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  • eric krieg
    a neat publication from the Texas Skeptics: http://www.ntskeptics.org/2001/2001january/january2001.htm Randi made a good point: how come the psychics didn t
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 2, 2001
      a neat publication from the Texas Skeptics:

      Randi made a good point: "how come the psychics didn't warn Kennedy not to fly?"

      I usually do not take on purely religious claims. But if they come knocking on my door, then they are fair game. Feel free, anyone to respond to the following offer:


      From: "Araq Jormungand" <araq@...>


      Would you happen to know anyone that can refute any of the evidence there?
      -- =============================

      The following are some good skeptical jokes found at:

      A Psychic Fair is like a sanitation department strike - until one occurs you don't realize how much garbage is out there!

      A Reflexologist told me that pressure on different parts of the foot controls blood flow to various organs in the body. I
      said, in that case shift your weight, I don't think enough blood's reaching your brain.

      I was regressed to a former life where I lived in a huge palace where I was surrounded by hundreds of naked concubines
      - unfortunately I was a eunuch!

      When TV offers us "food for thought" why is it so often junk food?

      Some Books that Prometheus missed:

      The Origins of the Specious - The roots of Creationism

      Gullibles Travels - Journeys through the world of parapsychology.

      Across The World in 80-Days - A flat earthers adventure.

      A Fortune In Men's Eyes - Get rich with Iridology.


      Taking the Mask Off Pseudoscience

      December 21, 2000


      ERIK MAX FRANCIS is so passionate about the theory and practice of
      modern science that in the last year alone he has posted 9,460
      messages in scores of online user groups devoted topics like
      relativity, astronomy and neuroscience.

      Mr. Francis, 29, is not a scientist, and has taken only a handful
      of classes at a community college, but he is a self-educated
      computer programmer from San Jose, Calif., who just happens to be
      comfortable, he says, discussing the theories and applications of
      mathematical physics, vector algebra and calculus.

      Ten years ago, Mr. Francis started talking online with other
      people who shared his interests. Along with lively discussions with
      the other science enthusiasts, Mr. Francis often found himself
      debating people who espoused bizarre theories that were more
      science fiction than science. The more Mr. Francis argued with
      them, the more they dug in their heels.

      Mr. Francis began thinking of these people as cranks, reasoning
      that science is an ever-evolving process, and scientists change
      their views as they make new discoveries that tear down old
      assumptions. On the other hand, "a crank has already made up his
      mind, evidence one way or another will not make him change it," Mr.
      Francis said.

      In 1996, Mr. Francis created a separate file in his computer to
      keep track of the cranks and their Web sites. In 1997, he spun off
      his quickly sprawling file into a separate domain, and dubbed it
      Crank Dot Net (www.crank.net).

      Today, Crank Dot Net is an index of about 1,000 of these sites.
      Through it, Mr. Francis performs the role of vigilante, by ranking
      and categorizing Web sites propounding pseudoscience that Mr.
      Francis says is misleading and simply ridiculous. On Crank Dot Net,
      Mr. Francis pulls a quote from each site that he feels best defines
      it, then ranks the sites as "Cranky (Downright strange), Crankiest,
      (above and beyond the normal call of the crank), and Illucid,
      (Something so beyond understanding that it defies classification)."

      Among the sites listed by Mr. Francis are ones espousing time
      travel, teleportation, alchemy, crop circles and the idea that the
      Earth is hollow. There are several sites dedicated to an old
      favorite, cold fusion, which created a sensation when it was
      announced in 1989 but now is largely dismissed by the scientific

      Initially, Mr. Francis said, he kept track of these kinds of sites
      for his own amusement, in an effort to study their abnormal
      psychology. What struck him was how television has influenced
      pseudo-science. "It's surprising to me how many scientific cranks
      think pseudoscience and technobabble are really how science gets
      done," wrote Mr. Francis in an e-mail message, blaming the thinking
      on the influence of "Star Trek."

      Mr. Francis said he had also come to believe that many people
      create their own scientific theories because they simply don't
      understand the real ones. Since math is fundamental to science and
      many people are math illiterate, he said, they simply think words
      will do. To Mr. Francis, words are simply not enough.

      Crank Dot Net's sorting and filtering function for strange stuff
      on the Web has taken on a wider import: helping site visitors see
      fallacy for what it is. To that end, Mr. Francis also lists extreme
      religions, white supremacists and hatemongers on the site, along
      with crystal healers and victims of alien abductions.

      Mr. Francis isn't the only Web vigilante out there devoted to
      pin-pointing fallacy to encourage critical thinking. Phil Plaitt,
      the Web master of Bad Astronomy started his site
      (www.badastronomy.com) devoted to exposing myths about astronomy
      because he was, he says "full of righteous fury," after watching a
      TV news reader on a national network morning show give a report on
      the space shuttle then laugh on air that he had no idea what he was
      talking about.

      "I have a passion for the rightness of science," said Mr. Plaitt,
      an astronomer and a friend of Mr. Francis. "Science works. It's a
      pretty good way to describe the universe." Mr. Plaitt suggests that
      sites like Bad Astronomy and Crank Dot Net provide a "process to
      separate the rational from the irrational."

      As the Internet expands to give every person a platform to say
      whatever he wants about the way the universe works, (a good thing,
      in both Mr. Francis's and Mr. Plaitt's view), it behooves people
      like Mr. Francis, Mr. Plaitt and the Webmaster of similar sites,
      like Quintessence of the Loon (www.ratbags.com/loon) to put them in

      In addition to the pseudoscience sites, Crank Dot Net features an
      anticrank category that lists sites "fighting crankism, debunking
      bad science and promoting logic."

      Crank Dot Net also flags sites that are parodies. Sometimes, Mr.
      Francis admits, it is tough separating the parodies from the real
      thing. Sometimes, he has ranked a site as cranky, only to be
      corrected by site visitors.

      "It's really hard to tell the difference," Mr. Francis said. "The
      crankiest people, literally, they are talking and you are giggling
      and what they're saying is ridiculous, but they are serious."

      Mr. Francis said he received several submissions daily suggesting
      sites to mention. Many of the submissions come from cranky
      Webmasters. In fact, Mr. Francis said he rarely gets complaints
      from the Webmasters he's clearly criticizing on the site. "Most are
      quite pleased," he said. "By no means is Crank Dot Net considered a
      hostile resource by people who are listed there."

      Mr. Francis recently listed Greatdreams.com and rated it
      "crankiest." Almost immediately, he received an e-mail message from
      Dee Finney, the site's Webmaster, thanking him for the listing.

      "Our main thrust is to educate people to watch their dreams," Mrs.
      Finney said. `In their dreams you see the future. "We're tickled to
      be listed. He has got the best links on his site to any educational
      subject that we actually favor."

      The New York Times on the Web


      Eric Krieg eric@...

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