How to spot a crackpot (was Planetary SETI)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 15 Jul 1999 08:26:12 -0700 (PDT)

This post provides a very instructive lesson on the rhetorical tools used by nonsense-peddlers:

> The processed images of the Face have produced a wealth of evidence
> consistent with artificiality, though the controversy is far from over.

"Consistent with" is a great weasel phrase. All the "wealth of evidence" (by which he means 3 pictures) is also "consistent with" the fact that it's just a bleeping rock. Suggesting that there is a controversy when there really isn't one also helps; there's only a controversy because a few hard-headed idiots won't face the facts.

> Members of SPSR (Scientists for the Study of Planetary SETI Research) are

Creating serious-sounding organizations makes your press releases sound more credible without having to have any actual credibility.

> asking for high-resolution views of a specific, architectural-looking feature
> known as the "Fort," which, because of its morphology, should do much to
> illuminate whether or not we're dealing with artificial structures. The July

Pointing to future tests/research plants the suggestion in the reader's mind that such will be favorable to the speaker's point of view, even if that's very unlikely. Also note the overuse of technical-sounding words like "morphology" where "shape" would be simpler and more direct. This also makes a speaker sound more educated to the masses.

> 8 photo was very close, taking a close-up of the "Main Pyramid" formation
> instead (next to which is a crater with probable water ice).
> I think we'd be well-served if Malin Space Science Systems (NASA/JPL's space
> camera contracter) got some encouraging email from interested groups who
> _aren't_ bogged down in conspiracy theory. This is not "The X-Files,"
but a
> very touchy and completely falsifiable hypothesis which needs further
> exploration.

"This is not the X-Files"; "This isn't about sex"; "This money-making system is completely legal"; "This is not spam". Direct denial of the obvious is cheap and surprisingly effective.

> I recommend the websites of Dr. Mark Carlotto
> ( and Dr. Stanley McDaniel
> ( for background information.

Nothing like a paid-for PhD to make people take you seriously. Most serious scientists don't bother with titles; when was the last time you saw "Dr. Einstein" or "Dr. Feinmann"? (He even titled his own book "Surely You're Joking, /Mr./ Feinmann.") They've /earned/ their credibility, so they have no need to remind anyone that they jumped through some university hoops.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC