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It’s … The Encyclopedia of American loons! Our new and exciting series presenting a representative sample of American loons from A-Z.

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    Larry Hart is the Director of Government Relations for the American Conservative Union, a D.C.-based group that calls itself “the oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization in the nation” (they host the CPAC, for instance). We are sure Hart has plenty of crazy views and positions, but his hatred for science is particularly notable. An example: In 2013 a bill to create up to three U.S. Science Laureates was initially considered so non-controversial that it never even got a committee hearing; it nevertheless got squashed after raging wingnuts of various disinformation organizations, such as Hart and his groupd, got to hear about it. In a letter to other conservative organizations and House members, Hart argued that the bill would give President Barack Obama the opportunity to appoint someone “who will share his view that science should serve political ends, on such issues as climate change and regulation of greenhouse gases” (a pretty breathtaking example of psychological projection; apparently Hart doesn’t own a mirror – he might be a vampire.) In other words, Hart warned that the science laureate might end up mentioning things like the overwhelming evidence that the earth is warming due to human activity, for instance, and talk about what science actually shows (that would have been sort of the point of the position), and since Hart disagrees with what science shows to be the case, he vehemently opposed giving scientists a platform like this.

    Climate change denialist Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute didn’t like the bill either: “There’s no way to make [the bill] work,” said Ebell, since no matter what “[i]t would still give scientists an opportunity to pontificate, and we’re opposed to it.” That’s right, scientists must be prevented from speaking out since their research tend to make them draw other conclusions than the ones Ebell is comfortable with. Rather, Ebell – who has a long history of climate change denialism, conspiracy theory mongering and anti-environmentalism – argued that instead of listening to scientists the government needs to listen to big corporations when evaluating matters of science.

    Diagnosis: In many ways, the example illustrates current political dynamics pretty well, where delusional extremists who – often without being entirely aware of it – specialize in misinformation manage to derail even the most obviously beneficial and innocuous (and even bipartisan – the bill in question was cosponsored by Lamar Smith, for crying out loud) political moves.

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    Note: We do not know exactly what the proper place for people like this is in the alphabet, but this seems as good a place as any; Lyle Hartford van Dyke himself has in any case no intentions of following any rules. Now, the name of Lyle Hartford van Dyke may be pretty obscure to most people, but in some circles he’s a legendary practitioner of pseudolaw (this kind). He has even published an instruction book on how to file nuisance liens against government employees and judges who don’t like you (him) and runs the National Association for Commercial Accountability, a one-man organization that mostly sells his leaflets and advice. He also claims to have invented the dialysis machine, sort of randomly by the way.

    His liens, styled as “Common Law Lien on the Property and Hand Signature of the Following Persons” (and described by a judge as “meaningless” and “of no legal force or effect”), were nullified and permanently enjoined in US v. Van Dyke (D Ore 1983). Van Dyke also showed up and presented himself as “a self-described lawyer without a license” and an expert on nuisance liens in the Montana Freemen trial but was ordered out of the courthouse by the judge (against whom he had already filed a comprehensive lien). He also announced that he had issued more than $3 billion in his self-invented currency based on his liens (van Dyke is the proud author of How to Create Currencies for Local Communities).

    These examples just scratch the surface of van Dyke’s history of weird antics, but his tale of problematic run-ins with the legal system has become rather dark, so we’ll leave it be.

    Moreover, van Dyke has appeared on Jeff Rense’s show with his conspiracy theories about Pearl Harbor (original here); his primary source was his father, who apparently claimed to have personally known about the attack in advance. He has also written Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars (excerpt here), which – as always – exposes the deepest secrets of the governments and is van Dyke’s own explanation for why he spends a lot of time in jail. It is not the court’s explanation. (Here is apparently his defense; John Nolan was his accomplice.) The book seems to have achieved some popularity in certain corners of the Internet (don’t go there).

    Diagnosis: Colorful village original, sure, but his nuisance liens are actually a real, well, nuisance, and there are apparently people willing to listen to his advice on legal matters, which is worrisome.

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  • 09/01/16--00:13: #1713: Mark Hartwig
  • Mark Hartwig is a Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC), and is known as one of the early organizers of the intelligent design creationist movement (apparently his own background is in educational psychology). At least he used to be managing editor of the (moribund) journal Origins Research and director of CSC’s Access Research Network (with Dennis Wagner, Stephen Meyer and Paul Nelson), which aims to bring creationism to the public, and on the advisory board of the IDEA center, which is … the same (though with an explicitly religious perspective). He was also the author of The Wedge (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Wedge_Strategy) Update column and The Intelligent Design FAQ. He has not been involved in relevant research, of course, but intelligent design is about outreach, not science, evidence and research. Hartwig is notably also an employee of Focus on the Family.

    Like most intelligent design creationists, Hartwig has worked hard to get creationism – or at least PRATT-style objections to evolution – into public schools and for instance defended the infamous Cobb county requirement that biology textbooks be equipped with a sticker telling students that “Evolution is a theory, not a fact.” According to Hartwig, the theory of evolution is uncertain, as shown by the fact that it is controversial. Of course, the controversy is a controversy among non-scientists, partially due to the obfuscatory efforts of the Discovery Institute; it is not scientifically controversial, but Hartwig pretends not to notice the difference (nor does he seem to understand the science of evolution or how scientific research and publication work). He was also involved in the rather complex creation of Of Pandas and People.

    And like so many intelligent design advocates Hartwig likes to compare scientists to Nazis; here, for instance, he draws an analogy between “Darwinists” and the Nazi oppressors of Czechoslovakia. Apparently the “Darwinists” often resort to the oppressive tactic of criticism targeted at the creationists (and sometimes even ridiculewhen the creationist arguments are particularly daft, which they often are). To Hartwig, that shows that they are afraid, which is evidence that the theory of evolution is in trouble (“[w]ith the growing success of the Wedge, I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of this stuff,” said Hartwig in 2004; the vindication of intelligent apparently continues to remain just around the corner). Of course, one suspects that if Darwinists had failed to criticize intelligent design and rather ignored it, that would have been taken as evidence against evolution as well. It’s tough to play when your opponents don’t know the rules.

