“Scheming service” (Pseudo archeology)

I’m looking forward to the release this summer of a Netflix series featuring Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of my beloved Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. I’m less enthusiastic about the streaming service’s offering of Ancient Apocalypse, whose main contention is that human civilization is much older than what most historians and archaeologists contend.

According to host Graham Hancock, around 12,000 years ago a cataclysm wrought havoc on an advanced Ice Age civilization.
Survivors dispersed throughout Earth, introducing primitive populations to agriculture, architecture, legal systems, astronomy, and other advances. While such claims have long been made by ancient astronaut aficionados, Hancock posits a slightly less ridiculous narrative centering on Atlantis.

However, there are already scientifically-grounded explanations for these societal development and there is no need to bring lost continent refugees into the equation. Hancock claims the explosion in knowledge was too much to be practical, citing Göbekli Tepe as one example. Yet Damian Fernandez-Beanato writes in Skeptical Inquirer that archaeological records for the Fertile Crescent, home of Göbekli Tepe, show gradual development: “Archaeologists found that pre-Neolithic people, increasingly sedentary and starting to cultivate plants more and more, led to sedentary and farming people in the Neolithic. There are known precursor cultures.”

Fernandez-Beanato further points out that the megalithic structures at Göbekli Tepe were constructed many thousands of years before the invention of the wheel, the domestication of the horse, and the advent of writing – developments conspicuously absent for a society supposedly advancing at lightning speed.

Hancock sometimes plays the Galileo Gambit, dismissing archeologists as stuck in their stodgy ways and as hostile to new evidence or ideas. But as Fernandez-Beanato notes, solid proof for
Hancock’s hypothesis would show that modern knowledge or capabilities immediately preceded the Neolithic transition. That ancient peoples had impressive accomplishments consistent with the resources and abilities available works against Hancock’s proposal.

Further, Ancient Apocalypse mistakenly casts the established scientific position on the advent of farming as occurring after the end of the Last Glacial Period. This dismisses recent findings that pushes back the origins of the Neolithic transition. Another falsehood is the assertion that Antarctica appears on maps drawn before it was discovered. What those maps actually show is the Terra Australis, a hypothetical continent thought at the time to exist.

Pseudoscientists play the Galileo Gambit when they are dismissed by experts in the field. Hancock speaks of “official” archeology, which is not a thing. It merely serves to set him up as a brave interloper daring the question enforced orthodoxy.

Further, pseudoscience frequently relies anecdotes over data. Fernandez-Beanato writes, “When analyzing the so-called Bimini Road with other team members (a biologist and a wreck searcher, no geologist or archaeologist in sight), Hancock and the biologist mention that they have never personally seen beach rock fractured that way, as if that were anything to go by in science.”

Other evidence-free claims such as humans existing in the Americas 130,000 years ago are presented as fact rather than wild speculation.

There is plenty of genuine archeology out there, online and in libraries, and I would suggest seeking out that instead. Or at least check out the Mahomes documentary rather than Ancient Apocalypse.

“Stucked” (Katy Perry eye)

I have seen many a conspiracy theory in my skeptic days but recently experienced the first to involve pop singer peepers.

Katy Perry had trouble getting her right eye open during a Las Vegas concert and this mildly amusing but otherwise blah event was transformed into something much more sinister.

“She got that Pfizer eye,” Tweeted twin twits, the Hodges. They offered zero evidence of why there would be a connection between the shot and Perry’s half-asleep appearance. How this would have impacted one of 100 million vaccinated individuals was likewise never addressed.

That’s because this came a conspiracy theory crowd that usually checks these marks, listed by retired obstetrician Amy Tuter: 1. Requires accepting claims from preferred sources; 2. Ignores or even ridicules competing claims; 3. Has a low-threshold for evidence, such as favoring YouTube videos and memes over in-depth study, interviewing subject matter experts, and peer review; 4. Finds comfort in being victimized or in claiming to expose a secret being hidden by an undefined “they.”

While sympathetic to the notion of blaming vaccines, an imaginative Facebook poster calling himself Lance Zakrzewski went further, tying the not-very-evil eye to the Illuminati, devil worshippers, and cloning. He failed to consider the notion of it being due to excessive eye lash or glue, which was my initial thought.

