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  • Eric Krieg
    People, Apparently OK now joins KS, KY, CO, IL, MN, NE, LA, GA, AL, TN, MO, FL, SC in efforts to limit the teaching of evolution. The group Save Our Science
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 28, 1999

      Apparently OK now joins KS, KY, CO, IL, MN, NE, LA, GA, AL, TN, MO,
      FL, SC in efforts to limit the teaching of evolution. The group
      Save Our Science is trying to combat this:

      the following is being passed along from
      Bulletin # 26
      28 November 1999
      Editor: Sanal Edamaruku
      Address: P.O.Box 9110, New Delhi-110091, India.
      Telephone: +91-11-2253255, +91-11-8539526 Fax:
      E-mail: edamaruku@...

      Godman watch:

      By Kamal G Gopal

      Satya Sai Baba, said to be India's most powerful
      godman, celebrated his 74th birthday last week. There
      was no line about the event in the national
      newspapers. It is not too long ago that things have
      been quite different: Sai Baba's 70th birthday in 1995
      was celebrated like a state event and kept high
      profile national media attention over several days.

      Sai Baba has thousands of devotees in India and
      abroad. His Indian devotees include former presidents
      and prime ministers, top politicians across all party
      lines, diplomats, high bureaucrats, and the top
      industrialists of the country. His public appearances
      are usually marked by the presence of half the Indian
      cabinet. His enormous political influence flows from
      the belief of his disciples in his miraculous
      capacities. His trade mark "miracles" - he uses to
      'materialize' from thin air jewelry for the VIPs among
      his devotees and holy ash for the masses- make
      thousands worship his divine powers which could
      interfere in the natural laws of the universe and
      influence the 'fate' of their lives.

      As early as in the sixties, Indian Rationalists have
      exposed Sai Baba as a fraud and trickster, who uses
      simple sleights of hand to deceit the gullible. In
      1965 famous rationalist Prof. Abraham Kovoor
      challenged him publicly to perform his "miracles"
      under fraud-proof conditions. Since then, in
      Prof.Kovoor's succession, the Indian Rationalist
      Association has from time to time called upon Sai Baba
      in public forums and in letters to face up to this
      demand, but for more than thirty years now the Baba
      kept mum. Thanks to the work of Rationalists, however,
      the public awareness about these simple tricks behind
      these allegedly divine "miracles" over the time has
      increased considerably. His power connections may
      still be intact and he may still be India's Godman
      No.1 (at least since his competitor Chandra Swamy is
      cornered by criminal prosecution), but the bad
      reputation to be a trickster follows Sai Baba like a
      growing shadow.

      In November 1994 during the celebration of his 69th
      birthday, he was caught red-handed when he
      "materialized" a golden chain, a cameraman of the
      national TV (Doordarshan) filmed the scene and
      revealed -just by chance- the secret: a close-up shows
      him plucking the chain from the bottom of a plaque,
      where it has been fixed before. Sai Baba was powerful
      enough to get the film clipping confiscated before it
      could be broadcasted, but copies of the cassette,
      smuggled out from the Doordarshan studios, were
      circulated all over India and abroad In Guru Busters,
      Channel IV's famous documentary by Robert Eagle about
      the work of Indian Rationalists, which has meantime
      been broadcasted in twelve countries, the clipping is
      reproduced in slow motion, proving the case beyond
      doubts. Sai Baba's reputation suffered serious damage.

      When the Baba visited Delhi in 1999 to inaugurate the
      "Sai International Centre", The Asian Age, one of the
      leading national newspapers welcomed him with a bold
      headline: "Sai Baba has a trick up his sleeve,
      rationalists tell PM". It reported that Sanal
      Edamaruku, Secretary General of the Indian Rationalist
      Association, had called upon the Indian Prime Minister
      to abstain from Sai Baba's function as the PM
      prostrating himself in front of a religious leader was
      a contravention of the secular principles of the
      Indian Constitution. The article quoted Sanal
      Edamaruku denouncing Sai Baba as charlatan and fraud
      and calling upon him to face up to the rationalists'
      challenge. It also reported about the revealing film
      document and about Sanal Edamaruku's public
      demonstrations of the godman's tricks.

