Sunday, March 29, 2015

#1330: Jeffry John Aufderheide


There is a substantial number of blogs and websites out there devoted to anti-vaccine promotion; many of them claim otherwise, but it is often easy to gauge from the very name that we are talking some hardcore science denialism. Sane Vax is one such. Their official mission is “to promote Safe, Affordable, Necessary & Effective vaccines and vaccination practices through education and information,” and the underlying premise is accordingly that vaccines of today are largely unsafe (or not sane, which does indeed emphasize the lunacy of the group).

Jeffry John Aufderheide blogs for Sane Vax, and does so by combining utter scientific ignorance with paranoia in a manner that rivals the worst. He also writes for – indeed, was the founder of – VacTruth.org, the name of which is equally revealing. His article “WWII Military Handbook Reveals Pesticide Chemicals Used In Infant Vaccines” made its rounds in the expected parts of the Internet, and described Aufderheide’s shock reaction to discovering that some vaccines contain Triton X-100, Tween 20, or Tween 80, which, he discovered in said handbook, were also “used as major components of spraying operations of DDT.” And now, readers, you probably already see what conclusions Aufderheide is going to draw, and also why they reveal such abysmal ignorance of anything remotely resembling anything having to do with science. A sample: “To minimize the above information, you may hear arguments about the chemicals being safe because they are in hand soaps, ice cream, and in our lungs (natural surfactant). For the record, I’ve never seen a mother feeding or injecting a newborn with soap or ice cream. My word of advice to mothers is follow your intuition and ask a lot of questions.” That is some hardcore ignorance going on.

A similar level of crazy can for instance be found in his “History shows polio caused by pesticide exposure, then was eradicated by decline in DDT use.” Yes, it claims that polio was really caused by pesticides, and that doctors have been wrong all along. Do you need to know what his argument is? Oh yes, there’s correlation; that’s enough for Aufderheide, who has apparently never heard of the distinction between correlation and causation. Of course, the correlation doesn’t exist either, which even he might probably have discovered if he’d bothered to look more closely (probably not) – the decline in polio preceded the decline in the use of DDT. But I guess that “close enough” sufficed for Aufderheide.

Diagnosis: Yet another one. I don’t really know how influential Aufderheide actually is, but his articles sometimes get picked up by others, and whatever the amount of influence is, it sure isn’t beneficial.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

#1329: Susanne Atanus


A candidate called “S. Atanus”? Seriously? But the name is not the only thing that makes Susanne Atanus sound like a cartoon villain.

Now, primaries in election seasons tend to bring out some rabid lunatics, and Susanne Atanus is a fine specimen. Atanus was a candidate in the 2014 Republican primary for the right to challenge incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky in Illinois’s 9th district. She ran on a fundamentalist wingnut platform, and has for instance said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions. ” (Yes, she is also a global warming denialist.) “God is angry,” said Atanus. “We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions. Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.” Atanus had previously claimed that the stock market crash of 1929 didn’t actually happen.

She consequently won that primary.

Diagnosis: Good grief. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

#1328: John Assaraf


John Assaraf is, according to himself, a serial entrepreneur, brain researcher, and CEO of PraxisNow, a brain-research company that creates some of the most powerful evidence-based brain retraining tools and programs in the world. Sounds impressive? (no, he doesn’t provide any evidence – he has anecdotes, though; his target group probably won’t know the differece). Today, John researches, writes and lectures extensively around the world on the neuroscience of success and achieving maximum performance,” might lead you to suspect that scientific research isn’t really the main goal here. And it does not appear that Assaraf has any education even remotely related to neuroscience or consciousness studies. But he is sure interested in ”brain research, quantum physics, spiritual growth, health, exercise, travel, cooking, family, great food, friends and philanthropy.”

