Tuesday, March 2, 2021

#2446: Saeed Abedini

Saeed Abedini is an Iranian American Christian pastor, famous for being imprisoned in Iran in 2012 based on allegations that he compromised national security, an incident that created international controversy; he was released in 2016 along with other American prisoners following international pressure. But although he is, indeed – and as opposed to most Americans who claim to be – a genuine victim of religious persecution, Abedini is also a loon, as well as a generally shitty and abusive character. And of course, Abedini also believes that Christians are persecuted in the US today, too, by Muslims, liberals, seculars and others ostensibly controlled by the free-roaming spirit of the Antichrist, a force that is apparently best defeated by rejecting globalism, nurturing nationalism and closing the borders.

 

During the 2016 election, Abedini was firmly opposed to a Clinton presidency, but not for more or less reasonable political reasons: “if a woman can’t be the head of a small group of people such as the family or church, how can she, Biblically, be the head of a country with millions of people?!asked Abedini, and accused Clinton of being possessed by a Jezebel spirit that “is NOT from God, nor is it Biblical.” Nominally an advocate for complementarianism, Abedini hastened to add that he “believe in equality of women and men,”  before, predictably, adding “but there are differences in how God orchestrated the leadership of our homes and life so that we can function in an orderly manner.” Of course, “orderly manner” should be understood in light of being uttered by someone who has plead guilty to domestic abuse charges.

 

Diagnosis: No, he shouldn’t have been imprisoned in Iran, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the guy is garbage. Not even the war-on-Christmas crowd seems to have given him much attention after his return, though, possibly because they might realize that he is, indeed, garbage and would come across as such if they gave him a microphone.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Launching round 4

So that was actually the end of round 3 through the alphabet. It took us several years. At some points we might have thought that, with more than 2000 loons covered, “that’s it”. 

But here’s the thing. Given that it has taken so long to get through this round, many new loons have managed to come to prominence in the meantime (in addition to a few that have managed to slip through thus far), especially in relation to the emergence of Qanon and COVID denialism. So if you look at the list, you might discover that we have no entry for Del Bigtree, nor Josh Bernstein, Jordan Sather or Mike Cernovich. We have thus far overlooked Shiva Ayyadurai, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jillian Mai Thi Epperly and Teal Swan, not to mention Liz Crokin, Laura Loomer, Larry Cook and Judy Mikovits. Heck, even Roger Stone managed to escape inclusion in the previous round.

We have compiled a list and feel that we have little choice but to launch a round 4. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

#2445: Emeal Zwayne

Emeal Zwayne is not only affiliated with Ray Comfort’s Living Waters Ministry, where he is, indeed, the president, but is also Ray’s son-in-law. Zwayne has been involved in several of Ray’s publications and has been an executive producer and regular co-host on Comfort’s Way of the Master television program together with Comfort and Kirk Cameron, often chiming in to repeat and back up Ray’s own points in the silliest and feeblest ways imaginable. So for instance, when Lawrence Krauss suggested in a book that religion was on its way out, Comfort and Zwayne would of course not assess his arguments or evidence on its merits (probably flimsy), but rather conclude that Krauss not only hates Christianity, but that “he hates Christ” and then agree that “Hitler said some similar thingsHitler’s Youth.” And that, Zwayne gravely concluded, is “very, very terrifying, friends.” Because when you have no intellect and no moorings in reality, you have no choice but to follow your obtuse imagination to the most utterly foolish and brainless places it will float you.
 
Zwayne is also Executive Producer of Ray Comfort’s movies The Atheist Delusion, 180: Changing the Heart of a Nation, Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith and, most recently (perhaps – they tend to vomit out these kinds of videos), Pandemic, Ray Comfort’s own take on the Covid-19 pandemic, which, as you would have guessed, is feeble even by the standards of the nonsense that is going around on the fundie conspiracy theory circuit.
 
Zwayne is apparently also a regular at various young-earth creationist conferences and homeschooling summits, as well as an official spokesman for the National Bible Bee organization. 
 
Diagnosis: No, we couldn’t really be bothered to look up many of Zwayne’s talking points. The very fact that he’s on board with – and helps promote – Ray Comfort’s silliness, is all you need to know. That some people – homeschooling parents in particular – listen to him is less funny.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#2444: Sher Zieve

RenewAmerica is a fringe-rightwing, fundamentalist conspiracy theory website that would qualify as ridiculous even by the standards of fringe-rightwing conspiracy websites. And among the site’s numerous idiots and deranged maniacs, Sher Zieve might just possibly be the most batshit insane of them all – though RenewAmerica also runs Bryan Fischer’s column; competition is fierce.

 

Obama

Zieve was no fan of Obama, and this column nicely illustrates the general tenor of her criticisms. Basically, Obama was a tyrant and everything his administration did, including environmental regulations, was “completely illegal and unconstitutional” because … well, it’s not even clear that Zieve actually disagrees with all the policies, and she doesn’t offer a hint of a reason why it should be illegal and unconstitutional beyond the fact that they were implemented by “Obama and his Marxist Dems” – in fact, the reason their policies are illegal and unconstitutional may ultimately be because Obama was a Marxist, and therefore a tyrant, and as such everything he did was illegal. And the reason he nevertheless succeeded was that Congress “is now composed almost entirely of Marxist-Leninist Democrats and RINO Marxist wannabees,” including the overt Marxists John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who were just happy as clams to be “overtly supporting the tyrant” Obama (according to Zieve, “at some point almost all politicians become leftists in order to enrich themselves”). Reason, facts and what words mean are tools Zieve hasn’t quite gotten the hang of.

 

Nor did any of the Republicans ever even try to stop Obama and his co-conspirators from executing their “plans to overthrow virtually all” Middle Eastern governments “within a close proximity to Israel” to “replace them with Muslim Brotherhood rulers”. Indeed, Obama, who always stood “with the Islamic terrorists, was “installing Muslim Brotherhood members as quickly as possible into the US government,” too. “Shari’a is only a short step away, folks,” says Zieve. In a follow-up column, Zieve accused “Imam” Obama of being bent on turning Americainto full-fledged Marxist Communo-Fascist elitist-ruled Islamo-Drug cartel Narco/Nazi State.” Distinctions is a communist plot to derail paranoid wingnut streams of consciousness and wild accusations.

 

But why would Obama try to ruin America? Well, you didn’t have to ask, did you? Obama is actually a demon mentioned in the Bible. “By the way, has Obama said yet that his name is really Legion? Just wondering …” Even Zieve seems to have dimly sensed that the idea was silly. But then she went on to assert it anyway.

 

Other crimes committed by the Obama administration include 

  • usurpation of the State of Tennessee and its melding into the Obama government” – that was apparently connected to the Emergency Alert System, through which the administration confiscated “ALL television and Radio broadcasts for a supposed ‘test’ of the EAS” (you didn’t notice, did you?); “supposed”, because it all seems to have really been a ploy to abuse children, an accusation that makes Zieve something of a proto-Qanon dimwit
  • dismantling the US and replacing it with “either East Germany or the Stalinist USSR”, and 
  • supporting and implementing the “‘Occupy Wall Street’ flea circus” as a “cover for his implementation of the finalization of his Police State” (don’t think too hard about how the ploy was supposed to work; Zieve has a couple of views on Occupy Wall Street). 

Zieve was also a major pusher of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory, claiming – without a shred of evidence or reason, of course – that the exercise was part of a ploy to “install Martial Law nationwide.”

 

Weighing in on the Bundy Ranch standoff, Zieve concluded that the Bureau of Land Management had become “Obama’s private army”, one “that will be used against American citizens and likely very soon”, and the whole incident was part of their plot to “begin the process of turning the USA into a meatless society.” In general, Zieve has no idea what is going on, and doesn’t care. The relevance of facts and understanding are nothing but Satanic-gay-islamic gambits to silence fundie wingnuts. A good example of Zieve’s attitude toward facts is her 2014 proclamation thatObama has announced that he will very shortly issue an Executive Order to begin flying illegals (renamed ‘refugees’) from Central Americans countries into the USA. These will be indoctrinated as Democrat voters and trained to worship Obama the minute they set foot on the plane … or even before.” The purpose of doing so is “to replace the current population in the US” with “MS-13 gang members and Islamists … including ISIS/ISIL members.” And the ultimate goal of that, as Zieve has repeatedly stated and which the administration was always on the brink of attaining, was to create a “Marxist-Islamic North American Caliphate” with Obama himself as the leader. And after having imported thousands of Central American Muslims from Central America, the Obama administration would, with the help of covert (or possibly overt) Islamo-Marxist Mitch McConnell, have non-Muslims stoned to death – in particular, Obama was long planning a genocide against white people because he is black a demon of Satan: “to the Obama Administration white lives don’t matter”.

 

Obama was also pushing for gun control in order to make it easier for Islamists to kill Americans; indeed, the whole point of immigration is to kill Americans: Obama wanted toeliminate at least 25,000,000 people” and possibly “many more millions of us” to make room for undocumented immigrants. After killing all these Americans, Obama would then give your homes to the immigrants, who would then support his political goals. And people allow this to happen, including the administration’s explicit commitment to enslaving them, because they are afraid to be called ‘racist’.

 

Indeed, by 2015 Obama had alreadydecimated the US economy” (Zieve needed to emphasize that “[t]he downfall in the US economy did begin under President Bush but, ONLY after the Marxist-Democrats took control of both houses of Congress,” because it is so obviously false that even her own readers might not already have believed it) and submitted “to the will of Iran”. She even offers some explanations for how this state of affairs came to be: Republicans have been made weak by taking too much estrogen “[w]hile all too many of the American sheeple continue to sleep”, and it is all predicted in the Bible, according to which the “coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonder”.

 

Trump

At least electing Trump provided some respite from the perennial destruction of America. According to Zieve, Trump “has been and continues to be one of the strongest, brightest and most influential men in current world history,” and voting him in was a major step in thwarting the Satanists in Congress and their push for a one-world government. The fight certainly didn’t end, however. In response to the 2016 election, “the globalist powers visibly headed by Luciferian leader and ObamaFriend George Soros began their malicious work to overturn the election and end the USA as it was founded.” We haven’t bothered to look up her reactions to the 2020 election.

 

Education

According to Zieve, public schools today regularly teach Marxist and Islamic propaganda – the Holy Bible is being banned in schools along with the targeting of any and all Christian thought and speech, while Islam is being actively taught.” (It is not entirely clear whether Zieve has ever been to a school.) In fact, Common Core is “designed to train good Communist subjects; that is subjects in the feudal sense. More on Zieve’s view of Common Core here (recommended).

 

Oh, and Zieve is also a Sandy Hook truther. The Sandy Hook massacre was just one of many false flag operations undertaken by the Obama administration for unclear but definitely Satanic reasons. Apparently, Zieve managed to convince herself that “[w]ith the exception of the actors on set, Sandy Hook school wasn’t even open for business … and […] hadn’t been for years.”

 

Diagnosis: A serious candidate for being the most unhinged wingnut columnist on the Internet – her mind is apparently just a chaotic storm of delusional paranoia that she is utterly unable to distinguish from reality or channel into anything remotely coherent: What she thinks reality is like is so far removed from reality, and what binds her views together is so far removed from anything resembling reason, that it is hard to imagine how the gap could even in theory be closed. Nevertheless, her ideas might have gone more mainstream than many of us like to believe.

Monday, February 22, 2021

#2443: Eric Zielinski

A.k.a. EricZ

 

Eric Zielinski, DC, is a chiropractor, essential oil salesman, and apparently a practitioner of “biblical healththrough an Atlanta-based online ministry. Despite his almost painful lack of relevant expertise, Zielinski is one of several (equally credible) “experts” used to provide anti-vaccine talking points in Ty Bollinger’s 2011 antivaccine conspiracy flick The Truth about Vaccines (thoroughly reviewed here, here, here, here and here.

 

Zielinski’s website, Natural Living Family, is primarily pushing essential oils for all sorts of conditions, backed up with vague but deeply religious fluff and occasional handwavy appeals to “valid research to suggest that they [essential oils] can help in a myriad of ways” with (e.g.) cancer, without actually citing any such research or even trying to specify the “myriad of ways” (when he pushes turmeric Zielinski tellingly cites Mike Adams as a researcher, no less). They do have plenty of quack miranda warnings, though. “Beat cancer God’s way” announces one of the articles, which recommends that you buy essential oils from him and otherwise put your trust in the will of God. “When it comes to beating cancer, or any disease for that matter, there is no right or wrong,” says Zielinski. There is, and Zielinski’s way is wrong. It is hard to fathom how reasonable people could fail to be put off by his grift, but then: reasonable people are probably not in his target audience. Desperate people in desperate situations constitute a far more profitable customer base.

 

Zielinski recommends for instance foregoing the flu shot and using his essential oils instead. “There is a growing body of research showing that various essential oils attenuate not only the flu, but other viruses as well,” says Zielinski, because he can say whatever he wants as long as it is vague enough not to be legally compromising.

