Sunday, October 23, 2011

#256: Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall is a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 13th District, currently serving his 7th term. He is most famous for his vocal opposition to all forms of abortion and birth control that take effect after conception. (“We're against the IUD and pills, too. They don't prevent ovulation and conception, they prevent implantation, which is abortion.”). He also voiced his opposition to Norplant, a contraceptive (not-yet-marketed at the time) that is implanted under the skin and works for up to five years (“It's a real tribute to women's intelligence. They feel so irresponsible they can't do something once a day?” – you get the feeling that its being offensive to women’s intelligence wasn’t the real reason for Marshall’s opposition).

But fair enough. Marshall’s break with sanity is also demonstrably displayed in his response to questions about abortion in the case of incest; Marshall’s response was simply that sometimes incest is voluntary. He is also opposed to abortion in the case of rape: “The woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman.”

His main claim to fame, however, is his statement regarding disabled children: “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children ... In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest.” That one raises some questions over and above Marshall’s seemingly complete lack of concern for facts; as Steve Singiser pointed out: “Perhaps Bob Marshall would like to explain what "vengeance" is being sought upon those loving parents of their one and only exceptional child.” Marshall made some unsuccessful attempts at backpedalling.

Following the repeal of DADT, he proposed a bill to “ban gays from openly serving in the Virginia National Guard” [allegedly] because he is worried about service members catching sexually transmitted diseases from gay troops. Also: “It's a distraction when I'm on the battlefield and have to concentrate on the enemy 600 yards away and I'm worried about this guy whose got eyes on me.” More on Marshall’s view of gays here.

He has furthermore jumped on Ken Cuccinelli’s bandwagon of trying to harass climate scientists into silence for uncovering facts he doesn’t like.

Diagnosis: Bigoted wingnut, Taliban fundamentalist and general loon who is – predictably – pathologically unable to recognize facts that don’t line up with his ideology.

#255: Robert J. Marks II

A.k.a. Galapagos Finch

Robert Marks II is a Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University, a proponent of intelligent design and one of Bill Dembski’s closest associates. He has a lot of peer-reviewed publications; evidence for intelligent design is not part of his publication record (though he sometimes seems to think so). Some of his stuff with Dembski has been published online, but that is a different matter (the link also includes a critique of the draft). And one paper has actually been published in an IEEE journal, although it doesn’t quite show what Dembski & Marks want to believe that it shows (see also this). Together Dembski and Marks seem to be rather obsessed with Dawkins’s famous “weasel” program (see also this and this), but they never quite seem to understand it.

Marks’s substantial knowledge of mathematics seems to have a tendency to get gappy once creationism (and, by extension, religion) is involved.

For the nickname, Galapagos Finch, see this one.

Diagnosis: A good scientist in many respects, to be sure, but also another example of the fact that when cherished religious doctrines get in the way even good scientists may resort to pure crackpottery.

#254: Jan Markell

Jan Markell points out that countries in Europe are suffering a financial crisis. European countries are socialist. Hence they are suffering a financial crisis because they are socialist. And she argues forcefully that America is failing to heed the clear warning here – Obama is still promoting unabashed socialism, so America may quickly follow the socialist European countries down the drain. As an example of “unnatural” American socialism, at least the health care reform was clearly against God’s plan for health care.

So who is this perceptive finance analyst and political analyst? This economic genius is the founder of Olive Tree Ministries. She seems to have learned her economy and politics from the Bible. From the Bible she also learned that the world is going to end pretty soon and that “you cannot understand the times today without understanding the proper kind of eschatology”.

She is strongly opposed to globalism (or at least sees it as a sign of the end times which, given that the end times are part of God’s plan, makes her opposition a little weird). Global warming, for instance, is just a pretext to sign up for a global government and a new world order. She didn’t like the fact that Minnesota back in 2006 elected a Muslim to congress either.

You can read more of her rants here.

Diagnosis: Stock fundie, Taliban crackpot and professional moron. Impact unknown.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#253: Bryan K. Marcia

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure how central Bryan K. Marcia is in the movement, but at least he can serve as our Encyclopedia’s representative of one of the biggest, most insane crackpot phenomena out there: Iridology; the most famous proponent in the States, Bernard Jensen, is currently dead and thus disqualified). Marcia may even be Canadian (he probably is, but he got his educational degree from Hawaii – the cnri website emphasizes that his educational institution was accredited – so there is at least this justification for including him).

For the uninitiated, iridology is the study of the iris to diagnose disease. The governing idea is that every organ in the body has a corresponding location within the iris and that it can be determined whether an organ is healthy or not by examining the iris rather than the organ itself. The view has absolutely no scientific support, and tests show that even iridologists themselves fail miserably in distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy individuals (and the rate of agreement between individual iridologists is hardly better than chance either). See the perfectly insane responses to this article here. The utter silliness of the idea is well illustrated by this piece from a former iridologist - and he is not the only one.

