Wackos Gallery

People who perpetuate misinformation, pseudoscience, or unfounded claims.

It is difficult to say what truth is, but sometimes it is so easy to recognize a falsehood.
--Albert Einstein

Throughout the ages, wackos have proclaimed the truth, no matter how unfounded or false. Sometimes they turn out to be correct...by accident. Skeptics simply need credible evidence before taking proclamations seriously. Critical thinking and evidence disempower wackos and can give them and their followers consternation. While some wackos are outright frauds, many are well-meaning though delusional.

Presented below in alphabetical order is the archive of the Wacko of the Week from the Skeptoid newsletter and some additional wackos. The newsletter no longer has a Wacko of the Week, but you can sign up to read about a Wonder of the Week and more.


Mike_Adams
Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a self-described "Health Ranger" and the nut behind the Internet's most embarrassing collection of paranoia and misinformation, the Natural News website. At first glance, he appears to be just another run of the mill alt-med blogger. He promotes the tired old ideas that everything related to science based medicine is corrupt and poisonous, and that everything "natural" is the key to all health. Yawn.

What's interesting about Mike, and the reason I honor him as a wacko, is the way he illustrates how people who believe one crazy thing are very likely to believe many crazy things. Completely aside from his usual alt-med stuff, look at this list of other things he promotes:

  • Jesse Ventura and his conspiracy theories.
  • Plastic water bottles will kill you.
  • Alkaline water is a miracle drug.
  • The breast cancer "industry" is a giant profit-driven deception.
  • Cancer is your body's natural healing system.
  • Well-funded covert operatives are trying to suppress him (this is a sign of true mental delusion).

In short, name the conspiracy theory or paranoid delusion of your choice, and chances are you'll find the Health Ranger promoting it somewhere.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Sathya Sai Baba
Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba was a typical Eastern guru, though he had an atypical awesome hairstyle. He was born in India and leveraged his heritage to its fullest advantage among Westerners seeking unconventional enlightenment. His schtick was to cause trinkets such as watches and rings magically appear, using what Western magicians recognize as the simplest of tricks, but which his followers consider evidence of his divinity. Though he never seemed to make anything useful appear, like money or food to give to the poor and hungry.

There were some 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 114 countries around the world, and a minimum of some six million people who considered themselves his followers. His accumulated wealth by the time of his death in 2011 was £5.5 billion1.

Like most people of this ilk, he was frequently and publicly criticized for enjoying sexual favors from his female devotees and allegations of sexual abuse of boys, as well as for tricking people into following him with his simple sleight-of-hand magic tricks. He knew how to use this to his advantage, pointing out that every great leader is put to such trials, most notably drawing comparisons between himself and Jesus Christ. And true to form, every time he was publicly criticized, his numbers grow.

Some people admire him for becoming staggeringly wealthy by cheating people into unfulfilled promises with misrepresented magic tricks, while other people detest his lack of ethics.

1American billion of 1,000,000,000 (109), not the British English billion of 1,000,000,000,000 (1012)

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Eric Bakker
Eric Bakker

New Zealand naturopath Eric Bakker ... or, excuse me, registered naturopath became something of an Internet sensation when some of his Twitter posts started getting passed around the science community. Here was the first that caught my eye:

James Randi is a dork. Anyone who "offers 1 miilion" to "prove" homeopathy works is a dork. Explain how a blade of grass grows my friends.

In other words, it's impossible to explain how grass grows, but we know it does; therefore, it's not necessary to explain how homeopathy works in order for it to be still be valid. I see. Here's a one-word answer for how grass grows: CHEMISTRY. Homeopathy is, conversely, based on the lack of any chemicals. Don't believe my analysis of what he meant? He followed it up shortly thereafter with:

Grass growing - point is that we are so quick to "knock" homeopathy, when we can't answer the most basic questions about nature as it is.

Here's another gem from his collection:

Samuel Hanneman (Founder of Homeopathy) Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.

Although a professional homeopath should probably know better, he misspelled Hahnemann's name in every tweet where I saw it.

Bakker is also a believer in the perennial conspiracy of the medical establishment to suppress him:

NO harm in homeopathy, just the harm with docs who fear they are losing their too easy pickings to the REAL healers - The Alt Med. Docs

His basic theme was well expressed with these tweets:

Medicine is a negation of health. It isn't organized to serve health, but only itself as an institution. It makes more sick than it heals.

The great tragedy of Science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. Homeopathy works - fact. Drugs KILL - definite fact.

His theme is a simple and a familiar one: Medical science and the medical industry are both imperfect; therefore homeopathy is valid.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, yes, he does of course sell miracle healing products from his web site.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Russell Blaylock
Russell Blaylock

Medical conspiracy theorist and crank Dr. Russell Blaylock is a peddler of unorthodox claims ranging from aspartame being a toxic poison to amalgam fillings being a source of toxic mercury.

Blaylock has been mentioned in a number of Skeptoid episodes. Here is an actual quote from him describing how he believes aspartame is part of an evil government plot to "chemically dumb down society":

We're developing a society because of all these different toxins known to affect brain function. We're seeing a society that not only has a lot more people of lower IQ, but a lot fewer people of higher IQ. In other words a dumbing down, a chemical dumbing down, of society. ...That leaves them dependent on government because they can't excel. ...So, you know, you can kind of piece it together as to why they are so insistent on spending so many hundreds of millions of dollars of propaganda money to dumb down society.

I was going to list some more of his zaniness, but I noted that Wikipedia has a couple of paragraphs that sum him up fairly well, and I'll just quote those rather than repeat them:

Blaylock has been quoted several times in media outlets regarding his position that MSG is toxic to the brain. He also states that the widely-used artificial sweetener aspartame is toxic and may be the cause of multiple sclerosis. He has additionally cautioned against heavy use of the artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose). These positions are not supported by scientific consensus or regulatory bodies, as extensive studies support the safety of aspartame, sucralose, and MSG.

Blaylock has also urged avoidance of the swine flu (H1N1) vaccination, which he claims is more dangerous than the infection itself. In various alternative media outlets, Blaylock has given advice on what he feels an individual should do if faced with mandatory vaccination. Current research indicates that an effective vaccine is a vital tool in protecting the public and that the new H1N1 vaccine is both safe and effective. Advertisements selling the 'Blaylock Wellness Report' at newsmax.com contain claims of additional health dangers, including fluoridated drinking water, fluoridated toothpaste, vaccines, dental amalgam, cholesterol drugs, pesticides, and aluminum cookware.

Although most of his media appearances have been confined to Christian broadcasting, he also has three books out warning of the dangers of science based medicine. If you hear Blaylock listed as an expert, remember to ... be skeptical.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Braco
Braco

Braco is a Croatian new age mystic who promotes his "healing gaze". He gazes at you, and heals all your ills. But wait, there's more. You can even buy a DVD of Braco gazing at the camera, and that will heal you too.

The following email is from a Skeptoid listener in Denmark:

Braco's stunt was to charge his audience (a couple of hundred people) about $10 each to sit in a large theater and watch a woman prepare his entrance for 15 minutes or so. Next he entered the stage in spotlights, smiling and looking at people. He sat himself on a chair in the middle of the stage and stared at the audience for 5-10 minutes, he then got up and left the room without a word. After a short "debriefing", the seance was over.

Several people were crying and many rushed to the foyer to buy his $35 DVDs. The girl that sold them assured them (on TV) that the "magic powers" worked just as well from the DVD. Want to give Braco's magical gaze a try? His touring calendar is on his web site, Braco.net.

As you can guess, neither Braco nor anybody else in his organization offers any information about how or why Braco's gaze might have physiological effects, but as a substitute, they've filled his web site to the brim with a red herring to distract you from that: Gobs and gobs of quasi-spiritual new age nonsense.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Stanislaw Burzynski
Stanislaw Burzynski

Stanislaw Burzynski is a wacko of a high unethical caliber. For decades he has touted himself as a maverick, helping cancer victims with treatments that the big bad medical establishment won't treat. His dubious method involves chemotherapy from a derivative of urine that he discovered and calls antineoplastons (ANP) that has insufficient evidence of effectiveness. He charges patients exorbitant amounts to participate in clinical trials that rarely complete, and the very few that have completed don't provide any useful results due to shoddy protocols. Many of his patients end up in the emergency room due to hypernatremia caused by excessive sodium. You can help rein in this maverick wacko at The Houston Cancer Quack, thanks.

Torsten Pihl


Wiley Brooks
Wiley Brooks

Wiley Brooks is a breatharian who believes that we can get all the nourishment our bodies need from breathing alone... no food needed.

You should probably join his Breatharian Institute of America. After all, he has quite a history. He's lived past lives as the following people:

ADAM, ZEUS, ENOCH, JESHUA (JESUS THE CHRIST), JOSHUA, ELIJAH, JOHN THE BAPTIST, ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, KUTHUMI, BALTHAZAR (KING OF SYRIA), MUGHAL EMPEROR SHAH JAHAN (Builder of the TaJ Mahal in Agra, India), JOSEPH SMITH AND WILLIAM MULHOLLAND.

He's from the fifth dimension. He says that cows are too; thus eating beef "doesn't count" toward breatharian avoidance of food. The McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, in fact, has a special "base frequency" that makes it, along with Diet Coke, an ideal food for breatharians.

His courses on living as a breatharian range from $100,000 to $1,000,000,000. Not a bad deal for learning how to order a Quarter Pounder. Also, he has his own list of End-of-the-World dates that he keeps updating to a few months in the future, so you'd better drop that billion now to learn how a quick Happy Meal can save you.

However we must be fair to Wiley: His web page now defines his own breatharianism a little differently. He can survive "with or without food." I wonder which he one practices? Well, shortly after appear on the TV show That's Incredible, he was spotted leaving a 7/11 with a Slurpee, a hot dog, and a Twinkie. When questioned, he explained that living in a polluted world sometimes requires him to pollute his own body "for balance".

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce (prounounced like Casey) is one of the first celebrity psychics from the early twentieth century.

