You Know You Are a Pseudoscientific Crank If…


Are you sick of always failing to convince us scientific skeptics that GM crops kill people, that homeopathy cures cancer or that climate change is a socialist myth? Do you feel frustrated by being asked to provide peer-reviewed scientific papers to support your position? If this matches your experience and you still do not know why, see how many of the following statements match your behavior to see if you qualify as a pseudoscientific crank.

You denigrate the knowledge of scientific experts, but compare yourself with Galileo and Einstein.

Just because you are criticized by knowledgeable people who provide scientific evidence to back up their arguments does not mean that you are an oppressed genius. Sometimes, you are just a rebel trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. In the end, the flawed notion that criticism means that you are actually right is a pathetic defense mechanism to avoid responding to objections or backing up your claims with evidence.

You are not Galileo or Einstein. They convinced their peers with evidence. You have no evidence whatsoever.

You claim mainstream medical treatments are unsafe and ineffective, while promoting quack treatments that are dangerous and untested.

There is a lot of hate towards modern medicine by proponents of quack treatments. This may be based on envy from quacks who never got into or failed medical school or because of postmodern belief that everyone is an expert. This is yet another example of confirmation bias and selective thinking.

You oppose multinational pharmaceutical companies while failing to understand that companies producing quack treatments are also multinational and predatory.

For instance, NBTY (formally known as Nature’s Bounty) has a revenue of 3 billion USD produces a lot of alternative medicine, such as products containing Echinacea.

You rant about unspecified “toxins” in vaccines, but you smoke a pack of cigarettes per day and ignore real toxins, such as heavy metals, in Ayurveda.

This is a curious combination of excessive anxiety about vaccines (that do not contain toxins) coupled with complete ignorance about the harmful effects of smoking or heavy metals. It is like walking against red over a heavily trafficked road, but being highly concerned about accidentally using “who” instead of “whom”. It is difficult to find more messed up priorities.

You claim that there is no consensus on evolution, yet refer to the “consensus” of alleged creationist “experts” that have done no real evolutionary research and instead just signed a petition.

Because, apparently, you believe that relevant scientific training makes you less qualified to discuss scientific research. Just because you make a big deal about a couple of hundred non-biologists does not mean that you can ignore hundreds of thousands of qualified scientists.

You assert that scientific consensus is just an argument from popularity at the same time as believing that alternative medicine must work since it is so popular.

Scientific consensus is not an appeal to popularity because it is a proxy for the position currently best supported by the evidence. Scientific consensus can sometimes be wrong, but cranks are wrong far more often.

You think that scientists are biased by their beliefs, yet you use your “mommy instinct” to back up your claims.

Scientists are trained to not let their personal beliefs or wishful thinking get in the way of their work. Sure, scientists are humans, but cranks do not have adequate training to avoid e. g. confirmation bias.

You fearmonger about GMOs for not being “natural”, yet you have no problem eating vegetables that have been genetically modified for 10 000 years.

The only difference between using traditional breeding and biotechnology is that the latter is faster, safer, more precise and can use genes from organism that are more distantly related. In traditional breeding, you shuffle thousands of genes into combinations that you do not test for safety. Using biotech, you can make extremely small changes that you have intimate knowledge of and do ten years worth of ecological and toxicological tests.

You support physical punishment of your children, yet you would never do the same to a misbehaving adult.

You punish your children physically? Would you ever do the same to an adult or an older person? Of course not! You think that there is no other way? That is just your own ignorance about child-rearing. Also, no, this is not a correlational fallacy as they have controlled for aggressive behavior at baseline.

You believe that just because someone has a medical degree does not make them an expert in medicine, but your PhD in English literature makes you qualified to deliver medical diagnoses on the Internet.

Just because you have a non-relevant degree does not mean that you are an expert in medicine. Just because you know how to Google does not mean you have the scientific or medical expertise to evaluate research papers with complex methodologies and statistical analyses.

You consider homebirth safer than giving birth at a hospital, yet your low-risk birth supervised by an unqualified and untrained crank gave you a dead baby.

You are completely deluded. You need to break out of your isolated bubble before you end up having another dead baby.

You firmly hold that HIV is just a harmless passenger virus and does not cause AIDS, but you would never allow yourself to be injected with HIV.

Research have shown that infecting tissues removed from patients or animals leads to a decline in CD4+ T cells. This effectively disproves the flawed notion that HIV is not a harmless passenger virus. If you still believe this, go ahead and inject yourself with it.

So how did you fare? If you got multiple hits, you can be pretty sure that you have sunken into the swamp of pseudoscience.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

23 thoughts on “You Know You Are a Pseudoscientific Crank If…

  • July 19, 2014 at 14:22

    Do I detect a little frustration in the patient one? This sounds much like a rant from myself. If you’re not careful, you may slip from skeptic to cynic. 😉

    In addition, this is an excellent summation of the bizarre and backward world of woo.

  • July 20, 2014 at 19:24

    Emil Karlsson,

    This is one test I’m pleased to report that I scored a big fat zero on. I got zero hits.

  • July 20, 2014 at 19:39

    Emil Karlsson,

    You could add this one to the list.

    You think that “Spirit Science” is actually “science,” and Jordan, ( AKA patch man ) has great insight into how our world actually works.

    Spirit Science Home Page

    Spirit Science youtube Channel

    Martymer 81 – Why Do People Laugh At Spirit Science

    Top 50 Dumbest things in Spirit Science 12

    Sources for Top 50 Dumbest Things In Spirit Science 12

    Spirit Science Tests Spirit Science

    Rational Wiki – The Spirit Science

    Ever heard of that guy before?

    • July 20, 2014 at 19:46

      No, I have not, but thanks for the info. He certainly seems to believe a lot of absurd things.

    • July 20, 2014 at 19:59

      Emil Karlsson

      You’re Welcome. To say that Jordan believes in a lot of absurd things is an understatement. Just watch one of his “spirit science” videos and you’ll be able to feel the stupid burning you alive. The guy’s a self parody, unfortunately he is not a Poe.

  • July 20, 2014 at 19:53

    Someone submitted this to Reddit and a lot of commenters did not seem to like this post. Here are a few short responses:

    – This is not a blog post designed to convince pseudoscientific cranks. It is meant to expose hypocrisy.
    – Physical punishment of children belongs on this list because the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that it is ineffective and dangerous. Now we know that it is not even effective at getting short-term compliance.
    – I am not writing to a specific person, but yes, this post was a bit sensationalist.

  • July 22, 2014 at 15:09

    Here are a few more:

    You claim falsely that a major historical contributor to the field you are debunking (eg Darwin or Pasteur) “recanted on his deathbed”.

    You sell a product over the internet (such as industrial bleach or cannabis extract) as a cure for ALL the following conditions: HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, “multiple chemical sensitivity”, all types of cancers – and of course autism.

    You parrot personal anecdotes of HIV positive people in “perfect health” while refusing treatment – even months or years after they have died from AIDS-defining illnesses.

    You claim to be “just asking questions” but you refuse to listen to any answers.

    You mistake criticism of your ridiculous contentions for censorship, and then file SLAPP lawsuits to silence your critics – while claiming you are doing this is to protect “freedom of speech”.

    You provide no evidence for your claims, while imposing impossible or impractical standards of proof for your critics. And if they somehow manage to meet these standards, you then immediately shift the goalposts.

    You claim to have discovered a glaring fault in a complex scientific field you have no qualifications, training or experience in, and you don’t consider the possibility that this “anomaly” might be nothing more than a product of your own ignorance. Even after it has been explained to you over and over.

    • July 22, 2014 at 18:23

      Awesome Snout!

      By the way, I have been thinking of writing a response to Henry Bauer’s massive tome of ignorance that constitutes his “The case against HIV” webpage. Does this seem like a worthwhile idea, or is it just a big waste of time (since it just seems to be regurgitations of his previous stuff)?

    • July 23, 2014 at 01:29

      Emil Karlsson,

      It is a good idea, if you think there’s a chance that some people might read it, who might otherwise buy into Henry Bauer’s nonsense.

    • July 23, 2014 at 11:10

      Well, it generally takes 10 times the effort to properly debunk a pseudoscientific claim that it takes to make one, and Henry’s latest effort is 62 pages of concentrated nonsense, about half of which consists of “references” for further reading. Some are from the reality-based literature which Henry has simply failed to comprehend, but he bases his most stupid conclusions on references to his own work or that of other denialists.

      There aren’t many active HIV/AIDS denialists left now, and I reckon most of those that remain lack the competence to have even read and understood his arguments, let alone the capability of understanding why they are so flawed. So I suspect a comprehensive debunking at this stage would be one hell of a lot of effort for basically no audience.

      The bulk of Henry’s claims are the old standard denialist canards that have been debunked over and over. His arguments are much the same as those made by Rebecca Culshaw almost a decade ago, and she in turn was simply regurgitating Duesberg and the other early denialists. Ken Witwer once took the trouble to write a 66 page comprehensive canard-by-canard debunking of her “Science Sold Out” – which I think is way more critical and intellectual effort on Ken’s part than that deeply silly book (or Henry’s) ever warranted.

  • July 23, 2014 at 02:02

    I’ve heard of all of this nonsense except this: “You firmly hold that HIV is just a harmless passenger virus and does not cause AIDS, but you would never allow yourself to be injected with HIV.”
    Dude, PLEASE tell me that nobody is stupid enough to believe that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. I don’t think even creationists can deny this. I mean, at least with evolution, the basic science behind is at least somewhat complex enough for gullible folks to fall to creationist pseudoscience.

    Nonetheless, I got a 0%. Proud to be a rationalist.

    • July 23, 2014 at 11:20

      Unfortunately, there are quite a few people who think that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. In South Africa in the early 2000s, HIV/AIDS denialism became public policy. Blocking antiretroviral medication based on conspiracy theories lead to the deaths of 340 000 people. Yes, that many zeros.

      Read, and weep.

  • July 23, 2014 at 19:14

    You defend homeopathy but will not consider using “Homeopatic contraceptives” as your only birth control source.

  • July 23, 2014 at 23:32

    This post has been linked by JREF on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks a lot for the exposure!

    There was also an army of anti-GMO and homebirth quacktivists who went out of their way to defends their irrational beliefs. Both entertaining and grateful for getting several weeks worth of blog material!

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  • July 26, 2014 at 19:30

    Emil Karlsson,

    Here’s another one you could include.

    You tell us that there is overwhelming evidence that giant human beings over 15 feet tall once existed, despite the total lack of archeological evidence, and the laws of physics. You then insist that a bunch of photographs that turn out out to be fakes are proof of said giants, yet you insist that a belief in evolution is unscientific.

  • Pingback: The Hypocrisy of Pseudoscientific Cranks: Response to Criticism | Debunking Denialism

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