The evolution crackpot index

Adapted sort of with permission from The Crackpot Index by John Baez, with contributions from the talk.origins howlers.

A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to biology.

1. A -5 point starting credit.

2. 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.

3. 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.

4. 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.

5. 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.

6. 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.

7. 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).

8. 5 points for each mention of "Heackel", "Dawkin", "Steven Gould" or "Eldridge".

9. 10 points for each claim that genetics or evolution is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

10. 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity. An extra 5 points for citing your engineering, dentistry, medical or computing degree as authoritative in biology. An extra 5 points for a pseudomedical qualification (such as homeopathy or holistic massage).

11. 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it.

12. 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don't know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.

13. 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or finds any flaws in your theory, or to anyone who can prove evolution is true.

14. 10 points for each statement along the lines of "I'm not good at genetics, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations".

15. 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it.

16. 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn't explain "why" they occur, or fails to provide a "mechanism".

17. 10 points for each claim that Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, or some similar recent view in biology, is evidence of creationism (or some similar view such as Intelligent Design), or claim that modern biology is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

18. 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "paradigm shift" and that we need to go beyond Darwinism.

19. 20 points for suggesting that you or your hero deserve a Nobel prize.

20. 20 points for every use of religious or science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.

21. 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.

22. 20 points for each use of the phrase "hidebound reactionary" or "Darwinist establishment" or cognates.

23. 20 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy" or cognates.

24. 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported (e.g., that Darwin recanted on his deathbed).

25. 30 points for suggesting that some major scientist, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.

26. 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by a pre-industrial culture (without good evidence).

27. 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, eugenicists, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.

28. 40 points for claiming that the "scientific establishment" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

29. 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.

30. 40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasizing about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant, especially after their death, or for announcing the "death of Darwinism".)

31. 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions, formal models, or exact hypotheses.

32. 10 points for every claim of lurker e-mail support.

33. 100 points for asserting that molecular evolution of complex proteins is impossible because of the large neutral gaps that selection would have to cross, or that there are boundaries between species or other groups of organisms that evolution cannot breach.

Categories

More like this

paramedical qualification (such as homeopathy or holistic massage).
Um, "paramedical" would be the helpful folks who drive the ambulance and give you first aid when you've had an accident, heart attack, etc. I think the word you're looking for might be "pseudomedical".

JSW: Duly amended

Someone needs to run John Davison through this. Probably get a score in the low 1000's.

By John Lynch (not verified) on 11 Nov 2006 #permalink

10 was the best. I nearly wet myself.

Ed Conrad needs to be run through this one as well.

Has anyone edited the Wikipedia articles on cranks and pseudoscience to link to this page yet?

By Young Marquis (not verified) on 11 Nov 2006 #permalink

Don't forget:

34. 20 points for each mention of Piltdown Man or Nebraska Man.

35. 30 points for claiming that Hitler was and atheist and "evolutionist" or "Darwinist".

36. 40 points for claiming that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

37. 20 points for each instance when the word "information" is used without having defined it.

A couple of suggestions from Infidels:

20 points for every use of engineering, mathematical or computer science concepts that are completely unrelated to biology (and another 10 points if this concept is simply made up).

50 points for any grouping of disparate facets of unrelated fields of science (e.g, climatology with climate change and ecology with pesticides) with "Darwinism" as evidence for a massive conspiracy among scientists to destroy America, Christianity, freedom, people, etc.

my only complaint is that SETI is the ID whipping boy.
topmind especailly hates SETI.

so I think 10 points for mentionig SETI instead any claim.
josephus

By joe widows (not verified) on 11 Nov 2006 #permalink

Until I read the original from which that was adapted, I'd have sworn than the vast majority of it was written with Dembski in mind (OK, 33 is, but 30 and 31 are very Dembski like and are virtually unchanged from the physics version)

By G. Shelley (not verified) on 12 Nov 2006 #permalink

17. 10 points for each claim that Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, or some similar recent view in biology, in evidence of creationism (or some similar view such as Intelligent Design or, or claim that modern biology is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

This one just makes no sense. The parentheses don't match, and it doesn't parse even if they did.

JSW: Typo, now fixed

-5 for credit for admitting that a major argument he repeatedly used before was wrong.

+20 for each and every time the argument is used afterwards.

-10 for a previously public young-earth creationist for admitting that Earth is about 4.55 billion years old.
-10 for a previously public special creationist for admitting all life on Earth is connected by common descent.

+5 for evidence that amounts to citing what he wrote using another name.
+20 if that "other" author is pretended to have the opposite view as himself.
+10 for going online forums to support or defend his works without fair notice that he is the same person. (No penalty for using pseudonyms without notice if the pseudonym is not used for self promotion.)

+5 if one's rejection of mainstream science is related to a painful divorce, death of a loved one, disastrous financial downturn, etc.

+10 if one cites as scientists who reject evolution people who worked before 1930.
+5 if one cites as scientists who reject evolution people who have no qualification as a scientist.
+5 if one cites as scientists who reject evolution people are not biologists who clearly don't understand what they are criticizing.
Note: The last three can be pyramided.

By Michael Hopkins (not verified) on 12 Nov 2006 #permalink

+25 points for each citation of Charles Fort, Emmanuel Velikovsky, or Whitley Streiber as supposedly credible authorities.

+50 points for claiming a personal relevation from a nonhuman, superhuman, and/or supernatural entity whose existence cannot be verified. (Or is that last bit redundant? ;-) )

By David Harmon (not verified) on 12 Nov 2006 #permalink

+100 points for referring to Kent Hovind as an "authority" or "real scientist".

+x, where x equals the number of years the author predicts it will take for "Darwinism" to fall.

+3x, if the year of said prediction has been reached and "Darwinism" has yet to fall.

What?!?!?

No Second Law??!?!?

that's their whole ball of whacks! Scoops up your free-energy types, your ID types etc!

Hmm.... I just had an evil thought. Can we turn the ID No free lunchers on the Free-energy free-lunchers and just have a cage match between them?

John,

All my science friends got a chuckle out of this. I also put a link to it from a page that has an RNA model and related article. I was getting so many hits by creationists claiming it SUPPORTED their fantasy that I was ready to blow a headvalve. Thanks a bunch!

link edited by JSW

+25 points for comparing evolutionary theory to Lyshenkoism

**

Uhm, nos. 2, 15, and 16 are instances of the 'popularity determines truth/reality' or '50,000,000 frenchmen can't be wrong' fallacy. I forget the official term for it.

For sake of fairness, all other points need to be couched in such fashion that they apply to all sides voiced, and not just the one. For instance, in no.31, the word 'revolutionary' should be removed.

Many others are simply snide, tendentious remarks passing for legitimate criticism. For instance, what are nos. 8, 17, and 18 supposed to demonstrate? Your close-mindedness?

Frankly, bigotry and arrogant pre-judgement seem to be a theme throughout this parody of counter-argument that you, self-righteously, find comical.

By m. turner (not verified) on 14 Nov 2006 #permalink

The theory of John S. Wilkins was rated here with one million points if I understood what is going on here. He begins with The evolution crackpot index but, suddenly changes evolution by biology!!!

I think it is a big mistake and not honest. I think that when he is talking evolution he want means Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution. If I am right, he can not uses a method of rating related topics about evolutions theories or counter-evolution topics and at same time driving everything to biology. Biology is not neo-Darwinian evolution theory and vice-versa. So, if he wants to be better than the opponents, be honest, and change that name for The biology crackpot index. But, if he does it, the 33 items above does not make sense.

Ok, since that I am not a Biologist and not a neo-Darwinian evolutionist it is possible that I misunderstood his post.

Possible extra suggestions relevant to the realm of biology:

- N points for each claim that increasing numbers of scientists are accepting your theory, without ability to explain who these supporters are and why their support is important. M extra points if when asked for examples, you produce a list which shows itself to be populated by non-biologists or non-scientists. M extra points if when asked for examples, you claim that your supporters are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisal.

- N points for each instance where you attack the scientific establishment for not doing enough to help you prove your theory.

- N points for each reference to a well-accepted scientific principle as being "liberal".

Meanwhile it actually might be interesting to try to rework this list so that it applies not only to creationists, but also to AIDS deniers and other medical fringe groups.

36. 40 points for claiming that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

With 10 bonus points for implying or explicitly claiming that the earth is a closed system in the process.

Meanwhile it actually might be interesting to try to rework this list so that it applies not only to creationists, but also to AIDS deniers and other medical fringe groups.

Most of the changes are trivial. Most HIV "rethinkers" would score highly already.

Tim Lambert's Global Warming Sceptic Bingo is worth trying.

Evolution and HIV crackpot versions would be good!

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 14 Nov 2006 #permalink

36. 40 points for claiming that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

With 10 bonus points for implying or explicitly claiming that the earth is a closed system in the process.

Also, 10 bonus points for implying or explicitly claiming that entropy can decrease in an open system only through the action of an intelligent agent.

Maybe really the thing that the points ought to be assigned for there is implying that the laws of thermodynamics do not apply to "intelligence".

"The theory of John S. Wilkins was rated here with one million points if I understood what is going on here. He begins with The evolution crackpot index but, suddenly changes evolution by biology!!!"

Ah, this brings up a few more:

+5 for declaring that one accepts biology but not evolution.

+10 for using terms like "neo-darwinian" or "materialistic" when framing one's opposites in a debate on evolution.

"100 points for asserting that molecular evolution of complex proteins is impossible because of the large neutral gaps that selection would have to cross..."

After spending zillions of moments wading through Sean Pitman's neutral gaps before reaching the other side, I am very gratified that these Gaps are worth more than a full Pitman, 26^1.41345418475 = 100.

A crackpot index needs to be used carefully as many now accepted theories would have qualified as crackpot when initially suggested. Having studied hard sciences as well as Philosophy, some Psychology and Economics I have a reasonable background in detecting crackpot theories and also the benefit of over forty years of evaluating them and seeing what happens to them. Biologists have clearly not got their head around the issue that evolution of species is not crackpot, the existence of a Darwinian evolutionary mechanism is not crackpot but the claim that evolution of species occurs through Darwinian evolution comfortably meets non-biologists (and some biologists) criteria of crackpot theory. Darwinian evolution involves an essentially reversible process of tuning the genetic components of genetic mechanisms. There is nothing remotely sensible published on how an evolving species gains a set of genes that function as a genetic mechanism as all currently existing advanced species must have done about a thousand times. There is no problem for the concept of evolution as there is at least one, natural non-Darwinian, mechanism that achieves this and has a very close match to the observed statistics of new species formation. However the comments of your subscribers make it clear that any deviation from orthodoxy, and in particular all non-Darwinian theories, will be classified as crackpot and this is bigotry, not reasoned evaluation.

By Dave Finn (not verified) on 11 Nov 2008 #permalink