      Sanal's statement in The Asian Age, followed by
      reports in other newspapers and in the TV evening
      news, seemed to have quenched Sai Baba's thirst for
      the lime light. During his few "public" appearances in
      Delhi, the audience was limited to his VIP devotees
      with personal invitation and the media were kept at
      safe distance.

      Most of the few press photos, which appeared, had to
      be taken with Tele objectives and there were only a
      few short takes of him were available in TV news
      programs. And there was altogether no single picture,
      either in the print or in the TV, which showed Sai
      Baba in "divine" action. For the first time, there was
      no holy ash in his hand, not a crumb. But "holy ash"
      was produced abundantly the next day, when Sanal
      Edamaruku as the special guest in the Star Plus TV
      Science Show "Eureka" once more demonstrated and
      explained Sai Baba's tricks.

      The silence surrounding Sai Baba has fuelled
      speculations that the embarrassed godman has finally
      decided to retire. Others believe, he may be busy
      studying a new set of tricks for glamorous come back
      on his 75th birthday. Future will show the truth. Any
      way, there will be as many as 22 more birthdays to be
      celebrated by him, if his "divine" prediction about
      his own death is something to be relied upon.

      Rationalist International Bulletins may be reproduced,
      forwarded or quoted from by recipients if they wish.
      Please acknowledge the source while reproducing:
      "Rationalist International Bulletin."

      Eric Krieg eric@...

    • Eric Krieg
      People, Randi probably wouldn t want to say this himself: - I gather he is rather low on money right now. For people who have highly appreciated stocks in
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 19, 2000

        Randi probably wouldn't want to say this himself: - I gather he
        is rather low on money right now. For people who have highly appreciated
        stocks in jeopardy of high tax rates, I'd recommend donating a chunk
        of shares to organizations like Randi's, CSICOP or the Skeptic Society
        (yes, I know each one has quirks). Donating appreciated stock to
        charity may well cost you nothing when you consider taxes. I'd be
        happy to mail literature to people wanting more info on Randi's

        Some information about other skeptical email lists:

        Remember the bible codes, it's author said, "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them." - the following says it's time to believe:

        I believe it is the main skeptic list - very busy - I recommend digest mode.

        here's some good information to send back to people who send
        you email chain letters:

        1. Big companies don't do business via chain letters. Bill Gates is not
        giving you $1000, and Disney is not giving you a free vacation. There is
        no baby food company issuing class-action checks. Procter and Gamble is
        not part of a satanic cult or scheme, and its logo is not satanic. MTV
        will not give you backstage passes if you forward something to the most
        people. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on "just in case it's
        Furthermore, just because someone said in a message, four
        generations back, that "we checked it out and it's legit", does not
        actually make it true.

        2. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up
        in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened
        to their cousin. If you are hell-bent on believing the kidney-theft ring
        stories, please see:
        And I quote: "The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued
        requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell
        their stories. None have. That's "none" as in "zero". Not even your
        friend's cousin.

        3. Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if
        they do, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at:
        Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome,
        feel free to pass the recipe on.

        4. If the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that
        went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think
        this information would reach the public via an AOL chain letter?

        5. There is no "Good Times" virus. In fact, you should never, ever,
        ever forward any email containing any virus warning unless you first
        confirm that an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with
        Try: http://www.norton.com <http://www.norton.com>
        And even then, don't forward it. We don't care. And you cannot get a
        virus from a flashing IM or email, you have to download....ya know, like,
        a FILE!

        6. There is no gang initiation plot to murder any motorist who flashes
        headlights at another car driving at night without lights.

