Skeptic News: Going Underground

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


Going Underground

I’ve noticed an interesting, and worrying, shift with some of the more extreme online communities recently. On the one hand it’s great to finally, and belatedly, see social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google hold people and organisations to account when they spread nonsense such as COVID vaccine misinformation. For example, just this week Advance NZ’s Facebook page has been temporarily removed. Local conspiracy theorists such as Damien DeMent, Lee Williams, Vinny Eastwood and Karen Brewer are currently concerned over suspension of their social media profiles, because they are perpetuating dangerous untruths.

However there’s a flipside to this crackdown, in today’s technological world where it’s becoming easier and easier to set up an alternative platform. Many of the people who are losing access to their social media accounts are being driven to places where it’s harder to keep an eye on them - alt-right social sites such as Parler and Gab, and secure messaging apps like Telegram and Signal. The US owner of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, is even threatening to create a new platform focused on free speech, which he’s calling Frank. Well, not exactly free speech - you won’t be allowed to swear or blaspheme on his new site.

In New Zealand these communities, groups and channels have names such as The White Rose, the NZ Liberty Movement, Counterspin, New Zealand Free Speech, Eyes Open, Truth Seekers and even Greymouth Skeptics (who are anything but skeptical!). This is where the alt-right are hob-nobbing with hippies, and far right nationalists are mingling with anti-vaccine mothers. It’s nice that these people are now less able to influence those on the fence with their wacky ideas, but I wonder whether they’ll become mode radicalised in a more sheltered, close-knit setting. After all, the last thing we want to see in New Zealand is another terrorist attack by someone with a horribly warped view of reality.

Mark Honeychurch

Accelerated Nonsense

A.C.E., or Accelerated Christian Education, is a Christian based curriculum used in New Zealand - both in some Christian schools, and by parents who homeschool their children. The curriculum boasts that it covers from kindergarten to year 13, and that it is recognised by New Zealand universities.

The NZARH were contacted recently by some students who are concerned about some of the content of the ACE curriculum. They were good enough to supply me with a set of pictures they’d taken of a section of one book titled “Character Study of the Strange Woman”. This chapter focuses on Proverbs 2, from verse 16:

“Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.”

The lesson this school text book gives about this passage is that of the strange, or troubled, woman, and is basically a warning about how dangerous some women can be:

This is a person who has been abused and broken and has a tendency to be immoral… Being a strange woman is an inward condition, not simply an outward activity. A woman might be active in her church, but still have the character qualities of a strange woman… she will be a danger to any man who decides to establish a personal relationship with her.

The lesson then goes on to give a truly appalling analogy between these women and run down houses:

I once bought a little house that I was going to fix up and resell. It was extremely cheap and I soon found out why. Outwardly it was nice looking, but the inside was completely “trashed.” The man I hired to clean it out couldn’t stay inside for more than 15 minutes at a time because of its horrible stench. We called in exterminators to eliminate rodents, roaches, and other creatures.

As I studied the Scriptures about the strange woman, I thought back on our experience with that little house. In a similar way, a person can appear attractive on the outside, but be devastated on the inside.

I hate to think that every year hundreds of children in New Zealand are being taught these kinds of demeaning ideas. But that’s not all - a cursory search on google for Accelerated Christian Education brings up horror stories of over the top discipline, male dominance and science denial:

  • the act of love between two persons of the same gender is tantamount to “murder or stealing”
  • Evolution is a “sinking ship”
  • “If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.”
Both of the images below, misrepresenting the science of evolution, come from ACE curriculum material. I find it hard to fathom just how this curriculum ever managed to get approval in New Zealand.

Christchurch health clinic bans vaccinated customers

An “alternative” health clinic in Christchurch, which specialises in colonic irrigation and coffee enemas, has announced online that it will not treat anyone who has been vaccinated within the last 30 days.

This news comes on the back of a school in Miami, the Centner Academy, barring its teachers from being able to see students if they’ve been given the COVID vaccine. The academy will also no longer be employing new teachers who have already been vaccinated. They argue that because the vaccines have not yet been fully tested, there is a risk that they could have unknown issues that may affect other people.

In fact, the school reports that it has already seen this happen. A letter sent out to parents said:

“Tens of thousands of women all over the world have recently been reporting adverse reproductive issues simply from being in close proximity with those who have received any one of the COVID-19 injections… No one knows exactly what may be causing these irregularities, but it appears that those who have received the injections may be transmitting something from their bodies to those with whom they come in contact.”

The local union, the United Teachers of Dade, rightly spoke up and called out this nonsense:

“As shamefully seen by the actions of the illegally run and uncertified Centner Academy, these schools not only teach misinformation and peddle propaganda, they punish teachers who try to protect themselves and their families.”

It didn’t take long for me to find a link between the Christchurch clinic and the Miami school - it turns out that the owners of the clinic are fans of David and Leila Centner, the owners of the school, and have posted online about the Centners’ recent documentary called Medical Racism. (The documentary appears to argue that it’s racist to try to convince people to be vaccinated, and to treat them differently if they’re not. To me it’s not a form of racism to redeploy frontline medical workers who refuse to be vaccinated - it’s just common sense.)

Finally, without wanting to be too trite, I had a little chuckle when I noticed the name of the Christchurch clinic. The business appears to be situated inside a residential property, and is accessed via a door at the rear of the property - which presumably is what gave rise to the name “Back Door Spa”. Remember that at the beginning of the article I mentioned that the clinic specialises in colonics and enemas; you can no doubt work out why I found the name a little humorous!

Influential Biologist in New Zealand

Normally I would be excited to hear that a prominent biologist is in New Zealand, but in this case the biologist in question is Dr Bruce Lipton - a figure who is well known to skeptics.

Bruce “works” in the field of epigenetics - the branch of biology which looks at the different ways in which factors outside of our DNA can influence gene expression, and consequently our development - how we grow. This is a real branch of science, with some really cool findings.

However, Bruce Lipton sadly doesn’t actually do any real research into epigenetic effects. Instead, he tells people that each of their cells is a homunculus - a small version of their own body, with a brain, lungs, stomach, etc. Then he argues that if people believe something hard enough, they can influence the brain in each of their cells, and this will cause their cells to behave differently, controlling how genes are turned on and off, etc. Using this, he says that we can cure diseases with the power of our minds. Of course this is all totally made up, and has absolutely no evidence underpinning it.

As if that’s not bad enough, Bruce is currently here as a “Visiting Professor of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic”, and has been giving talks about not just his epigenetic nonsense but also COVID silliness. He talked at the popular NZ Spirit festival recently, claiming that people aren’t really dying of COVID, but just from co-morbidities. He told the cheering festival crowd that vitamins will protect them from dying of COVID, and that governments have been using the pandemic to deliberately scare us.

Sadly, looking at the online reaction to his talk, it appears that far too many people are being sucked in by his nonsense. All too often, the people who have a loyal following use their influence to recklessly spread dangerous misinformation rather than help to educate people.

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