Monday, December 27, 2010

#124: Anna Falling

Anna Falling ran for the office of mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2009 (as far as I can see, she didn’t win it), and her top priority for the city – her number one issue? To get creationist displays installed in the Tulsa zoo so that “[God] shall not be shunned” in Tulsa.

She also said that “the next mayor needs to appoint people to city boards, authorities and commissions who will ‘honor God.’ […] We will also look for people who want to characterize the origins of both man and animals in a way that honors Judeo-Christian science that proves God as the creator”. Notice the insertion of “Judeo-Christian science” here.

One would, perhaps, assume that (apart from the sheer insanity, anti-scientific attitude and ignorance (also about the Constitution) behind the proposal) Tulsa would have more pressing matters to attend to. But Falling was adamant that she had her priorities right: “It's first. If we can't come to the foundation of faith in this community, those other answers will never come. We need to first of all recognize the fact that God needs to be honored in this city.”

Diagnosis: Severely intellectually challenged space cadet; belligerently ignorant. She is, of course, one of an endless row of such people, and insofar as she doesn’t get elected her impact will be limited.

#123: Dave Emory

Dave Emory is really on the good side. Unfortunately, he’s been staring into the abyss for a little too long and has come away not entirely unscathed. Good intentions and a spine is no guarantee against insanity.

Emory is a radio personality who has run a variety of shows. He describes himself as an anti-fascism and anti-Nazi activist, and is a staunch critic of dangerously malfunctioning crackbots such as David Irving. The problem is that Emory sees Nazi and Fascist conspiracies everywhere, in governments and secret societies around the world, and himself as the lone hero who can unmask them (here, and here). His shows deal with fascism and neo-nazi movements and regular topics such as the banking crisis, corporate influence over government and so on, but tend to slide into discussions of the Kennedy assassination, its obvious connection to the the FBI, of German-controlled industry and banking, the Muslim Brotherhood, 9/11, the Bush family (connected to Bin Laden and the Third Reich, the P-2 Lodge, organized governmental disinformation, mind control of the HAARP/New world order kind and other things.

His main theory is the existence of an “Underground Reich”, which maintains the long-term interests of German-based multinational conglomerates, which is a survivor of WWII (partially run by Nazis), and which currently flourishes as major parts the global capital elite today. Among other things, he asserted in 2008 that the US was about to walk into a nuclear trap in Iraq set up by the Underground Reich in cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood (See here. He seems, in general, to emphasize a connection between Nazi Germany and current radical Islam – in the sense of a conscious, determinate effort (the link also extends to the American conservative right and international companies)).

His website is here. There’s lots of information there, some of it probably accurate and important. Unfortunately you cannot really take anything Emory says for granted, and much of it is simply batshit crazy.

Diagnosis: Well-intentioned but over-zealous and clearly deranged loon. Emory should stand as a warning to all.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#122: Trace & Beth Embry

After a series of major figures (Drake to Egnor) we’re currently doing a number of less distinguished miscreants of the looniverse. Less distinguished does not mean less deranged, just that the impact they have occurs at a slightly more local level.

Trace and Beth Embry are, at least, utterly insane. They run what is known as “Shepherds Hill Farm”, which is a “wilderness therapy program”. That is, it is a behavior modification facility marketed as a Christian Boarding School. Here parents, for the modest sum of $58,900, can sign over parental guardianship for their troublesome young (sinners who quarrel with them, fail to honor Jesus appropriately, has some sort of behavioral condition the Embrys don’t recognize as anything but the devil’s work, and so on). Here the kids live without electricity or contact with the world in the forest and are repeatedly told that they are despicable sinners who will burn if they don’t change their sinful ways and that their parents are equally horrible people who have failed them (Trace and Beth are now their parents). The schooling is strictly Christian – science classes are adamant that evolution is a Satanic lie and primarily rely on Kent Hovind’s writings (an emphasis on very careful explanations of the abominable nature of homosexuality). Apart from that, school for the most part consists of reading from the Bible. A personal recount is here.

Myers weighs in candidly here. Of course, the Embrys have absolutely no clue about mental health issues – which is what they appear to claim to deal with at the camp.

Their website is here (at least Trace’s own website). Here you can among other things download podcasts explaining the relationship between depression, ATD, modesty, sin and the Bible. Or there's also this site featuring Trace and one Walt Reed, who must also be indicted as a complete loon.

Diagnosis: Vile, deranged, and insane Jeebus-nazis. They may mean well, but their evil through ignorance is overwhelming (and, heck, their greed suggests that they may not be having the best of intentions either). These people are truly dangerous and would, if reason and moral considerations reigned, have taken down business a long, long time ago.

#121: Joe Ellison

Another minor and eminently forgettable figure, Ellison is the vice president of the Council on Spiritual Principles, Richmond VA, whose main claim to fame is his endorsement of Pat Robertson’s explanation for the Haiti earthquake (he claimed to speak as “an emissary of the black community): "I know his comments angered a lot of the so-called, in my opinion, liberals […]. From a spiritual standpoint, we think the Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, in the past, with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin, and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study the history know that what Dr. Robertson said was the truth." As far as I can see, there are some hidden premises in that inference that remain, shall we say, unsubstantiated.

Ellison is also “declaring war against Planned Parenthood,” pointing out that “[w]e’re asking pastors to shut them down in the community. We’re asking pastors to pray them out. And we’re asking Planned Parenthood to leave our children alone”.

Diagnosis: Completely unhinged, of course, in a very predictable way. His influence is probably limited, but he seems pretty zealous.

