Mike Adams, who goes by the nom de guerre Health Ranger, can politely be described as an antiscience propagandist. If there’s no evidence for it, he’ll believe it: naturopathy, antivax, alt-med fluffery, you name it. He runs the website Natural News, which has an extremely high density of nonsense per electron. Normally I wouldn’t care about someone like him, but he has a substantial following, and he also promotes a lot of alt-med material that is clearly anti-science and therefore potentially dangerous; even if the stuff he sells doesn’t directly make you sick, people who buy into that mindset may avoid scientifically-based (that is, real) medicine, which can make them sicker or even be fatal.
And he recently decided to widen his circle of silliness, this time promoting astrology. Yes, astrology, one of the most thoroughly debunked beliefs of all time. And it’s not just that he promotes astrology, it’s that he’s so amazingly wrong while doing it.
In his article about this, he makes a bold claim:
Skeptics must be further bewildered by the new research published in Nature Neuroscience and conducted at Vanderbilt University which unintentionally provides scientific support for the fundamental principle of astrology — namely, that the position of the planets at your time of birth influences your personality.
I would certainly be bewildered by that… if Adams weren’t completely wrong that this has to do with astrology. What’s actually bewildering is how someone can so completely miss the point.
[Apparently, as commenters have, um, commented, I wasn't the first to make this word up. But I did do it independently, and until someone can prove time traveling pundits didn't steal from me in the future, I'll still it to be mine. Hold on, I'm getting a note... apparently I've already left a comment making this same joke. I guess future me read this update and used a time machine to steal this joke from present me. Sneaky.]
The other day, while commenting on Twitter about the comedy of Mike Adams’ toddler-like tantrum about skeptics and how his advice which can lead to people getting sicker or even dying should absolutely make him eligible for an Internet award, I coined a new word, and I feel that everyone should see it:
I hereby grant free license for its use. You may thank me later, as I know you will when a situation arises where you need to use this word. And it will.
In the meantime, if you are so inclined and have an established Twitter account, please vote for Rachael Dunlop for a Shorty Award. She is a good friend and a tireless fighter of quackery and alt-med health threats. You can read more about her here.
At some level, I understand the motivations of people who promote "alternative medicine". They may very well be altrustic, seeing what they perceive as a massive failing of so-called Western medicine, and feeling strongly that they know how to fix the situation, if only people would seek alternatives. I know that when I feel strongly enough about an issue, I feel morally obligated to speak up.
The problem is that for a lot of this so-called alternative medicine, there is no evidence it works, and in fact evidence it doesn’t work. Worse, a lot of its biggest purveyors actively try to denigrate real medicine, the stuff that, y’know, works, in an attempt to bolster their alt-med claims. And you have to be a little suspicious when they hawk their wares on their sites, too.
So I question the motivations of some of these people, including one Mike Adams, about whom I wrote a couple of days ago. When called out for what is apparently voter fraud for a Twitter Shorty Award, he threw an epic tantrum that displays a decided lack of grip on reality (assuming he honestly believes what he’s selling). After that fact-free diatribe he followed up with a rant about skeptics that’s so far off the mark that it’s hard to believe anyone could post something like that honestly. Steve Novella takes him down on that one.
And as if these word spasms from Adams weren’t enough, he posted a third article where he completely gets science wrong, claiming water and quantum mechanics are magic, and then a fourth about the Shorty Awards where he once again ramps up the paranoid conspiracy theories.
Sigh. The irony is that he makes my job easy since he’s self-debunking, but also makes it harder because so many people swallow what he says whole without even giving it a moment of critical thought.
Joe Mercola, the other "victim" professing to have the vapors over this Shorty Award nonsense, decided to jump into the fray as well. Instead of using facts — because why start now? — he thought it was a good idea to say that Rachael Dunlop is fat:
An arrogant group of science bloggers that have vilified me for the past few years have started a campaign to have an Australian shill to win a health award on Twitter. This overweight non-physician has arrogantly bashed nearly every alternative therapy and encourages reliance on drugs.
Rachael is a woman who has tirelessly fought quackery and the dangerous wares of many alt-med purveyors, and of course Adams and Mercola are squarely in her crosshairs. She has called out many an antivaxxer, and was a key player in the travesty involving Dana McCaffery (an infant who died of pertussis) and Meryl Dorey, an antivaxxer who claims no one dies from pertussis anymore.
