Wednesday, June 28, 2023

#2658: Matt Chait

Many of you know the play and movie Inherit the Wind, which is based on the Scopes trial that ensued after a biology teacher presented the theory of evolution to students in a small Southern town in the 20s and the persecution he faced due to trying to teach science in science classes. Well, creationists tend to dislike the story (“propaganda” says intelligent design creationist John West), so much so that they have created their own versions. One such effort is a play by one Matt Chait, Disinherit the Wind, which turns “Inherit the Wind on its head”: In Chait’s play, the heroes (Chait uses the names of real people from the trial) are creationists “sceptical of Darwinian materialism”, and the “zealots who are trying to burn him at the stake aren’t Christian fundamentalists, but fanatical Darwinists”. Feel free to speculate about what Chait might have wished to achieve by his effort, but yes, it’s another religious fundie persecution fantasy, and as always its relationship to reality is tenuous (or more accurately in this case: bizarre). The play is published by a vanity press.


There is also an interview with Chait here. Apparently, Chait started his spiritual journey with yoga classes, but then he discovered Richard Dawkins’s the Selfish Gene, which he found to be an “infuriating piece of nonsense”, and that set him off on his journey as an anti-Darwinist blogger. His learning curve was steep: “It really is remarkable how much you can learn, starting with almost no scientific background at all, just by using Google and Wikipedia,” says Chait – and note that he found these sources after he had made his verdict on Dawkins’s book, which might make you wonder (you really needn’t) on exactly what his objections to the book were based. He also read plenty of creationist literature, and “while Dawkins’s writings undermined my spirituality, the writings of the scientists of Discovery Institute enhanced it.” Yes, his conclusions have, unsurprisingly, absolutely nothing to do with science.


Diagnosis: A local creationist village idiot with vanity press access is hardly news, but Chait’s effort gained the attention of the denialists at the Discovery Institute. And that at least tells you a bit about the Discovery Institute.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

#2657: Sarah Chaffee

Sarah Chaffee is a staff member at the Discovery Institute – their Program Officer in Education and Public Policy and apparently the person behind their podcast ID the Future – and a defender of intelligent design creationism, in particular that intelligent design creationism should be taught in public schools; the scientific status is less important. Chaffee is not a biologist.


Chaffee has for instance published a series of ten posts (some written by Casey Luskin) for the Discovery Institute where she tries to discredit the legitimacy and significance of the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case that struck down the Dover school board’s attempt to teach science denialism and religion disguised as science to students in the public school system. (Chaffee is not a lawyer either.) Here, for instance, is her attempt to defend Michael Behe’s testimony against a strawman critic; she fails miserably. Chaffee has tried to employ Behe’s ideas to criticize evolution elsewhere, too; unfortunately, she doesn’t quite understand Behe’s ideas, much less Behe’s target or what critics demonstrate is wrong with Behe’s suggestions. It’s far from her only feeble attempt, nor the feeblest, to defend intelligent design creationism. (Some of Chaffee’s other installment in the ten-part series are discussed here, here, here (apparently Judge Jones was an activist judge by the definition of ‘judicial activism’ as issuing a ruling you don’t agree with; the post brilliantly displays Chaffee’s lack of legal training), here (basically the same) and here.)


Like most creationists, Chaffee is concerned aboutviewpoint discrimination and how pseudoscientific ideas and denialist manufactroversies are “censored in educational institutions and by educational organizations, and she is more than willing to abuse the language of rights to bolster her rhetorical bluster – she’s even been involved in launching the Discovery Institute’s website Free Science, which “advocates free science – an idea vital to the progress of knowledge” (‘free’ here seems to refer to freedom from the constraints of accuracy, evidence and accountability, and her examples of oppression consist mostly of the Expelled roster, which is precisely guided by the definition of free just suggested). “Merely stating that there is a legitimate controversy over evolution is problematic on most university campuses,” laments Chaffee. Of course it is, since there is no legitimate controversy of the kind she has in mind, so the claim is false; what Chaffee actually complains about, then, is that scientific practice and science education is oppressive to (her favorite) falsehoods, lies and attempts to mislead. (Also Hitler, of course: Did you know that Margaret Sanger was inspired by Darwin, and Sanger had a friend who wrote a book that Hitler (allegedly) liked? Chaffee knows and is sure to tell us, but is careful to emphasize that she isn’t having a Godwin moment.)


She also has a long history of tirelessly defending and advocating for various state legislature academic freedom bills and schoolboard efforts designed to accommodate creationism and science denialism in public schools.


Here is Chaffee, who is not a biologist, trying to argue that “Darwinism, in other words, undermines itself as a scientific idea” because it cannot account for why human reasoning is so trustworthy. The hard-won idea of using scientific methods to circumvent the effects of biases doesn’t cross her mind; in other words, her terrible attempts at reasoning, somewhat ironically, undermines a crucial premise in her own argument. Here she tries to argue that solar eclipses are evidence for design, mostly because everything is evidence for design – Karl Popper would be so impressed – but also by handwaving some fine-tuning arguments; she is fond of those.


Chaffee has also tried to argue that the theory of evolution relies on religious tenets because they talk about vestigial organs (claiming that an organ is vestigial is a theological claim because it suggests that it isn’t perfectly designed by an intelligent creator), and such religious talk should have no place in public education. We’ll grant that his move is somewhat novel. Less novel is her version of the how come there are still monkeys gambit. For more dullardry, this one is fairly typical.


Diagnosis: It is hardly controversial, except among ID proponents, to say that ID currently seems pretty moribund, at least compared to when this blog started out back in the day, and we’re naturally giving them somewhat less attention. But the denialist train believes itself to be still chugging along, and Chaffee belongs to a more recent genereation of deluded advocates. It’s a sad sight in all possible respects.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

#2656: Mike Cernovich

A.k.a. Weird Mike

A.k.a. Juicebro


Yeah, they are (generally) dreadfully boring, but we need to give at least a highlight reel of their silliest – and typical – antics. This time around: Mike Cernovich, altrigth commentator, central QAnon promoter, serial misogynist and conspiracy theorist who originally emerged from the swamps of Gamergate and currently enjoys a frighteningly large base of followers, some of whom presumably agree with him (that latter group, we suspect, very often does not include himself).



diversity is code for white genocide

– Mike Cernovich


Cernovich has a long and well-documented history of misogyny, and generally adopts MRA views of women and rape; you can find some examples here. And if you look to delve into Cernovich’s bigotry and hate, this and this will give you more details than you could ever want; we can’t be bothered to repeat them. His bigotry is also augmented by various nonsense mystical beliefs, such as his belief that semen (literally) has addictive properties, cures depression, and prevents women from cheating, and he combines his views with commitment to a variety of Victorian-age myths about the health effects of various types of sexual behavior, including myths about STDs and prevention: Instead of condoms, you should apparently rely on “[c]oconut oil and defense soap (tea tree oil)”.


The obvious source of all evil is, of course, feminism – or in general: cultural Marxism, whatever that is. And behind that? “When you think of what’s truly ugly in our culture (feminism, abortion, political correctness), you’ll see atheists behind it.” According to Cernovich, however, “America is a Christian nation and “Western society cannot function without real Christianity” – the ‘real’ qualifier is important, however, for “modern Christian is cucked and actually harms US”; i.e. real Christianity is whatever form of Christianity agrees with Cernovich on culture and politics. It’s worth pointing out that he might lately have modified his views: “Christianity has given us a country where 11 year olds dance for adult men who throw dollars on the stage […] A moderated form of Islam is probably the West’s only hope.” That development was not welcomed by his fans.


Cernovich was also an early member of the Proud Boys.


Conspiracy theories

Over the past decade, Cernovich has become a leading popularizer of conspiracy theories, and has regularly worked with Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson. He is for instance a core promoter of various Hillary Clinton is dying conspiracy theories.


