Friday, March 29, 2024

#2752: Jon Del Arroz

Yes, we realize that we seem to have turned into something closer to an encyclopedia of antivaccine loons of late, but what can we say? American loons have a tendency to be antivaccine, and antivaccine people are loons. So here we go again:


Jon Del Arroz is a science fiction writer (“the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction”) and moron with ties to Vox Day. He is also – you guessed it – an antivaxxer, as well as a general rightwing fundie conspiracy theorist, groyper wannabe and asshole, who believes that vaccines are not only dangerous but a means for active population control. So when Rockland county declared a state of emergency after a measles outbreak in 2019 and banned infected children from public spaces, Del Arroz described it as Rockland County having “in effect declared Martial Law on its citizens” in a move “very similar to government overreach in New Zealand based on one shooting – they’re grabbing all of the populace’s guns”. Yeah, distinctions … how do they work? But there are also conspiracies afoot (“Something smells fishy here”). Why? Well, “First, if vaccines worked so well and they made us all immune, why should we be panicked about someone having it?” asks Del Arroz, rather oblivious to the fact that not everybody is vaccinated and no one has claimed the vaccine provides 100% immunity so that the efforts to prevent of outbreaks would really benefit from herd immunity. “The truth is [Del Arroz is really following an anti-vaccine script here], most outbreaks of measles and mumps happen to VACCINATED people,” claims Del Arroz, which is flatly false. But his utterly false premises and general paranoia lead Del Arroz to conclude “all the shutting down discussion on any vaccine topic by shaming anyone trying to discuss it seems to have a deeper purpose.” Oh yeah: “are these used for something else, like creating a populace who ARE chronically diseased all the time and further dependent on the government healthcare?” asks del Arroz, though he is quick to pivot to “the discussions need to be had” if anyone were to correctly identify him as a deranged conspiracy loon on the basis of his nonsense. Well, the discussions about vaccines and vacciny policy have been had. There are tons of scientific literature and discussion. Del Arroz is of course not interested in those discussions since those are based on facts, and facts, like distinctions, sit poorly with Jon Del Arroz. 


Our own president ( said it: ‘Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!’ I’ve yet to see him be wrong,” says Del Arroz, which tells you a lot of his ability to and interest in even trying to look. Vaccines do not cause autism.


Del Arroz served as a consistent purveyor of antivaccine conspiracy nonsense throughout the COVID pandemic and was ultimately banned from Twitter. Before being banned, he posted a slew of conspiracy nonsense, including blaming a mythical increase in cancer rates among young people on injection of an “experimental mRNA editor”. He has also asserted that hat American Muslims should be “forcibly converted to Christianity” and complained that social media “suppress stories involved in QAnon” (no links provided).


Diagnosis: Blathering moron. But although it is not surprising that ignorance, paranoia and general bigotry would quickly lead you to conspiracy theories, the sheer number of people who have been led to conspiracy theories through ignorance, paranoia and general bigotry is a serious cause for concern.


Hat-tip: Pharyngula

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

#2751: Theresa Deisher

Antivaccine views have certainly gained populary in certain groups after Covid, but Theresa Deisher has been antivaccine for a long time, and remains as silly and nonsensical as ever to this day. Deisher is a proponent – perhaps the central popularizer (unless that’s Helen Ratajczak) – of the “aborted fetal DNA” gambit. Indeed, not only is aborted fetal DNA, which are not present in vaccines, immoral and toxic: it causes autism, as Deisher sees it. 


Yes, the explanation for what Deisher falsely thinks is an autism epidemic isn’t thimerosal (which was, after all, removed from childhood vaccines without a budge in autism numbers); it is that vaccines contain (they don’t) aborted fetal DNA. And what magical property of aborted fetal cells is it that gives them the power to cause autism, you may ask? “It creates the potential for autoimmune responses and/or inappropriate insertion into our own genomes through a process called recombination”. No it doesn’t, and although Deisher implicitly admits to having no actual evidence for the claim, she does refer to “groups researching the potential link between this DNA and autoimmune diseases”. Those groups would be ones affiliated with Deisher’s own organization, Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute (SCPI) (which “promote[s] consumer awareness about the widespread use of electively aborted fetal material in drug discovery, development, and commercialization”). Never mind that the hypothesis makes little sense from a biological and genetic point of view. But she does have a correlation, doesn’t she? Well, as she sees it, the switch to vaccines produced using aborted fetal cells correlates with what SCPI concludes are ”dramatic” increases in the rates of regressive autism in children. Since there is no autism epidemic, there is no correlation either, of course; rather, the correlation SCPI claims to see is, at best, a correlation with changes in diagnostic criteria ( and diagnostization of autism (but there is, to emphasize, absolutely no correlation between introduction of the vaccines Deisher complains about and changes in diagnostic criteria either). In short, assuming falsely that there exists an autism epidemic, Deisher adds the old and demonstrably false antivaccine idea that vaccines cause autism but concludes, without evidence, that the real culprit is aborted fetal DNA, which aren’t present in vaccines and couldn’t have caused autism if they were.


