How to be a Crackpot: a 12-Step System

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by chroot, Oct 3, 2002.

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  1. chroot Crackpot killer Registered Senior Member

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    This site seems to be an active beam-path crossing of reputable scientists and crackpots. (What strange types of heavy scientists are created in such collisions? I don't know.)

    After reading many of the things these crackpots have to say here and on some of the 10^19 other crackpot pages on the internet, I have pieced together a short list of what it takes to be a crackpot. Enjoy.

    1) Pick a piece of reputable science that seems beautiful to you, preferably one at a high-school or earlier level (since, after all, you didn't take any collegiate science courses). Bonus points are assigned for choosing a piece that has been proven wrong and abandoned by modern science. The Bohr "solar-system" model of the atom, for example, will do nicely.

    2) Misunderstand some fundamental point of your pet scientific principle.

    3) Read about your pet scientific principle in a variety of $5.95 paperbacks sold at the front counter of the newsstands in malls.

    4) Misunderstand even the qualitative descriptions and word-bound "math" provided therein.

    5) Use that one piece of trivial scientific theory to explain everything in the observable universe. Yes, the beginning of time, the size of the Universe, black holes, and all the rest. Ascribe some silly properties to things that don't actually have those properties; for example, talk about the "speed" of electrons, and use the speed to explain the beginning of time. Don't be greedy and try to involve any other bits of real science; your theory has to have a definite focal point. What better focal point is there for an all-encompassing theory of the Universe than that piece of beautiful outdated science you learned in ninth grade?

    6) Forego all use of math, since math is hard (you abandoned real science for the same reason, remember?). Besides, you've already convinced yourself that no one would ever order a Universe so complex that you'd actually need something as hard as math to describe it. If you do attempt to use math, make sure it's entirely unrelated to your thesis. Make use of the prettiest symbols as often as possible -- if say, you like the looks of the symbol for an integral over a closed region, just make all of your integrals over a closed region. Since you're making up dimensions, quantities, and symbols anyway, you can do what you like. Just think of the symbols as window dressing.

    7) Make up at least a dozen new words. Even better, reuse the same words scientists use, but give them new, entirely different, meanings. Be careful not to give them precise definitions, though; leave a little wiggle room. Using your new lexicon, you can escape the barrage of criticism you'll receive later by revealing "your" definitions piecemeal. This bait-and-switch tactic soon wears out any would-be critics; when they give up on you, pat yourself on the back for having created an impregnable fortress of a theory.

    8) Write at least one sentence that uses all of your new words at the same time. Make liberal use of nested prepositional phrases and passive voice. Since you don't actually understand science, you read a science book and see nothing but meaningless jumbles of words grouped into complicated sentence structures; it makes sense that you should emulate this as best you can. This "topic sentence" also becomes a great tool for weeding out your crackpot fellows from the background noise of reputable scientists. Anyone who reads the sentence "The force of magnetism is the result of a torque generated by the energy vortex Shadows associate with electromagnet energy, which causes a 'tilting' of the W axis of the fourth spatial dimensions." and actually claims to "get it" is immediately identified as a colleague.

    9) Do your best to ignore every shred of the contrary evidence collected by hundreds of thousands of independent scientists, in millions of experiments, over the span of hundreds of years. There are a variety of ways in which you can dodge the evidence:

    - You can simply ignore it.
    - You can explain that all of those scientists, helplessly unarmed by having not yet experienced the epiphany embodied in your theory, simply did the wrong experiments, or intepreted the experimental results incorrectly.
    - You can refer to the International Scientific Conspiracy, who has encased all of the real scientists (who would immediately give you the Nobel prize for your discovery) in concrete, leaving only the riff-raff underachievers to do such poor experiments.
    - You can make use of the paranoid idea that the only experiments which are conclusive are those which involve the human senses directly. If you can't feel it heating up with your hand, or see it glowing with your eye, then you haven't done a real experiment. Why should anyone, especially you, believe anything that a machine says? After all, the International Scientific Conspiracy certainly has a few well-stocked machine shops.

    10) Whenever someone criticizes you, be sure to try to make him feel guilty for being so closed-minded that the only thing he'll accept is cold, hard reality. Tell him that scientists like Einstein invented new branches of physics only by being as open-minded as you are; ignore the fact that the assertion is not true (or invoke the International Scientific Conspiracy).

    11) Submit your paper to reputable scientific authorities, like PRL and Nature. When no one bothers to even respond with a rejection letter, come to one of two possible conclusions: either that modern science has no rebuttal to your theory, you have shattered their collective scientific ego with your brilliance, and they have chosen not to respond because they are too proud to admit defeat; or that the International Scientific Conspiracy has immediately destroyed your paper because you got too close to the Truth. Either way, your theory is actually strengthened by the silent dismissal, and that's all that really matters anyway. Now you can tell anyone who cares to listen that modern science cannot rebut your theory, so it must be right. You can go a step further, become proactive, and actually solicit rebuttals directly from the individuals in the reputable scientific community. When none of these scientists is willing to waste his time trying to teach you tenth-grade physics, you can proudly announce that science cannot disprove your theory.

    12) Misunderstand the essence of the scientific method. Forget the fact that theories must provide falsifiable or directly verifiable predictions to be taken seriously. Since your theory is a crackpot theory, it is incapable of providing directly verifiable predictions. You were careful to avoid making your definitions precise, weren't you? The same wiggle room that allows your theory to explain just about any experimental result is also responsible for preventing your theory from making any concrete predictions of anything. It doesn't matter what number pops out of the particle physicist's machine; your theory doesn't even use math, so any number you'd like can be explained by it. Your theory is immune to the scientific method, and that makes it better. Your theory cannot be proven wrong, so it must be right.

    - Warren
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2002
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  3. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    chroot:

    Welcome.

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    Very funny and, sadly, very accurate.

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  5. chroot Crackpot killer Registered Senior Member

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    Now that I think about it, there may even be further steps...

    13) Make up a name for your theory. Reputable scientific theories have wacky-sounding names like "Quantum Electrodynamics" and "Special Relativity," so yours should, too. Use latin whenever possible, since latin sounds scientific; nevermind that you don't understand how to conjugate latin verbs. "Genesis Continuous," "Shadows," and "Time Cube" are all excellent names. Bonus points are assigned for crackpots who manage to bastardize the names of reputable theories. For example, "God Almighty's Grand Unified Theory" is at least ten times as good as "Shadows," because it provokes fear and awe while simultaneously including a buzzword that has recently attracted a great deal of reputable attention.

    14) Found your very own organization dedicated to the research of your new theory of everything. It doesn't matter if some of your compatriots are actually 18th century French poets, are imaginary, or are canines -- all that matters is that you have an organization. Give it a good official-sounding name. You've surely heard of Caltech and MIT; using the "Institute of Technology" moniker will definitely make everyone take you seriously for a change. The "Offapit Institute of Technology," for example, is repsonsible for "God Almighty's Grand Unified Theory," which is poised to soon change the way all of humankind will think about science, if only the editors of PRL will give up their hubris and accept its superiority.

    - Warren
     
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  7. >_O Registered Senior Member

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    O-M-G, im gonna be a rich man

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  8. chroot Crackpot killer Registered Senior Member

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    And how about a survey of our local neighborhood sciforums.com cranks? There are surely more than just these, but here's what I found browsing for a few minutes:

    Dwayne D.L.Rabon: he's an extreme noob, but he's shown to be a heavy hitter somewhere between Steps 9 and 10. He deserves extra credit for the sheer quality of his delusions.

    ProCop: As much as I want to rank him in the upper class of cranks, I think he falls somewhere just shy of Step 9. His theory is just too nebulous, philosophical, and nonsensical to even relate to any known experiment. Perhaps that means he's actually already hit Step 12?

    jeffocal: One of my favorite contenders. He's already tipped the scales just shy of Step 14. Why just shy? He's so far refrained from actually giving his organization a name. Come on, Jeff, what's with the hesitation?

    Frencheneesz: He is a fledgling crackpot, clinging somewhere between Steps 6 and 10. Many of his posts intimate various different components of crank thought. He doesn't understand science or math very well, has created a number of small crank theories, likes to accuse others of being too closed-minded, and likes to summarily dismiss contrary evidence. Perhaps as his neurosis deepens he will be able to assemble his legion of small crank theories into the crank theory analogue of Voltron, and place himself squarely on Step 10.

    - Warren
     
  9. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    chroot:

    I recognize many people of my acquaintence in your "12+ steps".

    Most specifically a poker-playing buddy of mine. For years--approx. 10--we've had countless discussions about his theory of gravity. He rejects Special Relativity, is fixated on the Michaelson-Morley experiment, says gravity isn't SR's mass-induced space-time curvature but rather space-time particles sucked up by mass-sinks, the flow of said particles produce the drag effects we call gravity. He has written his own computer program to calculate General Relativity-consistant numerical quanties based on data derived from his 'model', and because his program provides him the very numbers he must have to support his hypothesis his model must be the death of SR. He has designed a satellite-based Michaelson-Morley experiment, but he has made no testable predictions beyond the original M-M experiment. He cannot get a response from the Journals, and the Secret Service is trying to steal his papers and programs. He finally got an internet account about 18 months ago and since has found a home in the newsgroups. His name is John.