    Diagnosis: We haven’t really heard much from or about him the last couple of years, but Hartwig is, or at least used to be, a central character – if not the loudest or most colorful – in the religious fundamentalist anti-science movement.

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  • 09/07/16--03:30: #1714: Nico Haupt
  • Nico Haupt is a remarkably crazy 9/11 truther and something of a central figure in the truther side show (though see below). It was apparently Haupt who coined the acronyms MIHOP (“Made It Happen On Purpose”) – the idea being that 9/11 was planned and executed by the Bush administration (e.g. by planting explosives in the buildings and firing a cruise missile at the Pentagon building) – and LIHOP (“Let It Happen On Purpose), the idea that the Bush administration knew about the attacks beforehand but let them happen to garner support for the War on Terror. Haupt himself is of course a MIHOPer. In fact, he is not only a MIHOPER but a “no-planer”, one of those who claim that no planes hit the buildings at all but that holographic images were projected into the to make them appear like planes – “9/11 TV fakery” is Haupt’s preferred label.

    The only people who can really be bothered to actually argue against the no-planer contingent seem to be other truthers who at least realize that the no-planers tend to undermine whatever little credibility the truther movement could conceivably have enjoyed among people who are not delusionally insane. And Haupt’s delusional paranoia, combined with his belligerence, has made him rather unpopular with other truthers (though he has a fan base as well). Indeed, Haupt has entirely predictably been accused of being an agent for a COINTELPRO operation. And Haupt has, equally predictably, been accusing the other 9/11 conspiracy theorists (“planehuggers”) of conspiring against him. And so it goes.

    Diagnosis: Raving lunatic. At least he is probably hurting the anti-reason movement more than he helps it.

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  • 09/09/16--00:18: #1715: Lisa Haven
  • Lisa Haven is a raging end-times fundie who seems to think that every medical innovation and invention is the mark of the beast (google her “It’s Here! ‘Mark of The Beast Tech’ Adopted By Children’s Hospital” article if you wish; we’re not linking). She is of course also a hardcore conspiracy theorist, having bought into more or less every shadow government conspiracy trope that graces the Internet. The result, the Lisa Haven News website, is not for the faint of heart (a moderate summary here); the title of the most recent item (September 7) in her “Government Corruption Illuminati” section is “Wait Until You Hear This! This is How Bad It Will Get, Really Soon …”, pretty much sums up the content and clickbait-like presentation of every article on the page (the article in question really a video chat with Dave Hodges of something called The Common Sense Show, which seems to be an example of an extension of Badger’s Law – he had to put “common sense” in the title, cause if he hadn’t you would never have guessed.) Other recent items include “DARPA Pulls Technology Straight From The Book Of Revelation: Eerie Plans Reveal We ARE In The Final Days,” “Weapons of the Antichrist Discovered in Top Secret Documents: Parapsychology, What The NWO Is Preparing You For” (oh, yes; she does) and “An Antichrist’s Violent Purge Ignites – Turkey, Russia, NATO, US – Who’s Behind it All? A Coming WWIII” You really don’t need to read it to find out, do you?

    In the “Conspiracy Facts” section recent articles include “Globalists Wolves Frothing At the Mouth In Rage Are Activating A Treacherous Plot To Destroy,” which is about how “the globalists initiation of federalized healthcare, via Obamacare, and a federalized United Nations education system, via Common Core” (she doesn’t seem to have a very solid grasp of what “globalized” means – or what the UN or “Common Core” are, but that’s because she thinks it is all some kind of secret front group for a nefarious New World Order Illuminati mind-control shadow government run by Satan) will “kill the freedoms in America we so passionately adore,” and “Nightmare! Doctors Being Used To Label You An ‘Enemy’ and Using Your Kids As Bait,” which concerns the possibility of being asked questions about firearm use or drunk driving when visiting the doctor (which, of course, doctors are dutifully recording for the government to keep track of patriots). There are also articles on how the Government is involved in a “takeover” of elections to rig them in favor of Clinton, as well as the upcoming disaster – apparently a food crises created under the cover of environmentalism – planned by FEMA but controlled by the UN (“For the past few years world governments and globalists have been stocking food, water, ammo, and the like. Some have even moved and purchased bunkers in countries like New Zealand”) to depopulate America. The FEMA concentration camps are apparently just around the corner, too. FEMA’s depopulation plot is in fact already up and running. As Haven puts it (in an article in the “Christian News” section of her page, for some reason), have you wondered “[w]hy almost everyone around you has something wrong with their body and is constantly downing pharmaceuticals?” Ah, but “it’s ALL by design. The globalists ruling this country from behind the scenes are engaging in chemical warfare against us. From chemtrails polluting the air we breath, to radiation leaks, to GMO’s [sic], to fluoride in the water; the ultimate agenda is depopulation and the dumbing down of the masses via pharmaceuticals.”

    But that’s just the more mainstream parts of her website. For the truly insane, you should to go to the “Nephilim, Fallen Angels, Demons” section (“Cryptic Key To The Bottomless Pit Just Discovered: Anthony Patch Tells It All …” [no, literally. That.]; “Body Of Revelation Locusts Revealed?? L.A. Marzulli’s Shocking Find! Photos, X-Rays Included!!” [we’ll have the opportunity to revisit Marzulli in a later entry]; “NASA’s Revolutionary Discovery Hastens Pope To Ignite His ‘Alien Welcome Party’ As He Prepares For the New World Order!” [yes, those kinds of aliens – apparently the Pope’s attitude to the government conspiracy to hide the existence of extraterrestrials is a running theme; do also keep in mind that Haven is a raving endtimes fundamentalist; presumably “Classified Alien Information Leaked! You Wont Believe What Happened to These Abductees! Plus the Link to Fallen Angels and Nephilim …” explains things). Or you could visit the “Supernatural” section (where you can e.g. learn how to protect yourself from the government’s attempt to hook you on pharmaceuticals) with articles like “NASA: ‘There’s a Monster Hole In The Sun!’ As More Of Their Scientists End Up Dead…” or “What Happens When You Die – New Afterlife Research That Opens a Whole New Can of Worms… Christian Beware!”. Or not. That’s probably the best idea.