Deisher herself claims to be an “internationally renowned expert in the field of adult stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine”. For an internationally renowned expert, her scientific output is, to put it mildly, meagre. But the stem cell connection is probably significant – Desiher has “17 years of practice in senior scientific and corporate leadership positions concerning research, discovery, production and commercialization of human therapeutics”. Moreover, her scaremongering about vaccines should probably be seen in light of Deisher’s position as research and development director for the AVM Biotechnology, which promised to “offer ethical alternatives to some of the vaccines that currently rely on the use of fetal tissue form abortions”, marketed at “pro-life people who have been reluctant to use some vaccines because their development came as a result of the destruction of unborn children”. How convenient for AVM (which stands for “Ave Maria”) that such vaccines also cause autism, based on no evidence whatsoever.


Well, Deisher did produce a study in 2014 (with Ngoc V. Doan, Angelica Omaiye, Kumiko Koyama and Sarah Bwabye), one that was widely circulated in antivaccine circles (and promptly made it onto this list). It is an absolutely bonkers “study” with absolutely astonishing methodological errors that are hard to explain without citing motivated reasoning, as well as reliance on mechanisms that are, to put it diplomatically, biologically implausible. The study is criticized in some detail here and here (“the claims are so biologically and immunologically wrong that the entire letter is just a condensed list of fake claims and fear mongering that can be dangerous when read by someone that does not understand biology”). Why did it take so long for the study to appear, given that Deisher had already decided what the conclusion was going to be? Well, one hint can be found in noting that she had some trouble getting it carried out: a 2013 petition to have access to Vaccine Safety Datalink files to look for a connection between receipt of the varicella vaccine and autism was promptly denied because real scientists “found her proposed study to be critically deficient”.


Now, Deisher’s silly claims about DNA should at least make you seriously worried about the stem cell therapeutics she has been heavily involved in commercializing. And Deisher actually does have a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Physiology. She should know better, but she doesn’t. Indeed, with some of the same coauthors as in 2014, Deisher has followed up her paper with a series of “studies” that are even worse, like the one discussed here, and has even tried to use them in court – the courts were, unsurprisingly, not impressed. A couple of other, abysmal efforts are discussed here. At some point, it is hard not to suspect rank dishonesty.


And it is not like Deisher doesn’t have a history of rank dishonesty. As a staunch opponent of Planned Parenthood, she has been more than willing to use subversion to discredit that organization. Deisher was for instance instrumental in David Daleiden’s dishonest undercover sting operation in 2015 targeting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation programs.


More recently, Deisher has, like so many antivaxxers, thrown her lot in with the MAGA crowds, and has made appearances at wingnut happenings like AMPFEST20 together with a long list of QANON promoters.


Diagnosis: We recognize that her antivaccine efforts have presumably been boosted by personal tragedies, but those tragedies had nothing to do with vaccines, so interpreting them as having a connection is the result of already existing unjustified assumptions. And no amount of personal tragedy justifies the dishonesty and misuse of science to try to undermine public trust in one of the most important measures we have for preventing suffering and death.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

#2750: Katherine DeGraw

Demons are everywhere, and did you know that you may be worshipping and enabling them without even knowing? You do so e.g. by (perhaps unwittingly) participating in demonic rituals, such as celebrating Halloween. Oh, yes: if you thought dressing up to celebrate Halloween was harmless fun, think again: Halloween celebration is actually dangerous participation in demonic Satan worship. And incoherent fundies like Katherine DeGraw have taken it upon themselves to warn you.


DeGraw makes her case in her ebook Why Christians Shouldn’t Celebrate Halloween, heavily promoted by Charisma magazine, containing what DeGraw describes as nine “teachings” about Halloween based on the assumption that “[t]he demonic realm is alive and active”. Though people often recognize that “evil forces” drive actions like mass shootings, laments DeGraw, for some reason “when it comes to the pagan celebration of Halloween, we somehow do not see it as having the same demonic and evil impact as those other tragedies”. Part of the motivation for writing the book, seems accordingly to have been to try to sort out the mystery of how people could miss the obvious similarities between trick-and-treting and mass shootings when they’re virtually identical. “The effects of Halloween and human sacrifices are just as real. However, authorities – and the news media – simply don’t report them.” Did you see how elegantly she just threw “human sacrifices” into that sentence?


Meanwhile, Christians who see the holiday as harmless fun are “co-laboring with the works of darkness” and essentially supporting occult practices like having sex with demons and sacrificing babies to drink their blood. (Yes, the connection to QAnon is pretty direct.) Accordingly, DeGraw urges Christians to be on the “counteroffensive” against the “demonic realm”, which is conjuring up “curses, spells, vexes and other evil practices” in October to “destroy Christians, uproot prophetic destinies and come against the plans of God.” The most important step these fellow travelers could take is to repent for their past participation in Halloween the same way they’d repent for “pornography, masturbation, rape, stealing, or vulgar language.” “Why is Halloween any different?” It’s instructive to consider what types of ideas and assumptions you need to make to think that that is a good question.


Diagnosis: Dingbat insane, of course, and though we haven’t tried to trace DeGraw’s subsequent development, we wouldn’t be surprised if they led to the darkest corners of QAnon. Fortunately it’s hard to conceive of her rantings as having much impact on anything.


Hat-tip: Peter Montgomery @ rightwingwatch

Monday, March 18, 2024

#2749: Dusty Deevers

Dusty Deevers is a pastor, Christian nationalist, member of the Oklahoma Senate since December 2023 and a frontman and spokesperson for the ideology and principles of Gasht-e Ershad and the Taliban (he would use different terminology himself to obscure the relationship).


Deevers self-identifies as a “constitutional conservative” for marketing purposes, but doesn’t actually recognize the Constitution; instead, Deevers explicitly dismisses any notion of separation of church and state, has vowed to applythe word of God to every issue” and believes that the Bible “has prescribed governing and then He has also prescribed the means for our governing and that means is in accordance with His word. If we do otherwise, then we are essentially usurping the sovereign role of God through Christ, who has been seated above every power in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth.” Or, if it is still unclear: “Either you’re coming under the rule of God, your Creator […] you’re going to come under the rule of the serpent. So, it’s a serpentine theocracy or a rule of God, and there’s not a space in the middle.” Indeed, Deevers have emphasized, literally, his wish to take the US back to the 1600s, well before the Constitution and that liberty thing and those ideas of inalienable rights arrived to undermine good theocracy: “Why can’t I go back to a ‘Lex, Rex’ age [1644], or a ‘Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos’ age [1579]?asks Deevers.


Deevers also self-identifies as an “abortion abolitionist” and is the author (co-sponsored with Senator Warren Hamilton) of a bill classifying abortion as homicide, which would allow both doctors and mothers to be prosecuted and to potentially face the death penalty if charged with first-degree murder. The bill also allows for wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of fetuses. And for those who might be concerned about the relationship between anti-abortion measures and IVF, at least Deevers is clear: parents who use IVF are “waging an assault against God.” He also advocates ending no-fault divorce.


In 2024, Deevers also introduced a bill to ban all pornography, i.e. anything involving sexual acts, nudity, partial nudity, or any content that appeals to a sexual fetish, such as BDSM. According to the bill, anyone who buys, views, procures, or possesses porn would be punished by up to 20 years in prison, while anyone who poses for or otherwise assists or offers to assist in the production and distribution of such materials would be punished with a year in prison. Initially, he didn’t even bother to try to invoke the Constitution for that one, but instead lectured fellow lawmakers about how pornography is a tool of Satan and must be outlawed so people “can be set free” to give their lives to Jesus, and pointed out that anyone who views pornography knows that they are violating “the holy character of God”. This is spiritual warfare, said Deevers. But he also – perhaps dimly aware that someone who is a self-proclaimed “constitutional conservative” should pretend to care about the Constitution – eventually went on to claim thatOur Constitution says this very thing: We get our rights from God” (it most certainly says no such thing but “constitutional conservatives” are not the kind of people who care about distinguishing the Constitution from imprecise allusions to the Declaration of Independence), and that therefore God’s law, as Deevers interprets it, supersedes what the Constitution actually says. He has elsewhere proudly explained how the justification for bills he introduces is built entirely on provisions from the Bible.


