I hadn’t really planned on writing again about everyone’s favorite conspiracy theorist and promoter of quackery, Mike Adams, at least not so soon after the last time I did it, which was only last week after Adams appeared on Dr. Oz’s daytime television show to push his “laboratory.” Adams, as you might recall, goes by the Internet moniker the “Health Ranger” (which would really more appropriately be “Health Danger”) and is the man responsible for one of the quackiest sites on the Internet, NaturalNews.com, a repository for nearly every form of medical pseudoscience known to humans, mixed in with Alex Jones-worthy New World Order-style conspiracy mongering about politics and anti-science rants that would make the Discovery Institute proud. Actually, that’s not surprising in that Adams appears also to be an evolution denialist. According to various sources, including his appearance with Dr. Oz, he’s been quite successful at this, with NaturalNews.com boasting around 7 million unique page views per month (although other estimates place his traffic more at a level of 1.1-1.7 million unique views a month) and Adams himself having become quite wealthy through a combination of Internet business, selling spam software, and various other dubious businesses built on fear, dating at least back to a Y2K “preparedness” site in 1999.
I’m not the only one who has criticized Adams for his promotion of quackery, pseudoscience, and downright dangerous conspiracy theories, all laced with hateful attacks on celebrities with cancer and other serious disease, such as Patrick Swayze, Christina Applegate, and Tony Snow, for having chosen standard medical treatment rather than quackery. A year and a half ago, Adams particularly “distinguished” himself with an anti-psychiatry rant that blamed psychiatric medications for Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Most recently, Adams has gone from tragedy to hilarity by looking at chicken nuggets under the microscope and setting up his own “food lab” in which there is a mass spectrometer that he claims to use to measure heavy metal contaminants in supplements and food, which was what brought him to Dr. Oz’s attention. As I put it then, just when I thought Dr. Oz couldn’t go any lower, he did.
In any case, as has happened with so many other promoters of quackery, be they Andrew Wakefield, Joseph Chikelue Obi, the Society of Homeopaths, or Stanislaw Burzynski (to name but a few), Adams doesn’t like criticism and now, apparently, has reacted to it with legal threats against Jon Entine at the Genetic Literacy website. Entine also writes for Forbes.com and recently published an Orac-level (in length, at least) profile of Mike Adams at Forbes.com (still at the Genetic Literacy Project, along with the longer version). Mike Adams doesn’t like it at all, not one bit. In fact, he likes so little that Keith Kloor and P.Z. Myers have both, Streisand Effect-style, reported that Adams has threatened to sue Entine.
My first thought was: Why did Forbes.com back down and take Entine’s post down when it was Mike Adams threatening to sue Entine but didn’t do the same thing when Andrew Wakefield threatened to sue Emily Willingham, which also happened within the last month and a half? There seems to be a bit of an inconsistency there. Why the cowardice with respect to Entine and the admirable standing by Willingham? My second thought was this: There have been times when I really wished I wrote for a big-name blog collective like Forbes.com. I used to get the occasional offer, but it’s been a long time since I got one. Given the chaos around Pepsigate at ScienceBlogs, followed by its takeover by National Geographic and the relative lack of attention ScienceBlogs has gotten in the meantime, given the right offer I’d certainly strongly consider jumping to another blog collective, either under my pseudonym or my real name. However, I think that I’m just a bit too much of a niche blogger for most blog collectives; so here I remain. It’s not a bad thing, though, given that I’m pretty much left alone to write whatever I want and don’t have to worry about technical issues.
Seeing what’s happened repeatedly to Emily Willingham and now what’s happening to Jon Entine, maybe that’s a good thing, because as Entine has noted, I’ve been way more harshly critical of Mike Adams. In fact, at the risk of bragging, I can’t resist pointing out that I’ve been way more harshly critical of Mike Adams consistently over a much longer period of time (at least since 2007) than Entine,—or, for that matter, any other blogger of whom I’m aware—has been. Yet, Adams has never complained to Seed or National Geographic or threatened me with a lawsuit. Maybe it’s good not to be part of Forbes.com, at least if you’re as “Insolent” a blogger as I am.
There’s no reason for me to write about the merits of Adams’ threats. There are none. To me, this incident is yet another in a depressingly long list of examples of a promoter of quackery trying to use the legal system to bully a critic into silence. There is one thing that caught my interest, though, and that’s Adams’ e-mail to Keith Kloor, who had e-mailed Adams to ask if he has ever pursued legal action against any other writers who had written similarly unflattering articles about him. Kloor published Adams’ response in its entirety, and it’s fascinating reading in that it tells us a lot about how Adams views himself. For instance, like most antivaccinationists, Adams doesn’t think he’s antivaccine. Rather, he thinks he’s pro-safe vaccine:
You may be surprised to find out I’m not the person described by the likes of Mr. Entine whose articles can only come from a deep-rooted hatred rather than anything resembling legitimate journalism. Much of the information written about me by Mr. Entine and others is blatantly fictional, distorted or wildly exaggerated. None of it offers a fair representation of my true beliefs and positions on issues concerning science, medicine and the environment.
For example, I am not opposed to the theory of immunization. My concern is with the continued use of toxic adjuvants and preservatives in vaccines. In reality, I am a proponent of “clean vaccines” or what are called “single-dose vaccines” that lack mercury or other chemical preservatives.
I can only note that my portrayal of Adams’ beliefs is based on and well-supported by Adams’ own writings on the website that he himself runs and for which he frequently contributes content, including articles, songs, and videos. For example, if Adams is not antivaccine, then why is it that he made a rap video like Vaccine Zombie, which I discussed twice? See:
It’s a take-off on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video in which people injected with vaccines administered by a large nurse all turn into dancing zombies, much like the zombies in the Thriller video. There’s even a line about his nutsack shriveling and falling off after the vaccine and a scene that goes something like this:
They started cuttin’ out my brain happy as can be
Bunch of undead doctors from the CDC
I finally figured out what happened to me
When they said we got another vaccine zombie!
Step one: Remove your brain
Step two: Replace with zombie vaccines
Step three: Watch television for further instructions from the Centers for Zombie Control
I kid you not. View it for yourself if you don’t believe me. Then there’s this video that says that zombies are created by vaccines and that the way to cure them is to trap them in your kitchen or in a giant net and then stuff them full of superfoods until their “immune systems are healed” from the effects of vaccines that “turn your brain to mush” and they become “fully human again”:
I could go on and on and on citing examples from Adams’ own website that demonstrate that, whatever his self-delusion otherwise says, Adams is clearly not just antivaccine, but rabidly antivaccine, as much as or even more so than the antivaccine loons over at Age of Autism.
Adams is also very, very unhappy that he’s been described as “anti-science”:
What I find especially fascinating about the attacks on me by Entine and others is that after I was accused of being “anti-science” a couple of years ago, I took it upon myself to become well-versed in a particular branch of scientific study. I read academic textbooks, hired high-level analytical chemists and built a university-level laboratory where I’m personally running the ICP-MS instrumentation. This food contamination research has already achieved some extraordinary results in the interests of the public good and environmental protection as well. Scientific papers stemming from this research are in process right now and I hope to have some published this year.
I’m finding this scientific route to research very rewarding and eye-opening. Yet when people like Mr. Entine learn that I have embraced a scientific discovery methodology, instead of being welcomed for pursuing scientific research, I am unfairly mocked for it. In Entine’s case in particular, I believe he referred to my laboratory work as “a joke.”
That’s because Adams’ laboratory work is a joke. If his ICP-MS “work” is anything like his microscope work examining a chicken nugget and being amazed that things look bizarre under the microscope, it’s definitely a joke. I also question his laboratory. As I pointed out in the comments of my post about Aams’ appearance on Dr. Oz’s show, there’s definitely something fishy going on there. Early on, Adams would only show a photograph of him in his lab. Now, all the videos I’ve seen of him in his “lab” are carefully shot only to show a very limited part of the laboratory. His most recent video was shot pretty much from one camera angle, except for brief exceptions. Indeed, I find it very odd how great care was seemingly taken not to show anything to the right of the ICP-MS machine or to the left of the fume hood. Just one corner of the lab was ever shown. Even when there’s a closeup of the mass spectrometer, it’s as if the camera person was trying very hard to show only the left side of the machine and not to let the right side show.
It makes me wonder what’s on the other side of the lab, the part other than the tiny area of bench space that Adams takes so many pains to show. Maybe all Adams has is a corner in a larger room that he has to share, or something like that. Or maybe Adams’ “lab” is nothing more than a set in a warehouse. Who knows? In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if Adams turns out to be like Stanislaw Burzynski, always promising publications of his results but never coming up with anything better than partial publications in bottom-feeding journals. I have no doubt that Adams will manage to publish if he really wants to. However, I’m also quite sure that it won’t be in reputable journals. Most likely it’ll be in “integrative medicine” journals.