His big thing was coming up for miracle cures for people by appearing to go into some sort of sleep-like trance. An assistant would record his medical recommendations which included any sort of made-up quackery you can think of: poultices, colonic irrigation, strange diets, even bizarre electrical contraptions. Sadly, some people reason that this is a sound way to practice medicine, and to this day, hundreds of Edgar Cayce centers exist around the world, dispensing miracle medical cures, New Age religious advice, and fortune telling.

Cayce was also renowned for his dream interpretations and promotion of themes such as astrology and reincarnation. Evidently these topics were obsessions of his throughout his life, even in early childhood. He died in 1945, evidently failing to foresee or forestall his own death, and evidently unable to reincarnate. Nevertheless, many consider him unerring.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Alex Chiu
Alex Chiu

Immortality crank Alex Chiu believed that he was going to live forever, and he could help you to do the same if you would have purchase his rings and powders.

His "eternal life devices" included rings. You could get two pair for only $50, and the best part is they were "plastic adjustable." Sounded like a bargain.

But for the "strongest" immortality device (which meant, I guess, that you would have been even more immortal than you would if you tried his weaker products), try his Immortality Foot Brace. How did it work? He explained:

All five toes are being magnetized at the same time generating amplified results.

But his coup de grace was the "Gorgeouspil", a pill that made you super human, increased your psychic ability, and improved your fortune. (He explained the name: "I named it Gorgeouspil because the phrase 'pretty pill' sounds childish.")

To have completed his package, Alex even offered YOU the opportunity to "create your own Immortality Devices webswite [sic] just by a click of a button" where YOU can get in on the ground floor as a seller of his immortality devices. Business is brisk, he claimed; evidently the world must have been filled with immortals.

To me it's not clear whether Alex was honestly delusional, or was just knowingly scraping whatever loose change he can off of stupid people. Either way, he was wacko.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Deepak Chopra
Deepak Chopra

Early in his career, Deepak Chopra was a useful human being, working as an endocrinologist. But back in the 1960's he got caught up in the whole Eastern Wisdom craze, and learned a far more profitable career: How to separate people from their money by selling them quasi-spiritual Eastern babble. He studied this as a protege under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, another featured wacko here.

Deepak's special brand of peddling nonsense is characterized by his invoking of the Appeal to Quantum Physics fallacy. No matter what mind-body-spirit hooey he promotes, he justifies it with quantum physics. Deepak has never studied quantum physics and has never said anything that indicates he even knows what it is.

Dr. Steven Novella once wrote:

Deepak Chopra has made a career out of misunderstanding quantum mechanics.

Prof. Lawrence M. Krauss wrote in Scientific American:

I have read numerous pieces by him on why quantum mechanics provides rationales for everything from the existence of God to the possibility of changing the past. Nothing I have ever read, however, suggests he has enough understanding of quantum mechanics to pass an undergraduate course I might teach on the subject.

It works well for him. Estimates of his net worth are hard to come by, but he's sold more than 12 million books, charges $25,000 for a lecture, and owns several companies selling the message that quantum physics explains why you can have anything you want, so long as you wish for it hard enough. We create our own realities, after all...

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Meryl Dorey
Meryl Dorey

Meryl Dorey is the founder of the AVN (which supposedly means Australian Vaccination Network, but really means Anti Vaccination Network). She campaigns tirelessly against protecting health through vaccination, using some truly amazingly bad science. She demonstrates time and time again that her understanding of science and medicine is shockingly bad, far worse than the average person on the street.

Meryl continued to defend Andrew Wakefield, founder of the antivaccine movement, even after he was stripped of his medical license and had his most significant publications retracted.

She truly does believe, apparently, that her medical knowledge is superior to that of the whole body of medical science. One Australian skeptic analyzed her reply to a formal complaint lodged by the Health Care Complaints Commission and found:

The collection of references is, on the whole, laughable. At best she hasn't read the papers she cites and includes them out of ignorance, and at worst she is being deliberately deceptive.

In the New South Wales legislative council, one legislator said it best in 2002:

Only 60 per cent of children in the Byron Bay area in the 12 to 15 month age group - the very young and most vulnerable - are immunised. That is mainly because of the activities of a woman called Meryl Dorey, who lives in Byron Bay and who has decided not to immunise her children and who regularly claims that immunisation is not necessary. She campaigns against immunisation.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


John Edward
John Edward

Want to exploit a bereaved person? Look no further than the piece of work that's celebrity psychic John Edward.

He makes a multimillion dollar living going around and tricking bereaved people into thinking that he is communicating with their dead relatives. Quite understandably, he's refused all offers to have his "abilities" tested. Except once: when it was conducted by parapsychology enthusiast Gary Schwartz for a book he was writing promoting the reality of psychic powers. But as far as allowing himself to be tested under any kind of rigorously controlled conditions, no. He has better things to do, like making money off the bereaved, which he does not only with his TV shows, live shows in Vegas, but also his books and tapes.

But let's be very clear on one point. John Edward is not a wacko because he makes a lot of money, or even because he takes advantage of people. Lots of businesspeople do that, for better or for worse, without being wackos. He's included because one of two cases are true: (1) he has deluded himself into believing that he has some supernatural power that allows him to communicate with people who no longer exist; or (2) he wants you to think that he does. To me, both possibilities are equally scary, and equally wacko.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Masaru Emoto
Masaru Emoto

Masaru Emoto is a Japanese entrepreneur who primarily sells metaphysical books promoting his notion that human emotion can change the structure of ice crystals.

In short, his idea is that happy water (water that has had positive thoughts directed at it) forms beautiful ice crystals, while sad water (subjected to negative thoughts) freezes into less beautiful crystals. His results are determined with a subjective scoring system to assess the attractiveness of the crystals.

In case you're wondering how you might get on board this train, you're in luck. Water can also be charged with positivity by being placed in a container that has positive words written on it. And, as luck would have it, you can purchase just such containers (from stick-on labels all the way up to expensive glassware) from his web site!

He refers to himself (as do his many supporters) as "Dr." Masaru Emoto, based on having completed a correspondence course from India's unaccredited Open International University for Alternative Medicine. It included no coursework or curriculum and the costs were less than $500. His doctorate is every bit as meaningful as one you might choose to get now (in seconds!) from Skeptoid's own Thunderwood College.

His work has repeatedly failed being duplicated by other researchers, and criticized for having no meaningful experimental controls or assessment of results. It's even failed to impress publications in spirituality magazines.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


José Escamilla
José Escamilla

José Escamilla is known for the discovery of "rods" -- mysterious flying creatures that are invisible to the eye, but that show up on camera. How can this be? Well, if you've heard of rods before, you probably know. When a brightly lit insect flies in front of a camera when there's a dark background, it leaves a white streak on the film (or CCD) for the duration of the shutter speed. Its wingbeats during that period of time photograph as an undulating line along its side. Although anyone who understands the rudimentary principles of photography knows this, José has made a career promoting these as alien visitors. Seriously.

When The History Channel's Monster Quest did a show about his rods, I cringed, fearing they would promote them as real mysteries. Fortunately, and much to José's chagrin, they laughed at him pretty much the same way everyone else does.

I have to wonder if this guy is really serious, or just trying to scrape a living off of the gullible. But from reading his web site, I think it's probably the former. That's a scary thing.

Editor update: José Escamilla is also into NASA conspiracies and goes through great lengths to fool himself and share his ignorance of basic astronomy with the general public.

Exposing PseudoAstronomy (Stuart Robbins): Podcast #65: José Escamilla's Movie "Celestial" audio available

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


U.G.
U.G.

This wacko is so litigious that he is sometimes referred to as "that israeli self-proclaimed psychic whose name begins with U".

U.G. is the original spoon bending clown. I'm not suggesting that his sanity is off its rocker; merely that his ethics are offtrack.

He does only a handful of tricks, but is best known for popularizing the old trick of bending a spoon, apparently with his mind, but really with sleight of hand. Lots of magicians do this; why does he uniquely qualify as a wacko?

Because he is a charlatan. He tells people, including researchers and the people who sign research grant checks, that his "powers" are real. Millions of dollars have been spent studying his "powers" based on his assertion that it's a real tappable resource.

If you haven't, watch the video of his utter failure on national television when Johnny Carson was prepared for him. Johnny gave honest magicians free reign to give their entertaining performances, but he was not about to let his show be used to perpetuate a hoax.

U.G. is still out there, and is one of the world's most commercially successful magicians.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Prince Charles
Charles Philip Arthur George (Prince Charles)

Rather than take basic pains to edumacate himself about medical science, Prince Charles instead uses his royal influence to promote just about every non-scientific alternative to healthcare he can find -- most notably homeopathy.

Charles' Foundation for Integrated Health was forced to close earlier this year when several of its officials were arrested for fraud. But it was a small drop in the bucket compared to the many years it promoted worthless therapies to the detriment of innocent victims. Its main goal had been to get the National Health Service to provide homeopathy at government expense.

How a 21st century adult with any kind of education or intelligence could get behind such an initiative continues to boggle my mind.

Prince Charles attempts to legitimize and promote the use of untested, unapproved, and implausible alternative therapies of all sorts instead of using modern evidence-based medicine. He has a "collaborativeagreement" with Bravewell, the United States' largest fundraising organization dedicated to the promotion of non-scientific alternatives to healthcare.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Burt Goldman
Burt Goldman

Burt Goldman, better known as "the quantum jumping guy". There was a marketing blitz all over the Internet that was especially visible in Google ads on practically every web site. They are selling Burt's "quantum jumping" books and tapes and apps and just about every else... apparently, Burt thinks that he knows how to jump between different universes. More likely, he knows how to mix his drinks.

The website, Quantum Jumping, is basically a single-page ad that's become a really popular way to sell crank products. It combines just about all of our favorite logical fallacies to promote this idea. Primarily:

  • The Appeal to Quantum Physics: If something makes no sense, simply throw around terms like "quantum physics", "quantum mechanics", or just the word "quantum". This will convince just about anyone since it's so impressive sounding. I'll bet my bottom dollar that Burt could not correctly tell you what quanta are.
  • The Appeal to Authority: Burt tries to make you think his delusions make sense because he puts pictures of Max Planck and Albert Einstein on his web page (and names other scientists including Hawking and Kaku). Prominent quantum jumpers, I'm sure.
  • Proof by Anecdote: Obviously nothing intelligent has ever been published that support Burt's thoughts, and so he gives quotes from "satisfied customers" to "prove" that it works.
  • The Bandwagon Fallacy: Burt's right because he has over 180,000 customers (so he says). Therefore you should become one too.
  • The Appeal to Ancient Wisdom: Apparently Burt's right not only because leading modern scientists are pictured on his page, but also because he studied the prescientific ancient tradition of Qigong.

I could go on but I think you get the idea.

I spoke with a friend of mine whose company produces these types of products. They have writers who make up the books and tapes, and then they find some burned out old guy like Burt who's willing to put his face on it and get a check each month. They're experts at making the single-page web pitch. My guess is that Burt Goldman is just one of these guys, and personally probably has very little to do with the product. But, who knows. It's still a wacko idea.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Yoshihide Hagiwara
Yoshihide Hagiwara

Yoshihide Hagiwara is a promoter of non-scientific nutritional products, and an advocate for potentially fatal alternative treatments such as chelation.

A former medical doctor and pharmaceutical researcher, Dr. Hagiwara later turned to the manufacture and sales of supplement products, mainly wheatgrass juice and green barley leaves. Through one of his companies, Barleygreen, he promoted them as superfoods along with the usual made-up claims that they detoxify the body and retard aging. As we know, such foods have almost zero nutritional value, but they're an easy sell since they so nicely fit into the "all natural" fallacy. Dr. Hagiwara died in 2006.

One with his background would know better, from which I can only conclude that he knowingly threw good medical information to the wind and turned instead to profiteering. That's wacko.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Samuel Hahnemann
Samuel Hahnemann

Samuel Hahnemann lived from the mid 18th century through the mid 19th century, a time when it was safer to do nothing about a malady than seek dangerous treatments, and his invention of homeopathy most certainly does absolutely nothing. And for a time, he claimed that many diseases were caused by coffee, but later claimed it was the fungus psora that was the culprit.

We can't blame him for trying in a time when science was young and had yet to establish chemistry and germ theory. It's not wacko to get things wrong, but it is wacko to invent a system that isn't even internally consistent. Nowadays there's no excuse for perpetuating homeopathy because it has no plausibility and no theraputic effectiveness when put to the test with proper controls to keep all involved from fooling themselves. But Samuel Hahnemann's pseudoscience legacy perpetuates thanks to proponents of alternative medicine, now bolstered with misunderstandings of particle physics and quantum mechanics.

Torsten Pihl


Ken Ham
Ken Ham

Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham is behind the slick Creation Museum. He wants you to believe that Jesus rode around on a saddled dinosaur (literally), that farmers used dinosaurs as beasts of burden, and that every geological feature on Earth was created in just a few days during Noah's flood.

His best argument for this is that you weren't there to verify otherwise.

And he has some reach. His radio show Answers is broadcast on some 900 stations worldwide. All this is done, he says, to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible: to strip it of any meaning other than as a simple listing of events. Apparently, this is a desirable goal to some. I breezed through and I couldn't find any references to dinosaurs being used as beasts of burden or as transportation, but I'll attribute my failure to find this to Ken's evidently superior knowledge of the scriptures.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Joshua Hart
Joshua Hart

Presenting anti-radio activist Joshua Hart of StopSmartMeters.org. In August 2011, I wrote an article for the Ottawa Citizen responding to popular calls in Canada to ban certain radio based services such as wi-fi and smart utility meters, and I was quickly nabbed by two Canadian radio stations to talk about the subject. On one I debated with Joshua Hart, and quickly concluded that he needed to be included among the list of wackos.

Based in Santa Cruz, CA (a bastion of new-age woo), Josh campaigns against smart meters. His web page lists a great many objections to the meters' capability to provide more granular reporting, but these are ideological objections that are matters of opinion and he's well within his rights to do so. But he also sneaks in one untrue science claim: that radio frequencies are carcinogenic and that we're all being harmed by them. Our radio debate focused only on this topic.

Two familiar tactics characterized his position: the use of the weasel word "radiation" instead of "radio". Technically, radio is a form of electromagnetic radiation; but calling it just radiation is a scare tactic. In common speech we say "I'm going to listen to the radio", not "I'm going to listen to my radiation device." Smart meters use the same frequency bands as police radio, walkie talkies, and a number of other common radio services. None have ever been reported to have health effects, nor would we expect this.

His second tactic was to repeatedly bring up the news earlier that year that the World Health Organization placed radio frequency in its "possible carcinogen" classification, in response to public pressure for more study. Except, Josh grossly mischaracterizes this. He routinely referred to radio as a "class 2-B carcinogen." This is a contradiction in terms. The WHO's group A is their list of carcinogens. Substances for which there is some evidence that they may be carcinogenic are in group 2A, probably carcinogens. Substances that have not yet been shown to be carcinogenic are group 2B, possible carcinogens. Carpentry is also on this list, as are many other commonplace substances and technologies. Either Josh doesn't know this, or he's being deliberately deceptive with his language.

The reason we use radio for so many services is that it's natural, easy, and safe. All frequencies from visible light and below are non-ionizing, meaning they lack sufficient energy to cause molecular changes, and are thus safe. Everything from ultraviolet and above are ionizing, and thus dangerous.

A lot of interesting experimentation has been done using radio frequencies and electromagnetism to cause changes in the brain and to do imaging studies. Again, this is done because it's safe and effective. To wackos like Josh, such research equals harm. This does not reflect any current science.

Spreading misinformation as a way to promote your ideology is just plain wrong. It's irresponsible and harmful.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Magda Havas
Dr. Magda Havas

Dr. Magda Havas from Trent University in Canada is one of the (very few) outspoken opponents of radio, claiming that it is having disastrous health effects on all of us. She's also generally the only person referenced as an "expert" in any news articles on such claims. She also figures prominently in Skeptoid episode Wi-Fi, Smart Meters, and Other Radio Bogeymen.

Dr. Steve Novella has written a very nice expose of her bizarre, unscientific efforts at the Science Based Medicine blog.

Her efforts have been most prominently featured in Canada's high profile campaigns to ban wi-fi, smart meters, and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), despite virtually all scientific evidence showing no plausible risk to health. She is actually an educated person, with a PhD.; why should she be so blatantly disdainful of basic science, and work so hard promoting her own hypotheses that are conclusively falsified? I don't know her personally, and can't answer that; but generally what I find when talking to such people is that they don't care about the science. They use science terminology as a tool to promote an ideology. I find the common themes to be anticorporatism (technology profits the companies who sell them; therefore the technology itself is bad), the all-natural fallacy (anything natural is pure and beautiful; anything tainted by humanity is immoral and corrupt), and simple hostility toward science (science doesn't support my ideology, therefore the science is wrong).

I'm all in favor of ideologies. What I oppose is the disingenuous use of bad science to fool the innocent into embracing your ideology.

Most tragically, Magda uses her position in teaching at Trent University to inculcate deliberately bad science into the minds of students who came to her to learn good science. Calling this deliberate is easily defensible: She knows very well that almost all science opposes what she teaches. It is impossible to do a survey of the published literature without seeing this.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Betty Hill
Betty Hill

It's a visit to the old-school files of classical wackos, the basic names that everyone should know in the field of pseudoscience and the paranormal.

Betty Hill was best known as half of the Betty and Barney Hill couple who launched the UFO abduction craze when they claimed to have been given medical examinations aboard a flying saucer in 1961, but in reality, it was almost all Betty's own invention.

Betty had been obsessed with UFOs -- to a perhaps pathological degree -- for her whole life, and this only magnified after her big story went public. She maintained that she met with aliens regularly, and that she would encounter them virtually any time she wanted just by driving out into the woods. She told stories of whole fleets of flying saucers in formation, levitating trucks flying down the freeway, and all manner of wackiness.

The lesson to learn from Betty Hill is that you shouldn't always take the validity of popular stories at face value. Look not only into the facts, but into the backgrounds and motivations of the people telling the story. As often as not, you'll find a crazy story is coming from a crazy person.

I'm not making fun of people with mental illness here, or exploiting Betty. I'm making a valid point about the origins of many unlikely popular legends.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Richard C. Hoagland
Richard C. Hoagland

Is Richard C. Hoagland a total wacko? I'm just asking, in the same way that he just asks questions about astronomy, our solar system, and NASA. Is the asteroid belt the result of an exploded planet? No, extremely unlikely. Are there alien civilizations populating our solar system yet there's a grand conspiracy to cover it up by NASA and all other space agencies around the world? Um, no.

Richard C. Hoagland often takes images that have been enhanced for publication, enlarges them beyond their intended scale to reveal interpolated pixels and compression artifacts, and then claims such anomalies as evidence of conspiratorial tampering or alien structures. Is Richard C. Hoagland really that clueless? I'm just asking.

Torsten Pihl


Elaine Hollingsworth
Elaine Hollingsworth

Elaine Hollingsworth is a researcher and health expert who has dutifully studied disease and the medical industry and found that (a) only she can cure all cancers, and (b) the medical industry is corrupt.

Oh wait, I got that wrong. Turns out she's a former Hollywood actress (under the name of Sara Shane) and has no background whatsoever in research or medicine. Amazing then that she made these discoveries!

Her website, Doctors Are Dangerous, reveals that the doctors of the "sickness industry" are nothing but shills for drug companies. They're driven by profits alone and offer quack remedies.

Hollingsworth, on the other hand, sells you books (Take Control of Your Health and Escape the Sickness Industry), DVDs (One Answer to Cancer), and a whole raft of worthless supplements. Far be it from her to profit from quack remedies! Those bastard doctors.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Budd Hopkins
Budd Hopkins

UFOlogist Budd Hopkins died in 2011 and his most significant legacy was promoting the use of hypnosis among UFO witnesses to fill in what he believes happened during missing time episodes.

Professionals have been critical of Budd's work on the principle that hypnotic regression has always proven to be unreliable, with no way to separate actual memories from imagined memories, or even memories suggested by the hypnotist. Budd always dismissed this criticism, stating that he never "led" his subjects. Even if true, this only addressed one small part of the criticism. An honest Budd and an honest subject, under hypnosis, would still be expected to "remember" imagined incidents, or incidents based on real events, or based on things the subject may have overheard since the UFO sighting.

Budd wrote the popular book Missing Time that promoted his conclusion that hypnotic regression was revealing alien abduction experiences. The problem for science-based investigators that this presented was that, even if the subjects actually had been abducted by aliens, the hypnotic regression provided no way to verify this, and offered at best a confabulated perception of what had happened.

And so, for promoting bad science as a way to explain the unknown, Budd Hopkins is a wacko.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Leonard Horowitz
Leonard Horowitz

Leonard Horowitz is a former dentist who left the realm of rationality in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. Horowitz is best known for three anti-scientific medical claims:

HIV/AIDS was created by the US government as a genocidal weapon.

Vaccines are a conspiracy to kill people.

The SARS virus can be cured by one of his own naturopathic products (which the government is trying to suppress).

Horowitz's career now consists of speaking at alternative medicine conferences, creating his own self-published books and DVDs, and selling products online. He's received warnings of his illegal practices from the FDA, but he just ignores them and goes on spreading his dangerous misinformation.

Horowitz is not unique. There are many kooks on the Internet who do all this same stuff. And he has medical training. The lesson to be learned from such wackos is that nobody is immune to misinformation, no matter how trusted their background may be.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


John Hutchinson
John Hutchinson

John Hutchison is yet another dude who claims to have overturned the laws of physics and created free energy.

Hutchison is best known for his promotion of what he calls the "H effect" (short for the humbly named Hutchison effect). This, he states, is a harnessing of "zero point energy" to make objects levitate, to fuse metal and wood, and do all sorts of amazing things.

He will not show you, or anyone else, these things in person; however he will sell you a videotape of them for $150.

Here's a tip. Whenever you hear someone mention "zero point energy" as if it is a source of energy, you know that they lack basic education in the field. Zero point energy is not a type of energy; it is simply a term referring to a system's lowest possible energy state. And, of course, once a system is at its lowest possible energy state, energy cannot be extracted from it. That would be like taking water from an empty bucket.

What you're seeing in this picture is a room in Hutchison's apartment that he has completely lined with surplus, unused military equipment. There's no reason to suspect that any of it is turned on or actually does anything, but he uses this room for all of his photos and whenever he convinces some media outlet to come and film him making his mysterious claims.

I think the site SciencePunk said it best:

A history of fraud, irreproducible results, unclear methodology, undisclosed apparatus, lack of academic record, work in isolation, and dissemination of results via the media mean that while his toy UFOs rise and fall, Hutchison is stuck firmly in the category of pseudoscientist.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


David Icke
David Icke

David Icke (prounounced like Ike) is notable as much for his silver mullet as for his staggering conspiracy beliefs, most notably that most world leaders are reptilian aliens wearing electronic disguises. Ironic, judging by his looks, eh?

The headline on his web site DavidIcke.com is "Exposing the dreamworld we believe to be real." Watched The Matrix a few too many times, Dave? It's basically an online store for his many self-published books, like The Global Conspiracy. Here's a sample from his sales pitch from it:

This is the book that will wake up the masses and reveal at last in an undeniable way the incredible level of control a covert and evil controlling force has had over humanity for thousands of years. It shows how they manipulate your reality using advanced but hidden knowledge so you are little more that slaves who think you're free and are are doing exactly what you're covertly told to.

Would you like to know more about these reptilian beings? Let's let him explain in his own words:

...That is one key way the Reptilian geneticists changed the human species, switched off access to most of our brain capacity, the overwhelming majority of our DNA potential (hence the so-called 'junk' DNA that appears to have no function), and tuned the body-computer into the Moon Matrix, the Reptilian hive mind.

The crazy is strong in this one.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


John of God
John of God

John of God is one of Oprah's favorite people. He's a psychic surgeon living in Brazil, one of those guys who uses sleight of hand to apparently pull chicken guts out of your abdomen, and then tells you he has "healed" your illness, whatever it was.

Fans of psychic surgery may remember James Randi's appearance on the old Johnny Carson show, where he performed this trick (quite humorously) on an audience member, and showed how easily it is for tricksters like John of God to fool people.

John of God has received broad, fully credulous support from the American mass media. Even CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta promoted him with little criticism, thus drawing fire from the medical community. Oprah, ABC News, and others have all sent dubious "experts" to report of his miraculous achievements.

But if people feel better after giving him their money, what's the harm? John of God (and his staff of 30+ psychic surgeons) claim they can cure "cancers, AIDS, blindness, asthma, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, tumors, physical problems of any kind, debilitating psychological problems and/or spiritual desperation." Telling sick people that his act cures them is terribly wrong.

He says his patients should continue their medical treatment, but I don't buy that. If he really wants you to think medical care is good, why does he take your money?

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Alex Jones
Alex Jones

Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist extraordinaire. Everywhere this guy looks, he sees the government out to get him. He uses his program on the Genesis Communications Network to try and convince the world that what he sees is real. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines these symptoms as delusional disorder. So I don't mean this to make fun of Alex, because he and others like him are most likely treatable. Rather, I offer the example of Alex as a cautionary tale.

If he were to see his entry in this Gallery of Wackos, he would probably, in all honesty, believe that I'm being paid by the government to write this (I am, after all, a Disinformation Agent™). In the mind of the truly obsessed conspiracy theorist, there is no gray; only black and white. Nothing is complicated. There are only the evil overlords, the blind "sheeple" victims, and the few enlightened "patriots" who are able to see this.

If you want to be truly entertained and see just how deep Alex's paranoia gets, check out his websites infowars.com and prisonplanet.com, which guarantee that Skeptoid will never run out of material.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Bob Lazar
Bob Lazar

For decades, Bob Lazar claimed to have worked as an engineer at Area 51, working directly on captured alien spacecraft powered by some sort of gravity drive. This guy made uncounted appearances on television, and was given an unchallenged platform to say whatever the heck he wanted. On the few occasions when Lazar was asked why there are no records of his attendance at any of the schools he claimed to have gotten his degrees from, he said the government erased his records. Men in Black were, apparently, sent to every legitimate alumnus' house and exchanged their yearbooks with copies missing Lazar's picture. Yeah, right.

In 2007, the Air Force lifted the confidentiality agreements on the people who did legitimately work at the Groom Lake facility inside Nellis AFB (which is the real name of the place that Lazar wrongly called Area 51), and surprise surprise, none of the real engineers and employees ever heard of Lazar or of his gravity spaceships. But they can, however, tell you everything about what was actually going on there. Sorry, Bob.

Please, media, apply some basic grain of critique to your reporting.

See also Skeptoid: Area 51 Facts and Fictions.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


David C. Lewis
David C. Lewis

New Age nutcase David C. Lewis of the Hearts Center community has a website that's dope enough that you do want to take a look.

David's bio states that he is "a mystic, spiritual teacher, musical composer and author for the Aquarian Age." Also, he founded the Hearts Center with seven other "heartfriends". I think he really nominated himself as a wacko with this passage:

The spring of 2004 was a time of profound mystical awakening for David. He began receiving telepathic communications from the ascended masters, enlightened spiritual beings who reside in higher planes of consciousness. Since these messages were meant for a community of believers, The Hearts Center, a movement named by the ascended masters, sprang up around his messengership. David maintains that he is not the messenger for the ascended masters but rather a messenger, affirming that all of us can and should develop our own spiritual faculties.

OK then.

David and his heartfriends are not con men like some of our other wackos. Instead, they earn their status by simply being first-class wackaloons, and that's really what this archive is all about.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Godfrey Louis
Godfrey Louis

Louis is an Indian solid-state physicist, and so far as I've found, he's a perfectly good one. So why is he on this list of wackos? For straying outside of his discipline, into cell biology, and promoting to the mass media the idea that some perfectly unremarkable rain, colored red by a common algae, must have been alien.

He made some pretty serious methodological errors, as detailed in Skeptoid episode #224, because he doesn't know what he's doing in cell biology. Moreover, he chose to ignore the perfectly well publicized finding that the rain was red because of its cargo of Trentepohlia algae. Why? Who knows. I hope the reason is not because promoting his alien story is the most notoriety he's ever had, and why stop a good thing.

Guys like Godfrey Louis give all scientists a bad name.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Jenny McCarthy
Jenny McCarthy

Most of you have probably heard of the swath of death and destruction Jenny McCarthy is cutting through America's children, but in case some of you haven't, you should know.

While it's true that she's a former Playboy bunny who made her name picking her nose on MTV, that's hardly a valid criticism of what she's done ever since. As the primary spokesperson for the antivaccine movement in the United States, she's the one most directly responsible for the deaths that have resulted.

So far, in California alone, ten infants and children have died from pertussis (whooping cough), a vaccine preventable disease, either because they were not vaccinated or because they were too young and were exposed to other unvaccinated children. Jenny McCarthy must be dancing in the streets to celebrate this victory.

Her much-publicized romantic relationship with comedian Jim Carrey provided her with an alleged $50 million dollar fund to continue her fight against vaccines, and Carrey often appeared alongside her at her allies. Fortunately, when they split up in April 2010, the flow of cash seems to have stopped, and her public presence appears to have diminished somewhat. So we hope, anyway.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Mohammad-Reza Mehdinia
Mohammad-Reza Mehdinia

Mohammad-Reza Mehdinia, ummm... "mathematician", I guess... his claim to fame is the assertion that pi -- the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter -- is exactly 3.125, not easily measurable and proven 3.1415926... blah blah blah. He sets this all forth on his website, CorrectPi.com.

How does he justify such an obviously wrong number? Why, by claiming to have overturned Archimedes, of course. One of the classic signs of a crank is that they're only familiar with the biggest, most famous names in history; they don't have any connection with legitimate mainstream work, and so are unfamiliar with what real scientists are working on these days. It's unlikely that any of today's real mathematicians have accepted Mehdinia's number, as he probably doesn't know any of them. But he can pick up a book, misunderstand Archimedes, and then claim to have overturned his work with his genius.

Upon browsing his site, I find that he also misunderstands the solutions to Zeno's Paradoxes, and that's another of his errors. In fact his whole theory, so far as I can tell, seems based on this. It's like one of the pre-modern-math ancients trying to figure out pi on his own, and coming up with a decent rough approximation. But it's still wrong.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Billy Meier
Billy Meier

Born in 1937, Billy Meier sees a UFO about every day, and produces so many photographs, bits and pieces of alien spaceships, and sound recordings that it almost -- almost -- seems like he makes them himself.

