Thursday, February 25, 2010

Should I Get that H1N1 Vaccine? Or Should I Believe Dr. Leonard Horowitz?

Before I rolled up my sleeve two days ago, I decided to research the warnings from Leonard Horowitz, the "humanitarian, clinician, prophet, scholar and natural healer" who produced a 2.5 hour video entitled "In Lies We Trust." His ideas are certainly provocative! I didn't have time before my vaccine to watch the whole video, but with some research I did find documents he has published on the emergence of HIV and the emergence of H1N1. I also did a little background research on Horowitz.

In this post I share with you, dear readers, what I have unearthed regarding Horowitz and his theories. I also hope that you will share some comments about any further information I should have considered (on either side of the question)

An Examination of Horowitz' Qualifications to Speak on the Origin of Viruses

My research on Horowitz himself turned up the following:

1. Horowitz claims multiple PhDs on the video; however, as far as I can tell, he does not possess them.

A. The designations he claims are not Ph.Ds

People usually think of a Ph.D. in a scientific field as something you earn after spending several years of studying peer-reviewed papers, performing years of laboratory research in collaboration with other scientists, and getting that research published in peer-reviewed journals.

The titles that Horowitz claims (DNM and DMM) do not involve anything of the sort. In fact, there is massive confusion surrounding the DNM designation; according to Vitality magazine, a source certainly not indebted to big pharmaceutical companies,

"a DNM may have some weekend or on-line courses, some mentorship from another DNM, and no experience....a DNM might be a medical intuitive or energy healer."

Thus the DNM designation cannot be equated to a Ph.D. Please note that I am not saying that there is no value in DNM studies, which covers the areas of nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, oriental medicine, lifestyle counseling, natural medicine diagnostics, and manual therapy. I'm just saying that a DNM is no more relevant to the subject at hand than a DMD (dentistry) or MS in Computer Science.

And as for the DMM Horowitz claims...what is it, anyway? I have googled hard for an explanation of the title, but have only found "Doctor of Music Ministry" as an academic title associated with the acronym.

B. Horowitz may not even hold DNM and DMM titles he claims

On his bio page, Horowitz gives great detail about his studies in dentistry and his MPH (which is a policy degree, as opposed to a science degree). However, he states nothing at all about the institutions and dates of study associated the supposed DNM and DMM titles he claims. The World Order of Natural Medicine Practicioners maintains a list of accredited institutions; at which of them did Horowitz study? If he can't provide basic information like this in the biography that he himself has written, I have great difficulty believing his claim to the designation is valid.

Think of it like this: suppose you are a manager hiring for an open position that requires a B.S. in Computer Science. A candidate submits a resume in which he claims to have the degree, but does not provide any information about what institution awarded it or when. Are you going to accept the resume at face value, or discard it and move on to the next candidate's resume? I don't know any managers who would accept a resume without basic background information.

C. Horowitz has little or no background in the pertinent subjects

To speak with scientific authority on the origin of a virus, you would need a background in virology or biochemistry. Horowitz' verifiable background, however, is in dentistry and in public policy regarding health. Worthy fields, but insufficient to claim scientific authority. And as discussed above, the DNM and DMM credentials are not pertinent. In view of his claims regarding musical notes at 528 Hz, perhaps Horowitz is in fact claiming the Doctorate of Music Ministry for himself. Clearly such a degree would not bolster his credentials to speak as a scientist, however.

2. Horowitz habitually makes truly bizarre claims on a variety of subjects

Like Dave Barry says, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried! In the world of Horowitz:

* "528Hz is the Central Broadcasting Channel of LOVE in the Living Water that carries the Message. FAITH is the power button that turns this hydrosonic creationistic technology on. For you personally, the 'Music of the Light,' universally transmuting the 'Music of the night,' is available by FAITH, choice, and heart-felt prayer.... This system is free to enjoy (not manipulate or destroy) for the benefit of producers (not consumers)-- powerful co-creators; not destroyers-- those who choose to listen to this 'Sound of Silence' and calling from the Most High." (Link here)

Except that it's not really free; you can, however, purchase it from one of Dr. Horowitz' sites for $19.95.

Not only that: "Dr. Horowitz's simple, yet powerful water energizing technology, the '3E,' [is] based on his research into the Perfect Circle of Sound and the 'frequencies in harmony with the universal symphony.' 3E stickers and 'cling ons' can be placed on glassware and elsewhere to structure water." (emphasis mine; link here)

Price to change the molecular structure of water from your pipes: $19.40 at one of his online stores. (I trust that all my readers will understand that changing the molecular structure of water is not something that you can perform by putting a sticker on a flask.)