In the viral video that Zakrzewki considers a combined effort by Luciferian legions, mad scientists, and deep state power brokers, the pop princess remains unable to open her right eye. After a few seconds, she presses her finger against her temple in an effort to keep it from drooping. Other than these five seconds, her eye operates normally during the rest of the convert.

While not addressing this idea specifically, Perry had previously talked about the condition which manifested at the show. Last year she told an American Idol contestant, “I have a wonk eye as well, and I used to be worried about it. Then a bunch of my fans created a fandom over my wonk-eye. I even have a fandom that calls itself, ‘Katy’s wonk-eye.’”

And six years ago, Perry Tweeted a photo of herself going through wonk eye episode. Anyone genuinely curious about what happened would be satisfied with this medical explanation, made by the patient. But genuine curiosity is not what defines conspiracy theorists, for whom questions are thinly-veiled accusations. I had suspected it was excess eye lash, and had thus been our pop culture’s second most well-known wardrobe malfunction. Now I know that was not the answer, and I accept this because I was interested in the truth, not in further solidifying an entrenched position.

“Taking a charge”(Electric car myths)

Electric vehicle detractors make a number of claims which have a grain of truth and others which lack even this single morsel.

For example, they have pointed out that there is not enough infrastructure to support an explosion in electrical vehicle usage. It is true that if today, magically, the number of such means of conveyance tripled, there would be an insufficient support network. However, when the internal combustion engine was a novelty, there were no auto mechanics, gasoline stations, or AAA. The market adapted and evolved, as would be the case if the number of electric vehicles mushroomed.

The disdain for EVs is comparable to that for veganism. The mythological protestor chiming in with “Meat is Murder” on a beef page is nowhere to be seen. Yet when one posts an animal-free recipe, the majority of replies feature anger, derision, and revulsion. In the same vein, a post about a traditional vehicle will likely merit no negative comments or at least none that condemns the industry in totality. By sharp contrast, information about EVs is met with hostility, mocking, and perhaps even a declaration that they are a plot to conquer and control the population.

One of the least venomous arguments is that they are too expensive. And while EVs do cost more on average than their gasoline counterparts, the price has been steadily declining as they become more common. More importantly, as Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning points out, there is more than retail price at play. When one considers resale, maintenance, fuel costs, and depreciation, EVs come out ahead. Imagine 10 years of no trips to the gas pump and no oil changes, all while having fewer components that can break down, and one can see the long-term benefit.

Next, let’s tackle the notion that charging can take untold hours. Compared to the two minutes it takes to complete a gasoline refueling, this seems like a lot of wasted time. But Dunning noted that most users only charge as much they need to get to their next destination so most don’t spend three hours waiting around for the charge to complete. Dunning reported that he spent a month on an 8,000-mile drive (aided by Tesla’s autopilot), where he averaged about 10 minutes per recharge. While that’s a little longer than one spends pumping gasoline, if you throw in a restroom break and a Snickers purchase that are common on cross-country journeys, it’s the same amount of time. Moreover, an EV can be powered at home, which is where about 75 percent of recharging takes place. There is no gasoline refueling equivalent in most people’s driveway.

Another expense-related criticism is that the batteries need frequent replacement at $40,000 a pop. This is a total myth. Dunning wrote, “EV batteries last just as long as, and are far more reliable than, car engines. You’re no more likely to need to replace an EV battery than you are your V8. And even if you did, federal law in the United States requires EV batteries to be warrantied for eight years or 100,000 miles.”

Moving onto the more fear-based complaints, there is the notion that an EV driver is in a bad way if the battery dies. This is sometimes extrapolated to a dystopian scene where all cars are electric and the duped drivers all remain stuck in a blizzard or backed up traffic, resulting in all the cars transforming into a makeshift coffin. While being stranded is undesirable, poor decision making by a single EV driver is no more a condemnation of the entire concept than a motorist running out of gas is an indictment of the entire oil industry. Dunning wrote that he once was unable to recharge because the power in town went out. Stupid him, right? Well, only if one applies the same distinction to the hundreds of traditional vehicle drivers who were also unable to refuel due to the electrical outage. As to everyone being stuck to die together, this is based partly on the myth that the batteries don’t hold a charge for very long. This is untrue, and would be especially so if the car were idling.

