Monday, February 28, 2011

#161: Marc Grizzard

Marc Grizzard’s Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina, is renowned for their Halloween celebrations. Grizzard and his charming fellows make a big fire and burn books for Halloween (and roast chicken, apparently). But not just any books. Evil books. So they are burning Darwin and Nietzsche and SciFi and Dawkins, then? No. Grizzard and co. are burning bibles. Evil bibles: “We are burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect. These are perversions of God's Word, the King James Bible.” I am confident that Grizzard's mastery of Greek has been deployed to verify that the King James version is the most accurate translation.

But to create a really roaring flame they’ll not confine themselves to Bibles. They also burn “Satan's popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort, Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham Rick Warren Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, etc.” Several familiar names there (the erratic punctuation is from the original).

Not content with that, they “will also be burning Satan's music such as country , pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goldies, etc.”

A good old-fashioned book-burning in other words. Charming. Grizzard is discussed here and here.

Diagnosis: Loon, but as long as he insists on shooting at the vanguard of his own lunacy movement, I won’t complain. He is completely without influence, unfortunately.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

#160: David Ray Griffin

We’ve already covered the cranky 9/11 conspiracy theorist Richard Gage. Here’s his mentor. David Ray Griffin is a retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology. His philosophical work consists of attempts to justify a certain view of God by drawing upon diverse resources. In other words, his whole life was spent starting with the conclusion you wanted to reach and then trying to find a way to justify it. That, of course, is confirmation bias set into system, and might help explain why he so easily would be drawn to conspiracy theories like this one.

He has written several books on the subject, and they have become increasingly insane, ending up being featured on Alex Jones’s show. Among his books is “Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action”, and Griffin has pointed out that “If 9/11 is not a religious issue, then I don't know what is.” Griffin is really in at the deep end of trooferism, and he is really crazy.

Known for snowing and making extensive lists of things he objects to in the “official stories” (so that when one is thoroughly refuted he has at least thirty more – most of them resting on such fundamental misapprehensions (and paranoia) that they are not even properly characterized as “wrong”).

He is also a creationist, by the way (quoted by Behe), claiming that there is no evidence for evolution anywhere. It just struck me that the whole problem may simply be that Griffin just doesn’t understand what evidence is.

Also diagnosed here.

A masterful debunking of some of his recurring arguments can be found here.

Diagnosis: Virulent crackpot who has carved himself quite a lot of influence, Griffin is confirmation bias embodied. He started out as an übernut professor of philosophy of religion and has plummeted downwards from there. Mind boggling.

Friday, February 25, 2011

#159: Harold Green

Harold Green may be a relatively minor figure. He makes up for that through his sheer amount of lunacy, however, and by being a colorful fellow. Harold Green is apparently the go-to-guy if you’ve got questions about the quadrant sign code conspiracy (and have already determined that you want a certain kind of answer). So what’s that? “Embedded in our nation's road sign system is a secret coding designed to target vital sites, facilities, routes and resources for military confiscation during a National Emergency. Though, concealed by the lies of the Department of Transportation for many years”. Right … it starts sounding a little more ominous when you add: “Secretly embedded codes like these [pictures on his website] are part of "Operation Garden Plot" where U.S. forces/National Guard and *Partnership* NATO/UN military will police and patrol our streets and highways during MARTIAL LAW.” He even found the name for the campaign. He doesn’t tell us where, as far as I can see, but I think I’m able to guess.

Oh, he does have proof – meaning proof that there exist official emergency measures in case of nuclear attacks. That’s hardly a secret. However, he doesn’t need any further premises confirmed in order to go from that to “The United Nations military has plans to become the cop soldiers of the world. Unknown to the general populace, a "Rapid Deployment" force stands ready to enter U.S. borders at the request of the President of the United States.” Somehow, pictures of reflective marks on roadsigns are supposed to establish that – and that these signs are marking where the military can, apparently at random, confiscate property.

And that’s the first point of this overly paranoid world-picture – the UN is ready to seize your property under any pretext, and these signs supposedly show them what to seize. The second point is that the measures are not there in case of emergency – the government and UN are in a conspiracy to put these plans of confiscating property into action any day now. It’s really all about the dangers of the U.N. and their wicked plans to overthrow the United States of America (and the UN is really evil, as the criminally insane Texe Marrs point out). And then there are passages referring to the Bilderbergers, Kissinger, black helicopters and links to creation science websites. His whole webiste strikes one, in a cute way, of being constructed by a mental health patient who is desperately but not quite successfully trying to appear sane when he tries to convince you that his main worry is a real one.

