Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#1273: Jonathan V. Wright


Jonathan V. Wright is the founder and medical director of Tahoma Clinic in Renton, Washington, where he also practices medicine (except for when he was suspended for 90 days beginning in the summer of 2013). Though he does have a medical education, Wrights’s current medical efforts are probably more accurately reflected by his honorary degree in naturopathy from Bastyr University (not an institution where you learn things about the world; Wright was on its board of directors for twelve years).

The Tahoma Clinic focuses on naturopathic treatment and “bioenergetic analysis” and Wright is associated with the Meridian Valley Lab, listed as a laboratory doing “nonstandard medical testing” by Quackwatch. In other words, Wright’s work is suffused with pseudoscience, woo, bullshit and crackpottery, and includes for instance the scientifically unsupported practice of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and the triple-estrogen formula triest (based on a single, “most preliminary ofstudies” that tracked a small number of women for a short amount of time and contradicted previous research results). No obstacle for Wright, whose powers of intuition apparently trumps any scientific evidence (no follow-up studies were conducted to determine whether the formula was effective or safe.) Suzanne Somers, who has no medical education or any trace of medical understanding, was very enthusiastic about Wright’s unsupported bullshit in her book Knockout, which counts as pretty good evidence that said unsupported bullshit is, in fact, utter bullshit.

Wright is perhaps most famous for being the president and co-founder (with Roy Kupsinel, a “holistic” practitioner from Florida) of the American Quack Association, a forum for practitioners whose ideas are rejected by mainstream medicine, to provide emotional support, promote their practices and “[poke] fun at their critics.” The organization, which ceased operations in 1989, was of course so named to display a certain level of tongue-in-cheek, but the name was apparently a bit more apt than they intended. From 1993 to 1998 Wright also helped lead the National Health Federation, a group whose primary goal is to abolish government regulation of health-care activities, and which also promotes a range of conspiracy theories and other crazy.

Wright also promotes “natural” treatments of cardiovascular diseases, asthma, diabetes, the use of D-mannose for bladder infection, health benefits of Vitamin D unsupported by evidence, and is a member of a long row of crank and crackpot organizations and groups (including the American Academy of Environmental Medicine). His books have apparently achieved quite some popularity, and include the Book of Nutritional Therapy and Guide to Healing with Nutrition, Eating Clean For Dummies (with Linda Larsen) and Stay Young & Sexy with Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement: The Science Explained (with Lane Lenard), as well as the newsletter Nutrition and Healing. Sheer quackery, most of it.

Diagnosis: Insidious ultra-crackpot, and apparently one of the most dangerous in the US. Wright has enjoyed an uncanny level of success for advice that is either unsupported by the evidence or demonstrably bullshit, yet such is the powers of confirmation bias, regression to the mean and anecdotes that his fans may well never realize.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#1272: John C. Wright


John C. Wright is apparently a fairly popular science fiction writer, as well as a conservative Catholic with an ax to grind. We are not here going to engage with his rather staggeringly dishonest or – if not dishonest – batshit crazy defenses of Vox Day or Orson Scott Card or his claims to be persecuted on their behalf (“When Mr Card is being punished for speaking out against homosex, he is being punished for being a true Christian”). That’s been dealt with elsewhere (also here). Let us instead have a look at his own take on the issues that originally led to criticisms of Day and Card. You see, Wright is a firm misogynist and staunch opponent of contraception. That combination has a tendency to produce some painfully stupid arguments, and boy, how Wright delivers. Says Wright:

In order to understand the perfect sexual experience, we first must say what sex is: […] The sex act is the act of sexual union in sexual reproduction. The sexes, however, are spiritual rather than physical: men are masculine in psychology and mind and soul, masculine in speech and deportment and nuance in all they do just as women are feminine. The sexual union is spiritual, ordered toward the end of reproduction.

The staggeringly fallacious appeal to nature doesn’t even begin characterize that mess of garbled stupidity, but it does provide some clues to how Wright is going to get to his conclusion, right?

Since sex is ordered toward reproduction, anything that hinders it is an imperfection. Prudence, if nothing else, would warn potential mother and potential fathers not to do the act which makes you a mother or a father until you have a household and loving union ready to rear children. If you are artificially sterile, or using contraception, you are holding back, you are not passionate about the sex, you are trying to use the sex rather than surrender to the sex.

