The human cost of pseudoscientific thinking and general mistrust of scientific authority is never far from the news. Our innate recalcitrance when it comes to questioning our fundamental beliefs and how and why they are derived in the first instance is one of the biggest threats we face as a species. Mark Twain once said “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
Last Thursday RTEs Prime Time investigates documentary exposed the sales tactics of the so called Genesis II Church of Health & Healing. The founder of this Church is Jim Humble, a former member of the Church of Scientology. According to its website the Genesis II Church claims to be non-religious and welcomes people from all walks of life. The Genesis II Church is no ordinary Church. The second pillar or their belief system boldly states “We of the Church believe in good health for all mankind” How it claims to realise this objective is by the oral ingestion of what the Church refers to as master mineral solution (sometimes referred to as miracle mineral solution). When prepared according to the official instructions of the Church, MMS consists of a 28% solution of sodium chlorite in water. This is not to be confused with regular table salt (sodium chloride). The former is a component of industrial bleach and when taken at the recommended doses constitutes an intake of up to 500 times the recommended daily allowance as directed by the World Health Organisation. A more dilute version is also marketed as Chlorine Dioxide solution. Upon ingestion of regular acidic food or drink such as orange juice it becomes the equivalent of industrial bleach and can result in conditions such as renal impairment requiring transplant to death by damage to red blood cells (haemolysis). Even more disturbing is the fact this is being marketed in Ireland as a cure for autism in children. If it were not for the determined and heroic efforts of mother of 5 (herself being diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome at the age of 42) Fiona O’ Leary, the Genesis II Church would have undoubtedly gone unnoticed for much longer in Ireland. The organisation first came to her attention when she responded to an online advertisement. She was startled when the person she contacted, Mark Kishon Christopher, asked her if she was a genuine person seeking advice or from an organisation? According to Fiona O Leary, Mark assured her that it was a fact that MMS could cure her son who is also on the autistic spectrum. The same person was exposed by BBCs The One Show in 2014. The youtube link can be seen below.
According to Archbishop Jim Humble’s personal account MMS was first discovered by himself on a jungle trip in Guyana. He claims that two fellow travellers succumbed to Malaria on the trip as they had not taken any preventative measures as they were supposedly told the region was a malaria free zone. It was claimed that a preparation made from the water purification tablets that they had taken with them resulted in the cures of the two sick travellers. This is the start of a litany of ever increasing bizarre and dangerous claims made about MMS. The self-styled Archbishop of the Church claimed to have cured 800 people of HIV in Africa. His definition of cure has nothing to do with the absence of detectable HIV in formerly HIV+ patients. On the contrary he claims the treatment made the patient appear healthy for up to 4 months.
The Church even published a Wiki like page purporting the origins and miraculous cures it attributes MMS.
The wiki-clone page of the Church relating to HIV/AIDS makes for disturbing reading. http://mmswiki.is/index.php?title=HIV_and_AIDS
Just as alarming are the efforts of the Church to flood the internet with an array of different websites consisting of pseudoscientific baloney to highly dubious untested accounts of people claiming to have been cured from an A – Z list of conditions. http://mmstestimonials.is/ The cult claim to believe childhood autism is the result of a parasitic infection that can be cured by administering an enema of MMS. They have openly acknowledged vomiting and diarrhoea in children. While medical experts attribute these symptoms to the direct effects of ingesting toxic bleach, the organisation claim this is all a legitimate stage of recovery.
Equally conspicuous is the organisation’s hostility toward the scientific community and medical science in general. According to the Church’s official website the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug administration are portrayed as being the bogeyman that go to extreme lengths to promote their own self-interest. Delve a little deeper and a motive for this apparent mistrust of medical authority becomes very clear. As the RTE Prime Time Investigates documentary reported, the Church’s base in Ireland was raided by the Health Products Regulatory Authority the week prior to RTEs investigation of the Church. MMS was banned in Canada after a life threatening reaction took place in one of its users.
Of most importance is the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration and Department of Justice are taking a criminal law suit against Oregon citizens Louis Daniel Smith & Karis Delong. They were indicted on multiple charges relating to selling industrial bleach as a miracle cure. The transcript below is taken directly from the US Department of Justice website.
Four Charged with Internet Sales of Industrial Bleach as Miracle Cure
“Louis Daniel Smith, 42, and Karis Delong, 38, both of Ashland, Ore., were charged with defrauding regulators and suppliers in a scheme to manufacture and sell industrial bleach as a cure for numerous illnesses, including arthritis, cancer, and the seasonal flu. Also charged were Chris Olson, 49, and Tammy Olson, 50, of Nine Mile Falls, Wash. A federal grand jury returned an indictment, unsealed yesterday, charging Smith, Delong and Tammy Olson with one count of conspiracy, four counts of interstate sales of misbranded drugs, and one count of smuggling. The grand jury charged Chris Olson with one count of conspiracy, one count of the interstate sale of a misbranded drug and one count of smuggling”.
Absurdly the group even started a petition on the site change.org to campaign for all charges against the two individuals to be dropped. So far it has gained over 5000 signatures.
Critical thinking and Skepticism
While Fiona O Leary’s valiant campaign to have the laws tightened to prevent the sale of toxic substances being marketed as medicine in Ireland is to be very much welcomed, I believe this will not go far enough. Indeed the cult flouted existing laws by listing the product as a water purifying agent. In an earlier blog “The Case for Shooting the Messenger” I showed just how easy it is to con vulnerable people with just a rudimentary understanding of behavioural psychology and the psychology surrounding belief. I showed that we are intrinsically predisposed to trusting authority figures and that we have an inherent bias for what we want to believe. This is known as the confirmation bias. By inventing pseudoscientific statements and creating an air of authority, it is more than easy to gain the absolute trust of susceptible individuals. This is all the more true when the victims of these scams are going through a difficult period and otherwise intelligent and learned people can easily fall prey to the most absurd ideas. Scam artists often use charity or the notion of good works to create a feel good factor which further builds up trust. In other instances feigning solidarity with the victim can result in their unquestioning trust. Further to this is the use of callous lying. We want to believe that people won’t lie about despicable things such as terrorist acts, baby deaths, horrific accidents etc but all too often lying about these is part and parcel of a con artists repertoire. Stage psychics lie about being able to contact the dead babies of grieving mothers or self-appointed religious gurus claim to have been able to foretell terrorist acts such as September 11th 2001. Needless to say none have ever been prevented by such knowledge. Charismatic leaders make this process easier and such leaders are often so narcissistic in their thinking that they may actually believe the scams they are perpetrating. L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, once stated “I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is.”
If you consider this to be the limit of human narcissism consider the quotes of the founder of the Genesis II Church Jim Humble as reported in the Guardian on September 15th 2010.
The quote below was taken directly from an MMS news letter. He correctly describes that religious organisations can openly be granted immunity from laws that are applicable to every other section of society.
“Look at the Catholics. Their priests have been molesting women and children for centuries and the governments have not been able to stop it. If handled properly a church can protect us from vaccinations that we don’t want, from forced insurance, and from many things that a government might want to use to oppress us.”
Stories like these are the reason I and many others are passionate about promoting reason, science and skepticism. While all too often skeptics are unpopular as they challenge the idea that everyone’s view is equal and the Utopian worldview that such tolerance will lead to peace and prosperity. On the contrary all the evidence suggests that societies that do not place enough value on evidence and reason will undoubtedly be prone to more than their fair share of religious and pseudoscientific scams. While I will continue to write about such matters for as long as I can, there is a duty on all to be inspired by people like Fiona O’ Leary who bring the activities of these unrepentant charlatans to our attention.
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