    Hmmm. That reminds me. Weren't all the Lectroids in The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension named John, too?

    Just a thought. Another theory forming as we speak.
     
  10. chroot Crackpot killer Registered Senior Member

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    Oh, and I would be remiss were I not to include:

    ted_roe: Since he isn't a physical crank (he's into UFOs) he doesn't really fit my Program too well. However, I feel he intuitively hits the end of the line (Step 14) for using a fake organization (called "NARCAP" to gather credibility by sounding like a government agency) populated by fake NASA employees to push a fake UFO theory on everyone. He's definitely got the International Scientific Conspiracy in his sights.

    John MacNeil: he's argumentative, loony, and has an affinity for credential pissing contests. He's another UFOgey, though, and again doesn't exactly fit into my Program. (Perhaps I need to develop a UFO/Paranormal 12 Step Program?) He's definitely managed to find himself near Step 10, if you can accept the analogy.

    - Warren
     
  11. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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  12. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

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    I should print this and put it on a wall somewhere near my computer...

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  13. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    Let's not forget the eloquent ranting and railing, fueled by delusions of personal attack when obvious flaws are identified and exposed.
     
  14. chroot Crackpot killer Registered Senior Member

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    Perhaps. I intended to intertwine paranoia liberally with all of the steps, since I think it's an integral part of the psychology of all cranks-to-be, rather than just a stop on the end of the road.

    Perhaps there should be an additional step for those who raise their intellectual hackles and begin using terse, formal, 18th century language, often including large words they can't even define, to attack those who point out that their theory can't possibly be right.

    - Warren
     
  15. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member

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    Every addition to human knowledge first comes to light on the lunatic fringe, believed in only by crackpots.

    Or if you hold on to the conventional wisdom you also become a crackpot:

    "Nobody knows anything about the true shape of the world," he contends. "The known, inhabited world is flat. Just as a guess, I'd say that the dome of heaven is about 4,000 miles away, and the stars are about as far as San Francisco is from Boston."

    http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/fe-scidi.htm


    How about a moment of greatful silence for the crackpots

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  16. chroot Crackpot killer Registered Senior Member

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    Welcome to Step 10.

    - Warren
     
  17. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member

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    Thanks.

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    To celebrate my arrival I'd like to paraphrase Newton, "I got here only by standing on the shoulders of other crackpots".


    "The Flat Earth Society is not in any way responsible for the failure of the French to repel the Germans at the Maginot Line during WWII. Nor is the Flat Earth Society responsible for the recent yeti sightings outside the Vatican, or for the unfortunate enslavement of the Nabisco Inc. factory employees by a rogue hamster insurrectionist group. Furthermore, we are not responsible for the loss of one or more of the following, which may possibly occur as the result of exposing one's self to the dogmatic and dangerously subversive statements made within: life, limb, vision, Francois Mitterand, hearing, taste, smell, touch, thumb, Aunt Mildred, citizenship, spleen, bedrock, cloves, I Love Lucy reruns, toaster, pine derby racer, toy duck, antelope, horseradish, prosthetic ankle, double-cheeseburger, tin foil, limestone, watermelon-scented air freshner, sanity, paprika, German to Pig Latin dictionary, dish towel, pet Chihuahua, pogo stick, Golf Digest subscription, floor tile, upper torso or halibut."

    http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/FlatHome.htm
     
  18. le coq Registered Senior Member

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    chroot: Not sure how long you've been lurking/posting, but there used to be an annoying little twerp by the name of truthseeker who would make up theories without actually referring it to any previous body of knowledge, and laid out whoppers like Stephen Hawking's work is pure mysticism, even though he admittedly didn't waste his time to read the book. He liked to use a lot of emoticons, especially the one with big grinning teeth. I hate emoticons. It made me sick when ( usually a female) would defend him like he was a precious-moments-like babe in the woods who needed a little humoring, who deserved a chance to speak. I and the multitude who subjected him to the harsher aspects of Darwinian thought felt we deserved the chance to speak too. Eventually, he said he was leaving because we were too mean and close minded. This process took a few months, and I tried to get everyone to ignore him, but people kept trying to point out his logical flaws as if he would learn.

    Man I feel so superior now. Just thought I would add this guy to your catalog. It might seem a little harsh to spotlight these guys on the carpet, but perhaps we need a hall of shame to hold these guys to the idea of peer review and community dialog, and to quit thinking they're always right. Nobody arrives at the truth alone like Clint Eastwood. Before you start overturning decades of thought, you should think, "How long have I been at this now?" There should be a note in the user agreement that says, "Think Socrates. You are not right about everything. In fact, you are probably wrong about most things."

    Le Coq
     
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    chroot,

    I like your list a lot.

    I have taken the liberty of posting a copy of your first post on the Australian <a href="http://www.abc.net.au" target="_blank">ABC</a> <a href="http://www2b.abc.net.au/science/k2/stn" target="_blank">Self-Service Science Forum</a>, in <a href="http://www2b.abc.net.au/science/k2/stn/posts/topic193280.shtm" target="_blank">this thread</a>

    I hope you don't mind.
     
  20. Tyler Registered Senior Member

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    "Not sure how long you've been lurking/posting, but there used to be an annoying little twerp by the name of truthseeker who would make up theories without actually referring it to any previous body of knowledge, and laid out whoppers like Stephen Hawking's work is pure mysticism, even though he admittedly didn't waste his time to read the book. He liked to use a lot of emoticons, especially the one with big grinning teeth. I hate emoticons. It made me sick when ( usually a female) would defend him like he was a precious-moments-like babe in the woods who needed a little humoring, who deserved a chance to speak. I and the multitude who subjected him to the harsher aspects of Darwinian thought felt we deserved the chance to speak too. Eventually, he said he was leaving because we were too mean and close minded. This process took a few months, and I tried to get everyone to ignore him, but people kept trying to point out his logical flaws as if he would learn."

    God how I miss Nelson, hahahahaha. Nelson was 100% sure that he was the only human being in the world ever who fully understood god, the universe and the ultimate truths of all humanity. The one thing I liked about him is that he wasn't afraid to admitt he thought this. Of course, immediatly afterwards he would call me cocky for not being open-minded enough to believe him. Go search for "Truthseeker" threads and you'll see what we mean!
     
  21. thed IT Gopher Registered Senior Member

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    1,105
    Can we also add Prosoothus and Brad Guth to this list. Don't go near http://uplink.space.com, more nuts than on a Chestnut tree. At least we have no ardent Velikovskians around here or the likes of <a href="http://www.zetatalk.com">Nutty Nancy</a>, the bane of news://sci.astro.

    Valuable tools you might be interested in are,

    <ul>
    <li><a href="http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html">The Baez Crackpot index</a>. Though created for Usenet it is still useful.
    <li>Always keep an eye on http://www.crank.net. Maintained by Eric Max Francis, it has a list of crank web sites. Brad and Jeff are listed there.
    <li>http://www.skepdic.com. Many common myths are dispelled there.
    <li>The redoubtable http://www.snopes.com
    <li>http://www.talkorigins.com. Anti-Creationist web site.
    </ul>

    I'm sure more pages can be added.
     
  22. Xevious Truth Beyond Logic Registered Senior Member

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    I will have to say that the denouncement of Ted Roe is unfounded. The reason why is because he's easy to check out.

    Some of you have said NARCAP is a crackpot organization, but I have found plenty of evidence to the contrary. Granted NARCAP has become associated with UFO's but this is truly unavoidable for ANY organization claiming to be involved in any kind of unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. Space.Com in fact, mentions NARCAP. The charge that it is intended to sound like a government agency is foolish, considering that it does not claim to be, and in fact states it is an independent, non-profit organization.

    However, what's bothered me is how some of you claim NARCAP has "ficticious" former NASA employees. A simple search of NASA's website for the name Dr. Richard F. Haines, found examples of work he did for NASA, which include the following research papers available online:

    Human-Computer Interfaces Required in a Modern Air Trafic Control Room
    http://ffc.arc.nasa.gov/about_us/technical_papers/human_computer_interfaces.html
    http://ffc.arc.nasa.gov/about/tech_papers/HCI_99.html

    Dr. Richard F. Haines worked at the AMES Research Center in an area related to Air Traffic Control. Since NARCAP's stated mission is to improve Air Traffic Safety by studying UAP, it makes perfect sense that someone with those said qualifications would be the chief scientist at NARCAP. The fact that none of you checked him out and someone claimed he didn't even exist proves quite disturbing to your credibility as skeptics.

    When you as a skeptic have made a negative claim, you must also shoulder the burden or proof.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2002
  23. Adam §Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥ Registered Senior Member

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    Chroot's list

    Well, to be honest, his crowded posts make his words difficult to read through. I have not read enough of his stuff.

    Haven't read any of his theories yet. I'm so friggin lazy...

    Again, I've been too lazy.

    This is getting embarrassing. I tend to only read the physics threads I have a specific interest in.

    I have no problem with discussing the possibility of spaceships and aliens and such. I consider extraterrestrial life very likely. However, I find it very unlikely that Farmer Bob was butt-probed in his barn by alien sex-fiends. Meaning, most UFO-nuts are crackpots.

    Well, yes, argumentative. He's obviously read some books, but reading some books and then claiming to be an expert in certain areas is just annoying.

    Nah, this guy's a nutter.
     
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