One of the things that I’ve noticed over the last (nearly) nine years blogging about pseudocience, quackery, and conspiracy theories is that a person who believes in one form of woo has a tendency to believe in other forms of woo. You’ve probably noticed it too. I’ve lost count of the examples that I’ve seen of antivaccinationists who are into other forms of quackery, of quacks who are 9/11 Truthers, of HIV/AIDS denialists who are anthropogenic global warming denialists, and nearly every combination of these and many other forms of pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and denialism. Several years ago, a blog bud of mine, Mark Hoofnagle, coined a very descriptive term for this phenomenon, crank magnetism. It’s stuck, and has entered widespread use in the skeptical world.
Of course, there’s crank magnetism, and then there’s crank magnetism. Some cranks, for instance, only attract a handful of different forms of woo, while remaining (seemingly, at least) rational with respect to almost everything else. A very “special” few people, though, take crank magnetism to a whole new level, a level undreamed of before the establishment of the Internet allowed them to spread their crankitude to the entire world at the click of a mouse. One such person always comes to mind right away when thinking of crank magnitude, and that’s Mike Adams. Adams is the founder of one of the largest repository of woo in the entire world, NaturalNews.com. Over the years, I’ve pointed out examples of Adams’ support of cancer quackery, antivaccinationism (particularly anti-flu vaccinationism), genetics denialism, anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms, for those not familiar with the lingo) anti-psychiatry every bit as virulent as that of Scientology (which shouldn’t be surprising, given that Adams apparently used to be a Scientologist), and New World Order conspiracy theories (Adams does, after all, frequently appear on Alex Jones’ show and his various online video and podcast networks). Lately, he’s been indulging in some of the scariest fringe political views, in which the government is coming to take his guns; it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a survivalist. It all goes way back, too. After all, Adams got his start scamming people to subscribe to his website and service to protect them from the feared Y2K bug and has been known for running a software company that designs, well, spam software. Most recently, Adams has developed a website in which he claims to be able, in essence, replace PubMed, at least for those attracted to quackery.
So just when Adams has embraced every form of pseudoscience known to humankind (seemingly), producing virulently anti-science rants and videos blaming science for everything evil in the world, how much lower could he possibly go? Easy.
Now Adams is denying evolution. Well, not exactly. He’s intentionally confusing abiogenesis with evolution in order to attack atheism. I kid you not:
Ask any scientist where life on our planet came from, and they’ll usually give you a one-word answer: “Evolution.” Immediately thereafter, they will usually give you a condescending look that also implies you’re an idiot for not knowing this “scientific fact” that everyone else has accepted as true.
It turns out, however, that the scientist is suffering from a delusion. Evolution doesn’t even encompass origins of life. Rather, evolution (i.e. “natural selection”) explains a process by which species undergo a process of adaptation, fitness and reproduction in response to environmental, behavioral and sexual influences. No rational person can deny that natural selection is ever-present and happening right now across bacteria, plants, animals and even humans, yet natural selection can only function on pre-existing life forms. It does not give rise to non-existent life.
This is about as big a “Well, duh!” observation as I’ve ever seen from Adams, and he’s a master of the “Well, duh!” observation ladled with a generous helping of pure burning stupid designed to take that observation and build a straw man so massive that when the stupid burns it, the fire can be seen from space. No scientist who knows anything about evolutionary biology would so stupidly confuse evolution with abiogenesis (the development of life from non-life). Even someone as scientifically ignorant as Adams appears to know the difference between the two. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop him from ascribing scientifically ignorant views to evolutionary biologists and other scientists who recognize that evolution is the best current explanation for how the diversity of life came about and then ranting about how evolution can’t explain the ORIGIN OF LIFE! (Yes, there are many caps in the rant.) He even goes so far as to accuse scientists of believing in magic, an accusation so rich in irony that I have a hard time believing it, given some of Adams’ previous “pearls.”
Then, of course, to Adams scientists are all hopeless atheists who believe…well, what Adams thinks atheists believe is so bizarre that I think I will let his own words speak for themselves:
Conventional scientists, of course, will go through tremendous contortions to try to remove any idea of a designer, engineer or Creator from their worldview. That’s because nearly all of them are devout atheists who also disavow any belief in consciousness, free will, the soul, God or spirituality. According to their own explanations, they themselves are mindless biological robots suffering from the mere delusion of mind created as a kind of artificial projection of mechanistic biological brain function.
See my mini-documentary “The God Within” for a more detailed exploration of this:
The twisted philosophy of many scientists also raises bizarre ethical lapses, such as their belief that killing a lab rat, or a dog, or even another human being is of no ethical consequence since all those creatures are not actually “alive” in any real way. This is why drug companies, vaccine manufacturers and science in general feels no remorse for conducting deadly experiments on children, blacks, prisoners or minorities.
I reviewed “The God Within,” which, let’s face it, should really have been titled “Science Is Evil,” because that was the relentless message of the YouTube video. In that movie, Adams managed to paint science as the reason why Hitler and the Nazis did what they did—shades of Ben Stein!—as well as an ideology that demands that humans must be mindless biological robots who have no morals, scruples, or concern for their fellow beings because if there is no God then there’s no reason to behave ethically, no morals, no goodness.
As amusing as all this is, there is something even more amusing still, a one-two punch squashed my irony meter flat as though it were stomped on by Godzilla or run over by a steamroller. First, Adams accuses scientists of being “arrogant.” I kid you not. A man who believes himself to be a “scientist” while being amazed that objects look very different and even alien under the microscope thinks that scientists who have actually dedicated their lives to studying science are “arrogant” for telling pissants like Adams that they are clueless and don’t know what they are talking about. Truly, Adams is the man with no self-awareness. I wonder if that could be a Saturday Night Live sketch. If it ever is, I want royalties.
