Friday, February 5, 2016

#1588: Norma Erickson

Norma Erickson is an anti-vaccine activist and the very founder SANE Vax, an anti-science organization we’ve had some opportunities to talk about before. The group is “dedicated to spreading misinformation about the HPV vaccine”, and their website employs most of the standard antivaccine PRATTS, though in the case of SANE Vax these are directed primarily at the HPV vaccine. Their goal is to promote only Safe, Affordable, Necessary & Effective vaccines, but despite requests they have not provided any examples of vaccines they think fulfill those criteria. The organization is, in other words, anti-vaccine through and through.

Erickson has been relatively vocal about perceived dangers of the HPV vaccine, even sending a letter to the FDA complaining that there is DNA in the vaccine: “SANE Vax Inc. contracted with an independent lab to test for contamination and found HPV recombinant DNA (rDNA) in 13 vaccine vials.” Curiously (or “curiously”), there is not a single scientific paper or report describing the methodology used and the specific tests used, apparently because of “the proprietary processes and information utilized by our laboratory to test the samples.” So, we’re talking about a “novel” test here, and FDA were not given the actual results or methodology behind the findings; in addition, even if their analyses were correct they would be extremely unlikely to be problematic (the quantities of HPV DNA involved were in any case many orders of magnitude smaller than they would need to be to have the faintest chance of getting into cells to make trouble). Nevertheless, SANE Vax demanded that the FDA take action, as well as “transparency” from FDA and Merck (not themselves – in their own case transparency was unfortunately made impossible by proprietary issues). Mostly, however, they tried to scare the public. The affair is discussed here. SANE Vax later tried to bolster their pseudoscience with some nonsense from one Dr. Hanan Polansky; that nonsense is discussed in some detail here.

Together with Catherine J Frompovich, who bills herself as a “Consumer Health Researcher & Author,” Erickson also wrote the article “A Parent’s Guide: What to do if your child dies after vaccination”. The main premise for the article is the fact that vaccine-related deaths are incredibly rare, which to Erickson and Frompovich means that there must be a conspiracy. By deliberately misunderstanding correlation and causation and misusing the VAERS database (no less), they managed to imagine their way to implying that the “true” number of vaccine-related deaths is somewhere between 2,170 and 21,700 a year; that is, it could be as much as 40% of all childhood deaths before age 19. Combined with their idea that the problem is increasing given the alleged skyrocketing number of vaccines given the last few decades, their figures are in direct contradiction with the steady decrease in child mortality rates over the last decades, but Erickson & Frompovich aren’t in the business of letting reality or truth interfere with their delusions. The punchline, though, is that “[p]arents should realize their gut instincts most often are correct, especially about their child whom they have been taking care of since birth.” Yup, mommy instincts trumps reality, truth, reason and painstaking records, at least “most often”. Parents should also be aware that if they experience the horrible event of a child dying, “the coroner is appointed by government authorities,” and is usually part of the conspiracy to keep vaccines free of blame. And coroners systematically fail to test for instance for the toxins found in vaccines.

Diagnosis: Crazy conspiracy theorists, and if you are normally reasonable and ever came across their webpage, that would be obvious. However, they somehow manage to get not only less reasonable people but also, on occasions, various journalists to take them seriously, and given their agenda they must accordingly be considered dangerous.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

#1587: Alex Epstein

With credentials like being the founder and President of the Center for Industrial Progress, a California for profit think tank, and former fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute, you may sort of suspect what’s coming. Alex Espstein is an “energy theorist” and “industrial policy expert” (no, he’s got no credentials to support either), as well as the author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which champions the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. That case is made easier by his climate change denialism, the case for which is primarily made on the grounds that it fits his political agenda more effortlessly than the truth. The book was heartily praised by the Heartland Institute (e.g. Jay Lehr) and has won him a place among the most prominent global warming denialists at present, and it is, once again, telling that he has no relevant expertise in any field related to climate science.

Epstein has argued that it is silly to ask if humans are behind climate change, because that assumes that “if man did change climate, it would be a bad thing.” As many climage change deniers, Epstein “concedes” that greenhouse gases might warm the planet “a little bit,” but tries to remind us that increased heat is “generally nice;” the “most important effect of fossil fuels” is to ensure that people like him can move to “the best climate we can” – in his case Southern California.

People who are concerned about climate change, on the other hand, are against development and ignore the benefits of industrial advances (yes, that staggering strawman again); indeed, if you are worried about man-made climate change, you are – according to Epstein – displaying “a prejudice against the man-made” or, as he likes to put it, “human racism.”

Diagnosis: Stock pseudoscientist. And like religious fanatics, the only evidence Epstein will ever consider is that which he can shoehorn into service for his ideology. He is pretty influential, however.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

#1586: Gordon Epperly

There has been a number of birther lawsuits – all of them deranged – but Gordon Epperly of Alaska may have the distinction of filing the (two) craziest of them all (the ones filed in Alabama by Albert Hendershot and Harold Sorenson aren’t too far away, though; nor is the one by Christopher Earl Strunk, though we’ll return to that one at a later point). Before the 2012 election, Epperly filed an objection to Obama’s placement on the ballot, complaining that “[a]s Barack Hussein Obama II is of the ‘mulatto’ race, his status of citizenship is founded upon the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the [purported] ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the race of ‘Negro’ or ‘mulatto’ had no standing to be citizens of the United States under the United States Constitution.” Yes, the complaint assumes that Dred Scott is still the governing principle, no less, and that might not even be the most insane thing about it. The challenge was rejected, so he filed another one claiming that Obama is not a natural born citizen and that, by taking office, he has committed treason – and that Nancy Pelosi has no right to be hold public office because she’s a woman: “There are no provisions in the Constitution of the United States that grants Women ‘Political Rights’ of Suffrage to hold any Political Office of the United States Government,” said the lawsuit. It probably comes as little surprise that Epperly represented himself.

Diagnosis: Epperly serves as a useful reminder that, yes, people like this still exist. And that’s probably the best anyone can say of Gordon Epperly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

#1585: Johnny Enlow

Though not as famous as Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle or C. Peter Wagner, Johnny Enlow is one of the founders of Seven Mountains Domionism, as well as a self-declared “prophet”. Among his prophecies is his 2014 prophecy that God is taking over Hollywood once and for all. The prophecy actually quotes God directly:

For the Lord says, ‘I am already invading Hollywood far beyond what you can imagine. I am already loosening up the ground and preparing to uproot systems and structures that you think are just the rules of the game that you must play. I am even already beginning to put in My new structures […] I am the ultimate game changer in Hollywood, and I have come to change the game. And I truly am looking for those who call themselves after My name, who have not sold out to the Hollywood way of doing things. For I am going to raise up an army of My Josephs in Hollywood, and they will be as Joseph in Old Testament times who prospered in everything He did – because the Lord was with him. The enemy cannot throw up enough roadblocks to counter this factor. If I am with you, Red Seas part. If I am with you, enemy armies are covered by that sea. If I am with you, the Jordan River also parts.’”

And so on, and so forth. Isn’t it fascinating how God always says to his “prophets” precisely what they want him to say? More recently he wrote a column declaring that the fact that American Pharoah recently became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years is a prophetic sign that “we’re going into the Promised Land of the tops of the 7 mountains of society.”

Enlow is the author of “The Seven Mountain Prophecy”, which asserts that goal of Christians ought to be to establish a “virtual theocracy”, in which government leaders will also be religious leaders so that they can present “the nations of the world to the Lord as His possession” and bring about the return of Christ (government and media should “function on Earth as they do in Heaven,” which is a really strange claim if you think about it). Thus far, the plan has only succeeded in some Middle Eastern countries, but Enlow and his gang are optimistic since they believe they have God on their side. The book also explains for instance how God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans because it was his way of showing gays how much he loves them.

Enlow has, however, said that the best way for Christians to accomplish dominionism is through stealth; according to Os Hillman: “We need to learn to be ‘as wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ and realize that stealth authority and influence are much preferred over overt authority and influence. A low profile diffuses resistance from the opposition.” And in this video featuring Hillman, Enlow, and Lance Wallnau discussing dominionism, they suggest that using language about “taking over” is fine to use when “preaching to the choir” but such language shouldn’t be used in situations where the media or secular audiences are present.

Diagnosis: These people are dangerous, and evil to the core. They are really, truly hoping to model the US on Taliban principles.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

#1584: Terry England

Christina England is one of the looniest conspiracy theorists in the anti-vaccine movement (a hero at, but also British – just thought we should mention her anyways just in case anyone ever runs into her.

Terry England is not related to Christina (as far as we know), and is admittedly not anywhere as dangerously insane. Change the contrast class to normally bright people, however, and Terry England is still quite staggeringly lunatic. England is a state representative in Georgia, and most famous on a national level for defending a bill that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks … of fetuses already dead or so congenitally deformed that it had no hope of living after birth. Well, we can have a debate about whether abortion is the taking of a life or deprivation of a future or whatever, but what could possibly have been the rationale behind England’s bill? Going through labor and giving birth to a corpse is a life experience for the woman, according to England. Right. England has worked on a farm, and cows and pigs don’t get the benefit of a medical procedure to remove dead calves and piglets; they just have to buck up and deliver it. So it follows that human breeder sows have to do the same, doesn’t it? Also, some guy he met was willing to give up all the chickens he used for chicken fights (!) if only abortions were banned, and England found that really moving.

And if you’re thinking that “well, one foolish comment should not suffice to qualify as a loon,” rest assured. England is also a hardcore climate change denialist. “[W]hen I see sound science that points to climate change and global warming as something that man is causing and that is not something happening naturally, then I will consider [enacting environmental regulations aimed at reducing the effects of climate change].” Of course, given England’s unwillingness to look and ability to evaluate evidence, you can rest assured that this will never happen.

Diagnosis: Oh, relatively stock example of a village idiot elected state legislator, and Georgia has an impressive clown car’s worth of them