Remain Calm, Etc: The Crackpots Are Coming
Posted September 4, 2014on:
Good Thursday, Widdershins. It’s been a sad week. as yet another American journalist met an untimely and rather grisly end at the hand of extremists. Phil, the Southern caricature patriarch of Duck Dynasty recommends the capture of ISIS extremists and offering them the choice of forced conversion vs. execution. I stand in awe that this college graduate fails to see the historic antecedents of this exceedingly flawed statement. Or maybe he does and he is tossing it out as red meat to his audience base. However, his timing is perfect, as Crackpots of all stripes are coming out of the woodwork and campaigning night and day for the forthcoming election. Even if Phil is not running, he is bidding for a seat at the table.
Oh, and there are a lot of them To be certain, none quite as pungent as candidates fielded by the Repubs last midterms. There was the Crackpot who decried all pensions while living on them (Sharon Angle), and the gentleman who pontificates that a woman;s body could shut down unwanted pregnancies (Aiken), or the memorable Crackpot who filmed a teevee commercial to advise us all that she is not a witch (O’Donnell). The current crop is somewhat more vanilla, and we may require some help to ferret out the true crackpots from the merely underinformed.
Science has more than its fair share of crackpots, dating back to the time of Copernicus. Some of the crackpots turned out to be correct, but a vast number were proven to be wrong. Some of the differences are major, some just a matter of degree. To that end, John Baez (yes, Joan’s cousin) has proposed a Crackpot Index, to be used to review scientific papers. Here’s an overview:
1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.
10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it.
20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.
40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.
50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.
Ergo, the higher the score, the more likely the subject is to be considered a duly qualified Crackpot. So, I got to thinking that this would be a great test for political candidates, as we have always had an embarrassment of incipient Crackpots in the political arena. Anyone else remember that Nixon ran for president and likely won because he claimed to have a secret plan to win the Vietnam War? (1+5+20+50=76) Then there was Spiro Agnew, who called anyone who did not agree with him silly names, with alliteration. e,g, “nattering nabobs of negativity” (H/T to Pat Buchanan and William Safire), “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and “hopeless hysterical hypochondriacs of history”. Nope, no Nazi references, but I vote that it qualifies and award 10+40 points, minimum. Dubya and Cheyney were masters. They would rack up at least ten separate 1-pointers on WMD presence, any number of neologisms, e.g. “truthiness”, were coined, and those who argued against them were “unpatriotic”, and the Iraqi resistance was “a few dead- enders.” Again, we must be a little bit flexible. By me we should consider any repetitive epithet as a qualifier, as opposed a stricter adherence to Godwin’s Law. Therefore, “unpatriotic” and “Nattering nabobs” are both easy 40-pointers. If we take the time to do it, these gentlemen will all likely rack up triple digits. See how easy this is? If we can review these folks before we elect them, we can save ourselves a lot of grief.
John Baez recommends donning a tinfoil hat as protection when the index begins to inch up. Of course, he designed this for scientists to self-administer in order to test their latest theory. I’m not so certain that many politicians would be this honest, so we shall have to do this for them. There are two short months until elections, so keep this handy and pick up an extra-large roll of Reynolds wrap. We’ve had a few beauts already, such as the candidate who is absolutely certain that Al Qaeda is crossing the Rio Grande, and another who exhorted a busload of kids from the local Y to go back to Mexico. I can hardly wait for the rest.
Feel free to propose the candidate of your choice at any time, and we’ll administer the CI. Seriously, this may be the most important midterm of our lives, and we need to be really committed to a good election. In fact, I will challenge all to see whose candidate attains the highest CI score. That lucky Widdershin will then win one solid week of choosing the topics for our posts. Let the games begin.
This is an open thread.
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