suffer when they challenge him. Accordingly, when Trump have reporters removed from events, he is really casting out demons



According to Lance Wallnau, Lance Wallnau is so holy that he literally sparkles and his meetings are so anointed that he keeps “getting this gold dust and glitter on my face” because of the presence of angels. (The angels in this particular instance were on assignment to take control of the media for Jesus, which is why “the New York Times and CNN [are] in such deep doo-doo and what’s happening with Hollywood and Johnny Depp and Bill Maher and all the big mouths and the crazies as they’re running their mouths; God is literally taking the wheels off of the chariot of pharaoh as he’s trying to persecute what God is doing” through President Trump.)


Wallnau’s holiness also ensures that his prayers are particularly effective. In 2017, for instance, he commanded Hurricane Irma to change its projected path away from Florida by repeatedly and passionately ordering the storm to dissipate and turn out into the Atlantic Ocean. That obviously didn’t happen. Wallnau nevertheless declared victory. He also suggested that the storm didn’t damage any of President Trump’s properties in Florida because Trump is protected by God: “that was a demonic storm … The Lord didn’t send it, the devil is loosing chaos in America,” which means that men as holy as Donald Trump are safe. Later the same year he unsuccessfully tried to command hurricane Maria to turn away from Puerto Rico, thanking the Lord for “giving us power over the elements because they have to submit to the authority of Jesus on the earth.”


Though perhaps not as aggressively scared of Halloween as some of his fellow prophets, Wallnau has pointed out that the end of October is when “Christians focus on Harvest themes and pagans focus on Halloween,” which makes it “a great time of year to do evangelism if you build it around the END TIMES and SPIRIT REALM teaching.” He also offered a spell recipe for breaking witches’ curses, based on his audio manual “Breaking Controlling Spirits and Leviathan”.


In 2017, Wallnau prophesied that in January 2018, Trump was going to have an encounter with God that would lead him to begin quoting the Bible “at an unprecedented rate.”



No fan of higher education, for the obvious reason that intelligent and knowledgeable people tend to disagree with him, Wallnau has claimed that college professors are “priests of Baal” and “intellectual pedophiles molesting the virgin territory of your children’s imaginations.”


When Katherine Stewart criticized the anti-science attitude of the religious right in a New York Times column, Wallnau was outraged, though: “I don’t want my children to live in a world where they can get publicly raped by the New York Times and have people stigmatized [about] their religion because they’re told that Christians are anti-scientific.” Yes, science is a demonic plot by intellectually pedophilic scientists at Baal-run institutions, but pointing out that he is anti-science is “publicly raping” him. He is so persecuted it’s hard to believe.



In 2013, Wallnau prophesied that God is going to give Christians “technology that can heal diabetes” within months, along with technology “that is going to revolutionize our dependence on oil and energy.” The new discoveries would only be “given to Kingdom-minded believers” and not sold to benefit the general public, however, although he urged that the diabetes cure be shared with “top layers of the political elite” of the Chinese Communist Party in order to gain access to their government and help spread the Gospel.


In 2017, he claimed Milo Yiannopoulos (remember him?) “in the name of Jesus for the Kingdom of God”, predicting that Yiannopoulos would soon be going to undergo a radical religious conversion and, by leading campus revivals, lead an army of millennial prophets who will take on the left. If you ever wondered how the children’s crusades could have happened, Wallnau is how they could have happened.


There is a good Lance Wallnau resource here.


Diagnosis: Thinking that people who disagree with you must be possessed by demons, and that whenever you are wrong about anything you are really right but demons make it look otherwise, are not indicators of a healthy mind. But it is certainly part of the job description for leadership in the New Apostolic Reformation. Lance Wallnau is a deranged, rabid, hateful and ridiculous man, but he is also frighteningly powerful.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

#2386: Linda Marie Wall

According to plenty of fundies, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks and all sorts of disasters are part of God’s punishment, but they seem to have a hard time agreeing on precisely what He is punishing us for. Hurricane Sandy, for instance: according to Linda Marie Wall, Hurricane Sandy was aimed at the state of Vermont for ruling against Lisa Miller in a legal battle Miller engaged in to prevent her former partner from having visitation with the daughter they raised together before she suddenly decided that being a lesbian was evil. If correct, then God’s aim is so questionable you might start worrying about a couple of other things as well. Linda Marie Wall did not go there.  

 Wall is an ex-gay activist, and a close friend of the aforementioned Lisa Miller. Wall did for instance create a Facebook group to support her after Liberty Counsel’s Rena Lindevaldsen, Miller’s lawyer, dropped her own facebook support group for obvious reasons when Miller kidnapped the child and disappeared (with the help of one Philip Zodhiates, a religious right activist whose daughter, purely coincidentally of course, happens to be an administrative assistant at Liberty University Law School, where Lindevaldsen works). Wall supported Miller throughout, though, arguing that prosecuting crimes is anti-Christian bias and comparing the kidnapping to the underground railroad during slavery and Miller to Harriet Tubman. 


Apparently Wall herself at one point just stopped being gay after reading the Bible: “God had said homosexuality was wrong and that settled it!” She got into homosexuality in the first place by (presumably demonic) seduction – it all started with “a glass of wine and marijuana and homosexuality “was as if it was an instant addiction as to a drug. And who is behind the LGBT movement? Why, “it is none other than Satan himself,” of course. Wall’s description of her escape from the addiction is actually worth reading – it involves serpents and spiders and Satan glaring at her from paintings and good old-fashioned Satanic ritual abuse: in Wall’s world, Satan isn’t just lurking in the shadows behind oblivious gay activists; those activists are active Satan worshippers engaging in real rituals with blood drinking, ritual magic and Unitarian priests who turn out to be avatars of the devil himself.


She is also the founder of a Religious Right group called Virginia Mass Resistance, formed to oppose gay rights and promote reparative therapy. And although “men marrying men and women marrying women [is now] the law of the land,” Wall isn’t ready to give up: “Although I saw it coming, I still want to vomit every time I am reminded of this abomination.” And in her article series “The Day of Silence – ‘We’re Coming After Your Children’,” she lamented that children are “mentally being raped by” the Day of Silence, arguing that it “should be criminal for schools to promote such a behavior that is life threatening.”


Diagnosis: Fundamentalist loon who struggles mightily to distinguish reality from her imagination and reason from incoherent nonsense. A fitting representative for the contemporary antigay movement.

Friday, September 18, 2020

#2385: Linda Walkup

Linda Walkup is a fundamentalist and creationist. She is also in possession of a PhD in molecular Genetics from the University of New Mexico Medical School. That, of course, has made her eligible to be a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s inane petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. Of course, Walkup’s dissent is not remotely scientific. Nor is Walkup a scientist: we could find no research or academic affiliation to her name. Instead, Walkup is a homeschooler and member of the Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico, where she travels around and gives talks in churches to friendly (and scientifically illiterate) audiences on topics such as “Development of Antibiotic Resistance: Evolution or Design”. She has also written a couple of articles or rants on junk DNA in which she for instance points out that the theory of evolution changes in light of new evidence whereas creationist dogma, predictably, does not – she seems to interpret that as a strength rather than a weakness of creationism, which illustrates well her aptitude for and understanding of science. Her rants have for instance been featured on Answers in Genesis’s website.

Diagnosis: Yes, she has some formal qualifications, and no: she doesn’t have the faintest understanding of or aptitude for science or scientific thinking. Relatively minor figure, though.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#2384: Terry Wahls

For alternative medicine and “cures” the core marketing strategy remains relying on the personal anecdote. An anecdote makes claims personal, and relatable, and human, and will naturally tend to come across as convincing to minds not primed for controlling for selection bias or phenomena such as statistical regression. And who really has the heart to point out that personal accounts of personal struggles, as described from the struggler’s own point of view, might be subject to confirmation bias and motivated reasoning? News outlets like anecdotes, too, which is what accounts for the current relative success of the bullshit advice and claims made by Terry Wahls, and the products she is pushing. 

Terry Wahls is an internist who has gone over to the dark side of woo, in particular functional-medicine-based MS woo. Wahls, as featured in numerous stories and articles, claims to have cured her own multiple sclerosis (MS) with diet alone. And currently, she advocates a paleo-style diet to cure whatever ails you. There is no evidence for her advice beyond her own story, which is not evidence. Now, Wahls admits that she did receive medical treatment for MS – even cutting-edge treatment and drugs – as well. However, according to Wahls (and repeated by one Daniela Drake for The Daily Beast, who is also an internist and should really know better), “studies show these medicines reduce acute relapses, but they don’t affect time-to-wheelchair.” That’s a flat-out lie so egregious that it should undermine the trustworthiness of any other claim Wahls or Drake might ever make about anything, but their intended readers are presumably not fully up to date on MS research, so Wahls and Drake are going to get away with it. And denying that medicines can do what they were really expected to do, paves the way for Wahls to come up with her own narrative: “All disease begins on a cellular level,” says Wahls. “When cells are starved of building blocks they needdisease begins.” That is an utterly idiotic claim, but Wahls has no time for truth or accuracy: she has products to push. 


And of course, there is a conspiracy: We’re not telling patients the truththat medicines won’t make you well,” says Wahls. “Life is self-correcting chemistry,” and “if we fix the nutrition, this is the real way to address the root cause of most disease.” Or in different words: doctors don’t care about you; she does. And if you just buy her narrative, rather than the boring but true one about medicines, you can cure yourself, too … if only you listen to her and go on to buy into her Wahls Protocol™Wahls’s products include menus for $204 and annual memberships to her site for $187 (2016 prices), and she arranges seminars for $1,984 to teach her protocol to health professionals, where you can also pay $597 to take a certification exam. Rather audaciously, Wahls declares, in her own studies, that she has “no conflicts of interest in this work.”


In fact, Wahls seems to claim not only to have halted the progression of MS with a “paleo” diet and “neuromuscular electrical stimulation”, but to actually have reversed her disability. “The results stunned my physician, my family, and me: within a year, I was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour,” says Wahls, complete with carefully staged before-and-after pictures on her website. Said website also features several testimonials from her own “Wahls Warriors” – at least she doesn’t recommend that her victims customers should stop their medication; that would, at best, after all reduce the flow of anecdotes she could use for marketing.


Now, if her claims were correct, she would be a Nobel Prize candidate. She has, however, even done some small studies to support her claims, studies that unsurprisingly do “not find significant changes in gait and balance outcomes in our study cohort following a multimodal intervention for 12 months, as opposed to the studies demonstrating positive effects of the medications she was also taking at the time (she presumably doesn’t expect her intended customers to read those studies). And Wahls doesn’t only claim that her protocol is effective for MS, but “helpful for all autoimmune diseases.” Her website comes with a Quack Miranda Warning.


Wahls is also associated with the anti-vaccine movement, and did for instance give a lecture at Generation Rescue’s Elevated Summit in 2019.


Diagnosis: Liar. Avoid. Quite simple, really.


Hat-tip: Steve Novella, Jonathan Howard

Monday, September 14, 2020

#2383: Pat Wagner

A.k.a. “The Bee Lady”

Bee venom therapy (BVT) is one modality within the general domain of quackery known as apitherapy: the use of various bee products as medical treatments. It is perhaps a relatively minor branch of folk medicine, but it is nevertheless used by thousands of people, and has lately gained some popularity, like most types of bullshit, with the help of the internet. And it has also, of course, been commercialized and corporatized by the CAM industry, which we grudgingly admit tends to be pretty adept and effective at monetizing new types of nonsense – though it’s really not that hard when you don’t need any evidence, science, coherence, facts or accountability to support your marketing. And no, there is of course no even remotely convincing evidence suggesting that bee venom therapy or apitherapy may be effective for any of the conditions for which it is used – and apitherapy.com (not a website to visit for medical information) claims it can be used for over 500 conditions (a red flag if there ever was one).


