Saturday, September 23, 2017

#1900: Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston is the wingnut behind the website Personal Liberty Digest (and not identical to former congressman Bob Livingston). Apart from typical wingnuttery and survivalism stuff Livingston promotes a variety of woo and pseudoscience from a wingnut point of view, with a particular focus on supplements and “alternatives to drugs” that you – coincidentally – can buy from him.

According to his bio, Bob “had four heart attacks” between “age thirty-eight and age forty” but decided to forgo prescription drugs, which he judged to be “far worse than heart disease.” He was also “sure that he did not have a drug deficiency,” which is usually not the diagnosis for which drugs are prescribed. In any case, Livingston, motivated in part by his distrust in the government and belief that “organized medicine [as opposed to online stores selling supplements] is literally a killing machine” (note the delectable misapplication of “literally”), decided to do his own research, and currently “[t]hirty-nine years of research study in health and nutrition [at the University of Google] qualifies Bob as a nutritional expert,” in his own opinion. He has “volumes of information to share with his readers,” mostly concerned with various types of fallacious appeals to nature. Traditional medicine is not natural, in Livingston’s eyes; accordingly “Bob believes that the credibility of the medical establishment is eroding quickly and will soon collapse.”

As most online promoters of woo, Livingston knows how to cure most diseases and illnesses, including cancer. Livingston’s “natural cancer treatment” is his “bicarbonate maple syrup cancer treatment,” which is a natural, effective alternative to chemotherapy wholly without side effects. Apparently it is similar to insulin potentiation therapy. That is not a good thing. Actually, the “bicarbonate maple syrup treatment works in reverse to IPT,” whatever that means. Then Livingston refers to Tullio Simoncini. Simoncini is the guy who thinks cancer is fungus (because tumors are white and fungus is white) and might just be the craziest crackpot on the whole of the Internet. Simoncini’s suggestion for treating cancer is to pump it up with sodium bicarbonate, which at least gives you an idea about where Livingston’s idea originates. It’s hard to describe in human words how stupid, wrong and dangerous the suggestion actually is. Apparently Livingston learned the trick from folk healer Jim Kelmun, whose “loyal patients swear by the man” and “say he is a miracle worker.” People who have cancer and who treat their cancer tumors with maple syrup and baking soda will quickly cease to be in any position to provide negative feedback, so marketing-wise the idea is very effective insofar as the only evidence you rely on is the testimony of your loyal customers. More here.

And Livingston is just getting started. According to Livingston, the “germ theory of disease is a foolish hoax created by Louis Pasteur. It is a notion of nonsense that has confused millions of people and made billions for the pharmaceuticals with vaccines and tens of thousands of drugs or over-the-counter preparations. If one person in society should die of a ‘contagious disease,’ the whole world population would expire.” Yes, Livingston denies that contagious diseases exist, and you really got to appreciate his reasoning: “Well, what about the flu epidemic shortly after World War I that killed 80 million people worldwide? According to the germ theory of disease, this flu should have killed everyone on earth. Of course, it didn’t and some people died in the same household where others did not. Why did this so-called ‘infectious disease’ not infect the entire world population?” Indeed. What’s the alternative theory, you may wonder? “The answer is that disease is born of us and in us. If our immune system is strong and healthy, we could sleep with people dying with ‘contagious disease’ and never even get sick.” Why you would need an immune system if there are no dangerous germs or contagious diseases is not entirely clear, but Livingston is adamant: “The germ theory of disease is nothing in the world but a commercial enterprise. Disease comes from within. When the body is overly fatigued with excess stress, toxins and malnutrition, there is a breakdown of immunity.” Immunity to what, you might then ask, but should probably realize that you may just as well give up at this point. “A person’s nutritional status and hydration level is the prime determinant of health. Disease comes from within!” since every time you repeat a claim you double its credibility.

His newsletter is (appropriately) listed here.

Livingston is also the author of various books in his series “A Survival Treasury”, including Surviving a Global Financial Crisis and Currency Collapse and Natural Alternatives for Diabetes and Blood Sugar Problems Drug Companies Don’t Want You to Know. You can probably make a cursory assessment of the quality of his advice on these issues, too.

Diagnosis: Oh, yes. Bob Livingston is a contagious disease denialist, no less. The Black Death was caused by people suddenly getting stressed out and dehydrated and malnourished in the same way at the same time. Though his audience is probably relatively limited, it would be wrong to say that he is entirely harmless.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

#1899: Bruce Lipton

Bruce Lipton is a former cell biologist, who abandoned science- and reality-based biology after having experienced a “spiritual revelation” about cells that led him to embrace creationism and decide that holistic medicine works. For the most part, he comes across as a slightly more science-focused Deepak Chopra, though what Lipton calls “science” is ultimately no less not than Chopra’s spirit-babble deepity (Chopra himself is a fan of Lipton’s work). Lipton is probably best known for the idea that your beliefs and thoughts can manipulate your genes and DNA by the power of choprawoo, as described for instance in his book The Biology of Belief – Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles (2005). That claim is incorrect.

