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A Taxonomy of Crackpot Ideas

Some time ago, when the anti-science, anti-evolution, religious literalist movie "Expelled" was making the rounds, it occurred to me that a strict 6-day, young-earth creationist idea of the world requires a particular confluence of perceptual filters in order to exist. There has to be an unquestioned acceptance of literalist religious dogma, a profound ignorance of some of the basic tenets of science, and a willingness to believe in a vast, orchestrated conspiracy on the part of all the world's geologists, biologists, archaeologists, geneticists, and anthropologists in order for this notion to seem reasonable.

I've been chewing on that thought for a while, and looking at the perceptive filters that have to be in place to accept any number of implausible ideas, from moon hoaxers to lizard people conspiracy theories to anti-vaccinationism.

And, since making charts is something I do, I plotted some of these ideas in a Venn diagram that shows an overlapping set of prerequisites for a number of different flavors of nuttiness.

As usual, you can click on the image for an embiggened version.



Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
peristaltor
Oct. 5th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
Nice. I do have some small quibbles with placement, but they are small.

For example, I see no difference between Evolution Denial, Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design. There would be a small subset of the first and the last that wouldn't necessarily endorse the middle set, true. But the first and the third? Identical.
tacit
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
Not always. There are evolution deniers who aren't necessarily Intelligent Design advocates; steady-state evolution deniers claim that all existing organisms were created in more or less their current state, and that small changes can occur because of adaptive proessures but that new species can never arise. A lot, but not all, these folks are also young-earth creationists.

Which actually gives me an idea; a Venn diagram showing the overlap between different forms of evolution denial might be interesting...
peristaltor
Oct. 7th, 2011 01:04 am (UTC)
. . . steady-state evolution deniers claim that all existing organisms were created in more or less their current state. . . .

Ah, yes! Gosse's Omphalos theory. I hadn't thought of that, though the book where I first encountered it noted that it was making a comeback since the days long ago when it ruined Gosse's reputation.

Another aspect to consider, though I have no idea where it would be placed: Those that perpetuate the crackpottery but themselves may not embrace the ideas. I'm thinking here of the Discovery Institute's Wedge document. Did you know that the three most dangerous people in history were Darwin, Marx and Freud?

Seriously, that doc is the stuff of conspiracy, except that it seems it was genuine.
pstscrpt
Oct. 6th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Lots of more moderate Christians believe in both intelligent design and evolution. I did, when I was still a Christian; the evidence for evolution is too strong to discount, but if you don't believe God's in charge, what's the point in being religious?
peristaltor
Oct. 7th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
Actually, that's what I thought myself, the idea of a central creation followed by change over time guided by, well, a Guide. I loved my dinosaur books too much to think they were merely Devil-inserted rocks. Soon after I was told that this change idea was heresy, I just gave up on the faith part (around fourth grade or so).

Must not have been very strong in the first place.
chaos5023
Oct. 5th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
I found it much more cromulent once embiggened.

Typo: "Lizard Peope" x "Lizard People".
nex0s
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
Heh. I misread it as "Lizard Pope" and thought, "I haven't heard that one before!"

N.
tacit
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
So it is. Fixed now, thanks!
hans meier
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
99% correct
There are actually cars that run on water: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jivb7lupDNU
tacit
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
Re: 99% correct
The Genepax car in that video is actually a REVAi electric car.

Genepax has shut down since that video was made. They never really explained their supposed technology, other than to say that a metal hydride chemical reaction was used to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen. If that's true, the water isn't actually a power source; the ultimate source of energy for the vehicle would be that chemical reaction, which would consume the metal hydride (presumably, a calcium, lithium, or potassium hydride, if it runs at room temperature). The water is simply a carrier for the energy; the source of the energy would be the hydride, which would have to be replaced as it was consumed.
hans meier
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
Re: 99% correct
well, they did mention a number of liquids...but, there have been cars driven by steam, which is merely water in a gaseous form...and there is another company that has a car that runs on compressed air. Regardless...the diagram is still funny...and sadly correct...
tacit
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
Re: 99% correct
Yep, water can be used in all sorts of ways to drive a propulsion system. Steam engines are a great example. Fuel cells are another, and there are systems in which water is poured over a reactive material to generate heat and/or hydrogen gas for power.