That said, he is probably most famous for his role in promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy, and for similar pedophilia-baiting conspiracies: In particular, Cernovich is fond of accusing people he disagrees with of being pedophiles, including The BBC (full of pedophiles), Ben Sasse (trafficking children), “The Clintons” (run child pornography rings), Louise Mensch, Jesse Singal, John Podesta (runs child rings, too), The New York Times, The National Review, Salon, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine (“creepy” and hence a “pedophile”), Victor Berger (runs a “pedophile ring on Twitter, whatever that means) as well as most people employed by the news media and every A-list actor” in Hollywood. And of course the “deep state is definitely part of the pedophile networks and they are pro-pedophile. There’s no question about it”, as is Facebook and Google. Cernovich’s imagination tends to veer into child pornography.


He is apparently still under investigation, together with fellow wingnut Chuck C. Johnson, for promoting poorly-forged documents alleging various sexual harassment claims against Chuck Schumer. In his own mind, he is, of course, targeted because he dares to expose pedophilia.


Amond numerous other conspiracy theories pushed by Cernovich are claims, during the Obama presidency, that Obama is gay and an atheist (both “facts” subject to media cover-up) and that Bill Clinton has an “abandoned black son”. Cernovich was also a major promoter of Seth Rich murder conspiracy theories.


Donald Trump jr. has said of Cernovich that[i]n a long gone time of unbiased journalism he’d win the Pulitzer, but not today.” Paul Gosar, meanwhile, has compared Cernovich to Rosa Parks.


New Age Woo

Cernovich is a firm believer in the Law of Attraction. In 2016, he suggested that he and his Twitter followers had manifested” Hillary Clinton’s illness with their minds; by picturing Hillary with coughing fits, they literally gave her pneumonia. Similarly, the reason so many Black people are being killed by police officers is that Black people manifest police brutality by thinking that police officers are murdering black people. I do not live in the world of “absolute truth”, continued Cernovich.


But he is more than willing to expand on his New Age commitments: “[e]verything I do is alchemy. That’s why I believe in magic. Not black magic, not the satanic magic that they practice in Hollywood and that the deep state practices and that the media practice. I believe in good magic, light magic, alchametic magic. Alchametic magic is ‘How do I create something out of nothing purely through manifesting my will through power and light, which is value.’ That’s white magic. That’s alchametic magic.” In fact, we are all practicing magic, according to Cernovich, but usually it’s black magic and that is the magic that is taught by our culture – the “dark, demonic magic – the parasitic magic” – and that turns us into “emotional vampire[s]”. Indeed, black magicis the motivation behind the mythicaldeep stateand the deep state’s obsession with pedophilia: People [who?] go, ‘Well why are there so many pedophiles in deep state? Why are there so many pedophiles in politics and Hollywood?’ Because that’s the darkest magic you can ever practice. Torturing children, as many people in Hollywood do, is how you practice the highest levels of dark magic,” Cernovich said. So, there.



Cernovich is one of the firmest and most unwavering supporters of Putin and Russian politics. “Putin is a larger than life alpha male who loves his country and will fight to defend it. Why *don’t* you admire him? Brainwashing,” says Cernovich, adding that “Putin and I think alike”, which we are pretty sure is very, very incorrect. Cernovich also loves Russian media, which ostensibly “tells the truth about America”, as opposed to American Media, which “just lies”: “American Media (terrorist organization) v. Putin. I believe Putin!”. Part of the reason why his views on Putin aren’t mainstream in the US is apparently that liberal Hollywood actors of spreading conspiracy theories about him, and the reason they do that is becausePutin is actually very anti-pedophile.” Yes, even when discussing foreign politics, Cernovich’s mind gravitate toward child pornography.


He has also written books, including Gorilla Mindset (2015) (a trite “masculinity” self-help book), Danger & Play: Essays on Embracing Masculinity (2016) (a guide to “develop a dominate [sic] mindset, lose fat, gain muscle, succeed in business, and meet women”), MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again (2016) and The Rise of Trump (edited by Vox Day). And he was the organizer of the 2016 DeploraBall, which quickly got mired in conspiracy theories.