        7. If you're using Outlook, IE, or Netscape to write email, turn off
        the "HTML encoding." Those of us on Unix shells can't read it, and
        don't care enough to save the attachment and then view it with a web
        browser, since you're probably forwarding us a copy of the Neiman Marcus
        Cookie Recipe anyway.

        8. If you still absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message
        from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of
        headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6 months.
        It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the "" that begin each line
        either. Besides, if it has gone around that many times we've probably
        already seen it.

        9. Craig Shergold (or Sherwood, or Sherman, etc.) in England is not
        dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to
        stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is no longer a
        "little boy" either.

        10. The "Make a Wish" foundation is a real organization doing fine
        work, but they have had to establish a special toll free hot line in
        response to the large number of Internet hoaxes using their good name and
        reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do.

        11. If you are one of those insufferable idiots who forwards anything
        that "promises" something bad will happen if you "don't," then something
        bad will happen to you if I ever meet you in a dark alley.

        12. Women really are suffering in Afghanistan, and PBS and NEA
        funding are still vulnerable to attack (although not at the present time)
        but forwarding an e-mail won't help either cause in the least. If you want
        to help, contact your local legislative representative, or get in touch
        with Amnesty International or the Red Cross. As a general rule, e-mail
        "signatures" are easily faked and mean nothing to anyone with any power
        to do anything about whatever the competition is complaining about.

        3) IBM is not giving away free computers because Netscape bought AOL.

        14) A little dog (or any picture) is not going to pop up on the screen
        if you forward an email to any number of people.

        15) Neither the GAP nor Abercrombie & Fitch are giving away free
        clothes or gift certificates.

        16) The US Postal Service is not going to stop printing Black Heritage
        Stamps because Black people are not buying them.

        17) I know this is a touchy one for some of you, and you and you alone
        know your relationship with the Almighty but, you will not go to hell
        or suffer some catastrophic event if you break the prayer circle.

        PS: There is no bill pending before Congress that will allow
        long-distance companies to charge you for using the Internet.

        Bottom Line ... composing e-mail or posting something on the Net is
        as easy as writing on the walls of a public restroom. Don't
        automatically believe it until it's proven false... ASSUME it's false,
        unless there is proof that it's true.

        Now, forward this message to ten friends, and you will win the
        Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. !!!!!

        Ha Ha. This is also NOT true!!


        Eric Krieg eric@...

      • Eric Krieg
        In other news, James Randi could use a little help for his programs. Contact me to get more information. There is now a South African Skeptics group, they send
        Message 3 of 6 , Apr 5, 2000
          In other news, James Randi could use a little help for his programs.
          Contact me to get more information.

          There is now a South African Skeptics group, they send out the following

          > Text of Skeptus Press Release 01:
          > Are you interested in the paranormal? Ghosts, UFOs and psychic powers? How
          > about aliens, ESP and alternative medicine? Then you may want to join
          > Skeptus, a newly formed society at the University of Stellenbosch.
          > Membership is open to students and members of the public who are open-minded
          > and interested in critically investigating claims of the paranormal from a
          > responsible and scientific point of view.
          > As sceptics, we try to promote the use of science and critical thinking as
          > tools for investigating the world, explore anomalous (paranormal and
          > supernatural) claims from a responsible and scientific point of view, and
          > remain open-minded while insisting that extraordinary claims require
          > extraordinary proof. We are not cynical, “know-it-all”, “negative”,
          > hyper–critical, nor atheistic in outlook.
          > On Thursday, 23rd March, at 19:00, the society will hold its first public
          > meeting. Dr Jurie van den Heever, of the Zoology Department of the
          > University of Stellenbosch, will present a talk, “What is scepticism?”, in
          > Room 2020, Natural Sciences building, US Campus (between the Gericke Library
          > and Merriman Street). After the discussion session, the broader goals of the
          > society will be considered and there will be an opportunity to become a member.
          > # # #
          > _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
          > | Auke Slotegraaf, 8 Forelle Crescent, Die Boord, Stellenbosch, 7600
          > | auke@... | DOC webhome at http://home.global.co.za/~auke
          > | Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time
          > | he will pick himself up and continue on. - Winston Churchill


          Eric Krieg eric@...