In his relatively popular video “The New Biology: Where Mind and Matter Meet by Bruce Lipton Ph.D” (good and comprehensive analysis here) Lipton lays out some core elements of his view:

  • The cell is a microcosm of the human body, and the workings of the cell reflect the workings of a body: “There is no new function that's present in your human body that’s not already present in every single cell. You have a digestive system, a respiratory system, etc, so does a cell.” Then notice: humans live in communities, and multicellular organisms are in biology sometimes described as “colonies of cells”. From that metaphor, Lipton derives his theory of cancer: “cancer cells have withdrawn from the community … Why would some cells get out of the community? And the answer is why are people homeless? … If their community is not supporting them at some point the cells recognize at some point ‘My God what do I want to be in this for’.” And then we get cancer – it’s a result of a breakdown of cell society. And note that Lipton is not intending this as a metaphor. This is Lipton’s theory of cancer. Science, anatomy and the distinction between poetic metaphor and literal description be damned.
  • The brain of the cell: According to Lipton, biologists think that the cell nucleus is the brain of the cell. But cells can live for months in a dish after they’ve had their nucleus taken out, whereas human bodies die without a brain. Therefore, scientists are wrong. Yes, the argument is precisely as inept as I make it sound. (And for the record: biologists do not think that the cell nucleus is anything like the brain of the cell, even when they’re being metaphorical; not that this is the most incompetent element of Lipton’s argument).
  • Instead, Lipton thinks the cell membrane is the brain of the cell (and yes: he has pointed out the similarity between “…brane” and “brain”, cuz that’s how he rolls). His evidence consists primarily of redefining scientific terms and by calling the chemical reactions taking place at the cell membrane “perception” and those that take place within the cell “behavior”, and when you have perception and behavior you’ve got further proof that cells are just like organisms (detailed critique of Lipton’s arguments here). Therefore, cell perception and our perception are linked, and since there is a link between perception and belief, there is a link between our beliefs and cell activity. Hence, your beliefs can control your cells, and therefore your DNA, and therefore heal any medical problem you may have that doctors say are of genetic origin. In particular, we can cure cancer with our beliefs. Or, in other words, Lipton is a complete idiot, and the people who listen to him – such as quacks like Joe Mercola – dangerously ignorant and delusional.

Lipton’s ideas have, of course, been ignored by mainstream science, and much of Lipton’s writings accordingly consist of attacking science; “modern science has bankrupted our souls,” claims Lipton, since they tend not to find support for his wishful thinking, metaphors and other nonsense (Coast to Coast AM has covered him extensively, though). Lipton rejects the “Newtonian vision of the primacy of a physical, mechanical Universe”, that “genes control biology,” that evolution resulted from random genetic mutations, and that evolution is driven by natural selection – mostly on the grounds that these ideas don’t quite fit what his intuitions have revealed to him. The Secret, on the other hand, is apparently worthy science.

As for evolution, Lipton finds it implausible that that we arose in this garden as a total result of accident, which, of course, is Hoyle’s fallacy and not what the theory of evolution claims. And note: Bruce Lipton has a PhD in developmental biology, despite evidently not grasping the most basic elements of what evolution is. Instead, Lipton plumps for Intelligent Design creationism – that it was purpose and design through the entire process – though without the Christianity part. Moreover,  [i]f you take Darwinian theory, make a ‘scientific’ principle out of it, put it into political action, then you have something like Nazi Germany,” says Lipton. Question: if you take the third law of thermodynamics, make a “scientific principle out of it” and “put it into political action”, would you get full-scale nuclear war? And what does that suggest to Lipton about the third law of thermodynamics? (No, it makes no sense, at any level). Anyways, freeing evolution from its moorings in science and reality enables Lipton to state that “humanity is on the brink of spontaneous evolution”. If you think there is a tension between the concepts “spontaneous” and “evolution” you shouldn’t, because quantum. And you know when the big change will take place, don’t you? Yes, that’s right: It’s 2012. Darwinian evolution is false because it fail to predict a 2012 apocalypse. Apparently, Lipton’s own theory suffered no such falsification misfortune when 2012 came and passed without relevant incident because only scientific theories are affected by falsification; pseudoscientific theories are protected from such misfortunes. Here’s a discussion of Lipton’s own theory of biology, which explicitly rejects the whole of genetics: “the genes, that’s all, that’s all wrong, that information,” says Lipton.