And do not forget: "You are a digitial, bioholographic, hydrosonic, precipitation, crystallization, miraculous manifestation, of divine frequency vibrations."

* Horowitz has cracked the real Da Vinci code! "The Real Da Vinci Code reveals the secret set of numbers and symbols from which all creation flows." Available for $22.85 here.

* Horowitz markets a powerful potion that contains superconducting silver! "In this 'Age of the Great Plagues,' the doctor's most important advancement is the 528Hz frequency resonating silver hydrosol called OxySilver, that Dr. Horowitz describes as 'a combination of God/Water, LOVE/528Hz energy, and superconducting nanosilver bonded to oxygen.' He predicts OxySilver will put BigPharma out of business as people learn how simply and powerfully this mineral Water works energetically. .." (Link here) He markets it as a substitute for vaccines and antibiotics. Just $49.40 + shipping/handling per 8 oz. bottle, sold here.

Never mind that, in order for silver to act as a superconductor, it must constitute approximately 75% of a solid. So, contrary to Horowitz' claims, it is utterly impossible for his potion to contain superconducting silver.

* Horowitz also claims that MRI uses sound waves, and that 97% of DNA has the function of capturing divine light and sound transmissions. Such assertions are 100.0% rubbish.

You will notice that Horowitz' claims are frequently used to support the marketing of products from his website. Caveat emptor.

On to the Presentations

Now I turn to Horowitz' actual publications. We start with his theories regarding HIV:

Horowitz on HIV

He contends that HIV is the result of a 1970s conspiracy between Merck and Henry Kissinger to wipe out the populations of Africa and African-Americans. His evidence is basically this:

1. Kissinger was on the Merck board.
2. Kissinger had an insurance policy against charges of genocide
3. Merck distributed vaccines in the areas where HIV/AIDS first developed in the 70s. Some of those vaccines even contained substances derived from the cells of chimpanzees.

However, there are completely reasonable interpretations of these facts that have nothing to do with a conspiracy:

1. Politicians and corporate boards have been having fun together for centuries. This is completely normal behavior.

2. I have been able to find no substantiation whatsoever to Horowitz' claim about a Kissinger insurance policy. Scanning the first 100 results returned by Google from "Kissinger genocide insurance" turned up nothing. Wikipedia mentions nothing of the sort. But even if he did have such a policy, Kissinger had reason to fear genocide charges due to his involvement in US military campaigns, some secret, in southeast Asia. That's why he would have had such an insurance policy (if indeed he had one).

3. Merck was distributing vaccines basically everywhere on the planet during the period in question. No matter where AIDS might have emerged, Merck could have been accused of complicity. Plus, remember that correlation does not equal causation.

Moreover, there is very strong reason to disbelieve Horowitz' conspiracy theory:

4. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. At a minimum, I would want to see some emails or documents from Merck scientists, or interviews with Merck scientists, before I could give Horowitz' extraordinary theory any credence.

However, Horowitz has produced no documentary evidence of conspiracy whatsoever...nothing but pure speculation. Elsewhere, he points to an interview with Dr. Maurice Hilleman in which Hilleman cracked a joke about importing AIDS (the interview team had a long laugh), but documenting a wisecrack among scientists is not the same thing as documenting a conspiracy. He has also produced documentation that USAID was funding population control programs in Africa (which he erroneously refers to as "depopulation" programs). He has documented that the US military requested funding to study the feasibility of creating biological agents in 1970, but has failed to note that studying the feasibility of something and actually doing it are very different things. He has documented that there was a program to study the relationship between viruses and cancer that went so far as to distribute primate viruses to various research programs. To which I say: so what? There is no documentation that the program was, or even could have been, used to concoct deadly retroviruses and distribute them via vaccines.

5. Real PhDs have studied the emergence of HIV infection, and trace it to a leap of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) from chimpanzees into human populations via the bushmeat trade in Africa. Among the factors in the NIH-funded analysis is that "the natural habitat of these [infected] chimpanzees directly coincides with the pattern of the HIV-1 epidemic in this area of Africa." This study was published in the February 1999 edition of the peer-reviewed magazine Nature.

6. Scientists did not possess the information necessary to participate in a conspiracy until well after HIV/AIDS had appeared. Thus it was impossible for any scientist at "BigPharma" or any government agency to commit the horrific deeds of which Horowitz accuses them.

A. HIV infections were occurring in Kenya in 1959. Applying a molecular clock analysis to the diversity in HIV strains existing at the time indicates that HIV had been circulating among humans since "near the beginning of the twentieth century." Bottom line: HIV infections predate the supposed conspiracy by several decades.