Now here comes the second punch in the one-two punch:
Their faith-based beliefs are always described as “facts” while they proclaim other people’s beliefs are “delusions.” You cannot argue with any group of people who are wholly convinced their beliefs are facts because any critical thinking you might invoke is automatically and routinely rejected as a matter of irrational defense.
Yes, Adams actually wrote that, amazingly enough. He even wrote what comes next, in which he trods over ground that cranks and quacks, particularly fundamentalist religion-inspired quacks and cranks, have trod over so many times before. Not surprisingly, the example Adams chooses is vaccines:
As an example of this, ask any doctor or pharmacist this question: “Is there such thing as an unsafe vaccine?”
The answer you will be told is a condescending “No!” In the faith-based beliefs of the scientific status quo, no vaccine can ever be harmful by definition. Vaccines are beyond questioning in their belief system, and so the very question of asking if a vaccine could possibly be anything less than 100% safe doesn’t compute. It contradicts their faith, in other words.
It’s like asking a devout Christian whether there might be no God. The question is so contradictory to their belief system that it cannot be processed.
This is, of course, a very silly, very disingenuous example. Any vaccine that makes it to the point of being sold by a pharmacist is indeed very safe. Moreover, no one denies that there are vaccines whose safety isn’t what we would like. (The anthrax vaccine comes to mind.) However, those vaccines are generally not sold in pharmacies and not distributed widely among the population. So it’s unlikely that a pharmacist would ever have encountered an unsafe vaccine.
Now the next part is even more hilarious. The reason it’s so hilarious is that it’s an example of Adams thinking that he can actually trap physicians, pharmacists, and scientists in their own “logical fallacies” and contradictions. Of course, Adams wouldn’t know what a real logical fallacy is if it bit him on the proverbial posterior, which is why he can type something like this with a straight face and a smug air of condescension:
You can test this further by asking a vaccine-pushing doctor, “Is there anything that could be added to a vaccine that would make it unsafe?”
After careful thought, an honest doctor might answer, “Well, sure, there are all sorts of toxins that could be added to a vaccine that would make it unsafe.”
Ask them to name some examples. Sooner or later, they should stumble onto the self-evident answer of “mercury,” a deadly neurotoxin which remains present in many modern vaccines.
Ask the doctor, “Has any safe level of mercury ever been established for injection into a child?”
The answer, of course, is no. Logically, no vaccine containing mercury can be considered “safe” regardless of the level of mercury it contains. Thus, by merely asking a few direct questions, you can easily get an honest doctor to shatter their own false belief about vaccines — a belief based on the faith-driven delusion that there is no such thing as an unsafe vaccine (no matter what it contains).
So much misinformation in such a compact form. Truly, Adams is talented when it comes to obfuscating and lying. The reason, of course, is that the answer to his question is not “no.” It is yes, and the tiny amount of mercury that remains in a few vaccines (and virtually no childhood vaccines any more) is too small to cause harm. (It doesn’t cause autism, either.) Doctors’ belief that vaccines are safe is not based on faith, quite unlike Adams’ fanatical belief that they are dangerous. It’s based on facts and scientific and clinical studies.
Adams goes on to rant about “scientism” without actually knowing what the word means, peppering his continued rant with more examples of just how little he understands science. He even throws in a contradiction of his own. After having pointed out that natural selection works to cause the evolution of living organisms in the beginning of his screed, Adams now claims that natural selection is not enough to explain the evolution of the diversity of life, and he does so using arguments so stupid that only the most brain dead fundamentalist creationist could use them without blushing. But, then, this is Mike Adams we are talking about:
Even the theory of natural selection based on purely mechanistic genetic inheritance contains enormous gaps in logic and is therefore a matter of faith. For starters, there isn’t enough data storage in the human genome to fully describe the physical and behavioral inheritance of a human being. The massive failure of the Human Genome Project also comes to mind: Here’s a project that promised to solve the riddle of the origins of nearly all disease. Once the human genome was fully decoded, disease would be eliminated from humankind, we were all promised.
No, we were not promised any such thing. While it’s true that the Human Genome Project was a bit oversold with respect to the rapid, concrete results that it would produce, not even its wildest boosters claimed that the HGP would eliminate disease from humankind.Be that as it may, I just addressed Adams’ claim that there is not enough data storage in the human genome to produce a human being. It’s pure misinformation based on a misunderstanding of genetics, as is this statement about human consciousness:
And there’s another huge contradiction in the scientific community. Most conventional scientists claim that consciousness is an illusion which somehow arose out of natural selection so that individual members of a species could operate under the illusion of free will. Yet, at the same time, they claim this false “mind” has no actual impact on the real world because it is, by definition, an illusion.
So how can an illusory phenomenon drive natural selection and evolution if it has no impact on the real world?
I’d really love to know what scientists Adams is reading and speaking to, because I’ve never seen a legitimate scientist claim that consciousness is an illusion that arose out of natural selection to produce the illusion of free will. That’s yet another straw man version of evolution for Adams to immolate with burning stupid. I’d also love to know who ever said that this “mind” has no impact on the real world. Trying to keep track of Adams’ misrepresentations of science is really getting exhausting.
The bottom line is that Adams is as antiscience as they come, but he has his own contradiction going on. As he castigates science as being anti-God, anti-spirituality, its own dogmatic form of religion, and the root of all evil, including the Holocaust, at the same time he desperately craves the imprimatur of science. Indeed, he even tries desperately (and wildly entertainingly fails) to claim the mantle of The Real Scientist. He just can’t figure out that the reason he is viewed with such low regard by scientists is because he is not a scientist. He is a crank, and even as a crank he is a joke.