Sunday, December 11, 2016

#1759: Peggy Huddleston

Even the most hardened woo-proponent will usually admit that surgery and emergency treatments of traumatic injuries are pretty obvious success stories for conventional medicine. It’s not surprising, then, that they are eager to claim they can help in these situations as well, in particular to ensure “faster healing” after surgery. Peggy Huddleston, for instance, claims that verbal messages given to a patient under general anesthesia result in “faster healing”, which, though apparently rather innocuous, is an impressively silly idea. Huddleston is a a self-described psychotherapist and the proud recipient of an M.T.S. (Master of Theological Studies) degree from the Harvard Divinity School, and she has managed to turn her “faster healing” ideas into a relatively sleek and professional-looking business. Her book Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster is crammed with endorsements from charlatans, quacks and crackpots like Andrew Weil, Larry Dossey, Jean Watson, Caroline Myss, C. Norman Shealy, Mehmet Oz and “mind/body” maven Joan Borysenko – Christiane Northrup wrote the foreword.

Well, some of Huddleston’s claims are of course plausible and sensible. But “plausibility” and “sensibility” are hardly the criteria Huddleston uses to select what advice she will offer: “… recent studies have documented that care, appreciation and love boost the immune system and enhance the functioning of the heart … Since the heart creates a large electrical field of energy that influences every cell, this has a very positive effect on the entire body.” Methinks think Huddleston may be confusing human anatomy and physiology with the narrative structure of a WalMart paperback romance. So yes, here you find recommendations for intercessory prayer, blaming disease on negative emotions (i.e. blaming the victim for their own physical illness) reiki (“[w]ithout touching the body, practitioners use their hands to influence the field of energy that pulsates in and around the physical body. Physicists call this a force field;” I don’t think those are physicists, Peggy), various forms of energy healing, and acupuncture (which “makes even major surgery free of pain. For 5,000 years, acupuncture has also been used for the treatment and prevention of disease,” which is false but would anyways make it more recent practice than burning witches). It’s all about the powers of the New Age. Physical illnesses are really “trying to ‘talk’ to you, telling you that something is amiss. Your intuition knows what is out of balance and causing a health problem. Allow yourself to hear what it is.” Be like native Americans: “Lakota children could easily merge their beings with an eagle, soaring with it through the clouds.

No seriously. Just think about the fact that “[y]ou’ll use less pain medication after surgery if your anesthesiologist says three Healing Statements to you during surgery.” The D&D rules say so, and yes – Peggy Huddleston is recommending that anesthesiologists try to cast healing spells. The point is of course that you are suppose to hear these incantations while you are anesthesized. Though Huddleston admits that “there is ongoing scientific debate about how much an anesthetized patient can hear,” she brazenly concludes that “one point is clear: We never stop hearing.”

And though she claims that “[m]edical research documents the dramatic benefits” of her bullshit, she doesn’t really discuss that research in detail (she does offer some references, most of which are either unpublished or more than 40 years old, based on the principle that you select what seems to fit your hypothesis and avoid looking at the aggregate result of studies like the plague), focusing rather on trying to sell you a series of “Testimonials” DVDs from her website.

Diagnosis: Utter bullshit. But apparently Huddleston seems to have attracted quite a following and her business appears to be doing remarkably well. Which is pretty sad.


Friday, December 9, 2016

#1758: Neil Huber

A crackpot of some note, Neil Huber is a Biblical literalist with a PhD in anthropology. He used to be associated with Wisconsin State University (though he can hardly be described as a particularly active scientist), but renounced science in 1990 and decided “to start with the assumption of the authority of the Bible, looking at all the evidence that it presents for trusting it. Then build your science from there, based upon the Bible’s truth.” He is currently affiliated with the Imago Dei Institute, a Bible college. Of course, given that he does, indeed, have a PhD, Huber is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, but at least he is pretty explicit that his rejection of evolution is not based on science. He is also on the CMI’s list of scientists alive today who accept the Biblical account of creation, even though he is not a scientist by a long shot.

There is a brief report from one of Huber’s presentations here (which also offers summaries of presentations by John Johnson, Tom Greene and Heinz Lycklama; the last, in particular, is a magnificent trainwreck). Huber tries, unsurprisingly, to run the “same-evidence; different interpretations” canard, neglecting to mention that creationists not only interpret the evidence differently according to their presuppositions but i) also just refuse to look at the vast majority of the evidence (the stuff that doesn’t fit), and ii) that science also tests its presuppositions. Actually, Huber tried to address one problem: the problem that different fossils are systematically and without exception found in different geological strata (because they lived at different times), which is hard to reconcile with the favorite creationist assumption that all fossils are remnants of creatures killed in one single cataclysmic flood. Well, Huber claimed that fossil animals are found at different strata in a particular order because they were running from the flood water, and so more primitive animals were not able to outrun more advanced ones. In other words, the moles outran the velociraptors and outflew the pterosaurs (not his examples). He didn’t mention plants.


Diagnosis: Amazing crackpot. Probably pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

#1757: Lowell Hubbs

A.k.a. “TruthStorm”
A.k.a. “TruthEducation”
A.k.a. “Anti Vax Warrior”

Small fish, but worth a mention. Lowell Hubbs is an online troll whose mission is to spread FUD about vaccines and vaccine safety. Hubbs has no education or experience in any relevant field, but tends to repeat standard antivaxx tropes and conspiracy theories, claiming for instance that all vaccines are unsafe and ineffective (that better sanitation and nutrition, not vaccines, account for the decline in vaccine-preventable diseases, which is almost as delusionally ridiculous as flat-out denying gravity); instead, vaccines apparently lead to autism, asthma and SIDS. To hold those views, you also need some serious conspiracy theories, and Hubbs is not afraid to go there (“I like whale.to, its a great site containing more real history than I know you can actually deal with,” says Hubbs; whale.to is a frequent source of his information, apparently): In 2011 Hubbs even concluded that his site, lowellsfacts.com, had been taken down by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It wasn’t.

