Measured Against Reality

Friday, May 25, 2007

On cranks and bad ideas

Apparently I've reached the point in my blogging career when people start contacting me with crazy ideas. My favorite so far is this one:

You are invited to view the writings of Croatian author Radenko Fanuka

Green Earth

Zero is Not a Number

And that is the reason why this world is physically and mathematically suffering. Compared to the nine numbers, we created, and are creating, too many words. This earth’s soil and the sky is very rich, so why do we need so many words? Are we missing a number, a number from nine to ten? No, we are not. Number ONE, physically and mathematically, created numbers without a zero, but ends them with a zero, and without words. World, we are too soon, too early, adding too many zeroes behind one number, number ONE, and our health, and too many words behind too many lost lives. From nine to ten, we just need to stand behind the one number, number ONE. Why a zero? A zero was already added on. If we don’t stand behind number ONE, this world will physically, and mathematically collapse.

There are words, and they're strung together more or less coherently, but I just don't think they mean anything. I can't make heads or tails of that, can anyone else?

I sometimes wonder about the people who have these crazy ideas. I realize that once in a while an idea is right but is so radical that it gets fought against, but those ideas are usually self-evidently and clearly right (I'm thinking of evolution, relativity, and quantum mechanics, there are surely more). But how do you get to the point where you think that insane ramblings like the one quoted above are actually meaningful?

I suppose this brings up the question of how can one tell the difference between a good but radical idea and a simply crazy idea. Sometimes it's easy, but I wonder how I would have reacted in 1905 (or in the 1860's). I can't say for sure, but I like to think that even if I had been heavily invested in the previous way of thinking (like say, the ether, even though Michelson and Morley had disproved it) I'd be like Dawkins' apocryphal professor, who welcomes the downfall of his life's work because it has been conclusively demonstrated wrong.

On a tangential note, I avoided using the word "paradigm" in the above paragraph because I totally and completely loathe it. For one, I think it's one of those words that has been totally overused. For another, cranks like to say that they're just challenging current "paradigms" and everyone's to attached to "the paradigm" to see that they're right. The only contexts in which I have ever seen the word used are by cranks and middle managers, so it carries this gross connotation of incompetence with it, as though anyone who uses it is just doing so to mask the weakness of their ideas.

Back to my main point, ideas should stand or fall based solely on how well they work in their field. In the case of science, that means how well they fit the evidence. If your idea doesn't have any evidence backing it, then it's a shitty idea.

Now we get into the topic of evidence, but that can be saved for another day.

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  • Well, you know what bullshit philosophers love to say:

    "You can't criticise religion with science because it's a different paradigm"

    What pure and complete shit!

    By Blogger Capo di tutti capi, at 3:34 AM, May 26, 2007  

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