But what about the charge of Adams being “anti-science”? Well, not too long ago he made a short movie called The God Within:
It’s a documentary that basically attacks modern science at its core, so much so that I referred to it as something that Deepak Chopra might produce if he underwent a lobotomy first. Basically, he doesn’t like anything that smacks of biological determinism, using Stephen Hawking’s discussion of human behavior to claim that such a view is what made the Holocaust possible. Elsewhere he attacks science thusly:
“Science” has become the Godless, mindless, soulless platform from which the darkest evils of our world now fester and attempt to expand their domination. GMOs, chemical pesticides, rampant over-vaccination of children, fluoride chemicals in the water, chemotherapy poisons… the list seems endless.
“Science” has found a way to measure the electrical impulses of a heart beat but is incapable of understanding what it means to have a heart in the first place. “Science” says you should abandon any belief in your own God or spirit or creative force in the universe and instead put your faith in them as if they were gods! Believe in science, they insist, but nothing else.
And yet it’s not difficult to realize science is not the answer to our questions. Science has no real answers. It only has the mathematics to pretend that it knows something, but underneath the math it is devoid of understanding.
I don’t know, Mikey. That sounds pretty darned anti-science to me, your claims to “true science” notwithstanding. It also makes me wonder why, if science is so evil in Adams’ mind, he bothered to learn how to run a mass spectrometer. At least, that’s what he claims; whether he actually can use it to produce reliable data is very much in question. One notes that he hasn’t exactly made prominent the alleged results of university laboratories “collaborating” with him and supposedly verifying his results. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Adams regularly produces black hole-density stupid about skepticism and critical thinking. Particularly hilarious is how Adams claimed that skeptics believe that the body has no ability to fight off microorganisms without vaccines when the very mechanisms by which vaccines work depends upon the body’s ability to develop an effective immune response to microorganisms. Then there’s also the primitive vitalism that infuses Mikey’s writings. Yet Entine had the temerity to call Adams anti-science? “Anti-science” doesn’t even begin to describe Adams’ level of nuttery.
Adams finishes up with a plea for engagement that blew my irony meter into another quivering, sparking, molten pile of goo:
Honestly, I think I deserve a little credit from the scientific community on this. Why is no one from Slate saying, “Great job with the lab!” and encouraging me to apply the same scrutiny to other issues? It is baffling to me that the “science” community often seems more interested in badgering opponents than furthering the cause of science itself. The way to win allies, in other words, is to identify those people moving in the direction of solid science and encourage them, not harass them.
The reason no scientist will tell Adams, “Great job with the lab!” is because no one has any way of knowing that he has, in fact, done a great job with the lab, while we scientists do have lots of indications that he has not, given his track record. To turn Adams’ words back on him, the way to win allies, in other words, is not to sue one’s scientific critics. Real scientists do not sue those who criticize their work based on science and fact. They engage them and use the criticisms to examine whether perhaps they are doing something wrong. Of course, Adams is not a real scientist, nor will he ever be. Just measuring a bunch of heavy metal levels in a bunch of supplements looking for high levels that one can point to (assuming that Adams can even do that) is a job for a highly skilled technician, not a high level scientist.
Surprisingly, the tone of Adams’ e-mail is rather sad and pathetic. Adams is clearly desperate to be taken seriously. Sadly, he also seems pathologically blind to the very reasons why he is not taken seriously. That would require a level of self-awareness that Adams clearly does not possess, particularly if this video is any indication:
That’s right. Adams is is calling for “increased science education in America to combat scientific illiteracy” while claiming that ignorance that “injecting toxic mercury” into babies in the form of vaccines is dangerous as “evidence” why such education is needed. I could do a whole post on the stupidity contained in the 23 minute video, but I’m tired. Instead, I’ll just point out that Adams is actually advocating the miseducation of our children about science and doing his best to contribute to it through his website, while now using his laboratory set as a backdrop to claim the legitimacy of science while not understanding its methods. He even goes so far as to claim that not believing in conspiracy theories like the ones Adams repeats is “a sure sign of mental retardation.”
Pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe the man.