    Diagnosis: Raging lunatic, and easily confused with a parody of fundie, wingnut conspiracy theorists. But Haven appears to be the real thing. Her impact is probably negligible, however.

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  • 09/11/16--00:11: #1716: David Hawkins
  • Magda Havas is a pseudoscientist (a serious pseudoscientist) and one of the leading snowflakes in the wi-fi-phobia movement; she deserves a mention in any Encyclopedia of Loons, but she is also Canadian – she even teaches students in Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent University in Ontario; stay away from that program, in other words.

    Not that David Hawkins is much better. Hawkins is a trained MD and psychiatrist, but decided to go rogue some years ago and gave up any vestige of truth, evidence and accountability in favor of New Age mysticism with a hint of orientalism. He currently runs his own Veritas publishing house to publish his own books (such as Powers vs. Force and Dialogues on Consciousness and Spirituality) without having to deal with referees or people who ask for justification and support for the claims he makes. In fact, Hawkins is not only an MD, but a “Ph.D.” – from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited diploma mill that was shut down by court order (Jerry Bergman also got his degree there); his thesis appears to have been Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis and Calibration of the Levels of Human Consciousness, which probably doesn’t need further comment.

    You can find his ideas on the website consciousnessproject.org, where he supposedly tells you how quantum physics validates applied kinesiology (AK) (by handwaving, assertion and assuming that the audience doesn’t know anything about quantim physics). Yes, Hawkins has discovered that the insane pseudoscience of AK (a good survey of AK tricks here) is a good vehicle for New Age bullshit, and he runs with it as far as he can: His website can even tell you that “David Hawkins conclusively proves the ability of kinesiological testing to distinguish truth or falsehood in any statement ...” (of course, we don’t get anything like a proof, but you know). AK can also serve as a reliable test for how spiritually advanced a person (or corporation, or nation, or piece of music) is; Hawkins has “developed” a consciousness-scale from 0 to 1000 (“consciousness” apparently refers to some kind of spiritual entity; the parallel midichlorians is striking); scoring above 700 means “enlightenment” (Jesus is at 1000; Hawkins himself merely at 999.8). Meanwhile, skeptics score at 140 (“which is that of sophomoric egotism;” Hawkins doesn’t like skeptics), and anyone who doesn’t believe that AK works automatically ranks below 200 (and one shouldn’t fraternitize with them); George W. Bush scores at 460 (in the range of intellectual genius). According to Hawkins’s acolyte, David Gersten (another MD): “Below 200 an individual or society are at very high risk. Up until 1986, the world CS calibrated in the low 190s, but there was a sudden shift in 1986, taking the world CS to 207, which is a safe place to be. The reason for this positive shift is unknown.

    Apparently it is all on his Map of Consciousness. Before his own lectures, he tests the audience to see how they locate as a group on the Map; the groups always start out very high, but after the lectures, when Hawkins retests them, they have nevertheless always gone up another five points or so – it’s just as surprising every time. Since very few people, according to Hawkins, climb more than five points in a lifetime, the tests prove that his lectures were a good investment. So it goes.

    Interestingly, Hawkins apparently co-authored a book with Nobel laureate and world-famous pseudoscientist Linus Pauling called Orthomolecular Psychiatry.

    Diagnosis: This guy appears to be quite influential, despite the staggering idiocy of his claims and techniques. He does come across as a true believer rather than a fraud. I don’t know whether that puts him in a less or a more negative light.

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  • 09/13/16--03:33: #1717: Kristan Hawkins
  • Kristan Hawkins is a vocal representative of Students for Life of America and one of the more vocal and influential pro-life campaigners out there. Now, as we have said before, it is possible to have serious philosophical debate about the moral dimensions of abortion, but Hawkins has as much to contribute to that debate as a young-earth creationist have to contribute to modern biology. Hawkins is the kind of abortion opponent who claims that Planned Parenthood is some sort of all-powerful “abortion Goliath” that not only possesses immense political power (used to subsidize abortions) but conspires to get girls pregnant (by distributing harmful and malfunctioning contraception) so that they will later be forced to have abortions (getting breast cancer on the way) – all in an effort to maximize profits, which is their goal. Indeed, it is one of her “ugly truths” about Planned Parenthood: Abortion is a big business that profits from a woman’s crisis, and Planned Parenthood makes millions of dollars: 92% of Planned Parenthood’s business was abortions, and they even have abortion quotas, according to Hawkins. None of the claims have anything whatsoever to do with reality, of course.

    I bet you can guess what some of the other “ugly truths” are. Oh yes, abortion increases the risk for breast cancer and causes emotional harm to women; according to Hawkins the suicide rate is 6 times higher for women who have abortions. Facts are, once again, not on her side.

    Oh, and Planned Parenthood is also a racist business that “promotes and covers up” statutory rape and aids sex traffickers. And they support sexual education and birth control only to convince young women to have premarital sex and then spend money on STD tests, treatment and, of course, abortions. No wonder she and her group have made taking out Planned Parenthood one of their primary goals.

    Diagnosis: Stock conspiracy theories, really, and not much different from militia sympathizers raging about the IRS and the Illuminati – except that Hawkins and her groups have quite a bit of influence and political clout among fundies.

