Discussion in 'Pseudoscience' started by Zeno, Apr 9, 2023.

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Good luck with your disabilities.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I think accusing opponents of being science cultists rates at least 10 points on the 'Signs You Might Be a Crank' scale.
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps this is a good time for a repost of this. (I added the "science cultist" sign.) It's been a useful guide for me.

    Top Signs you are Reading Woo

    Cranks often enjoy posting on science forums. Once they feel the thrill of making up some pseudoscientific woo, telling it to a friend and having the friend think they are clever - they come on line, find a science forum and post away, hoping for kudos and compliments on their imagination and intelligence. We see them here all the time.

    But how can you tell a true crank from someone who is just confused, or someone who has a reasonable idea that is just not developed? How can you tell plain old errors from woo? Below is a guide to help with that decision. It lists several characteristics of cranks. If you see one of these characteristics, be wary. If you see several, well - either ignore the fellow or have some fun with him.


    1) The Einstein gambit. This gambit is perhaps the most popular attempt that cranks use to justify their woo. "Sure, they're laughing at me, but they laughed at Einstein too, you know!" By equating his situation to that of Einstein, the crank hopes to make it seem that his intelligence is akin to Einstein's - thus granting more validity to his woo.

    2) The sheeple claim. Once a crank uses the word "sheeple" for the first time - to distinguish his own brilliance from the dull conformity of all the other "sheep" on a given forum - you know he's all woo. Use of this word is nearly inevitable for some types of cranks, especially 9/11 truthers and UFO believers.

    3) The mathematical obfuscation. Often, cranks attempt to "prove their point" by throwing a bunch of math on the forum. This can be done several ways. Most commonly it's just unrelated math - constants with improbably large numbers of significant digits is a good clue here. More clever cranks will often use unrelated but accurate math to support their woo. For example, someone claiming zero point energy might post a few derivations of Maxwell's Equations to attempt to prove his point, then claim "if I'm wrong, show me where the math error is!" Support for tools like LaTex increases the odds he will try this, by making it easier to post equations.

    4) Webster Rescue. Often when a crank is losing an argument he will resort to redefining words to try to ameliorate a previous error. For example: "The results you have presented show greater than 100% efficiency, which is thermodynamically impossible." "Well, really, what's the definition of efficiency? Can't it mean that . . . " He will then search out various online dictionaries until he finds a definition that is at least not entirely clear, at which point he will claim that that's the definition that is in common use.

    5) The retcon. In comic books and science fiction, the "retroactive continuity" trick is often used to clear up previous continuity problems.. It is in effect saying "what REALLY happened is . . . ." Perhaps the most famous retcon is in episode V of Star Wars, where Obi-Wan tells Luke "well, yes, I told you your father was dead, but in fact turns out he's Darth Vader due to this complex explanation." On-line, people often use this angle to claim "Yes, I may have said this, but what I really meant was . . ." For example, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist might claim that no steel building has ever collapsed due to fire. When examples are presented, he might change his story to "what I REALLY meant was that no TALL steel building has ever collapsed; that was obvious from my post."

    6) The secret government conspiracy. Sometimes when a crank is challenged, and he feels he is unable to defend his point further, he will pull out the government conspiracy. He WOULD have more proof for his claim, you see, but the government is trying to suppress the information because blah blah blah. In general you will get no more useful information after this point, since if you try, he will accuse YOU of being part of the conspiracy.

    7) Occam's Glue. In general, Occam's Razor describes the general rule that the simplest explanation that explains something is usually the correct one. Cranks use a version of that I call Occam's Glue - if something CAN be the explanation, it must be the explanation, even if simpler explanations suffice. UFO believers use this one a lot. "Yes, it could have been aircraft lights, or a meteor, or a planet, or low clouds - but how can all those explanations always be true? Some MUST be space aliens."

    8) Woo prejudice. Oddly, most cranks will reject other people's woo quite strongly even when it is closely related. "There's no possible way those objects could be space aliens. They were clearly angels." This, while common, unfortunately does not help distinguish a crank from anyone else, since most people reject woo once it's clear that that's what it is.

    9) Magical thinking. If part of someone's proof for their woo is the list of wondrous boons that this technology will grant mankind, the odds are high that he or she is engaging in magical thinking - the belief that a fervent desire for something will make it valid. Cold fusion believers, for example, often will list all the beneficial changes in society that cold fusion will bring about - and therefore declare that it is a real power source.