He's best known for his regular contact with the Plejaren alien race. He's even published some of their wisdom in German (Billy is Swiss). Other alien species have made 21 assassination attempts on Billy, by his own count. Most of these were fought off by his Plejaren allies. A lucky man!

In all seriousness, Billy Meier is taken quite seriously by many UFO believers. Think about that every time you stop and reconsider whether these people are truly nuts or just misled by the sensationalist media.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Joseph Mercola
Joseph Mercola

Joseph Mercola has built his entire career upon the All-Natural fallacy. He is best known for his website, mercola.com, on which he sells every conceivable flavor of unscientific alternatives to medicine. His philosophy is based on a total rejection of everything learned since the development of modern medicine and the scientific method. His basic advocacy is for a "paleolithic diet", the idea that total health can be achieved through eating only those foods that were available to stone age people before the development of agriculture.

I find it amusing that the vast majority of his sales are for worthless vitamins and supplements that were not available to stone age people.

To me, it's deeply offensive and immoral to recommend that any sick or injured person should reject medical help, and instead buy some snake oil from his web site. Yet he manages to live with himself.

Probably most of his customers are not especially ill. From those people, he simply takes money and returns nothing of any demonstrable value.

Even if we give Mercola and his ilk the benefit of the doubt and grant that he truly believes his own sales pitches (which I strongly doubt), he knows that he is at odds with the overwhelming majority of evidence. He must have some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

Mercola has received FDA warning letters for violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. Maybe this is one rat we'll eventually see skinned.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


David Wynn Miller
David Wynn Miller

David Wynn Miller is a wacko and I mean it with the full force of the word.

He is of the opinion that -- get ready for this -- using weird punctuation and capital letters means you are no longer liable to pay taxes. Got that? Here is a sample from his wacko website (which is not to be missed):

     ~6 FOR THE NAME: "UNITED-STATES", IN A COURT-ROOM-DOCUMENT IS WITH THE NAME-MEANING-CLAIM OF THE TWO-OR-MORE-CONTRACT-STATES-(NO-CITIZEN-STATE-PERSON)CONTRACVT-STATES-CORPORATION-VESSEL(C.-S.-C.-V.) AS THE TWO OR MORE-PERSONS WITHIN A CONTRACT-CLOSURE BY A CLOSED-PAPER-COURT-AREA. [HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE 50-USA-STATES]FOR ALL FOREIGN-COURTS OF A FOREIGN-GLOBAL-AREA WITH THE 7.2-BILLION-FOREIGN-PARSE-SYNTAX-PEOPLE ARE WITH THE CLAIM AS THE SINGLE-VESSELS IN A DRYDOCK-BUILDING WITH A CONTRACT AS THE "BILLS OF THE LAIDING" WITH THE LOCAL-PORT-AUTHORITIES C.-S.-S.-C.-P.-S.-L. OF THAT AREA OR WITH THE FRUD & MISLEDING-STATEMENTS OF THE TITLE-~15: CONTRACT-STATES-CLAIMS SECTION-~1692-~e AND: TITLE-~18: U.-S.-C.-S.-~1001 OF THE FICTIONAL-LANGUAGE-CRIME BY AN AILING-PERSON POSING AS A FIDUCIARY.

What's really nuts is that he has a following, and is making scads of money from this. He calls this Quantum-Math-Communications and Language, for reasons known only to himself. He teaches classes on it, mainly to people who have to defend themselves in court. So far using bizarre grammar as a legal defense has not worked out too well for anyone, but that's never stopped people from handing over their money before.

Authorities have also noted that the little punky boy who shot Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona used Miller's grammar style on his Internet postings and appears to have been inspired by him.

Oh, and Miller also prefers that you call him Judge Miller. Also "King of Hawaii". And I'm not kidding. This guy should get some kind of wacko gold medal.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Edgar Mitchell
Edgar Mitchell

Edgar Mitchell is an Apollo 14 astronaut who walked on the Moon in 1971. How shocking! How could we ever name a hero of science as a wacko?

You'll find it's not that unusual. Plenty of people can have generally scientific minds but still fall victim to the weaknesses of our human brains on certain topics. In Edgar's case, he's allowed cognitive failures to taint his perceptions of alien UFOs and psychic powers.

UFOlogists love to point to Edgar's legitimate status as an astronaut as if it confirms that his UFO beliefs must be true. It's a great example of why we should never allow the "argument from authority" logical fallacy to convince us of anything. He's pretty firm that most UFOs are alien spacecraft; and though he does not claim to have seen any while on his Apollo mission, he does believe that the United States is in contact with alien races and is covering it up. He believes (and promotes in his books) pretty much every alien story and government-coverup conspiracy theory.

His kookiness does not end there. He's had a lifetime fascination with psychic powers, particularly remote viewing and telepathy. While on his Apollo mission, he performed private experiments in psychic communication with a crew of fellow believers on Earth. He wrote about this in his book Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science.

When he returned to Earth, he founded northern California's Institute for Noetic Sciences, a nonprofit dedicated to the study of psychic powers. It's now primarily known as the haunt of previous wacko Dean Radin.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Matt Moneymaker
Matt Moneymaker

Matt Moneymaker is a Bigfoot hunter. Yeah, Bigfoot hunter. 'Nuff said?

Moneymaker runs the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization) which advertises itself as "The only scientific research organization exploring the bigfoot/sasquatch mystery."

Bigfoot groups appear to all be fond of claiming to be the most scientific of all such groups; but so far, the quality of their science has not proven to be very convincing to anyone else. A lack of Bigfoots upon which to perform scientific studies appears to have hampered their efforts.

By the same token, my daughter's two pet rats comprise the leading scientific research organization exploring the Gray Alien mystery.

But who's to say that Moneymaker and his ilk are actually "wackos" and not simply ill-informed but well-intentioned amateur researchers? Well, of course, we can't know what's in their heads. But I am amused by one of Moneymaker's explanations for the lack of Bigfoots. He says on one of his FAQ pages that bright spotlights are the best tool to chase the beasts away, "especially when carried by groups of people searching a wooded area after dark."

Only a wacko would conclude that the reality of Bigfoot is suggested by Bigfoots not being spotted by spotlight-bearing searchers in the woods.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


David Oates
David Oates

Australian David Oates is best known as the Reverse Speech guy. He is of the opinion that by playing someone's speech backwards, you can gain insight into their unconscious mind.

In a nutshell, he believes that when we speak, our subconscious chooses words which, when played backwards, will say what we truly meant. So, if you're wearing a really ugly shirt, I might politely say "You look nice today" or something innocuous, but when played backwards my words will say "That's a really ugly shirt." Oates calls this "backmasking".

I did a really popular Skeptoid episode, When People Talk Backwards, on this topic a while back, with all kinds of great examples. It's lots of fun.

Through his web site ReverseSpeech.com Oates sells a vast array of products and services to help you put the backmasking phenomenon to work for you. By listening to speech in reverse, not only will you gain insight into what world leaders really think, but you can also use it for personal development (understand your own subconscious by playing your own speech backwards) and make great business decisions (trying to close that big sale? Know what the seller's real bottom price is by listening to him talk in reverse). Yes, he's serious.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


James L. Oschman
James L. Oschman

James L. Oschman has a slick website promoting his DVD, The Living Matrix, that invokes the quantum fallacy and other fallacies in support of "information as medicine" that includes the claim that patients can heal if they believe that they're healthy. This kind of faith healing is no substitute for actual medicine, no matter how sciencey it sounds. And his book, Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis, is full of anecdotes and speculation in support of "energy medicine", the outmoded pre-chemistry notion of vitalism (vague unmeasurable "energy").

James L. Oschman has done real science in the past, but he is now well into pseudoscience that appeals to the masses and does not stand up to scientific criticism.

Torsten Pihl


Osho
Osho

Presenting Osho, aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, aka Chandra Mohan Jain, aka Acharya Rajneesh, aka virtually any New Age, eastern-sounding name you want to come up with.

He's perhaps best known for the 93 Rolls Royces that he accumulated while he had his 64,000 acre headquarters in Oregon for a few years in the 1980s. During his years in India, he did little more than drive slowly past his followers once a week and wave to them, and this alone added millions in donations to his growing empire.

Osho's teachings were a mish-mash of syncretized religions, eastern mysticism, New Age mysticism, and the same type of pseudoscience that guys like Deepak Chopra now teach (using sciencey-sounding words to describe metaphysical concepts, and calling it science).

There are lots of articles about Osho on the web, and any one of them is a fascinating read. He was clearly a charismatic man; his list of followers included many celebrities who even adopted eastern sounding names in his tradition. His network of corporations was notoriously tangled; it would have been a virtual impossibility to try and establish his wealth, everything was so obfuscated. There were sexual affairs, scandals, marriages and divorces, tax problems, immigration problems, and all manner of lawsuits. His own life could hardly have been more differently than the peaceful, harmonious enlightenment that he preached.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Dr. Oz
Dr. Mehmet Oz

Why is Dr. Oz considered a wacko, you might ask? He seems a reasonable enough fellow. I deem him a wacko because he thinks it's OK to spout untrue medical nonsense in exchange for the large dollar amounts that spring forth from Oprah's TV network. He's actually a real doctor, and he knows better. He knows that he spews garbage, he just thinks the money's worth it. That is wacko.

When he first started appearing on Oprah, he gave generally good medical advice. And then it gradually morphed into simply nodding an endorsement of whatever witchcraft alt-med promoter Oprah had on as a guest. And now that he's finally graduated to having his own show, he has descended into unapologetic, full-blown promotion of magical healing methods. Energy healing, distance healing, faith healing, you name it. Whatever's sensational is what sells.

Here's a really good article that takes him to task, Oprah's Favorite Doctor Promotes Quackery. Forward this article to people you know who love Dr. Oz.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Ted Patrick
Ted Patrick

Ted Patrick is the "father of deprogramming", in keeping with Skeptoid episode Brainwashing and Deprogramming.

Like many wackos, Ted was a well rounded guy who did plenty of good in the world. He was a lifelong activist for many good causes, such as civil rights, and was even awarded the Freedom Foundation award after the Watts riots.