Detractors raise concerns about environmental and humanitarian disasters – isolated concerns from a segment not usually worried about such things. Those who consider the damage that climate change does to Earth and its inhabitants to be mythological now fret over the harm caused by lithium mining. However, we need to do more than to appeal to hypocrisy. We need to look at whether this is a valid worry.

Dunning writes, “Lithium…is more an issue of supply and demand and cost. It creates ugly open-pit mines but is not particularly dirty or destructive. Most lithium mining is in Australia, which complies very well with environmental regulations.”

But that still leaves cobalt, which traditionally has had the worst humanitarian impact. Much of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and mining there has often been done in deplorable conditions, sometimes by children.

This is of utmost concern, but Dunning noted that international pressure and increasing demand has tempered the problem. “The picture has changed dramatically,” he wrote. “Demand has surged to the point where child laborers can no longer meet it. About half of Congolese cobalt mines are owned by well-financed Chinese companies, and the vast majority of Congolese cobalt is now produced in mechanized open-pit mines with heavy equipment and not a child laborer in sight.”

This is not to suggest all is well. According to Dunning, there are still 40,000 Congolese children, and it is therefore necessary is to continue to monitor the companies producing cobalt and to snuff out their use of child labor.

As to EVs impact on planet health, when considering the entire production and use cycle, the average electric car generates half as much greenhouse gas as the average internal combustion vehicle.

Finally, there is the myth that the grid is insufficient to support a significant uptick in EVs. In truth, EVs make a modest impact on the grid. An entire electric fleet would add about 10 percent to overall demand. And since any increase would be gradual, proper planning and management could alleviate any trouble.

“Emission magician” (Climate change denial)

Conspiracy theories sometimes do exist, just usually not in the way their opponents envision. Consider how executives in the fossil fuel industry have banded together with public relations firms to deny anthropogenic climate change.

Dr. Steven Novella cited a Harvard study which concluded that ExxonMobil “misled the public about basic climate science and its implications. It did so by contributing quietly to climate science, and loudly to promoting doubt about that science.”

Also, the BBC reported on a trio public relations specialists- Don Rheem, Terry Yosie, and Bruce Harrison – who were hired to sow doubt on climate science. They worked for the Global Climate Coalition, an organization intended to sound environmentally friendly and dedicated to solutions, when it was anything but. They were, in fact, comprised of oil, coal, automotive, utilities, steel, and rail executives. All of these industries release significant greenhouse gas. The group rose to prominence after the 1992 presidential election, which saw an oil industry buddy was replaced by an environmentally-conscious one.

Thus began the climate hoax hoax. Harrison employed the methods and strategies he had while resisting auto industry regulations and questioning the dangers of tobacco. His tactics included authoring a string of editorials, background pieces for journalists, and advertising, all of which cast doubt on the consensus of climate scientists.

The tactic worked, as few journalists know much about the hellaciously complex topic. Further, the scientists handpicked for this ruse seemed to present knowledge and balance. I was a print journalist at this time and certainly I would have quoted both sides and lacked the expertise to ask serious questions or throw doubt on any claims.

As to the climate scientists who knew better, what they had in scientific expertise they lacked in media skills and knowledge of how to fend off well-funded disinformation campaigns.

Novella wrote, “Journalists need to learn how to report science in general, controversial science in particular, and how not to become the lap dogs of industry propaganda.” Meanwhile, he continued, those they are reporting on – scientists and professors – should “develop their knowledge and skills in dealing with the public understand of science and other complex topics, and to make it a much higher academic priority.”

Novella and others such as Kevin Folta, Neil Tyson, and Brian Dunning, serve as a mix of skeptics/scientists and journalists, so their contribution help, but more headway is still needed in making more journalists science-literate and more scientists media savvy.

“Claim to flame” (Food factory fires)

This month’s moral panic centers on a supposed swarm of arsons targeting food processing plants. This, even though the National Fire Protection Association has stated that the blazes are not occurring at an unusual rate, nor do they seem to have been intentionally set.

For believers, the reasons such blazes have been roaring are that President Biden is trying to distract from his failures or that a malevolent shadowy group is disrupting the food supply. The usual target here is Bill Gates, who is the descendant of the Rothschild-Bohemian Grove-Illuminati-Free Mason line of catch-all villainy.

While it might be scary to think that the food supply is being intentionally interrupted, or at least exciting and ego-stroking to think that you are exposing it, the numbers point to far more mundane matters.

Saranac Hale Spencer of FactCheck interviewed NFPA spokeswoman Susan McKelvey, who told her that the roughly 20 fires in U.S. food processing facilities this year “is not extreme at all and does not signal anything out of the ordinary. The recent inquiries around these fires appears to be a case of people suddenly paying attention to them and being surprised about how often they do occur.”

Still, the crowd which mocks COVID concerns since the virus has a 99 percent survival rate are much more antsy about the food processing fires, which have taken place in .0005 percent of such facilities nationwide. And this microscopic number is typical of most years.

Both fires and food processing plants are more common than most people might think and if adding a bit on conspiracy theory-think to the equation, one can end up concluding that something sinister has to be going one when there is a fire hitting such a target every week on average.

For example, Headline USA told of FBI warnings about a series of suspicious fires. However, the associated article referenced ransomware attacks, not flames. Moving from the mistaken connection to the just plain loony, Arizona state senator/nutcase Wendy Rogers insists that Gates is behind it – even though there’s nothing to be behind.

Along those lines, there are accurate reports that Gates has plenty of farmland – in fact, he is the country’s largest owner of such property. But the follow-on assumption that he is plotting to control the US food supply is unable to bear the weight of the facts. His 242,000 acres owned represents .0003 of the county’s agrarian space. So .0003 percent of the farmland and blazes at .0005 percent of food processing facilities are neither literally or figuratively alarming.

“Cancer culture” (Diseased mummies)

One myth prevalent among alternative medicine enthusiasts is that cancer only came along relatively recently. The insinuation is that the disease is caused by contemporary perniciousness like processed foods, modern lifestyles, and agriculture developments.

Some proponents of this hypothesis cite a publication by anthropologists A.R. David and M.R. Zimmerman. But prolific skeptic blogger Orac notes that theirs is an opinion piece, not a scholarly scientific study.

The duo claimed there was only one case of cancer found among hundreds of mummies, so this shows that, if not nonexistent, cancer was at least much rarer a few thousand years ago. Orac counters that the average Ancient Egyptian lifespan lasted barely a quarter-century, which is one-third of what modern Westerners enjoy.

Cancer, being a disease that primarily afflicts the elderly, would be just as infrequent among 25-year-old Chicagoans today as it was among those who watched the Pyramids being built. Further, mummies were limited to the elite class and thus did not represent a broad cross-section of Egyptian society. Moreover, Orac wrote that mummification includes removal of the organs, which is where most cancer incidents arise. Beyond all this, there are ancient writings that allude to cancer and its treatments.

Cancer has always been with humans because it results from genetics, random mutation, viruses, obesity, and non-environmental factors. There are some modern developments that might make cancer more likely in specific instances, but that is far different than it being entirely a new phenomenon.

Still, professor Rosalie David asserts that, “In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer.”

Yet, as Orac points out, the natural environment includes radon, UV light, aflatoxin, HPV, and hepatitis B, all of which can lead to cancer.

But the biggest factor is aging. As humans grow older, their bodies are more subject to genetic error, as well as having more time to come into contact with carcinogens. About three in four cancer cases occur in those 60 and over. If we were looking at only those 25 and under, the incidents of cancer would be as rare as they were among Ancient Egyptians.

That’s not so say modern lifestyles can’t play a role in one getting cancer. Being sedentary, smoking, and obese can all play a role. But King Tut lighting up, lying around, and pigging out would have left him just as vulnerable.

“Branch Floridians” (DeSantis deaths)

Florida governor and national embarrassment Ron DeSantis hosted a parade of lies and misinformation masquerading as a COVID roundtable. Only doctors selected by DeSantis were allowed to attend. While “roundtable” connotes an open exchange of views, this panel featured doublespeak and allowed no deviation from the script.