Harold Green is a “constitutionalist” and a militia guy, providing an interesting glimpse into that paranoid segment of society. He is also a committed rapture-will-come-soon Biblical fundamentalist.

Diagnosis: Thoroughly kooky, and presumably completely harmless on his own. The kind of extreme paranoia he lives under is common enough to be at least worrisome, however.
(ed. note - Unable to locate a photo of the correct Harold Green (it's especially difficult because there is a more famous fictional Harold Green out there, who I presume isn't the same guy), so I've included one of his photos of "coded" signs instead.)

#158: George Grant

Keeping in line with last days’ religious kooks, George Grant is another Christian reconstructionist in the same league as deluded, fanatic, dishonest cranks like Gary DeMar, Gary North and David Barton. Grant is a result of the despicable late D. James Kennedy’s televangelism, and a blatant theocrat: “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice […] It is dominion we are after. World conquest” ().

Not much fluffy feel-good woo there. Grant admires the tactics of the Taliban, thinks homosexuality should be punishable by death and claims that humanism is destroying the world.

He is also a climate change denialist, but that will surprise nobody, I suppose; crank magnetism is a well-known phenomenon.

He has written a huge number of books (see here for a comprehensive list), including one coauthored with Mike Huckabee. You can see Grant respond to a question of whether society should recognize pluralism and democratic values here.

Diagnosis: The reasonable reaction would be to laugh and point at these loons. But we don’t. Rather, we give them airtime and treat them with respect. Thus they also get a degree of legitimacy. That is scary.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

#157: Ron Graham

If Billy Graham is in many ways a tactful and (relatively) sane proponent of fluffy-feelgood Biblical literalism, then his namesake Ron is his maniacal, deranged, twisted and distorted mirror-image. The latter is an uncompromising fundamentalist who criticizes those, like Billy, who try to change God to suit their personal beliefs and wishes (i.e. making him anything but a psychotic mass-murderer). See him criticize people for taking verses out of context, and doing the exact same thing himself when trying to prove that God isn't quite as nasty as his actions, words and apparent intentions really entail. In this one he also apparently claims that any non-Christian is non-human (so God’s killing them would more be like pest control taking care of ants, or gardeners cutting down the tall weeds, as they used to put it in Rwanda). His argument-style is called SPAG, and it’s probably fun.

If you want to leaf through Graham’s rants (not necessarily recommended), you’ll find the collection here. Graham is a Biblical literalist. No, really – he is really, really a literalist. Meaning (mostly) that he assumes Medieval musers’ (Dante, Pico etc.) interpretation. That doesn’t go very well with science, of course, but Graham is willing to bite any bullet that comes his way: “Scientists would have us all believe that the edge of the universe is billions of light years away […]. I submit to all those enthralled by man’s fabrications that the heavens are simply rolled out as a scroll just as the Bible states. I’ll even take it a step further and say that all we humans see in the night sky, as far as deep space is concerned, is only a wonderful holograph, an illusion if you will. Well, my theory is no more farfetched than that of the proponents of billions of years.” Except that intuition and incredulity aren’t really the arbiters of scientific truth. Furthermore “[S]cientists tell us it all occurred with a big bang. God was there in the beginning, where were the scientists?” That one will sure be a partypooper at any physics conference, I bet. I suppose it is redundant to mention what Graham thinks about evolution (but if you insist). His whole view of science is summed up here.

At least he has some charming views about those who disagree with him. It is supposedly watertight - since he speaks the words of God (SPAG), it follows that those who disagree with him speak the voice of Satan.

And of course there is the usual stuff: “the real landslide of the decay of our society began years ago when we allowed the Bible to be taken out of our public schools. Soon after that we had the legalization of abortion and the teaching the lie of evolution as a fact not as a theory, even to the exclusion of any other possible scenario for life to have occurred on earth. Then, more recently, we’ve seen the teaching in our public schools of the abomination of homosexuality as being a fully acceptable and normal lifestyle.”

Diagnosis: Completely insane, and the kind of figure bad parents use to scare their children – an excellent Halloween prop, really. It is hard to imagine that he has many followers, but you never know.

#156: Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham is Billy Graham’s son, and a loon. Now, I was a little torn about whether to include Billy himself – Billy Graham is definitely one of the more influential forces in 20th century America (though he is currently rather elderly and frail, suffering from prostate cancer and Parkinson’s, and has retired from evangelical proselytizing), and one of the very main reasons why fundamentalist, conservative bible-thumping is so widespread in the US (rather than the liberal theology common in Europe). Billy has, for instance, claimed that America’s turning away from religion and God has been one of the main reason for the current surge of violence and crime (when, of course, all research shows that crime rates have dropped markedly). Partially, of course, the fundamentalist turn was due to the need to mark the distance to the godless communists during the Cold War (a point Graham repeatedly emphasized).

But Billy is sometimes viewed as a moderate evangelist (although ‘moderate’ as used of evangelicals seems to be a category mistake by definition – Graham does accept the Bible as the infallible word of God), and has been spiritual counselor to several U.S. presidents (from Harry Truman and onwards). He has a reputation for being apolitical, but has apparently always been a registered Democrat. And his general lunacy is somewhat offset by his admittedly valiant fight for civil rights in the 50s and 60s, his fight against apartheid, and other matters. He also refused to join Falwell’s Moral Majority (though can legitimately be blamed for being responsible for the resurgence of this kind of fundamentalism), and has in general avoided speaking out on matters concerning sexual orientation and suchlike. He also apologized for his meetings with Nixon where they discussed a Jewish "stranglehold" on the media, and I have frankly no reason to think the apology was insincere.

Oh, he is delusional – the extent of his delusions is well illustrated by this one – and he must be held partially responsible for harm (his unerrant fighting for evangelicism is one thing; the upshot of unarguably mad Southern Bapitst characters – Chuck Colson springs to mind – another).

Even if we suspend judgment on Billy, however, his son, Franklin Graham, is obviously a true loon. For instance he claims that Obama is (somewhat) Muslim since his forefathers were (apparently it is a hereditary trait). In fact, all religion is inherited, according to Franklin, apart from Christianity, which you have to choose. And of course, he received some flak for his demon-possession explanation of the VA Tech, uhm, incident.

Franklin has also claimed that God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans because we took God out of schools, and is in general much better aligned with creatures such as Falwell or Pat Robertson.

He also claims that Islam “is a religion of hatred. It's a religion of war.” (which is admittedly plausible in the same manner as it is plausible to claim that Christianity is). Building the cultural center near Ground Zero, he says, means Muslims "will claim now that the World Trade Center property ... is Islamic land." It may be true to the same degree that Graham would probably claim that Baghdad was Christian land if they built a church there. It is still a loony argument to make.

He is also the leader of the Samaritan’s purse, a non-profit proselytizing, evangelical organization posing as a humanitarian aid organization. Franklin also possesses a healthy dose of fringe-loon persecution complex.

Alan Borass associates Franklin (but explicitly not Billy) with Christian nationalism.

Diagnosis: While the jury may be out on Billy (he’s done a lot of good, but is also at least partially to blame for the resurgence of fundamentalism), Franklin’s case is more clear cut. He is, quite simply, a wingnut and a loon. Thereby he also illustrates how easily Billy’s position ends up in bigotry and crankery.

#155.5: Bill Gothard

William W. Gothard stands to Pat Robertson roughly as Ray Comfort stands to Bill Dembski. He is a minister, writer, and speaker, and the founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBPL).

A staunch defender of homeschooling (to avoid having kids exposed to, you know, such satanic values as tolerance, truth, dignity, rationality, reason, sanity, evidence-based justification, sympathy, humanism and reality), Gothard and his organization publishes homeschooling material (such as “Men’s Manual” and “Our Jealous God”). Gothard’s teachings prohibit dating and rock music (including Christian rock, which is a redeeming feature, I guess, but hardly sufficient to take his name off the loon list). On the other hand, women working outside the home are characterized as “evil”. He also has a slightly curious obsession with certain toys (Cabbage Patch dolls can cause “strange, destructive behavior"). Matthew Murray was raised using Gothard’s curriculum, and he got famous. Other people who have been associated with his organization are “Taliban Dan” Webster and Sarah Palin, though the latter’s connection is admittedly a little tenuous.
To top it, Gothard claims that diseases have spiritual roots, and modern medicine is Satan’s work. You can read more about Gothard’s teachings here.
Diagnosis: The cartoon version of Pat Robertson, cultmaster Bill Gothard is so irredeemably insane that it is hard to believe he is real. Yet he is, and he continues to ensure that people’s lives are ruined at a frighteningly rapid pace. A real threat to sanity and civilization.

#155: Guillermo Gonzalez

Gonzalez is associated with (and a pet of) the Discovery Institute, and one of their “clearest” examples of a victim of evil Darwinist conspiracy in academia. Gonzalez is an astronomer who was denied tenure at Iowa State University. He did not receive tenure because, in part, of a lack of publications (and probably failure to bring in grant money) among other things. It was not hard for the Discovery Institute (where Gonzalez is currently a fellow) to construe this as being due to Gonzalez’s creationist beliefs and as evidence for the persecution of crackpots. More here, here, and here. In fact, even if their allegations were right, they would not prove the Discovery Institute’s point, but they would of course never realize that.

He also figured prominently in the cesspit of dishonesty “Expelled”.

Gonzalez has, apart from that, written a book with theologian Jay Richards presenting us – predictably enough – with Paley’s argument, yet again (in its modern fine-tuning argument format).

He is also a climate change denialist.

Diagnosis: Not as flamboyantly stupid as, say, Geoffrey Simmons, but a solid crackpot nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#154: Mark Gold

To some people, reason and evidence count when assessing claims about health benefits or hazards of various food products. To others, what matters is to find an appealing conspiracy and a plausible culprit. Mark Gold isn’t the only one who has hit upon aspartame as the culprit, but he seems to be representative of that group. From the point of view of science, there is little evidence to suggest that aspartame is actually a hazard, though it may admittedly not have been properly tested. But what does science matter when it doesn’t fit your preconceptions? I am, by the way, using this entry as a general entry for this particular conspiracy theory.

Mark Gold has no medical expertise. Rather, he presents himself as an expert on holistic healing (with 20 years of background in “research" (not further specified)). He seems to be behind this cesspit of misinformation, and this one, which may appear convincing to someone with no medical training (and no background in critical thinking). He is even featured on, for crying out loud. A typical example of Gold’s research occurred when, preceding the European Food Safety Authority’s acceptance of aspartame as safe, Gold “investigated the background of the first two speakers and knew they had no intention of giving an honest opinion". That, readers, is a prime example of what confirmation bias and conspiracy theory research looks like. Considering the claims does not matter when you can challenge the integrity of the people presenting them.

Apart from the aspartame conspiracy, Gold seems to be into every form of woo imaginable.

And here is, apparently, the face of the “scientific” opposition to aspartame.

It is all there. Random capitalization and colors and claims like “aspartame is the molecular Auschwitz” (with pictures of FDA members juxtaposed with pictures of Hitler), “The actual letter from the FDA Gestapo is here! Is this the U.S. or Nazi Germany?” and: “We need to tell the world that the NutraSweet Company is guilty of MURDER and we need to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law as well as all individuals who stood by them and protected them such as the media, Medical Associations (AMA, ADA, JDF, IFIC, Public Voice, etc) congress, FDA, and the Justice department just as they did with Nazi war criminals.” If that’s not scientific evidence enough for you, I don’t know what is! And of course: “Does Michael J. Fox really have Parkinson's or is his nerve damage from many years of consuming diet soda and other aspartame laced products? Michael EMAIL us!” [the garish color schema removed]

And there has been research! Such as Carol Guilford's Report: “ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER, ASPARTAME, (EQUAL, NUTRASWEET) LINKED TO BREAST CANCER AND GULF WAR SYNDROME”. Unfortunately Guilford is an author of cooking books and not exactly a scientist.

Other “researchers” associated with the stupidity seems to include one Betty Martini, Russell Blaylock (an actual doctor, but still a loon), and one Dr. H.J. Roberts.

Diagnosis: Very typical, and very insane. Gold and the aspartame conspiracy theorists are prime examples of how confirmation bias works in practice and how certainty is not a function of good evidence. The influence of the movement seems to be on a level that must be considered to be a cause for concern.
(ed. note - I'm having a hard time finding a photo I can reliably identify as the Mark Gold of this post, but since this post is also largely about aspartame conspiracy theories, this logo should suffice for the time being.)

#153: Louie Gohmert

Gohmert is a current Republican U.S. Representative from Texas's 1st congressional district. That’s a rather scary thought. Gohmert's position as a hardcore fiscal rightwing is not surprising. His lunacy may be made more obvious by the fact that he signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1503, which would "amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee's statement of organization a copy of the candidate's birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution". Still, that might have been opportunistic pandering to the substantial nutblock on GOP’s right wing.

There's no getting around the terror babies bit, however (see also here). And he cannot get around his response to a CDC report saying that Americans did not eat enough fruits and vegetables: ““Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said people in America are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. They want all the power of the federal government to force you to eat more fruits and vegetables. This is what the federal, CDC , they going to be calling people and finding out how many fruits and vegetables you eat (sic) today. This is socialism of the highest order!" You can virtually see the synapses short-circuiting during the mental processing that goes on in Gohmert’s head here.

To crown the case for the inclusion of Gohmert, you could watch this clip (Gohmert arguing against the protection of gays since that would lead to the protection of pedophiles and necrophiliacs, and he wants Alan Keyes for president – and that last fact is enough to qualify Gohmert for any list of loons).

If there is still any doubt about the helpless ignorance, incompetence and nuttery of Gohmert, try this. Or this one.

You can also watch Debbie Riddle make a fool of herself trying to defend Gohmert’s idea of terror babies.

Diagnosis: It scares me a little that after dealing with this row of unhinged nutters, Gohmert comes across as almost normal. He isn’t. He is insane.

Fan-mail Time

Please excuse the diversion from our regular format; we just received a wonderful piece of "fan" email that was simply too awesome not to share. And so here it is for your entertainment:

So what the fuck is your problem?
Why are YOU so goddamn smug?
Who are you to ridicule a Zionist conspiracy? The Zionist conspiracy was involved in the very formation of the nation of Israel?!! Fucking dumbass.
You're probably the type who believes the official media story of 9-11, without a critical mind to investigate alternatives. And how sick of you to ridicule truthseekers and call them "troofers". That's just horrible. Would you rather people NOT try to find truth?!
I bet you believe in the Warren Commission's report as well, and the official propaganda about the Vietnam War...and you undoubtedly believe in the Big Bang, and pure evolution by chance and randomness with no intelligence involved whatsoever. The Big Bang is just as goofy a theory as the "poof-there-it-is!" belief of creationists.
The comic strip on your webpage is the worst I've ever seen! Even worse than The Simpsons animation, even worse than King Of The Hill. Whether you or one of your WOW-playing buddies did it, it's abject garbage.
I bet you're some 20-something punk who think he's a know-it-all. I bet you listen to shitty music and play video games all the time, when you're not making fun of other humans.
If you believe in the official, mainstream trash about 9-11, you're the one who belongs in your American Loons encyclopedia. Why haven't you included yourself yet?
Fuck you, you ignorant non-thinking half-brain.

One wonders if this person has ever encountered a bit of loonery that he or she didn't endorse. Anyway that is all for the time being. If we receive any more similarly awesome messages from our fans, we'll be sure to share them. And now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#152: Ron Godwin

Falwell’s bulldog (executive assistant) and one of the extremely dangerous, highly delusional and frighteningly influential and powerful Sun Myung Moon musketeers in the US. His goal is, as is Moon’s, a “rejuvenation of Christianity”, which basically means right-wing theocracy, Afghanistan style. Moon actually thinks he is the Messiah, out to establish a worldwide government that abolishes the separation of church and state. And Godwin, together with Robert Grant (chair of Christian Voice) and Donald Sills, are his disciples – Moon apparently assigned to them the following pyramid scheme-like task: “You will be like the three disciples of Jesus. Each one of you will put your self in Jesus' position and multiply three disciples of your own. Then your number will grow to a team of twelve. With twelve people of your character and determination, at this level, you will be invincible. Your catch phrase will be that American Christianity needs resurrection more than revival. Let us resurrect American Christianity.”

Godwin is also the executive vice president of Falwell’s Liberty University, and – through his connection to Moon – has been the vice president of (and is still heavily associated with) Moon’s own personal wingnut periodical, the Washington Times. In fact, Moon has bailed Liberty University out of financial trouble, and seems to have a lot of influence there. Godwin is also former executive director of the Moral Majority.

Diagnosis: Highly delusional cultist; baby-eater vile. Godwin isn’t particularly flashy or famous, and seems to have sailed under the radar of many loonguard activists. He seems to wield a dangerous amount of power, however.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#151: Gary Glenn

The dishonest leader of the Michigan branch of the American Family Association (Bryan Fischer’s and Don Wildmon’s gang, who seeks to ban abortion, homosexuality and possibly even women’s voting rights), Gary Glenn is famous for lobbying for the banning of Gay/Straight Alliance groups in Michigan schools. He was also among the plaintiffs who recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed in 2009, violated their religious freedom and freedom of speech rights (together with such charming fellows as Levon Yuille (to be covered later); René B. Ouellette, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Michigan; and James Combs, pastor of four different churches in the state). The obviously ridiculous complaint (as usual backed by the insane fundamentalists of the Thomas More Law Center) was quickly dismissed.

Not only does Glenn hate gays, he is so thoroughly afraid of them that you’d suspect he might pull a Ted Haggard any day now.
Diagnosis: Perhaps Glenn is relatively insignificant – there are literally thousands and thousands of his kind out there. They are all loons, of course, and Glenn may very well serve as a representative for all of them.

#150: Michael Glatze

Skipping Werner Gitt, who – despite his lunacy and association with the Discovery Institute’s combined obsession with and ignorance of information theory – is German and hence disqualified from our encyclopedia, we will move on to a very sorry figure. Michael Glatze is a guy I can’t help feeling some sympathy for. He is a loon, though.

Who he? Well, he is really not very notable as a purveyor of lunacy, and probably completely harmless. His story being duly covered by the WorldnetDaily, Glatze was the co-founder of Young Gay America and advocate for gay rights. Then he publicly announced that he no longer identified as a homosexual, and denounced homosexuality (after becoming a Seventh Day Adventist). Currently, he seems to be giving talks on his transition from gay to ex-gay.

To the WorldNetDaily, Glatze said this: “The pressure to succumb to homosexual desires is also immense [... T]he seduction of homosexuality is so powerful - especially when supported by charismatic presidents and powerful lobbying groups - that it can seem so much easier just to succumb, rather than fight. But that fight is for your very soul.”

Well, doesn’t the fact that for Glatze “the seduction of homosexuality is so powerful” kinda suggest that his status as an “ex-gay” is, shall we say, less than unshakable? Discussed here.

Diagnosis: Poor fellow. Seriously. Hopefully harmless.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#149: Duane Gish

The ur-creationist (together with Henry Morris), and co-founder of the Institute for Creation Research, Gish was in the 50s, 60s and 70s the king himself of the creationist debate circus (a throne he left to Kent Hovind who – when you thought it could not deteriorate further into stupidity – yielded it to Ken Ham; at least the creationist talking points aren’t evolving towards intelligence or sanity, but then they were hardly particularly intelligently designed either). The rhetorical technique known as the Gish gallop is the namesake of Duane Gish. It's really a form of snowing, enthusiastically adopted by global warming denialists (the desperate ignorance behind this one is as telling as it is depressing), crackpots and conspiracy theories everywhere.

Duane Gish was indeed a professional debater, and does indeed have a PhD in biochemistry from Berkeley. He has written several books, most famously “Evolution: The Fossils Say No!” from 1978, which has been widely accepted by anti-evolutionists as an authoritative reference for creationist concepts – tells you something about them, doesn’t it? More details can be found here.

Gish has been the peddler of most known creationist arguments (short of Comfort’s banana; that one is in a class of its own), and was the inventor of several of them. Especially famous was his bombardier beetle argument, which Behe later redressed as “irreducible complexity”. In fact, Gish and Morris must be considered something like the inventors of debate-style creationism in the US and the standard set of creationist arguments.

Massimo Pigliucci, who has debated Gish five times, noted that Gish ignores evidence contrary to his religious beliefs – a heartwarmingly tactful statement. A rather creationism-friendly assessment of his work can be found here.

It may be a little less than tactful, but remember that Gish is a guy who claims there is no evidence for evolution. Then this novel came out. It is hard to avoid noticing that cover picture.

Diagnosis: Perhaps the Supreme Crackpot; impervious to evidence, reason and science. Admittedly a good orator, and must be counted as one of the main people behind recent times’ surge of creationism (by moving the debate from scientific evidence to rhetoric). Has done possibly irreparable harm to civilization, although he seems to be retired by now.

Remember this piece of advice, and note what happens when creationist researchers actually start considering evidence rather than talking points. Currently Glenn Morton is writing stuff like this.

#148: Scott Gillis

I didn’t quite remember who Scott Gillis was, so I had to Google him. First hit was a chiropractor in Ohio – and that might qualify on its own. However, this seems to be the right guy.