One of the conditions for which BVT is supposed to work, is multiple sclerosis (MS). Pat Wagner, or the Bee Lady, treats herself for MS by allowing bees to sting her and advertises the idea to others in similar situations. Now, the target is not particularly surprising: MS is unpredictable, susceptible to spontaneous remissions and exacerbations, and not curable by real medicine. Since statistical regression is tricky to understand and recognize, many people will be prone to commit regressive fallacies, and anecdotes will accordingly be easy to harvest … for any conceivable snake oil or ridiculous nonsense people may subject themselves to, really, including BVT. And there is absolutely no scientific evidence that it works, and no plausible reason to think it should; rather, BVT is a beautiful, and teachable, example of the powers of bias and subjective validation. (There is a very good discussion here).


As for Wagner, she is a member of the American Apitherapy Society and has even written a book How Well Are You Willing To Bee. We admit that we haven’t bothered to even look at its table of contents, but already the title suggests a pretty common (and dangerous) trope among woo practitioners, victim blaming: if their nonsense didn’t work for you, you just didn’t want it hard enough.


Diagnosis: Silly nonsense. Though Wagner is probably primarily harming herself, her bullshit will certainly cause unnecessary pain, and possibly genuine harm, if you ever decided to listen to her.  


Hat-tip: Science-based medicine


Addendum: Wagner seems to have passed away. We’ll still post the entry, though, since BVT has certainly not gone away with her.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

#2382: David Wagner

Tachyon energy is a thoroughly pseudoscientific notion that has become popular among groups of quacks, woo-pushers and frauds. The idea of harnessing tachyon energy was popularized in a pseudoscientific book called Tachyon Energy: A New Paradigm in Holistic Healing (1999) (yes, it even got paradigms) authored by Gabriel Cousens and David Wagner, in which the authors invoked “tachyon energy” to explain in association with a range of imaginary phenomena, including chi and chakras, to pretend to support pseudoscience-based practices like acupuncture, homeopathy and reflexology (apparently you can also tap into tachyon energy by doing yoga). Cousens and Wagner are, as you’d expect, spiritual medicine proponents of the kind that likes to pretend – and occasionally seem to even believe – that they are doing something relevantly connected to science (Cousens is indeed also often recognized as one of the grand old men of conspirituality). As a result of the book, many New Age gurus have adopted the idea of tachyon energy as something that bridges the gap between science and spirituality, and several of them have created websites to monetize the idea by selling various tachyon energy products. The idea itself, of course, have the same kind of connection (indeed, the same connection) to science as any type of quantum woo; tachyon energy is ultimately just another spin on New Age vitalism.

To give an idea of the types of explanations Wagner offers: “The condensation of zero-point energy into tachyon energy is the beginning of the Energetic Continuum, which is directly responsible for all forms on the planet. It is this condensation that creates all forms. In the production of matter, this formless zero-point energy condenses into faster-than-light tachyon. At the point of the speed of light, tachyon interacts with the Subtle Organizing Energy Fields (SOEFs).” You really don’t need much physics to recognize this kind of meaningless technobabble for what it is. The reference to zero-point energy is telling.


