I actually considered going after Matt Powell again this week, because he has a “new” anti-evolution video out, but it was so godawful bad I couldn’t get up the energy. So instead, I thought everyone needs to know more about this ghastly woman, Jane Orient.
Script down below!
It’s been a frantic week here in my spider-haunted mansion, and I didn’t get half of what I wanted to do done. I’m late getting my evo-devo series launched — the first episode is written but not recorded — and while I did get all my grading done and grades submitted, I’ve been suffering some extreme burnout. I took a day off to just take naps. Then I took another day off to play a bit of No Man’s Sky, which is my kind of game. Massive cosmic loneliness and a continuous struggle to survive in inimical environments, yeah, that’s my jam.
Anyway, I took a moment from working on some good science to see what’s up in the disgusting world of bad science. What did I find? Well, Matt Powell has posted a new one-hour YouTube “MOVIE”, so I took a look at that.
[clip of Powell reciting the volume of water in the ocean]
[stare in disbelief]
It looks like the Ray Comfort school of science denialism: find an admitted non-scientist, grill them on science questions, and then take their failure to answer to be evidence that evolution fails. Then toss in a stock video of people in lab coats with flasks of coloured water.
OK, never mind. The volume of stupid in a Matt Powell video is the equivalent of 326 million trillion gallons of water compressed in a tiny pinpoint of a brain, and I just can’t deal with it, especially since that boy is nothing but a hateful pipsqueak of a bigot with a teeny tiny congregation of sadly deluded fools. Maybe later, when some rich powerful billionaire elevates him to spokesperson for a wealthy and well-funded phony organisation to promote his nonsense. It could happen. Powell probably dreams of it happening.
So instead I thought I’d say a bit about my disillusionment with the American Dream, as personified by one horrible example, Dr Jane Orient.
Jane Orient has published in The New American, the house organ for the John Birch Society. Jesus. I had family members who pushed John Birch Society BS in the 60s and 70s, and even as a kid I could tell that was a loony group of hateful eccentrics.
She’s a member of the Foundation for Economic Education, a Libertarian think-tank with connections to the Koch Brothers, that promotes home-schooling and anthropogenic climate change denial.
She’s a “faculty” member of the Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine, that very fringey “research institute” best known for circulating the Oregon Petition, which claimed that climate change is a myth.
She’s the executive director of the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, an organisation for ultra-far-right conservative doctors. Hoo boy, we’re hitting the kook motherlode here. This is a group that preaches HIV/AIDS denialism, is pro tobacco and anti-vaccination, thinks vaccines cause autism and abortions cause breast cancer, is anti-immigration, wants to end Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and is vocally against masks to prevent the spread of disease. Oh, and they’ve published articles claiming that evolution is a conspiracy to kick God out of the schools. Name a terribly stupid fringe belief, and they’ve probably promoted it. The one exception might be flat earth stuff, which just goes to show that flat eartherism is really the bottom of the barrel in the long catalog of nonsense out there.
She’s the President of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. That doesn’t sound so bad. Like Doctors Without Borders, for instance? Nope. The DDP share’s the same address with the AAPS, and seems to be another front for Jane Orient. It started as a Cold War organisation to supposedly deal with the potential catastrophe of nuclear war, but now it’s the same thing as the AAPS: HIV/AIDS denialism, anti-vaccination, anti-climate change, etc., etc., etc.
She’s a fellow of the Heartland Institute, another organisation that was pro-tobacco, loudly denying climate change, funded by billionaires and industry, etc., etc., etc. Predictably.
She’s a complete kook. She’s the kind of person who ought to be spending her days watching Fox News, only emerging now and then to yell at kids to get off her lawn, but instead she’s got these titles (mostly made up, for her collection of right-wing think-tanks), and gets invited to television interviews and congressional hearings. She’s got an undeserved prominence and she’s using it to push bad ideas and bad science.
So, for instance, she was invited to testify to congress by Ron Johnson — you may know him as the “delusional scum” from Wisconsin — about hydroxychloroquine. She’s for it. This is absolutely nuts. She has no credibility on this topic, or much anything for that matter, and I have to echo Dr David Gorski’s opinion of her, on the blog Respectful Insolence.
But what about Dr. Jane Orient herself? She’s featured on this blog on a number of occasions, such as when during the 2016 election cycle she promoted the myth being spread at the time by a number of pro-Trump sources that Hillary Clinton had Parkinson’s disease and peddled antivaccine conspiracy theories around Zika virus. She’s also on record as denying the very concept of a scientific consensus about anything. Since the pandemic hit, she and AAPS have hopped aboard the COVID-19 denying quackery grift train, with Dr. Orient denying that masks work to slow the spread of the disease while embracing unproven Trump-promoted “cures” like hydroxychloroquine and seeking to blame the rapid spread of COVID-19 on illegal immigrants. (Unsurprisingly, Dr. Orient is very much pro-Trump.)
[clip of Orient touting hydroxycholoroquine]
So she got up in front of congress to testify that we should be using more hydroxychloroquine. In December of 2020. It was horrific when Donald Trump first promoted it without good evidence backing it, and it’s worse to do so now. To support her view, she has to dismiss randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Anecdotes in a pub were good enough for the smallpox vaccine, they ought to be good enough for us.
[clip of Orient claiming vaccination was an anecdote]
That’s just bizarre. She usually claims that vaccines are dangerous — they cause autism, don’t you know — but she’s comparing them to hydroxychloroquine, which has known serious side effects, to encourage the use of a drug in the absence of an RCT. Further, she’s dishonest : the preliminary observation may have been anecdotal, but the smallpox vaccine had to be tested, and that takes careful work.
But wait, that’s not all of Orient’s bogosity. I forget to mention that she’s also strongly anti-choice. In another interview, she makes some disingenuous arguments against planned parenthood and anti-abortion rights. There is some amazing logical somersaults going on here.
[clip of Orient asking “hard questions” about abortion]
You realise what she’s arguing for are criminal penalties against women who get abortions, right? The Left apparently does not believe women are morally responsible adults if we don’t punish them severely for getting an abortion; the Right, I guess, are assuming women are morally responsible adults by denying them the right to control their own bodies.It’s an inside-out world that Orient occupies, and she has to twist everything that much in order to justify an authoritarian control over women.
This is the big difference between Powell and Orient. They both hold utterly loony ideas; they’re both irrational and fundamentally anti-science; but Orient has managed to manipulate the system and get big corporate backing, and acquire some unfortunate political clout.
This is what I mean by disillusionment. I was brought up with the American myth of a meritocracy, where all it took is hard work and you would be rewarded appropriately, that capitalism was the best way to let the best people rise to the top. It isn’t. Look at Jane Orient: someone that incompetent, that selfish, that authoritarian has defrauded her way into leadership positions, funded by stupid billionaires, where she can mislead more people.
I look at Jane Orient and see a symbol of the failure of the whole system, and the ubiquity of corruption and incompetence at all levels of society. Matt Powell is going to have to work hard to catch up.
Now I’m depressed. I’ll console myself with the names of my 193 supporters on Patreon. You can be one, too! For as little as a dollar a month you can support me in my work, and you’ll get your name posted at the end of all of my videos, too.
If you can’t do that, that’s fine — just click on the subscribe button down below. I’m only 10 away from 8,000 subscribers, which is amazing. I don’t mind at all if you just want to hate watch me, either. I am trying to grow the channel, and you can contribute that easily.
Meanwhile, enjoy the first snowfall of December, thin as it is.