Monday, November 26, 2012

#364: Jerry E. Smith

Jerry Smith is associated with Redicecreations, a group of conspiracy theorists who appear to think that Alex Jones fails to ask the really big questions. Smith’s forte is AGW conspiracies, including the agenda of the Green movement and how it connects with the Banksters, Global Government, Global Warming and Weather Warfare. He is a promoter of the garbled Maurice Strong conspiracy (first promoted by Ronald Baily, who later sheepishly retracted it, recognizing its utter silliness). Topics discussed by Smith (in addition to Maurice Strong) include “the watermelon movement” (I have no idea), Agenda 21, Global Warming and Global Government, Weather Manipulation & Weather Warfare, Scientific Studies (which Smith wouldn’t be able to recognize or understand if his life depended on it) & Military Application, Rain prevention during 2008 Beijing Olympics, Black Ops, Wilhelm Reich, Cloud busting, Project Popeye, and The Earth Charter.

Smith is a self-proclaimed expert on Domestic Terrorism by Air performed by “black, unmarked helicopter”. He has continued the work of the late Jim Keith, author of the book “Black Helicopters Over America: Strikeforce for the New World Order” (“Briefly, it’s a plan to blow away the sovereignty of nation states and place them under the control of one ruling body, namely the United Nations. The United Nations, however, has its masters, and these are the international bankers and industrialists and criminals who groom the politicians.” Evidence: Imagination). As for himself, he is the author of “HAARP: The Ultimate Weapon of the Conspiracy". 

A nice resource covering the gamut of Smith’s conspiracy beliefs can be found here.

Diagnosis: Whacko with little time or concern for or ability to discern reality and evidence when imagination is so much more exciting. Probably harmless.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#363: Bradley R. Smith

Bradley R. Smith is a former media director of the Institute for Historical Review. In 1987 he founded the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH), which has repeatedly tried to place newspaper advertisements “questioning” whether the Holocaust happened. They are in particular targeting college campus newspapers, though Smith has also attempted to utilize other avenues to promote Holocaustdenial with little success. The reason for choosing college newspapers is aptly summed up by Smith: himself “I don’t want to spend time with adults anymore, I want to go to students. They are superficial. They are empty vessels to be filled […] I wanted to set forth three or four ideas that students might be interested in, that might cause them to think about things or to have questions about things. And I wanted to make it as simple as possible, and to set it up in a way that could not really be debated”. Standard approach, in other words. Next thing would presumably be Smith writing history textbooks aimed at homeschoolers as revisionists, denialists and cranks are wont to do.

The campaign deploys the usual denialist tactics: attacking the entire field of Holocaust Studies as “characterized by anti-German prejudice and based on forged documents, false testimony, doctored photos, induced confessions”, etc. (Anne Frank’s Diary is a “literary production”), and claim that airing Holocaust denial propaganda is an issue of “intellectual freedom”. See also this.

More here (this is a good resource site for Holocaust denial).

Diagnosis: Standard denialist using standard denialist tactics; take away the racism and you get the antivaxxers, creationist and global warming deniers. Of course, Smith’s racism does make him even worse. On the other hand he is probably less influential.

#362: Lonnie Skinner

Lonnie Skinner (the absolutely legendary Zecharia Sitchin, discoverer of Nibiru and its inhabitants, met his untimely demise in September 2010, for those who were expecting him) is a Texas-based Baptist Minister. He is most famous for being the founder of the Patriot University, the unaccredited (though see this) “institution” (diploma mill) that granted Kent Hovind his “PhD”. For a while the “institution” was located in Colorado; it is currently located in Del Norte and shares its address with the home address of Lonnie Skinner. You can read Kent Hovind’s defense of his alma mater here. It seems like Hovind’s dissertation advisor and Skinner associate, Franklin “Wayne” Knight, is having some troubles of his own, by the way.

Diagnosis: This guy awarded a degree to Kent Hovind! Even though he got paid for doing that, and even though the degree is worth shit, it is inexcusable.

Monday, October 22, 2012

#361: S. Fred Singer

Siegfried Fred Singer is a physicist currently habitating the George Mason University, and a legend within all denialist movements. Thing is, Singer is the epitome of an expert for hire.

First of all, Singer’s credentials as a scientist are genuine. He graduated from Princeton and did much work in technology and engineering early on, such as mine detection technology, atmospheric physics, designing satellites, satellite instrumentation, and so on. He is also a recipient of the Flat Earth Award, which will raise his credentials among conspiracy theorists everywhere.

He first rose to general notability in the 80s when he presented himself as a cutting-edge researcher (false) on matters related to ozone layer depletion. In typical denialist vein, he published op-eds and testified before Congress, but avoided peer-review; he quote-mined the science and applied hardcore confirmation bias to come up with “no danger here, just a conspiracy”. Of course, he failed to mention that he was being paid large sums by the petroleum companies for his work, an observation that might have counted as ad hominem if Singer hadn’t avoided doing any real research on the topic, contradicted all evidence there was, lacked any expertise in the area, and been repeatedly caught lying and distorting the evidence. In those circumstances the observation is telling.

At the same time, he entered the second-hand smoke denial camp (an area not within his field of expertise) and quickly became a central figure in the movement denying the dangers of second-hand smoke. In typical denialist vein, he published op-eds and testified before Congress, but avoided peer-review; he quote-mined the science and applied hardcore confirmation bias (and blatant lying and ignorance) to come up with “no danger here, just a conspiracy”. Of course, he failed to mention that he was being paid by Philip Morris-backed groups for his work. See the previous paragraph.

Guess where he is now. Well, his think tank, The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), is among the many think tanks out there denying AGW. Their money comes from oil interests and, for a while, the Moonies.

Since 1995 he has been an ardent advocate of cherry-picking data, misquoting and neglecting inconvenient data, and has claimed that the satellite data shows cooling. He has produced enormous amounts of crap, and has even set up his alternative to IPCC, the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change) (yes, conspiracy theories galore, and the alleged conspiracies are notoriously without clear agendas, but hey; everyone knows the government is out to get you, so claiming a conspiracy is a surefire trick). The NIPCC and its hilariously (were it not so unfunny) over-the-top crackpottery reports (yes, you’ll find every denialist talking point in them, including this) was predictably endorsed by the Heartland Institute.

Singer is pretty good at utilizing every piece or rumor or every event he gets hold of to tweak out a denialist attack, and to get his voice picked up by mainstream media – not only Steve Milloy, who mistakes him for an expert (or Singer exploits the media’s hankering for false equivalencies). And Singer is, of course, a truly remorseless liar.

You can find an archive of some of his antics here, and a biography here.

As always, this one is pertinent.

Diagnosis: It is not entirely clear whether Singer actually believes the shit his spreading, or whether he just doesn’t care anymore. He is in any case the epitome of denialist dishonesty, and extremely dangerous.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

#360: Geoffrey Simmons

Simmons is an MD and BS of biology and a fellow at the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. Simmons is famous for his missionary work abroad (he tried to bring “What Darwin didn’t know” to Spain). Apart from that he is the author of several books, mostly fiction. Well, exclusively fiction, really, including “What Darwin Didn't Know: A Doctor Dissects the Theory of Evolution” (a self-projection that really should have been called “what Simmons doesn’t know”; his knowledge of evolution is relatively shaky) and “Billions of Missing Links: A Rational Look at the Mysteries Evolution Can't Explain” (anyone seeing a God of the gaps argument screaming at you here?), which is written for children (“Nature contains only leaps, not links. Only the intelligence and purpose of an all-powerful Designer can explain the intricate creatures, connections, and ‘coincidences’ everywhere”) and marketed – of course – at homeschoolers. At the Discotute the difference between science and propaganda is apparently as blurry as it was for … never mind.

He is also well-known for appearing in debates, such as this one with PZ Myers (some standard dishonest creationist tactics were involved as well). Simmons was thoroughly skewered and roasted in this one, so he was later allowed to come back and debate the sympathetic moderator, without PZ Myers or any pesky evolutionary biologist present to rip apart his lies. He still lost, though the dishonesty and memory bias was staggering, even for a creationist.

In more recent times, Simmons has peddled creationism where it belongs, at George Noory’s Coast to Coast AM, in between the Sasquatch observations and the Illuminati vampire news (one thinks it must have been something of a defeat for the Discotute).

For a presentation of the case for intelligent design as part of the Mars Hill forum, sponsored by the University Christian Fellowship (with attorney Tom Alderman and chemistry professor Jim Long), see a sufficiently thorough takedown here (and more here).

Diagnosis: Godbotter and Liar for Jesus whose lack of intellectual honesty is only matched by his ignorance. Influential enough to be considered a threat.

#359: Bruce Simat

Bruce Simat is Associate Professor of Biology at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and signatory to the Discovery Institute's A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. He was also a participant in the Kansas Evolution Hearings, representing the anti-science crowd. What more do you need to know?

You can read his testimony at the hearings here. You can find a discussion of the fact that Simat is either deliberately misleading or incredibly ignorant here. He even has an entry here, which nicely lays out the confusions involved.

Here is a testimony by a former student of Simat’s.

Diagnosis: No, his position does not mean that he knows biology at all. Northwestern College is a small Bible College where Simat is allowed to preach creationist apologetics. Another small strand in the web of organized anti-science propaganda.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

#358: Bernie Siegel

Dr. Bernie Siegel is an MD from Cornell University Medical College and practitioner of general medicine and pediatric surgery until his retirement in 1989. He is also a hardcore apologetic for everything woo (“the spiritual”), and has, post-retirement, become an ardent speaker, lecturer, and author (“Love, Medicine, and Miracles” may be his biggest hit), while also featuring in videos such as “Hope and a Prayer”.

While boosting the hope and self-confidence of people with serious conditions may be a good thing (and Siegel probably has a knack for that positive thought thing, which could perhaps have been used for good things but which is emphatically not all its been claimed to be, and is unlikely to prolong survival), Siegel – as woo-meisters are wont to do – just has to confuse positive and wishful thinking), and reify the metaphors (and peddle falsities, such as this urban myth). When he says “There is no false hope in the individual who has an illness. It is real, it is physiologic, and I have no trouble giving it to people. Within the body is this incredible power. The body and mind communicate, so why not stimulate that?” he seems to mean it in some strong metaphysical sense. In fact, one of his main claims is that “happy people don’t get sick” (i.e. blame the victim). And how respectable could an author of “Meditations for Enhancing Your Immune System” be?

Well, it’s not only that. Siegel has made himself into a New Age guru by touting the superiority of his ECaPs (Exceptional Cancer Patients). His idea that optimism, love, and social support are life-enhancing is not really consistent with the actual data: a ten-year follow-up of the ECaPs program found no benefit (J Clin Oncology 1993;11:66-9) (more here). Doesn’t stop Bernie from touting his books so intensely that even quackwatch has taken an interest in him (see also here). He has also been featured on NaturalNews; guilt by association, perhaps, but still.

Diagnosis: Crackpot. It is unclear how much harm he actually does, but he does earn his money off of peddling false hope to people in desperate situations. That is not a nice thing to do.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

#357: John Shimkus

Those expecting Charlie Sheen to pop up here: forget it. We have standards, and Sheen has not qualified himself (pseudo-scientist Rupert Sheldrake, of morphic field fame, is British, as is the thoroughly despicable Jeremy Sherr).

Trust the Americans to come up with a monster of a religious loon instead. John Shimkus is a Republican congressman (Illinois' 19th congressional district) and Chairman of the Committee on Environment and the Economy. His extreme, anti-science, denialist, religious fundamentalist, and fully unsupported views on climate change have actually drawn some attention for their inanity, which is a feat for someone representing the same party as James Inhofe.

Shimkus has stated that Climate Change is nothing to worry about. His evidence? That God promised Noah that after the great flood, Earth would be fine (careful readers of the Bible may notice that even according to Bible God did not exactly say this). Therefore we need no regulation: “The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood". In addition to its inanely delusional qualities, this doesn’t really address the actual worries related to climate change. Shimkus is also concerned that, since Carbon Dioxide is plant food, attempts to cut down on it will actually be harmful to the world. Yes, Shimkus is that blissfully ignorant about science and reality.

For a brief comment on the Republican war on reality (with focus on Shimkus), you can go here.

Shimkus was originally set for leadership of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. That post instead went to Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who has falsely (probably willful lying) claimed that there is no scientific consensus regarding climate change and is so misinformed regarding Climategate that he advocated for congressional hearings. Upton beat denialist, überloon, and BP-apologist Joe “Wind is God’s way of balancing heat” Barton to the Committee post, by the way.

Diagnosis: Shimkus is “the loon's loon's loon's loon – four deep into loonery” [Ed Brayton] and a stunning example of Dunning-Kruger at work. With people like Shimkus running the show, we are really, truly screwed. Extremely dangerous.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

#356: John Sheehan

General John J. “Jack” Sheehan is a retired United States Marine Corps general. His final active duty commands, culminating 35 years of service in the Marine Corps, were as the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic for NATO and as Commander-in-Chief for the U.S. Atlantic Command.

In 2010 Sheehan testified to the US Congress that according to the chief of staff of the Dutch army at the time of the incident, the fall of Srebrenica was caused by lack of readiness related to the Dutch being more concerned with internal “socialization” of the military than fighting capacity (the Dutch chief of staff at the time of Srebrenica, Henk van den Breemen, denied ever saying this, though, claiming that Sheehan’s comments were “total nonsense”). Sheehan added that this was in part due to gays serving in the military. He also stated that gays weakened the army, while attraction between men and women in gender-integrated units would not, and also that gays were responsible for the Srebrenica massacre.

The allegations drew some criticisms, to put it nicely. The responses from the Dutch Minister of Defense and the Dutch Prime Minister were … terse.

Barry Farber at the WorldNetDaily defended him, of course, and even took the whole thing a couple of steps further. Sheehan himself didn’t come across as particularly prone to repentance, and has later appeared with garbledly insane rightwing fundamentalist monsters such as Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and James Inhofe.

Diagnosis: Failing to distinguish fact and fiction generated by deepset bigotry (“absolute nonsense” according to the Dutch Defense Ministry), Sheehan entertains “the ridiculous convulsion of a loner” (The Dutch SHK). His views are “the bizarre private opinion of someone without an official function” (Dutch foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen), however one wonders how widespread his delusions are in the organizations that formerly employed him.

#355: C. Norman Shealy

There are reasons to regret excluding non-American loons from this Encyclopedia, especially when it turns out that someone like Roger Shawyer, the guy behind EmDrive, is British as well.

Fortunately there is no dearth of American crazies, and C. Norman Shealy is certainly behind some serious dingbattery. Shealy is apparently a Harvard-schooled MD, neurosurgeon and alternative medicine practitioner (not through Harvard, one presumes), and quite an authority in this murky quagmire of a pseudofield. He was one of the founders of the American Holistic Medical Association, the paragon umbrella organization of all things quackery, and is associated with the unaccredited “Holos University” (he was a mentor for, among others, Dawson Church and Charles Bates).

“Endorsed by C. Norman Shealy” is actually a pretty standard stamp of approval for woo-peddlers and should, to those who think claims medical should at least tangentially be related to reality, equal “endorsed by Joe Mercola.” For instance, Shealy (with Daniel Redwood) wrote that T. Colin & Thomas Campbell’s “The China Study” is different from most other popular nutrition books by offering strong evidence-based explanations for its claims (it isn’t). He also endorsed Michael Ledwith & Klaus Heinemann’s “The Orb Project” by pointing out that “Orbs may be to the atmosphere what crop circles are to the earth. Having seen orbs and had them photographed while I am speaking, it is great to know that we are receiving cosmic energetic communication.” He may be right that orbs may be to the atmosphere what crop circles are to the earth, but not in the way he would like. And he endorsed Stephen Co & Eric Robins’s “Your hands can heal you” (“eighty-five percent of illnesses are not optimally treatable with drugs or surgery. For those individuals, ‘Your Hands Can Heal You’ offers one of the best self-healing approaches I have seen”). And of course he endorsed Quantum Touch (“Quantum-Touch appears to be the first technique that may truly allow us all to become healers,” though it’s certainly not the first or last time that claim has been made).

Shealy is, apparently, a prolific speaker and author of bullcrap such as “Aids: Passageway to Transformation,” and “The Creation of Health: The Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Responses that Promote Health and Healing”, both coauthored with none other than Caroline Myss, and he is a leading authority in, yes, the “Quantum Healing Paradigm”. His most famous books, however, are probably “Life beyond 100 - Secrets of the Fountain of Youth”, using success formula such as “if you didn’t succeed you didn’t want it hard enough” and … “Your hands can heal you”.

Diagnosis: Remarkably versatile, prolific and respected crackpot, madman and woo-meister. Shealy wields a lot of power to ruin people’s lives and does not hesitate to use them. Extremely dangerous.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

#354: Ben Shapiro

Benjamin Aaron Shapiro is a new poster boy for the denialist Taliban right. He is a political commentator and author, among other things of “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth in 2004,” in which he accused professors of being “totalitarian” because they promote “absolute sexual freedom” (including, according to Shapiro, pedophilia and statutory rape), and “indoctrination”, since they don’t generally focus exclusively on the Bible as the source of all truth. His subsequent books all deal with how the media and entertainment industry are in a liberal conspiracy to promote reckless sexual freedom and environmentalism, for instance exemplified by how Sesame Street indoctrinates children with left-wing propaganda. He has a particular hatred for Hollywood. You see, according to how Shapiro views the world, many Hollywood stars feel guilty about their prosperity since they are closet Marxist, so … well, who knows.

For instance, it is obvious that Obama is a militant atheist; according to Shapiro via Twitter: “Unreal that Obama doesn’t mention God in Thanksgiving message. Militant atheist. To whom does he think we are giving thanks?” How can you argue with evidence like this? He sure does not like Obama, as evidenced by this one. Of course, Shapiro once argued that we should prosecute anyone who criticizes the president and lock up anyone who disagreed with any war waged by the US, but that applies, obviously, only to critics of George W. Bush and his efforts. Obama is different. Obama is in a conspiracy with Iran to … well, it is not entirely clear.

Shapiro’s views on religion aren’t very much more coherent. According to Shapiro (this is best quoted in its entirety): “Human equality must spring from a Creator, because the presence of a soul is all that makes man human and equal. Biology suggests inherent inequality – who would call Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stephen Hawking equal in any way? Biology suggests the sort of Hegelian social Darwinism embraced by totalitarian dictators, not the principles of equality articulated by the Founding Fathers.”

Diagnosis: A dense, raging ball of persecution complex and confirmation bias, Shapiro seems to have gained some traction among the Taliban right, and must be considered moderately dangerous.

Monday, September 24, 2012

#353: Granville Sewell

Edward Granville Sewell is a mathematician, intelligent design advocate, and currently a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas, El Paso. He does presumably know math. His understanding of science is, however, sorely deficient.

Sewell is signatory to the Discovery Institute's A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism petition and has had (in 2000) an anti-evolutionary article published in The Mathematical Intelligencer. This is cited by the Discovery Institute as one of the “Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design”, an assertion rejected by people who actually manage to distinguish science from delusional rants, including Judge Jones in the Dover trial.

In this and other articles the main claim reiterated ad nauseam is the claim that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics (more here). It isn’t better supported than it sounds, and even Sewell’s attempts to battle strawmen is somewhat quixotic. Jason Rosenhouse’s Intelligencer article “How Anti-evolutionists Abuse Mathematics” is directly targeted at Sewell, as is his “Does Evolution Have a Thermodynamics Problem?”. Mark Perakh called Sewell’s work “depressingly fallacious”. Sewell’s “experiments” are, well, not exactly what scientists would call experiments, and his proposed “laws” aren’t what scientists would count as scientific laws. And as most creationist Sewell doesn’t see that even if evolution were to fail, it wouldn’t mean that Intelligent Design creationism is correct unless someone had actually formulated a theory, some predictions, and garnered independent support through testing.

Sewell also writes for Dembski’s blog “Uncommon Descent” (no link to the actual blog provided).

Diagnosis: “Sewell is to thermodynamics as Sal Cordova is to a) biochemistry, b) information theory, c) classical mechanics, d) all of the above” (Blake Stacey). He is also a professional but not very successful bane of strawmen. A pawn in the denialist movement.

Since we’re covering the fallacious second law arguments against evolution, it might be timely to bring up the all time classic quote on the issue.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

#352: Jay Seegert and the cssmwi

John Scudamore, the guy who runs (and apparently believes everything written on) is British (Herefordshire), so unfortunately he has to be disqualified.

CSSMWI and its leader Jay Seegert are Milwaukee-based, however. CSSMWI stands for “Creation Science Society of Milwaukee”. Their website is here. Now, societies like cssmwi exist throughout the US and there is probably nothing particular about this one. This entry should thus stand as a representative for all such pockets of denialist lunacy anywhere.

In any case, CSSMWI is your typical Reversia stronghold where the idea of science is literal interpretation of the Bible and rejecting all evidence that cannot fit smoothly with the reading of the Bible that Seegert and his crew think best fit their preconceptions. They have helpful subsites on “Evolution is Religion, not science”, “Genomes project data indicate a young human race”, “radioisotope dating” (they have absolutely no clue) and the standard canards and fallacies generally promulgated on sites like this.

Jay Seegert is their ringleader; he is the President & Principal Lecturer for the Creation Education Center, as well as a national speaker for Creation Ministries International (the world’s largest creation organization). Yes, it’s all about lectures and reaching out to the children; the “research” part of science seems to have been lost on them: their website has a lot on Seegert’s background as a minister; none on his research work, rather unsurprisingly.

Their other speakers include:
- Keith A. Robinson, who’s written a novel about the origin of life and the universe as he sees it and is therefore a qualified researcher.
- Kitty Foth-Regner, whose scientific data for creationism comprise revelation, wishful thinking and appeal to emotion.
- Ken Bahr, high school teacher “prepared to teach your kids in church and at school”.
- Russ Hanson, who has a bachelor’s degree in science.
- Gary Locklair, a professor of Computer Science at Concordia University and probably the most dangerous of the lot.
- Jerry Frye, who is president of an employee benefit brokerage firm.
- Nathan Jastram, head of the Theology Department at Concordia University who has worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which “demonstrate the extreme accuracy of the copying of Biblical manuscripts, contrary to the assumptions of evolutionary scholars and others.” Yes, those dastardly evolutionary scholars; they always threaten to oppose Jastram’s firm confirmation bias.

Diagnosis: Overall, these people are actually really dangerous, and do a lot of harm by spreading denialism, ignorance and lies. There’s really nothing cute about them, despite their rather helpless take on reality.

#351: Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz is a nutjob chief of staff for senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (at least he used to be), whose job seems to have been to make Coburn come off as the paragon of intellect, integrity, sanity and reasonability. With the clinically insane moron Jim Inhofe as his sidekick, one wonders why Schwartz was deemed necessary. He nevertheless failed: despite his own lunacy, there is no way Schwartz is going to make Coburn come off as sane.

Anyway, Schwartz is notable for his claim that “All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards”. The purpose of the point, although a little unclear, seems to have been to tell kids that “porn is not cool”. That does not make the claim any better, really. It did make it to the Daily Show, however.

Schwartz also has views about the legal system.

Diagnosis: Quite delusional. He seems to be able to button his own shirt (who knows), but that’s about as far as his intellectual capacities go. Impact unknown

Thursday, August 30, 2012

#350: William Schnoebelen

A.k.a. Christopher Syn (name taken in the 1970s for numerological reasons)

William Schnoebelen is an evangelist, author (sometimes with his wife Sharon) and lecturer, known for his anti-Mormon, anti-masonic (yes) and anti-Wiccan views and for his fundamentalist Protestant viewpoint. His views are slightly more insane than Jack Chick’s (Schnoebelen is published by Chick Publications), and possibly only challenged by Gene Ray. He currently runs his own organization With One Accord Ministries (website here). His antipathy toward the organizations mentioned above can partially be explained by the fact that he is, in fact, himself a former Mormon and wiccan, as well as a Gnostic Bishop with the Monastery of the Seven Rays, voodoo priest, and member of the Church of Satan. He claims to have reached a high rank with the Freemason (reaching “Palladium Masonry”, which is a well-known hoax and doesn’t exist), and to have been part of the Illuminati (he has published the video “Exposing the Illuminati from within”: two parts, here and here. You get an idea of where he comes from.

To top it, Schnoebelen claims to have been a practicing vampire from 1979, and has released a nine-hour DVD program titled “Interview with an Ex-Vampire: A True Story” (hosted by one Stephanie Relfe, who provides a biography of Schnoebelen here), although there is ample evidence that Schnoebelen doesn’t quite know what “True Story” means. Unfortunately his vampire activities came to an end (he was also a practicing sorcerer) in 1980 when he failed a saving throw against an evangelical bank clerk who promised to “be praying for you in Jesus’ name,” was turned, and subsequently lost all his magical powers. He doesn’t like D&D, by the way (more on that below), and there is probably a connection here.

According to none other than Schnoebelen, part of Schnoebelen’s spiritual education was extra-terrestrial, apparently.

Sort of to complete the circle, he also has an “N.D. degree” from Trinity College of Natural Healing in Indiana, and is also certified by the Certified Natural Health Professionals organization in Warsaw, IN. His profile is here.

Among Schnoebelen’s numerous books are “Masonry: Beyond the Light”, which exposes the freemasons as Satanists; “Wicca: Satan’s little white lie”, which exposes Wiccans as Satanists; “Mormonism’s Temple of Doom’, which exposes Mormons as Satanists, and “Blood on the Doorpost”; which tells you how to conquer the Satanism in your life and achieve success through the power of the Law of Attraction and The Secret (yes, that The Secret). He may be most famous for his attacks on Mormonism, however, since some Mormon responders actually took it as a serious threat. Together with one Ed Decker Schnoebelen raised concerns about, among other things, the spires on Mormon temples, claiming that they were really “Satan's spires” and represented “an up-side-down nail pointing defiantly toward heaven, as if to impale the Lord Jesus Christ anew when he comes in the clouds” and that because of “the trapezoidal shape” of the spires they “draw demons like fly paper”.

Besides such high-flown theology, Schnoebelen’s book “Space Invaders” is about UFOs and seems to assume that the eponymous Arcade game is a real-life documentary (“Bill shows how the "cute little space aliens" have their roots in the rituals of such black magicians as Aleister Crowley” and “reveals how flying saucers and ‘alien abductions’ may well figure into the end-time plans of the Beast. Drawing on Genesis 6”). Schnoebelen knows, since Schnoebelen has been a vampire. What more expertise in magic and the occult do you need?

He is no fan of Harry Potter, and produced a video “Harry Potter: Politically Correct Paganism” with Jan Markell (already covered) and one Wendell Amstutz. Neither is he a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, which involves evil, brainwashing (“Erosion of family values – the Dungeon Master (DM) demands an all-encompassing and total loyalty, control and allegiance”), real sorcery, Satanism, immorality (“male characters in the game often try to seduce female characters”) and – worst of all – science (“In this worldview, there is no sovereign God; but rather the universe is run like a gigantic piece of machinery”). Updated here.

Diagnosis: Clinically unable to distinguish imagination and reality (preciously few of his claims about his own past have been substantiated) the amazing Bill Schnoebelen is one of a kind. He’s probably harmless.

#349: Don Schmierer

Don Schmierer is an insanely lunatic and thoroughly evil person. Together with Scott Lively and Caleb Lee Brundidge, Schmierer participated in a 2009 workshop in Kampala to, pretty much, provide the architecture for the Ugandan anti-gay bill (discussed here). Schmierer is a board member of Exodus International, an organzation devoted to promoting “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”. After the law passed in Uganda and brought about some horrible deaths Schmierer said he felt “duped”, arguing that he had been invited to speak on “parenting skills” for families with gay children and that, although he claimed homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals, he had no idea some Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty for homosexuality.

There are reasons to think Don is not as stupid as he claims he is, and even if he were he would nevertheless be responsible.