Hat-tip:RtAVM
Of course, Hubbs thinks that his claims are backed up by science, but seems genuinely not to understand the difference between a scientific study and a blogpost on a conspiracy website. He does complain, though, that his critics seem not to bother to review his work. His ridiculous nine vaccine questions addressed to non-loons are addressed here. Many of his antics are covered here.

Diagnosis: Hubbs is really not anything but a trivial troll, but he is a rather active one and his impact on civilization, if not major, is certainly not beneficial. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

#1756: Jon Hubbard

Jon Hubbard is a former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives (District 75 in Jonesboro). He is most famous, at least outside of Arkansas, for his 2009 book Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative, which contains gems like this: “the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise [because] the blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” (The statement was endorsed by Bryan Fischer). The book – its publication coincided with the publication of his colleague Charles Fuqua’s book – also asserted that blacks don’t “appreciate the value of a good education”, and that in the future immigration, both legal and illegal, must lead to “planned wars or extermination” which would be “as necessary as eating and breathing”. Hubbard was not reelected in 2012.

He hasn’t mellowed down much, though, and has also later been caught raging and ranting about his efforts to save America from the “clutches of an obsessed, liberal-socialist-globalist agenda” and how “Obama has systematically gone about his primary objective to destroy America,” meaning, of course, promoting same-sex marriage and religious liberty for any other groups than those fundamentalists who coincidentally agree with Hubbard on political issues, which according to Hubbard were the ones for whom America was created.


Diagnosis: Belongs to a special kind of fuming, rightwing conspiracy theorist that seems notoriously populous among state legislators – Hubbard may be gone, but there are plenty left (also in Arkansas: We’ll return to a couple of examples later on).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#1755: Daniel Howell

Daniel Howell has made a little bit of a name for himself for his advocacy of barefoot running and barefoot living: going barefoot is “natural” and “healthy” and God created us barefoot in the Garden of Eden; no, Howell has, as far as we know, not followed that line of reasoning to its natural conclusion and landed himself in jail. His ideas about barefoot living are summed up in his The Barefoot Book. That’s not the part of his mission we are most interested in here, however, though it is the modest recognition he might have received for his barefoot stuff that drew our attention his other activities: Howell is also a hardcore young-earth creationist; he is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism and associate professor of biology (specializing in human anatomy, apparently) at Liberty University, no less.


Diagnosis: Sort of undermines his claims to know anything about the biological foundations for the barefoot stuff he is promoting. Anti-scientist.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#1754: Linda Moulton Howe

Another legend among UFO enthusiasts, Linda Moulton Howe is a ufologist and “investigative journalist”, and a mainstay on the Coast to Coast AM radio show and the Ancient Aliens TV series. She is in particular associated with cattle mutilation nonsense, starting with her 1980 documentary A Strange Harvest, where she investigated what she concludes to be unusual animal deaths (but really a mix of hearsay and the readily naturally explainable) caused by “non-human intelligence and technology”. Her conclusions were based on careful investigation of the evidence after ruling out, prior to investigation, the possibility of a natural explanation. She followed up with more “evidence” in the 1989 book Alien Harvest. Howe also claims to have seen secret government documents that supposedly prove that aliens are mutilating cattle, abducting people and generally flying around military bases. Indeed, in 1983 she was shown a secret presidential briefing paper that revealed how “extraterrestrials created Jesus” and placed him on earth “to teach mankind about love and non-violence” (but apparently also randomly mutilate cattle). The documents were allegedly shown to her by Richard Doty. We have covered Doty and his documents before.

Howe runs her own website called “EarthFiles.com”, which charges a subscription fee of $45 a year to access her body of work. Some of it, however, has been published in reputable journals disseminated in radio programs hosted by luminaries like Art Bell, George Noory and Whitley Strieber. That material contains, in addition to cattle mutilation tripe and reports of “unexplained” lights and sounds reported from all over the US:

  • “Bigfoot DNA”: Melba Ketchum (to be covered) apparently has proof that Bigfoot exists.
  • “The Return of Ezekiel’s Wheel, based on recent “eyewitness sightings”. 
  • “Pyramids Discovered in Alaska and Turkey”: “Immense structures not only built, but used in some unknown way for a thousand years.”
  • Missing Time: Howe has managed to unearth “a rare case of documented missing time”.
  • Unknown objects in our skies. What are we NOT being told”: Yes, the government is conspiring to deny the presence of UFOs, for the usual nebulous reasons.
  • “The Rendlesham Code”: Howe investigates endorses a UFO contactee’s claims to have telepathically downloaded binary code numbers from aliens.
  • Project Serpo: Yup, Howe fell for that one, to no one’s surprise.

Howe also does crop circles and a variety of other environmentalist conspiracies (eg. colony collapse disorder and Monsanto).

By the way, the aliensdidit “explanation” for cattle mutilations seems to have received some competition from even more exotic hypotheses. Tom Bearden, for instance, thinks the “mutilations are the physical manifestation of the whole human unconsciousness which is somehow aware that the Soviets will, probably within three years, invade and destroy the Western world;” so there is that.

Diagnosis: Crazy, but her most characteristic trait seems to be that she’s amazingly gullible and will fall for anything you serve her if it concerns UFOs – unless it is based on reason and evidence, of course.


Source for much of this entry: The Rationalwiki article on Howe.