As you might expect from someone like Deevers, he is also rabidly anti-vaccine and not afraid to deploy every anti-vaccine gambit and conspiracy theory in the book, no matter how silly. Deevers is particularly inclined to going Godwin, and he hasfor instance compared vaccine mandates to the Nuremberg laws. Before being elected senator, Deevers also claimed that governments were pushing the vaccine under the cover of utilitarianism, and “these were the same equations, the same moral principles that were used in the 19th and 20th centuries to immunize the society against becoming infected with bad genes, Jewish genes, low IQ genes” (it most certainly was not) – note also the presupposition that governments are intentionally using vaccines to kill people – before invoking the Nuremberg Code, which antivaxxers like doing but which Deevers seems to understand not much better than he understands vaccines: “You do understand what road this is heading down,” said Deevers. “If they can force you by utilitarianism to take a jab for a disease, they can force you to do it to protect you from people whose IQ is lower than yours or people whose skin color is different than yours,” just like governments being able mandate seatbelts (or restrict access to porn) means that they can also force you to commit genocide or put people in concentration camps, just like that. And they’ve done it over and over.”


Of course, Deever is not alone – indeed, the Oklahoma state legislature have been plagued by frothingly insane religious fundamentalist anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists for a while, such as governor Kevin Stitt, the aforementioned Warren Hamilton, state senator and creationism advocate Nathan Dahm and state senator Jake Merrick, former pastor at Tulsa’s Living Rivers Millennial Church (led by the militant anti-vaccine activist Paul Brady), all of whom, like Deevers, spent time others could have spent doing good in the legislature pushing for abortion bans and laws to block vaccine mandates.


Diagnosis: In fairness, Deevers is, as a senator, doing exactly what he promised he would do as a senator during his campaign. Unfortunately, what he promised to do was fighting for a kind of raw theocracy that would make hardened Taliban veterans blush. Completely insane.

Friday, March 15, 2024

#2748: Kayla Dee

In 2017, the Rochester Public School Board decided to take seriously a state law that requires students to be vaccinated for diseases such as measles, mumps and even chicken pox, to the consternation of local antivaccine loons, of which there seems to have been a number (more than 70 had to be ordered to leave school). The requirements weren’t really strict: exemptions were available for those rejecting vaccinations for health or religious reasons, but parents would have to fill out paperwork, something that apparently required too much investment in their children’s well-being or was too mentally challenging for some.

Local antivaxx mom Kayla Dee was one such. Angry with the law, Dee explained thatmy religious beliefs are if you get sick with something, it’s part of your plan in life. So, why get the vaccinations to try to prevent it? Yeah those diseases are going to suck if you get them, but if you live through them, great! If you don’t, that’s your plan in life. Also, medically, it’s against my beliefs because who really know what’s in these vaccinations?” Well, we know precisely what’s in the vaccines, but a much more pertinent question is: Why does Dee care, given her general view on medicine?


The scariest thing of all is that, in the present situation, Dee decided that she would be homeschooling her children while she fights against the state law. And she is allowed to that.


Diagnosis: No, this is not satire. Really. That she is even allowed to be in the vicinity of children is preposterous.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

#2747: Adrianne DeCotes

Adrianne DeCotes is a Manifesting Coach and Intuitive Guide. A “manifesting coach” is someone who helps you deploy the law of attraction, and is hence sort of a fluffy, rosy new age counterpart to a prosperity-gospel-promoting TV preacher. An “intuitive guide” is an old-fashioned psychic, rebranded for marketing purposes. In addition to providing coaching services, where she promises to help you “discover how to make manifesting easy, fun and automatic”, DeCotes also produces videos for YouTube with titles like “10 Signs Manifestation Is On Its Way”, which views like unfocused versions of pseudotheological rantings by fundie end-times preachers, repainted in pastel colors and glitter paint – they say very little of substance (this is all about spirit fluff substance is antithetical to all they stand for), but what little she says is profoundly silly.

DeCotes has also had a career providing “spirit guide readings”, where she would consult the Akashic Records to give you advice related to your spirit guides. Specific advice and information is, however, something self-declared psychics understandably need to be careful with, so she seems to have at some point modified her services to focus on “intuitive readings” about what areas in your lives you are being “blocked” from realizing according to your Akashic Records, claims that are a bit trickier to actually test insofar as the Akashic Records are inaccessible to ordinary people (you can pay for expensive courses to get access).


Diagnosis: This kind of thing is hugely popular, perhaps mostly because of the lack of substance (reality is hard and uncompromising, so it is best to avoid it), as well as its concern with ephemereal care and empathy. But what little substance you find is magnificently delusional. Now, there is nothing about DeCotes and her services that obviously stand out from a long line of providers of similar services; rather, she serves as a more or less random illustration of a trend that is disconcertingly popular. We severely doubt that she manifested the coverage she receives here, but she is of course free to interpret this entry as a summary of her file in her Akashic Records.

Monday, March 11, 2024

#2746: Carolyn Dean

Carolyn Dean is a conspiracy theorist, homeopath, naturopath, cholesterol denialist, anti-vaccine activist and promoter of her homemade “magnesium miracle” cure. Now, Dean did, in fact, have a degree from a legitimate medical school at one point in time, but her registration certificate was revoked in Ontario (where she was working) in 1995 because of unfit medical practice and disregard for the welfare of 36 of her patients; the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario correctly described her conduct as disgraceful and unprofessional. Dean, who was also a naturopath and graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto (she didn’t lose her ND degree), didn’t even try to contest the charges, but promptly moved to the US (ultimately Hawaii) to continue her practice of scamming victims with insane quackery.


The College case summary is instructive enough:


-       Dean used unscientific methods of testing, such as hair analysis, Vega and Interro testing, iridology and reflexology as well as treatment not medically indicated and of unproven value, such as homeopathy, colonic irrigations, coffee enemas, and rotation diets.

-       She did not individualize her patients and try to reach an appropriate diagnosis and treatment but rather pre-diagnosed them without individualizing them with her preferred nonsense diagnoses candidiasis and immunodeficiency problems.


Conspiracy theories

According to herself, her loss of a license was obviously an attempt by the “medical establishment to remove her, and the entire incident was “staged and fake removal of my medical license in Ontario.” Because of course there is a conspiracy afoot: “[t]he conclusion I draw from my experience with the medical establishment is that they will do anything they can – up to and including pushing people to commit suicide – to maintain their monopoly on disease care” because the conclusion that the whole world is in a conspiracy to get you is far more palatable than the obviously correct one that you made a mistake. She is currently the director of the pseudoscientific Nutritional Magnesium Association where she advertises herself as the “Doctor of the Future. And she currently also contributes to NaturalNews, which in any sane world should be diagnosis enough. (She has also, to add insult to injury or something, apparently also been a repeated contributor to Huffington Post).


The conspiracy theory complex she has built is elaborate. Of course, much of her work, including her articles and lectures, is heavy with irrational Big Pharma conspiracy theories (“the future of medicine is unfortunately in the hands of Big Pharma; it’s got nothing to do with patients anymore or even doctors for that matter”), and the list of people and organizations ostensibly in the pockets of Big Pharma is staggering. When the FDA is, as she sees it, harassing proponents of homeopathy just because they are earning money by promoting nonsense quackery to people in desperate situations, Big Pharma is the ultimate source. She frequently cites NaturalNews as a source for her claims, as well as a source for medical information.


But Dean is, perhaps most famously, author – together with several other deranged quacks (Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and, not the least, Gary Null – of the rather infamous 2005 paper Death by Medicine, published in the quack and pseudoscience outlet the Journal of Orthomolecular medicine, where they try to argue that modern medicine does more harm than good by examining statistics of deaths due to pharmaceutical drugs. Of course, the paper is blithely lying about many the numbers by wildly extrapolating, and even when the numbers are (more or less) correct, the authors misrepresent them and their significance (basically, anyone who dies during treatment in a hospital is counted as a death by modern medicine). There is a brief but telling takedown of their ridiculousness here, and a slightly more detailed discussion of the idea here. Despite its misrepresentations, errors and baseless extrapolations, the paper has become wildly popular in denialist and altmed circles, and has been widely used, despite its lack of quality and its sordid provenance, as a source for further speculation and extrapolations. Undeterred by facts, evidence and science, Dean went on to publish a book to speculatively elaborate on her misrepresentations in the papers, Death By Modern Medicine, with forewords by Joseph Mercola and Julian Whitaker, no less.


And as Dean seems to see it, the conclusion of the paper (and book), that modern medicine is killing you and not helping you allows her to reject science wholesale – not just the results of studies she doesn’t like, but the whole epistemological framework, including such features as evidence, accountability and accuracy – as vestiges of her grand conspiracy. And she has promptly gone on (or continued to go on) promoting various forms of pseudoscience and quackery free from and unfettered by concerns for evidence, safety, accountability or accuracy.


Magnesium woo

As for pseudoscientific panaceas, Dean’s quackery of choice is magnesium. According to Dean, more or less any health condition is caused or triggered by magnesium deficiency (yes, it’s the One True Cause for All Disease), and can be cured by buying her magnesium supplements. Indeed, Dean apparently sells her own, very special type of magnesium, ReMag, which is apparently better, so don’t you go ahead and buy whatever ordinary kind of magnesium you can get your hands on. 


Now, Dean admits that she has received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration stating that she cannot say magnesium can treat a disease because saying that it can treat disease would be lying. But, reasons Dean, the real problem she needs to circumvent is the fact that the FDA requires that drugs be tested for safety (and efficacy), so she must avoid committing herself to anything “that will make magnesium a drug and subject to drug testing,” insofar as (she doesn’t explicitly say that) her health claims wouldn’t fare well under testing. So Dean’s solution is to emphasize that her magnesium and vitamin supplements are not drugs because they haven’t been tested for safety or efficacy. Her live-radio website, for instance, contains a Quack Miranda Warning that also emphasizes “A vitamin is not a drug, NEITHER is a Mineral, Trace Element, Amino Acid, Herb, or Homeopathic Remedy. Although a Vitamin, a Mineral, Trace Element, Amino Acid, Herb or homeopathic Remedy may have an effect on any disease or the structure and function of any body system.”


So according to Dean, her magnesium and vitamin supplements can, in fact, cure practically all diseases. Magnesium, in particular, “helps to alleviate heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, arthritis, and asthma,” and is, in her words, a miraculous mineral (though again: “You may need a particular kind of magnesium [her ReMag] to achieve therapeutic levels”). As she sees it, “[i]f you were to list today’s leading chronic diseases, heart disease (angina, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol) along with diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, generalized inflammation, and toxicity are found at the top. Magnesium is a mineral and nutrient that when eaten or supplemented in the proper amounts and form, has had a miraculous healing effect on these and other serious health conditions” (she promptly added long Covid to the list in 2022, as a putative “new label” for magnesium deficiency). She has no real evidence for these claims, which are false, but since magnesium is, as she sees it, not a drug, she doesn’t need evidence (note that that’s actually what she says). “Evidence” is presumably something that belongs to science, with its oppressive focus on facts, reason, evidence and accountability, which are all just tools that Big Pharma uses to suppress people who wants to get your respect and money from just making things up. Instead of scientific evidence, Dean cites e.g. What Doctors May Not Tell You for her claim that 200 mg magnesium daily showed 80% reduction in migraines with 200 mg magnesium”, in direct contradiction with an actual metastudy on thequestion (which did admittedly not include What Doctors May Not Tell You). She also recommends homeopathic magnesium.


In addition to the real medical conditions her magnesium supplements can cure, she Dean’s claims to be able to treat non-real and nonsense medical conditions (and probably much more successfully, for obvious reasons), including yeast overgrowth syndrome, detox reactions, multiple chemical sensitivity, and electromagnetic sensitivity. As the reader probably recognizes, Dean is hardcore on chemophobia pushing: “Toxic chemicals are being found in all foods, all bodies of water, and all humans in every study performed.” And don’t try to tell her that the dose makes the poison or talk to her about the difference between trace amounts detected by sensitive instruments and poisoning. Science is dumb! Instead, Dean quotes “detox expertSherry Rogers, who thinks everyone should use far infrared saunas to eliminate (unspecified) stored environmental toxins (by unspecified mechanisms).


Her claims are summed up in her book The Magnesium Miracle, published in 2003 and updated in 2017, and briefly reviewed here. Her work is also promoted by the Nutritional Magnesium Association, an organization apparently devoted to hyping magnesium as the cure for all ills and featuring all manner of magnesium quacks.


Cholesterol denialism

Dean also belongs to a group we might not have covered as extensively as we should: cholesterol and statin denialists. Dean claims, in line with her general tendency to prefer conspiracy theories over reason (and especially over the possibility that there might be details she is missing or has misunderstood), that the American Heart Association “simultaneously is covering up statin side effects”, that cholesterol does not cause or increase the risk of heart disease, and that cholesterol levels above 200 are not dangerous. And to achieve a synthesis of her cholesterol nonsense with her magnesium quackery, she asserts that magnesium operates as a “natural statin” (natural statins are of course better than other statins) and keeps cholesterol in balance. And to turn that synthesis of denialism and quackery into money, she markets her “Total Body ReSet” bundle of dietary supplements for cholesterol, which will cost you $299. She also recommends clay baths and footbath detoxification.


She has furthermore stated that chronic inflammation is the cause of heart disease and that cholesterol is unrelated. That claim is, to put it mildly, not supported by scientific evidence, but evidence was of course never part of the package here. She also endorses the pseudoscientific nonsense of the British leading cholesterol denialist Malcolm Kendrick.


Dean is also an anti-fluoridation conspiracy theorist, and claims that she knows “that fluoridation of tap water is a disaster afflicting the population with an epidemic of chronic disease, including arthritis and cancer.” She cites Russell Blaylock, no less, as her authority. The claim is false, and Dean cites no evidence to suggest otherwise. The connection to cholesterol denialism? As Dean (though emphatically not reality) sees it, statins are potentially toxic fluoride compounds and may release fluoride ions that can irreversibly bind to magnesium, thereby contributing to muscle pain. That idea flatly contradicts elementary chemistry, but whatever. Fluoride atoms in statins are not released as ions.


Antivaccine views

Determined to get everything wrong, Dean is an anti-vaccinationist and has written several garbled and conspiracy-filled articles claiming that vaccines do not work, despite the fact that they obviously do. She is, for instance, the author or an article “The Politics of Mercury Poisoning in Autism” for something called Total Health Magazine, in which she touches on an impressive array of antivaccine tropes, including appeals to the largely mythical autism epidemic and citing safeMinds as an authorative source.


Diagnosis: Consistently wrong about everything (almost to the level of being genuinely impressive) and fundamentally disgraced as a consultant on anything related to health and medicine. Unfortunately there are i) people for whom being disgraced is apparently considered a virtue, ii) people in desperate situations willing to try virtually anything, iii) lots of people who don’t have medical expertise themselves and wouldn’t really be in a position to know what a dingbat purveyor of potentially dangerous nonsense Dean actually is when they come across the drivel she is producing for various outlets. As a result, Dean still has a victim fan base. And even after some 2700+ loons, that is genuinely shocking.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki; Harriet Hall @SciencebasedMedicine

Friday, March 8, 2024

#2745: John Dawson

Patricia Davis, proponent and inventor aromatherapy, ostensibly a form of vibrational healing (vibrational medicine that uses essential oils to (a) heal the “physical body” by affecting the “subtle body” or “energetic body”, or (b) contribute to personal and spiritual growth, is apparently British, and hence formally disqualified for an entry, even though she thoroughly deserves one.

John Dawson, however, is a champion of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and Seven Mountains Dominionism, and the founder (with Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier) and leader of something called the International Reconciliation Coalition (the words making up the names of these organizations appear to have been chosen more or less at random). And he is American enough, even though many of his organization’s efforts to promote hate, evil and insane fundamentalism are taking place abroad. Dawson himself apparently originally hails, like Ray Comfort, from New Zealand.


To give an indication of what kind of guy we are talking about, Dawson wrote (together with Jane Hoyt) the foreword to Cindy Jacobs’s book Women of Destiny: Fulfilling God’s Call in Your Life – taking Cindy Jacobs’s claims seriously is more than  enough to qualify you as a loon on its own. But Dawson is, in fact, the author of numerous books himself, and some of them have been frighteningly influential in dominionist circles, including Taking Our Cities For God and Healing America’s Wounds. Now, given the rather violent antics of the New Apostolic Reformation, you may sort of have an idea what the former might be about – and Dawson’s book was indeed one of the early guidebooks for applying the rabid fundie idea of spiritual mapping of cities to identify demonic strongholds (“you should have the census in one hand and the Bible in the other”) before using looting, violence, rage and prayer to expunge said demonic influences. Prayer is an important weapon in their arsenal: “The prayer of a human being can alter history by releasing legions of angels into the earth. If we really grasped this truth, we would pray with intensity, and we would pray constantly”; given its power, one would have hoped that people of Dawson’s ilk would restrict themselves to employing that one; unfortunately, they don’t.


As for Healing America’s Wounds, it might superficially look like a book calling for apologizing for the harms caused by genocide against Native Americans, slavery and other atrocities, but the angle it takes is … well, lunatic: what Dawson calls for is application of the principle, later central to the NAR, of Identificational Repentance and Reconciliation, a spiritual warfare tool to be used to overcome the resistance of ethnic, racial, and religious populations to converting to evangelical beliefs: you see, their resistance is really caused by demonic “strongholds” – that is, the groups in question (and their resistance to Dawson’s brand of religious fundamentalism) are really controlled by demons due to sins they or their ancestors have committed: Native Americans are controlled Baal, and Roman Catholics and Muslims by Leviathan and the demon the Queen of Heaven. And removing the demons to facilitate mass conversion requires the “taking of territory” along the lines of the tactics outlined in Taking Our Cities For God. At least unofficial NAR leader C. Peter Wagner recognized Dawson’s book as an crucial spiritual warfare textbook; his Fuller Theological Seminary students have been required to read it, and it served as the foundation for NAR’s “Reconciliation Walk” in the Middle East to apologize to Muslims and Jews for the Crusades and then convert them, in order to – in Wagner’s words – tear down the “primary [demonic] stronghold to blind the minds of Muslims and Jews to the gospel for centuries.”