Even Ben Shapiro thinks Cernovich is “a nutcase.


There are good Mike Cernovich portraits here and here.


Diagnosis: A (more or less) self-declared alpha male misogynist, tender New Age snowflake and rabid, bloodthirsty conspiracy theorist. A common enough combo at present, but Cernovich was one of the inventors of the brand and remains one of the major figures in the QAnon altright movement. Cernovich is also one of those bigoted post-modernists who explicitly endorses the post-truth situation – everything is narrative, says Cernovich, and cites Lacan (!) – and we don’t for a moment think he really feels intellectually committed to much of the bullshit that oozes out of him.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Sunday, June 18, 2023

#2655: Shawn K. Centers

Shawn Centers, DO, is an anti-vaccine activist and integrative doctor who believes he can heal autism with woo. Centers is primarily known through being considered an expert when featured in the anti-vaccine propaganda film Truth about Vaccines (yes, Badger’s Law applies).


Centers is not a nobody, though. He founded and treats his victims patients at the Children’s Hope Center in San Diego, California, and has also appointments as clinical professor of Pediatrics at e.g. Touro University, Lake Eire College of Osteopathic Medicine – for most purposes, osteopaths and MDs are equivalent in the US, but the core belief of osteopathic medicine is still woo, and Centers is one of those who stil take that nonsense vore (such as cranial osteopathy) seriously. You should evidently avoid Touro University if what you aim for is a real education. Centers also considers himself a master herbalist, a master trainer of neurolinguistic programming and Time Line Therapy (a branch of the pseudoscience that is NLP, created by one Tad James, where focus is on charging one’s “life-energy and preparing one for the “incredibly powerful magic” of Huna), and an expert on essential oils and aromatic medicine. He is also a silva ultramind trainer (yes: he’s a basic psychic), founding president of the American Academy of Pediatric Osteopathy, and a Defeat Autism Now! doctor (even Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue considers those to be quacks). He also practices Ayurvedic medicine, for good measure.


In his practice, Centers combines these types of dubious (well: utterly ridiculous) woo with restrictive diets and use of light and sound, which he claims represent the latest innovation in neuroscience and psychoacoustic technology. This is, needless to say, incorrect, but according to Centers opens up for the possibility of billing you for woo targeted at “difficult to treat, developmental and neurological disorders including children with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, asthma, autism, traumatic brain injury, and rare diseases.”


Diagnosis: Well, he’s got command of some jargon, but a closer look makes parodies of 19th century snake oil hawkers look medically sophisticated in comparison. Utter crackpottery and nonsense, given a sheen of legitimacy by shiny toys and diplomas and affiliations with dubious educational institutions (dubious insofar as they affiliate themselves with Shawn Centers).


Hat-tip: Aviva Seigler & fierceautiecom

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

#2654: Madison Cawthorn

Yeah, ok, so we’ll need to include this one, too: Madison Cawthorn, who served as the U.S. representative for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district from 2021 to 2023, before being booted (his departing statement was a plea: “It’s time for the rise of the new right, it's time for Dark MAGA to truly take command”). Cawthorn is a professional jackass, asshole, liar and bigot whose main strategy seems to have to been to emulate the behavior of Donald Trump as much as possible (for instance with regard to Trump’s post-truth tendency to simply not care whether whatever he says is correct or not), though in a somewhat more aggressive fashion. To what extent he is a loon the way we tend to use that category, is contestable, but he is certainly a lunacy enabler. After leaving Congress, he continued to screw over his constituents.


Election denialism

Cawthorn was one of the most vocal and incessant 2020 election denialists. At a Turning Point USA conference in December 2020, Cawthorn promisted to try to contest the 2020 presidential election results when Congress counted the Electoral College votes in January 2021, and claimed, without a shred of evidence, that fraud had been committed. He subsequently pushed his narrative with whatever conspiracy theory he could get his eyes on to run advertisements and raise money for himself. “Voter fraud is common in America. Those who tell you otherwise are lying,” said Cawthorn, falsely claiming e.g. that in the 2020 election, “ballots were shoved into duffel bags and left in parks and gas stations”, that Nevada “allowed dead people and out-of-state voters to flood the electoral system,” and that mail-in ballots “are wildly susceptible to fraud.” “Fact-check that,” said Cawthorn, not really wishing that anyone did (voter fraud israre, mail-in ballots have been almost entirely free of fraud, and no widespread fraud has been found in the 2020 election, despite a number of frivolous and quickly dismissed legal challenges filed by the Trump campaign).