It is telling that he mentioned receiving threats and more than 600 hate mails related to his visit: “I spoke to help people,” he said, “and I’m getting bludgeoned from one end to the other.” No, Don. You are not the victim here, and you don’t get to claim that you are.

Diagnosis: Vile loon who should be charged with crimes against humanity; he is a representative for a very dangerous trend: extremist religious organizations who, unable to establish theocracy or use violence against those they dislike in the US, targets Africa instead – and are extremely successful at it. Exodus (headed by one Alan Chambers) is one such organization.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#348: Debbie Schlussel

Debbie Schlussel is another rightwing columnist and blogger. She has done some right stuff, in fact, such as looking into Sean Hannity’s “charity work”, but that doesn’t alter the overall assessment. Her main focus is targeting what she regards as negative elements of American Islamic society. That means, in general, typical wingnut populist idiocy and deliberate misinformation. See here - Schlussel responded to this one by calling Mediamatters “far left”. The idea that this counts as a response tells you a lot about what kind of approach Schlussel takes to reality. She also compared them to Nazis (in particular, for some arbitrary but predictable reason, George Soros). In 2010 she claimed that the new Miss USA, Rima Fakih, was a terrorist because she was of Lebanese descent. Her sources were apparently the voices in her head. In 2007 also complained that atheists targeted her for, uh, blatant racism; she argued that this was natural, however, since atheists are Muslim-lovers and most of them will, in a few years, be fanatic Islamists. She also blamed the Virginia Tech shootings on the Muslims, of course, so it comes as no surprise when she voices her shock and horror that Whole Foods actually sells food to Muslims. In a civilized society they would be indicted for supporting terrorism!

To take a few more examples: Schlussel has also claimed that it was OK for the Europeans to take the US from the Natives because, well, because the Natives were also immigrants some twenty thousand years ago, and she is adamant that “freedom of religion” does not mean or encompass “freedom from religion”. During the captivity of American journalist Jill Carroll, Schlussel claimed that Carroll hated Israel and America, implying that she sympathized with her captors and explicitly calling those who disagreed with her “blind worshippers of Jill Carroll”. In 2007, she asserted that WNBA player Anna DeForge is a bad role model because she is a lesbian, and in 2011 she stirred up some dissatisfaction by suggesting that CBS reporter Lara Logan deserved the sexual assault she suffered while covering the protests in Egypt. There is a pattern here.

Diagnosis: Described as “Ann Coulter without the charm”, Schlussel is a deranged dimwit and some may suspect truly mentally ill; she is still pretty dangerous, however.

Monday, July 30, 2012

#347: Phyllis Schlafly

The item that spawned Andy Schlafly is known for “defending […]the real rights of women. A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother.” She is the founder and head of the extremist rightwing, creationist, antivaxx, dominionist group the Eagle Forum (this one on the connection between nazism and the welfare state, is particularly pertinent), and described by her neighbor as “an exponent of an extreme right-wing philosophy – a propagandist who deals in emotion and personalities where it is not necessary to establish facts or prove charges.”

Schlafly’s work was pivotal in the victory of the “pro-family” movement over the Equal Rights Amendment, which according to her would have led to “homosexual schoolteachers and unisex bathrooms” as well as many other ills. For instance, she laments the loss of “real men” who went to war to save damsels in distress, men like the draft dodging wife beater John Wayne.

Schlafly, the heroine of the Values Voter Debate, is a published author of nine books, three-time candidate for the U.S. Congress, a full-time law student at Washington University in St. Louis, editor of a monthly newsletter, a twice-a-week syndicated newspaper columnist, regular speaker at anti-liberal rallies, and employs a full-time housekeeper to take care of her mansion – in other words, she follows her anti-emancipatory arguments and consistently claims that women should stay at home as the Bible requires, by setting a splendid example. Like her son Andy, Phyllis generally use “liberal” and “feminist” pejoratively, usually in connection with things she doesn’t like but haven’t really thought about and is pathologically clueless about (for instance this or this). Like her offspring, Phyllis is also an avid conspiracy theorist. In her book “A Choice, Not An Echo” she claimed that a liberal conspiracy of “kingmakers” led by the Bilderberg group had control over the Republican Party presidential nominating process and kept real conservatives from getting the nomination. She still peddles some predictable conspiracy theories. She is, of course, also a creationist, and claims that she is persecuted for it (yes, it is backed up by the most outrageous lies, as expected); her writings on creationism have been endorsed by Jack Kemp and David Horowitz, among others.

The reputation of Washington University in St. Louis was forever tarnished in 2008 when some babbling idiots decided it was appropriate to award Phyllis Schlafly with an honorary degree - especially given Schlafly’s views on public education. You can see a conversation between her and Christian reconstructionist filmmaker E. Ray Moore, who thinks parents are mandated by the Bible to homeschool their children since public schools are “godless and pagan by precept and design” and that there should be “God in the math class and in the science class as much as in the Bible class,” here.