          PS: I close with a good response to spontaneous human combustion claims:

          To the Editor:

          Rev. Curtis (Intell, 23 March) argues that creationism should be taught in

          Here's a fact: humans and chimpanzees share over 98% of the same genetic
          code. This suggests that the DNA of both species is inherited from a common
          ancestor. In addition, more than 95% of the genome is "junk DNA" that has
          no biological purpose; and yet this junk has also been inherited.

          Creationists say that a god created human beings separately from all other
          creatures, but why would a designer make mankind with a genetic code that is
          over 95% junk in the first place? And why copy so much junk DNA from a
          supposedly unrelated ape species? If these were books, this would be

          Here's another fact: under northwestern Lancaster County , there's a mass
          of basalt over 1500 feet thick, about 20 cubic miles, which was once molten
          lava over 1,800 degrees F and which baked the surrounding sandstones. There
          is no sign that water ever ran through this lava to transfer heat away.
          Using standard physics, one can calculate that it takes millions of years
          for that much lava to cool. Can young-earth creationists explain how it
          cooled down in only 6,000 years? Scientifically, they can't.

          Centuries ago, the Church that persecuted Galileo knew he was telling the
          truth, but they suppressed his discoveries in order to maintain control and
          to 'protect' the people from a godless world. Similarly, today's
          creationists misuse scientific findings to protect their religious faith.
          This is not science, and should not be taught in the schools as such.