 

Zielinski is not a nobody on the crazier fringe of Big Wellness, however, and he was found sufficiently notable to receive some attention in Netflix’s relentless balance-fallacy pushing in the documentary (Un)Well, from which Zielinski at least didn’t emerge entirely unscathed (“I mean, our most expensive masterclass is $77 dollars for digital access. I mean, anyone can afford that! […] Even if you’re on food stamps, government assistancehey, stop drinking Starbucks for two weeks in a row and there’s $75 bucks, right?). But even (Un)Well didn’t bring up Zielinski’s 5G fearmongering or his (subsequently deleted) attempts to downplay the coronavirus epidemic on social media.

 

Beyond Netflix, Zielinski may be most familiar for his involvement in Chad Tackett’s weight-loss scam: Zielinski, together with his wife Sabrina Ann (“Mama Z”), would recruit people for a “weight loss study” aimed at demonstrating the efficacy of Tackett’s program for a cut of the registration fee (people with any experience with real studies should have noticed plenty of red flags, but there are probably few of those on Zielinski’s mailing list). In 2018, the mailing list for “Dr. Eric and Mama Z’s Essential Oils” sent out an “URGENT” notice about a “university-sponsored” weight loss study in which[q]ualified applicants would “safely lose 10 Lbs” by the end of the following week. The study, of course, didn’t exist, and instead of admitting that, Zielinski doubled down and claimed, completely falsely, that the study was associated with actual doctors as well as with the University of Arizona.

 

Diagnosis: Oh, we have no doubt that he believes his own falsehoods and nonsense, but what he is engaged in is nevertheless a grift. Being deranged doesn’t relieve you from moral blame.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

#2442: Michael Zezima

A.k.a. Mickey Z. 

Michael Zezima, or Mickey Z., is a writer, editor, blogger and novelist who has contributed to numerous magazines and written several books, and who also appeared in Brian Kraft’s paranoid nonsense DVD The Fall of America and the Western World. The latter supposedly shows you “[h]ow to protect you and your loved ones from financial armageddon, government tyranny, the destruction of the middle class and the end of freedom,” and Zezima appeared together with luminaries such as Joseph Farah, David Icke, G. Edward Griffin and Alex Jones. Despite the company, Zezima is hardly rightwing, however; rather, Zezima is a radical and very, very angry and paranoid vegan activist.

 

Zezima’s primary target is the elites, but not only political and financial elites: Zezima takes anti-authoritarianism for a wild ride and rejects any authorities or expertise, including scientific expertise and, in particular, medical scientific expertise. Indeed, Zezima laments that many people skeptical of other authorities fail to “question, say, the need for humans with a functioning immune system to get vaccinations (laden with formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, cells from sickened animals, and genetically-altered materials, no less)” (yes, it’s the usual antivaccine talking points and misunderstandings, refuted a thousand times) – or that people with sufficiently healthy skepticism to not “even think there were humans on the planes that hit the World Trade Center” don’t have have any problem with genetic modification.

 

But not only is Zezima antivaccine and anti-GMO; he rejects more or less all of “Western medicine and laments the lackluster support for “alternative therapies” promoted by Big Alternative that demonstrably don’t work. And of course, once you’re down the rabbit hole it’s hard to stop. Other things Zezima promotes include the imaginary dangers of water fluoridation and amalgam fillings and, not the least, the “electro-magnetic radiation in our cell phones that those who understand how things work claim to be safe and which therefore, since they are actually authorities on the issue, must be some sort of conspiracy.

 

Zezima is, however, probably best known for being a relatively major figure in the HIV/AIDS denialism movement; no, he doesn’t actually know anything about anything remotely related to the topic (something that, to Zezima, appears to make one more trustworthy on a topic), but a movement like the HIV/AIDS denial movement will take any ally they can get.

 

Of course, Zezima is Just Asking Questions. Right.

 

Diagnosis: Actually a good example of how some people fail to distinguish being skeptical from denialism. It is, admittedly, somewhat hard to gauge his actual influence, but he tends to show up in the strangest places.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

#2441: Drew Zahn

Drew Zahn writes for the WND, and that tells you all you need to know about why he deserves an entry here – despite fierce competition, the WND remains one of the absolutely worst and most ridiculous promoters of incompetent, confused conspiracy theories, fundie bigotry and denialism in the US today. 