So when faced with someone like Rachael who has years of experience and who wields science, evidence, and reality, Mercola decided to stick out his tongue and call her fat.
Wow, folks. There’s your alt-med hero.
And yes, I am engaging in an ad hominem, an attack directed at someone instead of their arguments. But it’s not always wrong to do so; in this case Steve Novella, Orac, Rachael, and many others, including me, have already shown that people like Mercola and Adams are full of it. But sometimes that’s not enough. I think it does a lot of good to see how vile these people can be, and something like this is not only warranted, but needed, especially when these alt-medders set themselves up to be victims, claiming to be sympathetic and only wanting to help. They don’t help; they hurt.
Look. We’re not talking about goofy nonsense like ghost-hunting or UFOs here. We’re talking about people’s lives. Alt-medders like Adams and Mercola reject treatments that we know to work, that we know can cure illnesses, that we know can relieve pain and suffering on a massive scale, and that we know can save lives. That’s what you’re turning your back on when you listen to them.
And I still endorse Rachael for the Shorty Award in health. Keep fighting the good fight.
Mike Adams is an alt-med pusher; he writes at Natural News, a website chock-full-o’ nonsense about vaccines, homeopathy, and so on. Regular readers may remember Mr. Adams from his particularly vile and horrific diatribe about real medicine after Patrick Swayze died. Adams claims to want to help people, but instead peddles all manners of treatments that are known not to work at all.
So that ought to give you a picture of how Adams operates.
The Shorty Awards are a popular new internet award for people who use Twitter. It allows tweeters to vote for someone in various categories like science, humor, celebrity, and, oh, say, health.
Adams, who tweets under the name HealthRanger, was doing well with votes in the Shorties last week, well ahead of everyone else. In second place was another alt-med antivax promoter named Joe Mercola. I’ve written about him before as well.
But then skeptic Tim Farley noticed something– a lot of votes going to Mercola and Adams were coming from brand new Twitter accounts with only one actual tweet: a vote for Mercola or Adams for the Shorties.
Now, someone who may be a bit conspiracy-minded might assume that either Mercola or Adams, or their followers, might be working a campaign to stuff the ballot box by setting up fake Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of making sure these alt-med public health threats would win the Shorty award in health.
So Tim tweeted about it, and a bunch of us started to promote our friend Australian Rachael Dunlop, who has been tirelessly fighting alternative medicine quackery for years. Within a few days Rachael had moved into first place. Yay!
But there’s more! Tim (as well as several others, including me) reported Mercola’s and Adams’ voter fraud to the people at the Shorty Awards. Today it was announced that Adams was being removed from the contest due to this fraudulent ballot stuffing.
Adams, of course, took this all in stride and has been gracious and self-deprecating about it all.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh my. Of course he hasn’t. Instead, he posted what can only be called a frothing rant about this, accusing the Shorty Awards and many of us reality-based people with all kinds of evil doing. You have to read his diatribe to believe anyone could post something so filled with rage, righteous indignation, logical fallacies, made-up transgressions, self-contradictions, and paranoid conspiracy mongering. It’s really a masterpiece of woo-based garment-rendering nonsense. He’s even threatened to sue!
Maybe he should win a Shorty Award for fiction.
To be fair, I actually don’t think Adams should have been disqualified; we don’t know who set up the fake votes for him. It might have been just one overzealous altmed fan. What should have happened was all the fake votes should have been struck from the count — a large fraction — and then let the most popular person win. It hardly matters anyway, since Rachael is so far out front that she’ll win anyway. But it would be the fair thing to do.
Not that this would assuage Adams anyway. Since he doesn’t deal with anything using facts and logic in the first place, he’ll just continue to post his nonsense as he pleases.
Orac posted a lovely satirical takedown of all this, which is worth reading. It’s always a good idea to keep yourself abreast of what these people are like. The alt-med movement talks a good game about the evil of Big Pharma and Western Medicine, and also claim they want to help people out of the goodness of their hearts… but when you actually get a glimpse of what’s in their hearts, well, it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns.