At Unscrewing the Inscrutable Brent Rasmussen brings us the 69th skeptics circle with a fun, old west feel.
One of the first entries was particularly interesting to me as an example of crank magnetism. The Socratic Gadfly found Lynn Marguilis embracing 9/11 conspiracies, which shouldn't be surprising given her HIV/AIDS denial - also requiring a conspiratorial world view.
It would be interesting to study this problem systematically, and see how many times a crank adopts more than one crank belief. I suspect given that it takes a certain kind of broken mind to believe this nonsense that they are susceptible to multiple crank theories as a default, and it will actually be rare to find someone that is irrational on one issue, and not irrational on most issues.
I think it's also a bad sign for the 9/11 cranks, between Marguilis and their super-secret inside man declaring himself the messiah, it just goes to show just what kind of nuts get attracted to this nonsense.
I suspect given that it takes a certain kind of broken mind to believe this nonsense that they are susceptible to multiple crank theories as a default, and it will actually be rare to find someone that is irrational on one issue, and not irrational on most issues.
Right you are. For example, Dr. Lorraine Day, in addition to her far out alternative medicine beliefs, is a rabid anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, as well as a New World Order conspiracy theorist. Ernst Zundel, one of her "patients," believes in her woo and is one of the world's most famous Holocaust deniers. On the heels of the recent anniversary of 9/11, all you have to do is to visit a 9/11 Truther website to see just how many other sorts of nonsense unrelated to 9/11 many of them believe.
On a less vile note, boy have I got an example of crank magnetism for you in tomorrow's installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo.
There's definitely some truth to this. Certain brain configurations seem to really latch onto conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, often - though not always - these people are mentally ill. I'm not being mean here or trying to make fun of them, I think it's really the case. In fact, it's undoubtably the case that prodromal schizophrenics, people with paranoid personality disorder, and other dysfunctions soak this stuff up like a sponge on water.
That's not to say that everyone who buys into a crank theory or conspiracy theory is mentally unwell. I know well-functioning people who believe that 9-11 was an inside job. They're certainly not mentally ill and it would be an insult to suggest such a thing. However, it does suggest that these kinds of ideas are attractive to certain kinds of people. For instance, the characteristics of such person might be: suspicious, disaffected, socially alienated or disaffected, distrustful of authority. etc. You can probably think of other traits as well.
You're on the money on this one.
I would be interested in research in levels of crankiness amongst top level researchers. Although such people have a reputation for getting silly, I can only think of examples such as Pauling and Margulis, and I wonder if the ratio of cranks to normals is less, and any apparent high numbers is due to reporting bias.
I suppose it is also related to how some good scientific researchers can manage to be Creationists at the same time, such as Andy MAcintosh, who despite being a professor of thermodynamics thinks the 2nd law precludes evolution.