The farce was dubbed “Closing the Curtain COVID Theater.” Theater is a rather innocuous term to describe the spread of an airborne virus that has killed 5 million people – a number that would be markedly lower if everyone had taken known preventive measures.

Skeptic leader Dr. David Gorski reviewed the heavily-orchestrated spectacle, which was led by DeSantis and his henchman, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. Though an appointed position, surgeon general is one government role that should always be apolitical and should certainly not promote the anti-health, anti-science positions favored by the head of state government.

But that’s what Ladapo has done, even going so far as using the forum to announce that Florida advises against vaccinating minors against COVID-19, a virus that has killed more than 1,000 American children. Some of you Kindergartners may die but that’s a risk Ladapo is willing to take. DeSantis chimed in with, “We are not just going to follow the CDC in the state of Florida. … We’re going to do our own stuff.” Ain’t no science gonna tell him what to do. And while he has sometimes advertised himself as a champion for choice, his actions bely that claim. Witness his childish berating of mask-wearing high schoolers as an example.

One phrase heard throughout the roundtable was “Urgency of Normal,” a euphemism for abandoning all coronavirus mitigation measures. No masks, no vaccines, no social distancing, no remote learning. Makes you wonder what their stance on hand-washing is. Orwellian claims that lockdowns are more dangerous than the virus were trumpeted and panelists insisted the nation should let COVID spread unchecked in order to pave the way for herd immunity. As to the immunocompromised and elderly, screw them, DeSantis needs to get a haircut.

Gorski noted this mindset’s similarity to a Brady Bunch episode favored by anti-vaxxers since it treats measles as no big deal – an annoying but harmless rite of passage. Yet Gorksi noted that before the vaccine, 48,000 people a year were hospitalized for the measles, 4,000 of those developed encephalitis, and about 450 patients died. Gorsksi argued that treating pre-vaccine measles or COVID as minor issues – since most who contract them survive – is akin to eugenics.

Gorski wrote, “Our response to COVID-19 uses the familiar blueprint of eugenics, with predictable consequences for the captive and vulnerable, who are pushed to the side, ignored, or sacrificed for the ‘greater good.’ This devalues the lives of those who are less than perfect, less than healthy, by in essence telling everyone who is healthy that they don’t have to worry and shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice anything to protect who are less than healthy and at high risk.” To be sure, the “pro-life” crowd has been anything but on this one.

“Conspiracy weary” (Errors in conspiracy theory thought)

Traditionally, conspiracy theories have centered on defining events like Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and the Kennedy assassination. With the latter, there are a multitude of theories choose from. This is not because of evidence, but due to the emotional impact of a president in the prime of his life and his political career being gunned down in public beside his glamorous wife.

By contrast, the unsuccessful Reagan assassination attempt is seldom thought to have involved anyone other than John Hinckley, though a few isolated theorists have tried to make a hay of the fact that the shooter’s brother, Scott, was scheduled to have dinner with Neil Bush the following day. And if there are any conspiracy theories about the Ford assassination attempts, in which the target wasn’t even hit, I’ve never heard them.

Similarly, one could spend 10 hours a day watching 9/11 conspiracy theory videos and a year later still not run out of viewing material. But one might need just a day to check out all the conspiracy theory videos centering on the 1993 WTC bombing that killed .002 percent as many people.

The Sept. 11 attacks, by the way, did require a conspiracy, though not the type that Truthers have in mind. More than one person was involved in doing something nefarious, so it qualifies as a conspiracy. After the tragedy, 90 percent of the country came together, at least for a few days. Meanwhile, the other 10 percent wondered, “How can I make this massive loss of human life about me?” Thus began the Truther Movement.

One member of the movement responded to my blog post about conspiracy theories by asserting that Al-Qaeda was not involved. I asked him who he thought flew the airplanes and he replied that they were controlled remotely. As you might imagine, he supported this with zero evidence, besides failing to even answer my question, since remote control requires a controller. He also had to ignore or dismiss accounts from passengers describing Middle Eastern men with knives, the voice of one of the hijackers from the cockpit, security footage of the perpetrators boarding the planes, and the totality of the 9/11 report.