    10) The Googleblast. Some cranks, facing skepticism, will make a somewhat late attempt to justify woo by searching the Internet for support. They cannot, of course, do any serious research, since that would tend to disprove their woo. However since anything is available on the Internet, they can always find something to at least marginally support them. Their cycle goes like this: Read (forum) Search (google) Pick (something that says something close to what they are claiming) Post (link to related information.) This read-search-pick-post cycle can go on for dozens of posts. They feel that by posting enough marginally related links they have found independent proof of their claim. This is very similar to the Gish Gallop, and shares many of the same characteristics.

    11) Cyberturfing. This is related to the point above. In politics the term "astroturfing" is used to describe the false "grass-roots" support that politicians can fabricate. By funding political media efforts and making it look like the support is coming from many independent voters, they can claim much wider support than they otherwise could. Likewise, cyberturfing attempts to generate so many emails, websites, links, studies and articles that the crank can point to the mass of material and say "see? EVERYONE agrees!" They will often use tactics like submitting papers to vanity journals so they can claim their woo is "peer reviewed." 9/11 truthers are especially good at this.

    12) The Patriotism Ploy. Often a crank will attempt to confabulate his woo with some other laudable ideal like patriotism, family values, freedom, prosperity etc. Thus, rather than arguing the validity of his woo, he can argue the desirability of prosperity - which is a much easier argument to make. For example, a climate change denier might say "you can't believe in climate change! If you do it will bankrupt the US and make Al Gore rich. Do you really want that?"

    13) Quote-mining. Often cranks will search out quotes from well-respected people to support their position (the classic "appeal to authority") - and often will not be able to find the support they want. However, a carefully extracted quote might make it appear that they have such authoritative support. The most popular is a quote from Charles Darwin, ofen used by creationists: "To suppose that the eye . . .could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." The next lines then go on to explain how it is NOT absurd, but since cranks often gather most of their information via the above-mentioned read-search-pick-post method, they will generally miss that.

    14) Prove Me Wrong. Cranks who propose an unusual theory (say, that UFO's are space aliens) will often not listen to alternative explanations that better explain the data. Instead they will propose their woo and ask "can you prove that that's NOT what's happening? Can you prove that that sighting was just a weather balloon?" This lets them sit back and wait for someone to provide an impossible level of proof for the more-reasonable explanation.

    15) As seen on TV! Links to Youtube videos are one of the hallmarks of cranks. Whether this is due to cranks getting most of their information from videos, or whether it is due to the fondness of conspiracy theorists for Youtube, masses of Youtube links are one of the most common signs of the crank.

    16) The argument from incredulity (i.e. "if I can't understand it, it is incorrect - and thus the explanation that I DO understand must be the correct one") is very common among cranks. Since they invariably have a very high impression of their own intelligence, any theory/explanation/process they do not understand must be incorrect.

    17) Science Cultist. If someone accuses you of being a "science cultist" (or "relativity cultist" or "they-actually-landed-on-the-moon cultist" etc) it is pretty safe to say that they are all woo. Once someone thinks that the people who "believe" in science are in a cult, nothing will dissuade them from promulgating their woo.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2023
    James R likes this.
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

    And last but not least:

    18) The Grand Trampling Exit. Often cranks, once they have realized that they are not going to get kudos and attaboys for their unconventional thinking, will make a "final post" that is usually along the lines of "you're all a bunch of idiots! I'm going to leave this once and for all, and deny you all the pleasure of my company. Instead I am going to post on a board where intelligent people have open minds!"

    Reading the Grand Trampling Exit, readers of the forum might be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief as the signal to noise ratio improves. However this relief is often short-lived. Cranks love attention, and thus more often than not they come back sometime later, often with a statement along the lines of "well, I just had to say one more . . ." or "I realized you wanted me to leave, so I'm going to stick around to get back at you!"

  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I think we might be seeing the Grand Trampling Exit soon.
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Write4you has done this more than once.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    In the crank guide, next to this item, is Write4u's pic.

    In the crank guide, next to this item, is Magical Realist's pic.

    In the crank guide, next to this item, is Write4u's pic.
  11. foghorn Valued Senior Member

    Also uploading their 'papers' to sciency looking sites which allows such.
    20 Tony Yuan 'papers'... Here Sciency site
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    foghorn likes this.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Yes, and correct synchronisation means that the GR effect of gravitational time dilation must be taken into account in the system, as well as the SR effect of the time dilation caused by the orbital speeds of the satellites. Without these corrections, the GPS system can't work as accurately as it does.
    No. For starters, the satellite clocks need to be synchronised with ground clocks. The understanding of the relevant time dilation effects comes directly from GR.
    There's nothing wrong with either of those statements. SR is "wrong" in curved spacetimes - it is a special case of GR, specific to "flat" spacetimes. That's why GR was needed - to deal with more general spacetime geometries.