It is worth noting that Cawthorn has explicitly admitted that there was no election fraud, but that he doesn’t really care. Later he returned to denialist talking points, saying for instance thatif our election systems continue to be rigged [which he admitted it isn’t] and continue to be stolen [which he admitted it hasn’t been], then it’s going to lead to one place – and it’s bloodshed.”


Cawthorn also addressed the insurrection crowd before the January 6 Capitol attack; later he attempted to blame the riots on a “Democratic machine” of “agitators strategically placed inside of this group” (he doesn’t believe that himself either), but also called the insurrectionistspolitical prisoners” and victims of shocking injustice, because playing both sides regarding the question of whether the insurrectionists are good patriots or antifa terrorists seems strategically attractive.


For his 2022 campaign, he said that he would retain the January 6 committee if elected but use it instead to root out the mythical deep state; but with the regard to the insurrection itself? Well, Cawthorn has questions: “Was this a false flag operation used by the FBI, whatever three-letter agency you want to use? How many agents did we have inside, infiltrated in this crowd? What did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it? What did all the capital police leaders know and when did they know it? Why are we hiding all of these videos?” He knows the answers, of course, but he also knows his potential audiences.


Foreign policy

Cawthorn claims, without evidence (or making sense), that there is “a large group of cartels, kidnapping our American children and then taking them to sell them on a slave market, a sex slave market”.


Cawthorn is also a firm apologist for Putin’s Russia. During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, he called president Zelenskyy a “thug and saidthe Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”



Cawthorn is, of course, also a climate change denialist.


He furthermore fancies himself a bit of an amateur evangelist, but has lamented how difficult it is to get Jewish people to stop being Jewish.


And he has, of course, asserted that Covid-19 vaccination measures were really a ploy to confiscate your guns and Bibles, no less.


Diagnosis: Well, we guess he’s not really a loon, even if his choice of strategies – for someone who claims to be all about strategies – turned out to be idiotic. But he certainly enables loons, like those who voted for him, and a comprehensive encyclopedia of loons probably needs to cover those, too. Hopefully neutralized.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

#2653: Madison Cavanaugh

Modern medicine has a long and complex history, and currently involves a pretty large number of people as practitioners, researchers and what have you. And it is all completely unnecessary, according to Madison Cavanaugh, who has ostensibly discovered the secret to curing more or less every disease, a secret she is generous enough to share with us all in her book The One-Minute Cure. Released in 2008, the cure hasn’t quite had the impact its thesis would warrant, if true. Must be a conspiracy!


According to the book’s blurb, the book divulges “a remarkable, scientifically proven [no less] natural therapy that creates an environment within the body where disease cannot thrive, thus enabling the body to cure itself of disease”. And as Cavanaugh sees it, “[o]ver 6,100 articles in European scientific literature have attested to the effectiveness of this safe, inexpensive and powerful healing modality”, which has “been administered by an estimated 15,000 European doctors, naturopaths and homeopaths to more than 10 million patients in the past 70 years” to successfully cure “cancer, AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease. hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, herpes, Rheumatoid Arthritis and asthma” and more or less anything else.


And this magic cure? It’s 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide; you should start with one drop in a glass of distilled water three times a day and work your way up to 25 drops. So it’s a bit more than “one minute” of effort, but still. Does Cavanaugh have any evidence for any of her claims (does she refer to any specific and relevant studies, for instance, or back up the numbers she throws out)? Oh, ye narrow-minded luddites!


The ostensible premise for the suggestion is that all diseases are anaerobic and cannot exist in the presence of oxygen, which is derangedly false, but Cavanaugh’s idea has roots in a very familiar branch of pseudoscientific quackery: hydrogen peroxide therapy. The nonsensical idea behind that tradition (and it is magnificently nonsensical) takes as its point of departure the rantings of Otto Warburg, who otherwise made some important medical discoveries earlier in life but then went off the hinges later in life to dogmatically defend, against all evidence and despite decisive falsification, that oxygen would inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Cavanaugh just extrapolates the false idea to all other disease, and throws in the false premise that ingesting hydrogen peroxide could increase the exposure of cancer cells to oxygen. (It can’t, even if you disregard the chemical illiteracy involved in the claim: arterial blood is already saturated with oxygen). Instead of curing anything, Cavanaugh’s suggestion is, in fact, dangerous.


Diagnosis: This is, safe to say, simply a scam. Madison Cavanaugh is probably a deranged lunatic, but she is also a dishonest scam artist.


Hat-tip: SciencebasedMedicine

Sunday, June 4, 2023

#2652: Kristin Cavallari & Jay Cutler

Kristin Cavallari is an anti-vaccine activist and reality-TV star, with all the medical and scientific expertise that comes with that background, as well as an author of woo-inspired cookbooks and a wellness-oriented autobiography. Jay Cutler is a (former) sports personality (formerly) married to Cavallari. In 2014, the couple drew criticism for refusing to vaccinate their children due to alleged and easily refuted claims of a connection between childhood vaccination and autism, which the couple had convinced themselves was real based on perusing various conspiracy theory and pseudoscience websites (Mayer Eisenstein’s is a likely suspect). “We’re making the best decision for our kids,” said Cavallari falsely, unable to fathom the possibility that being able to give birth and being famous for being famous doesn’t automatically make you an expert on making medical decisions (she’s hardly alone in missing that simple distinction). “I’ve read too many books about autism and the studies,” Cavallari also said, even though she has most certainly not ever read a single medical study.


Instead of vaccinating them, Cavallari apparently fed her newborn babies a homemade formula that included goat milk, which is not merely the wannabe-eccentric antics of a self-obsessed crunchy snowflake but demonstrably dangerous. Apparently, Cavallari based her decision on what to feed her children on whether the product in question was organic, natural and pure.


In addition to his work as an anti-vaccine activist, Cutler has also done (related) work as a MAGA activist, and has been a firm proponent of Donald Trump’s 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories.


Diagnosis: Now, who the f**k cares what celebrities think about medicine or science, you may ask. Well, a lot of people do, and stupid gits like Kristin Cavallari gets a lot of attention for her stupid choices. Cavallari’s vapid ghost-written garbage books sold in droves, and yes: it is hard to fathom what people could possibly hav thought they got out of them, but again: apparently they did.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

#2651: Andrea Catsimatidis

Andrea Catsimatidis is the chair of the Manhattan Republican Party since 2017 and a successful businesswoman in virtue of having had important positions in businesses owned by her billionaire father. Described as a “rising GOP star”, Catsimatidis has been a strident promoter of 2020 election conspiracy theories; already in November 2020, she askedIs Joe Biden planning a coup by trying to create his own parallel government?”, and later she asserted that “Corporate America helped rig the election.” After January 6, she was quick to forward debunked claims that Antifa activists were among the rioters (“I’m questioning the intelligence of anyone who didn’t think ANTIFA was involved. It’s so obvious!!!”), responding to criticism by asserting that her aim was to ensure all the evidence was considered so attackers could be brought to justice. That is a lie, of course. (It’s also worth noting that similar conspiracy theories were promoted by her billionaire father, climate change denialist John Catsimatidis).


Catsimatidis was not particularly sympathetic to the 2023 Manhattan district indictment of Trump either.


Diagnosis: Yes, a village idiot conspiracy theorist; Qanon conspiracies and rants against the elites (“they”) are standard fare among wingnut New York socialite billionaires, too. We have no doubts Catsimatidis has a bright political future ahead of her.