Monday, March 31, 2014

#981: Robert C. Newman

Robert C. Newman has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Cornell and is currently Professor of New Testament and Director of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute at the Biblical Theological Seminary of Hatfield. He is a longtime contributor to the Intelligent Design literature (e.g. to the Dembski-edited anthology Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design), and is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s intellectually bankrupt petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

According to Newman, there are organisms that possess incredible complexity, but which also seem to be clearly malevolent. These, Newman thinks, are the work of “malevolent spirit beings,” or perhaps the work of “non-spiritual intelligences (extra-terrestrials).” Insofar as they are the work of malevolent spirit beings, this is evidence for the controversial hypothesis that “the fall of Satan is much earlier than that of Adam, and creation is already not so good by the time Adam comes along.” Accordingly, “[t]hese are things that theologians, scientists and philosophers need to think about,” but I think he means theologians – philosophers and scientists usually have better things to do.

Unfortunately the program does not yield easily testable predictions, so it may not in the end count as a genuine research program – though it is probably the best we’ll get from the Intelligent Design crowd. Newman’s findings are described in his paper ” “Rumors of Angels: Using ID to Detect Malevolent Spiritual Agents.”

He is probably not the same guy as Robert Newman of the California Christian Coalition, who has said – in response to efforts to combat bullying based on sexual orientation – that bullying is “part of the maturational process,” and that he does not “think that bullying is a real issue in schools.”

Diagnosis: No, Newman. That’s not how things work. But at least he is unlikely to win many new converts for his pseudoscience.

#980: Joe Newman

Joseph Newman is an inventor, originally from Mississippi, who has for many years been trying to sell a high-voltage motor (powered by a large number of batteries connected in series) as a free energy device; that is, as a device that produces more energy than it uses. He has called the device an “electromagnetomic motor”, and written extensively about it (along with presenting an alternative physics – or perhaps a misunderstanding of basic physics – that “explains” how it works) in a self-published book titled The Energy Machine of Joseph Newman. Among his more notable pieces of alleged evidence is that, according to himself, he and his device were predicted by Nostradamus.

Although Newman’s device were featured (back in the 80s) in e.g. Discover magazine, his results have never quite made it through peer review. Of course, this is partially because any test of his device apart from his own rigged tests, such as one by the National Bureau of Standards, have failed to replicate his results (duh!). At least he (and fellow free-energy enthusiast Dennis Lee) received extensive coverage in Bob Park’s book Voodoo Science.

Diagnosis: Harmless crackpot.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

#979: Jerry Newcombe

Jerry Newcombe is Senior Producer and co-host of Truth in Action Ministries, formerly Coral Ridge Ministries. That’s the late D. James Kennedy’s group, and Newcombe is in most ways a natural heir of Kennedy’s (he has a more prominent media profile than Executive Vice President Frank Johnson or even Kennedy’s own daughter, the remorselessly fanatic Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy). Newcombe does, for instance, possess the intellectual abilities and zealotry of his unlamented mentor.

Newcombe was the producer of Kennedy’s “documentary” Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, which asserted that Adolf Hitler grounded his genocidal actions on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution even though Hitler demonstrably rejected evolution and there is no non-crazy way of connecting the Theory of evolution to social Darwinism. The blurb stated that “the program features 14 scholars, scientists and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin's theory of evolution and show how his theory fueled Hitler's ovens.” According to CRM spokesman John Aman “Darwinism is a philosophy, it’s a worldview, and one of the key things in it is that evolution advances by death, so death is a good thing. Hitler thought he was doing civilization a favor by eliminating lives that were not worth living. We, of course, think that is an egregious moral tragedy and a consequence of the worldview that was initiated by Darwin and popularized by his followers.” The 14 “scholars” featured in the film include Ann Coulter, Ken Ham and Lee Strobel, and a certain shortage of people with actual expertise in any remotely related field, except for Francis Collins, whose contributions were cherry-picked and mangled beyond recognition. Newcombe’s utterly delusional response to being (mildly) taken to task for the screed is discussed here. In the response he discusses for instance the significance of the battle to contemporary issues “Right now we’re in a fight, in a battle over the judiciary. Even in the Supreme Court itself, you have a conflict between those who believe and accept unguided evolution versus those who believe in God,” which is one of the most bizarre statements ever made but part of Newcombe’s perception of liberals making a concentrated effort to “unmoor” America from its Christian roots, as described e.g. in his book The Book that Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation (recommended by Ann Coulter).

But does he have any evidence against evolution, apart from the fact that he doesn’t like what he perceives to be the consequences of adopting the theory? Well, no. He does quotethe book of Genesis, lies about a quote by Colin Patterson, and refers to the Piltdown Man, incomprehensibly (but predictably) taking it as evidence against evolution. Also, logging into a computer and entering a password makes it clear to Newcombe "how impossible evolution is". So, no. Not that he cares.