#120: Dallas Ellis

A completely unimportant schmuck, Dallas Ellis is a pastor and, uh, hobby-scientist who apparently attempts to emulate the intellect of the great Ray Comfort when it comes to scientific rigor and brilliance. His only claim to fame is the circulating clip of a public hearing in Orlando when people were allowed to stand up and explain their views on evolution (this was before the Florida wedge proposal met its timely demise). As an argument to match Comfort’s banana argument, I give you Dallas Ellis’s argument from oranges.

The basic argument is that no commonsensical person could conceivably believe that people or pets could be related to an orange – hey, round orange fruits ain’t looking nothing like furry, cute animals that jump around and lick your face; hence evolution is bunk (the fact that he doesn't notice that an orange isn't really an organism and that the analogy from the very start is like questioning whether I'm related to my grandmother's left foot, is the least of his problems).

If nothing else, he kinda elevates the argument from ignorance fallacy to an art form. More here.

Diagnosis: Astoundingly moronic nincompoop. Probably relatively harmless.

#119: Michael Egnor

Egnor is a neurosurgeon and creationist, and one of the more recent additions to the Discovery Institute’s rooster of loons. He is also an idiot. His main anti-science strategy is attacking materialistic neuroscience and an attempted revival of dualism (taken up also by e.g. O’Leary), completely oblivious to any of the literature on the subject (and to fallacies such as the fallacy of division and denying the antecedent).

One of his primary arguments against materialism, for instance, concerns altruism, and the argument is that since altruism does not have the properties of matter it cannot derive from matter (no, the fact that this is a silly, often-refuted idea has passed him by completely). More specifically, matter has certain properties like location, temperature, and divisibility while ideas and concepts do not have these properties, therefore ideas and concepts cannot derive from matter (wonder whether he would see the category mistake if he tried “democracy” or “computing 2 + 2” vs. computer programs). He also claims that if altruism derived from the brain than when someone walked around in a room, or changed one’s bodily position, it should “change” your altruism. It also follows, according to Egnor, that if you take a chunk of random brain that chunk should have a proportional amount of altruism inside it. Yes, it is that silly (in fact, it is pure choprawoo. More here.

He doesn’t like evolution (the old canards, see here and here. He doesn’t understand “information” either (nor information theory): here and here and here. The examples are really plentiful. For some horrid quote-mining (-mangling), this one is good. And, of course, Darwinism has nothing to contribute to medicine: here, here, here, here, here, and also here.

As liars for Jeebus are wont to do, he also brazenly attempts to reconstruct history.

The term “egnorance” has been proposed to be defined as “willful ignorance”. Egnor is also a prime example of the notion of “crank magnetism”.

Ok – lets just cut straight to it. Michael Egnor hates science; Darwinism, medicine, climate science, physics, you name it. And as all good kooks, he is convinced that he is being persecuted for it (distinguishing criticism and persecution is obviously tough).

Diagnosis: Blissfully ignorant, total moron and dependable fallacy generator. He is relatively prominent among the Discovery Institute Crackpots, and might actually prove to be dangerous; see more here.

#118: John Edward

John Edward is an alleged mentalist who tricks, consciously or not, people into thinking he is talking to the dead, and is most famous for tricking money out of desperate people by offering them to communicate with the spirits of his audience members' deceased relatives.

To appear convincing, the John Edward shows are heavily edited and uses plants (people in on the deal placed at random in the audience; their job is to speak to the audience members whose relatives Edward is supposed to communicate with then relay that information to Edward - see here, and here). Chances are, in other words, that he's a fraud, but since he might still believe that he has some sort of supernatural powers, and I think his inclusion in our encyclopedia is justifiable.

His technique (apart from the obvious cheats) is mostly cold reading.

It seems that he is able to fool Sean Hannity, but I don’t think convincing Hannity is evidence that there is something worth considering in your claims. He has actually been considered one of the five greatest psychic frauds of all time (entering right after Sylvia Browne). Apparently Oprah likes him as well (which does to your credibility approximately what “endorsed by the Discovery Institute” would do).

More here.

Diagnosis: Might be a fraud, but likely believes in the stuff he is doing. In that case he would have to have utterly succumbed to confirmation bias – but he has displayed no affinity for critical thinking anyway. Must be considered vile for his ability to pressure money out of people in difficult situations. Seems to be relatively popular, although the efforts of people like James Randi and Derren Brown have helped make people like Edward seem like the fringe loons they are.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

#117: Cynthia Dunbar

Perhaps the most influential loon in our Encyclopedia, at least in 2009-10 – her antics caused severe, maybe irreparable damage. Hopefully, her power to do harm may have abated, but I’ll be reluctant to write her off.

Dunbar is a lawyer and author in Richmond, Texas and currently a Republican representative on the Texas State Board of Education. She is a graduate of Regent University School of Law (Pat Robertson's university) and teacher of law Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. In other words, she has a fake education, and her lack of real knowledge or understanding is displayed by her utter stupidity, lack of knowledge and understanding, her anti-science anti-intellectualism, ignorance, dishonesty, zealous conspiracy theories and general wingnuttery.

In 2006 she won the Republican nomination for the Texas State Board of Education for District 10, claiming that people voted for her because she supports teaching intelligent design in science classes. So what else does she stand for?

Her book “One Nation Under God” argues (asserts) that the Christian religion should be more prominent in the public square and championed by the government. She is herself a homeschooler, and also claims that public education is a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion" and that "the establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even 'tyrannical'." (here
- because, of course, they disagree with respect to whether schools should actively promote Christian reconstructionism of Barton’s or DeMar’s styles, or creationism).