He is a typical conspiracy theorist, meaning he is more interested in painting himself as brave warrior battling brainwashed sheep and the establishment than he is in getting to the truth. As this Vice article showed, conspiracy theorists are mostly driven by a need to feel elite, not by a love of the facts. The article outlines how a bogus conspiracy theory was presented to those who considered themselves conspiracy theorists. Half of the group were told that 81 percent of the population believed in the conspiracy, the other half were told that 19 percent believed in it. Overwhelmingly, the theorists embraced the theory if they thought it was a minority opinion and rejected it if was said to be believed by the majority.

While I wrote earlier that conspiracy theories have traditionally sprouted from signature moments, the Internet has changed that somewhat and, depending on the believer, theories these days can center on almost anything.

So you may encounter them at any point and, if you choose to engage the remote control aircraft aficionado or other theorists, here are some points that will likely bolster your case. These were outlined in an essay by skeptic leader Emil Karlsson.

First, realize that in most alleged conspiracy theories, the number of people that would need to be involved is way more than could quiet about it, especially for decades. Every one of them would need to harbor this secret and never reveal it by accident, misspeak, guilt, drunkenness, blackmail, braggadocio, deathbed confession, or in order to sign a lucrative book deal. Thousands of persons would had to have been in on a phony moon landing, yet none of them have come forward.

Genuine conspiracies, such as Watergate, the NSA scandal, and what Bill Clinton’s definition of is is, were exposed by investigative journalists or insiders, not by WAKETHESHEEPLE’S YouTube channel.

On a related note, consider the overwhelming evidence for the genuine theories compared to the scant tidbits that point to hidden cancer cures, advance knowledge of the Pearl Harbor bombing, and the Las Vegas hotel shooting.

Let’s look at two conspiracy theories involving presidential assassinations. Abraham Lincoln was one of multiple targets that night and the killing involved multiple agents who were identified, tried, and executed. This was done in the open, with evidence presented in court. Meanwhile, despite the smorgasbord of options centering on who killed JFK – the KGB, CIA, LBJ, the mafia, labor leaders, hell, maybe even Martians – there has yet to be, nearly 60 years and countless investigations later, one piece of incontrovertible evidence pointing to these ideas.

As to the scandal that took down another president a decade later, Karlsson wrote that the Watergate affair “had burglars being arrested, a money trail that could be followed and mapped, confessions and several rounds of incriminating audio tapes.” Likewise, there is overwhelming evidence and mounds of documentation regarding the NSA scandal, the IB affair, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

By contrast, the idea of mass shootings being hoaxes is built on evidence so miniscule it would be comical were the assertions not so offensive. For example, during a press conference about a California shooting, a detective talked about the importance of training for such events. Instead of saying “which played out here today,” he misspoke and said, “which we played out here today.” A couple of seconds later, his cohort rubbed his palm on his forehead. This was presented in conspiracy theory circles as the spokesman inadvertently admitting it was faked and his co-worker burying his head in mortified disbelief that the secret was out. This “evidence” pales mightily compared to the thousands of Snowden documents.

As Karlsson noted, “Most conspiracy theories have little to no actual evidence. They are often based on quoting scientists out of context, misunderstanding basic physics of building constructions, jumping on obvious cases of interview miscommunication or similar. It is really based on alleged ‘evidence’ that is not worth much at all.”

We move now to the issue of inconsistent capabilities. This is when theorists paint perpetrators as extraordinarily skilled, organized, powerful, and able to seamlessly pull off highly-complex operations – yet incapable of getting a YouTube video or Facebook post removed. The evil men behind these plots are said to silence their victims through murder, yet someone is able to share this knowledge without repercussion.

Then there is what Karlsson calls the “method-goal mismatch problem.” While flat Earthers may present a scientifically-shaky observation or hypothesis to argue for their position, they are unable to explain the goal of those trying to keep the message secret. Who really cares what the shape is? Why would mortal enemies such as North and South Korea come together to defend a lie? Where would the millions of guards necessary to prevent the ice wall from being accessed come from?

Going back to the 9/11 Truthers, if the attacks were meant to justify an invasion, why go to the sizable trouble of recruiting kamikaze pilots and coordinating such a complexity? Just bomb a building. Or make up a story about WMDs, which was done anyway.

As Karlsson noted, “If you or the conspiracy theorists can easily invent a better plan to attain the goal of the perpetrators than the plan used in the conspiracy theory, something is terribly wrong with it.”

Finally, consider the tell-tale sign that a theorist is interested in defending the theory at all costs, rather than aiming for the truth. And that is when any discomfiting evidence is paradoxically considered part of the conspiracy. Those doubting Obama’s citizenship concocted a preposterous myth whereby his newspaper birth announcement, a 1990 New York Times article describing him as Hawaiian-born, his Certificate of Live Birth, and his long form birth certificate, were all touted as evidence FOR the theory instead of refutations of it! Anyone this far down the rabbit hole has no interest in finding out what really happened.

“Paper-thin claim” (FDA FOIA request)

Alarmist claims to the contrary, the FDA’s response to a massively-broad FOIA request is not evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up. Rather, it is a statement on how much information was asked for, how those claims are handled, and how many personnel are dedicated to the task.

The requested documents center on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, information about which runs a whopping 329,000 pages. FDA officials said they could start releasing documents at a rate of 500 pages a month, in decreasing order of plaintiff priorities. These pages must be perused to determine which names need to be redacted and to identify trade secrets that need protected. Additionally, there are what the FDA calls “records that cannot be meaningfully paginated, such as data captured in spreadsheets that contain thousands of rows of data.”

A rate of 500 pages per month is consistent with processing schedules in previous FOIA requests. While all of these documents, at this rate, would take decades to provide, the plaintiffs would start getting the most documents immediately. Also of note, agencies have limited resources, and there are other requests to satisfy.

The FDA has been transparent on this topic and large amounts of vaccine data are available online. Regarding safety and effectiveness, there is likewise much published data publicly available. But expecting the agency drop everything to immediately release 329,000 redacted pages is unreasonable and, when considering the names and trade secrets that need to be removed, impossible to do in the time demanded.

“Scary Blossom” (Collapsing athletes/Neuriva)

Continuing their run of delivering a fresh piece of misinformation at least weekly, anti-vax activists are pushing a trope that athletes are collapsing on the field after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. They share context-less videos of players, usually of the European soccer persuasion, fainting during a match. A non sequitur insinuation that this is the result of vaccination follows. But there is no reason to think that the collapsing took place since the advent of the vaccine, or that the collapsing players were vaccinated, or that the vaccine was responsible.

Reuters and Snopes contacted FIFA, whose officials told them they had seen no increase in cardiac events among their players, and certainly none related to vaccinations.

While myocarditis and pericarditis may occur after an infinitesimal percentage of shots, none of the athletes in these videos were diagnosed with these conditions. Snopes reviewed a video that included several images of soccer athletes passing out and then looked into the cause. It turned out that most suffered from heat exhaustion or dehydration and none were the result of vaccine-linked cardiovascular misfortunes.

In short, this is all another anti-vax lie and nothing suggests a connection between the coronavirus vaccine and collapsing soccer players. Indeed, it would seem very strange that this only impacted one sport on one continent. For all the NFL that I watch, I have yet to see these types of collapses, vaccination-related or otherwise. Additionally, Snopes noted some of the soccer players were revealed to have NOT been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, not precisely making it up but not doing a whole lot better is what actress Mayim Bialik does when she touts brain supplements along with her supposed standing as a neuroscientist. The products in question are Neuriva and Neuriva Plus, the latter which combines the original ingredients with vitamins B6, B12, and folate.

However, Dr. Harriet Hall notes there is no evidence these additional ingredients increase the product’s efficiency. Since the product has yet to be subject to double blind testing, we are unsure if it works. There are studies which show the added ingredients may have impact by themselves, though that’s far from certain since they were tested on aging mice. And even if true, it would not necessarily follow that Neuriva Plus is effective for human brain power or memory.

As to the person making such claims, while Bialik did earn a doctorate in neuroscience, she doesn’t seem to have ever worked in the field. University of Chicago professor emeritus Jerry Coyne searched for her name in the Web of Science and found zero publications to her credit. Nor is she employed as a professor, doing laboratory work, or submitting findings for peer review.

While she can’t be compared to anti-vax misinformation agents in terms of damage done or lies being told, she is not doing any more science than they are.