Now then. On to his wackiness. When cultism began to be a popular thing in the 1970s, the general public grew to believe that brainwashing was at its root, due to this phenomenon having received some good publicity during the wars in southeast Asia. Ted, ever vigilant, took up the banner and developed the idea of "deprogramming", which was essentially brainwashing in reverse.

His methods were chillingly similar to those employed by Chinese interrogators on American POWs. They began with a kidnapping, a false imprisonment, and a reverse brainwashing intended to undo whatever the cult was believed to have done to the "victim".

The problem is that neither Patrick, nor the hundreds of other self-styled deprogrammers who followed in his footsteps, had any kind of professional counseling experience; and so his method was completely unscientific. As professional psychologists had already discovered, brainwashing was largely fictional. The attempts were real, but the results were not. Therefore, deprogramming was equally ineffective.

Nevertheless, well-intentioned deprogrammers charged prices up into the tens of thousands of dollars for their nonsense, based on the grieving parents who were afraid of whatever their children had gotten into. The perfect victims of a scam.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps, former pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, had invented his own version of Christianity best illustrated by his demonstrations at the gravesides of American servicemen, where he and his delusional followers (mostly relatives and friends of his) said that God killed the soldier to punish the United States for allowing homosexuality. "God Hates Fags" was his signature banner.

Fred Phelps was offensive to everyone, conservative or liberal, or even just normal people not filled with hate and insanity. His own son Mark, who managed to avoid inheriting the "Crazy Gene", wrote to the local paper:

I believe in God and the Bible, and my father's behavior doesn't fit the description of behavior that would show in the life of one who loves God; behavior characteristics such as Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. Instead, my father's behavior characterizes, I believe, Hate, Outbursts of Wrath, Contention, Jealousy, Vengefulness, Misery, Harshness, and Selfish ambition. He mis-states the truth about his own behavior, about others, about the Bible, with apparent ease and regularity. He behaves with a viciousness the likes of which I have never seen. He accepts no genuine accountability in his life and is subject to no one. His lifestyle betrays the sacred trust of what a pastor, husband, father and grandfather should be. I suppose if a comparison were made between the life of Jesus Christ and my father, there would not be much to compare.

Fred Phelps loved to point out that dead American servicemen are burning in hell. That's what I call a wacko.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Elizabeth Clare Prophet
Elizabeth Clare Prophet

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, was a quasi-Christian New Age spiritualist who died in 2009. She was best known for The Summit Lighthouse ministry and publisher, and the Church Universal and Triumphant, through which she made all sorts of predictions that were supposedly prophecies.

Prophet (what a name) received her prophecies from the "ascended masters", New Age characters who are spiritually enlightened beings who used to be humans in past lives. She was all into Indian gurus and the Dalai Lama and basically anyone who purported to have some special Eastern-influenced enlightenment. This was the source of her visions, which most notably included a prediction of a nuclear first strike by the Soviet Union. Her followers packed up provisions and loaded bomb shelters in preparation.

She got into this through marriage to Mark Prophet, her second of four husbands, who was practicing "ascended masters" prophecy when they met. Evidently the masters liked her too.

She appropriated the Montessori name to launch a chain of churches calling themselves Montessori schools (anyone can do this, as the name Montessori is in the public domain). Hers was a uniquely bizarre blending of New Age mysticism, Eastern religion, and Christianity.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


V.M. Rabolu
V.M. Rabolú

V.M. Rabolú is a transcendentalist and author who is passionate about helping humanity by making things up out of whole cloth and stating them as fact, and he wants to extend his sexual repression to others. If humanity could find a way to reproduce without fornication, that would be a good thing, and homosexuality is a "sexual atrocity".

In his book, Hercólubus or Red Planet, Rabolú warns of the impending doom from a collision with a large red planet that is humanity's punishment, sea monsters created by atomic tests in the Pacific (like something out of a Japanese monster movie), and details the civilizations on Venus and Mars (never mind that there are actually no civilizations there). To mitigate the catastrophe, we must disintegrate psychological defects with the lance of the Divine Mother and chant mantras to move into the Fifth Dimension that is the Astral Plane so that we can gain wisdom and be rescued by interplanetary solar-powered invincible spaceships. And throughout all this, those darned scientists ignore the truth!

V.M. Rabolú died in 2000 so the fulfillment of his "very short-term prophecy" keeps fading ever so dimmer.

Torsten Pihl


Dean Radin
Dean Radin

Dean Radin is a standard name you should know in the field of woo. Dean's big claim to fame is the Global Consciousness Project, in which he believes that major events that affect the emotions of many are foretold by fluctuations in random number generators. Needless to say, people who understand statistical analysis are not impressed by his claims. If major events could actually be predicted, then that would be impressive. Instead, anomalies that were generated some time before a major event were cherry picked after the event. That's mundane and unimpressive.

But he continues to publish -- not through legitimate science journals, because they won't generally accept work that can't pass peer review -- but through the mass media. His books include Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality, a title in which he uses the word "quantum" just as scientifically as does Deepak Chopra; and The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena which, in case you had any doubt, states outright the pre-existing belief he's out to justify every time he sits down at his desk.

Guys like Dean behave very unscientifically when they realize that their theories have failed to convince any significant number of legitimate researchers; and so rather than investigating whether he might be wrong himself, he goes on promoting hypotheses that he has been given sufficient cause to believe are wrong.

However it should be noted that Dean rocks on the banjo and on the violin. Not everyone is all bad, and this is important to note.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Rael
Raël

Raël is the founder of the Raëlian movement. He was a young French journalist, when all of a sudden, a spaceship came down, and its human-looking pilot, a friendly dude named Yahweh, took him for a spin. They visited a spa resort orbiting Jupiter, had a party with some girls, hung out with Jesus and Buddha and some other dudes, and had a really good dinner.

Raël told the world about this groovy experience, and it sounded appealing enough that there is now actually a Raëlian movement. They call it "intelligent design for atheists". You see, Yahweh was not just a mellow party guy, he was also one of the alien race called the Elohim, and they created the Earth. Thus there is no need for any fictional supernatural religions; all was created by the Elohim.

Raëlians are big into technology and free love. They're often naked, judging by a web search for the term, and it's hard to tell whether a web site called Raël's Girls is a porn site or not. (I provided the link because I knew you'd look it up if I didn't.)

Part of their technology interest includes cloning, as this is evidently related to the technology by which they believe the Earth was created. Their company Clonaid claims to have created the first human clone, a girl named Eve now living in Israel. Few biologists take this claim seriously.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Gene Ray
Gene Ray

Gene Ray, better known as the Time Cube guy. It's not really fair to pick on Gene, because he's clearly mentally ill, and he's never convinced anybody of his theories, therefore he's also not hurting anybody. But a study of Gene does provide a pretty good example of what a lot of delusional conspiracy theorists are like.

Gene Ray, who describes himself as "the wisest man who ever lived" and "Dr. Gene Ray", has been the subject of a documentary film and has been an invited speaker at several universities... not because anyone believes his Time Cube theory, but because a glimpse into such a personality is a good cautionary tale.

The central theme of his Time Cube theory is that everything is somehow cubic: time, creation, the universe, religion, name it. The number 4 pops up everywhere in his lecturing. He hasn't seemed to catch on that a cube doesn't have 4 of anything (it has 12 edges, 8 corners, and 6 sides).

The best thing you can do right now is to take a look at the Time Cube web site. You'll read, basically, hatred of everyone and everything: hatred of humans, academia, government, religion, males, females, races, and especially science.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Jeff Rense
Jeff Rense

Jeff Rense is the primary culprit behind rense.com. Through rense.com, Jeff promotes conspiracy theories. All conspiracy theories. In fact, you could make one up right now, email it to him, and he'd promote it.

He proudly boasts on his home page that it is "The Most Format & Content-Plagiarized Site On The Net". Content plagiarized, I can believe: I find that conspiracy theorists rarely do any original work and simply copy-and-paste from each other's web sites. Format plagiarized is a bit of a stretch. Check out his web site or see this screenshot of a small area of the home page. You have never seen such an eyeball-exploding collection of ads, banners, bright clashing colors, and unreadability.

Normally, such nightmare collections of garishness and inanity fade into irrelevance, but for some reason, rense.com has traction among the nutwads. And that translates to traction among innocent Google searches. The unfortunate result is that I often hear from listeners asking me an honest question, based on "this interesting article I found on rense.com." If it's out there, laypeople don't necessarily have any reason to question its validity. The result? Further erosion of the collective intellect.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Ken Ring
Ken Ring

Ken Ring is notable for his (claimed to be) amazing predictions of weather and earthquakes. From his website PredictWeather.com, he sells all sorts of weather prediction reports.

His primary obsession is the Moon, and he believes its cycles are the best way to predict earthquakes. In fact the Moon has never been shown to have anything to do with earthquakes, and centuries of data back that up. But that doesn't deter Ken. Despite its having been proven wrong, he still insists that it's right.

He likes to speak in terms of 10-day or 15-day windows. 2/3 of days are within 5 days of a Moon apogee or perigee or whatever Moon event he wants to come up with (and 100% of days are within a 15-day window of one), so this gives him an automatic >67% "success" rate with any "prediction". Wow, you can't get odds like that in Vegas!

His claim to fame is one of those times he was accidentally right, which, given the leeway he allows himself, is not surprising. Before the September 2010 earthquake that struck New Zealand, one of his recent daily predictions had been "floods and winds and earthquakes and snow" within a 7-day period in 2010. When you predict the same thing every day, eventually you're going to be right. Ken managed to be 25% right after years of trying; most of his prediction, that of floods and winds and snow, failed to materialize.

Sadly, the episode convinced many that his astrologic powers are real, and he's held considerable influence over a lot of innocent New Zealanders ever since.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Troy and Josh Rodarmel
Troy and Josh Rodarmel

Troy and Josh Rodarmel are the founders of Power Balance. In only three short years, they stumbled into a multimillion dollar business model that sweept the world: Cheap rubber bracelets that they claim boost your strength, balance, and flexibility. By "cheap" I mean pennies to manufacture, but they sell for around $30 to $60.