Hence, contraception is wrong because … ? Oh, but he isn’t done. What, do you think, is the woman’s duty in all this?

For her part, she must vow to love and honor and obey. And if you do not understand about that obey part, you do not understand women. She wants a leader, an alpha male, a chief, a Christ, and you must be willing to die for her as Christ was willing to die for you, or she will not feel secure in your love. If she does not swear to obey, you are not a couple, not a dyad, not a unit, but are still two sovereigns dealing with each other at arm’s length, not intimate, and she cannot trust you fully, cannot love you fully, not with a divine and self-sacrificing love.

The best that can be said of the argument is that it gives us a fascinating glimpse into the workings of a mind unencumbered by reason, sanity or decency.

And furthermore, did you know that Christianity is the source of all decency? Without Christianity, there would be no compassion, love or virtue, but only shame, exploitation and darkness. Since compassion, love and virtue exist exclusively in Christian traditions and the extent to which others exhibit these virtues it is because of their Christian cultural heritage. And note that “pagan non-Christian” is synonymous with “Leftist”, which is – apparently – synonymous with “political activist”.

Wright is also a global warming denialist on the authority of John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, who cited the Oregon Petition as evidence for a broad scientific consensus denying AGW. What about evolution? According to Wright: “Darwinism is not only correctly called a theory, it even more correctly called an unscientific theory, a philosophical theory, in that it is not open to disproof by normal scientific means of measurement, observation, experimentation; and it makes no testable predictions.” No, he doesn’t have the faintest clue, and to clinch it: “There is no such thing as ‘Darwin’s Law’ parallel to ‘Newton’s Law’ because Darwin makes no predictions of outcomes.” Uh, no, that’s not the distinction between a scientific theory and a scientific law. And did you know that “the discovery of genetics and the more careful study of the fossil record has demolished both the idea of gradual changes, and robbed the Darwinists of any understandable mechanism [no, he gives no details] whereby organisms gradually and naturally go from, for example, 48 chromosomes in an ape to 46 chromosomes in their alleged descendants, human beings”? No, Wright didn’t bother to consult the what scientists say about those chromosomes, but hey, what did you expect after his rant against contraception above.

Diagnosis: Flamboyantly crazy and comprehensive denialist as well as, frankly, a freak.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#1271: Jeremiah Wright


Deliverance minister Win Worley, who used to claim that oral sex demons “reside in the mouth, lips, tongue, taste buds, throat, sex organs and the mind” (search him out on youtube) is apparently dead, which is a pity since he was jolly good fun. Still, in terms of sheer crazy, Worley wouldn’t hold a candle to David Wozney. Wozney is a creationist. In fact, Wozney is – how to put it – a dinosaur denialist and a moon landing denialist. Among other things. Those “other things” unfortunately also seems to include “Canadian”, so he is disqualified. He still needed to be mentioned, however, because he seems to have been the inspiration for this one (whatever else you do today, and if you haven’t done so before, read that one.) The Cyndy Kenickell in question is, apparently, not only a dinosaur denialist, but has her own conspiracy theory about them: dinosaurs were invented to support birth control.

A long but necessary introduction, this, to an otherwise relatively short entry. Jeremiah Wright is an abysmally lunatic dingbat preacher and Pastor Emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC). Wright would probably have lingered in obscurity were it not for his connection to the Obamas (which was almost as tight as the Bush connection to the Moonies) – TUCC used to be their group, and it took an uncanny amount of time before the Obamas severed all ties to Wright and kicked him out of certain positions of power to which he was initially appointed. Of course, wingnut media was all over the Obama-Wright connection and usually focused on the wrong aspects of Wright’s ideological positions, but they were, indeed, very much right that Wright is a severe lunatic.

Indeed Wright is a proponent of virtually every looney conspiracy theory available. For instance, according to Wright (in one of his infamous and much-reported sermons) [t]he government lied about Pearl Harbor too. They knew the Japanese were going to attack.” And not only that, Wright believes that the US government themselves invented the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color” (here, for instance).