Bryan Marcia is at least an iridologist and seems to be counted as something of an authority in the iridology movement, in particular for his educational work. He has also worked with the legendary Dr. Jensen, and seems to be primarily responsible for the “educational” institution The course description for the iridology course can be found here or here. The first of those pages also includes a useful list of iridologists in the US and other countries, although many of the names return preciously few google hits.

Diagnosis: Über-crank who is mired in the deep end of the fluffy pool of altmed. The popularity of iridology is unclear, but as with all woo it has the potential to cause some real harm to real people.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

#251: Jeane Manning

We’ve touched on the HAARPers before. In fact, Jeane Manning is Nick Begich’s close colleague in forwarding this, the mother of all tinfoil hat conspiracies. Manning and Begich provide a hilariously insane summary here of what it is all about. The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program is, of course, a scientific research program designed to study the ionosphere of the earth and its effects on communication. Manning and Begich, however, claim to document that it has been developed for manipulating and disturbing human mental processes through pulsed radio-frequency radiation over large geographical areas (their evidence seems to be the utterly compelling fact that Brzezinski in the 60s was musing about (without a shred of evidence or even theory to back it up) whether something like that might actually be possible at some point in the future). Begich’s and Manning’s book “Angels Don't Play This HAARP” also “explains a principle behind some of Nikola Tesla's inventions – resonance – which affect planetary systems.” Indeed. Tesla seems to continue to appeal to tinfoil hatters like lightbulbs appeal to moths.

Apparently, HAARP may also destroy the earth. Oh, it’s rather fun trying to google up the various “experts” and “physicists” they are quoting. Do try it.

Seems like our old friend Dan Croft has also decided to lend is credibility and wisdom to the HAARP issue. Way to go.

In addition to HAARP Manning seems to be spending some energy promoting crackpot physics and quantum woo, for instance on how “space-energy” (aether) is the source of free energy for the future and (apparently) explains how magnets work (again, trying to google the various “experts” she quotes is pretty fun; they include über-crank Tom Bearden, whom Manning seems to have a recurring fascination with). It is, of course, completed with conspiracies, persecution complexes and Galileo gambits.

According to her website, New Energy (which seems to be a mangled symbiosis of quantum woo and appeal to nature) is her main project, and she has written a couple of books on the issue, including “Break Through Power” (with Joel Garbon). The goal of the New Energy movement seems to be to find unlimited resources of free energy (without harm to the environment). For the most part, their approach seems to be to reject contemporary science and rather base their “scientific” framework on Tesla. There’s a website here (Garbon seems to be the president).

Diagnosis: Tesla Crackpot. Nuff said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

#250: James David Manning

J.D. Manning is the chief pastor at the ATLAH World Missionary Church on 123rd Street in New York City. Manning is a staunch enemy of the gentrification of Harlem and has called for its residents to boycott its shops, restaurants, doctors, banks and churches. Combined with a general rent strike, this would according to Manning force all property owners out of Harlem and leave the neighborhood to its rightful inheritors: black people. He calls his plan “No Dew, Nor Rain,” apparently after Elijah's warning to Ahab. The whole of Harlem, he said, is to be a "drought zone." Maybe you can make sense of it yourself. More here. In fact, Manning has made the general claim that African-Americans should not support Kwanzaa, the NBA or any major Black-owned business.

But OK – despite its fundamentalist trappings, maybe this is nothing more than fiercely militant idealism?

Perhaps. So why does Manning count as a loon? The fact that he prides himself on his Doctor of Philosophy degree from his own (unaccredited) ATLAH Theological Seminary should give you a clue. Mainly, however, Manning has been a fierce critic of Obama. He has, among other things, called Obama's mother "white trash" for becoming pregnant by a black man out of wedlock. His well-reflected, erudite criticism also involves frequent comparisons with Hitler and calling Obama “long-legged mack daddy.”

In fact, Manning is a staunch birther. He's gone as far as conducting large-scale mock trials, charging Obama with being a Muslim CIA agent and putting up signs like this one (“The blood of Jesus against Obama, history made 4 Nov 2008, a Taliban Muslim illegally elected president USA Hussein”). “CIA”? “Taliban”? Oh yes, you see in the 1980s Obama was really a CIA agent who was working with the Taliban. The commonly held belief that he was a student at Columbia is only a fictional cover-up. See Manning explain the details here. Oh, and Obama is also an emissary of Satan.

Diagnosis: Rabidly insane christopath. His impact must surely be limited, but he does seem to have some followers. That’s not funny.