Scott Gillis is one of the culprits at the international organization/website "" (along with such impressive names as Jonathan Sarfati, Skip Tilton, Jay Seegert, Michael Oard, Rob Carter and the utterly lunatic Gary Bates).

According to his bio Gillis “turned to” creationism after “a paleontologist demonstrated to him how scientific evidence actually makes more sense when interpreted within the clear context of the Bible's account of history” (I don’t think “demonstrated” is the right word, and the level of confirmation bias needed to reach that conclusion suggests preexisting bias – besides, nothing suggests that Gillis knows the first thing about paleontology). At November 14 he will talk on “Creation: Impacting our Culture, + Dinosaurs & the Age of the Earth” in Covington, Georgia, and in December he will give “Dinosaurs & the Bible, + Why is There Death & Suffering?” in Oregon, if anyone is interested.

Associates with Ken Ham, and interprets Genesis literally, of course.

Diagnosis: Loon. Insignificant loon, perhaps, but still a loon. Ardent, self-righteous and unhinged.

Monday, February 14, 2011

#147: Doug Giles

Pastor Giles is one of the most vehement critics of atheists in … well, on ClashRadio, at least. Or in Miami. As far as I can tell he resides in Miami. His master argument against atheism is that everyone knows God exists and that atheists deny it because they want to justify their hedonistic lifestyles. Well, so it is not really an argument per se – more a conjunction – but his audience doesn’t really need arguments in any case. The closest to a premise I could find was “the apostle Paul states that God has made Himself known, via creation, to all men”. Since God has made himself so painfully obvious through creation, then of course everyone has to know (the argument is not as strong as I’ve made it sound here). More here.

He appears, in a different screed (but with the same, uh, argument) here, in the company of luminaries such as Mike S. Adams, Dinesh D’Souza, David Limbaugh, Marvin Olasky and Michael Medved.

Giles attempts a jovial, jocular style for his bigoted screeds, and it doesn’t quite work. For instance in the anti-gay screed here (well, it cannot possibly be anti-gay – I mean, Giles assures us that he has “several friends that are gay”), the argument seems to start off from: “I'm not homophobic but chick-o-centric. Let's keep it positive, okay? It's not that we dislike you, the gay guy; it's just that we really like girls.” And without any other discernible premises, it is supposed to follow that hence gays shouldn’t have rights and it is OK to discriminate against them.

You can test your Doug Giles knowledge here. Doug generally equates being (truly) Christian with voting Republican, gun rights and tea bagger capitalism.

I think he thinks he is funny.

Diagnosis: The stupid is so strong with this one it burns. Wingnut and nutjob. He seems to be popular with a certain type of believer, but his overall impact is unclear.

#146: George Gilder

Writer, techno-utopian pseudo-intellectual, Republican activist, and co-founder of the Discovery Institute, Gilder rose to fame with his 1981 bestseller “Wealth and Poverty”, which made a practical and advanced a practical and moral case for capitalism. By that time he was already an established critic of feminism and government welfare policies (they erode the "sexual constitution" that socialize “men as fathers and providers”; apparently he also gave up evolution because it promoted feminism). He has published several books and currently publishes the newsletter the Gilder Technology Report.

He is, like several other ID creationist proponents, well known for his mangling of information theory, denying (and thereby showing blatant lack of understanding of the theory) that the Shannon information measure alone provides a good measure for biological information, because that measure ignores the actual function or meaning in the code. Gilder actually thinks (thus showing that he really has no clue whatsoever) that Shannon information theory actually shows that evolution cannot be explained by unintelligent physical causes. His bombastic screeds also reveals typical creationist persecution complexes and newspeak (the “Darwinist paradigm” will be replaced in a scientific revolution by a new, more comprehensive theory, where the “new, comprehensive theory” according to Gilder is … Paley’s ignorant 18th century view).

His persecution complex is splendidly illustrated here. Note also his new-age babble and hatred of education in this one.

A textbook example of a crackpot who fills his gibberish with jargon in a manner that reveals utter incompetence and Dunning-Kruger (in Gilder’s case the obvious example is his mangling of information theory). Unsurprisingly, he fails to comprehend the scientific method as well.

A fair challenge for D’Souza?

His wikipedia article is (as usual) “neutral” - which does not mean “objective”, since an objective (and comprehensive) description of Gilder would necessarily reveal him as a moronic ignoramus.