He is, however, fond of epigenetics, which seems to have become the new quantum in woo and pseudoscience circles (not that Lipton shies away from invoking old-fashioned quantum woo as well). Of course, Lipton appears to have no clear idea about what epigenetics actually is, but some popularizing descriptions using metaphors and analogies do give him some vague associations to the Law of Attraction, which he likes, so he runs with that. 

Other books by Lipton include:
  •       The Wisdom of Your Cells - How Your Beliefs Control Your Biology (2006)
  •       Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here (co-authored with Steve Bhaerman) (2009)
  •       The Honeymoon Effect: The Science of Creating Heaven on Earth (2013)

Diagnosis: Tirelessly harnessing the power of nonsense, Lipton has emerged as a dafter but somewhat more sciency-sounding competitor to the Chopra itself. Complete nonsense, of course, which stands to science roughly as a balloon stands to mathematical logic, but Lipton enjoys a relatively substantial following number of victims among the scientifically illiterate.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

#1898: Avi Lipkin

Conspiracy theories involving Obama are a-dime-a-dozen, but the version(s) promoted by Avi Lipkin – who manages to be more delusionally insane even than most of the paranoid wingnut conspiracy theorists he pals around with – were more colorful than most. According to Lipkin, who promotes his ideas on speaking tours in churches and synagogues as well as on rightwing news shows across America (ostensibly, his day job is being an “author/translator in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office,” which would be scary, but which we haven’t managed to verify, and Lipkin doesn’t generally come across as particularly trustworthy), “Obama was made a Muslim man in Indonesia by age 11. He said, ‘I’ve got health care problems, I got economic problems in America, Muslims in Egypt and Muslims in the Muslim world, be patient, I will show you when the time comes what I am going to do to Israel.’” Lipkin’s source? His wife, whom he claims is an Israel intelligence officer: “My wife picked up other broadcasts, for example the Saudis were saying, ‘we will have a Muslim in the White House in 2008.’ The Saudis also said, ‘Obama has three tasks: task number 1 is to destroy the Shiite threat in Iran, task number 2 is to destroy the Jewish threat Israel, task number 3 is to destroy the great Christian Satan America and turn America into a Muslim country.’” (Later he has also claimed to have talked to an unnamed mailman who knew Bill Ayers’s parents and got a young Obama to confide in him that he was destined to be president).

So, here is Obama’s plan to destroy America (as of 2012): First, support the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in order to collapse the region’s economy after the group persecutes the country’s Christians. This will then lead to a wave of Muslim immigration to the United States. Obama will then settle the “50–100 million” Muslims (later adjusted to “100 million”) on “lands confiscated by Agenda 21” (Lipkin’s understanding of the latter seems a bit diffuse), and bring about Sharia law in the U.S. Parallel to this, Obama has built up the national debt in a way that will make the U.S. need a bailout from Saudi Arabia, who will grant it with the condition that “America will surrender its Christianity.” Apparently God is in on this, too: It is God who sends (well, sent – Lipkin seemed to think they were already here) the Muslim immigrants to the U.S. to be “hunters” of Jews and Christians, forcing them to leave the U.S. for Israel. At least Lipkin managed to synthesize an impressive number of anti-Obama conspiracy theories. We’ll give him that.

And the machinery is, by 2012, already in motion. According to Lipkin “there are between 20 to 30 million Muslims in America and this fact is not lost on the election campaign in NovemberWhat happens after they come here is that they marry Christian women, Jewish and Christian American women and then these women become baby factories for Islam because it’s the religion of the father.” Actually, Muslims constitute about 0.6 % of the population, but when your source is your own ass you’ll discover a lot of stuff no one else knows about; “this is very stealth like, it’s very insidious,” says Lipkin. Indeed.

Lipkin is probably most famous, however, for pushing (and possibly inventing) the idea that Obama is going to use the national parks to settle those 100 million Muslim immigrants and thereby create “a Muslim majority in America” in complete secrecy without anyone noticing (he seems to have a somewhat tenuous grasp of how large the “100 million” number is and the kind of air traffic importing 100 million people would require). Indeed, as Lipkin asserted in 2013, Muslims tend to settle in forests, and they are already setting up encampments in Texas and the Ozarks and will continue to do so until there are about 50 million Muslim forest dwellers. His evidence for his claim is that he (Lipkin) drives around the country and sees a lot of empty land and forests. He later added that Muslims will also buy up all the foreclosed homes in the US; they will “buy them all up.”

The reason Obama could succeed in achieving this plan, is that he has “a lot of useful idiots in the Democratic Party, including many Jewish people, who don’t realize the big mistake that they’re making, thinking that the Muslims are the good guys and the blacks are the good guys.” He assures us, though, that “[a] lot of black people are good guys but the black agenda [?], which totally supports Obama, is very closely linked with this fanatic Islam.” At least he didn’t bother to claim that he has black friends.

Importantly, Obama also enjoys the support of the shadow government: “I think what we’ve been seeing over the last few decades is that America has been having its leaders chosen, Democrat or Republican, chosen by the one world government, the Masons, the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, whatever you want to call these people [their defining characteristic is that they hate Jesus Christ], these are people who control the world.”

Perhaps this is how Lipkin reconciles his claims about Obama’s allegiances; Obama is not only a Muslim, but “either a Communist plant, a Russian plant, which is one of the reasons he would never confront Russia; or, he’s an Islamic plant, in which case he will never go to war against a Muslim country,” because Russia is communist and the US under Obama has never been at war with or in a Muslim country. According to Lipkin, “[Obama] said this in his book that he will never go to war against another Muslim country,” citing a widely circulated and easy-to-check fabricated Obama quote. Then he repeated his claims about a Muslim invasion: “They’re going to come to the United States and the Muslim president is going to receive them, it’s a horrible situation for the United States in my opinion unless people think that selling the soul of America to the Devil is a good thing.” Of course, Obama’s actions might appear to contradict his alleged hatred for Israel, but Lipkin is ready to explain (a conspiracy theorist, after all, is one who can bend every piece of information into supporting the conspiracy theory).

In 2015, Lipkin also weighed in on the Iran nuclear deal, which was all part of Obama’s plan to make “Israel go to war against Iran.” Saudi Arabia will then emerge as the regional power since the two countries will “destroy each other,” which will allow Obama to “free himself up for his real mission, which is to make America a Muslim country.” Continued Lipkin: “President Obama is a Muslim. If you’re a Muslim, your god is Satan; if you’re a Muslim, then you are criminally psychotic. This is the plan to destroy the human race. This is something that Allah wants.” As Lipkin sees it, Muslims believe that “the only way for Allah to be greater than the God of the Jews and the Christians is to kill every last human being on the face of the earth, that’s the plan of Islam.”

Apparently Lipkin is also a prophet who prophecied 9/11 in 1998. You’ll have to take his word for it, though. He has also declared that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing as well as the WTC bombing in 1993 and the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996; according to himself, Lipkin was in Oklahoma at the time of the bombing and immediately knew that it was “an Islamic bomb because truck bombs are an Islamic way of doing things” (and the claim that truck bombs are Islamic is corroborated by the fact that the Oklahoma bomb was a truck bomb and Muslim, and so on). Of course, the Muslim involvement was hidden by an FBI cover-up operation that Lipkin by 2016 had decided was orchestrated by Merrick Garland, since Garland by 2016 was Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. “This whole thing about hating the Christians started not with Obama,” Lipkin said, “it started with the Clintons.” Garland was also involved in the death of Scalia. “I’m risking my life by talking about this,” Lipkin said, “because people who came forward with the information were killed.”

He is, however, frequently cited as a “scholar” by the American Family Association’s news division, OneNewsNow, and he is viewed as a legit authority by Tim Wildmon on Today’s Issues and Perry Atkinson on The Dove TV, who has invited Lipkin to provide his “high-level expertise on U.S. Middle-East policy.”

Lipkin was also an invited speaker at Jim Garlow’s 2015 “Future Conference” (attended by e.g. Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and a virtual who-is-who on the religious right, and backed by Newt Gingrich). At the conference, Lipkin told his audience that “all” churches in America have been infiltrated by Muslim spies pretending to be Christian converts. These moles, he said, are cataloguing Christians and Jews in order to kill them all when Muslim jihadists take over (which might, in fact, according to Lipkin, be a good thing, since it will lead to “a revival in this country in all Christian denominations” among all the Christians killed; internal consistency is not Lipkin’s strong suit). And though the theme of the conference was ostensibly “religious liberty”, the audience didn’t hesitate to applaud Lipkin’s call for a ban on Islam: “Until Islam is banned and suppressed and erased, the Jews will not have any chance to survive in this country.” Lipkin ended his presentation on a positive note, though: Muslim immigration to America, he predicted, would drive U.S. Jews to the Middle East, setting up a conflict in which Islam will be “finished”: “I predict Islam will be terminated very soon,” said Lipkin. The applause was enthusiastic.

Diagnosis: Pretty mainstream by religious right standards, Lipkin is a delusional conspiracy theorist utterly unable to distinguish reality from his feverish, hate-fuelled fantasies. His barely incoherent rants seem to have impressed a wide range of people with not negligible degrees of power and influence, though. The world is insane.