A former pastor turned “reporter” and columnist, Zahn is a creationist, and he promotes creationist talking points and misunderstandings for instance through his movie reviews (!): Men in Black III, according to Zahn, clearly supports creationism. How? “A miracle,” says one of the characters in the movie, “is what seems impossible but happens anyway.” You see, people who win the lottery will look back and say “what were the odds”, and if you look at the distribution of leaves on the ground you might ask “what are the chances that they would end up exactly that way” and realize that the chances are minuscule. And according to Zahn, that “is exactly the argument many creationists and advocates of intelligent design are making to describe the origins of life.” Of course, Zahn is right: that is the argument many of them are making, and it doesn’t reflect well on creationists or their understanding of probabilities or the difference between rolling a die ten times to get some random sequence (not a miracle) and getting the rolls to match a predetermined sequence (evidence that something interesting is going on). “Men in Black 3 plants a seed of an idea that apologists for creation could use – if they so choose – to point to the Creator,” concludes Zahn, though they would have to censor out the profanities and innuendo-laden jokes. He was also impressed by (the remake of) Red Dawn, apparently taking it to be a realistic and important reminder of the dangers of a North Korean invasion and communist takeovers in general (“It’s just that the threat of communism in the U.S. now comes from our own public universities, instead of Moscow,” added Zahn for good measure.

 

Indeed, Zahn has even used his movie reviews to promote geocentrism, under the pretense of being a report on a documentary by fundie pseudoscientist and geocentrist Rick DeLano (Zahn, of course, remains utterly uncritical and lets DeLano speak freely without any questions). He was less impressed with a “blasphemous” SNL spoof of Tarantino movies, and expressed deep fatwa envy in the process.

 

But Zahn is not only penning movie reviews. He has also been a major promoter of Obama citizenship denial, and written numerous articles about the more or less imagined disastrous effects of the Obama presidency – “Now many states want to secede” was the headline of one of his pieces of “investigative” reporting, for instance, in which he systematically went on to confuse handfuls of deluded militia-sympathizers with “states” because said paranoid wingnuts were really serious about the issue.

 

Diagnosis: Mostly just ridiculous, but he probably reflects the values, ideas and ignorance of a relatively large portion of Americans.

Friday, February 12, 2021

#2440: John Zaffis (?)

Haunted Collector is a “documentary series”, at least initially broadcast on Syfy (we don’t know if it is still running and cannot be bothered to check). The show features John Zaffis, his kids and crew members searching for ghosts in buildings people call upon him to investigate, and the point is to find an item in the building that may have some sort of connection to a haunting. Zaffis is, however, a veteran in the field, and has been a paranormal investigator for decades. He has made numerous appearances on shows devoted to the ridiculous and to conspiracy theories, such as Fox News Live, Discovery Channel documentaries and Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures; he has been a frequent guest on Coast to Coast AM, and there is even a documentary film on his work and personal life, John Zaffis: The World Within. He currently runs the Museum of the Paranormal in Stratford, Connecticut, co-hosts the radio show Paranormal Nights, with one Brendan Keenan, and is a frequent guest and co-host on the Beyond Reality Radio program hosted by The Atlantic Paranormal Society’s Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. Zaffis himself is apparently the founder of the Paranormal Research Society of New England, whose website contains numerous tips on gizmos and equipment you need to detect spirits and demons. 

 

Borrowing a trope from religious fundies, creationists and other pseudoscientists, Zaffis claims to have been very skeptical of the existence of ghosts until he met one (other sources state that he became interested in demonology at a young age – his backstory seems rather malleable, and can be tailored to fit any audience). Then he promptly went on to study with his aunt and uncle, the infamous Ed and Lorraine Warren, best known for their impressive ability to milk money out of “The Amityville Horror” hoax. 

 

The premise of the Haunted Collector show (more here) is that the investigators find haunted stuff, which they keep. Yes: John Zaffis travels around and steals valuables from vulnerable people by telling them the items are haunted and need to be placed in his care to prevent them from emitting evil vibrations. The shocking thing is that it is actually perfectly legal. The investigation part consists of Zaffis’s team waving around some electronic tools and convincing homeowners that their homes are infected by ghosts, demons or portals to Hell, whereupon Zaffis enters, selects the valuable item he wants, and claims that it is connected to some kind of tragic event by referring to some hastily googled “research” done in advance by his team. He claims to have over a thousand “haunted” objects taken from people’s homes stored in glass or plastic cases “so the energy can't get out.” Apparently destroying them would reduce their valuerelease the energy” onto the world, which is apparently “very bad”.