Diagnosis: Pompous, bombastic bozo and über-crank. He did, with Bruce Chapman, found the Discovery Institute, and has thus caused lots of harm to honesty, knowledge and civilization.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#145: Mel Gibson

Ok, this one should be familiar. Mel Gibson is the well-known producer of “The Passion of the Christ”, the famous Guinea Pig ripoff that presented itself as a true story. Originally Australian, Gibson once starred such epic movies as Mad Max. These days he is an anti-Semite and all-around racist, homophobe, abusive boyfriend, misogynist (here; here), and founder of his own little bizarre Catholic sect (with his father, the clinically insane holocaust denier Hutton Gibson).

As for the anti-semitism, the main incident (apart from the repulsive Passion movie and comments in that respect) occurred when Gibson was arrested for DUI while speeding in his vehicle with an open container of alcohol in 2006. He remarked to the arresting officer James Mee, who is Jewish, saying "Fucking Jews...the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." More here.

As Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle said of Gibson: "When they were making Braveheart, everyone said, 'Oh it's ridiculous, Mel Gibson playing a Scottish guy, that's not gonna be very convincing.' And look at him now: an alcoholic racist."

He has threatened to cut funding to his church if its members don't stop talking about his decision to leave his wife for his mistress (see here).

He is also a creationist, mostly because of the rock-solid “if humans descended from monkeys then why are there still monkeys” argument.

According to rumor, at least, he is rather left-oriented when it comes to politics (apart from issues related to the rights of minorities, obviously). It is important to remember that, despite a statistical correlation, Godbotting bigotry or even theocracy doesn’t immediately imply being a Republican.

Diagnosis: Deranged, unhinged, malevolent moron and nefarious nutjob. Despite attracting some 70 people to his sect, he probably wields relatively minor influence.

#144: Janice L. Gibson

AKA The EMT Empress (her own title!)

As a proponent of Energy Meridian Tapping (EMT), Janice Gibson locates herself in the fluffy far fringes of woo. She rose to some prominence when she offered and organized her services to the Haiti population after the disastrous earthquake (but her efforts were somewhat overshadowed by John Travolta’s offering of scientology ministers for more or less the same purpose, and by the Homeopaths Without Borders). Her technique seems to be related to Gary Craig’s version of Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique.

What is EMT? “Energy Meridian Tapping (EMT) is a user-friendly version of the long established meridian tapping modality called TFT (Thought Field Therapy). Energy tapping therapies have been well documented as significantly improving pain, impaired range of motion, stress, anxiety, phobias, physical symptoms and other health conditions. EMT's basic premise is that the underlying cause of every negative emotion and almost every physical symptom is a disruption of the body's energy flow along the same meridians that were mapped over 4,000 years ago by Chinese physicians.”

Look, this is heavy-duty, unhinged woo, and no – there has been no documentation. None. And we have encountered Thought Field Therapy before. It is serious bullshit.

Her website is here. Seriously.

Her press release for the occasion kinda got off on the wrong foot: “As nearly half the Haitian population has already or will be subject to life-saving amputations, tapping will be useful in helping these people on several fronts” … say what?

And yes, inevitably: “TFT even borrows some of its concepts from quantum physics. For instance, the idea of active information, in which small amounts of energy can affect large systems, is used to support the existence of perturbations.” Great.

More here.

Diagnosis: Well-intentioned idiot. There really is no other remotely accurate way to put it. Janice Gibson is heavily critical-thinking-challenged and wouldn’t recognize a legitimate scientific method if it hit her in the face. Woe the prevalence of failing to distinguish fact and reason from opinion and wishful thinking.

#143: William Gheen

William Gheen is an ardent teabagger and the leader of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC or ALIPAC (your standard “put minefields around the border” anti-immigration group).

He is probably best known for his claim that Lindsey Graham is a liberal traitor (seeing Lindsey Graham as liberal should be lunacy enough) because he has worked with Democrats. The reason he is a liberal traitor, according to Gheen, is because he is gay (something Graham denies). The implicit premise is, of course, that being gay leads to being corrupt: see here,
here, and here.

A fair analysis of the incident is here.

The organization’s website is here. It is exactly what you’d expect, for instance with respect to providing news about Mexico and Mexicans to show how bad they are and how dangerous they would be to the American Way of Life™ if they were let into the country.

Diagnosis: Kook and nutjob, hateful and evidently reality-impaired. Whether he actually wields any influence on opinion or just reflects a standard wingnut position is unclear.