Here’s the thing about science… for the most part, scientific progress is generally a slow process and boring to almost anyone who isn’t a scientist. That dynamic begs the following problem: With an Internet Culture that demands to be constantly wowed by new, provocative, stimulating, but not-too-intellectually demanding information, and click-bait news articles and blogs, how should media outlets, “news” sites, TV talk shows, and professional bloggers, all thirsty for advertising revenue via views present science and scientific studies? Well, for the most part, the answer is to propagate complete bullshit, hack interpretations of data, push non-peer-reviewed studies as proven facts, or to re-package peer reviewed studies so that they fit nicely on the low shelf and can be married up with exciting buzz worthy titles.
Before moving forward, let me give you complete disclosure. I am not a scientist. I am a writer, poet, and ebay entrepreneur. But, I love science and highly esteem its value to humanity as an empirical method of discovery. Because of that, I cringe when the revelatory power of the Scientific Method and complex findings of scientific studies are wielded about by the unlearned in media like a toddler with a .357 revolver.
Too strong of an analogy? I think not. Maybe too weak. Toddlers with revolvers would only have six shots each to do damage with. A scientifically flawed online article or news story has the power to dangerously deceive millions. The thing is, the propagation of pseudo-scientific bullshit can and does kill people. That is particularly the case when people have an aversion to traditional, proven medical treatments for various cancers and other deadly afflictions and turn rather to the magical promises of unproven (and sometimes inherently dangerous) “natural” remedies. On the flip side, otherwise healthy people can be MADE ill via untested supplements and the like. Sure, a healthy and varied diet is to be lauded and applied in one’s life. Yet, when you need modern medicine and/or treatments backed by vetted scientific research to cure a particular malady, don’t presume that merely eating more of this or that and/or taking some crap the salesperson at your local supplement shop assures you is the miracle cure-all will fix your problems. You may well avoid traditional medicine, relying on “natural remedies” until the situation is too late to reverse. Do traditional treatments always work? Nope. But they have at least been tried and tested via trial, error, and peer-reviewed research. I’ll take that over some magic beans any day.
So, when I read or watch pseudo-science presented by news anchors, Internet article writers, and bloggers, I get a bit angry. I get angry when people are given false hope for their sicknesses by modern day snake oil salesmen. I get angry when energy is wasted in society filtering out the bullshit AND when people, even fairly well educated people, are fooled by said bullshit. Lastly, I get angry that our modern society is left intellectually weak by being allowed to hit baseballs off of the tee like children when we should be swinging at fast, difficult pitches like adults- metaphorically speaking. Though, I can’t blame only those who are selling snake oil. As a society, we are buying it time and time again.
Because of all that, I am thankful to the John Oliver Show people for their new related segment. Please, please, PLEASE, my fellow humans… let the scientists do their work. Give them time and funding to do it. Let the scientists re-test and peer-review the experiments and data. And, when their findings are a bit outside the realm of our own layman’s understanding, we should let the scientists explain it to the rest of us rather than the news anchors.
Please watch and enjoy the following video:
I encourage you to seek to expand your own understanding of the Scientific Method and various areas of scientific exploration as a part of your own personal study and life-long learning. I assure you, having a finely tuned bullshit detector is a very handy thing in this world. You may also find some merit in this handy poster from a previous blog:
FINALLY all the people in this picture, who were up until now apparently persecuted in Indiana and deprived of religious freedom, in spite of the State Constitution and Bill of Rights of 1851, will be able to worship according to the dictates of their deeply held religious beliefs! Thanks, Darth Pence! You are the Moses of modern day Indiana, setting the captives free from bondage! (in a private ceremony paid for by public dollars) YAY!
(click the link above for the Channel 13 story and video)
Great news LGBT friends and supporters of gay marriage! For now, the Indiana ban on gay marriage has been overturned by U.S. District Judge Richard Young. Since this is still Indiana, Attorney General Greg Zoeller will likely appeal today’s ruling and attempt to stay the ruling pending appeal. In the mean time, marriage licenses will be issued to gay couples.
As one who used to be against gay marriage and eventually came out of the dark ages ideologically, I am extremely happy with the current ruling. Congratulations to all those in Indiana who may now legally marry! And to all those who have fought the good fight for marriage equality, cheers to your hearty and victorious efforts!
If you are reading this and are still against gay marriage and/or the LGBT community at large, I implore you to read my story of changing my mind on the issue a few years ago. I think some of my past experiences may resonate with you. Click the link below for that previous blog post, “Confessions of a Former Homophobe.”
It is like something from a movie script… fundamentalist Baptist pastor breaks bad and starts a multi-state, illegal drug ring worth millions of dollars while recruiting workers right out of his own church and little league affiliations. But, this story isn’t fiction.