What I'm referring to in the diagram is the notion that water can be used as an energy source. In any system that actually works, water is an energy carrier, but never actually supplies energy to the system on its own. Steam engines work when water is heated by some other source, which might be anything from burning coal to a nuclear reactor; water "pill" systems work by using water to react with some highly reactive chemical, often a sodium or lithium compound, to liberate energy, but the pill is consumed in the process.

There are a lot o folks who think it's possible to run a car on water with no external energy inputs. That's the bit that's the crackpot idea. If I do an update to this chart, I'll probably clarify that. :)
crossfire
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
Here via LJ's friendsfriends feature, and I just wanted to say this is brilliant.
emanix
Oct. 5th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
Awesome idea!

Is there any way you could get the text to appear inside the circles, more like map labelling? I think it would be a lot more readable!
james_the_evil1
Oct. 7th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, hover-overs maybe?
mlerules
Oct. 6th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
Awesome - thx!
cuddlycthulhu
Oct. 6th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
What's the conspiracy theory disease where the wires grow out of you?
ab3nd
Oct. 7th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
Morgellons Disease. Why do I even know this? I could be using those synapses for homework or something!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgellons
darksumomo
Oct. 6th, 2011 06:31 am (UTC)
I used to be the Friendly Neighborhood Vote Wrangler of alt.usenet.kooks, where I ran monthly awards to recognize kooky people and their even kookier ideas. I've run into almost all of these ideas in my time on that newsgroup, but I've never run into anything quite this organized. The closest I've seen is "The Conspiracist Buffet," which deals with political conspiracy theories, and is a decade out of date. I'll upload it to my scrapbook and post it in another comment.
darksumomo
Oct. 6th, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
Here are the links, plus an image
candidgamera
Oct. 6th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)
I feel the need to spread this via Tumblr. It must be wifi controlling my brain.
pr1ss
Oct. 7th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
Best post ever.
james_the_evil1
Oct. 7th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
Just curious why Dominionism crosses over in to conspiracy theories?

Also, would churches that teach only some people are real humans & other races are the result of humans (usually Cain) mating with animals or other such things producing "mud races" fit in there somewhere? It's primarily "white power" churches in the US, but there're a few Islamic sects with similar beliefs. They're all evolution deniers of one stripe or another, not sure if they're a big enough subset for their own X.
tacit
Oct. 8th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
Just curious why Dominionism crosses over in to conspiracy theories?

You know, when I first made the chart, I put Dominionism up in the Fundamentalist circle. Then zaiah pointed out that Christian Dominionism is closely linked to conspiracy theories from both an affirmative and a paranoid direction.

Many Dominionists advocate putting "stealth" candidates into office--candidates who conceal their Dominionist beliefs during the election and then reveal them only after they're elected. On a local level, this has actually been a successful tactic in some parts of the US. Additionally, many Dominionists point to vaguely-defined conspiracies to undermine the "original Christian roots" of the United States, claiming that atheists or liberals or (insert some other group of people here) have sought to move the country away from the Christain foundation the Founding Fathers intended by distorting the Founding Fathers' view of religion, erecting false walls between religion and government, and so on and so forth.

So while Dominionism isn't *necessarily* a conspiracy theory, I think her point that it usually goes hand in hand with conspiracy theories is valid.

Also, would churches that teach only some people are real humans & other races are the result of humans (usually Cain) mating with animals or other such things producing "mud races" fit in there somewhere? It's primarily "white power" churches in the US, but there're a few Islamic sects with similar beliefs. They're all evolution deniers of one stripe or another, not sure if they're a big enough subset for their own X.

I think the White Aryan Resistance, the Church of Christ the Redeemer, and a few others fit into that description. They might belong in the center--conspiracy theories, religious dogmatism, and poor understanding of science.
james_the_evil1
Oct. 9th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
Ok, yeah, that makes sense about the Dominionists.

There're several other "churches" that fit that list, the umbrella term is "Christian Identity." Like I said, tho, I've seen some Muslim groups expressing similar things (tho in a less organized fashion) but I've not seen a name for that.
dreamsinanime
Oct. 8th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Lovely chart. I love conspiracy theories (fun to laugh at) and there's a couple in there new to me. ^_^
princekermit
Oct. 8th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
Well done.

One question: Is flouride in just bad science or, as it has government approval, a conspiracy theory?
tacit
Oct. 8th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
I think it might be both--poor science background and conspiracy theories.
james_the_evil1
Oct. 9th, 2011 12:15 am (UTC)
Oh yeah. Pinellas County just banned it & the "hearing" they held on it showed both.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )