Bad professor

It’s always sad to see someone bring disgrace to my profession. There’s a physical science professor, Thomas Brennan at Ferris State University in Michigan, who went on a surprising rant. He raged about an elite Jewish conspiracy, that the coronavirus is caused by nanotechnology in cell phones, Covid19 is another jewish revolution, that the moon landings were fake, that atom bombs are fake, that the pandemic lockdown is a conspiracy by the Leftist new world over to take over, etc., etc., etc. He has since been placed on leave, although one has to wonder how long this guy was in place on campus, with the other faculty in his discipline looking on. They had to have known!

He was a full-on racist, anti-Semitic, far-right kook with an account on gab and ludicrously awful views about science.

But, you say, what about his side of the story? Maybe he’s got really good, rational arguments to support his views, and would be able to martial an excellent defense in a debate. I got news for you: Brennan wrote a formal letter explaining his position. It really doesn’t help him at all.

This controversy started after I made a few statements in a College of Arts and Sciences
meeting of faculty and staff about the Covid-19 pandemic. My statements were to the
effect that I believe the Covid-19 pandemic is a stunt designed to enslave
humanity and strip us of all of our rights and freedoms.
I don’t believe that the pandemic is a hoax, people have died. But its severity is being
exaggerated by revolutionary leftists in the media and government who ‘never let a good
crisis go to waste.’ The end result of this hysteria, if unchecked, will be a mandatory
vaccine. No one will be allowed into public places or permitted to buy food in a
supermarket unless they present proof-of-vaccination. Initially, this electronic vaccination
certificate will be tied to a person’s smartphone, but will soon after be in the form of
injectable micro or nanotechnology in the vaccine itself. If this comes about it will truly
be a fulfillment of the prophecy of the mark of the beast, as described by St. John the
Apostle in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13:16-17.

See? Perfectly rational. Bible prophecies are always solid evidence.

Let me address a few of these tweets, starting with the one where I used the ’n-word.’ I
believe the ’n-word’ is a mind-control spell designed to make us hate each
other. I am not racist against black people, I love and respect them. But I
reject the premise that there are certain magic words that should never be used in any
context or by certain people. I uttered the word to try to neutralize its power, and
its implied meaning in the context of the tweet was as a synonym for ‘human being,’ or
‘person,’ since I used it to describe people of different races. I deleted this tweet within a
few hours of typing it back in June 2019, way before I made the Covid-19 comment, so
someone must have screen-shotted it and been building a portfolio to use against me for
when the time came.

It’s all a conspiracy! They’re out to get me!

Ironically, my casual use of the ’n-word’ in that tweet isn’t the most controversial thing
about it. It’s that I’m calling out the huge scientific and historical frauds that I believe
have been perpetrated since the mid-twentieth century. There is real science, but there is
also fake science. Fake science is an instrument of oppression. I believe that Bill Nye,
Buzz Aldrin, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anthony Fauci are human beings of worth, as we
all are, but I believe they are telling some lies and are a part of a system of lies.

They’re all liars! It’s all fake science!

Besides using the ’n-word,’ a linguistic atom-bomb that I only used to get people’s
attention, I also said ‘Atom Bombs are Fake.’ The atom bomb has got to be one of
the most fear-inducing, oppressive ideas of all time, and ‘fear is the mind-killer.’ After rewatching the footage of atomic bomb tests from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, it appears to me
they are just films of explosions of large piles of TNT, made to look much bigger through
special effects. By filming an explosion at a high frame-rate and playing it back in slow motion, an impression of immensity can be achieved. Other special-effects techniques
such as ‘front projection,’ ‘forced perspective,’ and superimposed images also seem to
have been used in some of the footage. A combination of these techniques was used to
produce the surprisingly real-looking tornado scene in the 1939 film, the Wizard of Oz.
The best special effects were then, and are still, a military secret, and were only used
sparingly in fictional films of the time to define a false frame of what was real on film.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fire-bombed and flattened overnight with conventional
There is much more to the atom bomb deception, but let me move on. I also said: “the
Moon landings are fake.” The films of the Apollo moon landings were faked using
the same special effects bag of tricks that was used to fake the bomb. But the most
powerful argument for why I believe we did not land on the Moon is that the inner solar
system is a blast furnace, and the sun-lit surface of the Moon is over 700 F, not 250 F, as
NASA claims. That is why the Moon glows red during a lunar eclipse—not because of
refracted red light from the Earth’s atmosphere, as Bill Nye and Neil Tyson would have
you believe. The shadow of the Earth’s atmosphere is blue, not red.

He taught physics, let me remind you.

