Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#1937: Abby Martin

Abigail Suzanne “Abby” Martin is an “investigative journalist”, presenter of The Empire Files, and formerly host of Breaking the Set on the Russian network RT America. A relatively well-known figure, Martin has been heavily involved in various foundations and “documentaries”. She also claims to have grown weary of viewing politics on a Left–Right axis, but what she offers is nevertheless more or less a liberal version of Breitbart-style conspiracy mongering.

She was long a 9/11 truther who labeled the official story as government “propaganda”, saying of the attacks that “I’ve researched it for three years and every single thing that I uncover solidifies my belief that it was an inside job and that our government was complicit in what happened,” where “research” in this context means trawling conspiracy theory websites guided by confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.

In fairness, she has said that she “no longer subscribes” to the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, but even if she doesn’t there are plenty of conspiracy theories she does subscribe to. For instance, Martin is an important promoter of conspiracies surrounding water fluoridation, and devoted at least one Breaking the Set show to the topic. Like so many fluoridation conspiracy loons, Martin invoked studies showing the dangers of fluoridation, neglecting completely the fact that those studies employed dosages many times as high as would be physically possible for humans to get exposed to through water. But as most chemically illiterate people, the rather fundamental idea that the dose makes the poison remains beyond Martin’s grasp. She also ran various conspiracy theories targeted at Monsanto, the big bogeyman of liberal conspiracy theorists everywhere.

Diagnosis: Often described as a spokesperson for the Millenial generation, Martin is probably at best a specimen of Millenial conspiracy mongerers. Addle-brained fop. Don’t listen to her.

Monday, December 11, 2017

#1936: John Marshall

Intelligent design creationism (ID) is pseudoscience, and as with most branches of pseudoscience, proponents of ID see the theory’s lack of popularity among those who actually has some expertise in the relevant areas not as a result of ID’s lack of scientific merit but as a result of conspiracy and/or bias. ID’s proponents themselves, of course, do not possess such expertise. A fine example is John Marshall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia and ID apologist, who claims that mainstream scientists are trying to kick intelligent design “off the playing field of science” even though, according to Marshall, ID is “as much science as Darwinian evolution is science”. It isn’t. Marshall, of course, is not a biologist, and does not appear to have extensive knowledge of the relevant fields. Nevertheless, “as a theory, I believe that intelligent design fits the evidence of biology better than Darwinian evolution,” says Marshall, since that’s what he chooses to believe, regardless of evidence or principles for good scientific inquiry or evaluation of evidence (Marshall, in a 2007 talk in which he asserted his stance, failed to answer questions (from scientists) about ID’s testable predictions, for instance, which are sorely missing). He did bring up the standard false analogy involving DNA and information, however, saying that DNA is the “most complex, densely packed, elaborate assembly of information in the known universe” and even bears similarities to computer codes or a language, which is misleading at best. There is a nice, brief discussion of Marshall’s claim that ID is science here.

Marshall is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s laughable petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

Diagnosis: Marshall is a scientist. But being a working scientist in one field doesn’t mean that your dabblings in a different field are anything but pseudoscientific. Marshall is also a pseudoscientist.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#1935: Patrick Marsh

Patrick Marsh is a former employee of Universal Studios and the design director for the Ark Encounter (Mike Zovath headed the management team; comprehensive description here), which is “a full-size Noah’s Ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible” in Kentucky and the subject of well-deserved, international mockery, partly since the resulting wooden box sort of piles on further evidence – if more were needed – that the Ark myth is, indeed, completely and utterly a myth. Although scientists have cataloged 1.3 million species of animals, the Ark Encounter figured that Noah could have brought on just 1,000 to 2,000 pairs to represent every animal “kind” (the pseudoscientific study of Biblical “kinds”, baraminology, is accordingly notable mostly for unintentionally providing further evidence for evolution). Of course, they don’t think too hard about e.g. insects or aquatic species, but neither does the target audience, presumably. The Ark Encounter was initially supposed to include a lot of other exhibits about antediluvian life, though those are apparently not yet in place.

Anyways, “[w]e’re basically presenting what the Bible has to say and showing how plausible it was,” says Marsh, which the encounter to some extent actually does, but not in the way Marsh intends, making Marsh’s assertion that “this was a real piece of history – not just a story, not just a legendsound a bit desperate. According to Marsh the whole Ark encounter is really about evangelism to the unchurched: “the Bible is the only thing that gives you the full picture. Other religions don’t have that, and, as for scientists, so much of what they believe is pretty fuzzy about life and its origins.” Apparently, Marsh also wanted to show that early man was not primitive (he doesn’t believe in non-human hominid fossils). For instance, “Adam one of the most brilliant people that ever lived on this earth. In a very short period of time he named all of the animals that there were,” which assumes a non-standard interpretation of “brilliance”.

Apparently the Creation Museum itself was Marsh’s brainchild as well; the theme park (not a museum) was supposed to present the story of Creation as “faithful to scripture” as possible, except for that pesky thing about nudity in the Garden of Eden, which they wished weren’t there.

Diagnosis: Seriously crazy fundie. How much his theatrical theme parks will manage to sway those not already lost to seriously crazy fundamentalism is a different matter, however.