How can we tell if someone is a scientific crank?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by (Q), Feb 12, 2002.

  1. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    19,125
    (1) First and most important of these traits is that cranks work in almost total isolation from their colleagues. Cranks typically do not understand how the scientific process operates that they need to try out their ideas on colleagues, attend conferences and publish their hypotheses in peer-reviewed journals before announcing to the world their startling discovery. Of course, when you explain this to them they say that their ideas are too radical for the conservative scientific establishment to accept.

    (2) A second characteristic of the pseudo-scientist, which greatly strengthens his isolation, is a tendency toward paranoia, which manifests itself in several ways:

    (a) He considers himself a genius.

    (b) He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads....

    (c) He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against. The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture. The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to "enemies" for review. It is all part of a dastardly plot. It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work....

    (d) He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories. When Newton was the outstanding name in physics, eccentric works in that science were violently anti-Newton. Today, with Einstein the father-symbol of authority, a crank theory of physics is likely to attack Einstein....

    (e) He often has a tendency to write in a complex jargon, in many cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined.

    We should keep these criteria in mind when we explore controversial ideas on the borderlands of science.
     
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  3. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Even when a claim initially looks promising the phrase 'my evidence indicates x' pops up and then there is no further mention of the actual evidence.

    Science is all about evidence. If a discussion of the evidence is not a key component of the thesis then you know that either the evidence is lacking or is inadequate.

    You only way we can tell if a theory has value is by judging the evidence.

    So if the bulk of a claim is about the conclusion rather than the evidence then be very skeptical.

    Cris
     
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    The Crackpot Index

    <b>A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics</b>
    By John Baez

    1. A -5 point starting credit.
    2. 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
    3. 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
    4. 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.
    5. 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.
    6. 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.
    7. 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).
    8. 5 points for each mention of "Einstein", "Hawking" or "Feynman".
    9. 10 points for each claim that quantum mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).
    10. 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to university, as if this were evidence of sanity.
    11. 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it.
    12. 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don't know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.
    13. 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or finds any flaws in your theory.
    14. 10 points for each statement along the lines of "I'm not good at maths, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations".
    15. 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it.
    16. 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn't explain "why" they occur, or fails to provide a "mechanism".
    17. 10 points for each favourable comparison of yourself to Einstein, or claim that special or general relativity are fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).
    18. 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "paradigm shift".
    19. 20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel prize.
    20. 20 points for each favourable comparison of yourself to Newton or claim that classical mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).
    21. 20 points for every use of science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.
    22. 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.
    23. 20 points for each use of the phrase "hidebound reactionary".
    24. 20 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy".
    25. 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported. (E.g., that Feynman was a closet opponent of special relativity, as deduced by reading between the lines in his undergraduate physics textbooks.)
    26. 30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.
    27. 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilisation (without good evidence).
    28. 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, etc.
    29. 40 points for claiming that the "scientific establishment" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.
    30. 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.
    31. 40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasising about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant.)
    32. 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.
    --------

    The higher the score, the more likely this is a crackpot.

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  7. ImaHamster2 Registered Senior Member

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    Q, this hamster agrees. (After reading through the James R. list this hamster couldn’t disagree while keeping a straight face.) However…

    In mathematics until recently a sign of being a crank was to work on a proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

    The most brilliant person this hamster has ever known developed his own notational system for General Relativity Equations while a student at Rice. The chairman of the math department at Rice University described his work as world-class mathematics. Last this hamster heard this person held no academic position and had no doctorate. He might well be a weirdo posting strange theories on the Internet today.

    Another brilliant student of this hamster’s acquaintance was running a go-cart track when last known. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn this person is thinking about math while fumbling people’s change.

    Less talented people are teaching mathematics at the university level.

    Something to keep in mind.

    Focus on the evidence is good advice.

    http://www.sciam.com/2001/1101issue/1101skeptic.html

    http://www.sciam.com/2001/1201issue/1201skeptic.html
     
  8. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,109
    Since when is a 31-step process simple for the masses?

    12-stepped processes are quite hard enough for most of them.

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  9. ismu ::phenomenon::. Registered Senior Member

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    468
    for WHAT?


    On what purpuse we should judge someone else? To avoid become victim of lies? Purely?

    People are vary. All of them have their own pride. We better respect differences and limitations among peoples.
     
  10. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,109
    For the purpose of defining significant purpose, and inviting the same?
     
  11. ismu ::phenomenon::. Registered Senior Member

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    468
    for THAT?

    By judging people and creating dislike feeling?

    Most people alway on race to catch up each other, to become more superior above each other. To drive rapid progress for themselves, their comunity, society, and nation to be the most rich and powerful enough to create fears, and force their judgement to others. Reject differences in principle.

    For what?. Satisfy? Ratings? Make others impressed of thir achievement and status? Is it worth enough for us to live suffer in racing, become selfish, become a liar, or even become a criminal, spreads terror, bath in sweat and blood?

    Since we were kid, there are rank to rating our skills, there was a winner and loosers. We play a games, there was a winner and a looser. We saw action movies, there was a winner and a looser. When we doing bussines, we claimed tobe suceed by beating our competitor, there was a winner and a looser. And so on... Our mind takes these winning matter poison too much, without question.

    Is it we're living for? To become a winner? Is it the art of life that sux?

    Or is it on purpose to make our lives easier? Is it really become easier?

