There’s a quote attributed to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that is much beloved of cranks:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
I hate this quote with a bloody passion. Actually, that’s not quite true. Rather, I find it rather amusing in a pathetic sort of way, first because it’s not true. Really, it’s not. For instance, in science Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity wasn’t exactly “violently opposed,” and a lot of other scientific findings that challenge the existing paradigm have been embraced. The second reason because when cranks invoke Schopenhauer the implication behind their parroting the above quote is that they have The Truth. They then invoke the quote to argue that the reason that they are being ridiculed or opposed is that they simply haven’t made it to the “third stage” of Schopenhauer’s view of how Truth is accepted–but that they will be! In other words, “They’ll see! I’ll show them! They thought me mad, but I’ll show them!”
Yes, that’s basically what cranks mean when they invoke Schopenhauer, especially anti-vaccine cranks. They just can’t get it through their head that “untruth” never makes it to stage three, even if you accept Schopenhauer’s paradigm.
Leave it to Mark Crislip to come up with a variant of Schopenhauer with regards to vaccines. In the course of a lengthy and amusing takedown of the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s recent “petition” campaign (which I had a bit of fun with a week or so ago), Dr. Crislip states:
All antivaccination truth passes through three stages. First, it is based upon feelings instead of reality. Second, it is opposed by the rationally inclined. Third, the more complete the information that falsifies it, the more more vehemently it is embraced as self-evident.
Or something like that; I am using Bing for my search engine.
Perfect. I call this the Crislip vaccine variant of Schopenhauer. Now I’ll add the Orac variant for alt-medicine:
All “alternative medicine” truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed by the rationally inclined because it is based upon feelings and prescientific beliefs instead of reality. Second, it is opposed by the rationally inclined. Third, the more complete the information that falsifies it, the more more vehemently it is embraced as self-evident by its non-rationally inclined believers.
I, Orac, hereby make the following proposal: Whenever you see an anti-vaccine or alt-med crank quoting Schopenhauer, lay the Crislip or Orac variant of Schopenhauer’s quote on them, or make similar alterations as you see fit for the situation. Cranks have to learn that, if you accept Schopenhauer’s paradigm (which those who seriously use this quote as an argument obviously do, or they wouldn’t use the quote), the reason you are stuck at stage one or two is not because you have The Truth and haven’t progressed yet. It’s because you’re a crank.
In terms of a specific variety of crank, I also like Crislip’s paraphrase of John Donne:
“Every anti-vax is an island entire of itself;
…no childs’s death diminishes me,
because I am uninvolved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it is none my concern.”
~ John Donne.
Or something like that. Again, my searches are not working quite right.
And it’s true.