    And yes, it is generally accepted by physicists that GR is "wrong" because it is a classical theory. It is expected that a correct description of gravity in situations of very high density will require a quantum theory of gravity.

    Nothing Hossenfelder said there is controversial. This is all standard, accepted physics.
    No. That's just wishful thinking and misunderstanding on your part, Tony.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    There's nothing problematic in that email, either.

    The Sagnac effect involves rotation, which means that SR is not easily applicable. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Sagnac is a death knell for SR, though. It might just more naturally lend itself to a GR description.

    Bear in mind that SR is "just" a special case of the more general theory, GR. Nobody expects SR to apply to everything.
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I think that, in many cases, it's essentially a cry for attention. "Please notice me! What I have to say is important!"

    But to persist with posting the same debunked nonsense over a period of years or decades requires a special sort of immunity to listening to reason. I think that cranks like Tony probably start with good intentions, but quickly find that the subject matter that interests them is over their heads. Mostly, they lack any formal education in their pet subject - or else their education stopped at some point and they thought (wrongly, as it turned out) that they could make up the gap between what they were taught and what they wanted to investigate by themselves.

    So, the crank invents a personal theory. He has a strong emotional connection to it, but lacks the ability to assess it objectively. So, he shops it around to some experts, who patiently explain to him what's wrong with it, why it's not fit for publication in the peer-reviewed literature, what additional work he would need to do to start to get it up to scratch (which would usually involve more formal education, which - for whatever reason - the crank left behind long ago).

    The crank persists, thinking that sooner or later the odds are he'll find a receptive professional who is willing to spend a little time trying to help the crank. Sometimes this works for a while. An expert offers to help point in the crank in the direction of the additional work he needs to do. But in the end, it's all too hard for the crank, and the expert eventually realises this is a waste of his time and gives up on the crank.

    Meanwhile, the crank is still shopping his revolutionary (flawed or useless) theory around the internet. Rejections and objections accumulate. After enough of them, the crank decides that the real problem is not his pet theory, but the scientific "establishment" at large. At this point, the crank turns into a conspiracy theorist and starts to believe that all science - or at least the science that tends to refute his pet theory - is dogma, and that professional scientists are either "sheeple" who follow the orthodoxy blindly or else are "in" on the Grand Conspiracy to suppress the crank's theory (which the crank now regards as indisputable Truth).

    From this point on, the crank is stuck in a rut. He self-sabotages any hope for improving his own level of understanding of the relevant subject matter, since he now believes that the subject matter itself is "false dogma" that he needs to avoid. The best he can hope for is to drift around the interwebs, occasionally finding new people who are unfamiliar with the nonsense he has been shopping around for years. His currency is now the attention he gets for a short time, until he loses the respect of his latest batch of targets for his revolutionary, but sadly debunked and useless, theory.

    Perhaps the saddest thing about the life choice of the dedicated crank is that, in all likelihood, the crank is good - or at least competent - at something else. But he chooses to waste a not-insignificant portion of his life on trying to promote a dead "theory".

    Actually, perhaps that's not the saddest thing. The saddest thing might be if the crank manages to convince another would-be crank to believe in the crank's theory and become a follower, in which case two lives might be wasted instead of just one. Possibly there is some good news: pseudoscientists often tend to be isolated. Even other cranks won't buy their theories, most of the time, if for no other reason than they are usually too busy with their own.

    And let's not forget the emotional turmoil that must be a constant in the crank's life, as his pet theory is rejected time and again. On one level, he has to develop a very thick skin to keep at it after so much rejection. But I think that, most likely, deep down, there's sure to be a gradual diminishing of self-worth.
    I think for a short time, until the latest group of people notice that their credibility is minuscule, it probably does boost their ego. In the long term, though, crawling away with your tail between your legs for the n-th time has to take a toll, surely.
    I think the answer is probably: yes.
    In the case of pet theories, I think they mostly honestly believe it. They develop protection mechanisms that prevent them from recognising why it's woo, or even seriously considering the idea that it might actually be woo. Remember, from their point of view, they are talking exclusively to sheeple or the Illuminati, in effect.
    When one is crying for attention, one wants to try to stay in the spotlight for as long as possible.
    I'm not so sure. Each personal crank theory is idiosyncratic. I'm thinking mostly of the physics crank theories, here. There are many shared characteristics. Lots of cranks think they've disproved Einstein, for instance. But each one thinks he has disproved Einstein for different reasons, and two cranks are unlikely to agree that the other one's pet theory is the correct one.

    More generally, of course, there are whole communities of cranks who are not really tied up in their own personal theories, but just like to join a community that distrusts perceived authorities and shares a certain political ideology.

Share This Page