    How about racing to become better people, become nobel and helpful to others? How about ignore differences in principles and achivement, just do the best with truly sensire, without even thinking of competition?

    Good and evil will remain exits. No doubt about it. But why to choose to become evil sometimes? What forced to it? Condition or our own desire? We'll always have options, we own freedom to choose, and take the consequences...
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2002
  12. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,109
    I openingly judge, and openly invite others to judge me in return.

    Thus is everyone open to participate in the process of deciding what is and is not significant within the community.

    To perpetrate the notion that no one is free to judge anyone/anything else on their/its merits, or lack thereof, is to promote the unsavory myth that everyone but the Special Ones amongst us is unworthy of contributing to the common good.

    That may float your boat but it doesn't do much to motivate mine over the horizon. Then again, most assuredly it does -- just to get away from that uncontructive mind-set.

    Sorry, dude. I have to disagree with you.
     
  13. ismu ::phenomenon::. Registered Senior Member

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    468
    It's a good thing to hear.
    ...

    It's ok. I respect any differences.

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    Btw, i prefer to pick construticve way by accomodate directly in the subject of matters, without judgement in personal. As all scientist agree, it's more important to examine the evidence than talking about who's idea it was.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2002
  14. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,109
    Well, yes and no.

    Judging an idea on the evidence is important. But, a necessary part of the selection process of deciding which amongst an overwhelming number of ideas available for consideration is worthy of serious contemplation is serious consideration of their source.

    So, your statement isn't entirely accurate.

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  15. ismu ::phenomenon::. Registered Senior Member

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    As you said, THE IDEA is the important one, Not who's idea it was. If something, designed / derived based on... let say Newton law. we're not talking about Sir Isaac Newton himself. It's about the law (which named by it's inventor as 'reward') which is proven to be valid evidence. It's about evidence over evidence.

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  16. ssivakami Registered Senior Member

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  17. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

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    ssivakami ...

    Unfortunately, it also sifts out much of current astronomical theory and
    portions of many other areas of science.

    Welcome to Sciforums.

    Take care

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  18. ssivakami Registered Senior Member

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    Re: ssivakami ...

    Have you noted the "wherever possible" clauses in the BDK ? I bet not

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    - Sivakami.
     
  19. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

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    ssivakami ...

    Always have a C.Y.A. clause

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    But really, touché.

    Take care

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  20. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    I hope you all realise that the methods of Crankpot measurement, could have been written by Crankpots.

    (How many points is that worth

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    )

    I found it amusing because I know that some individuals have exclaimed in the past something similar to myself being one.

    This of course was usually due to a few facts:

    1: I was young, foolish, ignorant and stoned. So no matter how proposterously fictional something could be seen to be by someone not out of their tree on Marijuana, I thought it was very real and worth discussing. (looking back on it now, it was pretty funny!)

    2: I had suffered from the Undergraduate dogma that University Professors and College Tutors suffer when someone walks off the street asking to do a qualification with no academic backgrounding. So I slammed my head into books, and have almost become the internets Simese twin, joint at the hip to the search engines.

    3: I'm now trying to develop a machine that is powered on ideas

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    D 50 points!) Okay that line was just a gag, although thinking about it... I wonder how much energy is used up in just thought alone?

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    4: I regularly wanted to discuss principles that had crossed my mind after being catalysed by reading pieces of information from here and there, and even finding a meta-physical similarity to something in nature similar to Archimedes screaming Eureka in the bathtub. (Namely I could seek an understanding to a different field by cross referencing data that would seem trivial)

    5: I never really classed myself as a Scientist, as my original method of understanding was Philosophy. Although you could all look to the Latin of Scienta. When I discuss something and manage to stay on topic (without joking about

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    ) I try to look from a philosophical aspect, rather than just turning around and saying... "I'm a scientist! (Jim ... not a mechanic.)"

    6: I have come up with a bunch of speculative ideas on a bunch of scientific fields, and I do sometimes engage upon them.
    I know that I've mentioned something about myself that seems "Paranoid and delusionary", but the people that usually term it that way are too stringent to their fields to be able to see other fields and technological progress.

    (Namely a Doctor will know of disease's and prognosis, but will not know of people in a physics laboratory doing a radiation experiment. From the doctors perception, It's proposterous that a person could be bombarded due ot the legality, and the ailment would be considered to be a mental state. Although on further investigation it could be percieved that radiation damage to tissue has occured, and that a bunch of people are taking notes on that individual somewhere.)

    That's an Anecdotal setup, not a reality.

    7: Is a lucky number for some. (I have no proof to back that)


    Heck that should do, have fun making up a score to suit my sense of humour!!!!!
     
  21. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,109
    I disagree with the phrasing of this particular Baloney Detection Tool Kit" tool:

    Occam's Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.

    The Razor actually admonishes one to prefer the hypothesis of most economical complexity. The better reasoned, not the simpler to understand.
     
  22. ssivakami Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    58
    Re: ssivakami ...

    Jokes apart, the BDK is really an excellent toolkit for sifting out science from pseudo science.
    Many scientific theories have yet to be validated completely and scientists do accept this. In fact you will never find a more humble or a more intellectually honest profession.

    - Sivakami.
     
  23. ssivakami Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    58
    I wont claim to speak for Sagan, but when he says simpler he does mean more economical, not simpler to understand.

    - Sivakami.
     

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