What has she achieved? As a member of the Texas State Board of Education, in March of 2010, she proposed and won ratification of a number of modifications to Texas K-12 social studies curriculum, including the removal of Thomas Jefferson and mention of the Age of Enlightenment (i.e. any implication that reason should be the foundation for authority; more here). More precisely, the previous formulation:

- “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.”

was changed to

- “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” (important enlightenment thinkers such as Aquinas and Calvin were added, in other words)

So Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, had to go. On the other hand, a new focus on the "significant contributions" of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war was added. Furthermore, the study of Sir Isaac Newton was dropped in favor of examining scientific advances through military technology; and she suggested an amendment to the effect that the anti-communist witch-hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s may have been justified.

Another curriculum amendment describes the civil rights movement as creating "unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes" among minorities, and at the same time drops references to the slave trade in favor of calling it the more innocuous "Atlantic triangular trade".

Dunbar says these are important steps to overturning what she believes is the myth of a separation between church and state in the US (she is, with DeMar and Barton, explicitly endorsing the view that the United States was ultimately governed by the scriptures.) In fact, she thinks government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” She endorses a system that requires “any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.” (in other words theocracy, Taliban style). Here is her prayer before the board voted to distort history for Texas’s kids. And here is an intelligent discussion of the system that allows such loons through to positions of influence. Another of her public prayers is discussed here.

If you have children in Texas, you should move.

She is, of course, a pathological liar, but I suspect it is unintentional – this nitwit wouldn’t be able to distinguish truth from falsity if it hit her with a shovel.

She has also written (for the Christian Worldview Network website) that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration would more likely "be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny." As if ayatollah-sycophant Taliban theocrats such as Dunbar would be able to distinguish tyranny from freedom.

She is also a birfer who thinks Obama is, secretly, a muslim.

Diagnosis: Total moron, and probably one of the loons that has caused the most harm of all the loons covered thus far. She is off the board now (she didn’t run for reelection), but much damage has been done, and it doesn’t mean she won’t reappear elsewhere.

Also indicted is fellow board member, Democrat Rick Agosto, who aligned himself with the Taliban on most issues concerning education. Do not forget him. The abominable Ken Mercer will get his own entry (Barbara Cargill has already got hers). As mentioned, Dunbar was not herself running for reelection in 2010, and her handpicked successor Brian Russell (equally lunatic) lost the runoffs. At least a glimmer of hope for the future of sanity in Texas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#116: David Duke

David Duke is a radical far-right wingnut. A former Ku Klux Klan member, a member of the National Socialist White Peoples Party, and founder of the student chapter (LSU) of the White Youth Alliance. He actually wore a Nazi uniform to campus, and later worked to revive the Ku Klux Klan before founding a “more professional” organization, the National Association for the Advancement of White People. He is currently frequenting Stormfront.

He has repeatedly run for public offices on Democratic, Republican, and Populist party tickets, and actually managed to get himself elected to the Louisiana state senate in 1989 (he also ran for governor, and lost with a frighteningly small margin to a rather openly corrupt and morally contemptible opponent). He has recently been a strong supporter of the Tea Party, lending them credibility by asserting repeatedly that the Tea Party isn’t racist (argument by assertion). He describes himself as a “racial realist”.

So what’s he been up to lately? Well, he was not particularly happy that the Republican National Committee elected Steele as chairman, or more precisely: “I am glad these traitorous leaders of the Republican Party appointed this Black racist, affirmative action advocate to the head of the Republican party because this will lead to a huge revolt among the Republican base.” (full story here). Due to his impeccable credentials, Duke has also been one of the “scholars” (he holds a “PhD” from a Ukrainian diploma mill with the thesis “Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism”) the Iranian government has consulted to hammer out their view on the Holocaust.

His tie to Tony Perkins’s (utterly lunatic) Family Research Council is interesting. So is the (admittedly more tenuous) link to the Floria GOP.

Some lovely quotes here.

His wiki page is here.

In 1976 he also published a self-help sex manual for women on how to perform fellatio and anal sex, under the pseudonym Dorothy Vanderbilt (just a curious piece of trivia).

Diagnosis: I’ll leave this one to you. His ability to reappear almost everywhere is a bit scary.

#115: Peter Duesberg

Peter Duesberg is a prominent U.C. Berkeley retrovirologist and the most prominent and influential of all HIV deniers (here, and here). His personal influence and his scientific acumen in non-HIV-related work surely helped spread the word, and he must be considered the grandfather of all HIV-denialism (they all seem to trace back to him). He has contended at least since 1987 that illicit drugs, AZT (an anti-HIV drug) and other factors are the real cause of AIDS. His ideas have evolved little from his publications of 20 years ago – it’s still “Chemical AIDS” and “HIV is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause AIDS”; he has also pointed out the “gay lifestyle” (oblivious to the fact that the problems in the developing world is not a “gay problem”, although he has claimed that AIDS in Africa is largely misdiagnosed, usually accumulated effects of malnutrition and disease). His criticisms have been thoroughly refuted in a long number of publications, which hasn’t affected his arguments.

Through persistence he has attracted a many supporters, especially among HIV positives, who are not only given false hopes, but may also be encouraged to avoid effective treatment. In 1999, HIV denialism got its most important advocate: Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa. Mbeki, influenced by denialist literature, decided that the consensus on Aids was too Western. In 2000 he set up a panel of advisers, including several Aids denialists, Duesberg among them. Mbeki’s HIV politics are estimated to have cost at least 300,000 people their lives, and he is without doubt guilty of crimes against humanity. Duesberg is an accomplice.

Duesberg is also associated with the fringe organization “Doctors for Disaster Preparedness”.

Some helpful criticisms are found here, and here.

These posts are, I think, very helpful when dealing with this kind of person: here, and here.

Diagnosis: A serious threat to humanity – seriously. Once a respected scientist, Duesberg has fallen deeply into denialism and must be considered at least partially responsible for the death and suffering of many real humans. Undoubtedly one of the most dangerous and influential loons in the whole Encyclopedia, and cannot be underestimated.

#114: Dinesh D’Souza

One of the more well-known, and rabid, creationists and apologists out there. As a Christian author he has managed to concoct such literary masterpieces as “The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11” (basically: our liberal lifestyle, equality and freedom anger mullahs; therefore we should do away with it – here, and here) and “What's So Great About Christianity (?)” (where he attempts to appropriate the term “evolution”, but distinguishes “Christian evolution” (ID creationism) from “Darwinian evolution”; here). He is also famous for debating people such as Hitchens, Dennett, and Shermer. A debate with Dennett can be found here. It's another piece of mindrot – you are warned. Another one is here, and one here). He has actually hit upon a very useful debate strategy (well, it is normal snowing, really): present as many strawmen, caricatures, bullshit, non-sequieturs and lies as possible in as short time as possible; point out that your opponent hasn’t refuted or addressed every single one of them. Therefore, God exists. It is a common technique among conspiracy theorists and creationists (and AGW deniers), and sufficiently notorious to have been given a name, “gish gallop”)

He has also written “Life After Death: The Evidence”, which according to himself proves that there is an afterlife. The first proof is: In the human heart there is a universal moral code underlying acts of self-sacrifice and charity. It is incompatible with the Darwinian imperative to out-compete thy neighbor. Therefore God, therefore an afterlife. The second proof is: Since there is so much suffering in the world, there must be an afterlife to make up for it. Seriously; those are his arguments. And oh, there’s the Pascal’s wager offshoot: Believing in the afterlife makes you happy, and believers have better sex.

His ability to connect premises and conclusions is seriously questionable. For instance, he argues (discussed here) that atheists are hateful robots because Dawkins wasn't invited to any of the memorials at Virginia Tech, and because he couldn't spot any atheists in the crowds. This, according to Dinesh, shows that the problem of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than for Christians and that modern science is bunk.

He does try to have it all ways, though. While he rejects evolution, he also arguest that evolution supports conservatism (here), so liberal scientists are doubly confused. To ensure that the conclusion goes through he glues it to his (moronic) premises with a naturalistic fallacy. It is almost as good as his liberal left caused 9/11 fallacies, entailing gems such as: if you've ever given money to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU, you've been aiding groups “at least as dangerous as any of bin Laden's American sleeper cells” (no failure to separate opinions from fact in that one, no?); here, and here.

This “man is like a magnet of wrong", and he just doesn’t get the naturalistic fallacy.

Diagnosis: Ardently moronic nitwit who wouldn’t be able to distinguish facts from wishful thinking or identify a fallacy if his life depended on it. Zealous. How he has achieved the status and influence he has ought to be a mystery (but really isn’t).

#113: Wiley Drake

The amiable, lovable Wiley Drake is a Californian Southern Baptist minister and talk radio host, and a prominent member of the American Independent Party. In fact, he was their vice-presidential candidate in 2008 (with Alan Keyes - who will be covered later - rest assured, as the presidential candidate). He is most famous for calling for prayers for the deaths of those who disagree with him, including political opponents.

He was most famous for urging his followers to pray for the death of Obama ("Imprecatory Prayer is now our DUTY"). In fact, his obsession with imprecatory prayer is based on its success rate. God had already answered his call with the murder of George Tiller who, according to Drake, “was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler, […] so I am happy. I am glad that he is dead". Actully, Drake said he didn’t think the killer was pro-life – rather, the killer was planted by Obama to make anti-abortionists look bad.

Well, it wasn’t his first attempt at calling down the wrath and death mongering of God. The reason he wanted to take down Americans United for Separation of Church and State was primarily not because they defend the separation of church and state, but because they filed a complaint against him with the IRS for violating his church's tax exempt status. A fairly typical Jeebus and Christian™ cause for invoking the wrath of God, in other words.

Before running on Keyes’s ticket, Drake had endorsed Huckabee. Even Huckabee wasn’t particularly pleased about that.

Drake is a birfer. In fact, his main (official) argument against Obama is that he was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii and is thus an usurper.

Diagnosis: One of the most repugnant characters alive. Clinically insane, fascist piece of mindrot who needs serious medical attention. His influence is to some extent marginal, but he can’t be written off as harmless.

#112: Robert Dowling

Oh boy. Robert Dowling might not have reached celebrity status of fame, and pray he never does. This repulsively stupid, clueless bugbear, cultmaster and woo-champion goes – like so many others – for the big one with his quackery; Cancer, and primarily breast cancer. Apparently, he thinks dental pathology is the cause for all cancer and sells (of course) a "cure" for breast cancer called “Quantum Health Management” (oh yes, quantums – they’re like magic). It is supposed to have a 100 % success rate. That should be a pretty solid red flag. Here is a report from one of his talks.

As Orac points out it is curious how alternative medicine proponents complain that science-based medicine have a “one size fits all attitude” and “no individual adjustments” on the one hand, and on the other holds that all cancer has one source and require kind of treatment. In this case the source of ALL cancer is... dental cavitations.

Of course, Dowling has no studies, no evidence and he is not a doctor; he claims to have proof (i.e. proof by evasion or proof by dodgy answers?) but on his website you’ll find exactly what you expect: anecdotal evidence – by mostly anonymous patients whose claims to even have had cancer is unverified (of course, he claims to use FDA approved techniques, so it might be that he actually carry out surgical removals of tumors in one way or another – that could work, but is not alternative and has absolutely nothing to do with cavities).

Oh, and it is not just cancer: oral pathology is the cause of all disease; Dowling claims it causes cancer, heart disease, and alzheimers, and most likely lupus, fibromyalgia, Parkinsons and diabetes (which he has himself – and has apparently not manage to cure).