According to Wagner, who founded Advanced Tachyon Technologies to promote his inventions, our bodies absorb “this rejuvenating source energy, turn it into the physical frequency we need, and only take in as much as is needed in that moment”. Apparently “it is the body’s own intelligence which determines the amount of Tachyon we absorb.” And of course he’s got products to help the process: “The Tachyonized™ products which David Wagner manufactures at his factory go through his machines in a process which takes 14 days to complete.” And therefore they must work: “At the end of this time, they have become permanent Tachyon antennae and can be used on, in or around the body and the environment to maximize regeneration and wellness” – there is little further explanation, of course, of what actually happens to the products during their fortnight in Wagner’s machine (the machine alter any substance at a “submolecular” level, so that the substance becomes “tachyonized”), but at least they, including the “Tachyon Vortex Pendants”, are “available to people who have attended tachyon training workshops”, and who can then promote them further in Wagner’s MLM scheme. Apparently the objects will cause changes in some energetic system that everything in the universe can detect and interact with, except humans, of course, since if we were able to detect it we could subject it to scientific testing, and that would sort of undermine Wagner’s grift. At least he doesn’t promise a positive effect – that all depends on what happens at something called “a Bifurcation point”: if you use his crystals and pendants and whatnot, they will emit undetectable particles that interacts with an undetectable energy system of your bodies, and whatever condition you are trying to treat will either get better or worse or be completely unaffected, depending on what happens at that point. Who knows? But they’ve got testimonials!


More details on Wagner and his products here.


Diagnosis: It is really, really hard to entertain the idea that Wagner is acting in good faith. He has mastered bullshitting to perfection, and there is even an MLM involved! But we’ll be charitable (?) and conclude that Wagner must be one of the most obtuse and incoherent loons out there.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki, skeptophilia.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

#2381: Carmela Vuoso-Murphy

Rev. Carmela Vuoso-Murphy is the director of something called The Divine Light Center, which is devoted to energy therapy and integrated energy therapy®. As Vuoso-Murphy sees it, “[t]oday, science and medicine recognize the value of multiple therapies for human well being,” including “Reiki, Integrated Energy Therapy & MariEl (energy therapies).” This is false, of course, but then Vuoso-Murphy seems to have little idea about what science is or, for that matter, the distinction between fact and imagination or how evidence works. Energy therapy, says Vuoso-Murphy, “works well for those with chronic or degenerative diseases in decreasing the side effects of medications and treatments.” It does not. 

But what is integrated energy therapy? Vuoso-Murphy is happy to explain: “Integrated Energy Therapy is the next level to heal with the energy of angels,” no less. Apparently developed at something called the Center of Being, by one Stevan J. Thayer, Vuoso-Murphy was apparently “part of the group that received the IET healing method and was one of the first IET practitioners.” But how, precisely, does it work? “IET uses a divine angelic energy ray to work directly with your 12-Strand Spiritual DNA. IET supports you in safely and gently releasing limiting energy patterns of your past, empowering and balancing your life in the present, and helps you to reach for the stars as you evolve into your future.” After all, as long as what you claim doesn’t really have any intelligible content, scientists cannot really properly falsify it through testing either. At least her website has a quack Miranda warning.


Vuoso-Murphy’s medical background include being “ordained as an Interfaith Minister in 1987” and receiving “degrees in Spiritual Counseling and Spiritual Therapy”. She is currently a minister with the Unity Christ Church. In addition to energy therapy sessions, she offers “Past Life Regressions, Spiritual Counseling for individuals and couples, Numerology, Hypnotherapy, and other services such as Wedding Ceremonies, Baby Welcoming/Naming Ceremonies, Christenings, Memorial Services, Funerals, House blessings, etc.” Because if you think Integrated Energy Therapy sounds worthwhile, you’d probably be susceptible to go for any nonsense she might throw at you. You can even take courses, such as her “A Course In Miracles”. 


Diagnosis: Yes, people fall for this kind of bullshit, in droves. For the rest of us, it is hard to fathom how anyone could see a name like “Divine Light Center” and not roll their eyes. It’s less clear that she can be characterized as particularly “harmful” – if you fall for what Vuoso-Murphy offering, any potential harm has probably been guaranteed for a long time already.