 

Diagnosis: Well, we don’t rule out the possibility that Zaffis, at least at some level, believes his own tales. We find it hard to imagine that anyone would think that this is anything but a hoax, however, but then again, Qanon is even bigger, so who knows? 

 

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

#2439: Michael Youssef

Michael Youssef is a televangelist, senior pastor of the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, executive president of Leading the Way, signatory to the Manhattan Declaration and author of a number of angry but vapid books about e.g. the end times and the danger of Islam. Like most fundies, Youssef’s primary narrative lens is the imaginary persecution of Christians in the US. Now, Christians are admittedly not put in jail – persecution in the US is “subtler”, according to Youseff: Christians have to experience that people disagree with them, sometimes outspokenly (“the most venomous verbal attack”). And if “Christians speak out against Islamism or the celebration of homosexuality,” they will be criticized, and if their claims are sufficiently islamophobic or homophobic, they may even be given “labels such as Islamophobe or homophobe’ – words manufactured by two groups that would normally hate each other but join forces for the purpose of eliminating the true Christian point of view.” What Youssef does here is in fact rather illustrative, and a core element in constructing any paranoid persecution complex: because he is criticized from both Muslims and gay rights advocates, these two groups must (in Youssef’s mind) be united and organized, and share the common goal of eliminating Christianity.

Apparently environmentalists are also in on the plot. According to Youssef, people are opposed to domestic drilling for oil because they don’t love America and because environmentalism is a militant religion – apparently being concerned about the environment makes you a “fanatic religious” person “who worship Mother Earth”, and “as militant about their religion and protecting their goddess” as radical Islam. And since both Gaia worship and Islam are false religions, they are Satanic, and clearly part of a big, organized conspiracy.

Gay marriage 

Yeah, of course he is. According to Youssef, marriage equality destroys civilization and leads to hell. In particular, America is going to havethe same fate as that of Sodom and Gomorrah” because of “homosexual lobbyists,” for by legalizing same-sex marriage, America has relinquished their status as “the land of God’s blessing and protection”. Youssef is also shocked and outraged that people would consider implementing anti-discrimination measures law – that, as Youssef sees it, will threaten the employment and livelihood of anti-gay religious fundamentalists, and “to terminate someone’s employment and deprive them of their livelihood? That is something worthy of ISIS. Members of ISIS may chop off the heads of Christians, but to chop off someone’s voice or identity originates from the same desire for control through cruelty.” Amazingly enough, he actually doesn’t seem to see the double standard.

 

When the Episcopal Church’s adopted LGBT-inclusive policies, Youssef asserted that it would lead the church to ultimately embrace pedophilia and that it proves that the church is not Christian but Satanic (because “there are only two ways – God’s and Satan’s”). He also seems to believe that tolerance in general is Satanic, and followed up by calling on all true Christians to leave the Episcopal church (as well as the Presbyterian church, which also allows the ordination of gay or lesbian ministers) and “deliver these institutions to Satan”. Perhaps some would find it noteworthy to compare his diatribe against the Episcopal Church with his call, elsewhere, for “religious liberty” and greater respect for religious values, but the apparent conflict is entirely and completely unsurprising.

 

Diagnosis: You didn’t expect intellectual honesty or moral integrity from a deranged lunatic like Michael Youssef, did you? Youssef is a major and influential figure on the religious right, and exhibits all the dishonesty, rage, hatred, idiocy and conspiracy theories usually associated with that.

Monday, February 8, 2021

#2438: Joshua Youngkin

Joshua Youngkin is a law and policy analyst at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture – or at least he used to be: we haven’t really heard from him in a couple of years. Youngkin is (or used to be) a stalwart defender of the center’s dishonest efforts to promote science denialism in American public schools, in particular intelligent design creationism and climate change denialism, under Newspeak slogans like “strengths and weaknesses” or “promote critical thinking” (without giving students the tools to actually think critically). As per the official Discovery Institute line, Youngkin systematically tried to pretend that their efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution were motivated by scientific and not religious concerns, insofar as explicit mention of the real motivation would land any successful implementation of their advice in legal trouble.

