Re: ATOMISM: Crackpot Theory

Ian Goddard (
Tue, 17 Mar 1998 00:29:35 -0500

CurtAdams ( wrote:

>In a message dated 3/14/98 2:28:22 AM, wrote:
>>What is a crackpot? A crackpot might be one who misunderstands a
>>generally-accepted theory and, by virtue of that misunderstanding,
>>claims to find a fatal flaw in it.
>Hmm. Close but not quite. I'd venture that any of the more
>serious thinkers on this list have, at some point, misunderstood
>a generally-accepted theory and thus "found" a fatal flaw. The
>only ways to avoid that are a) don't think about generally-accepted
>theory or b) never make mistakes.

IAN: Right, well-stated. To define crackpot
as such puts everyone to some degree and at
some time into that category. I think that the
dictionary definition of "crackpot" I cited is
good enough. Beyond that I'd define a crackpot
as someone who keeps promoting a theory and/
or claim to truth even though there is either
no evidence for such or overwhelming evidence
against such. This puts those who believe in
a Biblically defined God and those who believe
in a flat Earth into the "crackpot" category.
In sum: belief sans or contrary to evidence.

A crackpot is one who would be perpetrating
a fraud by promoting a claim except that they
are doing so due to some psychological fixa-
tion, such that they actually believe that
which they promote. People try to stuff the
TWA-800-missile theory into the "crackpot"
category because the Govt has rejected the
theory. However, if dozens of people saw a
streak of light rise up from the surface and
take the plane down, and if the directions
that these people point to when indicating
the "launch site" is the same spot, even as
these witness are spread across many miles,
that alone is sufficient evidence to prevent
the TWA800-missile theory from being defined
as a "crackpot" theory, not to mention that
it's heavily supported by physical evidence.

>The difference between a crackpot and a non-crackpot making an
>error is that the non-crackpot realizes the #1 reason for the
>"fatal flaw" is that they've misunderstood the theory. A non-
>crackpot checks the literature and talks to people knowledgeable
>about the theory, trying to see if this has already been addressed
>somehow. A crackpot goes straight to the public.

IAN: The problem I see with that definition
is that if X has an idea or theory and in-
stantly declares "Eureka" and goes public,
that fact alone does not mean the idea is
a false idea, and being false is a primary
prerequisite of "crackpotdom."

Also, defining a "crackpot" as someone who
runs out to proclaim a new idea prior to
getting all the facts is problematic to the
extent that nobody has all the facts, so if
that's the definition of "crackpot," then
everyone falls into the definition, more or
less, and that makes the term rather null.

Also, the idea that going public is bad
(in the age of the Internet) but going to
those with expertise first is good, is
problematic because going public on the
Internet may be the fastest way to reach
the largest numbers of experts, and there-
fore your definition leads to a contradic-
tion. The style of presenting an idea as
"this must be true," is also simply a bold
way of provoking counter argumentation --
such as "Oh ya..." -- which is, once again,
a means of seeking feedback from others.

I think that a "crackpot" is simply one
who promotes X where X is without and/or
contradicted by physical evidence, and
specifically who promotes it after such
evidentury problems have been made known.
And by that definition I proclaim that the
atomist theory of identity is "crackpot."

VISIT Ian Williams Goddard ---->