B. AIDS was first noted in the US in 1980; however, HIV was not even discovered until 1983. The Center for Disease Control, a government agency, played a major role in funding and coordinating the success search for the pathogen that causes AIDS. The important point here is that, since scientists did not even know HIV existed until 1983, they could not possibly have tried to distribute HIV among any populations via vaccines prior to 1983.

D. Scientists have traced the origins of HIV to zoonosis by the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). However, SIV was not even discovered until 1985. Therefore, it was impossible in the 1970s for any scientist to have the idea that vaccines created from processes using chimpanzee cells could be used to start an autoimmune disease pandemic.

Horowitz on H1N1

Now I turn to Horowitz' claims regarding the emergence of H1N1, which he attributes to a conspiracy among government agencies, scientists in the area of biochemistry and virology, and "BigPharma" (especially Novavax). According to Horowitz (and I quote at length):

"As the first cases of the 2009 Mexican flu outbreak were being reported, clamoring journalists began calling the doctor, requesting his commentaries. A few hours later, after investigating the government officials and vaccine makers involved, the Harvard-trained emerging diseases expert uploaded the above 10-minute SPECIAL REPORT to YouTube--a classic 'scam buster.'

"Within a day of posting the above YouTube video, thanks to prompt reactions from dozens of faithful activists who mailed this clip to thousands of others, more than 90,000 people in less than 30 hours watched Dr. Horowitz, an award winning author and filmmaker, perform a mass media exorcism, commanding Google's top search listing throughout the flu fright that virtually ended on May 5, 2009, when CDC officials who had been hyping the virulence of this germ from its emergence, suddenly announced, 'It is not as bad as we first thought.'

"Suddenly and quite amazingly, as quickly as these demons had been exposed, the virus' lethality was downgraded."

So in summary:

* By spending a few hours going over the list of officials and companies who were involved... Again, Horowitz provides no documents--nothing that could possibly be considered as evidence in a court of law, or even in normal journalism. Just by spending a few hours enumerating the organizations that are interested in combatting H1N1, Horowitz divines a conspiracy among them to actually spread the infection. This is quite near a claim of omniscience.

* He conducted a media exorcism that resulted in a reduction in the virus' lethality. Hmmm... need I discuss this any further?

Final Thoughts

As a final point on the whole question of the emergence of "new" viruses: this frightful phenomenon was happening long before Merck and Novavax existed. Witness the sudden and deadly Spanish flu of 1918, which then disappeared almost as soon as it appeared. In nature, viruses can recombine their genetic material in a common host, resulting in the potential emergence of "new" and lethal viruses. While this process has long been suspected as the cause of the 1918 Spanish flu, it is perhaps more likely (according to Oxford scientists) that the 1918 flu was the result of normal mutations in the HA1 gene of human flu viruses. Bottom line: we can be very confident that the emergence of "new" and even recombinant, deadly viruses does not require a laboratory. So why should we feel the need to hunt for a conspiracy of governments, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies to explain the emergence of HIV and H1N1? Scientific study has given us a natural explanation based on virology, and we need look no further.

Please don't be afraid of viruses: the just shall live by faith. And don't be afraid to obtain flu vaccines, either! At least that's what I did. My arm's a little sore, but otherwise I'm in great shape. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Notorious Islamic Extremist Renounced His Childhood Christian Faith Because Of Creationism (In Part)

Omar Hammami, son of Syrian Muslim and Southern Baptist parents, has been playing a leading role in the Al-Shabbab militancy in Somalia. The New York Times magazine has just chronicled his journey from Southern Baptist (baptized at age 6) to Islamic extremist. One stage of the process involved dealing with creationism:

"When he was 12, Hammami wrote in his journal, 'Sometimes I get confused because the Bible says one thing and our textbooks and Darwin say another.'"

There were of course other issues in the journey--among them his father's Muslim faith and a mile-wide rebellious streak. But if he had been taught that the inerrant Bible is in complete agreement with the concepts of a billions-years-old earth and a providential (theistic) view of evolution, perhaps he would have become a rebel for Christ (instead of an al-Qaeda sympathizer)!? It's impossible to say for sure, of course. And as long as he lives and breathes, he can always return to his childhood faith.

I just wanted to point out the effect that creationism had on Hammami to reinforce the idea behind my previous post: the apologetics we use, and the way that we handle issues of science and faith, can have a huge impact for good or for ill. We need to think very carefully about these issues, and not just think the way we've always thought, and speak the way we've always spoken, just because it's more comfortable for us.