 

Youngkin himself is a lawyer, and not a scientist. But then, what the Discovery Institute does is, in Youngkin’s own words, to “draft and amend academic freedom language, counsel lawmakers privately, testify publicly, and are otherwise intimately acquainted with the intentions behind and likely effects of academic freedom legislation” – science, research and evidence have nothing to do with their efforts. On other occasions – when Youngkin remembers what he was supposed to say – he has, in fact, asserted that the Discovery Institute is engaged in science: they even have their own journal (he gets the title of their journal and their “research” organ wrong), an in-house vanity journal stacked with creationist reviewers that primary publishes work by their own editors and editorial board. To bolster the claim that what they’re doing is scientifically credible, Youngkin has even cited their hilariously silly petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

 

Youngkin is ostensibly particularly concerned with academic freedom, and has tirelessly championed the rights of religiously motivated denialists to teach students pseudoscience instead of what they should be teaching them – and note that for the Discovery Institute, acadmic freedom only extends to religiously motivated attacks on evolution and climate change; if teachers try to teach science at religious private schools, the Discovery Institute will equally vigorously defend the schools’ attempts to fire said teachers because such institutions need to preserve the integrity of their mission. Youngkin has also argued that laws demanding equal time for creationism in public schools are, in fact, anti-bullying laws, because scientists with real expertise on the issues are just bullies.

 

He and his institute has, however, had more success in promoting climate change denialism using the same dishonest appeal to “academic freedom”.

 

Diagnosis: Though it seems to have receded into the background somewhat, we really don’t want to discount the Discovery Institute’s efforts and people like Youngkin: slick, dishonest, denialist strategists and lobbyists can be rather effective, as long as they fall for the temptation to care about truth, evidence and accountability.

Friday, February 5, 2021

#2437: Robert Youngblood

Robert L. Youngblood is, or at least used to be, chairman of the Randolph County TEA Party in Trinity, North Carolina, and a creationist of the most ludicrous variety. He was also a candidate for an at-large seat on the Randolph County Schools Board of Education in 2014, an effort that ended with Youngblood himself being charged with and pleading guilty to attempted voter fraud.

 

According to Youngblood, there is no evidence for evolution, and he challenges scientists to come up with any: “it cannot be done, for in fact, evolution is a religion that requires faith,” says Youngblood – of course, no force in the world could make him look at the evidence. Instead, he accuses scientists of just pretending to have evidence, for “a favorite communist trick is, ‘it is not the evidence you have but what your enemy thinks you have’” (his understanding of communism seems to be roughly on the same level as his understanding of evolution).

 

Meanwhile there is, according to Youngblood, ample evidence for creationism: “Creation science is based on solid empirical evidence, for we can demonstrate, observe and verify the proof.” His own list:

 

-       Dogs produce dogs and cats cats; I don’t remember seeing a DAT!”, an observation that doesn’t indicate a particularly sophisticated understanding of the theory of evolution (nor what it would take for anything to be evidence for creationism).

 

Well, ok, it’s not much of a list, but he adds that “Dr. Steven J. Gould and Dr. Richard Dawkins have abandoned Darwinian evolution for they have calculated for each species of animals, there are one times ten to the 20th power transitional creatures that would be required to go from one type or kind to another,” a fact and a calculation that would surely come as a surprise to either. Moreover, if evolution were correct, “[y]ou would be able to dig up a million transitional creatures in your own back yard, but there has not been one found”. No, he doesn’t know how fossils work, and is blissfully ignorant of the transitional fossils found or what “transitional” could mean.

 

In conclusion, “[t]here has not been one aspect of evolution that has been beneficial to science, all it has done is limit the areas researchers dare to delve into.” It’s definitely a conspiracy.

 

In fact, Youngblood wrote a follow-up letter to the local newspaper were he “clarified” some of his assertions:

 

-       I did not equate science with liberals and communists. I equated evolution with that distinction, for evolution is in no way science.” Which makes it all so much clearer and more intelligent.

-       I did not say Richard Dawkins and Stephen Gould had abandoned evolution. I said they abandoned Darwinian Evolution. Both Dawkins and Gould, were embracing the hopeful monster theory, which basically states every 50,000 years an alligator lays five eggs and a chicken pops out,’ ” something that would be about as surprising to Gould and Dawkins as Youngblood’s earlier observation (but clearly shows that Youngblood is getting his information from Ray Comfort).

 

Youngblood is also a birther and a climate change denier, and apparently believes the UN is trying to take over our country by using Common Core.

 

Diagnosis: He didn’t make it to the school board – even though he voted for himself several times – and must be considered a local, minor village idiot. More colorful than anything else.