A nice, and very tactful, discussion of his work is found here.

Apparently, his center does research as well (carried out by one Robert Jones – the name is interesting, since one “Robert Jones” of South Carolina has, as pointed out by Quackwatch, been involved in this business before and has received at least one FDA warning: ). It is completely ridiculous. Seriously.

Diagnosis: Complete idiot with no understand of science and no will to look at evidence, reason or data. A fraud, but probably intentionally so. He might not be a big mover or shaker among quacks, but his promises might actually lead to real damage for real people.

Monday, November 29, 2010

#110: Larry Dossey

A staunch opponent of the scientific method, Larry Dossey argues that the scientific method leads to Hitler and that indoctrinating children with the scientific method is a form of child abuse.

It is unclear what he wants to replace it with; presumably intuition, anecdotal evidence and “different ways of knowing” (i.e. “facts are just opinions and claims that are true for you may not be true for me”); perhaps something like this. You see, Larry is completely out there – he’s a virulent defender of all kinds of woo - Deepak Chopra, Gary Null, Joe Mercola, Gary Zukav and those kinds of people. He is, in fact, reckoned as one of the “Three musketeers of Woo”. Dossey is the author of (among other books) “Healing words: the power of prayer and the practice of medicine”, “The power of premonitions” (uh-oh) and, with Lewis Mehl-Madrona (who must be considered equally insane on this evidence alone) “Coyote healing” about the power of Native American healers to produce "miracles". Betcha there was a lot of controlled studies behind that one. He is also the former co-chairman of the Panel on Mind/Body Interventions, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. And he is the executive editor of the “peer-reviewed” journal “Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing” (the journal known for this one, and this one). He seems to accept any conclusion as long as it is not science-based, since science is a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical companies and therefore a sham (which, you know, does not follow even if the premise is true – it’s called “ad hominem”, and is, in this case, a fallacy). Kinda like Alex Jones.

Diagnosis: Clinically lacking in critical thinking skills and understanding of the scientific method, and utterly lost to confirmation bias. Impact uncertain, but he does (of course) write for Huffington post on a regular basis. Total moron.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

#109: Bill (William A.) Donohue

Bill Donohue is a curious case. He is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a job he takes very seriously. Point is, Donohue cannot, as far as I am aware, reasonably be said to be a crackpot – in the sense that he seems relatively pro-science, not a creationist (well, it is a little unclear), not an AGW denier, not a woo-proponent. But he is still a first-class loon. His screeds are completely insane strings of logical fallacies (so much so that they are excellent fodder for intro to critical thinking student on the first day of class), rabid, hateful and paranoid – as rationalwiki puts it, his rhetoric lies somewhere between Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps.

His topics are usually selected defenses of the Catholic church from all – and, apparently, that means all – allegations, such as their being or having been anti-science and … other things. Here are some clues to his stuff (ok, he is anti-gay-rights, and apparently his argument is the hoary slippery slope one). His devotion to the Catholic church is total, and he has no misgivings about distorting virtually all of history, or any fact, to portray it as ‘whatever you say is good, the Catholic church is better, and the Catholic church is always the exception to anything bad’, as in here.

Donohue is also, among other things, one of Mel Gibson’s staunchest defenders. Donohue on the Passion of Christ: “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate this movie. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth. It's about the messiah.” (more here, and here - beware, this is a crazy one). He is, however, engaged in a personal war with the Simpsons and with Penn and Teller.

In fact, Donohue seems to lack any clear understanding of how things work. I suppose the event referred to is familiar to most; if not you can look it up here. Donohue’s first press release was insane; the second, however is so over the top paranoid and lunatic that it must be seen to be believed.

His main attribute (and favorite argumentative technique) is rage. He was enraged (and looking very silly and stupid) when he was furious that the Empire State Building didn’t celebrate Teresa's birthday (see here - I don’t like linking to fox, but the spectacular display of absence of reasoning skills in Donohue’s rant is too good to pass over). And he and his League went completely unhinged over Lady Gaga's new video in the utterly paranoid screed reported on here. His fatwa envy is also notable.

His defense of priests charged with child abuse threads the line between the hilarious and the scary without much elegance: see here, here, and here.

Diagnosis: Vile and hateful fellow with a notorious persecution complex, and in general utterly insane. His impact is uncertain, but is presumably limited to a small group. He comes across mostly as entertaining for his unbridled anger at everything and everybody.

#108: Creflo & Taffi Dollar

Creflo Dollar is a televangelist and a central figure in the Name it and Claim it movement. Taffi is his wife. Creflo Dollar’s real name is, believe it or not, “Dollar”, and he teaches you... that Jesus wants you (him) to be rich.

He also claims that the Bible promises some kind of "Believer's Rights", which would give his followers his powers, such as making the bread last really long and raising the dead. Controlled experiments have at present failed to corroborate the latter hypothesis, but such things do not really concern Creflo’s ilk or followers.

Creflo and Taffi lead an extremely extravagant lifestyle (private jets, Rolls-Royces and so on). His church’s financial records are currently under investigation (here and here).

Diagnosis: Might be a complete fraud, but I have no concrete evidence that these loons don't believe what they preach. Although the popularity of the prosperity gospel televangelists seems to be in decline, these people have shitloads of money on their hands, and would have been dangerous in virtue of that alone.

