Saturday, October 3, 2015

#1479: Paul Connett

Paul Connett is the executive director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), an anti-fluoridation activist group that has been somewhat successful in rallying doctors and dentists – people who look like they might have credentials (Connett himself, though, is a retired professor of chemistry) – together in his mission to destroy any attempt to add trace amounts of fluoride in water for the betterment of children.

Connett has been in the game for over 30 years, and his impressively large output has succeeded in scaring many local communities. A typical example is his pamphlet (created with the late John Yiamouyiannis) “A Lifesaver’s Guide to Fluoridation,” widely distributed to policy makers and concerned citizens (avoiding scientists, of course), which provided 250 references that supposedly backed up the claim that fluoridation is ineffective and dangerous. Though when a Ohio team traced the references, they found that almost half had no relevance to community water fluoridation and many others actually supported fluoridation but were selectively quoted and misrepresented. Which, of course, is how health scares and hysteria mongering work.

Connett’s masterpiece, 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation, lays out his reasons for why the scientific consensus is mistaken. Predictably, the reasons range from the ridiculous to professional twisting of statistical data and denying the clear and substantive evidence in a manner worthy of the fringe of the global warming denialist movement. He even has, prominently on the front of his webpage, “3,209 Medical, Scientific, and Environmental Professionals Sign Statement Calling for End to Fluoridation Worldwide.” Oh, weee. A better indication of crankery you’ll struggle to find. Heck, Connett even admits that among the signatories there are 458 chiropractors and 138 naturopaths. Counting as “Medical, Scientific, and Environmental Professionals”. Seriously.

The sordid story of his book The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There, coauthored with James S. Beck and H. Spedding Micklem, is related here. At least he’s popular with Joe Mercola, Mike Adams, and Alex Jones, and he has been showing up at the antivaxx quackfest Autism One.

Diagnosis: Oh, yes; yet another example of the bullshit that feeds Alex Jones and And yes, it is pseudoscience, crackpottery and conspiracies through and through.

Friday, October 2, 2015

#1478: David Conn

Another day, another disastrously insane wingnut. David Conn is a self-proclaimed expert on Jim Jones and his Jonestown cult. His novel contribution, however, is his declaration that President Obama is the reemergence of the Jones Cult mentality on a grand national level.” As he explained to Rick Wiles, who promptly invited him to his show to explain the details (yes, Conn is the kind of guy that passes as “expert” in these kinds of places): First off,” according to Conn, Jones captured the media and Obama captured the media. Jones had a strange childhood,” and similarly Obama also had a very strange childhood. You know, a father deserted the child when he two years old. Obama’s only father figure was a terribly nasty old man, a pornographer and a child molester and a cocaine user who was an avowed communist,” namely Frank Marshall Davis. According to Conn, “it’s pretty well established that Frank Marshall Davis was the one that got Obama into cocaine. And also, both of them, Jones and Obama, had a background of community organizing.” Can’t argue with that, can you?

More importantly, though, Obama is a leader of a massive cult himself. He’s the leader of the cult and the cult is Islam and he leads it by way of being its major Western world defender,” and he’s leading America to cultural suicide. He’s accordingly far more dangerous than Jones, because already what’s going on has caused, I think, enormous amounts of people who have just lost everything they’ve had and who knows how many suicides.”

Diagnosis: The comparison is, indeed, telling – it doesn’t say much about Obama, of course, but quite a bit about what kind of hysterically insane delusions certain loons on the far right is currently trying to mainstream.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

#1477: Nicholas Comninellis

Dumpster diving in the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism also produced today’s entry. Nicholas Comninellis is Associate Professor of Community and Family Medicine at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. We have been unable to locate any actual research output for Comninellis (doing science is not a prerequisite for signing the Discovery Institute list), but he is at least the author of several creationist books, including Creative Defense: Evidence Against Evolution, which apparently argues that “[p]hilosophically, the dogma of evolution is a dream, a theory without a vestige of truth,” whatever that means (it certainly doesn’t suggest a discussion of the scientific evidence for that scientific theory). He has also produced Darwin’s Demise: Why Evolution Can’t Take the Heat, which helpfully demonstrates how its central argument relies on wishful thinking in its very title. Harun Yahya is apparently a fan of Comninellis’s writings, which for someone dabbling in biology is the equivalent of being endorsed by Craig Paul Cobb if you’re doing political theory.

Diagnosis: Crackpot who hates science (and philosophy) since it threatens the beliefs he arrived at by non-evidential and non-rational means. I suppose that since he is, in fact, affiliated with a real educational and research institution it’s a good thing he is so open about his anti-science attitude. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#1476: Monica Cole and the "One Million Moms"

The group One Million Moms was created to promote a boycott of JC Penney over their choice of Ellen DeGeneres, a “strong gay activist” because of her support of same-sex marriage, as a spokesperson. The group, which seems to have missed the million members mark by some distance, prides itself on the promotion of Family Values™ and similar hate ideologies and is, of course, particularly focused on homosexuality. JC Penney was not impressed by their campaigns, but the organization has continued its fight against decency and civilization by focusing on a variety of other targets, as an arm of the American Family Association.

Monica Cole, the director, has for instance made an effort to have Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye censored from Common Core because “[t]his book is no different than pornography,” particularly because of one character’s “use of the Lord's name to justify his [perverted] actions,” which is apparently an attempt to brainwash kids into violence and sex slavery or something. Other targets for the group include Wicked (a recipe for “how to get away with murder”), Macy’s (because of a “kinky boots” performance), Graham crackers (because of Honey Maid’s “disrespect of millions of American families by supporting the homosexual agenda”), The Gap, The Fosters, the show Lucifer (because it is “not only disrespecting Christianity and mocking the Bible, but it can mess with people's eternity”) and The New Normal, which according to Cole shows how Hollywood “continues to attack Christian values, conservative values, the traditional family,” while mourning that “the moral decay in public airwaves is continuing.” Among their more recent targets is Tylenol, after a gay couple showed up in one of their commercials. The ad claimed that “[f]amily isn’t defined by who you love, but how,” and Cole responded that this message illustrates that “Tylenol is just contributing to the collapse of the family.” Just think about it.

How successful have they been? In June 2015 Cole at least bragged about having had the television show “Black Jesus” cancelled, which must be news to Cartoon Network, who renewed it in December 2014.

Diagnosis: At least Bryan Fischer shows some originality; Cole is mostly just boring – the same old non-arguments and non-reasons to provide a feeble cover for very mundane hatred and craziness. At least her influence appears to be far more negligible than she seems to think.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#1475: Suzy Cohen

A.k.a. America’s Pharmacist™ also A.k.a. America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist®

Oh, yes, after reading this far you already know everything you need to know. Suzy Cohen apparently has some training as a pharmacist, a background she uses for what it’s worth in her (probably unintentional) efforts to mislead people with real (or imagined, but probably often real) illnesses and conditions through her syndicated column Ask the Pharmacist – and no: If you have a health-related problem, you definitely shouldn’t.

Coffee enemas, anyone? Yes, some people actually believe that you could derive tremendous health benefits by simply shooting that coffee directly into your rectum. The idea is precisely as silly and unsupported by anything resembling evidence as you would expect, but Cohen is on board. According to Cohen (but emphatically not reality) “coffee enemas may help relieve constipation, insomnia and cognitive problems; they may eliminate (or control) parasites, candida and other pathogens (without disrupting intestinal flora).” And hey, “[c]offee enemas are frequently used in natural cancer protocols such as the Gerson Therapy.” Yes, that Gerson therapy. It is, of course, all about the toxins: “You are exposed to a barrage of toxic compounds in your life, you can easily become overloaded. Some of you cannot detoxify properly. Coffee enemas help you make glutathione, an antioxidant and that sends poisons packing,” says Cohen. She doesn’t specify which toxins, of course. Nor does she provide any citations or even gesture toward any remotely coherent mechanism.

And for Huffington Post, Cohen has given us the rather deplorable article Feel Bad? It Could Be Lyme Unless Proven Otherwise,” in which she claims – you guessed it – that any otherwise unexplained maladies or feeling less-than-perfect may very well be the result “chronic Lyme disease,” which is almost certainly not a well-definable diagnosis. The lack of a proper definition has, unsurprisingly, not prevented a whole industry from forming around non-evidence-based treatments of this nebulous condition. Cohen, however, seems to base most of her information on the work of Dr. Richard Horowitz, one of several self-styled Lyme-literate medical doctors and brave mavericks who have made a career of diagnosing and treating conditions not recognized by mainstream medical science.

Cohen is otherwise “passionate about natural medicine” and promotes a number of nonsensical treatments, from Bach flower remedies to acupuncture for tinnitus. She has also said that “Antibiotics are actually derived from mold/fungus so it’s recommended that you avoid antibiotics if you have any fungal infection or various immune system disorders.” Yeah, that’s the level at which her understanding of biology and medicine is pitched. It hasn’t prevented her from writing several books.

Diagnosis: Crazy crackpot and pseudoscientist. Stay far, far away.