I’ve always kinda liked Bill Maher. In retrospect, the things I liked about him were his harsh criticisms of religion and our shared politics on many issues. And last year when Maher released his film, Religulous, I considered it one of the best films of the year. And even though in the film and while promoting the film, Maher continued to perpetuate the myth that being an “atheist” means absolute certainty that there is no god, while he just simply respond with something akin to, I don’t know and neither do you, but I highly doubt it (the atheist position), I still liked Maher.
Now I’d heard that Maher had wacky beliefs about medicine but I hadn’t really heard him discuss them. But perhaps I just didn’t want to hear them and just wanted to believe Maher was as rational as he seemed to be when criticizing religion.
I wanted to believe that Maher was only a little wacky when it comes to modern medicine but I really had no idea how much of that Kool-Aid he drank. But Orac has opened my eyes to Maher’s beliefs when arguing why Maher should not receive the Richard Dawkins Award, an award that is intended to not only celebrate one’s promotion of atheism but one’s commitment to science and reason. He opened my eyes and now I’m afraid I can’t shut them.
Orac makes a really, really compelling case against Maher, quoting past comments he’s made over the years.
You’re in denial, about I think is a key fact, which is it is the at… people get sick because of an aggregate toxicity, because their body has so much poison in it, from the air, the water…
And Maher’s anti-medical comments have been about as bad as they get:
I don’t believe in vaccination either. That’s a… well, that’s a… what? That’s another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur theory, even though Louis Pasteur renounced it on his own deathbed and said that Beauchamp(s) was right: it’s not the invading germs, it’s the terrain. It’s not the mosquitoes, it’s the swamp that they are breeding in.
Maher even discouraged David Letterman from continuing to take his heart medicine a few years ago when Letterman suffered from heart disease that required a multiple coronary artery bypass operation:
Letterman: Are you interested in medical journals and that sort of thing?
Maher: Not western medicine, I think we’re being poisoned…I would love for you to investigate the possibility that your health issues might have arisen from the fact that you’re being poisoned by America.
I had no idea he was that delusional. I love the Bill Maher that gave us Religulous but the amount of pseudoscience he promotes does not reflect well on atheism or on Dawkins’ name:
Why is there mucus?…It’s because your body is toxic and it’s trying to create a river to get rid of these toxins.
Maher represents everything Dawkins debunks in his Enemies of Reason special. Maher really needs to be challenged on his BS, not rewarded.
This isn’t the same thing as with figures like Penn and Teller, who while may hold some wacky views, aren’t advocating that all of modern medicine is wrong. Also, Penn and Teller can and allegedly have been persuaded to change their minds on some of the issues they criticized on their show, even talking about possibly making an episode that debunks some of their own bullshit, which was previously promoted on the show. So while I disagree with them on some issues, they’re far more rational than not. But no position I’ve ever heard them defend comes anywhere near as bad as Maher’s denial of germ theory and vaccines.
I’d rather the receiver of the Richard Dawkins Award believe and promote the view that the Earth is 6000 years old than have them promote germ theory denial and anti-vaccinationism. It’s not even close. And I would prefer Maher just believed in a young Earth than his current beliefs on medicine.