#107: James Dobson

Dobson runs the evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family (although he has stepped down as chairman and CEO), an organization in war with the evil Big Government that wants to steal your children and which strongly encourages corporal punishment for kids. A helpful site for information about the organization is this one. The organization is also behind the sites “True Tolerance” (i.e. intolerance) and “Stand for Christmas”

They are also strongly committed to Biblical values being observed in Washington (Obama, for instance, isn’t really Christian because he distorts the Bible), and argue incessantly for the right of Christians to discriminate against gays and Muslims (the allowing-gays-to-marry-is-discriminating-against-Christians argument). Dobson is also personally committed to restoring Tom DeLay’s reputation (which is especially awesome in light of DeLay's recent conviction).

He has also claimed that teaching tolerance in school leads to Hitler.

Dobson is (unsurprisingly) a creationist and a frequent critic of evolution. He also, with 24 other evangelicals, called for the ouster of Rev. Richard Cizik from his position at the National Association of Evangelicals because Cizik had urged evangelicals to take global warming seriously. Dobson was also a firm opponent of McCain’s presidential candidacy, partially because he “voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings”.

If you're willing to run the risk of your head exploding, you can watch this dialogue between Dobson and Glenn Beck.

Diagnosis: An astoundingly repulsive character, and a true loon. He has been referred to as "the nation's most influential evangelical leader" by Time, and Slate described him as "America's most influential evangelical leader." A not insignificant threat to civilization, then.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#106: Brendan Dixon

And still they come.

Dixon is a software developer and one of the “researcher” of the Discovery Institute funded Biologic Institute, whose purpose is to conduct scientific studies on – among other things – intelligent design (so far, the results have been negligible, to put it mildly). The Biologic Institute is described, in very positive terms here. It is headed by Douglas Axe, about whom we have commented before.

Dixon is also the president (and sole employee), which has donated large sums to the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He also donated to Baylor University for one of its engineering professors, Robert J. Marks II (to be covered later), to employ Dembski as a postdoctoral researcher at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. The project was something of a scandal for Baylor, and the ID creationists did not emerge in good light (see here).

Diagnosis: Anti-science crank with far too much money to hand out. While his intellectual contributions are negligible and his personal impact as a creationist probably nil, his financial support of dishonest crackpot projects makes him dangerous.

#105: Donald B. “Don” DeYoung

It seems like creationist crackpots have flocked around the middle entries of the letter ‘D’, and here is another one. Don DeYoung is a young earth creationist and a physicist whose life work is to overcome the hurdle of explaining how observable nature and science is consistent with literal Biblical six-day creation and deluge. No easy feat if you want to keep “goddidit”s at a minimum (as in here, though Don himself doesn’t particularly care for RATE).

He sums up his worldview thus: “My scientific belief in creation is largely based on two thermodynamic laws of nature. The first law states that energy is conserved or constant at all times. This rule ensures a dependable and predictable universe, whether for stars or for human life. The second basic law…describes unavoidable losses in any process which involves the transfer of energy. This law is directly related to the Curse which was placed upon nature at the fall of mankind in Eden. Secular science has no satisfactory explanation for such laws of nature, and these laws are entirely consistent with the biblical, six-day creation.”

Perceptible readers with at least a cursory knowledge of science might detect some holes in and problems with that one. Don doesn’t, however.

He is the current president of the Creation Research Society (a different beast than Tom DeRosa’s Creation Studies Institute, though their worldviews are more or less interchangeable); he also conducts workshops for children with practical and theoretical Bible-science activities, and contributes to Ken Ham’s repugnant pile of nincompoopery, Answers in Genesis. DeYoung has written several books, including “Thousands … Not Billions” and “Our Created Moon: Earth’s fascinating neighbor” (with John Whitcomb, who will appear later).

For more on Creation geophysics, see here.

Diagnosis: Possibly a nice and quiet guy, but certainly a fullblown loon. He seems to have some impact on the fringes (those already convinced; wingnutty homeschoolers and Ken Ham’s kind of people, and so on), but has rarely been considered worthy of notice elsewhere.

#104: Tom DeRosa

Executive Director of the Creation Studies Institute (an outreach of Coral Ridge Ministries), author of “Evolution’s Fatal Fruit” and self-proclaimed loon (well, he hasn’t literally said that, but he explains the fact that the earth is 4.7 billion years old and that this contradicts the Biblical 6000 years away by claiming that God created a 4.7 billion year old earth 6000 years ago, and that pretty much amounts to the same thing). His institute’s website is worth a visit.

Yes, he is a young earth creationist, trotting out the same old, same old – radiometric dating is unreliable, the Flood occurred 4000 years ago, Tyrannosaurus Rex was really a firebreathing dragon (behemoth of the old testament), evolution is solely responsible for all the ills of the 20th century (including, it seems, the travesties of religious fundamentalism – it is a little unclear). And these pieces of untarnished lunacy are typical creationist talking-points, remember. A typical debate is summed up here.

His notability does in part also stem from his own claim that he used to be an atheist who has since seen the light (See here. See also, well, more or less the rest of them, for example this guy). Apparently, DeRosa was the one who lead Pat Boone to creationism – I mean, Boone used to be an atheist, didn’t he? Apparently, Tom has a blog as well, where you can read about (among other things) his profound insight that creation vs. evolution is really
the war between worldviews and neither is better than the other (yet his is, somehow, the best and correct one anyway).

Diagnosis: Total moron; impact is uncertain but he shouldn’t be underestimated.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#103: William “Bill” Dembski

Possibly the most influential and cited (though scarcely in peer reviewed publications – though he actually have a couple of those in mathematics) among America’s Intelligent Design creationists – and one of the most tireless, self-aggrandizing and seriously deluded. He is not a stupid guy, but there are things he is just completely unable to grasp, to the extent that it almost suggests some sort of cognitive malfunction (more likely confirmation bias and an inability to realize a mistake). See here, here, here, and here. No, he just doesn’t get it. Perhaps it is because his grasp of information theory is not as solid as it should be, resulting in some completely basic mistakes.

