The Crackpot Index, by John Baez

THIS HAS BEEN on the internet for years, but it’s always good to remind you that it exists: The Crackpot Index, by John Baez.

Although the Index is specifically about “revolutionary” physics theories, it works quite well (with trivial modifications, like substituting Darwin for Einstein) for evaluating all the pseudo-scientific rubbish that’s constantly flying around.

The website begins by telling us that the Index is “A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics.” Each alleged “discovery” starts out getting:

A -5 point starting credit. [That’s a charitable minus five points.]

1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.

2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.

3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.

It gets progressively funnier as it goes along:

11. 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it. (10 more for emphasizing that you worked on your own.)

18. 10 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Einstein, or claim that special or general relativity are fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

30. 30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.

34. 40 points for claiming that the “scientific establishment” is engaged in a “conspiracy” to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

You get the idea. There’s a Wikipedia article about the creator of the Index: John C. Baez, which informs us that he’s a mathematical physicist at the University of California, Riverside, with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Princeton (1982) and a Ph.D. from MIT (1986). And: Joan Baez is his cousin.

So if you feel insulted because your favorite bit of creationism scores high on the Crackpot Index, send your complaints to Dr. Baez, not to us.

Copyright © 2008. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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