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  • 09/14/16--23:41: #1718: Chase Hayden
  • The Hayden Institute is the vanity institute of one Chase Hayden, DC (“doctor of chiropractic”), where he offers you quantum neurology, no less. And although chiropractic neurology is silly enough , quantum neurology appears on the surface to play in a different league of ridiculousness altogether (we’ve actually encountered it before). In fact, in the case of Hayden quantum neurology appears to be nothing but your standard chiropractic vitalism (http://skepdic.com/vitalism.html) with a label that should suffice to narrow the target audience to the severely under-informed or critical-thinking challenged: illnesses are caused by blockage of the flow of life force by subtle subluxations, which can be removed by the manipulations of a chiropractor and thus allow your body’s innate magic to take care of the healing process. To make it sound as if it has something to do with actual anatomy or biology, chiropractors like Hayden claim that they can cure all sorts of ailments because of nerves, which according to them “control every function in your body” (including the heart, the lungs, the liver and so on) which anyone with even cursory knowledge of how the body works will know is pretty stupidly false. (But then, that’s a fact, and chiropractors are talking religious creed; facts got nothing to do with it.)

    Hayden’s clinic also offers applied kinesiology, detoxification and “functional endocrinology”. It is noticeable that the clinic doesn’t quite claim to be able to cure specific diseases, only that “[p]atients have reported improvements with the following symptoms and conditions” – followed by a list of conditions and diseases, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure.

    Diagnosis: Shameless pseudoscientist. We don’t know what impact he’s had, but whatever it is, it’s bad. Avoid.

    Hat-tip to Steven Novella on sciencebasedmedicine; we got most of the info for this entry from him.

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  • 09/17/16--00:49: #1719: Anna Hayes
  • A.k.a. Ashayana Deane

    Anna Hayes is a New Age cult leader. We are not entirely sure about her current whereabouts, but she seems to have moved to Europe in the late 90s after having apparently exhausted the cash flow from her followers in Sarasota. Nor are we entirely sure what kind of religious tenets she is pushing, either, since none of it adds up to anything resembling coherence, but it is some kind of UFO nonsense mixed up with messianic thinking and New Age pseudospirituality – apparently Hayes is some kind of channeller of religious wisdom possessed by aliens (Colleen Johnston, a former UFO cult member who has apparently left the cults but not the metaphysics behind, thinks they are evil and really duping her), in particular those belonging to what she calls the Guardian Alliance, who may or may not be the archangels of some branches of Christian thought – Hayes has apparently even claimed to be Jesus’s half sister. At present she seems to run something called the “Melchizedek Cloister Emerald Order”, which appears to be a money-making scheme; we have no idea how many followers she might have. She also used to peddle a version of the 2012 Mayan calendar nonsense.

    Under the name “Ashayana Deane” Hayes is the author of the book Voyagers, which sums up her views. Apparently “‘The Guardian Alliance’ is an immense group of beings residing within a myriad of dimensional locations within the Space/Time Matrix,” and they are experts of “Merkaba Mechanics”. According to a critic and rival cultist (I am not quite able to determine what are Hayes’s positions and what are commentaries), Hayes claims that “[t]he ‘fixed’ tailbone Merkaba Field is the mark of the Nibiruian Merkaba-Reversal that keeps the physical body literally locked into its present time vector and unable to achiever Star Gate passage –  another of several other ‘little secrets that Thoth and his friends conveniently forgot to mention to their human ‘students.’ Most of the humans who have fallen into using or teaching the Nibiruian Reverse-Merkaba have been covertly ‘set up’ by the Thoth-Enki-Zephelium or Alpha-Omega Templar Melchizedek Anunnaki races to propagate this Base-11 Reverse Merkaba perversion. Most, but not all, human teachers of Merkaba do not realize that they have been deceived in this way, and are not intentionally bringing harm to their students; the teachers themselves are being victimized and deceived by Fallen Angelic contacts.” You know. That.

    But perhaps it’s the critic who is confused? Well, here is a sample from Hayes herself (you can read the complete passage here; I just quote the opening paragraphs): “The Anunnaki/Draco try to make it look like Earth was formed from Maldak (the Nibiru BATTLESTAR was formed from it, not Earth.) They try to make it look like they did us a favor by taking cave men and making them human. [Neanderthal etc came after the original Humans not before as evolution would have it]. A total lie aimed at hiding the TRUE human heritage of the 12-strand Turaneusiam. They have 10-strand DNA and DO NOT want us to realize we have the 12 potential superior to theirs. What they DID do was mutate the human Cloister strains, tainting the race pool and hybridizing the Low Belil and Black Sun human gene codes into the lineage, which was NOT a part of the intended human evolution plan. Sharks in Sheep Clothing. They are trying to make it look like the Anunnaki were the Original Lyrans, when in fact the Sirian Anuhazi and their human-hybrids Oraphim Emerald Order were the pure Lyran strains, the Anunnaki were ‘fallen’ Anuhazi that crossed with Drakonian from Orion and were mutated into the 10-strand reptilian imprint.” Okay … (Is it worth taking note of the references to “tainting the race pool” and the notion of “superior” DNAs?)

    There is also mind-control and suchlike. Apparently the Anunnaki are trying to exploit us (apparently they “and their manipulations were responsible for the original ‘fall of man’. The Turaneusiam cataclysm 550 million years ago on Tara”), and Neanderthals (mentioned in the previous quote) is a conspiracy: The Anunnaki “always try to make it look like WE started out as the ‘cave men’, but in truth those pathetic hominid forms were Anunnaki mutation experiments made from distorting the original human DNA imprint.” Biological evolution is an Annunaki-created myth, too: “It is simply the nature of the polarity game as it manifests in the lower 3 harmonics. There are hidden ulterior motives of evolutionary hi-jacking. They are using the LIE that have used with our race for 200,000+ years, that they made us from animals and are thus are our forefathers and ‘gods’.” And so on.

    Diagnosis: One can’t quite shake the feeling that she might be trolling her followers. Little of what she says rises above stream-of-consciousness gibberish and time-cubing.