Ok, some background: Dembski has a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago, and in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Currently he pretends to teach at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (yes, pretends; his course requirements are, shall we say, dubious). He is quite clear that ID is science, not religion, as his quite clear from his own summary of ID: “Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” Too bad Dembski doesn’t quite grasp the latter (some examples: here, and here). See also here.

He is closely associated with the Discovery Institute and is the mastermind behind the blog Uncommon Descent (UD, no link provided!); for more on his background, consult this objective article, or this one. He has gathered quite a substantial number of lackeys, including Denyse O’Leary, Dave Scott, Robert Marks, Barry Arrington (who now officially runs UD), Winston Evert, George Montañez and Bruce Gordon (all loons; some will have separate entries).

Most notable for his book “No Free Lunch” (which pretty much dresses Paley’s old fallacies up in math) and the never defined notion of “specified complexity” (here, here, here, and here, and an awesome post on creationist misuse of information theory in in general).

Dembski isn’t particularly good at handling handling criticism either.

Diagnosis: Seriously deluded kook who, despite being obviously intelligent, lets his own preconceptions completely obstruct his view as to how things actually hang together – even on topics related to his field of expertise. Extremely influential nonetheless, and as such extremely dangerous.

#102: Gary DeMar

One of the movers and shakers of the Christian Reconstructionist movement and an open theocrat, DeMar is an author, lecturer and also the president of the cult American Vision, an American Christian organization. The vision of this think-tank is "an America that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life and where Christians are engaged in every facet of society." In his own words “[a]ll government requires a reference point. If God is to be pleased by men, the Bible must become the foundation of all their governments, including civil government. This means that Biblical law must be made the foundation of all righteous judgment in every government: personal (self government), ecclesiastical, familial, and civil.” In other words, there is a war going on, a culture war or war between civilizations, and DeMar is firmly on the side of God and the family. And it is “Darwinism [which] secularized everything in America, including our understanding of the Constitution."

As the notable David Barton, DeMar attempts to connect the writings and thoughts of the founding fathers with his organization’s vision, and is not afraid of lying or quote-mining to a ridiculous degree in the process (this is a war, remember); he claims that the sole and clear purpose of the founding fathers was to establish the Kingdom of God in the New World.

Among his more scary-sounding books titles are “Surviving College Successfully” (given his background, you can probably figure out what he means), “Whoever Controls the Schools Rules the World”, “America’s Christian History: The Untold Story” and “America's 200-Year War with Islamic Terrorism”; he has worked with such luminaries as John W. Whitehead, Gary North and Peter J. Leithart, who must be considered just as crazy as DeMar himself.

He has also said that he would execute homosexuals, but since he is such a liberal, the death penalty will only be awarded if they were actually caught engaging in sodomy.

A few, random examples of strategic moves in DeMar’s war.

In fact, there seems to exist a certain tension among the reconstructionists regarding the Constitution - and here is a truly lunatic discussion of the debates within the movement.
Diagnosis: Utter madman. He and his associates have a profound influence on the more religious parts of the Republican Party (for example), however, and must be considered extremely dangerous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#101: Randy Demain

Randy Demain is seemingly one of ordinary daily life’s amiable, calm and nice guys (well, I imagine that he is). But when he dons his True Christian™ suit he obeys the word of God and … raises the dead. That’s what he claims, literally. He just walks up to a corpse, tells it to get up, and – woosh – up it pops and starts walking around. Apparently Randy does this all the time. To some it seems baffling for some reason, but the whole thing is apparently really easy.

So can he back up his claims? Oh yes. You see, he can tell at least two stories – curiously both took place in Africa –when he raised a woman and a baby from the dead. He admits that it is harder to do it in the West, presumably because westernized Christians have adjusted themselves to a demystified worldview or something, but he encourages all true Christians to give it a try.

The utterly insane bloggers at endtimespropheticwords think Demain is a false prophet. However, I am not sure they count as the voice of reason even in this matter.

His website is here. Demain has also written (at least) the book “Dominion Surges", which, according to the product description “is an equipping manual for mobilizing the body of Christ into an offensive posture, restoring in us a sense of dominion and power over the enemy.”

Diagnosis: Utterly, irrevocably, completely insane; the kind of person you may encounter in an asylum who appears jovial and sane until he opens his mouth. He’s probably harmless, though.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

#100: Tom DeLay

a.k.a. “The Exterminator”

Delay is the relatively notorious politician who blamed the Columbine shootings on the fact that the school taught the students about evolution. Seems to be a fair anniversary loon.

DeLay is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Texas's 22nd congressional district until 2006. He was the GOP House Majority Leader from 2003 to 2005, when legal problems forced him to step down (he was charged with but never convicted of criminal violations of state campaign finance laws and money laundering). He claimed that the legal prosecution bears striking resemblances to the strategies of certain infamous regimes: “It’s the same process. It’s the same criminalization of politics. It’s the same oppression of people. It’s the same destroy people in order to gain power. It may be six million Jews. It may be indicting somebody on laws that don’t exist. But, it’s the same philosophy and it’s the same world view.” His nickname stems from his former employment in pest control.

More accurately, DeLay is a huckster, a born-again Christian with a martyr complex, who claims that he and other Christians are persecuted in today’s US. He doesn’t believe that there is anything such as a valid separation between church and state.

DeLay has also given voice to the birfer conspiracy, although one suspects that he doesn’t actually believe it (rather, he panders to the most delusional of GOP’s wingnut supporters). His view of evolution is summarized by his shock that some scientists could claim that man is descended from pond parasites (“Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup.”). And, as already pointed out, he also claimed that the Columbine shootings were to be blamed on the fact that the school was teaching evolution.