Apparently, Dawson has a background as as a leader with Loren Cunningham’s organization YWAM, which continues to produce insane fundamentalists to this day, and he has even enjoyed a stint as president for that organization. Dawson is also deeply involved in the organization Toward Jerusalem Council II, which is devoted to establishing cooperation between NAR fundies and Messianic Jews for the purpose of converting Jewish people in large numbers, something that is crucial to ushering in the End Times.


Diagnosis: Though less obviously visible in the today’s loon landscape, perhaps, the lunatic fringes of the Taliban remains a force to be reckoned with in the US, and people like John Dawson continue, despite being raving lunatics, to wield a lot of influence. Still scary as hell.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

#2744: Kim Davis & Casey Davis

We really, really didn’t plan on giving these ones a separate entry, but for the sake of comprehensiveness and because we’ve managed to get some distance to the silliness: As many remember, Kim Davis was the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who became a martyr for the Christian right for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. I.e.: She refused to do her job, and refused to quit, and after a court order, a lawsuit, being jailed for five days in contempt of court, and agreeing to an arrangement where her deputies would issue the marriage licenses instead and she wouldn’t interfere, she promptly interfered. She then lost her bid for reelection and is currently on wingnut welfare.


Her subsequent activities include traveling the world as a celebrity with wingnuts like Harry Mihet on behalf of Liberty Counsel to spread the message thatsame-sex ‘marriage’ and freedom of conscience are mutually exclusive, because those who promote the former have zero tolerance for the latter.” Emphasizing that connection is important, since otherwise it would be somewhat tricky to avoid the obvious tension between what they were actually doing – campaigning against legalizing same-sex marriage in places like Romania – and what they claimed to be doing: “encouraging religious freedom”. Of course, their attempt to construe their efforts, including Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses, as a matter of religious freedom is hard to maintain if one cares at all for the facts, and the mask frequently slips. As Davis fan Randy Smith, leader of a group of supporters, illuminatingly put it: “at the end of the day, we have to stand before God, which has higher authority than the Supreme Court”. Or, in other words: nothing here really has anything to do with either the Constitution or religious freedom.


After her antics, Davis quickly acquired a number of fans, including Liberty Counsel (whose founder Mat Staver represented her in court), Focus on the Family and Jim Jordan.


Another notable fan was the county clerk of Casey County, Kentucky, Casey Davis (not related, but he apparently views Kim Davis as a “sister-in-Christ”), who launched a bike ride across Kentucky ostensibly to bring attention to the circumstances surrounding Kim – he “cannot let my sister [who at the time was among the most thoroughly media-covered people in the US] go to jail without my doing something to let others know about her plight.” Casey Davis pointed out that forcing him to follow the law is a violation of his rights and that he was prepared to die in the battle over gay marriage (“if it takes my life, I will die for because I believe I owe that to the people that fought so I can have the freedom that I have” – you keep using that word “freedom”; we don’t think it means what you think it means) and portrayed himself as a victim of the “war on Christianity”: “Christians just don’t have rights anymore” (i.e. religious fundies cannot force those who disagree with them to do what they want them to do) after the Supreme Court’s “unconstitutional” gay marriage decision. He also emphasized that his job is not to issue marriage licenses to gay people, but rather to tell gay people that they are going to hell, because divine laws “supersede” American law. Casey Davis, too, quickly rose to wingnut fame, for instance by serving as a centerpiece at the Values Voters Summit in 2015.


Here is Kim Davis describing, as she saw it, the persecution of Kim Davis. The description leaves little doubt that she deserves an entry here.


Diagnosis: Befuddled fundies who are deeply confused about the meaning of such basic words as “freedom”, “right” and “job”, and who deeply endorse their identification as victims of not being able to force others to live the way they’d like them to live. The religious right has of course been using them as props for all they’re worth, but hopefully they’re nearing their expiry date as wingnut props by now.