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  • 09/20/16--00:56: #1720: Laura Hayes
  • Laura Hayes, who is a media editor for Age of Autism, is a bit unusual for an anti-vaxxer. As opposed to most anti-vaxxers Hayes has “no problem being called anti-vaccine,” because vaccination, according to Hayes is a “barbaric practice that is not founded on any sound science.” Of course, Hayes is almost remarkably unqualified to measure soundness in science (her CV summary on AoA lists her as a “mother”), as demonstrated for instance in her article “The Oxymoron of Safe Vaccines,” where she tells us that “it is of paramount importance for people to understand that the term ‘safe vaccines’ is an oxymoron, and therefore, I would argue that even those who might call themselves ‘pro-science’ would not agree that there is any ‘smart approach to vaccination’.” Why not? Since “[b]y their very nature, vaccines cannot be made safe, as they artificially and unnaturally stimulate the immune system (by injecting these toxic cocktails), versus inhaling or consuming them).” Yes, that’s right. Vaccines must be unsafe because they are unnatural (And no, she doesn’t really have any idea of how any of this actually works, despite attempts to parrot scientific language.) And according to Hayes, “vaccines have never been properly studied, either individually, or in the myriad combinations in which they are given, or as a complete whole over the first 18 years of a child’s life,” where “properly studied” apparently means “studied in a way that yields the conclusions I have already decided are the right one;” the tons of studies doing precisely what Hayes claims they are not doing do not give her the answer she wants. Also, Paul [sic] Thorsen, who peripherally worked on one big study, misused grant money to cover personal expenses; therefore all the results of big studies are invalid. Yeah, it’s the same as always (no, really).

    Here is a discussion of her introduction to the antivaxx conspiracy film “Vaxxed”.

    She also complains about “vaccine bullies”, who are apparently those who thinks that vaccines should be mandatory for school children. In her article “Dear Emily Willingham, Dorit Reiss, Christopher Hickie and other Vaccine Bullies” she rhetorically asks the question: “Do you believe anyone has the right to be exempt from vaccines? Does the Constitution protect the individual’s right to refuse a vaccine?” Of course, adults do have the right to refuse vaccines (apparently Hayes is a bit unclear on the distinction between “your children” and “your property”), and the Supreme Court has already ruled that philosophical and religious exemptions from vaccination for children are not required; it really doesn’t matter what Hayes believes. She proceeds to list 15 circumstances and asks the reader to consider these cases, most of which are misleading (no one is arguing against medical exemptions or exemptions in cases where there is a reasonablesuspicion that an adverse reaction might occur, all things considered), where the really telling one is: “If a parent has independently researched vaccines, possibly to a level that exceeds that of any healthcare practitioner they might see, and is confident that they have reached the best decision for their family, would you be okay with that parent exempting their children from vaccines?” I assume the answer is supposed to be “yes”, for the same reason hospitals should consider replacing doctors with parents who have done their research. The implication that the knowledge she or other parents have obtained through google might rival that of experts is at least telling. That’s what the Dunning-Kruger effect is. Of course, she also repeats the myth that there have been no studies comparing the health of vaccinated v. unvaccinated children. As for evidence that supports her claims (to the contrary of science) she cites “informal surveys and assessments” such as an Internet survey by a German homeopath and a spectacularly incompetently administered phone survey commissioned by Age of Autism.

    Courtesy of Refutations of
    Antivaccine Memes
    Now, it is common among anti-vaccine cranks to liken vaccines to the Holocaust, rape or brainwashing. Hayes has contributed to this collection of strained analogies by comparing vaccination with human trafficking. You may wonder how the analogy is supposed to go, but Hayes isn’t going to help you (she seems not to know what human trafficking is); she is still convinced, though, that “vaccine trafficking is a pharma-driven criminal industry that is based on the principle of ‘poison to profit’, with the goal being to ensure that every American is somewhere between sick and dead, for as long as possible.” Of course, she has compared vaccines to the Holocaust, too: “Please help stop this vaccine madness, this vaccine holocaust against our children,” says Hayes, and in the manner of your idea of a tinfoil hatter lays out, once again, how vaccines just is a means for Big Pharma to deliberately kill and injure as many children as possible.

    Diagnosis: One wonders whether some of the less clinically insane AoA members sometimes stop up and ask themselves “wait, isn’t this article we’re promoting just hysterically crazy conspiracy theory?” Well, Hayes is not among that group, and yes: This is whale.to tinfoilhattery.

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  • 09/22/16--00:18: #1721: Michael Heath
  • Michael Heath is a former Ron Paul campaign adviser, former director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, and bigot, best known for spearheading the efforts to ban gay marriage in Maine. According to Heath, when the state legalized gay marriage in 2009 (“officials overturned a law of nature, and in its place paid honor to evil and unnatural practices”) God punished Maine with rain and bad weather: “The potato crop is blighted, and corn and fruit fields wither,” and although “[f]ew people would be bold enough to suggest the cause of the endless rain and gloom,” it was pretty clear “that the moral climate in Maine has caused the sun to hide its face in shame.” Yeah, that kind of guy.

    He redoubled his efforts in 2012 together with Paul Madore (a truly evil, rotten character), for instance with an effort to get people to use the term “sodomy based marriage” instead of “gay marriage” (Peter LaBarbera was apparently on board) and blaming marriage equality on “demonic force”. Heath also declared “war, promised “a dirty, nasty fight” and issued the ultimatum “I don’t want you near me unless you are prepared to sacrifice.” The efforts seem to have met with limited success. But you probably don’t need to go too near Mike Heath.

    We have to grudgingly admit that we were a bit impressed when he later managed to crank the hysteria up even further. “In 2012 a slim majority of Mainers voted to end civil marriage,” argued Heath (since marriage equality negates the institution of marriage), and said that the gays were planning to conquer the universe. Oh, yes: “Since the developed governments of the world aspire to colonizing planets we have to prepare for the export of sodomy to other worlds – to the entire universe! I think it’s time for us Christians to flip open our communicators. Beam me up Scotty. It’s like satan, a rabid dog, sunk his fangs deep into the donkey flesh of our nation’s government. And now the deranged ass is infecting other nations. What can be done?” Well, you’ve got prayer, Mike. Let us suggest that you stick with the power of prayer and don’t do anything stupid.

    More recently he formed the group “Equal Rights, not Special Rights,” with the goal of repealing marriage equality and making homosexuality a crime: “There is conduct that ought to be punished. And Christianity teaches –  has always taught and still does teach – that sodomy is such a behavior,” said Michael Heath. The group’s first goal is to repeal Maine’s nondiscrimination protections (since the right not to be discriminated against is a special right, not an equal right). Heath also affirmed his opposition to any public displays of same-sex affection, hoping a future referendum will force “a behavior that belongs in the closet back into the closet.” (Of course, it should be illegal in the closet as well.)

    Diagnosis: Unhinged, hysterical, rabid, raving lunatic. A bit like a cartoon villain, but without the sophistication.

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  • 09/24/16--00:31: #1722: Eric Hedin
  • Ball State University is a real and pretty good university, but like many universities they will have at least one crank professor who offers their students garbage courses. At Ball State, you should probably avoid the courses offered by Eric Hedin, who seems to be pushing religion and creationism in what superficially looks like a genuine astronomy course (no, not biology, of course): In 2013 he offered an “honors” course called “Inquiries in the Physical Sciences,” which fulfills the science requirement for students as part of the University Core Curriculum (it is, or at least was, cross-listed in the Physics and Astronomy department as Astronomy 151: “The Universe and You”), but providesstraight up religious apologetics and science denialism (Jerry Coyne’s response, in that link, is itself not entirely devoid of crankiness, however). Hedin is an intelligent design creationist, and appears to have few qualms about invoking ID creationist science denial to promote Jesus in his science classes – the syllabus for the aforementioned course is here, and includes a wide range of anti-science proponents: Stephen Meyer, Hugh Ross, Lee Spetner, Lee Strobel, Michael Behe, Bill Dembski and C.S. Lewis. In what is ostensibly a science course.

    Of course, when questions about the course contents were raised, the Discovery Institute and various creationist legislators weighed in to shout out how persecuted Hedin was for being Christian (though the Discovery Institute backtracked a bit from that one once they remembered that their official position is that Intelligent Design is science, not religion). Hedin’s class seems to have ultimately been cancelled, but he seems to produced enough actual scientific results (not in areas related to evolution, presumably) to receive tenure, despite his obviously tenuous understanding of how science works. But Ball State also decided to hire pseudoscientist Guillermo Gonzalez. Why they did that is unclear; surely it was not to broaden their appeal to religious fundamentalists who hate science but still desire a science degreeto give their anti-science a sheen of legitimacy?

    Diagnosis: Crank denialist who is in a position to push his pseudoscience at a real university and carrying genuine, academic credentials. Be aware.

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  • 09/25/16--00:48: #1723: Matthew Heimbach
  • A brief note on this unsavory figure should suffice. Matthew Heimbach is a white separatist and co-founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN). He attracted some attention in 2012, when he founded a “White Student Union” at Towson University, in 2014 when he was excommunicated by the Eastern Orthodox Church for promoting racism, and again in 2016 when he failed to behave during a Donald Trump rally. Heimbach advocates (under the slogan “Death To America”) that the US be divided up into mini-states along racial lines, one of which should be “Avalon”. TYN accordingly tries to get his followers to become knights of Avalon, which is pretty silly. They must apparently also be Roxy Music fans.

    TYN is, of course, heavily into anti-Semitism, and Heimbach is convinced that the Jews are working diligently behind the scenes to eradicate the white race, faith and culture. His SPLC page (also covering TYN fellow Matt Parrott) is here.

    Diagnosis: We can’t be bothered to spend too much effort on this type of shit, but it is shit.

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  • 09/27/16--03:06: #1724: Jack Heinemann
  • A bit of a stretch, perhaps? Jack Heinemann is a Lecturer in Genetics and Chair of Teaching and Learning Committee at the University of Canterbury, NZ, but he has his whole education from the US and seems to be an American expat (that’s speculation, though). Heinemann is an anti-GMO activist who has been associated with pseudoscience organizations like the Safe Food Foundation & Institute (together e.g. with anti-GMO pseudoscientist and conspiracy theorist Judy Carman). Heinemann thinks for instance that GMOs produce silencing RNAs that not only survive transit through the gut, get into the bloodstream and thereby into the cells to inhibit the expression of specific genes: they even get passed down to the next generation to kill your children. “The findings are absolutely assured. There is no doubt that these matches exist,” said Heinemann. Which actually makes it sound like his evidence is pretty flimsy. Turns out it is as flimsy as you’d expect. Heinemann’s concern is that the siRNA that will be used to silence two genes in wheat called SEI and SEII, and he did an analysis based on the sequence of the SEI and SEII genes, compared them against the human genome and looking for matches, which he found. What he hasn’tshown is that the siRNA survives digestion, is absorbed into the bloodstream, enter other cells, and act on gene expression, and even if it did he hasn’t a shred of evidence that circulating microRNA can not only silence a gene in human cells but actually induce epigenetic changes (“speculative” isn’t quite the right word), or any reason that GM wheat siRNAs are any different or more dangerous than those from other plants. Nor did Heinemann know the actual siRNA sequences that were going to be used, which makes his analysis pointless even if he were correct about the other elements. In short, Heinemann’s report is a beautiful example of politically motivated pseudoscience, designed to spread fear and misinformation.

    Diagnosis: Heinemann is a real scientist. That doesn’t meant that his fearmongering based on idle speculation concerning GMOs is remotely based on science. It isn’t. Unfortunately, Heinemann is also the kind of person who possesses some authority and influence, and it is truly sad that he uses his influence to spread fear that might ultimately have a real, negative impact on civilization.

    Hat-tip for this entry: Respectful Insolence.