How do these bracelets accomplish these medical miracles? Well, they won't say, other than a vague reference to energy fields and frequencies, that bears no resemblance to any known phenomenon in biology or physical sciences.

But regardless of the mechanism, Power Balance customers seem to believe that it works. It's sold using an old stage magician's trick called applied kinesiology, where the performer uses subtle cues to fool you into thinking you're stronger or weaker by slight changes to the angles at which he applies pressure to you. I find it hilarious that they didn't even bother to change the name of the trick. People do use Google, you know... don't they???

Fortunately, the Australian magazine Choice, one of the world's foremost consumer publications, just awarded Power Balance their Shonky award, given out to scams and ripoffs and other generally worthless products.

Power Balance knockoffs are now everywhere (aptly-named Placebo Bands are a cheap alternative), showing how easily the public is fooled by scientific sounding language. This underscores the importance of basic science education and critical thinking. Support Skeptoid!

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Marko Rodin
Marko Rodin

Marko Rodin believes he has overturned the fundamentals of mathematics, with a concept he calls "vortex based mathematics". Rather than trying to explain it (since it makes no sense to anyone but himself) I'll let him do it:

Marko Rodin has discovered a series of regularities in the decimal number system heretofore undocumented and overlooked by conventional mathematics and science. These patterns lay out on the surface and within the internal volume of a torus. Mathematicians, computer scientists and other leading scientific thinkers have tested and validated this revolutionary discovery, known as the Rodin Solution and often referred to as the Rodin Coil.

Marko is good to know because he reminds us of Martin Gardner's signs of a crank -- the traits commonly found among cranks. Finding these doesn't guarantee that you have a crank, of course; but they should be a good clue. Here are some that Marko aptly illustrates:

  • He works in isolation, with no connection to legitimate mathematics; no one to check his work, and no knowledge of what actual work is being done in the field.
  • He considers himself a genius, believing that he alone is smart enough to see these discoveries and that nobody else has been able to crack the code.
  • He invents his own terminology, and describes his work using only his own made-up terms. Rodin Coil, vortex based mathematics, and mathematical fingerprint of God are just a few terms that permeate his writing.

These are only a few, of course, Gardner's list goes on. Marko believes his work has produced breakthroughs. Truly a revolutionary genius; or... something else.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Andrew Schlafly
Andrew Schlafly

Andrew Schlafly, founder of Conservapedia is an evangelical lawyer who, in 2006, decided to create a version of Wikipedia centered on Young Earth fundamentalism, as a resource for homeschooled children. He's big on the term "liberal bias", using it to defend the need to create Conservapedia by countering Wikipedia's liberal bias. OK, so that's not really all that controversial; many conservatives might agree with that. But Schlafly takes it to a degree I never would have guessed: He also believes that the King James Bible has a liberal bias, and he's working on a new translation called the Conservative Bible Project.

Conservapedia is notorious for placing Adolf Hitler on the page about evolutionary biology, and other bizarre attempts to shoehorn science into some kind of evil plot against Christianity.

When you have access to as many resources as Schlafly, and still dismiss the vast majority of evidence in order to cherrypick (or invent) your own special factoids, you can only be described as a wacko.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Richard Schulze
Richard Schulze

Richard Schulze of HerbDoc.com. Oh, excuse me, I meant Dr. Richard Schulze, since he has unaccredited degrees from the "School of Natural Healing" (that required no coursework or curriculum). So far as I can tell, his "education" cost him a grand total of $295.

With this impressive background, which has included the courageous rejection of medical science, "Dr." Schulze dispenses natural cures from his "clinic", which does not appear to have any published address.

Thousands of patients healed themselves of every disease and illness. Thousands more worldwide experienced "miracle cures".

Really! It's true! Don't believe it? He has testimonials.

Probably nothing that "Dr." Schulze dispenses is going to do serious harm, except to the wallet, of course. But his website is overflowing with illegal medical claims, and sooner or later the authorities will catch up to him. When they do, a few subtle changes of wording will do it, or perhaps a change of URL, and once again he'll be taking money from innocent victims who don't know any better, and giving them worthless "supplements" gilt with sciencey-sounding language.

Sadly, guys like him are a dime a dozen. The money's there, it's easy, and he's happy to snatch it up based on a $295 "degree".

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen

Not many people have worked so hard to get themselves nominated as a waco as Charlie Sheen has.

He has an obvious addiction problem, which really sucks for those around him, but that's not why we're featuring him here.

Sheen is one of the heros of the conspiracy theory crowd, most notably 9/11 "truthers" who believe the US government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. As part of his campaign, he's regularly appeared on Alex Jones' conspiracy theory radio program. In 2009, Sheen showcased his wackiness with his 20 Minutes with the President essay which was a fictional account of him confronting Obama about 9/11.

He went on the show again and unleashed a mind-spinning tirade of bravado. Fortunately for the world's collective intellect, his problems with addiction and the battles surrounding his TV series dominated the interview, as even that drivel is less harmful to the world than 9/11 garbage. (This was the interview that prompted CBS to cancel his show.)

So, a note to conspiracy theorists: A fine representative you've chosen to hook your wagon to.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Rupert Sheldrake
Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake is, among other things, the world's leading advocate for the psychic ability of dogs. That's right, dogs are psychic. Woof.

After a brief career in academia as a plant biochemist, he then turned his time and attention to Eastern philosophies. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a Visiting Professor and Academic Director of the Holistic Thinking Program at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut. From his web site, Sheldrake.org:

Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world's most innovative biologists and writers is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to avision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory.

Morphic fields and morphic resonances, in case you're not aware, are terms he made up. What they might refer to is known only in the depths of his own profound imagination.

He has pretty deep cred among his followers. One Japanese student was convinced that Sheldrake was mind controlling him, to the point that he once stabbed Sheldrake in the leg. That's how you know you're really getting to your audience.

He's gotten the most attention in the past few years for a series of experiments in which he found that a dog seemed to be able to predict when its owner would come home by running to the window. He concluded that dogs are therefore psychic. When other researchers have replicated his experiments, nothing deviating from random chance has ever been found.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Bart Sibrel
Bart Sibrel

Bart Sibrel is an obsessed Moon Landing hoax nut and conspiracy theorist, most famous for being punched out by an Apollo astronaut twice his age and half his size.

Watch the famous video of Buzz Aldrin punching out a younger Bart Sibrel. The blow appears to have cost Bart his hair.

Bart's entire career has been spent -- or perhaps, misspent -- or perhaps, foolishly wasted -- trying to prove that the Apollo Moon landings were faked by NASA. He believes (or says he does) that the US did not want to lose the space race to the USSR, and so the Apollo program was hoaxed to fool them. It also hoaxed all the hundreds of thousands of people working at NASA and at all the contractors.

Bart's two fine "documentaries" on the subject, Astronauts Gone Wild (title borrowed from Girls Gone Wild) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon (line borrowed from Capricorn One) can be viewed at MoonMovie.com.

Although Bart likes to pose in front of TV monitors wearing a suit, to give the impression that he's a professional, his day job is driving a taxi cab in Nashville, TN. Looks like there's not as much money in wackiness as he might have hoped.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) is the father of biodynamic agriculture. He was a philosopher, a multi-faceted artist, a playwright, and a self-described clairvoyant. And so, quite naturally, he has come to be regarded (by some) as the ultimate authority on agriculture. His term "biodynamic" means Life Force.

His assertion was that entire farms are single organisms. They can be brought to the best health by casting what amounts to a magic spell onto the entire farm, through the sprinkling of a potion that rivals anything from Edgar Allen Poe.

Does it sound medieval? It should, because it is. Nevertheless, biodynamic wines are a growing market segment among intelligent adults today. Here is a small snippet of the ingredients from his magical potion:

  • 502: Yarrow blossoms stuffed into urinary bladders from Red Deer, placed in the sun during summer, buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
  • 503: Chamomile blossoms stuffed into small intestines from cattle buried in humus-rich earth in the autumn and retrieved in the spring.
  • 504: Stinging nettle plants in full bloom stuffed together underground surrounded on all sides by peat for a year.
  • 505: Oak bark chopped in small pieces, placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a place where lots of rain water runs by.
  • 506: Dandelion flowers stuffed into the peritoneum of cattle and buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
  • 507: Valerian flowers extracted into water.
  • 508: Horsetail.

Still want to spend that extra money to get your magical biodynamic wine?

Also, Rudolf Steiner founded the philosophy of Anthroposophy that is basically about convincing yourself that you can experience the spiritual world. And Waldorf education is based on his educational philosophy and includes pseudoscience in its curriculum. Rudolf Steiner's influence lingers on.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Robert Sungenis
Robert Sungenis

Robert Bennett
Robert Bennett

Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett are creators of the -- get this -- book on geocentrism, Galileo Was Wrong.

Sungenis is a professional Catholic apologist with a nonprofit apologetics institute, and Bennett is a former physics teacher who advised Sungenis on the math. They honestly believe that the Earth is the center of the universe, and everything else revolves around them (oh excuse me, I mean revolves around the Earth).

In 2010, they actually held a small conference in Indiana to promote their notion, that the Earth alone is immobile in the cosmos. It has not escaped them that their own Catholic church has formally dismissed their centuries-old prescientific theory and accepted the standard model. No, they believe the church is wrong. They state:

Did the Catholic Church make a grand and embarrassing mistake when it condemned the heliocentric system under Pope Urban VIII in 1633 as "formally heretical" and "opposed to Scripture"? Has modern science proven that heliocentrism is the correct system of cosmology? Did John Paul II officially concede that Galileo was right and the Church was wrong? To the surprise of many, the answer to all three is no.

Moreover:

Scientific evidence available to us within the last 100 years that was not available during Galileo's confrontation shows that the Church's position on the immobility of the Earth is not only scientifically supportable, but it is the most stable model of the universe and the one which best answers all the evidence we see in the cosmos.

That intelligent adults are promoting this should alarm us all. We need better science education in this country.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Kevin Trudeau
Kevin Trudeau

Pitchman Kevin Trudeau is best known for his books and infomercials selling miracle Alt-Med cures and Get Rich Quick schemes. Unfortunately for his millions of customers, he's the only one who got rich quick.

Cast your eye over his dubious list of titles:

  • Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know About
  • More Natural Cures Revealed
  • The Weight Loss Cure They Don't Want You to Know About
  • Debt Cures They Don't Want You to Know About
  • The Money-Making Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About
  • Your Wish Is Your Command
It goes on and on.

There is no arguing that this character is simply misled but with good intentions. Lots of television salespeople have wrist slaps from the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising practices, and he has as many as anyone. But among his convictions are cases of outright theft, such as the time he took 11 of his own customers' credit card numbers and went on his own little spree, charging over $100,000 on them. He actually did time for this one.

Trudeau has no education or professional experience relevant to any of the products and services he sells or claims expertise.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Alex Tsakiris
Alex Tsakiris

Alex Tsakiris is the creator and host of the pseudoscience/parapsychology podcast Skeptiko. His show is (though he claims otherwise) devoted to promoting the idea that we all have some sort of shared consciousness.

Most notably, he has promoted wacko Rupert Sheldrake, who believes dogs can see into the future, and wacko Dean Radin, who believes that the human race collectively influences random number generators before major events (or during or after, he's never really very clear on it).

Although the title of his show suggests that a skeptical perspective will be explored, that's rarely the case. I went on his show as a guest once, assuming that it was a skeptical program, and found him to be actively hostile to science. He's clearly of the set who believes that real science is unknowable and exists on a plane higher than mere mortals can access, and that what we call science now is merely a reflection of how "closed-minded" scientists are. This is a common ruse among true believers: When evidence fails to back up their magical claims, they assert that their pet phenomenon is beyond the range of mere human testing. (In logic, we refer to this as a special pleading.)

He's always trawling the skeptical community for guests. Although I encourage people to go on his show on the off-chance that your reason might reach some part of his audience, I also encourage you not to promote your appearance on his show. His is a public disservice, and the fewer who know about it and listen to it, the better for everyone.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Giorgio Tsoukalos
Giorgio Tsoukalos

Giorgio Tsoukalos has taken wacko Erich von Däniken seriously and perpetuates the unfounded claim of extraterrestrial influences on human history. Tsoukalos' brain pattern matching is in overdrive and sees influences of extraterrestrials everywhere; and coupled with his apperences on the Ancient Aliens show, a meme developed (see below). His Legendary Times Magazine caters to an audience that fancies themselves as awakened, unlike us dreaming sheep that haven't seen the light. When you're convinced of a conclusion, you'll notice evidence more readily than to the contrary.

   

Torsten Pihl


Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura

Jesse Ventura is a colorful gentleman, a Navy diver turned pro wrestler turned mayor turned Minnesota governor turned conspiracy theorist. Few have such storied careers. Jesse probably should have stopped at pro wrestler, and called it a day.

Why was he a wacko? He got his start on that honorable path with his appearance on former WotW Alex Jones' radio show, charging the government with causing 9/11, demolishing Building 7 with explosives, all the usual stuff.

Perhaps deciding that this could be a new outlet for him to spray his wackiness onto a larger audience, he then successfully pitched and sold his TV series Conspiracy Theory to TruTV. (As a side note, TruTV is one of the networks that took The Skeptologists pretty far before deciding against it.) Jesse's show promotes just about every conspiracy theory, shamelessly and without any hint of critical thinking, that you can think of. For a virtual episode list, check out the Skeptoid category conspiracies, or see Debunkatron conspiracies and denials.

He wrote a book (or, probably more accurately, allowed his name to be attached to a book ghost written by Dick Russell) called American Conspiracies. Doing what you could to erode the public intellect at every opportunity, Jesse. Well done.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Jesse Ventura
Erich von Däniken

Erich von Däniken was a pseudohistorian and pseudoarcheologist. He authored the infamous 1968 book Chariots of the Gods that claims extraterrestrial influences on early human technologies, religions and culture. Von Däniken has had a criminal history, and we can include miseducating the public about history among his mischievious deeds.

Credible evidence is required before accepting extraterrestrial influences, but all that Erich von Däniken has provided are presumptuous claims and mystery mongering that fueled the 1970's UFO fad. And isn't it rather insulting to our ancestors that they could not have acheived moments of greatness and technological prowess without the aid of space aliens? We would have to accept it if indeed credible evidence comes forth; but until then, nope.

Torsten Pihl


Andrew Wakefield
Andrew Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield was, more than anyone else, personally responsible for the worldwide anti-vaccine fear, that has brought back so many preventable, fatal diseases that we all thought had been eradicated. Thanks a lot, pal.

He used to be Dr. Wakefield in the UK, a surgeon, but got kicked out of the profession in 2010 when it was discovered that his seminal anti-vaccine 1998 paper published in the Lancet was a piece of crap. The British General Medical Council made some three dozen charges against him and found that he'd acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly". He's now no longer allowed to practice medicine, but he hasn't really been doing that for a while. He's still pursuing his true passion, rabid anti-medicine, and travels and lectures extensively trying to dissuade parents from vaccinating their children against preventable disease. He's still out there, folks...

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Alan Watt
Alan Watt

Conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Alan Watt is the creator of the Cutting Through the Matrix web site. You can read it fifty times, and you still won't be quite clear on what his point is.

His dashing logo shows him courageously karate-kicking the top off of an Illuminati pyramid, as he is an anti-"New World Order" type. He believes that he is one of the Gifted Few who are able to see past the "Matrix" and has identified that we are all under the power and control of an elitist World Government, possibly reptilian in nature (no, I'm not making this up). In psychiatry, we call this a type 4 delusional disorder.

For your perusal:

Alan Watt has three books available [in Spiral-Bound Paper Format], an intertwined trilogy showing much of the esoteric control governing both ancient and modern man:

Cutting Through 1 - The Androgynous (Hermaphroditic) Agenda
Sample Page

Cutting Through 2 - A Glimpse into the Great Work
Sample Page

Cutting Through 3 - Esoteric Unveiled and the Meaning of Revelations in the High Masonic Tradition
Sample Page

Alan is big on copyright. About every fifth line on his extensive web site is a copyright notice. He also spends an inordinate amount of time claiming that all sorts of people are trying to pirate his content, and that you should only buy his self-published books directly from him, and not from some evil pirate source. This overdeveloped sense of persecution is characteristic of the type 4 disorder.

It's not my wish to poke fun at someone who appears to be psychologically disturbed. But every time a radio host brings this guy on the air, it confirms to him his sense of legitimacy, and makes the poor guy's situation worse. Let's hope his friends and family encourage him to seek therapy.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Andrew Weil
Andrew Weil

Andrew Weil has written many books, mainly focusing on diet. If you follow his dietary recommendations, you'll probably end up as healthy as anyone. No problem there.

The problem comes in the form of his "integrative" philosophy. This means integrating science-based medicine with unscientific therapies, the latter of which he provides through his Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. Such centers rarely provide the science part, as that's covered elsewhere; thus, they essentially are exclusive providers of therapies which are either not proven to work, or proven not to work. That's why we call them alternative medicine. Should universities really be teaching this to students as if it's medical science?

Oh, and he's also a big proponent of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential women in the world. Arguably, she is not wacko in the sense of being insane or anything. She is, by all accounts, very sharp and knows exactly what she's doing.

What she does is promote anything that's sensational, and that's how she gained the attention of one of the world's largest viewing audiences. Her show and magazine promote anything that shocks, surprises, or titillates us. That's her only criteria. Probably 80 or 90 percent of it is true and perfectly harmless, but that remaining 10 or 20 percent is given equal credibility by viewers who have no reason to suspect their trusted hostess has not done good research. Oprah doesn't care what she tells them; only that they keep watching.

As a direct result of Oprah Winfrey's shockingly unethical rise to riches, many people believe in unscientific alternatives to healthcare, ghosts, psychics, sham health products, and other magical beliefs. The real extent of the damage she's done to the world's collective intellect is probably greater than that done by anyone else in history.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Robb Wolf
Robb Wolf

Robb Wolf promotes Paleolithic diets, fad diets based on eating only the foods to which paleolithic humans had access. There's nothing terribly wrong with that by itself; the paleo diet is probably no better than any other fad diet, and probably no worse than any other low calorie, high protein diet. Avoiding excess calories and eating lean is excellent nutritional advice, as any doctor or dietician will tell you, so why is Wolf a wacko?

Where pitchmen like Wolf go astray is in their claims of miraculous health benefits. The header of his website proudly boasts that using his special diet, you will:

Lose fat. Look younger. Feel great. Avoid cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's, and Alzheimers.

Sounds like he should receive the Nobel Prize for medicine! Or, maybe there's a reason he hasn't. Namely, all of his advice is either common knowledge (good diet and exercise) or untrue (fad diets will protect you from disease). He also promotes going gluten-free as if it's also a miracle health cure for everyone (healthy non-gluten-sensitive people included), which is also untrue and nutritionally implausible.

The sad part is the much of Wolf's advice, such as lots of exercise, is perfectly sound. But since that's common knowledge, it isn't something he can sell. So instead he promotes his magical woo with implausible miracle health claims. To each of his readers who takes that advice as medical information (which, by his wording, is obviously his intent), he has done a potentially deadly disservice.

The most dangerous pitchmen are those who wrap their snake oil inside just enough facts to sound scientific and fool the layperson.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Mahesh Yogi
Mahesh Yogi

Mahesh Yogi, known to millions as guru to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and pretty much everyone else in Hollywood who wanted to appear politically correct.

The Maharishi, who died in 2007, introduced transcendental meditation to the West. He popularized Yogic Flying - where you sit crosslegged and hop, and call it flying. He had a passion for Rolls Royces, private jets, lavish residences, and - apparently - young women. The Beatles' manager once said "This guy knows more about making deals than I do. He's really into scoring, the Maharishi." At time of his death, estimates of the value of his "borderless" empire ranged from two to six billion dollars.

But it was all based on "ancient wisdom" so it's OK. ...not.

Brian Dunning
Edited by Torsten Pihl


Retracted "Wackos"


Suggested Wackos

Below is a list of people that have been suggested for placement in the Gallery of Wackos. Feel free to submit a wacko suggestion or a complete entry. If your entry is accurate and in a style that fits in, I'll post it and give you credit. No personal attacks please. Thanks!