Monday, September 7, 2020

#2380: Fay Voshell

Fay Voshell is a columnist for the Orwellianly named American Thinker, where she displays exactly the kind of mental work that makes her organization see the need to desperately try to clarify, in its name, that what is being done on their pages should be considered thinking. For instance, in 2013 Voshell claimed that then-governor Chris Christie was effectively putting “New Jersey on a path similar to countries like Saudi Arabia” by signing a bill banning reparative therapy for minors. As Voshell saw it, Christie is now leading a “deeply religious sex cult” that is “determined to exterminate Christian mores, attack religious liberties, and suppress free speech.” As Voshell sees it, “abusive conversion therapy [is] already going on in our public schools and workplaceswith “brainwashing” techniques such as diversity seminars and sexual harassment workshops. As a consequence partially of ideas promulgated at sexual harassment workshops, Christians in New Jersey will face “persecution as their children will have to see a “progressive high priest as his or her counselor – one who reinforces homoeroticism.”

Defending gay rights is just one part of a larger secularist agenda, however. For Voshell, religious freedom is just another religion; “attempts to radically reduce the very large Christian footprint of this nation as well as the very foundation for the Judeo-Christian ethic represented by the Ten Commandments merely mean another religion is being substituted in the place of Christianity – a religion whose gods Christians are increasingly being forced to bow down and worship.”


Meanwhile, transgenderism is a return to pagan mythology: “The Left’s struggle against the clear-cut distinctions between the sexes is not about civil rights. It is not about equality. The struggle amounts to a religious war between the Jewish/Christian view of humanity and the pagan view of mankind.” Or perhaps a form of Gnosticism? “Gnosticism proclaimed material reality is lower than spiritual reality, and that humans are trapped in a lower form. Thus the person who says he’s trapped in a male body by mistake and wants to change into a woman sees himself as ascending to a purer and wholly spiritual reality. Each of us can, at will, shake off this mortal coil of sex for a better state of being, becoming as gods.” That “Thus” in there suggests a rather tenuous grasp of Gnosticism, gender and/or logic. 


She is also a global warming denialist, according to Voshell global warming “is not supported by solid evidence provided by close adherence to the scientific method” (because she says so and does not know what “scientific method” could possibly be), and she demonstrates that by looking out her window to observe “the Arctic blast now chilling Hammond, Indiana to 7 degrees and below.”


Diagnosis: She is actually not bad with words, but there is rarely a coherent or even moderately non-idiotic thought being expressed, making reading Voshell a rather interesting experience

Friday, September 4, 2020

#2379: Lynette Volkers

There are many nurses in the US. Some of them promote ridiculous and dangerous pseudoscience, and a few are even antivaxxers. Lynette Volkers is a nurse and antivaccinationist. According to Volkers, vaccines do not do anything and are filled with toxins. Indeed, even if they did anything, they would apparently be unnecessary. For instance, as she argued in an article in the conspiracy theory and pseudoscience magazine Medical Voices, the flu only kills a 1000 people year in the US. It doesn’t, but if you do some trickery with the distinction between direct deaths and indirect deaths – which are also deaths – you can reduce 30,000 to 1000 for rhetorical purposes (that kind of gambit might be familiar to many readers in September 2020 given recent events). Otherwise, she uses standard antivaccine gambits, such as trying to scare people with scary-sounding ingredients – Volkers points out, for instance, that vaccines contain formaldehyde: Never mind that people make an ounce and a half of formaldehyde a day with normal metabolism and the vaccines have less than 0.1 mg; it sounds scary to those who aren’t quite aware that the dose makes the poison.

Volkers also employs a version of the standard appeal to package inserts (a common gambit that at least demonstrates the utter ignorance and incompetence of antivaxxers), claiming that the “manufacturer’s package insert indicate that the flu shot should NOT be given to pregnant women.” It does not. Volkers misreads the labels, and that is actually worth noting: Volkers is a registered nurse, but evidently unable to read package inserts for medications correctly. If she were ever assigned to you as a nurse, you’d probably do well to ask for a replacement. 


Diagnosis: Boring and scary at the same time.