Calls the Environmental Protection Agency “the Gestapo of the government” and rejects AGW for what appear to be religious reasons.

Some quotes here and here.

Diagnosis: Widely renowned for his questionable moral behavior and general punditry, this guy is also a real, unhinged loon (rather than merely spineless like his invertebrate forefathers). He still has some bite, although he can probably be considered relatively neutralized by now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

#99: Vox Day (and his dad)

A.k.a. Theodore Beale (real name)

Computer game designer, published SF writer, arrogant conservative pundit, WorldNetDaily columnist and anti-evolutionist whose main argument against evolution appears to be “I am a member of the SFWA, Mensa and IGDA, and I don’t believe in evolution”. If his credentials are correct, it is good evidence for the claim that critical thinking skills need to be learned; they don’t just come automatically with a high IQ (actually, he applies a genuine ad hominem as well, but I don’t think that helps his case). Day likes to go on long rants without even the slightest hint of an argument. For his other endeavors, look here. We’ll restrict ourselves to documenting his lunacy.

He is, for instance, an anti-vaccinationist loon (parroting the anti-vaccinationist lunacy, again concerning a field he does not know anything about, just like biology). Also, he has actually argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote since they are fascists at heart,and that they should be kept out of science because they are a threat to it (this coming from an anti-evolutionist anti-vaccinationist). Atheism is hence a threat to science as well mainly because it apparently leads to introducing equal treatment.

Vox Day’s most famous loony claim, however, might just be his suggestion that we look to Hitler to solve the illegal immigrant problem in the US.

He also rejects AGW, and he seems to do so primarily because science and scientists support it. Vox Day is no fan of science, really, even though he himself thinks he is. In fact, he thinks that materialist science is refuted.

Claims to be a Christian libertarian, but is more or less as libertarian as Chuck Baldwin.

Diagnosis: Exasperatingly ignorant bigot and anti-science loon and lover of middle school level fallacies. In fact, he is the very epitome of a crank. He does in fact have a fair amount of readers, however, and must be considered dangerous.

His daddy, Robert Beale, is actually even more unhinged. He is one of those I-refuse-to-pay-taxes-and-don’t-recognize-the-authority-of-the-courts type. Instead he and his organization seeks to establish "a superior court for the People, original jurisdiction under Almighty Yahweh exclusive jurisdiction in and for confederation-government United States of America."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

#98: Lorraine Day

Once a respected academic orthopedic surgeon who has fallen deeply into woo, conspiracy mongering and holocaust denialism. According to her own website, “Dr. Lorraine Day reversed her severe, advanced cancer by rebuilding her immune system by natural therapies, so her body could heal itself.” Her evidence for her therapies? Testimonials – in other words, pure anecdotal evidence and wishful thinking, and Day doesn’t seem to have the slightest understand of why alternative medicine “testimonials” for cancer treatments are inherently misleading.

That makes her but one of many (though still a loon). Dr. Day, however, really stands out for her attempts at combining woo-mongering with holocaust denialism – a leap, true, but one that is understandable given the total lack of critical thinking skills involved in both. An infamous interview can be obtained from here (and a debunking here). The blurb reads: “Dr. Lorraine Day discusses the control over the medical industry by a small group of Jews and Goyim who consider us pawns in their game of world conquest. However, the Jews who follow the Talmud are actually using their Goyim "friends" also” – that should give you an idea.

A telling claim from her website: “[the] term [”Holocaust”] has been ’hi-jacked’ by the Jews who use it, incorrectly, to describe the purported treatment of the Jews at the hands of the Germans during World War II. Actually, it better describes the Post-World War II treatment of the German citizens by the Allies (the U.S., U.K and USSR), who were taking their orders from International ... Very few people realize that the Zionist Jewish version of the "Holocaust", what the revisionists refer to as the Holocaust Hoax, is the CENTERPIECE of the Zionist Jews' Plan to destroy all nations, control the entire world, slaughter most of the population of the earth, and reduce the rest to slaves.”

More on her antics can be found here (oh yes, it is all there: drugs don’t cure diseases, they only cover up the symptoms; chemotherapy doesn’t cure cancer; Dr. Day has glorious credentials; natural fallacies and so on and so forth).

She is also a 9/11 truther and religious whacko.

Diagnosis: One of the most unhinged, insane crackpots out there; utterly lacking in critical thinking skills, sanity and rationality. Must be considered dangerous.

#97: John A. Davison

Internet kook with his own idea on evolution (“Anti-biotic resistance is not evolution because it is reversible. No evolutionary event has ever been reversed. Besides evolution isn't even going on any more”). In fact, his idea is only a regurgitation of an old crackpot idea and his references are usually to papers from the 1940s and earlier. A clear case of delusions of grandeur; his is apparently “the most important battle in the history of mankind”. Conservapedia seems to like him (as does Dembski), though the semi-creationist, bottom-tier journal that actually published his stuff apparently wants nothing more to do with him (he has completely lost it, as can be seen from this interview). He did have a publication, though, and that is the main reason why he deserves an inclusion here, despite the fact that he is, for the most part, an Internet kook.

Davison is actually legendary for his Internet trolling (“you have a John Davison infection” has become a diagnosis for especially newly started, science oriented blogs that draw the attention of Davison or his acolytes) and he is banned from several Science-oriented blogs, including Panda’s Thumb. He is known for setting up multiple blogs himself; each one consisting of a single post, inviting comments. Most of the comments are from himself, however. When he feels like that blog is "full", starts another one.

Also famous for trying to have blogging academics fired from their institutions for being critical of his work, or – since that doesn’t work – trying to spam them.

Diagnosis: Extraordinarily attention-seeking kook who seems to have gone completely insane. I almost feel sorry for the guy.