          -----Original Message-----

          Czigler Martin wrote:
          > The April issue of Central PA magazine (the schedule guide for public
          > TV/radio station WITF) has an article on Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)
          > and Larry Arnold, a resident in this area, author of "Ablaze! The Mysterious
          > Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion". Below is a letter I've submitted to
          > the editor of Central PA magazine. Below that is a note I wrote about a
          > lecture by Arnold that I attended in October of 1998.
          > ------------
          > Although I mostly enjoy Central PA, I was disappointed in the poorly
          > researched tabloid-style article on Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC).
          > A little digging (e.g. a review of Mr. Arnold's book at
          > www.csicop.org/si/9611/shc.html) would have revealed a strong correlation
          > between SHC and obesity, smoking, alcohol or drug use, and carelessness with
          > fire. Mr. Arnold's own research has shown that the vast majority of cases
          > occur in winter, when coincidentally people tend to be indoors, bundled up,
          > by a roaring fire. The outrageous theories dramatized by SHC proponents
          > fail to explain these facts, and these extraordinary claims defy physics and
          > chemistry as understood today.
          > In the Mary Reeser case, she was last seen wearing a flammable nightdress
          > and housecoat, and she was smoking while seated in an overstuffed armchair.
          > She was a "plump" woman, had taken two Seconal that day and planned to
          > two more in the evening. John Bentley, who died in 1966, not the early
          > 1970s, was well known for dropping hot ashes from his pipe onto his clothes,
          > which were dotted with burn spots.
          > SHC believers often mention the high temperatures used to cremate bodies.
          > Experiments have demonstrated that bodies can be burnt to a cinder at low,
          > smoldering temperatures, where cloth or upholstery acts as a candlewick for
          > melting fat. Crematoria use much higher temperatures in order to quickly
          > reduce bodies to ash.
          > If Central PA continues to cover the paranormal, I hope a better-balanced
          > presentation that would include a skeptical viewpoint. We readers deserve
          > better journalism.
          > ------------
          > I attended a lecture on Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) on Tuesday, Oct.
          > 28, 1998 at Lebanon Valley College here in Lancaster County. The speaker
          > was Larry Arnold, founder? of ParaScience International in Harrisburg. His
          > Web site is http://www.voicenet.com/~psinet, but there doesn't seem to be
          > any content there. He is author of Ablaze! The Mysterious Fires of
          > Spontaneous Human Combustion, which appears to be self-published, as well as
          > a two volumes of videos with the same name. The lecture was sponsored by
          > the Student Committee at LVC, and was attended primarily by students.
          > He showed many slides of photographs of the gory results of many historical
          > cases of (alleged) SHC, as well as videos with interviews with fire
          > officials, etc. Many of the cases discussed are historical, and are
          > discussed by Joe Nickell in his chapter on SHC in _Secrets of the
          > Supernatural_ (e.g., Bentley, Mary Reeser, several others). Others are
          > more recent, such as a George Mott in 1986. I was able to read a paragraph
          > of Nickell's book on the Bentley case to the audience, pointing out details
          > left unmentioned by Arnold. Arnold had some response but I hope my
          > "contribution" helped a little.
          > There were also some stories of people who have "survived" SHC, such as Jack
          > Angel whose right arm burned off without him being aware of it. A Mr. Jones
          > began to "smoke" in bed, and his wife helped to put out the smoke. Later
          > that same day, Mr. Jones claimed to have also begun to "smoke" in his car,
          > but it stopped shortly afterward on its own. An Elizabeth Norris claims
          > arms began to smoke. A Kay Fletcher, who appeared on Unsolved Mysteries in
          > 1996, claims she felt a warmth on her back and there was smoke and the smell
          > of burning flesh for one and half minutes. There's another case from India
          > in 1970, with someone who is claimed to be 114 years old, accompanied by a
          > "perfume-like smell". A Mel Thomson rushed to the bathroom to find her
          > underwear smoldering and a 3-inch burn mark on her bottom. I'm not familiar
          > with any of these cases, but they don't appear to be consistent (some feel
          > heat, others don't).
          > Arnold used many of the the same arguments that Nickell has discussed, such
          > as the claimed high heat required to burn flesh and bone in crematoria.
          > There were claims of a lack of heat damage to the surrounding apartment.
          > Amazingly, for one case he stated there was no heat damage to the ceiling
          > while the photograph on the screen clearly showed large dark smoke damage
          > stains on the wall. He also mentioned the alleged "shrunken skulls". And
          > he claimed that often there was a sweet smell at the site, not a greasy
          > burnt smell. (This slightly contradicts Elizabeth Norris case above, who
          > did smell something burning.)
          > There were summaries statistics of SHC cases, seeming to indicate a
          > correlation with the phases of the moon, and also with solar/magnetic
          > anomalies. His statistics also indicated to me that there are clearly more
          > cases in the winter and on weekends, although he uses these statistics to
          > say that not all cases are in the winter or on weekends as claimed by
          > "experts". He also states that not all cases happen to obese people (citing
          > the case of a baby, but with no details), or to people who are alone. He
          > did not mention the correlation that Joe Nickel had found between the amount
          > of damage to the body and the amount of external fuel available.
          > There were claims of "fire-leynes" in Britain, i.e. that SHC cases fall on
          > various straight lines drawn on a map. Arnold mentions that if four cases
          > fall on a straight line, it's statistically significant. But he didn't
          > mention that if you have many dozen random points on a map, there's a high
          > probability that several sets of 4 points will line up, which is what his
          > map looked like.
          > Arnold left the causes of SHC as a mystery, but mentioned the possibility of
          > UFOs (which he claimed are for real) and unknown energies.
          > Arnold left an impression of a glib entertainer, assuring the students at
          > the beginning that they would enjoy his presentation and the gory photos.
          > He used the argument that we don't know everything, and that the
          > are often wrong (examples included Plato and Einstein), and heaped scorn on
          > the experts who deny SHC (including Nickell). He is also involved with
          the > Fortean society somehow, and at the end of his show he stated that there are
          > all kinds of mysterious things, if we only open our minds to them. He'll be
          > appearing on the Howard Stern show next Wednesday (I think).
        • 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 4 of 6 , Jan 2 8:35 PM
            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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