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  • 09/29/16--01:07: #1725: Larry S. Helmick
  • Cedarville University is a fundamentalist, uh, "school" in Ohio where students are required to obey strict rules on behavior and severe limits on behavior and speech, and are given an “education” that is firmly Biblically literalist, young-earth creationist, and staunchly committed to “complementarian gender roles”. Its staff encompasses people like Senior Professor of Chemistry Larry S. Helmick, who is also affiliated with the Creation Research Society and has published extensively in venues like the Creation Research Society Quarterly on topics like flood geology, and this is – officially – what passes for scienceat Cedarville University. Helmick lists “the search for Noah’s Ark” as one of his main research interests, no less.

    Helmick is also on the CMI list of scientists alive today who accept the biblical account of creation and a signatory to the Discovery Instute petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. He is, in fact, rather typical of the people who signed that one, and at least no one in their right mind would count his dissent as “scientific”.

    Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist working for an anti-science institution. Apparently quite a number of young people are coming to Cedarville University under the delusion that they will receive an “education”, which is pretty sad, and Larry Helmick should be ashamed of himself (which he most surely isn’t).

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  • 10/01/16--00:09: #1726: Barbara Helmkamp
  • Yet another signatory to the Discovery Institute petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. Barbara Helmkamp has a PhD in theoretical physics from Louisiana State University, but is not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, she is teaching physics and chemistry at Credo Academy, a homeschool co-op in Denver.

    Helmkamp is a young earth creationist, and has produced some online documents where she argues against “the myth of evolution” aimed at children; after all, creationism is a matter of religious outreach, and doing science or finding and evaluating evidence has nothing to do with it. She also claims that creationism is a much more explanatorily powerful hypothesis than Big Bang or evolution, sinceGod can do anything. Which is not how explanation works.*

    Diagnosis: Oh, the stuff the Discovery Institute dredged up for that hilarious list of theirs. Yet Intelligent Design proponents continue to use it. Which doesn’t put them in a particularly good light.

    *If you need spoon-feeding: For E to explain p, at least it has to be a prediction of E that p rather than not-p. If God can do anything, then Goddidit cannot even in principle satisfy that constraint (it is equally consistent with p as with not-p); Goddidit can hence not explain anything whatsoever. Similarly: If I wish to know why fire engines are red, I want to know why it is red rather than some other color. Telling me that ‘humans can paint things in all sorts of colors’ is not an explanation for why fire engines are red. (This is not to say that failing this minimum requirement is the only problem with Goddidit offered as an explanation; even if it did satisfy that requirement it would still be the case that it just trades one mystery for another, for instance.)

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  • 10/03/16--05:03: #1727: Laura Henderson
  • In a not very surprising turn of events, when two young girls disappeared from Evansdale, Iowa, in 2012 (we don’t know the outcome of the case, unfortunately) and a $50,000 reward was offered, the local sheriff’s department was swamped with calls from psychics who wanted to help (but who were presumably uninterested in the money). Apparently, they received over 80 tips from alleged psychic mediums claiming to know the girls’ location, and, as the chief deputy laconically put it, “no two are having the same vision I guess you could say.” Self-proclaimed psychic Laura Henderson of Cedar Rapids, however, admitted that “no psychic can answer every question,” but “certainly you can get impressions, if someone’s alive their energy comes across stronger and feels different to a psychic in terms of how it comes across.” That would of course help explain the discrepancy between the different wild guesses visions. Of course, we all know that if one of them by coincidence guessed correctly, Henderson would take it as proof that psychic abilities exist and are useful.

    In addition to fortune telling, Henderson’s website also offers home inspection and energy cleansing services: “Negative energies are out there! Learn how to protect yourself psychically, as well as how to develop your own psychic abilities and start tuning in to the energy all around us!!

    Diagnosis: One of very many such people across the US and it is only coincidence and misfortune that we found Laura Henderson. Blame it on the negative energies.

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  • 10/04/16--00:39: #1728: Gay Hendricks
  • Gay Hendricks is a New Age guru and, with his wife Kathlyn, relationship manager. He has written numerous books consisting of motivational speech fluff and platitudes and the occasional piece of pseudoscience. Hendricks is, indeed, a psychologist, and has enjoyed a long career as professor in the Counseling Psychology Department at the University of Colorado, but that does of course not mean that what he and is wife are promoting through their very own Hendricks Institute has anything to do with science or reality. Kathlyn Hendricks also calls herself “PhD”, but her degree seems to be issued by a diploma mill. Gay Hendricks is the author of some 35 books, including numerous apparently popular books of fiction (the Tenzing Zorbu mystery series) and was the producer and writer on the Louise Hay movie You Can Heal Your Life.

    The Hendrickses invented Bodymind Centering or Bodymind Centering technique (not to be confused, apparently, with the equally nonsensical Body-Mind Centering®, which is the registered trademark of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, author of Sensing, Feeling and Action; if your health/wellness technique has an ‘®’ behind it …), a form of meditation which in their book In Radiance! Breathwork, Movement and Body-Centered Psychotherapyis defined as “a precise, step-by-step technique for solving life problems through contact with the Inner Self.’ The “Inner Self” is, of course, “the part of us that knows how we really feel,” and Bodymind Centering is supposed to reconnect the “Inner Self” and the “Outer Self.” Yes, it’s New Age religious drivel, nothing else, and while probably not harmful certainly does not have any of the benefits the Hendrickses handwavily and not very committedly suggests it might have. A component of the technique is Radiance Breathwork, which ostensibly releases “unresolved” emotions “held” in the body, increases one’s ability to handle “positive energy,” can “clear” the effects of birth trauma, and ultimately “connect” one to life’s boundless transpersonal dimension. As with New Age therapies in general, it is important to keep the descriptions at a metaphorical level to ensure that no one – God forbid – actually stumbled upon testing the hypotheses.

    Radiance breathwork is at least a type of breathwork, a familiar type of New Age practice in which the conscious control of breathing is claimed to influence mental, emotional and physical states and is sometimes claimed to have therapeutic effect. Breathwork can cause distress and has no proven positive health impact other than perhaps promoting relaxation.

    They also promote something called Third Way manifestation, which requires: total commitment to serving the “creative force of the universe”; openness to the deepest “energies” within oneself; constant self-development in order to see and feel “currents of energy” and follow them through the universe; telling the truth; and keeping agreements. How this can be taken to be anything but old-fashioned religious dogma beats us. Gay Hendricks is also behind this rather creepy manifesto.

    Diagnosis: The thing to notice is really how the Hendrickses’ techniques are nothing but religious creed. But it isn’t promoted as such, and that’s why they get an entry in our Encyclopedia. Probably pretty harmless, though; we’ll admit that.

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  • 10/06/16--00:09: #1729: Daniel Henninger
  • Daniel Henninger is a wingnut journalist, Deputy Editorial Page Director of The Wall Street Journal – which means that there probably are quite a few people reading his columns – and a Fox News contributor. Most of his columns (we haven’t kept a close tally) seem to concern issues related to economics: He achieved some note for instance with his 2008 column where he blamed the economic crisis on the War on Christmas, and argued that the attacks on Christmas are leading us to a “Mad Max” type environment (yeah, I did, for once, link that one – you really have to go see the crazy on display). It’s almost as if he believes that the War on Christmas is a real thing, rather than just a rhetorical and idiotic ploy to rally the troops, as most wingnut pundits know perfectly well. It is interesting to note that Henninger blamed Obama for the rise of Donald Trump; the fact that he actually believes that there is a War on Christmas would probably get him closer to the correct explanation.

    As with so many people of his ilk, Henninger is a climate change denialist, and his climate change denialism has led him to being responsible for one of the most inane arguments we have ever seen: Henninger blames the anti-vaccine movement on climate scientists, because climate scientists have eroded the “credibility and authority of science”. Of course, Henninger tries to make it look like he is saying that the very fact that there is public controversy is what erodes public trust in science, but he doesn’t explore why there is a public (not scientific) controversy, because what he really means is that climate change is fraud and scientists, corrupted by research grants, are being dishonest, thereby eroding trust among those who haven’t done any scientific research themselves that would allow them to legitimately evaluate the scientists’ conclusions – as he points out, climate change can’t be happening because it’s backed by Al Gore, John Kerry and Europe’s Green Party, and Henninger doesn’t agree with any of them on political issues. So, climate scientists are responsible for the anti-vaccine movement. Once again, the reasons that make Henninger distrust scientists and reject global warming would surely get one far closer to explaining the existence of the anti-vaccine movement.

    Diagnosis: Wingnut lunatic. The fact that anyone listens to his inane rantings (we’ve only provided two examples here, but they give you the flavor) should scare you shitless.

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  • 10/08/16--01:02: #1730: Martha Herbert

  • Martha Herbert is a pediatric neurologist and crackpot with her own view of autism, according to which neuroinflammation is a major cause, and molds and other environmental influences trigger it (which, of course, is not supported but contraindicated by contemporary science – that’s why her supporters liken her to Galileo). In fact, Herbert has her own theory of mental disease and disease in general based on systems biology, which in her case appears to come dangerously close to a New Age religious system of life forces. 

    Hat-tip: Rationalwiki
    According to Herbert “in order to achieve solutions for autism we need to embed it more clearly in the larger set of challenges of which it is a part,” which include “food that is nutrient-poor, chemical-laden, processed and manipulated” (Herbert is anti-GMO, of course) and – more strikingly – “electromagnetic field and radiation exposures”. Yes. Herbert thinks exposure to electromagnetic fields is a potential partial cause of autism, mostly because various stressors [EMF isn’t a stressor] “may synergize in various ways to keep our cellular systems from functioning at their best.” She is careful to point out that a paper suggesting such a link has been published in a peer-reviewed (bottom-feeder) journal. But yes, Herbert thinks wi-fi and GMOs are involved in causing autism.

    Herbert supports biomed treatments for autism, though seems to be aware that such crackpottery is not a career booster and accordingly tends to be a bit more careful than general antivaxxers. She has nevertheless become a central figure in the movement and did for instance write the introduction to antivaxx lunatic Robert F. Kennedy’s book Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: Mercury Toxicity in Vaccines and the Political, Regulatory, and Media Failures That Continue to Threaten Public Health (bets on whether Kennedy got basic chemistry right).

    Hat-tip: Destroyed by Science

    As mentioned her work has been widely praised by antivaxxers and altmed crackpots (like Mark Hyman and David Kirby) for her revolutionary findings, and has become a respected authority in crackpot communities. Of course, her “findings” haven’t been published in any reputable venues, and a Massachusetts superior court judge summed her work up thusly: “Dr. Herbert’s method is not generally accepted in the scientific community.  Dr. Herbert’s theory of environmental triggers of autism may some day prove true. It has not yet. Her proffered testimony does not meet the standard of reliability required by the case law, and cannot be admitted in evidence at trial.”

    She is the author of “Autism: A Brain Disorder, or a Disorder That Affects The Brain?”, which was for instance included on rabid antivaxxer Ginger Taylor’s list of “124 research papers that PROVE vaccines cause autism” (the need to capitalize “prove” should give you a clue), which mostly consist of papers that are completely irrelevant to that (falsified) hypothesis but also rants by other anti-vaxx activists. The list is dealt with here. Herbert’s paper is not a research paper but a review, and it neither says nor suggests that vaccines cause autism.

    She is, however, also author of the book The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be (with Karen Weintraub). We haven’t read it, but at least books like that provide a venue to push ideas without the annoying obstacles of peer review or accountability. Apparently it provides recommendations for optimal nutrition, reduction of toxic exposures, how to “shore up the immune system” and reduce stress, and draws from “the newest research, technologies, and insights, as well as inspiring case studies.” If this isn't sheer crackpottery, then at least its promotion strategy is targeted at that community and makes use of all the woo dogwhistles in the book.

    Diagnosis: Not one for random capitalization and weird color schemes, Herbert usually comes across as quite reasonable compared to the company she often keeps. She is, however, a crackpot with grand ideas and little evidence to back them up beyond quasi-religious appeals to Mother Earth. Don’t listen to her.

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