Part of the battle Newcombe is referring to, and over which he conjectures the religious affiliations of the Supreme Court judges (since if they don’t support Newcombe’s positions, they must be anti-Christian social Darwinists), is the matter of prayer in public schools, an issue about which Newcombe brilliantly uses lies and made-up pseudohistory (as e.g. described in the book George Washington’s Sacred Fire, coauthored with Peter Lillback and “promoted by Glenn Beck”) to argue that the absence of mandatory prayers in public schools = Nazi Germany. For that’s just the kind of person Newcombe is. He also blithely asserted that mandatory school prayers would have prevented the 2012 Ohio school shootings, because that’s the way things hang together in Newcombe’s deranged mind (when describing the case he actually comes close to identifying the motivation: bullying. But no, it’s the absence of Jesus). Since Jesus is the only road to the good, everyone who isn’t good are automatically anti-Jesus, so the school shootings are caused by the absence of Jesus – by definition, not evidence. In fact, in relation to the Aurora shootings, Newcombe expanded upon his position: School shootings are caused by the fact that Americans don’t fear hell or God anymore, so liberal churches, the media, and the ACLU are to blame as well. Or in other words, according to Newcombe the road to good isn’t Jesus, but terror. But how nice! To really underline the humanity of his ideology, Newcombe emphasized in particular that the victims who weren’t Christian enough for Newcombe are currently burning in Hell.

Maybe Newcombe has a more reasonable view on equality issues? Well, as a matter of fact, Truth in Action ministries has linked the Day of Silence to … Adolf Hitler. Are we perceiving a pattern here? Indeed, they also compared the Day of Silence to the iceberg that sunk Titanic, a metaphor it is somewhat hard to make actual sense of (it is still the major premise of his argument for criminalizing homosexuality and warnings against “sexual paganization”). When the issue of gay members in the Boy Scouts were under discussion in 2013, Newcombe showed barely more originality and claimed that if the Boy Scouts were “succumb to the tentacles of political correctness” and end the national ban on gay membership then they will join society’s “mad dash toward Gomorrah”.

In Newcombe’s mind homosexuality and child molestation are also closely connected, since – as he says – “three out of four gays were molested as children” (making sure that he is not outlooned by Jeff Myers and Ryan Dobson’s equally made-up 60% figure). Evidence? Why, Newcombe has conviction, which apparently allows him pull whatever numbers he can out of thin air (no, the numbers do not bear the faintest semblance to reality). Truth in Action Ministries considers Glee, however, to be an evil alongside 9/11 and … yes, you guessed it, Hitler. (The 2014 Grammys were hardly better). Interestingly, Newcombe has himself defended genocide, when the victims are sinners in the eyes of God.

In the documentary Truth that Transforms, Newcombe targets the IRS rules that tie tax exemption status for religious organizations to absence of political involvement. No, he doesn’t provide the reasons for the claim. Instead, he argues that the rules are exactly like – care to guess? – Nazi Germany.

He has also lamented the existence of media depictions of Muslims that don’t portray them as terrorists and part of a stealth jihad agenda. Since a ccuracy is a sin when it fails to serve his agenda.

Diagnosis: As morally and intellectually bankrupt as a human being can become. He nevertheless carries some influence, and must be considered dangerous.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

#978: Issam Nemeh

Issam Nemeh, MD, is a general practitioner (and Catholic) in the Cleveland area who also practices faith healing – in this case in the form of using heated acupuncture-type needles, the passing of hands, and prayer. Indeed, Nemeh has managed to garner for himself quite a reputation as a faith healer the last two years of so. Of course, the scientific evidence against faith healing as an efficacious form of healing is overwhelming. But Nemeh states that “[e]ven skeptics agree that faith and prayer can improve one’s mental state, which can in turn promote physical health,” for which the evidence is, at best, moot, and that “[s]ome also suggest that people who report being cured by faith healers are probably experiencing a placebo effect, a powerful phenomenon in which symptoms improve on the mere belief that a remedy is at hand.” But of course. When everything else fails, appeal to the placebo effect and potential patients’ perception of the effect as some kind of magic. The placebo effect, however, doesn’t quite work the way Nemeh has to assume that it works for it to justify his woo. The explanation for positive testimonials is rather along the lines of this.

Nemeh’s current success is of course partially due to being promoted by what is perhaps the currently most influential promoter of quackery and fraud in the US today, dr. Oz. And Oz promotes Nemeh as if Nemeh was some kind of contemporary Jesus, with testimonials from a paralyzed patient who claims that he’s noticed some movement in his feet since Dr. Nemeh started treating him, a woman who implied that she had her vision restored, and a woman who claims that her multiple sclerosis is gone. Nemeh’s (and Oz’s) investigations into his practices follow the golden scientific rules of cherry-picking, selective thinking and post hoc reasoning.

He is succinctly discussed here.

Diagnosis: He should be ashamed of himself. But he sure isn’t. Extremely dangerous.

#977: Andrew Napolitano

Sorry, we have to include him. Andrew Napolitano is a former Judge of the New Jersey Superior Court and current libertarian pundit on Fox Business Network. The reason one might be reluctant to include him, is that he often says intelligent stuff (especially on civil liberties). Unfortunately, he is also a conspiracy theorist and anti-Fed crank, gold standard idiot and 9/11 truther. Then there are things such as his comparison between Syria’s use of chemical weapons and “president Clinton’s murder of the Branch Davidians.” Or his attempt to claim that the Contraception Mandate forces everyone to pay for euthanasia.

Diagnosis: It’s a bit sad. Napolitano once had the power to be a voice of reason at Fox. But he failed. This is failure.