Michele Bachmann has called Phyllis Schlafly the most important woman in US history the last 100 years, and calls Schlafly her mentor. Tells you lot about both, really.

Diagnosis: Although she is an irrevocably insane (and probably undead) dimbulb, Schlafly has done some real harm and her influence should not be underestimated. The Eagle Forum remains a relatively powerful organization.

This site ( is useful for information on the Eagle Forum (among other things).

#346: Andy Schlafly

We won’t describe the antics of Andrew Layton Schlafly in too much detail; there is simply too much to mention (do check out the Lenski affair, though), and he has an extensive biography here (or here, for one that sacrifices accuracy in favor of non-offensiveness). Schlafly is a blogger, conservative conspiracy theorist and – most famously – the owner of Conservapedia (famously described by his mother Phyllis: “He has started this thing on the Internet. I don't know what to call it.” Indeed). Schlafly is known to be currently undefeated in any debate due to his deployment of the Schlafly Reversal, the Schlafly Stretch, the Schlafly Rearguard, the Schlafly Slip, Schlafly Statistics, and the fact that he can just ban anyone who disagrees with him from his site. As Richard Carnes aptly put it “... arguing with Andy is like playing chess with a small child who doesn't know the rules”.

Schlafly is also general counsel to the wingnut quack-organization Association of AmericanPhysicians and Surgeons (not to be confused with the American Medical Association).

He is, of course, a Young Earth Creationist located somewhere around Ray Comfort and Linda Kimball. Combining his creationism, crackpottery, wingnuttery, American Exceptionalism, endorsement of theocracy, Taliban fundamentalism, extreme conspiracy theory adherence, racism, misogyny, self-aggrandizing delusions (he purports to have superior expertise in, among other things, anthropology, astronomy, biblical scholarship and translation, the entertainment industry, microbiology, nutrition, oncology, psychiatry, mathematics, relativity, statistics, and world history) and general bigotry, he eventually launched the still dimmest, most powerful black hole of insanity (and bigotry) on the Internet (yes, Schlafly wins that one; no mean feat): Conservapedia ( isn’t even in the running for that one).

Constructed to rectify the liberal bias of Wikipedia, Conservapedia (Newcomers’ guide here) is governed not by the definitional schema “x is liberal, hence x is evil”, but by “x is evil, hence x is liberal”, and the law that anything Schlafly does not particularly fancy is dismissed as “liberal evolutionist abortionist claptrap” (such as the idea that the Greek wrote comedies (disproven by the fact that humor cannot exist without Christianity) or that anything “useful has ever been built based on the theory of relativity” – in fact, relativity is a liberal plot). Conservapedia is constructed to meet the educational needs of homeschoolers, and Schlafly offers courses on selected scientific topics for homeschooled kids. He considers Conservapedia to be one of the greatest achievements throughout history (special mention goes to one of the most active sysops, the Unification Church member Ed Poor, who must rank as one of the most incompetent human beings ever to have walked the earth).

Understandably, he is openly contemptuous of credentialed experts, especially when they disagree with his uncited assertions – much is summed up by his slogan “Don't read a book to learn, write a book to learn”. He has also suggested that editing Conservapedia is a better way to learn than “reading a book, attending a seminar, ... discussing with people” (“Most books (other than the Bible) are liberal claptrap”) and that “[i]n merely a few spare minutes or hours, the participants in The Conservative Bible Project have learned more than they could have after spending 10x or 100x many hours in any other medium”.

… yes, the Conservapedia Bible Project, the purpose of which is to purge the Bible of liberal bias. You’ll have to read about it for yourself. Words fail.

A “Best of Conservapedia” list is here. One among innumerable favorites: “Atheistic theories of the origin of the Moon, widely taught for decades despite lacking the falsifiability requirement of science (see Philosophy of science), have been proven false”. For regular updates on the activities on Conservapedia, you can visit this one (or for updates on Conservapedia in the news, this one).

Diagnosis: ”Obviously many people refuse to read the Bible and thus miss out on the benefit of its foreknowledge. Had scientists carefully studied the walking on water with an open mind, then it may not have taken 1900 years before they recognized the existence of wave-particle duality. Ditto for many other phenomena.” [A. Schlafly] 

(Roger “I suspect that high empathy measurements are correlated with an assortment of psychological problems” Schlafly is Andrew Schlafly’s older brother and has established his own credentials as a conservative activist with interminable lack of insight (see his take on the Violence against Women Act here. He is usually considered to be Andy’s saner counterpart, but Roger’s alleged sanity is visible only when compared to his brother (or mother). He does not deserve his own entry, however.)