Bronze-level articleCrank magnetism

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.
Style over substance

Pseudoscience

Icon pseudoscience.svg
Popular pseudosciences
Random examples
Resources
Not to be confused with crank ideas about magnetism.

Crank magnetism is the condition where people become attracted to multiple crank ideas at the same time. You know that saying about not being so open-minded your brain falls out? People with crank magnetism didn't pay attention to that.

Take your average tax protester in the United States. There's a very good chance such a person will also be one or more of the following: a Christian fundamentalist, a white nationalist, an anti-Semite, a neo-Confederate, a sovereign citizen, a conspiracy theorist, a birther, a teabagger, a creationist, a climate change denier, a gun nut, an MRA, a Randroid, an Austrian schooler, a gold standard advocate, a homophobe ...

Its opposite is the stopped clock, where otherwise overly credulous people actually find some crankery that they won't believe in, and may even actively denounce it.

Contents

[edit] How?

You would think that one odd or crank belief is enough to satisfy people. Consider it a small character flaw, an homage to the irrationality of the human condition. However, people who like conspiracy theories usually like lots of them. Creationists are most likely to be on the right-wing and credulous, while a New Ager is likely to hold beliefs from every corner of the spiritual globe. This suggests that there must be an underlying mechanism or ideal that attracts people to these ideas in general, rather than just the merit of the individual beliefs themselves. People fond of the theory of memetics would recognise this as a memeplex (a complex array of ideas of cultural significance that work together to reinforce each other) where a central idea allows others to attach themselves very easily.

One study, NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science, gave evidence that climate change denial correlated with denial of the moon landing and 9/11 conspiracy theories:[1]

This provides empirical confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with the perception of a consensus among scientists.

Another study entitled Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories managed to show that, not only will cranks be attracted to and believe in numerous conspiracy theories all at once, but will continue to do so even if the theories in question are completely and utterly incompatible with one another [2]. For instance, the study showed that: "[...] the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered [and that] ...the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive." [3]. The study therefore appears to indicate that conspiracists do not notice (or even care) about the glaring logical discrepancies that arise from being attracted to several, mutually incompatible, conspiracy theories, just as long as the theories somehow contradict the "official" version of what happened (see section "Conspiracy nuts" below). In the words of the authors: "Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up".

To any rational observer of normal brain chemistry, this indicates a fundamental flaw in the mindset of your average conspiracist, somehow making him unable to notice incorrect and illogical thinking both in himself and others. Instead, conspiracists appear to continually reject objective reality and be blind to the contradictions that arise from the doublethink in which they engage to uphold their own irrational worldview. The same also appears to be true for all their ongoing, ridiculous predictions which continually fail to come true; see for instance Alex Jones.

[edit] Conspiracy nuts

What does drive a conspiracy theorist to simultaneously believe the JFK assassination conspiracies, the moon landing hoax and anything claimed by the 9/11 truth movement? All of these conspiracies are united by a common thread: distrust of the "official" or "government endorsed" story. This leads the believer to attach other conspiracies as well. Someone with a distrust of the government will likely reject any and all stories or reports directly issued by state agencies or other authorities that are seen as part of the establishment. Thus, any conspiracy will seem more plausible to the conspiracy theorist because this fits with their worldview.[4]

[edit] Creationism

Creationism, and activism to promote it in schools (like the "Teach the controversy" campaign), often goes hand-in-hand with right-wing ideas such as global warming denial. These two positions are mostly politically motivated, and holding them requires the active rejection of known fact. The links between global warming denial and creationism are less obvious than with conspiracy theories. However, both seem to hold the view that science is merely the opinion of one group (often assumed to be politically motivated) and can be voted away. If enough people believe something, it must be true. Thus, common arguments for skepticism of global warming and evolution often revolve around "56% of Americans reject it, so it must be false".

Creationism and global warming denial can also be linked with conspiracy theories by the "distrust of government" meme. As the US government is officially secular under the Establishment Clause, the religious right are likely to distrust the government.

[edit] Alternative medicine

All that holds the various strands of alternative medicine together is simply not being mainstream medicine, yet practitioners and followers of one brand, such as homeopathy, will frequently find value in others, such as chiropractic and vitalism. They may consider themselves united against the common enemy of Big Pharma; vaccine hysteria in particular is a symptom of this mindset.

In February 2010, the Skeptical Inquirer published an article, "The One True Cause of All Disease" by Harriet Hall,[5] dealing with this phenomenon. In keeping with crank magnetism, alties tend not to recognize contradictions between their practices, and rarely dispute one another's methodologies or claims (though there are exceptions).[6]

[edit] Vindication of all kooks doctrine

Anti-creationist blogger The Sensuous Curmudgeon coined the more unwieldy term "vindication of all kooks doctrine" to describe a similar phenomenon.[7] The Curmudgeon described it as the idea that a crank in one field will view the perceived victory of a crank in another field against the "scientific establishment" as validating their own crankery. He gave the example of the Discovery Institute latching onto the Climategate incident. Orac of Respectful Insolence saw fit to call it the "vindication of kooks" corollary to the law of crank magnetism.[8]

[edit] Cultic milieu

In academic sociology, a similar notion to crank magnetism exists, namely Colin Campbell's concept of the "cultic milieu," which attempts to show a network and shared culture and literature that exists between various clusters of cultic groups and views. The initial impetus for a variety of groups including Scientology, the Human Potential Movement, some hippie Christian movements and the turn towards alternative medicine was the shared oppositional subculture of the 1960s; in the 1990s, the militias, Posse Comitatus and tax protestor movements drew on a shared milieu of an oppositional right-wing subculture. This can also cause exceptions to crank magnetism; a randomly-selected astrologist is less likely to also be a young-earth creationist than a homeopath, since YEC is part of a different milieu (a mileu that at times outright opposes all fortune-telling other than Biblical prophecy).

[edit] Examples

People who demonstrate crank magnetism for us. It is likely their followers have a similar mindset.

See also: Virtually anybody under the page Category:Batshit crazy.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, Gilles Gignac. "NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science." Psychological Science (in press)
  2. Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas, Robbie M. Sutton. "Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories" Social Psychological and Personality Science (in press)
  3. Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas, Robbie M. Sutton. "Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories" Social Psychological and Personality Science (in press)
  4. Ted Goertzel. Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Political Psychology, vol. 15, no. 4, 1994.
  5. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/one_true_cause_of_all_disease/
  6. http://www.natural-wellness.us/about-homeopathy/pseudo-homeopathy/
  7. Discovery Institute: The Mask Falls Away, The Sensuous Curmudgeon
  8. The "vindication of all kooks" corollary to the principle of crank magnetism, Orac
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
Community
Tools
support