Monday, January 29, 2024

#2729: Melissa Curtin

Unfortunately for everyone, Steve Currey – leading champion of the Hollow Earth theory – died, which is indeed a pity since he would have provided some lighthearted relief in between all the sordid hate and dangerous nonsense we are currently covering. Now, Jerry Curry’s contributions to civilization aren’t entirely without comedic value either, but it turns out he’s dead, too.


Melissa Curtin’s contributions are decidedly less funny, though hardly less deranged. Curtin is an anti-vaccine activist affiliated with Larry Cook’s group Stop Mandatory Vaccination, and like most anti-vaccine activists, she likes to blame any health misfortune anyone experiences on vaccines, regardless of facts and evidence – indeed, finding tragic stories on social media or in mainstream media and blaming them on vaccines seems to be her main schtick.


For instance, Curtin promptly weighed in on the tragic case of Colton Berret (a case also quickly picked up by Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree’s anti-vaxxine conspiracy flick Vaxxed), a 17-year-old who had contracted transverse myelitis at age 13, something his mother but no evidence blamed on him having received the HPV vaccine: “Another tragic death of a child damaged by and caused from vaccines, and in this case, it was the Gardasil/Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine (HPV) that took his life,” concluded Curtin, fully unconstrained by facts and evidence, adding that “Colton is one of thousands of severely vaccine injured children who ultimately lost his life and succumbed to the toxic travesty of vaccine injury and damage.”


Large-scale, serious studies have found no association between transverse myelitis and prior immunization, including with HPV vaccines, which are safe and effective. Anti-vaxxers, of course, have their own “researchers” suggesting otherwise that they prefer to cite (i.e. anti-vaccine activist Yehuda Schoenfeld) instead of the real studies. But even if there were such an association, there isn’t really even a correlation between vaccination and transverse myelitis in the Berret case given the timeline and how transverse myelitis works. Does that matter to anti-vaccine activists? Of course it doesn’t.


Diagnosis: Silly and angry conspiracy theorist who seems to have found an algorithm for deranged reasoning she sticks to without hesitation and without regard for facts or evidence. But although she is silly, she is also part of a movement that is responsible for genuine harm to real people, not the least through their exploitation of people in tragic situations. So Curtin is at least as repugnant and as dangerous as she’s silly.


Hat-tip: Science-based Medicine

Friday, January 26, 2024

#2728: John E. Curran

Frauds are far too often allowed to continue to fraud happily along given the impotence of the institutions and agencies nominally charged with overseeing medical practices, though there are limits to how brazen you can be. John E. Curran apparently cares as little about those limits as he cares about his victims patients (and about facts) and has managed to land himself in trouble on multiple occasions. In 2008, for instance, the Rhode Island Department of Health suspended his health care practices, the Rhode Island Health Aid in Cranston and the Northeastern Institute for Advance Natural Healing in Providence, after he falsely portrayed himself as a physician and naturopath – Curran had listed ND degrees from various naturopathic pseudoeducational institutions as well as an MD from the St. Luke School of Medicine, none of which were accredited, and his website claimed that he was “certified” by Brown University, Duke University and Harvard University Medical Schools, even though medical schools do not “certify” people (he presumably bet on his target audience not being aware of that).


And what he offered at those practices was bullshit from start to finish: His “Complete Body Assessment” was a diagnostic program priced at $950 (including “an in-depth consultation regarding your health history and nutritional diet, BioMeridian Stress Assessment, Food testing (250 foods), Iridology, Chinese Tongue and Nail Analysis, Urinalysis, Blood Oxygen Level Testing, Heart and Lung evaluations, and a Full Body Thermography Scan”) and his “treatment” offerings included an impressive array of quack devices.


Like many quacks, Curran would commonly use blood samples to conduct nonsense tests to provide false and usually nonsense diagnoses, and then prescribe nonsense treatments that occasionally were not only useless and expensive but demonstrably harmful. He would for instance tell patients that they suffered e.g. from live parasites in their blood stream, severely reduced number of blood cells, worms in their blood, holes in their blood or life threatening diseases, and then diagnose them, using live blood analyses and Bio-Meridian tests (neither of which has any genuine diagnostic value, of course), before offering treatment programs costing between $200 to $10,000 and guaranteed to make no actual medical sense. Curran apparently managed to collect some 1.3 million by falsely telling victims that they suffered from (or would soon suffer from) life-threatening diseases or were near death.


Among his many nonsense products, a perhaps particularly notable one was his “E-water”, which ostensibly has the “synergistic healing properties as the water in Lourdes, France,” which might actually be true but not for the reasons his victims might think. It was ostensibly alsouniquely charged water wherein the molecules spin in reverse direction and emit electrical energy”, which is certainly not true (in the way a random string of letters is not true). He also sold his so-called “Green Drink” containing “a synergistic blend of all natural compounds that support and promote the body’s overall ability to fight and prevent disease”, which he falsely claimed to have formulated himself (it turned out to be a commercially available dietary supplement that he bought from a distributor).


Before that, in 2006, Curran was also convicted of mail fraud and money laundering. and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution to 338 victims. John E. Curran is, in other words, not among the good guys.


Diagnosis: Villain. Hopefully still in jail, but we don’t really know and recommend locking your doors if you live in the Rhode Island area.


Hat-tip: Quackwatch

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

#2727: Vernon Cupps

Vernon Cupps is a somewhat curious figure. Cupps has real scientific credentials and was a radiation physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory until his fundamentalism got the better of him and he joined the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) instead. There, he is what they call an “ICR Research Associate”, though his output – like those of the institute’s other associates – consists of apologetics, pseudoscientific denialism and painfully dim pseudo-philosophy. Cupps has added nothing to science, knowledge or civilization as an ICR Research Associate, but he lends the institution a faint sheen of legitimacy in virtue of his credentials.


According to Cupps’s post Modern Science and Vain Philosophy: An Ancient Deception in Our Midst, modern science might seem deceptively attractive as an explanatory scheme for natural phenomena, but it’s really a deception: As the Bible covertly suggests (“hidden truths”), “Satan consistently tempts his victims through both outright lies and subtle deception”, and a crucial piece of Satanic deception is the “deceptions of modern science that try to undermine the authority of God’s Word” by suggesting that the Earth is older than a few thousand years, that the Universe came into being through the Big Bang, and that animals evolve. According to Cupps, “naturalism has turned much of modern science into a dizzy array of conjecture, wishful thinking, assumptions, and will-driven consensus far removed from the constraints of true science, which rests on observation and reproducible experimentation.” It’s somewhat painful to see someone with a scientific background espouse such fatally silly misconceptions about science (hint: science rests on reproducible evidence – whether it is in history, biology or astronomy – not primarily on experimentation: chemistry is not the only scientific discipline). Then he laments how scientists confuse good Christians with facts and evidence, when in reality facts and evidence is just Satan-speak. Cupps expands on his misunderstandings (and throws in some confusion concerning laws and theories and plenty appeals to “same evidence, different interpretation”) here, asserting in passing that flood geology is equally valid as an interpretive scheme as real geology.


And Cupps is a committed young-earth creationist: “Six days” means six days and is no metaphor for millions of years: “Genesis doesn’t fit with deep time”. Fortunately, according to Cupps’ assertions and a substantial amount of wishful thinking and denial, “observations and reproducible experimental data support the biblical narrative better than any of the current scientific hypotheses such as deep time that appear to contradict both the Bible and the data.”


Diagnosis: Denialist fundie nutter. There are lots of them, though very few with genuine and borderline relevant credentials: As such, Cupps is an invaluable asset for the denialist movement and general sad case for humanity.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

#2726: Loren Cunningham

Loren Duane Cunningham is a fundie’s fundie and the founder of the international Christian missionary organization – often described as a “cult”Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and the fundamentalist University of the Nations (not a university in any meaningful sense of the word). Apparently, Cunningham founded the YWAM on the basis of a vision he had in the Bahamas in 1956.


The YWAM remains a proponent of Seven Mountains Ideology and is affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ. The guiding ideology is, accordingly, dominionist – part of their agenda is “fighting a spiritual battle to redeem the area of government” – although they admittedly tend to spread their agenda through charitable work and aid rather than explicit aggression. Indeed, Cunningham is one of the founders of the radical “Seven Mountains Dominionist” ideology, and he claims (of course) to have received the agenda and his marching orders directly from God.


Cunningham’s University of the Nations is a Bible school that is not accredited by any recognized accreditation body – they do have Forrest Mims on their affiliated faculty roster, which doesn’t exactly help. We can’t say that we’ve bothered to delve deeply into their courses and syllabi, but at least YWAM promotes the existence of demonic possession and the efficacy of faith healing. They are, of course, also virulently anti-gay.


Loren Cunningham’s son David Cunningham, by the way, is a documentary film maker known for deceptive wingnut propaganda pieces.


Diagnosis: Theocratic dingbat with an enormous and often devastating legacy. Probably semi-retired by now, but the damage caused by him and his organization won’t go away anytime soon.


Note: Cunningham recently just went ahead and died, but since we'd already written up his entry before we got the news, we decided to publish it anyway.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

#2725: Jeremiah Cummings

Jeremiah Cummings is a preacher, former member of the soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 1997. He is, however, probably most famous for his somewhat non-flattering appearance in Bill Maher’s Religulous. Cummings is a promoter of the prosperity gospel, which is the fundie idiot version of the New Age self-help rubbish law of attraction – with the twist, of course, that you also need to send money to him, Cummings, to make you wishful thining work, an act that will then make God answer your prayers if you pray well enough and in the right way. “Money comes, money happens”, says Cummings. “Call me Dr.,” asks Cummings, who apparently has no degree in anything.

Cummings justifies his scam in part by claiming that Jesus was all about getting rich: Jesus, as Cummings imagines him, “was not poor ... he was a well-dressed man” who wore “fine linen”. He even has a book, From Gold to Glory, to explain (or whatever) how things, according to him, hang together. His subsequent complaint that his appearance in Religulous ruined his career must accordingly mean that he isn’t doing things entirely right himself.

Diagnosis: Con man, though he probably believes his own scam. That said, he seems to have enjoyed a more subdued presence after Religulous, and we’re not entirely sure about his current whereabouts.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

#2724: Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist, author and speaker formerly affiliated with Harvard Business School, a position she left in 2017 to focus on her business efforts (though apparently she continues to have some kind of affiliation). Cuddy is a proponent of power posing, according to which the physical pose you assume will, thanks to real changes in your body’s chemistry, make you feel more confident, and she runs classes and seminars to teach people how to apply her idea.

And the thing is: She has done studies that do, in fact, suggest that there is an effect here. Unfortunately, her own studies failed to replicate and have since been rather decisively established as nonsense. Cuddy’s work was, in fact, a major and well-known instance of the replication crisis that hit social psychology (in particular) a decade or so ago. And fair enough: Real scientists can be wrong. That’s how science works.

What makes Cuddy a pseudoscientist and charlatan, rather than a scientist and reasonable person, is how she reacted to her hypothesis being rebutted. For did Cuddy admit that her hypothesis didn’t hold water and change her mind? Of course she didn’t. Amy Cuddy continued to stick with her conviction – after all, it could be monetized and make her popular, and she is currently running seminars and classes promoting her debunked idea. And though it probably has no impact on her earnings, she exemplifies nicely is the kind of intellectual bankruptcy that earns her an entry in an Encyclopedia like this.

Diagnosis: In some respects, Cuddy is worse than your regular internet loon and conspiracy troll; after all, Cuddy was, at one point, a legitimate scientist, and her trajectory may lend support to a more general distrust of science and scientists that her behavior makes somewhat harder to counter. But Cuddy has nothing to do with science anymore: She is a pseudoscientist, crackpot and charlatan, no less.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

#2723: Ted Cruz

Though Stephen Crothers has made an impact among free energy cranks in the US, he is, in fact, Australian and thus disqualified from an entry here on purely technical grounds (substance-wise, he’d be a good fit). So, having put it off for a very long time, we are more or less forced to say a few words about Ted Cruz – not much, for there are limits to how long we can stand having Cruz anywhere near our awareness; Cruz’s role in the wingnut clown show is as “the human equivalent of one of those flower-squirters that clowns wear on their lapels”: not only is he not funny, he is strikingly devoid even of the fascinating trainwreck charisma of, say, the Trump or Liz Crokin. There is a more comprehensive portrait of Ted Cruz than we can be bothered to provide, here.


That said, we aren’t for a moment fooled into thinking that Cruz actually believes any of the stuff he says. He might, in other words, be formally disqualified from having an entry here; yet his own persona is so entangled with nonsense and lunacy that we can’t very well completely skip him either. So just to cover the basics: Cruz is, since 2013, the junior United States senator, representing the Tea Party and whatever clown train serves his agenda, former solicitor general of Texas (2003–2008) under Governor Rick Perry, son of Rafael Cruz, failed 2016 Republican presidential candidate and general villain (former Speaker of the House John Boehner described him as “Lucifer in the Flesh”) who has managed to become enormously influential in the Republican Party. Cruz was also one of six senators who voted to help Trump try to steal the 2020 election. There is a rich array of episodes that each would sum up his general character (“What do you call that thing where a person has neither a moral center nor the social skills to conceal that fact?” was his college roommate’s summary), one of them occurring in early 2021, when Texas was hit with an unusually severe winter storm that left four million people without power and caused multiple severe infrastructure failures: Cruz decided to escape nagging voters by going on vacation to Cancun, Mexico, and when criticized for his decision, promptly blamed his daughters, which turned out to be a lie.


For our purposes, however, Cruz’s most notable trait is his science denialism. And note: Cruz has served as Head of the Senate Subcommittee for Science, Space, and Competitiveness. As what is ultimately the head of NASA, Cruz quickly asserted that NASA should completely forget about climate change or Earth sciences (then-director Charles Bolden had to explain to him why he is an idiot), and focus exclusively on the parts of the solar system that won’t produce data that conflicts with what he likes to believe. And Cruz does not (at least not officially) believe in climate change. He has spent large amounts of tax payer money on circus-show-hearings to question the objectivity of climate science, and has even compared himself to Galileo and climate scientists to Flat Earthers: “Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.” Yeah, it’s the Galileo gambit, and no: Cruz does not know who Galileo was, what Galileo claimed or who Galileo was arguing against. And it’s not the only stupid thing Cruz has said about climate science, of course; he has also said thatAnd many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem cause the science doesn’t back them up. And in particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever.” It’s a surprisingly common claim for one so devoid of foundation in reality.


Cruz has also called net neutrality “Obamacare for the internet”, which is an unusually stupid thing to say for someone (even) in his position.


On a personal level: According to himself, 9/11 made Cruz like country music because, apparently, rock music reacted badly to 9/11. “These are my people,” said Cruz of country artists. They are not his people.


Sorry, but this is as much Ted Cruz as we can stand. We’ll just add that as of 2023, he hasn’t gotten any better. Not by a long shot.


Diagnosis: “I do think in the media there is a tendency to describe conservatives as one of two things: stupid or evil”, said Cruz and promptly devoted himself to showing how to be both.

Monday, January 8, 2024

#2722: Robert "Lil Dog" Crooks

More minor morons – but this one from a group we haven’t covered sufficiently well: Robert “Lil Dog” Crooks is a militiaman and anti-immigration activist who, at least (still) in 2018, led a small band called the Mountain Minutemen guarding stretches of borderland in Southern California against the invading hordes from the south. But Crooks got some attention already back in 2007, when he produced videos appearing to show a Mexican immigrant being shot by vigilantes that was posted to YouTube and emailed to other anti-immigration activists: “This video shows how to keep a ‘Home Depot’ parking lot empty,” wrote Crooks, chiding other anti-immigration activists for daring to “talk the talk” but not “walk the walk.” When it dawned on him that authorities had taken notice, he quickly asserted that the video was a hoax.

He got some attention again for his involvement in trying to stop the “migrant caravan” in 2019 – a caravan of “cockroaches” and “ditch crickets but still part of a secret plot by Mexico to take over the Southwestern U.S., a conspiracy theory known as “la reconquista.” The ultimate goal, according to Crooks, was of course a “New World Order: These entities, these diabolical manifestations in this plane of consciousness [wtf?], they’re trying to destroy the sovereignty of this nation, and have been from the onset. It’s pushing for the New World Order, pushing for the elitist [?] takeover and the domination of and the destruction of America.” They are out to establish a “One world government, the Total domination of the human species.” Crooks has also done border patrolling with neo-Nazi Harry Hughes.

That said, not all enemies come from across the border, as Crooks sees it, and he has been involved with various conspiracy theory groups, including the Oath Keepers, in particular in connection with an effort to revive the Patriot movement back in 2009. He is also a supporter of Joe Arpaio, which is sufficient to qualify him for an entry here by itself.

Diagnosis: At least he is committed and tireless. Dangerous.

Friday, January 5, 2024

#2721: Michael Cronin

We have written about legislative alchemy before: the process of turning practices that look somewhat garbagey and is utter nonsense into something that looks potentially respectable but remains exactly as nonsensical and garbage as before through legislative alchemy: by adding an official stamp of approval (and nothing else) to said practices. It’s potentially gold for marketing among the practitioners of said, of course, but of no value in any other respect. And naturopathy is nonsense; it is a collection of almost any branch of pseudoscience-based quackery you can think of, including homeopathy (but of course), Ayurvedic medicine, applied kinesiology, traditional Chinese medicine, anthroposophic medicine, reflexology and craniosacral therapy. Legislative imprimaturs of authority doesn’t change any of that.

Achieving such licensing has nevertheless been a major goal of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) for a long time; when it failed to pass in Massachusetts back in 2013 (they’ve later succeeded), then-president Michael Cronin, ND, wasn’t just disappointed but feltanger at a process that placates the desires of the Massachusetts Medical Society over serving the health needs of the public and the desire of the Commonwealth”. Why real medical experts oppose naturopathy is left unexplained; there is probably a conspiracy. Notable, too, is the lack of honesty in the characterization regarding whom such licensure actually serves (it mostly serves to draw a line between themselves and their networks, on the one hand, and other practitioners of often indistinguishable quackery on the other – “[w]ithout licensure, it is difficult for health consumers to discern between natural health consultants and naturopathic doctors”, stated the Michigan Association in 2013, thus making it harder to protect the economic interests of members of their naturopathic networks). But he also urged his fellow NDs to continue fighting.

Cronin is certainly not a nobody in quackery circles. In addition to being former president of the AANP, he is the founder and first President of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona and a co-founder of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Naturopathic Physicians. He has also attended the WHO World Health Assembly as invited guests of the World Chiropractic Federation (unfortunately, the WHO has long served as supporter of quackery) and been, especially in cooperation with one Tabatha Parker, involved in the formation of a World Naturopathic Federation to help serve the economic interests of naturopaths everywhere (with Cronin as treasurer).

Diagnosis: No, not a wild-eyed, barely coherent conspiracy theorist (though given that naturopathy is quackery, and the recommendations and teachings of naturopaths are incoherent with science, knowledge, evidence and fact, you sort of have to invent a conspiracy theory somewhere in your narrative), something that ultimately makes him more dangerous to public welfare. Cronin has put in tireless efforts on behalf of quackery, and been more than a little successful, to the detriment of science, accountability and medical services everywhere.