Pastor Robert Jaynes, and church member, Kirk Parsons, have allegedly been running an illegal “Spice” ring for several years based on government documents. This multi-state Spice ring headquartered in Central Indiana is said to be one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history. On April 21st, twelve alleged members of their drug operation were formally charged with at least five felony counts each in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, In.
“Spice” is a street name for synthetic cannabis that is produced by spraying natural herbs or flowers with chemicals, drying the product to process, and then bagging it in small quantities for distribution. The end product is typically smoked and produces psychoactive effects which are said to be similar to the effects of cannabis, though the actual effects are very unpredictable.
The current charges filed against the twelve individuals are all classified as Class C and D felonies and include, “Unlawful Manufacture, Distribution, Possession of Counterfeit Substance,” and, “Dealing in a Synthetic Drug or Synthetic Drug Lookalike Substance.” Included in the twelve people charged with all five felony counts are several members of Pastor Jaynes’ church and family. Pastor Jaynes’ wife, Stacey Jaynes, was charged as well as Kirk Parsons’ wife, Sherry Parsons.
Pastor Jaynes and Kirk Parsons have yet to be charged as the multi-agency investigation is still ongoing confirmed Indiana State Police Detective, Taylor Shafer. When I did a phone interview with Det. Shafer, he was not able to speak as to the details of the ongoing investigation. Yet, he did confirm that there is a sizable amount of public information about the twelve individuals available via the Hancock County Court file online. That file includes over twenty pages of evidence and details regarding the drug operation and conversations officials had with several members of the Spice ring and Pastor Jaynes. See the link just below to read the complete Court documents.
Det. Shafer told me that after the law against Spice was passed in 2012 that closed previous loopholes, a decrease in the availability of Spice in Indiana has been achieved. He also said an information sheet about the law had been provided by the State at that time to all business which may have sold the product while it was legal. Most of the smoke shops and gas stations that sold the product have ceased to do so. Though, Det. Shafer confirmed that some less scrupulous stores may still sell the product “under the counter” to trusted customers. He said that Indiana law enforcement was actively attempting to suss out such retailers to enforce relevant State laws and penalties upon them.
Two of the dangers of Spice (which also goes by other names such as, “K2”) that Det. Shafer mentioned are the issues of inconsistent and dangerous chemical formulas, as well as “hot spots” in the product due to sloppy production. A significant portion of the raw Spice chemical compound is imported illegally from other countries. These powders contain unknown quantities of different potentially dangerous chemicals. Also, when Spice producers are spraying the natural leaves with the solution of Spice compound, Acetone, Alcohol, and flavorings, the leaves are not always sprayed evenly. One bag of the finished product may be considerably more potent than another. Det. Shafer warned that many Spice users do not understand the process by which the drug is created nor the potential dangers. Users can experience temporary or permanent health issues from smoking bad Spice. It is easy to find examples of Spice “freak outs” online.
Here is a prime example- (Warning: disturbing images and language)
Based on the court documents, Jaynes and Parsons had been importing raw product in bulk from China. Their workers then manufactured the finished product at several Central Indiana locations. One of the individuals charged on the 21st said that his team would produce from 5,000-10,000 bags per day weighing 2-5 grams each. “Pirate Booty 3D,” was the primary name for their finished street product.
Before finishing our conversation, I said to Detective Shafer, “Based on the court charges, it appears that Jaynes and Parsons imported raw drug product, then they manufactured it locally, then distributed it locally, and then also distributed it across state lines. I then asked, “Would that not be a legal version of the ‘perfect storm’ to unleash against one’s self?” He confirmed that to be an accurate assessment of such a case. I greatly appreciate Det. Shafer’s timely response to my request for an interview and his informed answers to my questions that he was able to address.
Local station, Wish TV Channel 8, covered the story of the recent charges and the previous bust of some of the ring’s locations back in October of 2013.
What the story did not cover is the fact that one of the individuals charged with participating in the drug ring was also an IPS school teacher. Sources confirm that the now former IPS teacher was employed at James A Garfield/Phoenix Academy, School 31. Sherry Parsons, was a Reading & Literature teacher and did some after-school tutoring as well. These same sources say that the teacher, Sherry Parsons, was fired last week in a closed-door meeting. Students were not told the reason Mrs. Parsons was let go so close to the end of the school year and were left to speculate.
I called School 31 today to enquire about the situation. After being hung up on once by an office person who said, “I am not interested in those things,” I called back and was able to get the employee to confirm that Mrs. Parsons had worked at IPS School 31 and had been fired last week. I was then given the number to the main IPS office and told to call Human Resources for any further questions.
I immediately called the general IPS number and was forwarded to an HR representative for IPS. Unfortunately, the HR employee I spoke with was agitated by my attempts to ask several questions and refused to answer them. I told her that I was doing research for my blog article and that I know Mrs. Parsons had been an IPS teacher until last week and was currently charged with felony illegal drug distribution. She said, “This connection has not been made publicly!” I told her I understood that, which is why I was trying to get some answers before publishing my article. She said that IPS did not answer questions and there were matters of privacy at hand. I let her know that I understood matters of privacy and that specific questions may not be responded to, but that I would appreciate a few general questions being answered. She said that she would not answer any questions of any kind. I reminded the HR employee that the IPS budget was paid by the taxpayers and that the public should be able to ask at least general questions and expect a reasonable and respectful answer. I said that if I was the parent of a child at School 31 and found out that one of my child’s teachers had been charged with five felonies for drug manufacturing and distribution, I would want to be assured that the school system was doing an internal investigation to ensure that said teacher or her associates had not distributed any of those drugs to students. I was again hung up on…
One of the most ironic aspects of this whole case to me is that I personally know several of the individuals involved from a church affiliation about fifteen years ago. I met Pastor Jaynes when I was nineteen. He had been the Assistant Pastor of a church that I attended at the time and would sometimes come back to visit. I never had more than a handful of conversations with him over the years and none more recent than nearly a decade ago. Though I only knew him casually, the news of his alleged drug ring was very surprising to me. Kirk and Sherry Parsons were members of the church I attended back then and I considered them to be friends. They moved their church membership to Irvington Bible Baptist Church about a year later and I have rarely run into them over the last fifteen years. It is very disappointing to me that they were involved in this drug operation.
After getting off the phone with the IPS representative, I called the phone number on the sign for the Irvington Bible Baptist Church. I hoped to get in contact with Pastor Jaynes, but did not expect anyone to be at the church on a Thursday afternoon. To my surprise, he answered. Apparently the church phone number is actually his cell phone number. I told Pastor Jaynes my name and said that he may remember me. He said, “Sure, I remember you.” He asked how my family was doing and I said, “Fine.” I said that I was researching the issue from the news story the previous week for a blog I was writing. As I presumed would be the case, he said that his legal counsel had advised that he not speak about the case publicly. I remarked that the whole story seemed like a “big deal,” to which he replied, “Well… everything is not as it appears.” Having read the court documents extensively, I was aware of the implications of what Jaynes had already told police and what others in his ring had disclosed. Even if things are not as they seem in some ways, there is enough that is obviously wrong to be very troubling about this story as a whole. That said, everyone involved deserves their due process and fair day in court. I said to him, “From my past history in ministry, I know that typically when a pastor is going through similar situations, they tend to step down from the Senior Pastor role, at least temporarily, until things are sorted out.” I then asked, “Have you thought about letting another person assume your senior role in the short term?” He replied, “I have not made any decision to step down.” We then concluded our conversation after he asked me to pray for his family. He must not know that I am now an atheist.
I have known some very sincere and caring pastors in my life and some very selfish and manipulative ones. It is always a bad idea for a pastor to remain in the pulpit leading a church when he (or she) may have seriously compromised the integrity of the position. Unfortunately, for the selfish and manipulative brand of pastor, the elixir of power and praise keeps them in a position of “shepherding the sheep” even when they should vacate the pulpit. So, at present, Pastor Jaynes will be sharing the “good news” at the appointed hour next Sunday. After all, for Robert Jaynes, ministry at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is the “Spice” of life. Though, he may find that this verse will apply to him if and when some of his flock is potentially scattered by the winds of these felony charges and future trials to various prisons…
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1
The following is a video mash-up of some of Pastor Jaynes’ preaching and singing that is posted publicly online. During the preaching, Kirk Parsons is sitting in the front row wearing a plaid shirt. There is also footage of a church hymn with Stacey Jaynes, Sherry Parsons, and Lillian Bledsoe (all part of the twelve charged) singing shoulder-to-shoulder while Kirk Parsons again sits in the front row, reminding me of Matthew 23:6 regarding Pharisees, “And (they) love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.” The irony of hearing Pastor Jaynes preach about how, “People don’t have character like they used to have!” during a tent revival at the same time his drug ring was in full swing in the summer of 2013 is nearly more than I can bear. I will say that I 100% support the religious freedom of all American citizens, including those at Irvington Bible Baptist Church. Yet, for those religious leaders who condemn others while secretly acting as a corrupting influence in our communities, there must be accountability. (The video has been edited for the sake of reducing overall length)