Did the word “quantum” just pop up in there? Oh, yes, it did. And now you probably have an idea about what kind of “neuroscience research” Assaraf promotes. Here is Assaraf on quantum physics: “They have proven that thoughts are what put together and hold together this ever-changing energy field into the ‘objects’ that we see,” says Assaraf. Our perceptions of objects in our environment are just interpretations “solely based on the ‘internal map’ of reality that we have, and not the real truth. Our ‘map’ is a result of our personal life’s collective experiences.” Change that map, and you can get rich: “Your life becomes what you have imagined and believed in most. The world is literally your mirror, enabling you to experience in the physical plane what you hold as your truth … until you change it.”

Yes, it’s the Law of Attraction, mixed with something resembling neurolinguistic programming. (And no, science has not shown what Assaraf thinks; his claims constitue an unsophisticated, bastardized form of Berkeley-style empiricism with conceptual schemes, with the incoherent thought that you can change your scheme at will; it’s not science, it’s badly misunderstood intro-level philosophy). You can nevertheless learn about it in his videos “Money2 The Neuroscience of Financial Success,” the sequel to “How to Earn $1 million.” Assaraf was even featured in the movie adaptation of The Secret. No, Assaraf’s interest in the science here isn’t particularly profound. But he does produce self-help books, of the most vapid, fluffy kind, backed up with vague tales of wonder and sheer woo.

Diagnosis: It’s really, really hard to believe that Assaraf is acting in good faith. But if he is … well, entrepeneurs may hail him as a success story, but his claims to care about science don’t even survive the most superficial scrutiny. Loon.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#1327: Ed Asner


Ed Asner is television, stage, and voice actor of some fame, and a former president of the Screen Actors Guild. He has been engaged in various work that I suppose many readers will be sympathetic to, and seems in most respects to be a good guy.

However, he is also a loon. Most significantly, Ed Asner is a 9/11 truther and one of the signatories to the organization 9/11 Truth’s 2004 statement calling for a new investigation into the September 11 attacks, a support he has later repeated. He also narrated the documentary film The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror. And as spokesman for 2004 Racism Watch, he wrote an open letter to “peace and justice leaders” encouraging them to demand “full 9-11 truth” through the organization 9-11 Visibility Project. Of course, Asner is not the only celebrity truther, and it there are apparently plans for him to appear in a movie September Morn with other truthers such as Martin Sheen and Woody Harrelson. And no, Asner isn’t one of those who “have a lot of questions;” Ed Asner is a “controlled demolition” promoter. It doesn’t matter what science or evidence says, since those scientists and evidentists are probably part of the conspiracy anyways.

Diagnosis: Doddering, confused fool. Probably not particularly harmful on his own, but he sure does his best to lend credibility to the batshit crazy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#1326: Cindy Asmussen


Cindy Asmussen is the Central Texas Area Director for the wingnut organization Concerned Women for America. They apparently have chapters all over the place, each of which apparently contains at least a few people like Asmussen (the south Texas area director, Pat Hanson, has for instance been involved in fighting the teaching of evolution and global warming in Texas public schools) – we won’t be able to cover them all, of course, but Asmussen can stand as an illustrative example .

So Asmussen doesn’t fancy gays. In 2011, for instance, she received some attention for her plea to boycott Macy’s over the company’s LGBT rights policy. In fact, Asmussen wasn’t just concerned about “the lesbian, ‘gay,’ bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) agenda in our nation;” she also complained against the Obama administration’s efforts to fight both legal and social discrimination against LGBT people around the world. Such efforts, said Asmussen, infringes on the rights of people who don’t support LGBT rights and undercut ‘ex-gay’ reparative therapy. And that, Asmussen, is the kind of claim that will land you an entry in our Encyclopedia.

Of course, Asmussen has deluded herself into believing that she is the victim: “LGBT activists want to alter OUR lifestyles by intimidating us into accepting what we know is not of God, by trying to inhibit our free speech rights and abilities to speak out against it, and by forcing us to use the same dressing rooms.” Yes, people like Asmussen say things like that, even though it is so ridiculous that no minimally reasonable person could actually consciously believe it is true. We are hence forced to conclude that Asmussen is repeating it without actually thinking about what she is saying. In other words, she is bigotbotting.

Diagnosis: Bigotbot.