Sunday, April 19, 2015

#1345: Toni Bark

Toni Bark was once trained as an MD, but currently she practices Classic Homeopathy (which, in case you need a reminder, is premised on the falsity of all of modern science and has also been demonstrated beyond reasonable and unreasonable doubt not to have any beneficial health effects). Anything science-based she has left behind long, long ago. Bark does, however, run something called the Center for Disease Prevention and Reversal (uh huh), and through her web site she peddles a variety of crap including Essential Living Foods. She also appears to be a sometimes partner of “holistic women’s health psychiatrist” Kelly Brogan, one of the rising stars of pseudoscientific nonsense and health-related conspiracy theories at present (just chew on the phrase “holistic women’s health psychiatry” and let it feed your stereotypes).

Bark is the narrator for much of the movie “Bought” (by Jeff Hays), an insane conspiracy flick crammed with an impressive amount of misinformation and appeals to imagined persecution. Its main claim is that vaccines are ineffective and can cause autism, an idea so thoroughly debunked that it presently make its promoters seem like gravity denialists. The movie also combines vaccine denialism with GMO paranoia, but fails – predictably – to cite a single source for this discredited line of ideas either.

Diagnosis: So that’s Toni Bark for you – an anti-rational critical thinking denialist who appears to systematically go in the opposite direction of the evidence. And she’s not alone, which really is exasperating.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#1344: Clarence Barinowski

Certain parts of the US are crammed with these kind of people, but we’ll endeavor to cover at least a few of them. So, Clarence Barinowski is the President and founder of the Good News Network, which is “comprised of 12 radio stations and 13 radio translators/repeaters that extend throughout the southeast, covering communities in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and now, Alabama and Mississippi.” Well, Barinowski is at least a hardcore creationist. According to Barinowski “I think it is safe to say Republicans don’t have a problem with science,” by which he means that many wingnuts reject evolution. “[T]he reality is that greater and greater ‘faith’ is required in evolution to believe in its ability to accomplish what it is credited with doing,” and in Barinowski’s imagination “[t]he whole evolutionary concept of junk DNA has been wiped away by the research called ‘the ENCODE Project’.” Indeed, Barinowski seems to think that evolution is largely based on the movie Jurassic Park  (whereas he himself evidently gets his information from creationist blogs), and hence that “the fact that more people are questioning evolution indicates that more people are actually reading and learning what’s happening in modern scientific research these days, instead of getting their science education from movies,” which is a … rather novel claim. And to back it up he refers to … the Discovery Institute’s pitiful petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. Perfect.

Diagnosis: Minor fish, but still a stellar and brilliant, walking and talking illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect

Friday, April 17, 2015

#1343: Matthew Baral

Matthew Baral is an ND (a “naturopathic pediatrician”, in fact) and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, as well as a “certified” Defeat Autism Now! practitioner. DAN! practitioners are a diverse group of people encompassing homeopaths and naturopaths and what have you, and their goal is to defeat autism using the DAN! protocol, a set of “autism biomed” quackery notable for frequent occurrences of “this is not medical advice” for legal purposes in the information material, even though what they suggest are definitely medical advice. DAN! practitioners accordingly apply apparently every non-working, dangerous and idiotic tool available, from ayurvedic medicine to chelation and polarity therapy (which works with “the Human Energy Field”).

Though Baral isn’t exactly the loudest or most aggressive proponent of woo out there, he is, as mentioned, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and thus at least partially responsible for quite a bit of naturopathy being administered to children. His research concerns “the correlation between heavy metal toxicity, chelation, and autism” – which is none, of course, but Baral’s “research” suggests otherwise; apparently he has published three papers on the issue, but doesn’t say where. He is also the author of the textbooks Fundamentals of Naturopathic Pediatrics (with Jared Skowron), Integrative Medicine for Children (with May Loo) and Integrative Pediatrics (with Timothy Culbert). Even more insidiously he serves as the medical director of the Hamilton Elementary School Clinic, a free pediatric clinic that provides care to the students of one of the poorest school districts in Phoenix. Since everyone knows that what poor kids deserve is snake oil and woo.

Baral is also a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Here is a discussion of their 25th Anniversary Convention.

Diagnosis: No, Matt Baral is not a flaming internet kook with a poorly designed webpage, and hasn’t, as far as we know, made any grand, silly claims in public. But as a promoter of pseudoscientific bullshit he is definitely in a position where he would be able to exert notable, harmful influence on the world, much more so than most all-caps internet kooks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#1342: David Balsiger

Are you sufficiently up-to-date on JFK conspiracies? Well, then perhaps you may wish to look into how conspiracy theorists deal with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, jr., had some success with their book, and later movie, The Lincoln Conspiracy) in 1977 (Sellier has since passed away), in which they imagined a grand conspiracy of bankers and speculators behind a plan to kidnap and take out Lincoln. The book was met with little praise from actual historians, primarily because it was full of bullshit.

Of course, Balsiger – who now runs Balsiger Media – didn’t end his contributions to civilization with Lincoln. His latest books carry enticing titles like The Evidence for Heaven, and Miraculous Messages (as well as Abraham Lincoln: Untold Secrets from the Grave, so yes, he is still trying to capitalize on his former success), and primarily mixes conspiracy theories, woo, pseudoscience and religious fundamentalism. He also produces TV shows and series, most notably Encounters with the Unexplained, Xtreme Mysteries, and Ancient Secrets of the Bible. His individual TV specials include “There is More to the Secret” (yeah, that Secret), “Breaking the Da Vinci Code”, “Secrets of the Bible Code Revealed”, “Bible Code: The Future and Beyond”, and “The Quest for Noah’s Ark”; you get the gist. Ancient Secrets of the Bible is a series that ostensibly “scientifically explores many of the mysterious biblical accounts thought to be myths,” which they don’t since Balsiger’s approach is not scientific in any recognizable sense.

With one Victoria A. Gardner he has also produced a bizarre “Wholistic Health-Wellness” bulletin aimed at churches, which consists primarily of crackpot advice from Joe Mercola tailored to Christians by lots of reference to the Bible, the power of prayer, and an unprofessional layout. It really is the strangest little thing.

Diagnosis: Seems to be into virtually anything as long as it has no foundation in reality. Bizarre, but probably harmless.

Monday, April 13, 2015

#1341: Timothy Ballard

We’ve recently had a slew of fundie wingnuts, and here’s another one. Tim Ballard is an author and pseudohistorian, in particular the author of the book The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel. Here Ballard argues that the British and Americans are descended from the lost tribes of Israel, using as evidence his interpretation of Genesis 49:22 as a prophecy of America (as “the greatest nation of history”). The interpretation is so untenable that one almost feels a bit of pity for the author. He also claims that Jeremiah 31 predicts the gathering of the Israelites in America, which it rather clearly does not.

Ballard’s ideas are not unprecedented; they remain popular among certain Mormons and adherents of Herbert Armstrong. Indeed, it is sufficiently infamous to have received a name, British Israelism. Ballard himself is, in fact, a Mormon, though that is not much of an excuse. However, since the country that is now America was destined to be settled by the descendants of Joseph and Ephraim, there is a covenant from which America originated that entails a duty to keep the Old Testament commandments. In other words, the Constitution is really not a valid foundation for America’s legal system; the Old Testament is.

Marginal silliness, you may think. But the thing is: Ballard’s book has been treated as a reliable source by the influential pseudohistorian David Barton, whose work has been explicitly endorsed for instance by several members of Congress.

Diagnosis: An insult to bullshit. That’s rather clearly not an obstacle to becoming endorsed by wingnut people of influence.