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What happened to nature?
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    Cranks and Kooks
    According to Wikipedia, Crank is a pejorative term used for a person who unshakably holds a belief that most of his or her contemporaries consider to be false. A "cranky" belief is so wildly at variance with commonly accepted truth as to be ludicrous. Cranks characteristically dismiss all evidence or arguments which contradict their own unconventional beliefs, making rational debate an often futile task.

    Immanuel Velikovsky, the craziest Jew that ever lived

    I really like crank theories, as some of you may had already noticed. I love reading about them, as much as I love reading the "praise" it invariably receive from experts, and even the crank counter-arguments! for some reason, I always stumble upon these ideas... sometimes I smell the bullshit from miles away – Jose Arguelles comes to mind – and other I can't say if I'm on the crazy-bandwagon or not – most of Terrence McKenna theories are probably considered Crank by mainstream science, and I definitively agree with him in many points.

    So, I was amused by this list of universal crank characteristics...

    1. Cranks overestimate their own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts.
    2. Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important.
    3. Cranks rarely if ever acknowledge any error, no matter how trivial.
    4. Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, and often appear to be uninterested in anyone else's experience or opinions.

    Some cranks exhibit a lack of academic achievement, in which case they typically assert that academic training in the subject of their crank belief is not only unnecessary for discovering "the truth", but actively harmful because they believe it "poisons" the minds by teaching falsehoods. Others greatly exaggerate their personal achievements, and may insist that some alleged achievement in some entirely unrelated area of human endeavor implies that their cranky opinion should be taken seriously.

    Some cranks claim vast knowledge of any relevant literature, while others claim that familiarity with previous work is entirely unnecessary; regardless, cranks inevitably reveal that whether or not they believe themselves to be knowledgeable concerning relevant matters of fact, mainstream opinion, or previous work, they are not in fact well-informed concerning the topic of their belief.

    In addition, many cranks

    1. seriously misunderstand the mainstream opinion to which they believe that they are objecting,
    2. stress that they have been working out their ideas for many decades, and claim that this fact alone entails that their belief cannot be dismissed as resting upon some simple error,
    3. compare themselves with Galileo or Copernicus, implying that the mere unpopularity of some belief is in itself evidence of plausibility,
    4. claim that their ideas are being suppressed, typically by secret intelligence organizations, mainstream science, powerful business interests, or other groups which, they allege, are terrified by the possibility of their allegedly revolutionary insights becoming widely known,
    5. appear to regard themselves as persons of unique historical importance.

    Cranks who contradict some mainstream opinion in some highly technical field, such as mathematics or physics, almost always

    1. exhibit a marked lack of technical ability,
    2. misunderstand or fail to use standard notation and terminology,
    3. ignore fine distinctions which are essential to correctly understanding mainstream belief.

    Other interesting list on the subject is John Baez's Crackpot Index, a simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics. Very funny : )

    Tue, Jan 5, 2010  Permanent link

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    Olena     Mon, Jan 18, 2010  Permanent link
    Great entry, really amusing.
    It reminded me of this:

    “Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish. If you want to woo the muse of the odd, don’t read Shakespeare. Read Webster’s revenge plays. Don’t read Homer and Aristotle. Read Herodotus where he’s off talking about Egyptian women having public sex with goats. If you want to read about myth don’t read Joseph Campbell, read about convulsive religion, read about voodoo and the Millerites and the Munster Anabaptists. There are hundreds of years of extremities, there are vast legacies of mutants. There have always been geeks. There will always be geeks. Become the apotheosis of geek. Learn who your spiritual ancestors were. You didn’t come here from nowhere. There are reasons why you’re here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable or uncomfortable or dangerous.”
    — The Wonderful Power of Storytelling, Bruce Sterling

    Perhaps we really shouldn't ignore the crackpots eh?