And, of course, when Obama severed his ties to Wright, Wright promptly blamed the Jews. Yes, that’s right. At present, Obama is in the grip of the Jewish conspiracy. In the case of things happening that you don’t like, blame those things on the inherent evils and moral inferiority of a minority. That has always worked so well in the past. Dimly realizing some problems here Wright later attempted to apologize, but the apologies were predictably feeble.

Diagnosis: Zealous and moronic conspiracy theorist. His influence is, in fact, and as opposed to the beliefs of some wingnut conspiracy theorists, fairly limited. But that doesn’t make him any less moronic.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#1270: Willie Wooten


Willie Wooten is the founder of the New Orleans-based Gideon International Christian Fellowship and self-proclaimed Apostle who claims to have “had a positive influence in the governmental arena and has been instrumental in preventing ungodly laws from being enacted within the state of Louisiana and also throughout our nation.” He was also an official endorser of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s 2011 The Response prayer rally. Which “ungodly laws”? Oh, but you have already guessed that, right? Wooten is a critic of gay rights, has compared being gay to polygamy and incest, and argued that “homosexual marriage is not a civil rights issue; it’s a moral issue. It is a deviant type of behavior and lifestyle. How do they do it? It’s too nasty.” His efforts have accordingly been targeted at legislation in Louisiana that would grant gay and lesbian couples legal rights and protect gays and lesbians from employment discrimination and school bullying. Indeed, Wooten claims that since black legislators have often proposed such legislation, the black community faces a curse from God; in particular, disasters “heaped upon” Louisiana's black community occur because “a lot of our legislators are not on the side of God and His moral laws.”

As a matter of fact, Wooten has written a book about how the African American community is under a curse from God because black leaders have promoted liberalism and the Democratic Party. Breaking The Curse Off Black America is a lengthy screed blaiming African American political and religious leaders for crossing God through “immorality,” causing God (who apparently assigns punishment according to racial delineations) to punish African Americans by curses of “adultery, incest, children from incestuous union, children born out-of-wedlock, destroyed virginity, bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism.” So there’s that. Also, “[t]he man of God could not have his testicles damaged or defective. This speaks of his inability to procreate. There is an inability by far too many black leaders to produce sons of God who are truly spiritual people.” The medical community should apparently take note.

Diagnosis: Hopelessly idiotic bigot. One of many such, of course, but that’s hardly an excuse. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

#1269: John Woodmorappe


“John Woodmorappe” is a pseudonym, and although his real name is known (heck, even Wikipedia uses it) we are reluctant to out people here, so despite Woodmorappe’s actions we’ll let him stay Woodmorappe. Now, Woodmorappe is a creationist, and a rather central figure, it seems, in the young earth creationist movement. Apparently he does have an M.S. in geology and has done some work in real geology as well, but the last 40 years seem to have been devoted to rank pseudoscience. His long career in the creationist movement and the Creation Research Society has apparently made him something of an authority and grand old man of modern creationism, and he has published extensively in various creationist outlets, magazines and books, including the Answers Research Journal.

His areas of research concern, quixotically, various attempts to get reality to fit a young earth perspective and literal interpretation of the Bible (e.g. through baraminology). This requires some, shall we say, desperate measures, rather overwhelming levels of denialism, and appeal to miracles. As for denial, his early paper “Radiometric Dating Reappraised” is probably a good example (it is reviewed here) of the kinds of intellectually hoops he tries to get through. That paper was later developed into the book The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods, though the arguments were hardly improved.

Woodmorappe is perhaps best known for his book Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study (mildly critical review here), which after feebly trying to defend the global flood myth of the Bible goes on to push a remarkable array of desperate, fallacious (e.g. this) and internally dubiously consistent arguments to suggest that the Ark was, indeed, possible. Just like “scientists” did in Medieval Times, I suppose. Of course, always having Goddidit as a fallback strategy helps, but Woodmorappe actually tries to do without it. He fails, and he fails miserably (e.g. because of this, this, and this). And now, 30 years later, he still failsmiserably.

Diagnosis: Yes, this is what a respected research in the young earth creationist movement looks like. It’s almost pitiful. Woodmorappe’s envy of how things worked back in the Middle Ages, when researchers were apparently not yet corrupted, is telling, though.