The entire world has fallen under the spell of a satanic, globalist elite. Their end-goal is a
technocratic, one-world government, where everyone, Jew and Gentile, will be
microchipped and tracked 24/7. They use the rhetoric of social-justice and cancel culture, not to bring about equality, but to smear and silence anyone who opposes them.
We will all be equally enslaved if they have their way. They use science, both fake and
real, as a weapon to control us and keep us in a constant state of fear. The fear-spell of
the atom bomb has worn off after all of these years, so they had to unleash a new one,
Covid-19. Lord have mercy on me and on us all.

His intentions are noble and pure, you see.

Don’t you worry about Professor Brennan. He may be about to be fired so hard he’s going to fly out of his socks, but he has a lucrative future ahead of him as a speaker at QAnon rallies and anti-vaxxer conferences, and he’ll probably be invited onto the Joe Rogan show any moment now.


  1. kome says

    Hard to imagine, with people like Tom inhabiting academia for years and years and years, that anyone can with a straight-face call universities bastions of liberalism.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Wow. Are you sure he is not originally British? They go excentric in “interesting” ways (yes, I know that sounds bad, but I am using the Brexit supporters as a baseline).
    It sounds like this guy would provide material for several consequtive episodes of Saturday Night Live.
    And after he is fired from his job he can always work in some far-right think thank.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    If Ed Brayton was still alive, he would provide the appropriate level of sarcasm. It is a difficult art form to do right when the insanity reaches tsunami level.

  4. mnb0 says

    “I am not racist against black people, I love and respect them.”
    Ring ring! I think the modern term is “signal words”.
    Anyhow, I don’t love and respect black people. I don’t love and respect white people either. I love and respect individuals; colour doesn’t matter (if I may neglect my prejudices for the moment – I do my best to get rid of them).
    Two questions.
    1. What does “physical science” mean?
    2. If it means what I think it means, how is it possible that Tommie is a psp, while ranting “atom boms are fake”, “the Higgs Bosons [sic] is fake”, “The Moon Landing is fake”?

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    He better not have tenure. Gee whiz
    He needs to be trashed like finding a carton of lumpy milk in the fridge.

  6. Joseph Kraus says

    I am pissed off that a physics professor doesn’t believe in atom bombs and fake moon landings. Ratemyprof should have been a signal. “ASTR120 😖 AWFUL Oct 8th, 2019 … Has several conspiracy theories that he will spend most or all of lecture talking about instead of the material that people have questions on. 30% of class failed his first exam.”

  7. Chaos Engineer says

    What part of the Wizard of Oz tornado scene does he find “suprisingly real-looking”? I saw through it at the 0:12 mark, where a chicken coop has supposedly been picked up by the tornado but the chickens’ feathers are undisturbed by the wind. There are some more subtle mistakes later on.

  8. wzrd1 says

    The surprisingly realistic tornado scene in “The Wizard of Oz” is only rivaled by the ultra realism of CGI imagery present in 1940’s life in general. Since, we’ve had to settle with only 64 bit emulations of 2 bit minds.
    Back when VLSI vacuum tube chips were still available to the public.

    Mind control chips! Suddenly, I have an urge for some falafel and swarma sandwiches. Pity the car’s broken down, now I’ll have to use the mind control network to pay someone across the river to pick up said food and deliver it from the shops that are mere blocks apart.
    Shouldn’t mind control already know and they’d already be at my door?

    Aw, screw it. I’ll just go with leftovers and get those tasty treats when in town for our next doctors appointments.

    His failure was at mind control. Everyone knows, for mind control to work, one must first must have a mind and it’s been well established ‘mericans don’t got no minds, they have muds.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    mnb0 @4:

    What does “physical science” mean?

    It means any non-organic science, so it would include meteorology, geology as well as physics and chemistry. However, the bloke did teach physics up to at least second year, which raises serious questions about the requirements at Ferris State.

  10. keithb says

    What part of the Atom Bomb is fake? The theory was so sound they did not bother to test Little Boy.
    What does he doubt?
    Nuclear Cross Sections?
    Critical Mass?

    This could be part of his creationism asserting that gravitational collapse fuels the sun and not fusion.

  11. PaulBC says

    But, you say, what about his side of the story? Maybe he’s got really good, rational arguments to support his views, and would be able to martial an excellent defense in a debate.

    That would not be my first guess.

    It still seems to demand some kind of explanation. Is it possible that he was rational and has more recently succumbed to mental illness? Alternatively, he was always a crank and bigot, but just hid it really well.

  12. says

    Welcome to the Jerry Springer Show and today we’re talking to people about conspiracy theories. This is Thomas, and Thomas which conspiracy theory are we discussing today?

    ALL OF THEM!!!

  13. raven says

    Let’s see the guy is anti-science but teaching science. He doesn’t believe in nuclear physics, astronomy, or viruses among other things.
    And oh yeah, he is a fundie xian. Which means he believes in Invisible Sky Monster gods, demons, angels, afterlives, and all the other mythology of fundie-ism.

    There is obviously something seriously wrong with his mind but I can’t think of any diagnosis that would fit. Crazy, kook, crackpot, and polykookery do fit but aren’t very explanatory.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    keithb @14: Does creationism also deny Rayleigh scattering and light refraction (which Brennan doesn’t seem to know about, given his explanation of the lunar eclipse)?

  15. petesh says

    “It’s not considered ‘anti-Italic’ to talk about an Italian mafia”

    Anti-cursive, maybe? I hear that gangsters often have filthy mouths.

  16. PaulBC says

    I think it’s funny for a physicist to be completely certain nuclear explosions were faked with TNT. I mean, there are enough cases of health problems and deaths due to radiation associated with early nuclear tests that you’d have to be faking an awful lot here to maintain plausibility.

    Also, he writes about the “atom bomb” as if he’s unaware of the hydrogen bomb and the fact that that it’s orders of magnitude more powerful (megatons vs. kilotons). Is this something that has faded from popular awareness since the end of the Cold War? (mental note: quiz my kids!) It is certainly shocking to see this kind of sloppy language from a physicist.

  17. raven says

    I did know someone like this once. She collected all the conspiracy theories and wove them into elaborate tapestries that were internally consistent. Was also paranoid and didn’t like doctors because they kept telling her she was crazy and trying to prescribe psychiatric drugs.

    She was severely schizophrenic with a marginal existence. Because of her erratic behavior without the ability to control it, she was routinely kicked out of rental housing.

  18. nomdeplume says

    Keep coming across university academics who are creationists, or climate change deniers, or Trump supporters, or Brexit believers, or neo-fascists – I guess they generally manage to compartmentalise the crazy side of the brain from the part that teaches say physics, or engineering, or geology. But this guy clearly doesn’t compartmentalise. He seems to be trying to set a record for how crazy you have to be before a university will fire you. On the other hand, as soon as they do, will the Right Wing immediately start to scream “cancel culture” and demand that universities accomodate right wing views like these?

  19. Larry says

    What kind of job interview system do you have running there, Ferris State? Either it is one of the most incompetent ones in history or Brennan ran the greatest scam ever.

  20. robert79 says

    If you need a linguistic atom-bomb to get people’s attention, perhaps this is because your ideas are not worth paying attention to on their own?

    Now please stop nuking the world because your ideas are so bad nobody will pay attention to them…

  21. raven says

    On the other hand, as soon as they do, will the Right Wing immediately start to scream “cancel culture” and demand that universities accomodate right wing views like these?

    There is a place for people like this.
    Or rather hundreds of them.
    NoLiberty University.
    Hillsdale college or any right wingnut colllege or university.
    Any fundie bible college which are everywhere.
    Fundie xian seminaries.
    The Heritage and Hoover right wingnut “think tanks” and others like it.
    Who knows, maybe he can be the science reporter for Fox NoNews, or Onenewsnow.

  22. microraptor says

    Is this guy a real professor, or just some guy who wandered onto campus while tripping on LSD and got mistaken for the new assistant professor by campus admins?

  23. raven says

    What kind of job interview system do you have running there, Ferris State?

    It could be that the people at Ferris State that hired him thought this guy was a liberal and soft on the UFO Shapeshifting Lizard People, but hated the right human groups enough to make up for it.

    I’d never heard of Ferris State and all I can say is, I could live my entire life without hearing about it and miss nothing important.

  24. says

    It’s also possible that in a pandemic they’re struggling to maintain staffing, and Brennan was a warm body with an appropriate degree.

  25. zippythepinhead says

    I would pay good money to see Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson hold this piece of garbage down while Buzz Aldrin beats the shit out of him.

  26. PaulBC says

    Understanding Sonoluminescence (Iop Concise Physics)

    Thomas Brennan is a professor of physics at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he’s taught physics and astronomy since 2014. He completed his PhD thesis on the topic of sonoluminescence in 2009 at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He also received a BA in Physics from the University of Chicago and an MS in Physics from UCLA. His research interests include both experimental and mathematical physics as well as astronomy.

    It seems like a normal enough background. It makes me wonder how cranks make it that far (or if it’s really a sudden decline in mental health).

  27. nifty says

    This looks like his thesis here:

    I think the “any warm body who will teach general physics for (probably) an absurdly low salary is the likely winner. (as suggested by PZ at 31.
    Note that a lot of the positive reviews on PMP were because people got out of lab early. In general, if you don’t make students work to hard you will always get a lot of positive reviews.

  28. nifty says

    Transferring to a different physics program between the MS and PhD is a tiny bit of a red flag. There can be good reasons for that, but it is not the normal trajectory in US programs. The normal route is passing your quals gets you the MS, then you finish your dissertation for the PhD. Maybe a falling out with thesis mentor or committee members?

  29. whheydt says

    He missed one of the best special effects efforts ever. In the George Pal War of the Worlds (1953), they couldn’t get any real A-bomb footage to use for the scene when the US military tries nuking the Martians.

    So they faked it on a sound stage and did so good a job that they got a visit from some people who wanted to know where they’d gotten their hands on classified movie footage.

    Go watch the movie. They did a really good job. In reality, the mushroom cloud was about 50 feet tall and most of the flying “debris” was confetti.

  30. PaulBC says

    nifty@38 Good catch. I would guess that IIT is a “step down” from UCLA though I don’t know for certain.

  31. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @19:

    If this is typical of his work (Alternative Discrete Energy Solutions to the Free Particle Dirac Equation), it’s the sort of thing you can carry out successfully without necessarily having a strong grip on empirical reality.

    I have no idea what you mean. Are you saying the Dirac equation is only tenuously linked to empirical reality? He didn’t carry out anything successfully, because the paper is crap.

  32. PaulBC says

    RobG@42 I have no way to evaluate the paper, so I’ll take your word for it. Are you claiming it’s impossible to carry out mathematical physics unless you can tie to to experimental evidence? That’s complete nonsense. The ability to derive the consequences of any mathematical formalism is independent of its relationship to reality.

    Are you saying the Dirac equation is only tenuously linked to empirical reality?

    No I wasn’t saying that. I can’t even imagine how you reached that conclusion except by assuming I believe this.

  33. PaulBC says

    RobG@42 For instance, while my mathematics ability isn’t really good enough for advanced physics, I can tell you a lot about what you could do with a non-deterministic pushdown automaton (see e.g. this wikipedia page) if you had one. In fact, you’d be able to parse context-free languages with it. I can pretty easily write a deterministic program that does this, albeit somewhat more slowly for certain grammars, using dynamic programming in lieu of non-determinism.

    The fact that I can do this has absolutely no bearing on the physical existence of such a machine (roughly one that can make lucky guesses and push and pop symbols from a stack). In fact, I doubt such a machine could be built literally, but it’s really not the point. I am totally capable of manipulating a formalism without addressing this question.

    I might hold the mistaken belief that such devices are “real.” I might hold the mistaken belief that they’re merely a computational fiction (in the IMO unlikely event that they can somehow literally exist). I might hold a belief that happens to be right, but in my inability to evaluate empirical evidence, simply have that belief by chance.

    All of the above holds for Dirac equations, though they happen to correspond to reality. I don’t see how this is even a controversial point.

  34. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @43: I didn’t assume anything. I was asking a question. Let me put it differently. If you can’t evaluate the paper, how do you know “it’s the sort of thing you can carry out successfully…etc”?

  35. PaulBC says

    Rob Grigjanis@45 You’re correct. I should not have leapt to conclusions.

    My point was: assuming his work is primarily theoretical, as this paper superficially appeared to me to be, that class of work can be carried out without connection to empirical evidence. This is certainly true of automata theory, as in @44.

    I may have misjudged his intent anyway, since he refers several times to the correspondence of his results with experiment. From the title alone, I thought he was presenting an alternative analysis, which should lead to the same results as any other, unless someone has made a mistake. So I admit I’m now confused about what he’s trying to do here.

  36. unclefrogy says

    amazing how some people can pick and chose which “facts” to trust as true and which to ignore as false.
    It’s as if everything is just jumbled up in their heads so they pick out what matches their emotional reaction to their life. such overwhelming unresolved anger. someone said that anger is a secondary emotion and I do not want to know anything more about this professor
    time seems to be jumbled up as well all because it is all fake because of cgi and special effects we can do now so they did it the past ?????
    uncle frogy

  37. ORigel says

    Will the coronavirus vaccine be on the right hand or forehead? If not, it cannot be the Mark of the Beast.

  38. ORigel says

    When light moves through longer coloms of air, short wavelength light gets scattered so red light makes it through to the other side of the atmosphere to reach the Moon.

  39. says

    Myers, and most of the commenters (with the sole exception that I noticed, of raven, #23) should be ashamed of themselves for ridiculing someone who clearly is severely mentally disturbed. This is an illness, folks.
    Any animus should be directed at the administrators at Ferris State, who should have recognized Brennan’s problems years ago and done something to help him or, failing that, to remove him. Unfortunately, most college and university administrators avoid dealing with problems.

  40. PaulBC says

    Bob Michaelson@51 I wasn’t ridiculing him, and I did suggest mental illness as a possible explanation. See @15.

    By the same token, I don’t think there’s enough information here to reach this conclusion. He may simply be wrong about a lot of things, in which case it is also unfair to dismiss it as “mental illness” instead of engaging him on his own terms. I am curious which it is.

    At the university where I got my PhD (computer science), there was a pure mathematics professor (he has since died) who was world class in his field. I never took a course with him, but he was highly regarded as a teacher. He also suffered from mental illness and required medication to keep it under control. I’m unsure of the details beyond this, but anyway, it definitely happens. There is also the famous case of John Nash.

  41. whheydt says

    Re: ORigel @ #49…
    It’s an attempt to insult them by asserting that he believes the individuals to be “racially inferior”. If you don’t–as I don’t–think that “races” are inferior or superior, then the insult doesn’t work, and it reduces more to commentary on how he thinks, than what he thinks. For some values of “think”, of course.

  42. PaulBC says

    whheydt@53 He refers to it as “a mind-control spell designed to make us hate each other” and later “a linguistic atom-bomb” suggesting that either he literally believes is has hypnotic effects or is simply saying that he is using it to get attention.

    I’m not sure you need to go any deeper than saying he is using it for shock value.

    (And again in reference to @51, there is so much of this kind of rhetoric coming from people who are not mentally ill, just very wrong, and very harmful, that I don’t think mental illness is the most likely conclusion, unless you have additional information about his behavior.)

  43. William George says

    Mark my words: This guy is going to take his degree and get himself a job teaching English at a university in East Asia within the next year. We got a bunch of guys and gals like him here. (You can probably figure out why on the first try.)

  44. prfesser says

    Sadly, today, university physical science is basic middle- or high-school science. Doesn’t matter that it’s taught at university, it’s baby-level “see lightning, hear thunder” science. I taught chemistry for 42 years, and a colleague referred to basic consumer chemistry as “chemistry for poets and football players.” Same thing.

    With his beliefs, he probably did not teach physics. He taught “physics for the incredibly gullible”.

  45. chesapeake says

    I agree with 51. Bob Michaelson that he is mentally ill. While racist and anti-Semitic, he is clearly delusional. Also raven’s ideas that
    “There is a place for people like this.
    Or rather hundreds of them.
    NoLiberty University.
    Hillsdale college or any right wingnut colllege or university.
    Any fundie bible college which are everywhere.
    Fundie xian seminaries.
    The Heritage and Hoover right wingnut “think tanks” and others like it.”
    Is just obviously wrong.
    These are not places where severely disturbed people should be. Also people who believe in God are not considered delusional by psychologists. The only thing that might help this guy would be anti-psychotic medication but he is unlikely to seek help.

  46. Akira MacKenzie says

    Here comes the armchair psychiatrist squad to diagnosis far-right bigotry as “mental illness.”

  47. vucodlak says

    @ Bob Michaelson, #51 and Chesapeake, #57
    You allege that Thomas Brennan is “severely mentally disturbed” and “psychotic.” Where is your evidence?

    I see evidence that he is paranoid, racist, and a conspiracy theorist. I see that he can form a reasonably coherent arguments in favor of his positions. Sure, the arguments are pure, leaded bullshit, but that’s not proof of mental illness. I see that he knows who he is, what his job is, and has been able to perform this mentally complex job to some minimal standard in order to keep drawing a paycheck.

    Most importantly, I see that he recognizes that he shouldn’t say some of the things he’s said, and is grasping for some defense in order to save his bacon. Since there’s no rational defense for that garbage behavior, he can only offer an irrational defense.

    I see nothing in his ranting nonsense that I haven’t encountered in perfectly functional people in my day to day life. Yes, he’s throwing out a lot of that crap, but I don’t see any proof offered in the OP that he’s anything but a colossal asshole who’s gotten high huffing his farts and stuffed his foot down his own throat.

    You claim Brennan is mentally ill? You better have some actual proof to back that up, because that pile of hot garbage in the OP ain’t it.

  48. quasar says

    The way this man communicates reminds me of what I’ve seen of the flat earth crowd. It seems like he doesn’t derive conclusions from evidence: instead, an overwhelming paranoia informs an absolute certainty that everything he’s ever been told is a lie, and he derives his beliefs from that certainty. It’s contrarianism as a worldview: whatever he’s told can’t be right because the evil masterminds who control the world Truman-style are hellbent on lying to him.

    I don’t think these people are even particularly religious. Religion provides a convenient answer for tricky questions like “but why tho?” (because “They” are trying to hide the proof of god), but it’s not the foundation or motivation behind their beliefs. That would be the paranoia.

  49. Nathan Mauk says

    I know many consider it inadvisable to suggest armchair psychiatric diagnoses, but I can’t help but be reminded of the sad later life of Lynn Throckmorton, the Drosophila geneticist.

  50. Ichthyic says

    Claiming this is a case of mental illness, is exactly the same defense mechanism people employ to claim all mass shooters MUST be suffering from some kind of mental illness.

    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

  51. Ichthyic says

    “It means any non-organic science, so it would include meteorology, geology as well as physics and chemistry. ”

    well, physical chemistry anyway. remember, there’s also organic and bio chemistry.

  52. imback says

    Re his red/blue confusion:
    The lunar eclipse is red precisely for the same reason the sky is blue, which is that the Earth’s atmosphere scatters the blue part of sunlight. Thus the sky seems blue to us, and during a lunar eclipse, the sunbeams passing through our atmosphere have had the blue spectrum scattered away and so the remaining light appears reddish when arriving on the moon.

  53. chrislawson says

    Can I call for some cooling down on the mental illness hypothesis here? Yes, we need an actual psychiatric assessment, not an armchair interpretation. On the other hand, for anyone who has any experience in mental health care, this fellow’s quotes raise a lot of red flags for psychosis or mania (how many rightwingers deny the existence of viruses and nuclear weapons?).

    We don’t yet know. It is premature to defend him on the basis of mental illness. It is also premature to categorically label him as a pure right-wing asshole.

    Please note that many people with severe mental illness still manage to perform elite scientific/mathematical work (famous examples include John Nash and Kurt Godel). Regardless of whether the problem is mental health or rightwing denialism, this much I agree with Bob Michaelson: Dr Ferris is clearly not capable of even basic-competent-level research or teaching and his employer has failed dismally in allowing him to keep going for years despite his unambiguous incapacity, and in so doing, choosing to harm students, colleagues, and the reputation of the institution.

  54. captainjack says

    Point #1. Many deeply delusional people are not psychotic, and function fairly well on matters not connected to their delusions.
    Point #2. I don’t know about Godel, but I doubt that Nash was capable of much work when he was deeply psychotic.
    Point #3. No competent mental health professional would make a judgement about someone’s mental health without a thorough examination and evaluation.
    Point #4: Amateur opinions about other people’s mental health aren’t worth regard.

  55. Owlmirror says

    Correct me if my reasoning is missing something, but isn’t it the case that during an eclipse, less sunlight is reaching the moon, so it should be cooling down, not heating up?

    And I wonder what his reasoning is for the moon not being red all the time, if the red is supposedly signifying heat?

  56. PaulBC says

    Another thought is that he’s bullshitting for attention or some other motive. He may be sane, hold certain beliefs I find repugnant, and yet not really be deluded enough to think “we did not land on the Moon [because] that the inner solar system is a blast furnace, and the sun-lit surface of the Moon is over 700 F, not 250 F, as NASA claims.” It’s just the sort of thing that gets people’s attention. He himself has explained that this is why he used the n-word.

  57. logicalcat says

    You talk with enough right wingers and you will see that they believe these things for a lot of ‘legit’ reasons not connected to mental illness. Some maybe mentally ill but its quite rare that that’s the reason, at least from my experience.

    Now what do I mean by ‘legit’, well I mean its something that’s understandable like…fear. That’s one reason, and its a real thing. The reason why they are afraid might not be reasonable but we all experience fear all the time. Theirs just not working well. There’s also another reason and its the fact that a lot of them feel better believing these things. They feel like they are onto something, discoverers of truths. Ideological loyalty is another reason. Disillusionment and deep distrust of establishment. Being a rebel also makes you feel good. And many more.

    I mean that’s a long enough paragraph for just one single word, gullible. Just saying that it don’t have to be mental illness. It could but I doubt it.

  58. jessem says

    As far as I remember, mental illness definitions or diagnostic criteria usually have some component of deviance form a “norm”. (e.g. Claiming religion is a mentall illness is only a rethorical point). This guy was semi-functioning in his job and his theories are the norm for large swathes of the internet. He probably gained status from it. He may or may not have some illness but there is absolutely no need for that hypothesis to explain his behavior.

  59. says

    @#59, vucodlak:

    In jurisdictions/time periods with the McNaughton rule, the acknowledgements which he made which you point out would automatically disqualify him from using insanity as a defense. Just saying.

    @#70, logicalcat:

    All religions are necessarily conspiracy theories. (I’d love to claim that revelation as my own, but it actually comes from Tom Holt.) Being raised in, or converting to, a religion is training to believe in conspiracy theories. We’ve had hundreds of years of claiming that religion is special and important and that we should ignore the evidence of our senses in favor of mindless mystical revelations of bronze- and iron-age blatherers to encourage people to go down that road. Is the current state of affairs any surprise?

  60. says

    Aw, look at the precious little snowflake @#72,73, and 74. Gets into a lather because somebody disagrees and has to shut down other people. Right-wingers are so fragile and weak, and always, always so incredibly scared of other people.

  61. vucodlak says

    @ chrislawson, #65
    Tell you what:
    Take some inseparable aspect of your person, preferably something you struggle with every day. Put a label on it. Now imagine that every other hateful, raging asshole that comes along gets slapped with that label by every clueless fuckwit who wants to pretend that the hateful, raging asshole is fundamentally a different creature from themselves, without any evidence beyond “well just look at them, they must be a [label]!”

    Now, imagine someone comes along and tells you to cool down, because the hateful, raging asshole might just be [label], a point that no one here is disputing. Would you feel like cooling down? Or would you have real hard time not erupting like a volcano made of pure molten profanity?

    Yes, Brennan could be mentally ill. However, that’s not relevant, because everything in the OP is something I’ve heard from people who aren’t saying it in the throes of mental illness. Therefore, it’s not diagnostically useful, and those claiming that it’s evidence that he must be mentally ill are full of shit.

    It’s true that being mentally ill doesn’t preclude someone from being a functioning member of society, but it also doesn’t automatically excuse someone who is being a bigoted turd-flinger. Being mentally ill certainly didn’t make me a flaming asshole- that took years of practice.

  62. says

    @67: That’s easy. The Moon is red hot all the time, but when not in eclipse the redness of the light generated by the Moon is overwhelmed by the whiteness of the reflected sunlight. Simples. :)

  63. says

    I think it’s time for the Red Letters of Death for sjwslayer. He’s literally making no argument, and his posts are about as original as plain oatmeal.

  64. raven says

    I think it’s time for the Red Letters of Death for sjwslayer. He’s literally making no argument, and his posts are about as original as plain oatmeal.

    I recognize the style.
    He is likely a certain Canadian from Montreal who has been in trouble with the law many times for erratic and aggressive online behavior. I won’t bother with a name because he has a habit of coming when called.

  65. DataWrangler says

    The third post is not in the style of the “Montrealer”, imo. I suspect that it’s someone else, since PZ has recently become active there again.

  66. whheydt says

    Re: prfesser @ #56…
    Back in my day, UC Berkeley had “non-major” courses in sciences for liberal arts majors, such as Physics 10. For those that couldn’t handle even that, there was “Contemporary Natural Science”, a lecture-demonstration course with one quarter each of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.

    The Chemistry Dept., notably, did not have a “Chem 10” course because the chairman of the department (George Pimentel) believed that (a) if you were going to take Chemistry, then–by God–you were going to be taught Chemistry, and (b) every Chem student was a potential Chem major.

    Oddly enough, the College of Engineering had an–almost unknown–equivalent course to CNS called “Contemporary Engineering” (Engineering 2). Engineering majors were strongly discouraged from taking it, even if just for fun.

    Speaking of “just for fun”, late in my time there, I took the elementary, “no math involved”, Astronomy course. The TA didn’t much appreciate my class participation, as I was probably the only person in the class that knew that stellar magnitudes had whole numbers that were in the ratio of the 5th root of 100. I was also probably the only person in the class who had ever had any sort of Calculus course, let alone two years of it.

    And–FYI–the English Dept.–didn’t have any “non-major” courses, either, and appeared to be quite puzzled why anyone would think such a thing would be desirable. (As a result of that attitude, when it cam time to a “pick a two-quarter sequence of humanities courses from the following list…”, I took one quarter of Physical Anthropology and one quarter of Archaeology. If you were an Engineering major, those were humanities course.

  67. PaulBC says

    whheydt@82 I went to Penn State for my BS (computer science) and the only thing I remember hearing about was “Rocks for Jocks” (something taught out of earth and mineral sciences that was popular for getting credits). There were probably other courses like that, though I don’t remember anymore.

    I think there has always been an asymmetry of expectations between STEM and non-STEM. An inability to write or speak in complete sentences is frowned upon socially, but there are clearly many “public intellectuals” with little grasp of math, empirical science, or the level of quantitative skills needed to run a successful produce stand.

    I’m not sure if that’s purely a social construct or if it’s intrinsic. Language ability is built into the brain. Some quantitative thinking is too, but most math has to be taught (to most people).

    Expressiveness can also be mistaken for sound thinking. It’s unclear what “English for non-English majors” would be except remedial writing, and there probably are courses like that. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much chemistry or physics is helps to know if you don’t plan to build on it. E.g., people should understand the concepts of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. Do they have to know how to prepare a buffer solution to maintain a certain pH? (which was actually one of the few things I did remember from AP chemistry my senior year of HS, which is probably the only reason I scored high enough to place out of that college requirement).

    I would like everyone to understand more science. I also think that reading comprehension and writing are probably more important though. (But innumerate pundits and politicians really do drive me up a wall!)

  68. whheydt says

    Re: PaulBC @ #83..
    The UC system also had a general requirement to either pass an English writing test, or to take–and pay for, repeatedly until passed–“Subject A”, which was officially “Grammar and Composition”. It was also known as “bone-head English”. Never heard of anyone actually needing work on grammar, so the course devolved to composition. I alternated weeks of going into the essay writing section with Things to Say and Oh Crap Let Me Get Something on Paper to Get Out of Here. I got better grades on the “Oh Crap” days than when I actually had something to say. Fortunately–for me–there was one more oh crap day that something to say day, so I passed the course…barely. You can see, I think, why I considered English 1A/1B completely out of the question for the humanities breadth requirement.

    What the English Dept. could have offered, to the benefit of many people as a non-major beginning course, would have been one on technical writing. But if they did, I never heard about it.

    That leads to an anecdote from when one of my sisters was there… She knew someone who was a German major and was required to take a course in technical German. She could translate the technical and scientific terms between English and German with no problem, but she didn’t know what they meant in English, let alone German.

    Much of these issues are the root of C. P. Snow’s The Two Cultures.

    What would, I think, do no harm, would be a reading course devoted to Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction. Sure, the science is now dated, but the overall tenor of the material would have those that rejected actual science courses.

  69. numerobis says

    raven@80: “in trouble with the law” apparently doesn’t mean very much given it took the law two years to find him… despite that he wasn’t hiding.

  70. PaulBC says


    What the English Dept. could have offered, to the benefit of many people as a non-major beginning course, would have been one on technical writing. But if they did, I never heard about it.

    Oh, Penn State had that (in the mid-80s). I completely forgot, and yes that’s a great example of an English department requirement for non-majors. I’m not sure it was really worthwhile, but in an “eat your veggies” way perhaps. It was taught by a student or adjunct. I still don’t like tech writing much at all. It takes all the fun out of both writing and tech.

    The real writing I had to do for grad school was writing mathematical proofs, and I am not sure where you’re supposed to learn that. It’s seems like you pick it up from your advisor and from peer review comments.

    I had an introductory film class that I still remember. Just a big lecture (they used an auditorium). We’d see a classic movie like The Graduate or His Girl Friday, learned about form cuts, or the fact that Citizen Kane was unusual in having sets with ceilings. We were graded on exams, which were probably multiple choice. I wonder if any actual film students would have taken such a cursory treatment. However, it was really worthwhile even if I just took it because I had to. (Also some other courses like Art History, and mythology (comparative lit) taught by a religious studies prof.)

  71. logicalcat says


    You are indeed very edgy, original, and not at all overcompensating for your fragile masculinity and lack of intelligence. Consider us slayed.

  72. PaulBC says

    Sorry, probably not an appropriate retort, but I just like hearing Spike say “Slayer” in my head. Is there an alt-right Watchers Council too? It all sounds so cool I could pee my pants right now.

  73. jenorafeuer says

    @whheydt, PaulBC:
    The University of Waterloo (Ontario) had similar things for Engineering students. There was one Philosophy course that was explicitly barred from the ‘non-technical electives’ list, and would not count towards the half-year requirement you had for non-technical courses. That course was PHIL 140. Course title: ‘Boolean Logic’.

    No prizes for guessing why that was barred. Anybody who couldn’t pass that course probably wouldn’t get far in an Engineering program anyway.

    Most of the ‘technical writing’ courses I’ve heard about have been at 2 year colleges rather than 4 year degree-granting Universities. Waterloo didn’t really have such a program, though given that in the co-op program (which all Engineering students were in) you had to write a report on your work terms that got graded, some basic level of technical writing was required, though not much. Here in Toronto, George Brown College actually has a technical writing program and grants a certificate in it.

    (There was a discussion while I was at Waterloo about whether or not to allow people to enter third year if they hadn’t passed their basic English Proficiency Test yet, which was your basic ‘write a coherent essay on this topic’ test. You had to have that in order to graduate, but there were people who had managed to take it six times and not yet pass it…)

  74. rblackadar says

    @78 …ok, I see your smiley, but seriously, what other answer could he have? (For his red-hot moon idea, that is.) And no doubt he has some twisty, handwavy explanation for why the earth is not also red hot. Solar wind, perhaps… plus magnetic field perhaps… all without any supporting calculations, I’d wager.

    I’m giving this way more attention than it deserves, but I can’t help thinking about all the ways that it fails, on so many levels. It fails the most cursory heat-balance analysis, but let’s for a minute forget that and ask, what does the evidence say? A totally eclipsed moon is red all the way across, so (assuming he’s right) the temperature must be roughly the same no matter where in the lunar day you happen to be. Also the color does not change appreciably during totality, i.e. apparently it takes much longer than an hour for the surface to cool below red heat, after the sun no longer is shining on it. This means that, for an uneclipsed moon, any shadows that are less than a few hours old (after lunar sunset) should still be red hot. And yet, if you look at a waning half-moon, there is no glowing red fringe at the terminator, and no glowing crater floors that have recently gone into shadow. There is no way such an effect could have been missed in over four centuries of careful lunar observation. I myself have observed the moon as shadows move across craters in real time, and the shadows are always very dark, with sharp edges.

    Did he take a spectrum of an eclipsed moon and compare it to a black body spectrum? Offhand, the color looks all wrong to me — too orange for its overall lack of brightness. (And nothing like 700 F, to cite his number.)

    And so on.